Netanyahu announces new settlement for Amona evacuees as police work to empty outpost

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that a new West Bank settlement will be established for the evacuated residents of the Amona outpost.

Netanyahu made the announcement Wednesday evening as Israel police and security forces were evacuating the last of the homes for the 40 families living in Amona.

It will be the first new settlement established in 25 years.

A committee assigned to promote the establishment of the new settlement, according to the statement sent out by the Prime Minister’s Office, will determine its location and start the process of establishing it. The committee will be made up of representatives of the settlers,  Netanyahu’s chief of staff, and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s adviser for settlement affairs, according to the announcement.

Netanyahu promised the Amona residents more than a month ago that he would provide them with a new community if the deal struck with them at the time fell through.

Earlier on Wednesday, Israel’s Supreme Court cancelled a December agreement by the government and the Amona residents to move their community to land adjacent to the evacuated outpost, after Palestinians came forward claiming ownership of the land.

Earlier, the Supreme Court ruled that Amona is an illegal settlement built on appropriated Palestinian land. At least three demolition orders have been issued since 1997.

As of late Wednesday night, police and security officers had emptied nearly all of the Amona houses and evacuated at least 4,000 protesters from the outpost, according to reports. Some 60 people reportedly remained holed up in the outpost’s synagogue, and it was estimated that the operation to evacuate the outpost would take until morning. It is not known when the demolition of the buildings would be complete.

At least 24 police officers have been injured in the evacuation, with the arrest of 13 protesters.

Temperatures fell below zero after nightfall, making the evacuation harder on Israeli forces and protesters alike.

Hundreds of police entered Amona on Wednesday morning to carry out the court-ordered evacuation. The activists, including many teens, had stationed themselves in homes and the outpost’s synagogue.

Some police were hit and injured by rocks as well as caustic materials, such as bleach and paint.

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.