Amona outpost residents given 48 hours to evacuate


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Residents of the Amona outpost in the West Bank have been notified that they have 48 hours to leave ahead of its demolition.

The Israel Defense Forces posted a notice Monday that the entire outpost, including residents’ possessions, must be vacated by Wednesday. After several delays, the demolition date set by Israel’s Supreme Court for the hilltop community is Feb. 8.

Roads around the outpost reportedly have been closed to all but authorized vehicles.

The evacuation is going forward despite the suspension of a plan to relocate many of the residents to an adjacent hilltop after Palestinians filed claims to that land.

The relocation was part of a deal reached between the residents and the government to ensure a peaceful evacuation. Under the agreement, 24 homes would be built on the new hilltop and 16 other families would be assisted in finding homes nearby.

Meanwhile, the vote on a controversial bill that would legalize dozens of West Bank outposts has been delayed by at least a week over hundreds of revisions submitted by the opposition. The measure could come to the Knesset for a vote on Monday.

The bill would legalize about 4,000 housing units in 55 outposts in the West Bank on land that is claimed as privately owned by Palestinians. It would allow the Israeli government to recognize construction built with government assistance and in good faith — meaning the builders did not know it was private land. If the original owners of the land are known, they would be eligible to receive financial compensation from the government.

A section of the bill that would allow the government to act against the Supreme Court ruling to raze the Amona outpost reportedly could be added back in to the legislation.

Consideration of the bill by the Knesset had been suspended until the start of the Trump administration, which is seen as friendlier toward Israel and the settlements. The bill had passed an initial reading in early December.

Israel’s attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, has said the bill violates local and international law and would likely be overturned by the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court has ruled that Amona is an illegal settlement built on appropriated Palestinian land. At least three demolition orders have been issued since 1997.

In 2006, a confrontation between settlers and police forces attempting to evacuate them turned violent, leaving many injured. The February demolition was postponed from Dec. 25 to give the state time to provide new housing for the residents.

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