Israeli evacuation of Amona outpost due to last into the night

Over 15 activists arrested; at least 15 hurt in commotion amid eviction of illegal West Bank outpost.

By
February 1, 2017 17:40

Israeli forces begin evacuating Amona

Israeli forces begin evacuating Amona

The West Bank outpost of Amona began to fall on Wednesday afternoon amid tears and screams, as police officers forcibly carried settlers and activists out of the modular structures that dot the hilltop community.

It was a day marked by violent clashes between the activists and the security forces, which left 24 police officers lightly injured by thrown stones and glass bottles. In two cases, an unidentified liquid was thrown at their eyes.

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For the last 11 years the community, located 35 kilometers north of Jerusalem, has been a symbol of right-wing resistance.

“This is a difficult and sad day for the Israeli people,” said Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman added, “My heart in this difficult time is with the residents of Amona.”

The evacuation was expected to go late into the night and to even possibly continue into morning, with some 10 homes and the synagogue yet to be fully evacuated.

Teenagers who had expected to find themselves pulled off the hilltop began to hope they had one more night in Amona.

“I don’t think they are evacuating us tonight,” one young woman said as she spoke into her cellphone.

Police spokeswoman Merav Lapidot told The Jerusalem Post, “No deadline has been set for the end of the evacuation, because if there is a deadline, we would stress the forces during this delicate mission.”

By Wednesday night, almost all of the 40 families had been evacuated, but not the synagogue, where many teenage activists had barricaded themselves.

Wearing bright blue jackets and navy blue caps, the officers climbed up the hilltop around 11 in the morning, and split into two lines.

One activist with a skullcap and white tzizit shouted at them, “You should be ashamed of yourselves.” Another activist walked up to police and said, “You don’t have a heart. Are you a father? Don’t you have children?” The activists had streamed to Amona on Tuesday, skirting IDF roadblocks, after it became apparent that security forces planned to evacuate the outpost before the February 8 deadline set by the High Court of Justice.

The justices had ruled, already in 2014, that the community must be removed because it was built without permits on private Palestinian property.

But residents had hoped, until late Tuesday night, that some solution would be found to keep them on the hilltop.

In the months that led to the evacuation, they had threatened that if they were pulled from their homes, the scenes that followed would be reminiscent of the 2006 forced demolition of nine homes in their community, which remains one of the most serious instances of violence between settlers and security forces.

But on Tuesday and Wednesday the 40 Amona families repeatedly urged the activists not to engage in any violence resistance.

In the morning, the Campaign to Save Amona issued a civil disobedience message to the activists.

“People should not just walk up and leave. Allow the police to remove you with as much force as they have, but without violence.

It’s best if four officers take you out. Refrain from violence, and they won’t act violently toward you,” the campaign said.

The idea, it added, is to drag this out as long as possible.

But already in the morning, activists had placed a burning barricade at the entry to Amona, and teenagers threw stones at officers who arrived early at the scene.

The morning hours, as families and activists waited for the police, were a mixture of a party scene, prayer and battle preparations.

Many of the activists gathered in homes to pray and sing religious songs. In one house, young women listened to a sermon.

On the main entry road to the outpost, teenagers erected multiple large barricades with wooden doors, aluminum sidings, steel frames, large rocks and overturned metal bins. They stretched barbed wire in a zig-zag fashion across the road and littered it with large stones.

On another end of Amona, activists passed the time playing ping pong and in some cases were even dancing. On one porch, two tables were filled with food, such as pasta, rice, hummus and pita.

Teenagers placed a small barricade of tires and chairs on one of the side streets. In some of the homes, they barricaded the doors with wooden boards, and in one case they used a steel grate, to make it more difficult for the police to enter.

People had already started to cover the walls of the homes with graffiti messages. Spray-painted on one of them were the words “All of the Land of Israel is ours.”

When the police arrived, without any riot gear or horses as they had in 2006, they were on foot.

They used their hands to move the stones.

Activists stood behind the barricades and shouted at them, “Solider, police, refuse your orders.”

The minor standoff led to scattered clashes. Two activists sat on the rocks and refused to move.

Police quickly dragged them away.

But the police quickly spread out, heading to the homes, quickly creating multiple scenes of resistance. In one home, activists taunted them from the roof.

