Force of 2,000 to clear outposts

Hebron market, Amona to be cleared only following Palestinian elections.

hebron protest 298.88 (photo credit: Channel 2 [file])
hebron protest 298.88
(photo credit: Channel 2 [file])
Israel is mobilizing over 2,000 police and soldiers to forcibly remove settlers from the former wholesale market in Hebron and the Amona outpost near Ofra, military officials said Thursday, but will only begin the evacuation following the Palestinian general elections. The actual force of 2,000 will be comprised of police and Border Police forces in the inner circles, while IDF troops will form the outer circle of the evacuating force. A senior army source told Army Radio that the hour of the evacuation will not come as a surprise. "We won't come like thieves in the night, rather in an organized manner and with large force." Voices form Israel's political right accused Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Thursday morning of making a political decision regarding the Hebron and Amona evacuations. Foreign and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, from Olmert's Kadima party, said it was time to remove the illegal outposts. "We are witnessing a group of youngsters who are trying to instigate a process in which the government is perceived as a foreign entitiy," she told Army Radio. Charting a strident course toward illegal actions in the settlements, Olmert, speaking at a special security assessment on the situation in Judea and Samaria, directed Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz on Wednesday to present a plan for the evacuation of some 20 illegal outposts in the West Bank. Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz said that the deadline for evacuating the market in Hebron was February 15, and that Amona should be dismantled by the end of January. "This is a fight over the rule of law," Olmert was quoted as saying at the meeting that included Mofaz, Justice and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra, Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz, Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin and top security and legal officials. In the last two weeks, Olmert - at least in his rhetoric regarding the situation in Hebron and the chopping down of Palestinian olive trees - has come across as much more determined than Prime Minster Ariel Sharon to take on the illegal actions of some settlers. Sharon, despite promises made to US President George W. Bush to remove the illegal outposts, seemed hesitant for political reasons to move against them. During the meeting Olmert said he was concerned that disregard for law in Judea and Samaria could spill over across the Green Line. He said that until now security officials have not used their full power against rioting settlers and instructed the security establishment to intensify its responses against violence demonstrated by some settlers in the West Bank. One suggestion raised at the meeting was to place people routinely involved in violence under administrative detention. Diskin said that the situation in Judea and Samaria had become worse since disengagement, and that members of the security services were often denied lifts in cars and bared entrance to synagogues in the territories.