Border police evacuate site of former Amona outpost, violence erupts

The mission was initiated in accordance with a decision by the Jerusalem District Court in order to enable the IDF and the Defense Ministry to evacuate the buildings and infrastructure.

Evacuation of Amona outpost, January 3, 2018 (Tovah Lazaroff)

Twenty-three border police officers and dozens of civilians were injured during the violent evacuation of the Amona outpost in the West Bank on Thursday.

Around 4:30 a.m., police ascended the hilltop, located on the outskirts of the Ofra settlement, to evacuate two mobile homes filled with right-wing activists, mostly teens.
According to the police, they moved against the two structures on orders from the Jerusalem District Court.
Police said that upon their arrival at the outpost, they were met with “severe violence” from dozens of rioters who threw stones, burned tires and used barbed wire to keep the officers away from the site. The activists had poured oil on the road and erected barriers to make access difficult.
Seven activists were arrested, and an investigation is being carried out based on video and photographic footage police obtained of other suspects. More arrests could be made in the near future.
The Israeli Zionist legal aid organization Honenu told The Jerusalem Post that six of the activists were released, and one was placed under house arrest.
Activists at the scene reported that police, who arrived in riot gear, were acting violently against them and posted a photograph of an activist who was wounded near his eye.
The mobile homes were brought to the site after settlers claimed to have purchased four hectares of property from their Palestinian owners. Both Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan and Binyamin Regional Council head Israel Ganz called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to immediately recognize the hilltop as a legal settlement.
According to Hadashot news, Netanyahu, who is also the defense minister, did not know about the evacuation until it was too late to stop it. His military secretary Col. Avi Blot only informed him of the decision to remove the mobile homes after the security forces were already on their way.
Netanyahu has instructed IDF Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot to call in Blot for a dressing down over the miscommunication.
The National Union said in a statement that Netanyahu had begun his campaign by uprooting Jews from their homes.
“The prime minister could have solved the bureaucratic problem with ‘one hand,’ and strengthen the settlements,” they said. “Instead, he preferred to remain steadfast to his tradition of dismantling them.”
In response to the morning’s event, many noted that while Amona was being dismantled, the illegal West Bank Bedouin encampment of Khan al-Ahmar is still standing.
Netanyahu’s “finger is light on the trigger” when it comes to taking down homes in Judea and Samaria, but “we did not see this kind of recklessness in Khan al-Ahmar, which is still standing,” the National Union statement continued. “Prime Minister Netanyahu, we are sick of promises and talk. We want action, not words. This is not how you strengthen the settlements and deter terrorism.”
Shas leader Eli Yishai, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman expressed similar sentiments in statements and on Twitter.
“We call on the prime minister to evacuate illegal Arab structures in Khan al-Ahmar today,” said Bennett and Shaked’s Hayemin Hehadash Party in a statement. “The selective enforcement against only Jews in Amona, in the face of the fear of evacuating illegal and unrestrained Arab construction in Khan al-Ahmar, portrays the Israeli government’s weakness and hesitation vis-a-vis the Palestinians, and undermines the State of Israel’s deterrence.”
The dismantling of Khan al-Ahmar was indefinitely postponed at a security cabinet meeting in late October. According to the New Right Party’s statement, Bennett and Shaked were the only ones opposed to the postponement.
“We call upon the prime minister to fulfill his promise today,” they said.
Yishai said that the harsh images that were published of the evacuation demonstrate why the government needs “a real right-wing party that will block the evacuation of settlements in the Land of Israel.”
“Khan al-Ahmar is not evacuated and Amona is?” he tweeted. “It is the prime minister’s duty to immediately halt this illegal evacuation.”
Liberman tweeted to the prime minister: “Where did same that resolve and speed in demolishing illegal outposts go when it comes to Khan al-Ahmad and the Nawa’jah family’s buildings near Sussiya? This is a right-wing government only in words, not in actions.”
Within hours, politicians from all sides of the political spectrum used Amona to express their views and condemn the prime minister and the current government.
The National Union warned that the voters “would not forget” Amona when “they go to the ballot box.”
Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay called “the violence of a handful of evacuees of the Amona outpost unbearable.”
He said the violence must be handled with determination, and that the evacuation should be completed in accordance with the court’s ruling.
“This group of extremists – on the hilltops and in the Knesset – have grown accustomed to controlling the government and seeing Netanyahu’s government succumb to their demands,” he said. “Israel’s citizens deserve a government that does not succumb to the violence of a handful of extremists.”
While opposition leader and Labor MK Shelly Yacimovich called the situation “very serious” and called on Netanyahu and Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan to “decisively condemn” the violence, another Labor Party member, MK Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin, said “Condemnation will not suffice in this case.”
She accused the prime minister and other right-wing ministers of encouraging the attackers and then “they cluck and roll their eyes.” Nahmias-Verbin said these politicians make false promises rather than ensuring that “these fringe activists” are held responsible for the violence carried out by hilltop youth against security forces.
Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid said the violence in Amona is because the rioters think they have political backing from within the coalition.
“There is no such thing as political backing for violence against the security forces, against the IDF and against the police,” he said. “Anyone who interferes with these forces must be evacuated and restrained without hesitation.”
Thursday morning’s actions marked the third time that an evacuation has occurred at the site of the Amona outpost. In 2006, security forces demolished nine permanent homes that had been built at the outpost, but the modular homes remained intact. In 2017, security forces razed the entire community. The second occurrence was based on a 2014 High Court of Justice ruling that said part of the land the community had been built on was owned by Palestinians.
The 2017 evacuation was noted for its violence. Thousands of police officers were employed to clear the 42 families and hundreds of protesters. Protesters had barricaded themselves inside the homes and a synagogue there, and clashed with the police.
In the aftermath of the second demolition, the government authorized and then built a new settlement in 2018 called Amihai, next to the existing settlement of Shiloh.
Late last month, settlers once again moved to the hilltop, claiming the land was legally purchased from the original Palestinian landowners and in response to December’s spate of attacks targeting Israelis at West Bank bus stops. Three people, including a three-day-old baby, were killed in those attacks.