In some cases, police hammered down doors and took out window awnings. Then they forcibly entered, grabbed the activists, often four to an officer, and carried them out.

One young teenager burst into tears as she watched the way one man was twisted upside down by police, as they dragged him off.

In one house a woman who had gone through the Gaza evacuation showed teenage girls how to peacefully resist by pantomiming for them how they should lie down on the ground, and then showed them the way the officers would lift them.

Among the politicians who arrived at the scene to stand with the settlers were Bayit Yehudi MKs Moti Yogev, Shuli Moalem-Refaeli and Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan, who himself had been evacuated in 2005 from the Sa-Nur settlement, as part of the disengagement.

Likud MK Oren Hazan told the Post that he arrived in Amona at 2 a.m. to support the families and activists of the town and show them that not all politicians are “like the ones we have right now.”

Hazan said that he did not want to point fingers of blame at any one person, but then said he was angry at Education Minister and Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett because he feels Bennett cheated the families of Amona.

“We need new politicians who are able to keep their promises,” he said. “In America, they elected people who keep their promises.”

Hazan went on to say that it was a very hard day for him, not only because it brought him back to the forced evacuation of Gush Katif, but also because it was very difficult to see Jews fighting other Jews, “especially when we have enough enemies surrounding us.”

He said the teenagers, police officers and the army were not responsible for what was happening; it was the government that broke its promise and was responsible.

Lapidot said of the day, “We understand that it is a very difficult situation, and the police are aware of it. It’s very hard for them to hear the curses and allegations and pain of the settlers. We are differentiating between settlers who live here, who have to leave their homes, and anarchists who don’t live here but who come to provoke.”

Police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said that more than 500 people had been evacuated, 13 had been arrested and Magen David Adom reported that nine civilians had been lightly injured.

Many of the activists who had come to the outpost were taken away on police buses but then released. The Amona families were taken to stay at the nearby Midreshet Ofra, while the government finds a relocation plan for them.

On Wednesday night, the High Court of Justice rejected the option preferred by the Amona families. It ruled that the government could not use abandoned property lots on the same hilltop as a relocation site.

Amona residents seal houses to prevent evacuation by security forces (Marc Israel Sellem)

LIVE UPDATES

8:00 p.m.

The police announced that in total thus far, 24 police officers have been wounded, and security forces have removed 400 activists.

6:17 p.m.

According to the Israeli police spokesperson's office, 28 buildings have so far been evacuated.

Meirav Lapidot, the commander spokesperson of the Israeli Police, told The Jerusalem Post that the evacuation would continue overnight. "We were trained for this, and we have the means to do it overnight. There is no deadline set for the end of the evacuation because a deadline would stress security forces during this delicate mission."

4:05 p.m.

Likud MK Oren Hazan told The Jerusalem Post that he arrived in Amona at 2:00 a.m. to support the families and activists of the town and show them that not all politicians are "like the ones we have right now."

Hazan said that he did not want to point fingers of blame at any one person, but then said he was angry at Education Minister Naftali Bennett because he feels Bennett cheated the families of Amona. "We need new politicians who are able to keep their promises," he said. "In America, they elected people who keep their promises."

Hazan went on to say that it was a very hard day for him, not only because it brought him back to the forced evacuation of Gush Katif, but also because it was very difficult to see Jews fighting other Jews, "especially when we have enough enemies surrounding us." He said the teenagers, police officers, and the army were not responsible for what was happening; it was the government who broke their promise and was responsible.

Additionally, the Post witnessed another woman injured on the floor being treated by paramedics. The woman's child is being cared for by another woman.

3:30 p.m.

Police were evacuating settlers and teen activists one-by-one from the Amona hilltop. Four officers lifted each civilian out of the modular homes by their hands and legs and carried them to a waiting vehicle.

One young teenage activist burst into tears as she watched the way one man was twisted upside-down by police, before the officers found a way to remove him.

In their home, the Nizri family, along with dozens of activists, still waited for the police after multiple false alarms. As they waited, they played guitar and sang.

2:15 p.m.

Scores of teenage activists streamed into the Nizri home, shouting "the police are coming."

The teenage boys stood by the kitchen with their arms linked around each other singing, "the eternal people are not afraid of the long road."

The teenage girls sat in a circle singing, "we won't give up on this land."

While police filled the patio outside, the girls changed their song to, "it's essential not to be afraid."

