Clashes broke out in the town of Beit El in the Binyamin region on Monday night, as police forces in large numbers arrived in preparation for the demolition of the Draynoff Homes, which the High Court had ordered to be demolished.

Dozens of youths gathered in the area in an attempt to prevent the evacuation of the buildings.

At least 50 people were arrested, according to the Honenu legal aid organization.

The police, said the Beit El Council, sprayed pepper gas into a room where some of the protesters were staying, causing some of them suffocation. Pepper gas causes irritation to eyes as well as difficulty breathing, coughing, and infections.

Following an hour of violent clashes, the security forces took over of the buildings slated for demolition and no further incidents were reported.

The IDF Spokesman announced following the incident that in order to prepare for the evacuation and demolition of the Draynoff Homes, it was decided to place a unit of Border Police officers in the complex.

“Security forces are working to maintain law and order in the area and are ready for government instructions,” the statement said.

MK Bezalel Smotrich (Jewish Home) condemned the demolition, telling Arutz Sheva that it was ordered by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and hinting that the demolition would harm the coalition.

The chairman of the Yesha Council, Avi Ro’eh, said in response, “It is outrageous and regrettable that the Prime Minister and Defense Minister, the architects of the strangling of the settlement enterprise, did not allow to exhaust the legal proceedings and turned into contractors of leftist policies. We urge the Prime Minister to prevent the demolition of the houses that currently are valid under the law.”

The High Court on Sunday yet again sought to put a halt to plans to prevent the demolition of the homes, issuing an injunction against any construction work that would result from the removal of objections to the project by a planning council.

Supporters had hoped that the change could lead to a new legal status for the buildings. Previously, the High Court had ordered the buildings to be demolished because they were built without approval of planning councils. The decision last week was set to pave the way for the issuance of retroactive building permits for the project.

Nevertheless, the demolition in the dead of night is surprising because over the last few days, progress had been made in legalizing the area for construction.

The arrival of the police forces came just hours after Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home) visited Beit El, and told residents of the efforts the state was making to legalize the homes in accordance with the High Court ruling.

Shaked told the residents that the state's response to the High Court, which has yet to be written, would be that demolishing the Draynoff Homes would be pointless.

"I met with the residents and assured them that various government ministers are working directly and indirectly to care for the welfare of Jewish settlement throughout the country," she said following the meeting.

“In order to make sure incidents do not recur we have established the regulatory committee, which will begin operations next week and aims to legalize the construction in Judea and Samaria so that no Jew will be forced to leave his home,” added Shaked.

Meanwhile, the Beit El Local Council is preparing to file a petition to the High Court on Tuesday morning, in response to one filed by extreme leftist groups, hoping that the Court would decide to order the cancellation of the demolitions. 

צילום: עוזיאל סבתו
credit: הודיה גרשון