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Right-wing Israelis camp at illegal Amona outpost over weekend ahead of demolition

Dec. 11, 2016 4:20 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 18, 2016 8:46 P.M.)
Israeli soldiers stand guard in the illegal Israeli outpost of Achiya in the occupied West Bank, on Aug. 4, 2015. (AFP/Menahem Kahana, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Several hundred ultra-religious right-wing Israelis set up camp over the weekend at the illegal Amona outpost in the central occupied West Bank district of Ramallah, in anticipation of the outpost’s impending evacuation, according to Israeli news website Haaretz.

Haaretz reported on Sunday that several hundred “Zionist young people spent Shabbat” at the outpost, which Israel’s Supreme Court has ordered to be evacuated by Dec. 25 due to the outpost being built on privately owned Palestinian land.

The extreme right-wing youths set up camp and began demonstrating after a leading group opposing the evacuation announced Thursday that it expected Israeli forces to begin evicting Amona settlers as early as Saturday evening, according to Haaretz.

Come Friday, however, the group said they met with senior Israeli security officials who said no immediate eviction was planned in the coming days.

Haaretz cited Amona residents as saying that 1,000 people camped in wood huts and greenhouses at the site for the weekend, despite no known threat of imminent evacuation.

Haaretz added that the Israeli Civil Administration on Thursday “announced plans to prepare a site a few hundred meters from Amona, next to the settlement of Ofra,” and that some settlers residing in Amona have started seeking housing in Ofra.

Israel’s Channel 2 reported on Saturday that the Israeli government would soon approve a compensation package for residents of the illegal outpost, which would include the value of the home to be demolished, with each home possibly exceeding 500,000 shekels ($130,511), according to estimations.

Right-wing Israeli officials have organized for years to prevent the demolition of the outpost, and have scrambled to find an alternative housing solution for the current residents.

Proposals have included leasing privately held Palestinian land whose owners reside outside of the West Bank, building a new settlement for the evacuees near the already established settlement of Shiloh in Nablus, and attempting to introduce a bill which could retroactively legalize the outpost.

Despite efforts by Israeli authorities to placate Amona's residents, the settlers have vowed to “nonviolently” resist the government demolition, and have “built shelters, bathrooms, and a large kitchen to host thousands of supporters they hope will join them in their struggle to stay put.”

Last month, the Israeli settlers also pledged to resist the Supreme Court-sanctioned demolition, with the spokesperson for the Amona outpost, Avihai Boaron, quoted in the Jerusalem Post at the time as saying that the settlers would “stand here like a bulwark,” and called for those who supported the outpost’s resistance to construct a tent city at the outpost as a protest demonstration.

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman released a statement last month urging the residents not to resist the demolitions for the sake of avoiding dragging the Israeli army into “a political event,” as Israeli politicians fear the government evacuation could erupt into clashes with government forces and settlers.

Meanwhile, the so-called "Legalization bill" passed its first reading on Wednesday in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. The bill could see dozens of illegal Israeli outposts in the occupied West Bank retroactively legalized. However, a clause demanding that the Amona outpost be retroactively legalized was removed from the bill.

While the settler outposts constructed in Palestinian territory are considered illegal by the Israeli government, each of the some 196 government-approved Israeli settlements scattered across the West Bank are also constructed in direct violation of international law.

As the Legalization bill advances toward becoming law, members of the international community have criticized Israel for its settlement expansion and disregard for international law.
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