Israel Forces Evacuating Nine Settler Homes in West Bank

Israeli security forces started removing settlers from nine homes in the West Bank settlement of Ofra after a court ordered them demolished because they were built illegally on private Palestinian land.

Hundreds of people gathered in the residences to protest the demolitions, and police called on the families and pro-settlement activists to refrain from violence. By mid-morning, eight families had been removed voluntarily, police reported.

The evacuation of Ofra, like the dismantling of the Amona settler outpost earlier this month, marks another setback for the settlement movement after years of legal challenges. Settlers and their supporters in parliament chafed for eight years under the Obama administration’s opposition to Jewish construction in the West Bank, and are hoping for a more tolerant approach from the Trump administration.

Plans to build more than 6,000 new settler homes were announced in the weeks after Trump’s inauguration, and earlier this month, the Israeli parliament passed a law that legalizes previously forbidden construction on private Palestinian land. Still, messages from the White House have been mixed. A spokesman said settlements aren’t an obstacle to peace, but President Donald Trump told visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this month that Israel should “hold back” on construction.

Settlers had hoped to take advantage of the law legalizing construction on private Palestinian land when they asked the Supreme Court to seal the buildings in Ofra rather than demolish them. But the court rejected their request and ordered the homes vacated.

Many government officials expect that legislation to be struck down, and it is already being challenged in the Supreme Court.

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