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Evacuation of Ulpana neighborhood begins

JTA

June 26, 2012 | 4:15 pm

A boy watches as a crane lowers the belongings of families moving out of the Ulpana neighbourhood of the Beit El settlement on June 26. Photo by REUTERS/Baz Ratner

A boy watches as a crane lowers the belongings of families moving out of the Ulpana neighbourhood of the Beit El settlement on June 26. Photo by REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Residents and supporters of the Ulpana neighborhood in the West Bank 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 are scheduled to move to trailer homes set up at a nearby army base on July 3. The other 15 families will move on July 5, according to Israel’s Ministry of Defense.

The five apartment buildings are to be moved to 4.5 acres of state land that was a Border Police base and will 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 on June 26. Four families reportedly will passively resist the evacuation, and all the families are asking media outlets to report that they are being forced from their homes and refrain from saying that the evacuation is by agreement. An agreement to evacuate and move the buildings was struck between the government and Beit El Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed.

A statement from the Ministry of Defense said, “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 on June 26 that said “We Will Return.”

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

A team 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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