Israel Again Evacuates Illegal West Bank Outpost of Amona; Dozens Wounded

Settlers throw stones at security forces, barricading themselves to the outpost and burning tires ■ 23 police officers hospitalized, 3 settlers wounded

A settler being evicted from the illegal outpost in Amona, January 3, 2019.
Olivier Fitoussi

Security forces evacuated settlers Thursday morning who had erected illegal structures at the West Bank outpost of Amona. Settlers barricaded themselves to the structures and threw stones at security forces.

Seven suspects have been arrested while three settlers and 23 police officers were injured in the clashes, the Border Police says. The injured security forces have been taken to nearby hospital. All suspects have later been released under restrictive conditions. 

A Border Police spokesperson said that "the forces that came to the scene encountered very intense violence from dozens of rioters who threw stones, burned tires, and threw barbed wire at the forces using riot control measures." 

To really understand Israel and the Middle East - subscribe to Haaretz

A map showing the location of Amona.
Haaretz

Israel's Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said in an interview with the Army Radio that the decision to demolish the structures was made Wednesday night. 

Dozens of settlers had entered the area on December 14, which was evacuated two years earlier, and put up new structures. The settlers claim they had bought the land on which the structures had been built, but these claims have not yet been verified.

A few days after entering the area, they filed a petition with the Jerusalem District Court against their eviction. On Wednesday the court denied their petition and said there was nothing blocking the evacuation of the buildings.

A settler being evicted from the illegal outpost in Amona, January 3, 2019.
Olivier Fitoussi

The Binyamin Regional Council didn’t await the administration’s decision before moving two prefab homes into Amona and providing basic infrastructure such as water tankers.

Following Amona's evacuation, a closed-military-zone decree prevented Palestinians from entering the area. Such decrees theoretically apply to Israelis as well, but they have been enforced only against Palestinians.

Defense sources say the settlers didn’t coordinate with either the army or the Civil Administration. Thus by building the homes at the outpost, they violated not only the planning laws, but also a military order declaring the area a closed military zone.

It is not yet clear why the army didn’t prevent them from doing so, since it does prevent Palestinians from entering the area.

Israeli security forces are pictured with settlers in the background (L) at the former Amona outpost near the Israeli settlement of Ofra after evacuating dozens of settlers on January 3, 2019
AFP

Amona was evacuated by court order in February 2017 because it was illegally built on privately owned Palestinian land.

MK Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi), who had took part in the construction of the illegal structures said he was furious at the news of the demolition. "This is an unnecessary, sad and outrageous event," Smotrich said.

"The prime minister is presenting himself as the head of a right-wing government but he is hurting it time and time again," Smotrich added.

On Wednesday Haaretz reported that a nonprofit group called Ofek Lehityashvut, which is publically funded, is behind the construction of the new outposts.