Israel will pay 60 million shekels ($16.7 million) in compensation to illegal settler families whose houses are being demolished today.
Fifteen buildings in the illegal Israeli settlement of Netiv HaAvot, south of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank, are due to be demolished by the Israeli government because they are built on private Palestinian land. The structures will be rebuilt nearby on land that is "not privately owned" but still within the occupied West Bank.
The move to demolish the houses has been widely protested by the settlers and right-wing Israeli ministers, including Israel's Education Minister and leader of the orthodox Jewish Home party, Naftali Bennett.
Bennett labelled the demolitions "senseless" and vowed that "whoever wants to raze 15 homes will receive 350 on this hill. This is a difficult night. It is incomprehensible to the residents of the Netiv HaAvot neighbourhood and for everyone who has settled the precious land of Israel," according to Haaretz.
Confrontations were expected, with the Times of Israel reporting that 2,500 Israeli police converged on the settlement in preparation for resistance from settlers from Netiv Ha'avot and the wider Elazar settlement it belongs to. In the latest update, Haaretz reported "hundreds of religious Zionist young people holed themselves up in several of the homes, and police detained some of them for allegedly attacking officers."
The demolition comes almost two years after the Israeli High Court of Justice first ruled that the buildings had been constructed on private Palestinian land. The court ordered that they be demolished by 8 March 2018, but granted a three-month delay to arrange temporary housing for the evicted settlers.
Israeli human rights organisation B'Tselem estimates that, as of the end of 2015, there were 127 government-sanctioned Israeli settlements in the West Bank (not including East Jerusalem and central Hebron), with a further 100 "settlement outposts". B'Tselem adds that "there are an estimated 588,000 settlers in the West Bank."
In May, Israel's Planning Committee approved a plan to build 261 settlement units in occupied Hebron, a move that Saudi Arabia's King Salman Bin Abdulaziz condemned as a reflection of Israel's ongoing aggression and violations of the Palestinian people's rights, as well as defiance of the relevant resolutions of international legitimacy.
In 2016, the UN Security Council overwhelmingly approved Resolution 2334, which considered Israeli settlements in the 1967 occupied territories as "illegal" and called for their immediate and complete cessation. The United States abstained from voting.