Amona Live Updates: After Years of Delay, Israel Evacuates Illegal West Bank Outpost

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Israeli settlers react as Israeli police mobilise on the second day of an operation to evict the hardline occupants and their supporters from the West Bank settler outpost of Amona on February 2, 2017 after the High Court determined the homes were built on private Palestinian land.
Israeli settlers react as Israeli police mobilise on the second day of an operation to evict the hardline occupants and their supporters from the West Bank settler outpost of Amona, February 2, 2017.Credit: THOMAS COEX/AFP
Updates

Swastika spray-painted on Amona synagogue walls

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."

Netanyahu: We shares in the families' pain

Speaking in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Ariel on Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he "shares the great pain of the families who were forced to leave their homes and abandon their life's work."

He committed 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." (Barak Ravid)

Last protesters evicted from Amona synagogue

All of those who had been holed up in Amona's synagogue have been evicted by police. Forty-one officers were wounded during the evacuation, police said.

The rabbi of Amona, 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 the government wanted Amona to remain in place and that the evacuation was the work of "an elite that is cut off from the people who are causing the people to do unjust things."

Police: Eight officers wounded during synagogue evacuation

Eight officers were wounding as the forces were breaching the synagogue, police said. One of the cops was said to have suffered a head wound.

Police and protesters are clashing at one of the entrances to the structure. Protesters are throwing rocks, iron bars, liquid at the officers, police said.

Protesters barricaded inside Amona synagogue

Police officers are now wearing helmets for the first time since the evacuation began on Tuesday.

Thirty-two police officers have been wounded so far during the evacuation.

Minister: protesters barricaded in synagogue show contempt to Judaism

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan says the protesters who barricaded themselves inside Amona's synagogue are "hooligans" who "show contempt to Judaism and have no respect to religion." Erdan said he "expects the police to act decisively" to evacuate them from the building.

Police break into Amona synagogue

Israeli police have broken into the synagogue in the illegal West Bank outpost of Amona, where a number of protesters have barricaded themselves.

Israeli police attempt to enter the synagogue of the West Bank outpost of Amona, February 2, 2017. Credit: Ilan Assayag

Smoke rose from the synagogue as police officers breached the barricades.

The action follows failed negotiations between the police and the protesters.

The synagogue is the last structure in the outpost to be evacuated.

With last home evicted, police prepare to evacuate synagogue

Israeli security forces gather at the Amona outpost, northeast of Ramallah, on February 2, 2017.Credit: Ilan Assayag

After evicting the last home in the outpost, the police are trying to convince the youths barricaded inside the synagogue to leave without resorting to the use of force.

Most of the protesters who barricaded themselves inside the synagogue are not residents of Amona. The officers are wearing protective glasses after the settlers threw bleach at police.

Police evict last Amona home

Police have surrounded the synagogue, as another force started evacuating the last house in the illegal outpost.

Settlers stand around the synagogue of the illegal Amona outpost, February 2, 2017.Credit: Ilan Assayag

Police said 24 officers were lightly wounded during the evacuation since Tuesday morning. 13 protesters were detained for assaulting police officers and disrupting the peace.

Analysis: No matter what, Netanyahu won't be able to appease settlers

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a Tel Aviv conference, January 31, 2017.Credit: Eyal Toueg

Officials say that without a nod from the White House, Netanyahu wouldnt have dared to approve the recent wave of West Bank construction, or to commit to building a new settlement for the first time in about 25 years, before meeting U.S. President Donald Trump.

But if Netanyahu believes this will satisfy the settlers, hes in for a bitter disappointment. They are far beyond the stage of mere construction. They are demanding annexation and Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank, as Bennett said in the Knesset on Wednesday.

Read Yossi Verter's full analysis

One officer still treated for injuries sustained at Amona

One Border Police officer is still being treated for injuries sustained in Amona, Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem in Jerusalem said. 20 people have been treated after they were lightly wounded during the evacuation, 19 have been released overnight. (Nir Hasson)

Aside from synagogue, only one Amona home remains to be evicted

Only one home remains to be evicted in the illegal West Bank outpost of Amona, aside from the local synagogue.

The house belongs to the head of the residents' committee.

Police said that preparations for evictions will carry on through the night, and attempts will be made to bring about the voluntary evacuation of the people barricading themselves in the synagogue in a manner that "on the one hand prevent the need for use of force, and on the other hand maintain the sanctity of the place."   

Evacuation almost over: Four families, synagogue remain in Amona

Only four families remained in Amona at the end of a day of evacuations, together with a group of people barricaded in the local synagogue, police said.

Overall, 24 police officers were wounded throughout the day, all lightly. Some 18 civilians, including an underage  girl, were also lightly wounded.

Peace Now accuses Netanyahu of bowing to settlers' pressure

The Peace Now Movement assailed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to build a new settlement for those being evacuated from Amona.

