Amid bitter protests and violent clashes, police are working to evacuate dozens of settlers and hundreds of demonstrators from the Amona outpost, ending decades of delays and legal wrangling over the fate of the West Bank hilltop.
Times of Israel military correspondent Judah Ari Gross was on the scene and The Times of Israel liveblogged events as they unfolded.
Last houses to be evacuated as troops prep for synagogue battle
Five houses in Amona remain to be evacuated, Channel 2 reports.
Troops are beginning to gather near the synagogue, expected to be the site of the final battle over the outpost.
According to reports, some 60 people are barricading themselves inside the synagogue, one of the few buildings in the outpost that’s not a mobile home caravan or a shed.
White House puts Iran ‘on notice’ over missile launch
While things are continuing in Amona, the White House is holding its daily press conference, though spokesman Sean Spicer has yet to be asked about Israeli settlement building or the Amona evacuation.
However, Spicer does invite National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to speak about Iran’s ballistic missile launch, with Flynn saying that Iran has been put “on notice.”
“Recent Iranian actions, including a provocative ballistic missile launch and an attack against a Saudi naval vessel conducted by Iran-supported Houthi militants, underscore what should have been clear to the international community all along about Iran’s destabilizing behavior across the Middle East,” Flynn says.
“The Obama administration failed to respond adequately to Tehran’s malign actions, including weapons transfers, support for terrorism and other violations of international norms,” he says.
“The Trump administration condemns such actions by Iran that undermine security, prosperity, and stability throughout and beyond the Middle East and place American lives at risk,” he adds. “President Trump has severely criticized the various agreements reached between Iran and the Obama administration, as well as the United Nations – as being weak and ineffective.”
“As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice,” he concludes.
Netanyahu announces new settlement to replace Amona
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announces the establishment of a new West Bank settlement to replace the illegal outpost of Amona, which is currently being evacuated.
The settlement would be the first new one in some 25 years.
While Israel stopped establishing new settlements in the early 1990s, outposts set up since then have been retroactively given approval, and existing settlements have expanded their footprints, sometimes being neighborhoods of existing settlements in name only.
In a statement, the Prime Minister’s Office says that he instructed a team to look into possible locations for the new settlement. The team consists of his chief of staff, representatives of the settlement movement and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s adviser for settlement affairs.
The statement says that Netanyahu a month and a half ago promised the settlers a new settlement if efforts to save Amona failed.
According to Channel 2, the new settlement will be established in a month and a half.
— Raphael Ahren
Police say they will take evacuation slow and steady
Police spokesperson Meirav Lapidot says police will continue to evacuate homes in a “slow and orderly way,” and are not setting a deadline for themselves.
“There’s no deadline for the evacuation. It’ll end when it needs to end. We don’t want to go into time pressures,” she tells Channel 2.
She does not give a timetable for the actual razing of the outpost.
She also says police have shown “role model” behavior throughout the day, despite taking both physical and verbal abuse.
30 homes evacuated as operation slogs into night
Police say 30 homes out of about 40 have been evacuated as the eviction operation proceeds.
According to Channel 2, the operation is expected to take until morning and one of the last places to be cleared out will be the synagogue, where some 60 people are holed up.
So far, some 400 protesters have been removed from the hilltop, police say.
A total of 24 cops have been lightly injured and the arrest count remains at 13.
EU says new settlement homes mark ‘worrying trend’
Israel’s latest announcement of new settlement homes in the West Bank risks making a two-state solution impossible, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini says.
The announcement “marks a very worrying trend, posing a direct challenge to the prospects of a viable two-state solution, which is increasingly difficult and risks becoming impossible,” Mogherini warns in a statement.
The European Union “deeply regrets that Israel is proceeding with this, despite the continuous serious international concern and objections, which have been constantly raised at all levels,” she adds.
Amona man sobs on video
A video from the Amona evacuation shows a man on the ground sobbing as he is tended to by a policeman.
The man is handed a bottle and cries out the traditional blessing as other policemen look on awkwardly.
Meretz head: I feel for Amona residents, government is failing
In a Facebook missive, Zehava Galon, leader of the left-wing Meretz party, expresses sympathy for the Amona evacuees but excoriates fellow lawmakers for trying to lash out at the court for ordering the demolition and the government for mishandling the situation.
“The real hardships and pain of the Amona residents can’t justify stealing private Palestinian land, and they definitely should not be pawns in order to justify the systematic theft that the government has proposed under the name of the regularization bill,” she writes.
“A government that fails to solve a real estate problem for 40 families is supposed to be the one that deals with all the complications of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The problem is not Amona or this or that outpost, the problem is that the government doesn’t have any real plan, not to solve the conflict and not to manage it,” Galon adds.
Amona residents to accept deal to set up new settlement elsewhere
After the High Court rejected a government plan to give Amona residents an adjacent plot of land, residents say they have no choice but to accept a separate offer for a new settlement elsewhere.
“In the absence any other option, the residents will accept the offer to establish a new settlement,” Amona spokesman Ofer Inbar tells The Times of Israel.
