Residents of Israel’s Ulpana settlement outpost neighbourhood in the West Bank began evacuating their homes on Tuesday after a court ruled their homes illegal and ordered them razed.
The evacuation was proceeding peacefully, with 15 of the neighbourhood’s 30 families moving their possessions to a nearby temporary neighbourhood — also in the West Bank — with help from defence ministry workers.
Israel’s High Court has ordered the demolition of 30 apartments in five buildings in the outpost, a neighbourhood of the Beit El settlement.
The demolition, which is scheduled to occur before July 1, was ordered because the homes were built on private Palestinian land. Three other families in mobile homes on the private land were also ordered to move.
An agreement reached between the settlers and the government last week ensured a peaceful evacuation in return for Israel constructing 300 new homes in Beit El.
The evacuated homes will be removed and transported to new locations, rather than being destroyed.
But residents still expressed resentment about the move.
“I am not being evacuated, I’m being expelled from my home,” resident Amir Israeli told AFP. “I’m extremely disappointed by the government that is ruining 30 families for no good reason, this hurts.”
“The Israeli government betrayed us,” he added.
Despite the discontent, there were no confrontations or disruption, and no soldiers or police were at the site during the evacuation.
Defence ministry employees were helping residents — wearing black shirts sporting the wording “We will be back” — move boxes to trucks.
“The defence ministry has invested lots of time and energy in coordination with the local leadership,” a ministry official told AFP. “I believe this investment is paying off today.”
On Thursday, the remaining 18 families are to make the move, most of them to the temporary neighbourhood but a few to rented homes elsewhere in Beit El and Israel.
Earlier this month Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blocked the passing of a law that would have prevented the demolition of the Ulpana buildings.
Later in the day Netanyahu announced his intention to build 851 new living units in the West Bank, 300 of them within Beit El.
Last week, the state requested that the High Court grant a three-month delay in the homes’ demolition, to enable the buildings to be relocated rather than destroyed. The court has yet to respond to the request.
Israel considers settler outposts built without government approval in the West Bank to be illegal, but the international community views all settlements in occupied territory as unlawful, whether approved by the government or not.