Israel media: Army orders residents out of West Bank outpost

AP News
Posted: Jan 31, 2017 7:11 AM

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's military has ordered residents of a West Bank settlement outpost to evacuate the area within 48 hours, media reported Tuesday, days before a deadline for its demolition that threatens to destabilize Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government.

The Ynet news website and other outlets reported that the army posted a notice at the entrance to the Amona outpost Tuesday. Ynet ran a picture of the order that said "After 48 hours nobody will enter or reside in the area." The military had no immediate comment.

Israel's Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that Amona was built on private Palestinian land and must be demolished. It later set Feb. 8 as the final date for it to be destroyed. The court is reportedly set to rule on a state relocation plan later in the day.

Amona is the largest of about 100 unauthorized outposts erected in the West Bank without permission but generally tolerated by the Israeli government.

The outpost, built in the 1990s, stretches out over a rugged, grassy hilltop and looks out across the valley onto Palestinian villages. In 2006, Israeli police demolished nine homes at Amona, setting off clashes pitting settlers and their supporters against police and soldiers. Several dozen trailers have remained and the outpost has become a symbol for the settlement movement.

Its fate has threatened to rupture Netanyahu's narrow coalition, which is dominated by ultranationalists who support settlements.

Netanyahu has struggled to find a balance between appeasing his settler constituents and respecting Israel's Supreme Court, which has drawn the ire of hard-liners by ruling against the settlers.

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The Palestinians and the international community consider authorized settlements and outposts illegal or illegitimate, and an obstacle to the peace process. The Palestinians want the West Bank, along with the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, for their future state. Israel captured the three territories in the 1967 Mideast war.

The election of Donald 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.