Amona settlers brace for endgame

Though nine Hebron families slated for evacuation this week have reached an agreement with the government, settlers are bracing for a battle over the destruction of nine empty homes in the Amona outpost next to Ofra. In Amona, settlers were dismayed to learn Sunday that the High Court of Justice had rejected their petition to prevent the demolition of nine new empty homes on the site. The 10-year old outpost is home to some 35 families, most of whom are living in caravans. Save for one wooden house, the homes slated for demolition mark the first permanent construction on the site. Following the evacuation of the nine families from the Hebron marketplace, the IDF plans to demolish the nine Amona homes. Unlike in Hebron, there are no ongoing talks with the Amona settlers. An Amona spokesman said the government has rejected all attempts at conversation or compromise. In hopes of averting the demolitions, the families had agreed not to move into the homes and had even sealed the entryways, to prove that no one was going to live there at this time. "We've been rejected at every turn," said Amona spokesman Ariel Kahana. "They didn't want to hear anything about a compromise," he said. "The state is looking to start a war in a place that a war doesn't have to be, that is what is happening." With the help of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, Amona is calling for protesters to come to the site to help prevent the demolitions. The council is also planning to hold a series of meetings in the next few days, some of which are likely to be held in Amona itself. In hopes of averting violence, the army on Sunday issued 21 restraining orders to known right-wing activists in the area, including two that lived in Amona. But Kahana said that the two men who were ordered away from their families and homes were normative residents of the community. One is a goat farmer, who as a result of the restraining order, cannot continue to work on his farm, said Kahana. Meanwhile, the Hebron settlers have until Monday night to quietly leave the apartments in the city's marketplace, where they have been living for the last five years. Hebron community spokesman David Wilder compared the relationship of the settlers to the government with that of the Biblical characters of Jacob and Esau. "When Jacob went back to Esau he came [prepared] with three things: he came with gifts, he came with prayer, and he came with plans for war... I think you could say the same is true for us." Rafael D. Frankel contributed to this report.