The debate over the controversial weekend eviction of the illegal West Bank outpost of Oz Zion, which saw settlers clash with Border Guard officers on Friday before eventually leaving the area on Saturday night, is raging on.
The settlers' clash with security forces was harshly criticized by elements across the political spectrum. The settlers, on their part, are livid that an eviction attempt was made on Friday evening.
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The settlers said that security forces knew in advance that the majority of those camped out at the illegal outpost would leave on Saturday night, and therefore knew that the eviction could not be completed before Shabbat.
"This was nothing more than a show of force," a settler who spent the weekend in Oz Zion told Ynet. "They came just before Shabbat and thought it would end on time? The Border Guards are Netanyahu's pawn and he just wanted to show that an eviction took place."
The outpost was evicted in full at 2 am Sunday. An IDF bulldozer leveled the area and the equipment found on the premises was confiscated by security forces.
Oz Zion, post-eviction (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
The settlers further accused the soldiers of using unnecessary brutality: "They said we slashed their jeeps' tires, but they were the violent ones. If someone attacks you, you have to defend yourself," another settler said.
"The bottom line is that they left with their tails between their legs – and that could have been avoided," he added.
The settlers further accused the troops of firing tear gas at them: "They seem to have gotten 'friend' and 'foe' confused. They fired tear gas at a place with children. That's very serious. The battalion guarding us isn’t suppose to fire on us," one settler told Ynet.
Five Border Guard officers were lightly hurt in Friday's altercation.
'Government has procedures'
MK Zeev Elkin, chairman of the Likud faction, told Ynet that the main issue transcended beyond the mere eviction of a West Bank outpost.
"This is about the attempt to do this on Shabbat. There is a special committee – the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee's subcommittee for Judea and Samaria – which formulated very clear procedures regarding evictions undertaken on Shabbat.
"The decision was clear: Evictions on Shabbat will take place only if there is a clear and present threat to people's lives."
According to Elkin, he was approached by the deputy head of the Karnei Shomron Regional Council some 30 minutes before Shabbat, who beseeched him for help.
"I called the office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, informed him of the procedures, and requested that they defer the eviction. Initially he wasn't sure an operation was even planned.
"He got back to me within minutes and confirmed that there was an eviction planed, but said that they would wait for Saturday night. He also asked that Saturday's eviction would be orderly – and it was."
IDF forces at the outpost (Photo: Tazpit News Agency)
As for a politician actively weighing in on military issues, Elkin said that "While I'm not at all sure that should happen, this was a case of adhering to procedures determined by the government.
"If this intervention prevented violence and bloodshed – I'm happy. Some people in the Left are now attacking the IDF for not being determined enough to successfully complete the eviction. Apparently they feel they have not seen enough bloodshed."
The IDF, he added, was right to defer the eviction and it achieved the desired result. As long as things are done in the proper parliamentary framework I think we should do our best to prevent violence. I certainly will," he concluded.
Sources with the Judea and Samaria Police criticized what they called the IDF's "indecisive actions" Friday.
"This entire thing is the IDF's responsibility," a police source said. "We are more than ready – and willing – to do our job… The IDF is the one that should answer the question of why we were here in the first place and what were the exact orders."
The officer added that the Border Guard officers arrived at the illegal outpost knowing that an eviction was to take place, but the troops were stopped shortly thereafter by the IDF.
The IDF said that the decision to suspend Oz Zion's eviction following the settlers' clash with security forces stemmed from the fact that the operation stretched into Shabbat.
The GOC Central Command said that it opted not to enforce the eviction order after the settlers assured the troops that they would leave on their own accord on Saturday night.
The IDF said that the settlers have been arriving at Oz Zion, and the nearby illegal West Bank outpost of Givat Assaf, for several weeks now – in violation of the GOC Central Command's orders – and have been repeatedly evicted.
"The IDF operates according to priorities derived from real-time situation assessments," the military said.
Yoav Zitun contributed to this report
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