Israeli forces photographed building illegal West Bank settlement
Israeli soldiers have been photographed taking part in the construction of an illegal settler outpost in the West Bank, in a move that contravenes international law as well as a Tel Aviv order to dismantle the site within days.
The images, which were obtained by Israeli newspaper Haaretz, show several soldiers carrying prefabricated homes in Evyatar, first established by Israeli settlers in 2013 and razed several times.
The soldiers, who have been guarding the illegal outpost over the past weeks, had not received approval to conduct carry out such activity, which contravenes an order by Defence Minister Benny Gantz to dismantle the site within days, according to Haaretz.
Israeli soldiers photographed helping build illegal -- even under Israeli law -- West Bank outpost https://t.co/5aGH7qAr8N— Shibley Telhami (@ShibleyTelhami) June 12, 2021
The order also forbids building or bringing construction materials inside the outpost. The military said on Friday that it would investigate the soldiers' unauthorised involvement in building the outpost, Haaretz reported.
The outpost has recently been the object of a tug-of-war between Prime Minister Banjamin Netanyahu and Gantz.
An order by Gantz to evacuate and dismantle the illegal site was met with resistance by Prime Minister Benjamin Natanyahu earlier this week. In a statement released on Wednesday, Netanyahu requested that Evyatar’s demolition be delayed until next week, claiming that the order was improper.
Gantz's office issued a statement in response, saying "there is no provision in the law stating that an evacuation order in the Judea and Samaria area requires the approval of the prime minister", using biblical names for the occupied West Bank.
The defence minister added that the establishment of the outpost is illegal and that the decision to have Jewish settlers evacuate it was reached "after consultation with all relevant security and legal bodies".
The outpost was erected on land that once belonged to the Palestinian villages of Beta, Kablan and Yitma, though Palestinian residents have been barred from entering it for decades, for what the Israeli forces allege were "security reasons".
The outpost was dismantled multiple times and recently re-established in response to a drive-by shooting targeting a group of Israeli settlers in the beginning of May, which resulted in the killing of 19-year-old student Yehuda Guetta.
Prior to the incident, there were three attempts to build an outpost at the site – in 2013, 2016 and 2018.
Last month, during protests by Palestinians against the outpost, live fire by the Israeli army killed two Palestinians from Beita and wounded 25 others.