Israeli police asked right-wing Knesset members Idit Silman and Nir Orbach not to travel to the West Bank Homesh outpost Dec. 26, so as not to further increase tensions there. The two legislators intended to visit the place after attending an event in another West Bank settlement, not far away.
Just the day before, hundreds of Palestinians clashed with Israeli troops in the village of Burqa, adjacent to Homesh. The Palestinian Red Crescent said that seven Palestinian demonstrators in Burqa, including a 17-year-old boy, were hurt by Israel Defense Forces (IDF) live fire. An IDF spokesperson said that the teen had hurled a Molotov cocktail at the troops, and that in return the troops responded with gunfire.
Later that evening, dozens of Jewish right-wing activists tried marching toward Homesh, violating an IDF order banning the entry of Israelis into the area. Reportedly, the activists had purposely left their cars near the settlement of Sebastia, continuing from there by foot toward Homesh. They were stopped on their way by Israeli security forces present in the area.
Tensions sparked around Homesh following the Dec. 16 killing of Yehuda Dimentman, 25, who lived in the Shavei Shomron settlement but studied at the yeshiva in Homesh. Dimentman was shot by a Palestinian assailant while in the back seat of a car leaving the outpost, and died en route to the hospital. The driver of the car and another passenger were slightly injured in the incident. Reportedly, the car was ambushed in a pre-planned attack. No Palestinian group took responsibility for the assault, but Hamas praised the shooting. Israeli authorities believe the assailants were affiliated with the Gaza-based Islamic Jihad group.
One day after the shooting, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett tweeted, “At this moment, Yehuda Dimentman is being laid to rest. He was a wise [yeshiva] student, full of love for Israel, with a constant smile on his face. … Following the [2005 Gaza] disengagement, he chose to study at the Homesh yeshiva. He believed in it, and acted upon his beliefs without fear. … Yehuda was murdered only because he was a Jew living in his country. An inconceivable reality that we will never come to terms with."
Four days after the shooting, on the night of Dec. 18-19, Israeli security forces arrested in the village of Silat al-Harithiya six suspects in the attack, including two brothers. The two brothers — Ghaith and Omar Jaradat — are believed to have carried out the shooting. The other four men detained are suspected of assisting them. In an unusual move, Bennet arrived at the IDF headquarters late Dec. 18, to follow up live on the manhunt after the perpetrators of the assault.
Following the raid and the arrests, the Israeli authorities decided to take measurements of the house where the brothers lived, for eventual demolition. It is a measure applied by Israel in cases of such attacks, as deterrence. When Israeli troops came to the village for measuring the home, they were met with gunfire and rioting.
The Homesh outpost was first established in the late 1970s. It was evacuated in the framework of the 2005 Israeli unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip, when Israel also withdrew from four settlements located in the north of the Samaria region in the West Bank. Since the 2005 eviction, former residents of Homesh and other settlers and right-wing activists have revisited its ruins regularly, trying to return to the site and rebuild the village. A court ruling in 2007 stipulated that the Israeli authorities did not relinquish the site to another sovereign body, hence the ruins and the roads leading to it should remain in the status of West Bank Area C. In other words, Homesh and the roads leading to it should legally be considered under Israeli control. A yeshiva that operated at the time in Homesh was also demolished in 2005, but settlers established in its stead a makeshift yeshiva (in modular mobile structures). It has been operating in the place illegally for a few years now.
The same day as the raid in the Palestinian village, Israeli forces demolished makeshift structures erected in Homesh just after the Dec. 16 incident. Still, the forces did not demolish the yeshiva. In a letter sent earlier this week, Dimentman’s wife, Ethia, and his 11 siblings have called on Bennett to honor his memory by rebuilding and authorizing the Homesh yeshiva.