JERUSALEM (JTA) — Hundreds of police entered the West Bank outpost Amona in order to carry out the court-ordered evacuation.
The police and security forces arrived at the outpost on Wednesday morning and were met by hundreds of activists, many teens, who have stationed themselves in homes and the outpost’s synagogue. Some threw stones at police as they entered the area.
Police on Tuesday sealed the roads leading to the outpost to all but authorized vehicles in an attempt to prevent protesters from gathering at the outpost. Many headed to Amona on foot, walking through fields and unpopulated areas to reach the outpost.
The protesters were asked by Amona residents to avoid violence but to “ensure that the evacuation would be very hard,” Haaretz reported. Police told Israeli media that they have been talking to the protesters in order to avoid violence.
Israel media estimated between 1,000 and 2,000 protesters were on and around the outpost, home to about 40 families.
Many Amona parents sent their young children to the nearby Ofra settlement on Wednesday morning to ahead of the entry of the police and the start of the evacuation.
Several Israeli lawmakers arrived at the outpost on Wednesday morning, including Bezalel Smotrich, Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, and Shuli Moallem of the Jewish Home party and Oren Hazan of the Likud Party.
Smotrich compared the evacuation to a woman being raped. “The evacuation won’t be violent because the people aren’t violent, but it will hurt just like when something terrible happens, it hurts,” he said. “”When someone rapes a woman it hurts. What they’re doing here now is a brutal rape. They’re going to remove innocent people from their home.” His comparison was condemned by opposition lawmakers.
Rabbi David Lau in a video released on social media called on the residents of Amona, residents of the nearby settlement of Ofra and activists who have gathered there not to act violently against security forces during the evacuation.
“The evacuation of the community and the families living in it causes sorrow and great pain. However, it is obligatory to respect the law and not to behave violently toward any person, let alone against security forces who spend day and night protecting the people of Israel. And so it is up to each and every one to act only in accordance with halacha and the law,” Lau said, referring to both Jewish and civil law.
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 and the government to ensure a peaceful evacuation. Under the agreement, 24 homes would be built on the new hilltop and 16 other families would be assisted in finding homes nearby.
The 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.