"After providing millions in compensation to people a court has determined were land thieves, Netanyahu now builds a new settlement deep inside the West Bank.

"Instead of acting responsibly and defending the rule of law, Netanyahu is trying to avoid criticism over investigations, caves in to the pressures of the settlers and is leading Israel to a binational reality. The price of Netanyahu's weakness will be paid in full by the citizens of Israel." (Barak Ravid)

Netanyahu moves to establish settlement for illegal outpost evacuees

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday he had named a panel to advance the establishment of a new West Bank settlement to house those being evicted from the Amona outpost.

The new settlement is part of the unerstandings the Prime Minister's Office had reached in talks with settlers from the unauthorized outpost.

If the plan is carried out it would be the first new settlement established by the government in more than 20 years.

Netanyahu's office said the panel would include representatives of Amona's residents, the defense minister's adviser on settlements and the chief of staff of the Prime Minister's Office.

The panel will begin work immediately in order to locate a site and to establish the new settlement.  Based on understandings reached with Amona's residents, the government was committed to establish a new settlement for them by end of March 2017 if the high court did not approve a proposed relocation plan.

The court in fact rejected that plan earlier on Wednesday, after suspending it two weeks ago, citing Palestinian claims to ownership of some of the land. (Barak Ravid)

Bennett demands new settlement for Amona evacuees

While Amona was being evacuated, Israel's High Court formally overruled a plan to move the settlers to a nearby West Bank hillside.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett responded to the decision by saying that "in light of the high court's rejection of the Amona plan, the government must build a new settlement for Amona's residents. This would be the proper Zionist response and should do it as soon as possible."

The court had already suspended the Amona relocation deal on January 23, after Palestinians laid claim to the resettlement zone. The court then held subsequent hearings after which it permanently revoked the relocation option, in a decision rendered on Wednesday. (Barak Ravid, Yotam Berger)

Amona casualty toll rises to 16 police officers, 2 civilians wounded

Israeli settlers scuffle with security forces at the Amona outpost, northeast of Ramallah, on February 1, 2017.Credit: JACK GUEZ/AFP

The number of policemen wounded in Amona rose to 16, police said. A policewoman was lightly wounded and the rest were wounded moderately. In addition, two civilians suffered light wounds.

About 200 young people have been expelled from the outpost so far, and 12 homes have been evacuated. Police spokespeople said 12 more families had left of their own accord. 

Evacuation efforts were expected to last through the night.

Since the evacuation effort began early on Wednesday, seven youths have been arrested for disturbing the public order and police fulfilling their duties.  (Yaniv Kubovich)

Protesters clash with police in Amona; 15 cops wounded

Police officers and protesters are clashing in Amona. About 15 officers were lightly wounded in the clashes, the police's spokesman said.

Four protesters were arrested, while dozens of others were pushed beyond the confines of the outpost. Youths have barricaded inside the outpost's homes, with some chaining themselves in. Nine families left the outpost peacefully.

Israeli police remove a pro-settlement activist during an operation by Israeli forces to evict settlers from the illegal outpost of Amona in the occupied West Bank February 1, 2017. Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Israeli settlers scuffle with security forces at the Amona outpost, northeast of Ramallah, on February 1, 2017.Credit: JACK GUEZ/AFP

Officers have broken into at least one home in the illegal outpost. 

The police said that officers are acting with restraint to allow families to evacuate peacefully, "but will not allow anarchists in Amona to abuse" the officers' restraint.

According to the police, several officers were injured by an unknown compound and required medical treatment.

Senior Israeli minister vows annexation of entire West Bank after 'painful' evacuation of Amona

Habayit Hayehudi chairman and Education Minister Naftali Bennett promised that after the "painful loss" of Amona the annexation of the entire West Bank will follow.

Bennett, speaking at the Knesset, called the Amona settlers "heroes," and said that the bill which legalizes the seizure of private Palestinian land will soon be passed, putting an end to the "method of legal uprooting" of Israeli outposts. "Thanks to the campaign in Amona, thousands of families will be rescued from being evicted from their homes. I call on the pioneers of our generation, the settlers of Judea and Samaria, to lift up your heads," he said.

Political leaders from the right and left, including Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog and party co-leader Tzippi Livni, expressed sympathy for the residents being evacuated from Amona, but reiterated the need to refrain from violence and obey the law. 

"My heart is with the residents," said Lieberman, speaking in the settlement of Ariel. "I think that compassion and understanding for their small protest is natural in a democratic country in which protesting is a basic right." The defense minister added that he hoped the protest would remain "within the framework of the law." 

A family member of an Israeli settler family pushes a stroller past Israeli policemen during an eviction of residents from the Israeli settler outpost of Amona in West Bank February 1, 2017.Credit: BAZ RATNER/REUTERS

"Despite the pain and despite the rage I expect the rules of the game to be observed," said Lieberman, head of the Yisrael Beiteinu party. 

