Palestinians have ramped up their protest against the Evyatar outpost with a new form of “tire and chemical terrorism” as the eviction date nears for the fledgling community.
“Thousands of tires are set on fire every day, causing terrible pollution and suffocating black smoke,” Religious Zionist Party head Bezalel Smotrich said on Thursday as he called on Defense Minister Benny Gantz to halt this new form of organized Palestinian violence.
“This is not a protest action but a new kind of chemical warfare designed to cause suffering and suffocation,” he added.
This “new and dangerous form of tire terrorism has spread” behind the area of the Evyatar outpost, Smotrich wrote adding that such use of smoke and chemicals is prohibited under international law.
Videos of masked Palestinians holding torches have circulated on social media, including twitter.
Palestinians have mounted an unusual response, with nightly vigil protests, known as “night disruptions” in addition to traditional weekend rallies that have ended in clashes with the IDF.
During the night protests that began last week, burning tires have engulfed settler homes in acrid smoke.
“We come at night, we light up the mountain, to send them a message that they can’t have even an inch of this land,” said one masked Palestinian this week. He lit fires while others flashed laser pointers to dazzle the settlers in their homes.
Israeli troops have shot dead five Palestinians during stone-throwing protests since Evyatar was set up, Palestinian officials said.
The IDF said it faced “hundreds of Palestinians throwing stones, lighting fires, burning tires and throwing explosives” at its troops.
“The large number of violent rioters endangers the lives of Israeli civilians and a military force has been deployed to provide protection,” it said in a statement.
The Israeli military did not comment on fatalities, but said troops used live fire only as a last resort.
Palestinians call the site of the Evyatar outpost “Jabal Al-Sabih” or “The Morning Mountain,” because the sunlight strikes it early.
Evyatar’s creation is unusual in that its organizers, the Nahala movement and the Samaria Regional Council, galvanized 50 families to live there within a month and built modular homes for them and paved roads.
It’s is one of the fastest outpost creations in the history of the settlement movement.
The settlers have until Monday to appeal to the Supreme Court, a military spokesman said, although the decision over the evacuation ultimately rests with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
The decision whether to raze the outpost or allow it to remain is considered a test for Bennett’s new government, which is made up of parties from the Left, Right and Center of Israel’s political map.
On Thursday MK Nir Orbach from Bennett’s Yamina party made a solidarity visit to the outpost in an effort to help its families who had settled there as an act of great faith.
In a statement he released after the visit he said he would meet with relevant authorities so the matter could be advanced.
Meretz parliamentarians Mossi Raz and Gabi Lasky, who are also in the coalition arrived to call for the community to be evacuated.
The IDF has already said that Evyatar was illegally built and must be removed and “we support that,” Raz said.
Gantz (Blue and White) has also spoken of the need to remove the outpost as has Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid).
Bennett has yet to issue a statement on the outpost, located in the Samaria Region of the West Bank near the Tapuah Junction. It was built in the aftermath of a terror attack at that junction which claimed the life of Yehuda Guetta, 19.
A similar initiative to build an outpost there began in 2013, just after a Palestinian terrorist killed Evyatar Borovsky, 31. It failed when the IDF razed the outpost.
Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the outpost could be legalized and the Samaria Regional Council has explained that it is constructed on survey land, which can be reclassified as state land.
It has already filed a master plan to the Civil Administration to legalize it.
The Left-wing group Peace Now said that the outpost is built on land that belongs to the villages of Yatma and Beita.
“A small group of people is creating facts on the ground that effect dramatically Israel’s security and its foreign policy, without any authority,” Peace Now said.
“The new government must not accept that. This outpost must be evicted not only because it is deepening the occupation of the Palestinians in the West Bank but because it is bad for the security of Israel and bad for the possibility of future peace for Israel,” it added.
Eli Shapira, a 30-year-old teacher and father of four, said “They won’t drive us away from here. This is our homeland, this is our forefathers’ land. We love the land, we want to be here, we know they come out of hate.”
Reuters contributed to this report.