Right wingers prepare to resist Amona evacuation

disengagement 88 (photo credit: )
disengagement 88
(photo credit: )
Hundreds of right wing activists opposing the evacuation of Amona - the illegal outpost near Ofra scheduled to be evacuated on Wednesday - were preparing Monday night for an aggressive confrontation with IDF troops. Some 1,500 opponents - sporting knapsacks and orange ribbons - arrived in the area by nightfall to defend the nine empty homes on the site, according to Amona spokesman Ariel Kahane. Central Command officers had said there was a chance security forces could advance on the area as early as Tuesday morning, even though the evacuation is scheduled for Wednesday.
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After dark, the IDF set up roadblocks on main roads and junctions, including Givat Assaf and Kiryat Sefer, leading to the illegal outpost to prevent activists from reaching the area. Settlers reported Monday night that dozens of buses had been stopped by troops near the Tapuah junction and the Hizmeh checkpoint close to Beit El. The army stressed that routine traffic in the West Bank would not be impaired by the extra roadblocks. Already late Monday night, violence broke out between activists and soldiers, when some 200 people in Ofra gathered around a military jeep and punctured its tires as it was passing through the settlement. The IDF said it viewed the incident very seriously. On Monday, OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Yair Naveh ordered 1,600 policemen assigned to the evacuation's inner circle to arrest anyone who resisted the evacuation. "This is not like the disengagement since here these are people who broke the law," Naveh told the policemen. "Anyone who resists violently should be arrested without even blinking." Security officials said they expected violent confrontations to break out during the evacuation. "Prepare yourselves for violence and prepare to act with determination," Naveh told the policemen. Special Forces, including a SWAT team, will be on standby along the evacuation's outer perimeter to deal with extreme scenarios such as settlers opening fire on the evacuating forces. Forces will be divided into three circles: 1,600 unarmed policemen in the inner circle charged with physical evacuation; 1,000 border policemen in the second circle to deal with public disturbances; and four infantry regiments of close to 3,000 soldiers to secure the area surrounding the outpost. An officer said the evacuation would be carried out in a similar format to this past summer's evacuation from the Gaza Strip, with the only difference being that "in Gaza the evacuation was carried out 'firmly and sensitively,' and in Amona we will only operate firmly." Attempts to broker a compromise to prevent confrontation between activists and security forces failed. Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert rejected a plea by the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip to delay the demolition by two months to resolve legal issues. The settlers claim they bought the land on which the houses were built in an under-the-table deal from Palestinians. The state contends that the homes were illegally constructed because the land belongs to Palestinians. Short of one wooden home and a playroom for children, the homes mark the first permanent construction on the site, which sits on a hilltop opposite Ofra. Olmert told settler leaders he had no intention of postponing the evacuation, adding that it was his intention to carry out the High Court of Justice decision, which on Sunday rejected a petition by the settlers to halt the demolitions. After the meeting, the council sent out an urgent call for activists to arrive at the area, on foot if necessary, to prevent the demolitions. "The battle starts now. We are calling on the public to start walking and to come to Amona," said council spokeswoman Emily Amrusi. The council, in a message released to the media said: "We did everything we could to prevent a confrontation, but we were alone in the process. There is someone [Olmert] who at any price wants to harm the settlements." By afternoon, scores of teens and young adults could be seen hitching and walking through Ofra, down the valley and up to the outpost, which is home to some 35 young families. Hand-drawn signs were posted along the road, pointing the way. The guard at the gate to Ofra welcomed the activists and directed them to an information booth in the settlement. Teens manned an information table at the entrance and within the outpost itself. Activists and settlers from Amona and Ofra were busy pitching tents, setting up generators and heating devices to help offset the hilltop cold. Some teens already posted themselves on the flat rooftops of the stone buildings perched on the hilltop's edge. Others climbed through the windows and into the homes because the doors had been sealed off by the residents as part of their dealings with the courts and the state. One female teen sat on the grass near the playground strumming on a guitar. Others stood on the nearby lawn and prayed. Two 15-year-olds, who arrived ahead of the fray, sat on the floor of the communal children's playroom eating sandwiches. They had initially gone to Hebron, but when the families there reached a compromise with the government, they hitched to Amona instead. One of the teens, who had gone to Neveh Dekalim in Gaza for two-and-a-half weeks prior to last summer's disengagement, said this was her second evacuation since she had already stood in solidarity with those families. Pushing the sleeves of her sweater over her hands to protect them from the cold, she said she believed deeply that it was God's will that Jews hold onto Judea and Samaria, land promised them in the Torah. She didn't believe she was breaking the law, but rather that she was following the more important one that comes from God. "It hurts us that the government wants to give the land up," said the second teen. As she spoke, her cellphone rang. "Where are you?" she asked activists on the other end. When told they were still in Jerusalem, she urged them to come quickly before the roads closed. Yehuda Baruchi, one of the first families to move to the outpost 10 years ago, spent the afternoon organizing activists. He said despite the media's attempt to portray them as violent, the intention was passive but determined resistance. "The homes shouldn't be destroyed quietly and easily," Baruchi said. He was bothered also by the characterization of their activity as illegal. See that hilltop opposite Amona, he said, holding a cellphone in one hand and a paper and pen in the other, "Avraham stood there when God promised this land to him." Now, Baruchi said, Olmert wants to give it up so he can gain some extra mandates for Kadima. Herb Keinon contributed to this report.