Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Israeli squatters return to West Bank site

Published: Mar. 26, 2007 at 7:35 AM

Vanguards of some 100 Israeli hardliners have reached the ruins of a West Bank settlement evacuated in 2005 in a drive to renew it.

Organizers said more people were on their way to the ruins of Homseh south of Jenin in the northern West Bank. Homseh was one of four settlements in that area which Israel evacuated and destroyed following the disengagement from the Gaza Strip. Unlike Gaza, the Israeli army has retained control over the northern West Bank.

The organizers had planned to defy police warnings not to return to Homseh and the army decided to let them go there for a day's visit. "There is an understanding this would be a day visit and that it would end in the evening," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said.

In an attempt to prevent overnight stays, squatters had to leave their cars at the closest settlement of Shavei Shomron and walk to Homseh. They were not to carry any equipment for overnight stays.

However past experience with such moves shows that squatters often stayed, despite hardships.

One of the first arrivals, Yedidya Lerner, told Israel Radio youngsters were dragging ruins of destroyed buildings to rebuild the site. A committee of West Bank rabbis called followers to "go with thousands of Jews to resettle" there.

Retired Brig. Ilan Paz, who headed the Civil Administration in the West Bank said, "There is no such thing as letting them get there and (expecting them) to leave on their own." He recalled that six years ago he allowed protesters to stay for a week's mourning period at the site of a deadly attack on settlers. The squatters' leaders promised they would leave but never did; and by now, they live in stone houses there.

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