Middle East

Commotion as Israeli security forces clear West Bank settlement

John Huddy reports from Amona

 

Israeli security forces on Wednesday began evacuating the controversial Jewish settlement of Amona, which is slated for destruction -- but some protesters refused to leave without a fight.

Around 3,000 unarmed police officers in blue sweatshirts and black baseball caps made their way up the hill exactly 11 years to the day of the last evacuation -- Feb. 1, 2006.

Some protesters chained themselves to houses, and others set fire to tires, shouting "Jews don't expel Jews." A few threw stones and unidentified liquids at cops and journalists.

SLIDESHOW: ISRAELI SETTLERS REMOVED FROM OUTPOST

Minor scuffles broke out between some of the young right-wing activists and police as protesters tried to block officers from progressing. At least 20 officers were hurt, but not seriously. As many as 13 activists were arrested.

Of the 42 houses, 11 already were evacuated before police came in. Officers had to negotiate with some of the other families to evacuate them Wednesday.

ISRAEL REPORTEDLY ANNOUNCES PLAN TO BUILD 3,000 HOMES IN WEST BANK SETTLEMENTS

One Amona family handed a bag of stun grenades and flares to the police. The bag had been stashed in their home ahead of the evacuation.

Bilha Schwarts, 24, came along with her husband and nine-month-old daughter to support the residents. "If they want it they can take it, we will not fight. We will leave but we will come back," she told The Associated Press.

Shortly after noon, bulldozers began making their way up the hill, one of them clearing a path.

Amona is the largest of about 100 outposts erected in the West Bank without permission but generally tolerated by the Israeli government. Israel's Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that Amona was built on private Palestinian land and must be demolished. It has set Feb. 8 as the final date for it to be destroyed.

The outpost, built in the 1990s, stretches out over a rugged, grassy hilltop and looks out across the valley onto Palestinian villages.

About 50 families, some 250 people, live in Amona now. In recent weeks dozens of mostly young supporters, including high school students, have arrived to face off against Israeli forces.

"This is a dark day for us, for Zionism, for the state and for the great vision of the Jewish people returning to its homeland," Avichay Buaron, a spokesman for Amona, told Channel 2 TV.

The Israeli High Court formally overruled a plan to move the evacuated families to a nearby West Bank hillside.

The court already had suspended the Amona relocation deal last week, 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.

Minister Naftali Bennet, from the right wing party "The Jewish Home (HaBayit HaYehudi)," vowed to annex the entire West Bank, following what he claimed the "painful loss" of the outpost.

Last Night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman approved 3,000 new housing units to be built in the Jewish settlements in the West Bank, added to the 2,500 they announced a week ago.

Next week, Israel’s parliament is expected to vote on a bill to allow the legalization of a tranche of other illegal outposts built on private Palestinian land.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.