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Occupied West Bank to have new Israeli settlement

This will be the first such activity since the late 1990s to rehouse settlers evicted from an outpost on private Palestinian land

Published: Updated:

Israel said on Wednesday it would establish a new settlement in the occupied West Bank, the first since the late 1990s, to rehouse settlers evicted on the same day from an outpost built on private Palestinian land.

A statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said he was making good on a commitment to the settlers of Amona and had ordered the formation of a committee to locate a site where they could rebuild their homes.

“As promised a month and a half ago to the settlers, (Netanyahu) has set up a committee that will promote the establishment of a new settlement... It will begin work immediately to locate a spot and to establish the settlement,” a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said.

The announcement was made shortly after Israel’s Supreme Court rejected a government plan to rehouse some of the Amona settlers on an adjacent plot because it ruled that homes built there would also encroach on land owned by Palestinians.

According to the Israeli human rights group, B’Tselem, Israel last established new settlements in the West Bank in 1999, although outposts such as Amona, that settlers set up without official permission, have been built far more recently.

Around 330 Israeli settlers live in Amona, the largest of scores of outposts built in the West Bank. The Supreme Court ruled in November, after a lengthy legal battle, that settlers had to leave because their homes were built on privately owned Palestinian land.

Scuffles over order

On Wednesday, rightist protesters scuffled with Israeli police carrying out a court order to evict the Amona settlers, hours after the government announced more construction in larger settlements.

With no weapons visible but wearing backpacks, hundreds of police walked past burning tyres and pushed back against scores of nationalist Israeli youths who flocked to Amona in support of the settlers.

Working into the night the forces made slow progress, with three or four policemen at a time lifting each of the protesters out of dwellings in which they had holed up, and carrying them away onto buses.

By dark police said many of Amona’s 40 families had left but some protesters remained holed up in the settlement’s synagogue and negotiations were ongoing to secure an orderly eviction.

Thirteen protesters were detained by police during the scuffles and there were a few instances of stone-throwing. A police spokesmen said at least 20 officers were injured slightly by rocks and caustic liquid thrown at them. “A Jew doesn’t evict a Jew!” the youngsters chanted.

The Amona settlers themselves stayed largely put inside their homes after erecting makeshift barriers in front of their doors and vowing passive resistance to eviction. “We won’t leave our homes on our own. Pull us out, and we’ll go,” one settler told reporters. “It is a black day for Zionism.”

Most countries consider all Israeli settlements to be illegal. Israel disagrees, citing historical and political links to the land - which the Palestinians also assert - as well as security interests.