After Years of Delay, Last Israeli Settlers Evicted From Illegal Amona Outpost

A swastika with the caption “Israel Police” was spray-painted on the walls of the Amona synagogue

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Israeli officers evacuate an Israeli settler from the illegal outpost of Amona. Feb. 2, 2016.
Israeli officers evacuate an Israeli settler from the illegal outpost of Amona. Feb. 2, 2016.Credit: Ilan Assayag
Yotam Berger
Yotam Berger

The last residents of Amona were evicted from the illegal West Bank outpost yesterday and evacuated to an educational institution in the settlement of Ofra, just a few hundred meters away.

At the same time, the Binyamin regional council, which has jurisdiction over the area, prepared three mobile home sites – only one of which has official approval – on the outskirts of Ofra, which should be available to accommodate the former Amona residents in the near future.

Police evicted everyone who had been holed up in Amona’s synagogue. Forty-one officers were injured during the two-day operation, police said, with eight injured during the synagogue evacuation.

Settlers gather around a home in Amona before it gets evacuated, February 1, 2017.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

Amona Rabbi Yair Frank was the last of those barricaded in the synagogue. The police permitted him to say a final prayer in the building before he was forced to depart.

“How can the State of Israel destroy a synagogue?” he asked. “The entire Jewish people should be crying on this day.”

Adding that Israel is not a democratic country, he claimed that the people and government wanted Amona to remain in place, and that the evacuation was the work of “an elite that is cut off from the people, and which is causing the people to do unjust things.”

Protesters barricaded inside Amona synagogue

A swastika with the caption “Israel Police” was spray-painted on the walls of the Amona synagogue. The anonymous vandals also spray-painted “Death to Zionists” and “Zionists Zionazis wait the day of Hell will come.”

The evacuation of Amona had been ordered by the High Court of Justice, which ruled that the outpost – which had never been authorized by Israeli authorities – had been built on land owned by individual Palestinians.

However, the operation did not actually end with the eviction of the last of the outpost residents from the synagogue. The government still needs to remove personal belongings and trailers at the site, after which Defense Ministry bulldozers will be brought in to demolish the dozens of other mobile structures there.

Police evacuate the West Bank outpost of Amona, Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017. Credit: Ilan Assayag

Theoretically, the Palestinian owners of the land would then be able to return to Amona, which was first settled in the 1990s. But the Palestinians have said they don’t believe this will happen. Due to the proximity of Ofra, they have expressed concern that the Israeli army will not allow them back.

Speaking in the settlement of Ariel yesterday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he “shares the great pain of the families who were forced to leave their homes and abandon their life’s work.”

He vowed that his government would establish a new settlement on state-owned land to replace the unauthorized Amona outpost. “We will work to have it happen as soon as possible,” he said.

“I call on everyone to evacuate without violence,” he added, saying that the evacuation is “no less painful for the soldiers and police involved in the operation.”

Netanyahu has announced he would convene a committee to explore options for the establishment of a new settlement to replace Amona at a different location. In the meantime, land is being prepared, and not only to accommodate several dozen mobile homes in Ofra. In the course of negotiations with Amona’s residents, they were also offered a new settlement near the settlement of Shvut Rachel, and land for mobile homes was prepared at the settlement of Shiloh. A number of homes have already been installed there.

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