Israel forces clash with Jewish settlers in the West Bank in August 2005 (courtesy: Israel National News)

JERUSALEM – Jews who were uprooted from their homes in the northern West Bank during Israel’s withdrawal from the area 17 months ago plan to return to their former communities tomorrow in hopes of resettling the territory.

In August 2005, Israel entirely evacuated the Gaza Strip and four West Bank Jewish communities. The West Bank towns encompass large swaths of strategic land at the highest point of the territory, which borders Israel’s major population centers. Since Israel’s withdrawal, Palestinian terror groups turned parts of the northern West Bank into important militant strongholds, according to Israeli security officials and Palestinian terror sources.

Tomorrow, a large number of activists together with 30 Jewish families evacuated from the northern West Bank will march to the former Jewish town of Homesh, located at the top of the West Bank. Organizers told protesters to bring provisions for a 48-hour stay in Homesh, while the evacuated Jewish families are hoping to remain permanently and re-establish Jewish residency in the town.

The march is reportedly being coordinated with the Israeli Defense Forces and police units, but some media outlets here quoted defense officials who denied the protest is being allowed.

Top IDF sources told WND the Israeli army will allow the protest to take place, but said all marchers must leave Homesh by nightfall. They said Jews who attempt to resettle Homesh would be forcibly removed from the area and would face up to two years in prison. But the IDF sources said only a limited number of troops would be assigned to the march. They said if several thousand protesters participate tomorrow, it will be “difficult” to immediately evacuate the city.

Protest organizers said the march is meant to be peaceful, but admitted they were fearful of violence from Israeli security forces.

During a previous Jewish protest in the West Bank, police officers reportedly used violent tactics against unarmed activists. Last January, Israeli troops were brought in to demolish nine homes in the West Bank community of Amona that Israel says were built without proper permits. Horse-mounted police, water cannons and specially trained riot officers faced off against hundreds of protesters who massed in Amona in hopes of halting the efforts.

Knesset Member Effie Eitam evacuated after suffering head injury in clash with Israeli forces in August 2005 (courtesy: Israel National News)

Israeli television broadcast live footage of Amona demonstrators, including women and children, being dragged and beaten by soldiers. Teenagers with bloody noses and head wounds were seen being removed from the scene. Police were videotaped using batons and gas canisters to clear the area of demonstrators. More than 300 protesters were treated in makeshift first aid tents. At least 70 were evacuated to Jerusalem hospitals with moderate to serious injuries. Three Israeli nationalist lawmakers, Effie Eitam, Benny Elon and Aryeh Eldad, were wounded in the clashes.

Later, over 100,000 Israelis protested in Jerusalem against the Amona violence.

Meanwhile, a prominent rabbi in Israel today called on soldiers and politicians who participated in Israel’s 2005 withdrawal to “atone for their sins” by providing financial contributions to help the uprooted Jews of Homesh rebuild their homes.

In a letter distributed in synagogues throughout Israel, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, chief of Israel’s ancient Tzfat community, wrote: “Soldier/officer, if you took part in the expulsion and you want to atone for your actions, there is the possibility of assisting the expellees in returning to their homes.”

In an interview today with Israel National News, Rabbi Eliyahu explained, “There are many people who took part in the expulsion because they were told that it was for the sake of all sorts of ideologies – for the sake of peace or for every other reason. Now they want to atone for their actions and there are a number of facets to atonement – one of which is the practical one.”

“Today it has become clear to what extent the whole thing was lies and deception, and every one who had a hand in it is being harmed from heaven.”

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