Ten Israel Police and Border Police officers due to command this month’s planned evacuation of Amona, an unauthorized West Bank outpost, paid an undercover visit to the outpost on Sunday to plan the operation.
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At this point, the eviction of the settlers is due to take place by July 15, although the state has asked that the operation be deferred, citing the Jewish period of mourning leading up to the Tisha B’Av fast, which itself falls on sundown July 15 to sundown July 16. They also noted the fact that the eviction would take place during summer school vacation and during the Muslim fast of Ramadan.
For their survey of the area, the police arrived at Amona in undercover vehicles, moved around the outpost, and then progressed toward the access route through which trucks plan to enter to remove the residents' belongings. Security forces are prepared to carry out the evacuation on 24 hours’ notice, a police source told Haaretz.
Amona was established in 1995 on a mountain overlooking the West Bank settlement of Ofra. Most of the land Amona sits on is private Palestinian property. Demolition orders have been issued over the years against mobile homes and other semi-permanent structures on the site in 1997, 2003 and 2004. On Feb. 1, 2006, after a petition filed by Peace Now, the state demolished nine houses at the outpost. Hundreds were injured in confrontations between police and thousands of protesters who tried to prevent the evacuation.
The state at one point had promised in court to carry out the evacuation by the end of last year, but then asked that it be postponed until April and then again until July. Supreme Court President Asher Grunis gave the state until July 15 to carry out the operation, noting that he was going beyond the letter of the law.
In the interim, however, a political battle among those seeking to head off the evacuation continues behind the scenes. And through a company called Al-Watan, which is owned by the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council, the settlers say they have managed to buy four parcels of land at Amona in addition to some other pieces of land there.
The question of the legal significance of these claims recalls the case of another unauthorized outpost, Migron, residents of which claimed to have purchased land where the outpost was sitting. The Supreme Court justices hearing that case did not attach great significance to those claims.
Residents of Amona have now filed a Magistrate’s Court request in connection with the land ownership claims, and that case could take years to litigate if it is allowed to proceed. The State Prosecutor’s Office is taking the position that the land ownership claims cannot retroactively give the settlers the right to remain there, but some political figures are applying pressure to allow the issue to be litigated in court.
In any event, the Israel Defense Forces and the police are gearing up for the evacuation, which would involve 3,000 troops spearheaded by a force of 1,000 from the Border Police and the Yasam special forces unit of the Israel Police, who would remove those who do not leave voluntarily or who disturb the peace.