Some 60 right-wing activists from the "Youth for the Land of Israel" movement arrived early Wednesday at deserted buildings near the West Bank town of Birzeit in the Ramallah area.
The teens announced their intention to establish a Jewish community named "Beer Zayit" in the area in response to a Palestinian plan to build a new city called Rawabi, which the settlers said would weaken the Jewish holding in the Binyamin region.
'A settlement in practice'
Meir Bertler, one of the operation's organizers, told Ynet that the activists had arrived with vehicles from communities across the Binyamin region, but that the Israel Defense Forces had stopped them from driving to the area. Therefore, he said, they entered the area by foot, carrying a flag of Israel. They held the morning prayer in the area and hung flags on some of the buildings.
"We want to create a Jewish territorial sequence from Ofra to Ateret, and we know that the Palestinians plan to create a similar building sequence," said Bertler. He explained that the houses the movement members planned to populate were built in 1999 by the Palestinian Authority for its policemen. When the al-Aqsa Intifada broke out, the area was annexed by the IDF and declared a closed military zone.
According to Bertler, "We know that the attempts to hold onto the land will be denied, but this is a settlement in practice. These houses have been deserted for a long time now. Our entry does not violate the freeze order, as the houses have already been built."