IDF declares Amona closed military zone

Earlier, hundreds of settlers arrive in Amona to help resist planned demolitions.

amona aerial view 248.88 (photo credit: Peace Now)
amona aerial view 248.88
(photo credit: Peace Now)
The IDF has declared the area immediately surrounding the illegal outpost of Amona a closed military zone in advance of Tuesday's expected demolition of the outpost's houses. Following the announcement Monday evening, IDF troops set up roadblocks on major roads in the areas in order to prevent right-wing activists from reaching Amona.
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Settlers and security forces were bracing for a battle Monday, one day priot to the destruction of nine empty homes in the Amona outpost next to Ofra. About 7,000 Israeli security forces, including 3,000 police and 4,000 IDF soldiers, were training on Sunday for the evacuation and were anticipating violent resistance. The state claims the presence of the families there is illegal and has pledged that the IDF would remove them this week. In Amona, settlers were dismayed to learn Sunday that the High Court of Justice had rejected their petition to prevent the demolition of nine 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. Unlike in Hebron, there are no ongoing talks with the 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 entrances, 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. Amona, with the help of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, 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 who lived in Amona. Supreme Court Deputy President Mishael Cheshin blasted the petitioners, including the Amona agricultural cooperative society and three families living in the settlement, because many supporters had declared that they would resist the demolition with force if the court rejected the request for an interim injunction. "People are calling for a struggle using force if the petition is rejected," Cheshin said as soon as attorney Naftali Werzberger stood up to present the petitioners' arguments. "They are building earthworks and trenches. I have read the state's response and have viewed the internet site of the committee for the struggle on behalf of Amona. The court does not give remedy to those that take the law into their own hands." Werzberger, who seemed shocked by the justice's attack, said the state's accusations about digging trenches and earthwork were nonsense. As for the statement made by outpost supporters, Werzberger said many opposed the demolition of the buildings. "I assume that if the petition is not accepted the petitioners will respond according to their hearts' dictate. Some will cry, some will shout, and those that resist with force will be arrested and sent to jail. You have never asked a petitioner what will happen 'if.'" Cheshin replied, "The court is not a supermarket. You can't just take what you want. 'If you rule in my favor, that will be good. If you don't, we'll use other means.' This is not contempt of court, this is using the court as an option." The building at Amona were started in 2000, and despite orders from the civil administration to halt construction, building continued. The Binyamin Regional Council claimed that it had bought the land from its Palestinian owners but it had not yet been able to register the new ownership. After the regional council failed to register ownership, the civil administration issued orders to demolish the buildings and the Defense Ministry announced it would do so by the end of January. In its presentation, the state maintained that not only were the buildings illegal but that the petitioners had waited until the last minute before going to the court.