Amona outpost residents given evacuation orders

Amona standing atop a hill in the northern West Bank on Dec. 13, 2016. (Andrew Tobin)

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) –The Israel Defense Forces as notified residents of the Amona outpost in the West Bank that they have 48 hours to leave, ahead of its demolition.

The IDF posted a notice at the outpost Monday that the entire outpost including residents’ possessions must be vacated Wednesday. After several delays, the demolition date set by Israel’s Supreme Court for the hilltop community is Feb. 8.

Roads around the outpost reportedly have been closed to all but authorized vehicles.

The evacuation is going forward despite the suspension of a plan to relocate many of the residents to an adjacent hilltop, after Palestinians filed claims to that land.

The relocation was part of a deal reached between the residents of the outpost and the government, to ensure a peaceful evacuation. Under the deal 24 homes would be built on the new hilltop, and 16 other families would be assisted in finding homes nearby.

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The evacuation notice comes as a vote on the controversial bill that would legalize dozens of West Bank outposts is delayed by at least a week over hundreds of revisions to the bill submitted by the opposition. The bill could come to the Knesset plenum for a vote on Monday.

The bill would legalize about 4,000 housing units in 55 outposts in the West Bank on land that is claimed as privately owned by Palestinians. It would allow the Israeli government to recognize construction built with government assistance and in good faith — meaning the builders did not know it was private land. If the original owners of the land are known, they would be eligible to receive financial compensation from the government.

A section of the bill that would allow the government to act against a Supreme Court ruling to raze the Amona outpost reportedly could be added back in to the legislation.

Consideration of the bill by the Knesset had been suspended after it passed an initial reading in early December until the start of the Trump administration, which is seen as friendlier toward Israel and the settlements.

Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has said the bill violates local and international law and would likely be overturned by the Supreme Court.

Israel’s Supreme Court has ruled that Amona is an illegal settlement built on appropriated Palestinian land. At least three demolition orders have been issued since 1997.

In 2006, a confrontation between settlers and police forces attempting to evacuate them turned violent, leaving many injured. The February demolition was postponed from Dec. 25 to give the state time to provide new housing for the residents.