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Amona: Settlement outpost evacuated

The Amona outpost was evacuated Feb. 1. (Hillel Maier/TPS)

The Amona outpost was evacuated Feb. 1. (Hillel Maier/TPS)

JERUSALEM — Police and security officers evacuating homes in the West Bank outpost of Amona were greeted by hundreds of activists, including some throwing stones.

Hundreds of police entered Amona on Wednesday morning, Feb. 1, to carry out the court-ordered evacuation. The activists, including many teens, stationed themselves in homes and the outpost’s synagogue.

Some police were hit and injured by rocks even before the evacuation started.

At least one officer was hit in the face with caustic material, believed to be bleach. Television cameras showed her flushing out her eyes with water.

Some 24 police officers were wounded and 13 protesters arrested in the evacuation.

The Israel media estimated that between 1,000 and 2,000 protesters were on and around the outpost, which is home to about 40 families.

On Tuesday, police sealed the roads leading to the outpost to all but authorized vehicles in an attempt to prevent protesters from gathering. Many headed to Amona on foot, walking through fields and unpopulated areas to reach the outpost.

Israel’s Supreme Court has ruled that Amona is an illegal settlement built on appropriated Palestinian land. At least three demolition orders have been issued since 1997.

Amona residents asked the protesters to avoid violence but to “ensure that the evacuation would be very hard,” Haaretz reported. Police told the Israeli media that they talked to the protesters in order to avoid violence.

The police began removing barriers covering the windows of the outpost homes and the synagogue in order to forcibly enter the buildings. Police were seen carrying out teenage protesters filling the homes — with four officers carrying out each protester.

At least seven families agreed to leave their homes voluntarily.

Police released a statement after entering the outpost.

“Israeli police are acting with restraint in order to allow those families of settlers who wish to evacuate. However, those who abuse this restraint and act violently toward police will be dealt with accordingly,” it said.

“Israeli police have been attacked by anarchists who have thrown objects at them, causing injuries to the eyes of several police officers, who needed to receive medical treatment. Police will not allow this and will act accordingly.”

Many Amona parents sent their young children to the nearby Ofra settlement on Wednesday morning ahead of the arrival of the police and the start of the evacuation.

Several Israeli lawmakers arrived at the outpost on Wednesday morning, including Bezalel Smotrich, Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, Shuli Moallem of the Jewish Home party and Oren Hazan of the Likud party.

Rabbi David Lau in a video released on social media called on the residents of Amona and Ofra and activists who have gathered there not to act violently against security forces during the evacuation.

The evacuation went forward despite the suspension of a plan to relocate many of the residents to an adjacent hilltop.

The suspension was approved after Palestinians filed claims to that land.

The relocation was part of a deal reached between the residents and the government to ensure a peaceful evacuation. Under the agreement, 24 homes would be built on the new hilltop and 16 other families would be assisted in finding homes nearby.

In 2006, a confrontation between settlers and police forces attempting to evacuate them turned violent, leaving many injured. The February demolition was postponed from Dec. 25, 2016 to give the state time to provide new housing for the residents.

On Wednesday evening as Israel police and security forces were evacuating the last of the homes Netanyahu announced that a new West Bank settlement would be established for the evacuated residents.

It will be the first new settlement established in 25 years.

A committee assigned to promote the establishment of the new settlement, according to the statement sent out by the Prime Minister’s Office, will determine its location and start the process of establishing it.

The committee will be made up of representatives of the settlers,  Netanyahu’s chief of staff, and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s adviser for settlement affairs, according to the announcement.

Netanyahu promised the Amona residents more than a month ago that he would provide them with a new community if the deal struck with them at the time fell through.

As of late Wednesday night, police and security officers had emptied nearly all of the Amona houses and evacuated at least 4,000 protesters from the outpost, according to reports.

Some 60 people reportedly remained holed up in the outpost’s synagogue, and it was estimated that the operation to evacuate the outpost would take until morning. It is not known when the demolition of the buildings would be complete.

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