Text size

Security forces razed the nine houses slated for demolition in the illegal West Bank outpost of Amona on Wednesday, where at least 200 people were wounded, among them a youth listed in serious condition and dozens of policemen, during fierce clashes between right-wing protesters and security forces.

Nine people were moderately wounded and the rest were lightly hurt in the violent clashes.

All the buildings were evacuated by the afternoon, after opposition on the part of the demonstrators had substantially weakened. Police used more force during the Amona evacuation than employed even at the height of last summer's disengagement from the Gaza Strip.

During the evacuation of the last building one the settlers holed up in the house drew a gun, but police over-powered and arrested him. Police detained only 34 of the some 4,500 people holed up in the outpost.

As of early evening, four indictments were filed against individuals detained at Amona. Nineteen people remained in detention as of late Wednesday night.

Israel Defense Forces GOC Central Command Major General Yair Naveh said 65 members of the security forces were wounded and estimated that some 70 settlers also suffered injuries. Settlers reported 220 protesters were wounded when they clashed with security forces.

Three far-right members of Knesset, Effi Eitam (Religious Zionism Party), Aryeh Eldad and Rabbi Binyamin Elon (both of National Union), were among the first to be injured in the clashes.

Eitam was lightly wounded and hospitalized in the trauma wing of Hadassah University Medical Center, Ein Karem, in Jerusalem. Eldad appeared to have sustained an arm fracture and Elon was lightly injured when forced off of a bulldozer on which he had climbed.

A spokeswoman for Hadassah's two hospitals in Jerusalem said that a total of 65 people had been brought for medical treatment, one of whom was seriously injured.

Young protesters hurled cinder blocks, large stones and buckets of paint at the forces as large numbers of of troops moved in to evacuate the thousands of demonstrators and demolish the houses.

In light of the severity of the unprecedented clashes and high injury count, an additional 1,400 security officials were called in Wednesday afternoon to assist in the evacuation.

Wednesday's violence between demonstrators and security officials surpassed that seen during last summer's disengagement from the Gaza Strip, with youths throwing small boulders at horses carrying mounted police officers. Police used water cannons and batons to restrain the protesters, and officers broke open windows of the houses in order the remove protesters packed inside.

As security forces approached the outpost houses, a number of people were evacuated from the site on stretchers, one of them Eldad, a physician and former IDF brigadier general who said his arm appeared to be broken.

"They are relating to human beings here like they wouldn't relate to Arabs," Eldad told Army Radio while undergoing treatment in an IDF field first aid station. "It makes no difference if they are members of Knesset or not. They cut open [MK] Effi Eitam's head."

"They are fighting us, they are killing us," Amona settlement leader Orit Caspi said. "The state has declared war on its own citizens," she told the radio. "It is impossible to continue to exist in this country."

Earlier in the day, Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein issued a temporary injunction delaying the planned evacuation. Rubinstein cast a dissenting "no" vote in the 2-1 High Court decision to give the go-ahead to evacuation forces. The demolitions were ordered after the High Court Sunday rejected a petition by Amona residents against the demolition.

Before dawn Wednesday, thousands of soldiers and police officers massed around the hilltop where the outpost sits, and scattered clashes broke out between security forces and young protesters.

Before forces moved in to evacuate the outpost, settlers smeared tar and oil on the access road and thousands of settler youths hurled rocks at police officers. Youths on the rooftops of the homes slated for demolition stockpiled stones, glass bottles, buckets of cooking oil and paint.

Gideon Mor, a police commander at the scene, was hit in the face by a rock thrown by protesters during the early stage of the operation.

According to Army Radio figures, 3,000 protesters were arrayed in an around the site, facing 2,000 soldiers and 3,100 police, including mounted officers, riot police, and five water cannon trucks.

Settlers tried to strike a last-minute deal presented to the court, which would have required them to destroy the nine outpost houses themselves, in exchange for the Defense Ministry's assurance that it will allow them to establish permanent structures in another area of Amona, with legal permission.

Hundreds of settlers blocked the main bypass road near Ramallah just after midnight Wednesday in an effort to halt police convoys en route to Amona.

Military sources told Haaretz that the evacuation of Amona is expected to cost over NIS 5 million.

In the night before the evacuation, settlers beat a Palestinian man and trashed several cars near the village of Za'atra, not far from the settlement of Tapuah.

Settlers also slashed tires and broke windows of vehicles transporting TV crews which came to cover the impending evacuation.

In a separate incident, right-wing activists entered the village of Ein Yabrud and threw stones at Palestinian cars.

Some 100 settlers also blocked the road south of the Hawara roadblock near the town of Nablus. They also punctured the tires and broke the mirror of an IDF patrol jeep.