Palestinians clash with troops in West Bank as settlers march to former settlement

Several thousand right-wing Israelis on Tuesday marched in the northern West Bank to the dismantled Homesh settlement, as Palestinians opposed to the rally clashed with Israeli forces in an adjacent village.

Several opposition politicians participated, notably including former coalition whip Idit Silman, who quit the government two weeks ago, and who some in the coalition were still hoping could be persuaded to return.

The military sealed off the roads to several Palestinian villages in the area as part of security measures reportedly reached between the Defense Ministry and Homesh yeshiva organizers of the event. The Israel Defense Forces initially opposed the march over concerns it could spark further clashes in the West Bank.

The IDF had warned organizers that it would not be able to secure the event, which was set to start at the Shavei Shomron settlement at 11 am and run along 14 kilometers (some 8.5 miles) past several Palestinian villages.

Organizer Bareleh Kromby earlier told Radio 103 FM that they had reached a deal with the army to shorten the route by 3 kilometers (1.9 miles).

“Not only is this not a provocation, but these marches are also conducted in an astonishing and dignified manner,” Kromby said. “The goal is to go back to the Homesh, we do not hide this. The greatest folly of the [2005] disengagement is manifested in northern Samaria. This is an area we did not even leave, it is also open to Israeli Arabs so there is no reason not to be open to Jews.”

Organizers had planned for thousands at the event and claimed that 20,000 people showed up.

Video from the march showed hundreds making their way along the route to Homesh, which was evacuated in 2005, but to which settlers regularly return.

Among the marchers were senior nationalist politicians, including Religious Zionism party head Bezalel Smotrich and MK Itamar Ben Gvir, as well as Yamina lawmaker Silman.

Palestinians throw stones at Israeli forces in the West Bank village of Burqa during clashes to protest a march by Israelis to the wildcat settlement outpost of Homesh, on April 19, 2022. (Jaafar Ashitiyeh/AFP)

Clashes erupted near the route of the march between security forces and Palestinians opposing the event.

In Burqa, near Nablus, videos showed protesters hurling stones and setting garbage light as troops shoot tear gas in their direction.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said 32 Palestinians in Burqa were treated during the clashes, 25 of them for tear gas inhalation.

Homesh returned to the headlines last December, when a Palestinian terrorist opened fire at a convoy ferrying students back from the yeshiva, killing Israeli Yehuda Dimentmann.

The deadly attack prompted renewed calls by ultra-nationalist lawmakers to resurrect the settlements dismantled in 2005.

Yehuda Dimentmann. (Courtesy)

The march amounts to a violation of military law, which bars Israelis from returning to the grounds of the four settlements the government vacated in 2005 as part of the Gaza Disengagement. In practice, the law has barely been upheld, with the yeshiva operating illegally at the Homesh hilltop for the past 15 years, often receiving protection from the IDF. Court rulings granting access to Palestinian farmers to reach their lands at the evacuated settlements have also rarely been implemented.

In a recent letter to the march’s organizers at the Homesh yeshiva, the Samaria Regional Brigade Commander Maj. Roy Zweig warned that forces were stretched too thin securing various Passover events, due to the high alert for terror attacks across the West Bank.

Zweig warned organizers that they were “knowingly endangering a large group of people who are not familiar with the many security threats involved,” while “misleading the public to believe the event is approved and secured.”

People walk by the water tower on the ruins of Homesh, on August 27, 2019. (Hillel Maeir/Flash90)

He added that “those choosing to bypass IDF forces situated in the area and to walk through dangerous routes in and near villages are putting their lives at risk.”

According to the national-religious news site Kipa, the parents of several people killed in terror attacks wrote a letter to the prime minister and defense minister on Monday expressing surprise that the military was complaining about a lack of manpower while devoting “much larger forces to enable Muslim holidays,” and removing the closure on the West Bank for Palestinians.

“Is a festive protest march of the Israeli people on Passover worth less than Muslim celebrations?” they asked.

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