IDF, Police Begin Deploying Near Amona Outpost

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The Israel Defense Forces and the police began deploying forces near the illegal West Bank outpost of Amona late last night, ahead of the evacuation slated for today. The troops are expecting strenuous opposition from the thousands of right-wing activists who have gathered at the site to protest the evacuation - unless settlers reach a deal with the army intended to avert further confrontation.

Demonstrators clashed with security forces in the West Bank yesterday and held protests at several junctions.

MKs Uri Ariel (National Union) and Eli Yishai (Shas) were negotiating last night with Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and the Amona settlers in an effort to reach such an agreement, Yishai said.

The deal under discussion would require the settlers 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.

Yishai said last night that the settlers were awaiting Mofaz's response. Settlers said they thought there was about a 50-percent chance the deal would go through.

Hebron settlers have also made a deal with the army, in accordance with which the settlers who had been squatting in the city's wholesale market evacuated the area Monday night.

If the Amona agreement does not go through, some 6,000 soldiers and police officers are slated to enter the outpost early this morning and destroy the houses there. The approximately 3,000 protesters gathered at the site, mostly youths, have prepared rocks, tires, bricks and bottles to use against the troops. Hundreds, and perhaps thousands, more protesters were expected to attempt to reach Amona overnight.

West Bank rabbis announced yesterday that evacuation must be stopped "by any means."

"We must stop ... the persecution of Jews and the sale of our sacred land," the Yesha rabbinical council said in a statement. However, the Yesha Council of settlements and several rabbis said the protesters in Amona would be instructed to use passive resistance, and settler leaders said a responsible adult would be present in every house where protesters were located, in an effort to keep the struggle non-violent.

Security forces have been instructed to complete the evacuation by this evening. The operation is estimated to cost more than NIS 5 million.

Yesterday morning, several hundred youths broke through an IDF outpost close to the nearby settlement of Ofra and were removed after the settlement secretariat intervened. Protesters also damaged media vehicles in Amona, puncturing the tires of more than 10 vehicles and breaking some windshields and mirrors.

The protests spread out to other areas of the West Bank in the evening. Some 100 protesters blocked the Hawara intersection at the southern exit from Nablus, puncturing the tires of a military jeep and breaking its mirrors.

However, security officials rejected the settlers' attempt to portray the clashes as a "second disengagement," saying the Amona evacuation was the implementation of a legal order to evacuate houses built on Palestinian land.

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