Israeli Settlers Renew Battle With State Over West Bank Homes

As Ofra builds second illegal site, next-door Amona settlers recommence struggle against planned eviction.

AP

Two adjacent settlements in the West Bank have announced plans to fight Israel over planned evacuations and demolitions of illegally built houses.

It seems the settlement of Ofra is aiming to expand rapidly without complete official permission to do so. Within roughly a week, a third site of mobile homes was being set up in the settlement – two of which are illegal and only one of which has received permits.

Ofra is just a few hundred meters away from the illegal outpost of Amona, where, in the meantime, settlers have announced the resumption of their battle against eviction, in contrast to their word to the courts.

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This third site in Ofra consists at this point of about ten caravans, which have been positioned without permission from the civil administration. A similar "compound" had been set up next to the settlement's cemetery, for which the settlers did have permits, but there is another illegal one set up next to Ofra's chicken coops. There are sources which claim permits were received for the third site.

Children in Amona, November 2016.
Gil Cohen-Magen

Altogether the three new concentrations in Ofra have about 30 caravans, which, say the sources in the know, are earmarked for nine families being evicted from other houses in the settlement that were illegally built, and for housing people evicted from Amona. The nine illegal homes in Ofra and the outpost of Amona are supposed to be vacated this February, by court order.

Meanwhile, the settlers in Ofra escalated their struggle against the state, announcing Sunday that they had decided to go on hunger strike outside the Knesset from next week. The settlers are demanding that the state recognize their status but have not provided further specifics.

Meanwhile, on Sunday night the Amona settlers sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Naftali Bennett, announcing that they were reinstating their battle against evacuation, and called on the public to come to Amona to show solidarity.

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Map of West Bank outpost of Amona

It bears noting that the Amona settlers had undertaken before the High Court of Justice not to oppose their eviction, in exchange for which the court agreed to postpone the move from December 2016 to February 2017.

The stated grounds for reinstating their struggle is that they were deceived, they say: The original plan for their eviction, that they move into caravans placed right around the original site of Amona, has become unworkable because the land slated for their arrival turns out to be privately owned, not abandoned, they claim.

Since they and the general public were deceived, they write, they have "no choice" but to reinstate their struggle and called on "our thousands of supporters" to come to Amona and do everything in their power to prevent their eviction.

The civil administration is suggesting a new solution for the Amona evacuees based on splitting up three lots of land ostensibly owned by Palestinians, into bits that are claimed by present Palestinian owners and bits that were owned by Palestinians but are considered to have been abandoned.

Last week, because of Palestinian claims of ownership, the civil administration waived one of the plots on which it had hoped to build homes for Amona's settlers, who meanwhile announced they will be holding an emergency convention later this week ahead of their eviction.