Showdown looms in Israel over eviction of illegal settlement

Security forces to face over 1,000 militant supporters in Amona, home to 40 families

Israeli settlers, many teenagers referred to as “hilltop youth”, on the outskirts of Amona in the West Bank on Friday. Photograph: Jim Hollander/EPA

Israeli settlers, many teenagers referred to as “hilltop youth”, on the outskirts of Amona in the West Bank on Friday. Photograph: Jim Hollander/EPA

 

As residents of the illegal West Bank outpost of Amona prepared to usher in the Jewish Sabbath on Friday evening – together with more than 1,000 militant supporters – they realised that, barring a last-minute miracle, this will be their last weekend on the hilltop, north of Jerusalem.

After years of legal wrangling, the outpost – home to 40 settler families – was ordered by the courts to be demolished by December 25th because it was built entirely on private Palestinian land.

With the families refusing to voluntarily leave their homes and the security forces poised for a massive operation to evict them and the activist supporters from the hilltop, prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu urged Amona residents to “act responsibly”.

“Do not in any way harm the security forces. These are our children, they are dear to us all and keep us safe. There is no place for violence,” he said.

With a showdown next week now almost inevitable, both sides were busy completing final preparations.

The security forces have been training for weeks, with police and border police primed to evict the settlers while the army secure approach routes.

Militant sympathisers

Defence minister Avigdor Lieberman vowed that the security forces will not tolerate violent resistance.

Amona residents have vowed passive resistance but have made it clear that are not responsible for the actions of the militant sympathisers, mostly West Bank youths, who have come to the hilltop to prevent the evictions.

The settlers have posted lookouts on roofs to spot approaching military vehicles and have erected makeshift barricades.

The activists have promised a “fierce struggle” to hammer home that the authorities will pay a heavy price for the eviction of Jews from any part of the Biblical land of Israel.

As the December 25th deadline approaches, Mr Netanyahu and the head of the right-wing Jewish Home, minister Naftali Bennett, promoted a controversial regulation Bill that will retroactively authorise almost 4,000 settler homes built on private Palestinian land, with the owners receiving financial compensation.

However, the Bill , which will be passed after US president Barack Obama leaves office, in order to avoid tension with Washington, does not include Amona and other settler homes that are the subject to ongoing legal disputes.

A last -minute compromise allowing all the Amona families to relocate nearby was rejected by the residents this week, who claimed the arrangement may be struck down by the courts.