Several dozen mobile homes were installed near the West Bank settlement of Shiloh on Thursday to accommodate residents slated for eviction from the illegal outpost of Amona.
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The Binyamin regional council, whose jurisdiction includes Amona, set up the site. It is the fourth the council has established in recent weeks to accommodate residents of Amona, which is slated for evacuation by February 8. The other three sites lie between Amona and the nearby settlement of Ofra. Two of the three were established without obtaining permits from the Israeli Civil Administration in the West Bank.
Amona’s residents were ordered to leave the outpost after the High Court of Justice ruled that land on which it was built is privately owned by individual Palestinians. A plan to move them to a site adjacent to the current one has been suspended after a number of Palestinians asserted ownership claims or other personal links to that land as well. The court is expected to make a final ruling next week on the feasibility of using the nearby site.
With the deadline for the evacuation of the Amona residents approaching, a senior Israel Defense Forces officer speaking yesterday said the evacuation should not necessarily be viewed as a trigger for renewed violence in the West Bank. The residents of Amona made a commitment to the court to leave the site peacefully without preconditions. At that time, it was assumed they would be relocated a short distance away. The army is now again gearing up for the evacuation and has moved troops into the West Bank in anticipation.
If the IDF receives orders to evacuate the outpost, it will do so, along with other security forces, notably the border police, the senior IDF officer said. “We are preparing to do it without casualties based on the lessons from the prior evacuation of Amona,” he said, referring to a 2006 operation that involved the demolition of several of the outpost’s residential buildings, which sparked major violence.
Amona residents were recently offered the chance to move to the Shiloh industrial area — about 40 kilometers north — but rejected it out of hand, along with an offer to move to the nearby settlement of Shvut Rachel.
Due to their opposition, the government suspended its plans to move them to Shiloh there, but said the plan “was still on the table.” At the end of last year, law enforcement sources told Haaretz that there were no legal impediments to construction in the area, adding that facilities for the Amona residents could be completed there in very short order.
The Israeli Civil Administration has so far refrained from taking action against the two mobile home sites created without its permission. This week Civil Administration officials toured the area, including the unauthorized trailer home sites. A source told Haaretz that there are plans to move the mobile homes placed without authorization to land owned by Palestinians who have left the area, which is deemed abandoned.
Amona’s residents announced earlier this week that they are renewing their opposition to the evacuation. They are also demanding that a bill meant to legalize the use of Palestinian-owned land under some circumstances include a clause that would retroactively legalize the settlers’ presence at Amona. Such a law does not appear feasible, however, either from a legal or political standpoint.
The residents have urged the public to come to the outpost to prevent its evacuation, despite their earlier explicit commitment to leave without resisting. It is therefore expected that they will be unwilling to move to the mobile home sites.
On Wednesday, the residents of nine homes at the nearby settlement of Ofra that are also slated for evacuation in February filed a request with the High Court of Justice seeking an extension until May, so that alternative housing can be built for several of them. They have also threatened a hunger strike next week.