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The High Court on Wednesday ordered the state to explain within 90 days why it had not evacuated six illegal West Bank outposts that were slated for evacuation in 2004.

The head of the left-wing Israeli organization Peace Now, Yariv Oppenheimer, said the High Court had given the government a "yellow card," as well as an opportunity to prove it was serious in its intention to evacuate the outposts.

"If the High Court does not obligate the state by order to evacuate illegal outposts, the state will not evacuate them willingly," he said.

The outposts in question are Givat Assaf, Ma'aleh Rehavam, Givat Haroeh, Mitzpeh Yitzhar and Mitzpeh Lachish. In 2006, Peace Now petitioned the court to force the Israel Defense Forces to carry out orders given in 2004 by the then defense minister, Shaul Mofaz, which enabled the evacuation of the six sites.

Mofaz's successor in the post, Amir Peretz, extended the validity of the orders to last a further two years shortly after the petition was submitted.

Peace Now petitioned the court again at the end of 2007, when it had become clear that the defense establishment had no intention of carrying out the orders. Following that petition, Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced in 2008 he was extending the orders' validity for a further year. He said this was in order to reach an agreement with settler leaders.

Prosecutors announced during a High Court hearing Wednesday that the orders would be extended for yet another year.

Justices Dorit Beinisch, Ayala Procaccia and Elyakim Rubinstein issued a conditional order, however, requesting the state to update the court on the results of its talks with the settlers within 90 days, and to explain why the outposts have not been evacuated.