Amona
A settler woman clashes with security forces during the evacuation of the Amona outpost in 2008. Photo by Oded Balilty, AP
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Defense Minister Ehud Barak has decided to demolish the illegal West Bank outpost of Amona by the end of 2012, and is expected to send out an official statement about the planned demolition in the coming days.

The state is expected to announce that the homes will not be demolished if settlers finalize their purchase of the land on which the outpost is located.

Over the last few days, Amona settlers have informed Eitan Broshi, the Defense Ministry's adviser on settlement issues, that they are seeking to buy the land. They previously said they had already purchased the land, but those claims were not substantiated.

Amona, which was built on private Palestinian land and houses some 50 Jewish families, has become one of the symbols of the settlement movement in recent years.

The official announcement from Barak will be sent to the High Court of Justice, which had ordered the state to provide a timetable for evacuating illegal outposts after a 2008 High Court appeal by 10 Palestinian landowners seeking to have all the homes in Amona demolished.

The court singled out Amona, where settlers began to build in 1995 in an effort to keep the area from being placed under Palestinian control, under the Oslo II interim agreement, and have continued to build despite several demolition orders and evacuations.

The planned Amona demolition is one of several commitments the state is making to raze West Bank outposts, beginning in the next month or two. By the end of the year, the homes of all 25 families living in the Givat Assaf outpost are due to be demolished, and several outposts are slated for partial demolition: Ma'aleh Rehavam, Givat Haroeh, Givat Hadegel, Bnei Adam and Mitzpeh Yitzhar.

Migron, which, like Amona, has been a focal point of controversy, is due to be demolished by the end of March, in keeping with a High Court decision.

Some structures in Beit Alef are due to be demolished by April, and others in the expanded section of Beit El will be torn down by May.

The Defense Ministry says it is serious about its commitment to destroy the outposts, and the army's Central Command is preparing detailed operational plans. Barak is schedueld to convene a meeting next week to discuss the outpost demolition.

Shortly after the 2008 High Court appeal was filed by the Yesh Din human rights organization and lawyers Michael Sfard and Shlomo Zacharia, the state acknowledged that Amona had been built illegally, without construction permits, and said the settlers' homes there would be demolished in accordance with the state's priority list.

The response prompted the High Court to issue an injunction requiring the state to provide a detailed timetable for demolishing illegal outposts, which was recently reached after extensive negotiations involving Barak and Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser.

Residents of Amona - located on Mount Hazor, near the settlement of Ofra and north of Ramallah - lived in mobile homes until 2004, when they began building permanent homes. On February 1, 2006, after extended legal wrangling, the state demolished the buildings. Hundreds of people were injured in violent confrontations between security forces and thousands of right-wing protesters.

Since the 2006 demolition, settlers have not attempted to erect permanent structures - but several months ago, they carted away the rubble left over from the houses that were destroyed, in an effort to clear the area for more construction.

The decision to demolish Amona by the end of next year was made after Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein limited the scope of a committee established by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that was meant to find ways to legalize unauthorized West Bank outposts.

At a meeting of Likud ministers yesterday, Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat criticized Weinstein's decision, saying the state should fight for the continued existence of the outposts.

"The state should ask the High Court of Justice tomorrow for enough time for the legal task force at issue to conduct an examination," Livnat said. "The validity of the claims of private entities regarding so-called ownership of land in Judea and Samaria must be investigated, and, if necessary, possibilities for a solution must be considered - like compensation, for instance, as is customary within the Green Line.

"It is the government that is responsible for policy, thus the government has the sovereign right to establish a task force that will suggest solutions."

 קראו כתבה זו בעברית: צה"ל נערך לפינוי מאחזים: עמונה אחרי מגרון