A local Israeli government in the West Bank is using private Palestinian land to store mobile homes that are meant to house settlers evacuated from the illegal Amona outpost, Haaretz has learned.
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The land, situated near the West Bank settlement of Ofra, was previously expropriated from Palestinian owners for public uses. However, no public buildings have ever been constructed on the plot.
The Mateh Binyamin Regional Council placed several trailers on the plot weeks before Amona was forcibly evacuated in February, but Amona’s residents said they had no intention to relocate to them and work on installing the mobile homes there was then halted.
The evacation of Amona, the largest of the unauthorized Jewish settlements in the West Bank, came after a prolonged legal and political fight. The High Court of Justice ordered it evacuated after ruling it was built on private Palestinian land.
The evacuation of the 40 families living there took place over the course of two tense and violent days. There were clashes between the hundreds of protesters and 3,000 security forces, including a lengthy standoff at the outpost’s synagogue where many people barricaded themselves inside.
Recently, work on installing more than ten trailers resumed at the trailer site, which is adjacent to the Givat Zvi neighborhood of Ofra, north of Jerusalem. Settlers said the trailers will later be relocated again to the settlement of Amihai, which is being developed for the former Amona residents, once infrastructure there is finished.
The Israeli Civil Administration in the West Bank halted work at Givat Zvi after residents of Amona refused to relocate to the trailer homes there, and visitors in recent months to the site, which is only several hundred meters from where Amona stood, found it empty and abandoned.
Infrastructure for four additional trailers had been put in place, but the mobile homes themselves were never installed.
Now, however, the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council, the local government in the area, has resumed work at what had been privately owned Palestinian land, and this week laborers were seen at the site, where several additional trailers have now been installed. The new trailers fill all of the lots that had previously been fitted with infrastructure.
Civil Administration maps indicate that some of the trailers have indeed been placed on land that had been expropriated for public purposes but no public buildings have ever been built there.
In addition, trailer homes that were installed there were placed on land that did not coincide entirely with the area that was expropriated, and installed there without permits of any kind.
At the time, the regional council said they were constructed on a temporary basis due to the “urgent need” to house residents from Amona, but as noted, Amona’s residents refused to move there, yet they were never removed.
Several dozen mobile homes are currently being stored in the industrial zone of the settlement of Shiloh, including some that could be salvaged from Amona. They are expected to be moved to the settlement of Amihai once it is established.
The Israeli Civil Administration has said in response that it is aware of the situation and “enforcement efforts will be taken in accordance with professional and operational considerations.” Sources at the settlement of Ofra said in response that “the work is being carried out as part of the work to relocate residents of Amona to the new community of Amihai.”