Israel begins evacuation of illegal settlement in West Bank
Feb.1, Jerusalem: Hundreds of Israeli border police have entered a hardline Jewish settlement outpost in the West Bank Wednesday to evict its residents after a court ruled the homes were built on private Palestinian land.
Hundreds of officers marched into the Amona outpost near Ramallah on Wednesday, just hours after the Israeli government announced that another 3,000 more illegal homes would be built in occupied Palestinian territory.
The officers' evacuation of Amona marked the end of months of attempts by government hardliners to legalise the outpost, and the approval over the past two weeks of nearly 5,000 new settler homes elsewhere in the occupied Palestinian territories was widely seen as a move to win their support.
There had been fears of violence after hundreds of hardline sympathisers of the settlers slipped past army roadblocks on foot and lit tyres around the outpost.
Some threw stones at the media, as residents started packing their belongings, an AFP correspondent reported.
Al Jazeera's Imran Khan, reporting from the village of Taybeh in the occupied West Bank, which overlooks Amona, described fires being lit and smoke rolling down the hills.
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"There are a number of people from surrounding settlements coming to support the settlers of Amona," he said. "[Amona] is quite small. There are only about 40 houses there, but it really has become a symbol for the settler movement."
As border police were inside Amona negotiating with the settlers to leave, Khan said that the settlers were threatening to return and "build on this land legally".
"There will likely be a court challenge from the settlers," Khan said.
The Israeli Supreme Court ruled three years ago that the Amona outpost was, by its standard, illegally built on stolen Palestinian land, and ordered it to be demolished.
Dozens of other unauthorised outposts - distinguished from Israeli government-sanctioned settlements that are also considered illegal by the international community - have been constructed throughout the occupied West Bank by settlers.
The Israeli government has generally tolerated them.
The Oslo Times International News Network