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog also expressed understanding for "the pain of the families and the evacuees. It's a hard day. I call on the residents to respect the court decision and not to stray from legitimate non-violent protest," said the leader of the Zionist Union party, warning those in Amona not to raise a hand against police who are simply enforcing the law. 

Herzog also urged security forces "to act with restraint and tolerance toward the families and those with them in Amona on this difficult day, and....to do everything to ensure that the evacuation ends without injuries."

Meanwhile Zionist Union co-leader Tzippi Livni said that while the evacuation of a person from his home is difficult and the pain of the families understandable, this should not be depicted as "a black day for Zionism."

"A day in which the sovereign state of Israel enforces the law will never be -- despite claims to the contrary -- a black day for Zionism. And more importantly, this should not turn into a difficult and black day for Israeli police and Israel Defense Forces soldiers," said Livni.

Chief rabbi urges protesters against violence

Israel's Chief Rabbi David Lau has called on the residents of Amona and those who are staying in the vicinity of the settlement not to act violently against security forces during the evacuation. 

"The evacuation of the community and the families living in it evokes sorrow and great pain," said Lau. "However, it is obligatory to respect the law and not to behave violently toward any person, let alone against security forces who spend day and night on behalf of the people of Israel. And so it is up to each and every one to act only in accordance with halakha (Jewish religious law) and the [civil] law.

Protesters throw stones at police forces pushing into Amona

Protesters are throwing stones at police forces as they started to push into the outpost. 

Police said they expect the Amona settlers to be responsible and restrain outside protesters. 

"This is a difficult and sad day for the people of Israel," said Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan. "A day the law enforcement authorities are asked to implement a High Court decision ordering the destruction of a community the state helped found, and evacuation of residents from the homes they have been living in for 20 years. Despite the difficulty and the great pain, I urge all those on the hilltop: Let the police and security forces do their jobs.

"I call on Knesset members and leaders to act to quell the tension  and to avoid actions or statements that are liable to exacerbate the situation. 

"I want to make it clear to all those who came here to demonstrate and to oppose the evacuation that the soldiers and police have been sent there to carry out the mission on behalf of all of us. We will not tolerate any hand raised against a policeman or soldier, or any stone thrown at them.

"I expect the police to use the law against anyone who acts violently against security forces. (Jonathan Lis)

Jewish settlers at the Amona outpost, northeast of Ramallah, on February 1, 2017.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

Evacuation of Amona begins: Large police forces amass outside illegal outpost

Large police forces have pushed into Amona, beginning to evacuate the illegal outpost.

Meanwhile, an Amona family handed a bag of stun grenades and flares to the police. The bag was stashed in their home ahead of the evacuation.

Jewish settlers run from police outside the illegal Amona outpost in the West Bank, February 1, 2017.Credit: Sebastian Scheiner/AP

Lawmaker compares Amona evacuation to 'brutally raping a woman'

A lawmaker from the rightist Habayit Hayehudi party compared the evacuation of Amona to the rape of woman.

"When someone rapes a woman it hurts. What they're doing here now is a brutal rape. They're going to remove innocent people from their home," Bezalel Smotrich, who arrived at the outpost early Wednesday, told the Ynet news website. 

Habayit Hayehudi lawmakers have been exempted from Knesset votes today by the chairman of the ruling coalition due to the evacuation. Apart from Smotrich, Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel and lawmakers Oren Hazan (Likud) and Shuli Moallem (Habayit Hayehudi) also arrived at the outpost. 

A lawmaker from the opposition Zionist Union party strongly criticized Smotrich remark, calling it a "miserable comment which shows absolute loss of moral judgement."

"Rape is against the rules of morality and law and cannot be compared to the evacuation of Amona which is the enforcing of the law according to the High Court's ruling," MK Ayelet Nachmias Verbin said. (Jonathan Lis)

MK Bezalel Smotrich at the illegal Amona outpost in the West Bank, February 1, 2017. Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

Security forces to Amona: Leave now or be forcefully removed

Security forces have told residents of the illegal outpost of Amona in the West Bank that they must evacuate now or be forcefully removed.

Hundreds of youths traveled to Amona on Tuesday evening to oppose its imminent evacuation, after the Israeli army ordered residents to leave within 48 hours.

The number of those barricading themselves at the outpost seems to be much lower than the previous time the evacuation seemed forthcoming.

The protesters, who burned tires ahead of an expected confrontation with the Israeli army and the police, were asked by residents to avoid violence but to "ensure that the evacuation would be very hard."

Amona, built on private Palestinian land, was ordered evacuated by the High Court of Justice in 2014, but dates for its evacuation have been pushed back repeatedly until a final date was set to February 8. On Tuesday, the Israeli army ordered residents to leave the outpost within 48 hours. 

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