Gearing up for more outpost confrontations [p. 6]

Security forces and the settler camp began dusting off their battle gear on Wednesday ahead of the planned evacuation of the Amona illegal outpost near the settlement of Ofra and several Palestinian stores taken over by settlers in the Hebron Palestinian market. Security officials said the evacuation was planned to begin on Sunday and to continue throughout the week. Some 2,000 policeman and soldiers would participate in the evacuations that would be carried out in a similar format to the summer evacuation from Gush Katif, security officials said. The only difference, one officer said, was that while in Gaza the evacuation was carried out "firmly and sensitively," the upcoming settlers would be evacuated "only firmly." The officials said they expected a strong resistance similar to what security forces faced in Gaza, but that with 2,000 policemen and soldiers the settlers would not "stand a chance at preventing the evacuation." "We will complete the mission as planned," one senior police officer said. "They can try and resist but in the end we will succeed in evacuating the settlers and demolishing the homes." Recycling calls that were issued in the run up to the disengagement, settler leaders on Wednesday called on their followers to flock to the illegal outpost of Amona near Ofra to prevent the evacuation. "Amona is just a symbol," said Emily Amrousi, spokeswoman for the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip. "Amona is just the beginning of the struggle over all of Judea and Samaria." As part of their protests, the settler leaders moved their homes and offices into the nine concrete homes erected in Amona and scheduled for demolition. The settler group announced plans to destroy access roads to the outpost and called on supporters to reinforce the site even if it meant traveling through nearby Palestinian villages. "This will be a battle without compromises," Amona resident Yehuda Yifrah said during a press conference at the outpost Wednesday afternoon. "This is not just about Amona but about the entire future of the settlements in this area including Ofra, Beit El and all of Judea and Samaria." Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz pledged to the High Court of Justice last year that the nine illegal homes built at Amona would be demolished by the end of January and the families in Hebron's Shalhevet outpost evicted by mid month. The outpost is home to over 30 families, and the majority live in temporary dwellings and mobile homes. In May, nine families moved into the newly built permanent houses, but days later were forced to move to mobile homes while the issue was discussed in the courts. The settlers claimed they had permission to build the homes but in a government report released last march by attorney Talia Sasson, Amona was listed as one of 61 outposts built on unauthorized land. On hearing that the destruction of their homes was imminent, the nine families petitioned the High Court of Justice appealing the decision, hoping to delay the action. According to reports, the court is expected to convene on the issue next Wednesday. Far-right activist and Hebron resident Baruch Marzel said his neighbors were planning to physically oppose the evacuation of eight settler families that had moved into former Palestinian stores in the Hebron marketplace. According to sources in the Defense Ministry, there are no plans to take action against other unauthorized outposts in the near future. However a government report released last March and compiled by lawyer Talia Sasson last year, found that a total of 105 illegal outposts had been built in the West Bank.