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Evacuation of Illegal Settlement Begins

Residents and supporters of the West Bank Ulpana neighborhood held a morning prayer service as moving vans arrived to evacuate them from the disputed properties.

The first 15 families living in the outlying neighborhood of the Beit El settlement were scheduled to move to trailer homes set up at a nearby army base on Tuesday. The other 15 families will move on Thursday, according to the Ministry of Defense.

The five apartment buildings are then scheduled to be moved to 4.5 acres of state land that was formerly a Border Police base, and is set to be annexed to the settlement. Three hundred other dwellings also will be built there.

Movers hired by the Defense Ministry began packing up the families Tuesday morning. Four families reportedly will passively resist the evacuation, while the families are asking media outlets to refrain from saying that the evacuation is by agreement, but rather that they are being forced from their homes. An agreement to evacuate and move the buildings was struck between the government and Beit El Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed.

A statement from Israel’s Ministry of Defense said that “The operation is being carried out in full coordination, and with the agreement of community leaders and the residents themselves.”

The residents wore black shirts Tuesday morning that said “We Will Return.”

More than 100 Defense Ministry employees and contractors are participating in the operation, according to the ministry.

A team composed of employees and contractors has been assigned to each family, the ministry said, adding that it would “provide full assistance to the families during the operation, and during their integration into the temporary neighborhood.”

Israel’s Supreme Court ruled in September that the neighborhood should be razed, siding with a lawsuit filed by Palestinians who said they owned the land. A July 1 deadline was set for the evacuation.

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