1:30 p.m.

Police and settlers held a minor stand off that led to scattered clashes and arrests as officers stopped to clear the stones and the large barricades that activists had set up on one of Amona's main roads.

Two activists sat on the rocks and refused to move. Police quickly dragged them away.

Other activists who filled the road behind them, chanted, "Soldier, police officer, refuse the order."

Behind in the Nizri house, a woman, who had gone through the 2006 Gaza evacuation, showed teenage girls how to peacefully resist by pantomiming for them how they should lie down on the ground and then showed them the way the officers would lift them.

Other activists who had been busy making lunch, brought a very large silver pot of soup to the dinning room table. As they set it down on the embroidered table cloth, teenage boys raced in yelling "the police are coming."

Realizing it was a false alarm they ran back outside.

11: 35 a.m.


At least two Amona families are approaching security force in apparent willful leave of the illegal outpost. The families with their children seem to be carrying little apart from backpacks as they leave without incident.                         

11:19 a.m.

Police have climbed up the hill and are entering the West Bank outpost of Amona. They are wearing blue jackets and dark blue hats. Various activist make their final stand inside their homes while some hurled rocks and shouted at the approaching forces.

One activist with a skullcap shouted "You should be ashamed of yourself." Another activist walked up to police and said "You don't have a heart. Are you a father? Don't you have children?"

The road leading to the outpost is littered with stones and burning barricades.



10 a.m.

The situation in Amona late on Wednesday morning is part party and part war preparations.

On the main entry road to the outpost, teenagers have erected multiple large barricades with wooden doors, aluminum sidings, steel frames, large rocks and overturned metal bins. They've stretched barbed wire in a zig zag fashion across the road. On another end of Amona, activists passed the time playing ping pong and in some cases even dancing.

8:40 a.m.

Inside the outpost, teenagers placed a small barricade on one of the side streets, with tires and chairs. In some of the homes they barricaded the doors with wooden boards and in one case they used a steel grate, to make it more difficult for the police to enter.

Spray-painted on one of the outside walls were the words, "All of the Land of Israel is ours."

Inside the Nizri home, young men and male teenagers sat in a circle singing mournful tunes and prayers. They snacked on peanut butter, jelly and chocolate spread laid out on the family's dining room table, on top of an embroidered table cloth. 

8:15 a.m.


Police forces have begun dispersing.

The activists continue to resist and throw stones, with about 50 of them in attendance. Most are teens, some younger girls and one family with a young child.

A drone is flying overhead in surveillance.

The majority of the activists begin to leave the entrance to Amona.

7:31 a.m.

Dozens of teenage activists are starting down the hill toward police and lighting fires as they proceed. Some are throwing stones in the direction of police forces, while others have started to light tires and roll them in the direction of the forces. Police have called on the activists to halt multiple times, and are trying to convince them to move back.

7 a.m.

Amona activists have been warned to stay off the roads and to find a place in one of the homes or the synagogue.

"Anyone who is outside will be put on buses and that will be the end," the Campaign for Amona said as it sent out a WhatsApp message to everyone on the hilltop.

"People should not just walk up and leave. Allow the police to remove you with as much force as they have, but without violence. It's best if four officer take you out. Refrain from violence and they won't act violently toward you," the campaign said.

The idea, it added, is to drag this out as long as possible.

6:51 a.m.

Refusing to clear the area willingly, activists are blocking the road to Amona and burning tires in protest of the evacuation.

Prayer is over in the home of the Nizri family. Activists were told to refrain from violence.

"Do not be afraid if you are hit," one Amona resident advised the activists.

She suggested that they could link hands to make it harder for the security forces.

"There are all kinds of ways to resist without violence," she said.

The teenagers plan to wait for the security forces in the home, with the boys in one room and the girls in another.

Addressing them, one teen leader said, “their objective is to demolish the homes, not to arrest us.Our goal is to make sure the evacuation is as prolonged and difficult as possible."

Among them were a few boys.

One of them, who wore a black wool cap, stood with his hands in his jacket pockets thinking about what was about to happen.

“If could be that they [the police officers] will beat me,” he said. “I’m a little bit frightened,” he added.

“But now that I am here, this is how it will be,” he said.

Before heading out a number of the activists put on tefilin, and chanted the morning prayers.






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