In a rare move, Israeli occupation forces evacuated and destroyed an illegal outpost in the West Bank on Monday, despite the presence of some of the most ardent settlement supporters in the government.
The outpost, known as Aira Shahar, was located near the settlement of Kochav Hashahar and consisted of five buildings that were either demolished or removed by officials from the Israeli Civil Administration, the Israeli body that oversees civilian affairs in the occupied territory.
The evacuation was met with resistance from right-wing activists and residents of the outpost, who tried to block the access road with burning tires and spikes. Some minor clashes also occurred at the scene between the protesters and the Israeli occupation forces.
The decision to dismantle the outpost was approved by Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who is also the leader of the ultra-nationalist Religious Zionism party and an additional minister in the Defense Ministry. Smotrich is known for his pro-settlement stance and his advocacy for the annexation of the West Bank.
However, a source close to Smotrich said that the land on which Aira Shahar was built was indisputably private Palestinian land, which made it impossible to legalize the outpost under Israeli law. The source also said that there was pressure from the defense establishment and legal professionals to enforce the demolition order.
The source added that Smotrich had tried to find a solution to relocate the buildings to nearby state land, as he had done in other cases, but failed to do so. The source claimed that Smotrich was still committed to building and legalizing settlements in the West Bank at an unprecedented scale and with proper authorization.
While international community considers all settlements illegal, the Israeli occupation differentiates between settlement homes built and permitted by Defense Ministry on land owned by state and illegal outposts built without necessary permits, often on private Palestinian land.
However, outposts are sometimes erected with tacit approval, and successive governments have sought to legalize at least some of unrecognized neighborhoods as a result.