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Israeli army orders evacuation of illegal Amona outpost within 48 hours

Jan. 31, 2017 2:21 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 1, 2017 7:44 P.M.)
The wildcat settlement of Adei Ad, a Jewish-only outpost in the occupied West Bank. (AFP/Gali Tibbon, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The Israeli army has ordered the evacuation of the settlers from the illegal Amona outpost in the central occupied West Bank district of Ramallah within 48 hours, an army spokesperson said.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on Tuesday that the army had delivered a notice to the outpost, saying that the army would bar entry to Amona and not allow anyone to stay on the premises 48 hours after midnight on Monday, although the settlers claimed that they only received the order on Tuesday morning.

The order required that the settlers remove their property from the illegal outpost by midnight Wednesday, and gave them the chance to petition the army within 48 hours.

An Israeli spokesperson told Ma'an that "in accordance with government directives, the IDF is preparing for the evacuation of the Amona community. As part of the preparation, an eviction notice has been issued. The notice is intended to allow the evacuation of infrastructure and additional material components from the Amona community that were not previously included in the original eviction orders."

The Israeli Supreme Court had ruled in December that Amona be evacuated by Feb. 8 for being built on private Palestinian land. However, Israeli authorities plans for the relocation of Amona settlers have been contested, as the planned new settlement housing units would be located on the private property of several Palestinian landowners in nearby villages.

Meanwhile, Palestinian residents of the Ramallah-area village of Silwad were expecting a hearing later on Tuesday afternoon objecting to plans by Israeli authorities to confiscate lands from their village to build housing for settlers evacuated from the illegal Amona outpost.

The objection, presented by human rights group Yesh Din lawyer Shlomi Zakariya, claims that Israeli authorities deliberately did not give enough time to Silwad residents to go through the Israeli plan in order to escape legal accountability, adding that the settler relocation would harm Silwad landowners and be tantamount to Israeli political submission to Amona settlers.

Yesh Din had previously stated that the Israeli government was "not concealing the fact that there is currently no plan for transferring the Amona settlers and therefore the only aim of a delay is to try to find how the law can be circumvented."

The evacuation order comes as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been pushing for the speedy passage of the controversial “Legalization bill,” which would see 16 of illegal Israeli outposts in the occupied West Bank -- excluding Amona -- retroactively recognized by the Israeli government.

The bill states that any settlements built in the West Bank “in good faith” -- without knowledge that the land upon which it was built was privately owned by Palestinians -- could be officially recognized by Israel pending “minimal” proof of governmental support in its establishment.

However, Amona settlers threatened last week to renew their fight against imminent evacuation if the bill did not retroactively legalize all settlement outposts in the West Bank.

Rights groups have highlighted that, while settler outposts constructed in Palestinian territory are considered illegal by the Israeli government, all of the 196 government-approved Israeli settlements scattered across the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are also built in direct violation of international law.

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