Israeli forces began an operation to evacuate hardline Jewish settlers from a West Bank outpost on Wednesday after a court ruled the homes were built on private Palestinian land.
Forces made their way up the hill around midday Wednesday, wearing no helmets and carrying no weapons. On the hilltop, youngsters smashed tiles, gathered rusty metal bars and large rocks to erect makeshift barricades to slow their advance. Some protesters threw rocks at security forces, while others set fire to tires and trash piles.
Residents of the Amona settlement have said they plan to resist their evacuation peacefully. Some chained themselves to heavy objects and locked their doors.
A few residents left their homes with young children in the arms.
The eviction of the settlement brings to an end months of attempts by the right-wing government to legalize the wildcat outpost.
Police said they had been in dialogue with the residents throughout the night in order to ensure “a peaceful eviction, in accordance with their commitment to the High Court,” as part of a deal reached to relocate Amona settlers to a nearby site.
“Police will strive to carry out the eviction without the use of force,” a statement read.
Amona is the largest of about 100 unauthorized outposts erected in the West Bank without permission but generally tolerated by the Israeli government. Israel’s Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that Amona was built on private Palestinian land and must be demolished. It has set Feb. 8 as the final date for it to be destroyed.
The international community considers all Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian land to be illegal and regards their construction as the biggest obstacle to a peaceful settlement of the conflict.
While readying to evacuate Amona, Israel announced Tuesday night the construction of 3,000 settlement homes in the West Bank, the fourth such announcement in the less than two weeks since the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump.
“Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have decided to authorize the construction of 3,000 new housing units in Judea-Samaria,” the defense ministry said in a statement, using a term Israel uses for the West Bank.
The election of Trump, who has promised to be far more supportive of Israel than his predecessor, has emboldened Israel’s settlement movement. His campaign platform made no mention of a Palestinian state, a cornerstone of two decades of international diplomacy in the region, and he has signaled that he will be far more tolerant of Israeli settlement construction.