Security forces were set to forcibly evacuate the West Bank Amona outpost at 6 a.m., thereby ending an almost decade long battle by its residents to save their small community of 40 families.
An estimated thousand teenage activists raced to the outpost Tuesday afternoon fearing an imminent evacuation.
Later that night the High Court of Justice dismissed a deal, that would have given the residents until February 8, to peacefully evacuated their homes.
Amona residents Yehoyada Nizri told the activists gathered in his home that it as important to resist peacefully and not with violence. Then they all prayed.
Earlier in the evening, as rain poured down on the hilltop and a thick fog rolled in, soldiers and police stood in the valley below and blocked off the two roads to the outpost, allowing access only to residents.
Teenagers in sweatshirts or jumpsuits evaded them by crossing fields and running up the stony hill, arriving wet and breathless with tales of soldiers chasing them.
“It seemed like there were 50 soldiers coming after me,” one teenage girl said as she stood on the porch of an Amona home with her friends, her cheeks red from the cold.
Some of the activists had placed tires at the top of the road, so they could block the path of the security forces when they climbed the hilltop, overlooking the Ofra settlement in the Binyamin region of the West Bank.
When a few officers arrived to remove them, someone got on a loudspeaker and asked activists to “gently suggest to them that this was not a good idea.”
Amona families had started to panic earlier in the day when IDF issued an order giving the 40 families until Wednesday night to leave their homes. At that time, the area will become a closed military zone. The order stated that “After 48 hours, no person will be allowed to enter this area or be permitted to remain in it. After 48 hours, every person remaining in this area will be obliged to leave. Owners of any property found in the area of this order will be obliged to remove it.”
In response, national-religious leader Rabbi Dov Lior called on anyone able to do so to go to Amona and protest the evacuation.
“It is if great importance to let it be known that our community is not okay with the destruction of a settlement in our land, and we strongly protest this weakness, which will deprive us of the land of forefathers that was promised to us,” wrote Lior. “Well done to all those who believe and to the activists for this holy cause, and anyone who can should come to this place to protest against this injustice.”
The publication of the injunction is viewed in the outpost as a technical measure only and did not necessarily indicate a set timeline.
Hundreds of teenagers that descended upon Amona to block any potential evacuation effort, 15.12.16 (credit Eliyahu Kamisher)
The evacuation order was issued while the High Court of Justice was deciding the legality of a relocation deal under which the families had agreed to peacefully leave the outpost by February 8.
The High Court had originally ruled in 2014 that the outpost must be destroyed, because it was built without permits on private Palestinian property belonging to residents of Silwad village. In December the court accepted the relocation deal.
Palestinians from Silwad, with the help of the Yesh Din NGO, have since petitioned the court against the agreement. They claimed that the state was acting unlawfully, because it planned to place the homes temporarily on nearby abandoned Palestinian property.
The justices seemed to frown on the deal, stating that they prefer resettling the Amona families on state land. Justice Salim Joubran declared, “This deal is worrisome.”
Residents did not seem to have packed their belonging in any of the homes the Post visited. Each one was filled with teenagers, seeking shelter from the rain.
It was standing room only in Nizri's living room. He fed the activists salad, pasta and potatoes, while two or three of them played songs on guitars.
Many of the teens sang along to the music. One teenager brought a flute. At one point, cupcakes were distributed to celebrate the birthday of a young girl.
“We are the faithful and we have no one to lean on but our father who is in heaven,” the activists sang.
They planned to spent the night, since the court was not expected to issue a final ruling until the morning. Each new teen that entered the living room was greeted with applause.
Adding confusion to the situation was a series of announcements the Amona families made during the last two weeks. First they reneged on the deal, charging that the state had reneged on it. Then they announced that they would abide by it after all.
On Monday, Amona families were among the settlers who rallied in front of the Knesset, demanding that the government find a way to keep them in their homes. They insisted that they would leave only if it authorized the settlements bill to retroactively legalize some 4,000 settler homes on private Palestinian property, while offering the landowners compensation.
Amona is excluded from the bill, because of the High Court ruling.
While the IDF has been tasked with carrying out the evacuation, the Border Police will ultimately do the grunt work, with some 3,000 police and Border Police officers set to remove Amona’s 40 families from their homes. The IDF is reported to have placed security forces in the area surrounding Amona for the upcoming evacuation and will be in charge of dealing with any clashes that might break out with Palestinians during the evacuation, as well as making sure that any roads into the illegal outpost remain clear.
Soldiers, police and border policemen have already been training for scenarios they may face in the upcoming evacuation, including the possibility of violence by settlers trying to prevent their eviction.
The idea of a forced Amona evacuation has particular resonance with Israelis. The clashes that occurred there between settlers and security forces during the 2006 demolition of nine homes were the most violent of their kind to date.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and right-wing lawmakers have therefore looked for ways to avoid violence from recurring there.Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.