Last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Chief of Staff Yoav Horowitz said the Palestinians’ claim on the land nullified the compromise deal. Instead, he said the Amona residents were offered new options: build a new settlement in the area, or relocate the entire community to Ofra.
Amona residents initially rejected the government’s counter-offer, saying that remaining on the contested hilltop was the cornerstone of the entire agreement.
Protester removed from house by medics
A protester is being removed from one of the houses in Amona by medics, with eyewitnesses saying he lost consciousness for an as-yet-unknown reason.
Other protesters are being forcibly removed from the building.
28 of 42 houses evacuated so far
Police have evacuated at least 28 of the 42 houses at the Amona outpost.
Despite earlier reports that they would halt the evacuation by nightfall, officers are continuing the operation through, going house to house to remove residents and protesters.
Police sources say they expect to complete the evacuation overnight, according to Channel 2.
Freezing conditions expected overnight
Freezing conditions are expected in Amona overnight with temperatures predicted to be 0°C (32°F) with a wind child of -5°C (23°F).
The weather will be “unseasonably cold with a risk of frost,” according to the Israel Meteorological Service.
Uri Ariel promises ‘new Jewish settlement on this mountain range’
Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel from the Jewish Home party promises to establish a new settlement in the same area of the West Bank where the Amona outpost is currently being evacuated.
Speaking to Channel 2 news from Amona, Ariel says it will take “a year or two” to create a new settlement.
“Here on this mountain range, there will be a new Jewish settlement and we will wave the Israeli flag here,” he says.
Police update — 20 soldiers injured, 13 protestors arrested
Police say that 20 soldiers have been injured in the ongoing Amona evacuation and 12 youth arrested so far.
Earlier today those numbers stood on 16 and 7, respectively.
High Court cancels alternative land plan for Amona residents
The High Court of Justice rules to cancel plans that would have allowed Amona residents to move to an adjacent plot of land following the ongoing evacuation of the outpost.
In a December deal struck with the government, the residents agreed to move to an adjacent plot in return for leaving peacefully, but two weeks ago the High Court issued a temporary injunction halting work to prepare the new location, complicating government efforts to find a solution for the settlers and avoid a possible violent standoff.
The petition, filed by human rights group Yesh Din, objected to the government plan claiming that the land was also owned by Palestinians.
Anti-settlement group Yesh Din welcomes evacuation
Yesh Din, the Israeli legal rights group that represented the Palestinian landowners in court, welcomes the ongoing evacuation.
In a Facebook post, the organization says the landowners are “waiting to return.”
“Our feeling is indescribable,” says Abdel-Rahman Saleh, the mayor of the nearby Palestinian town of Silwad, who assisted the landowners in building their case. “We struggled for 20 years to get our land back.”
— with AP
Liberman denies ordering Amona fields destroyed
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman denies, as suggested by Naftali Bennett, that he ordered the agricultural lands owned by Amona residents to be destroyed.
He says the issue is a legal one will “probably end in the High Court.”
“As a resident of [the West Bank settlement of] Nokdim, my heart is with the settlers in Amona at this difficult time and I expect all public officials, especially government ministers to show empathy toward the evacuees and not to use the situation to throw blame and create divisions within Israel,” he says in a statement.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett earlier called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Liberman to prevent the destruction of agricultural lands that currently belong to Amona residents.
Police change tack, say they will continue evacuation overnight
Police tell The Times of Israel that they will be continuing the ongoing Amona evacuation overnight, after previously saying they would halt the operation with nightfall.
Police confirm they will pause evacuation overnight
Police confirm to The Times of Israel that they will halt the ongoing evacuation of Amona at nightfall.
Most officers will retreat from the outpost and return in the morning, police say.
Protesters celebrate as police appear to back down
Protesters holed up in one of the houses set to be demolished break into song as police officers retreat from the building, apparently as part of an order to halt the evacuation overnight.
Police had been trying to remove the protesters from the building.
Authorities will reportedly continue the evacuation in the morning.
Police say they will halt evacuation overnight
Police say they have decided to halt the Amona evacuation overnight and will stop the ongoing operation at nightfall, according to Hebrew media reports.
They will attempt to remove as many protesters as possible until then, reports say.
Updated numbers of injured officers, arrests
Police release the following details:
• 16 police officers injured lightly
• 12 houses evacuated
• Over 200 people removed from the area
• 12 families agreed to leave peacefully
• 7 people arrested for disturbances
Police are continuing to talk with leaders of the community in an attempt to persuade residents to leave peacefully, they say.
Evacuation to continue through night
Despite earlier reports that the police were considering pausing the evacuation until the morning, security authorities plan to continue the operation through the night until it is completed, according to Hebrew media reports.
At least seven of the 42 houses have been evacuated so far, police say.
PA in ‘urgent discussions’ over Israeli settlement announcement
The Palestinian Authority initiated “urgent discussions” on possible responses to Tuesday’s announcement by Israel of plans to build a further 3,000 homes in the West Bank, according to Palestinian news outlet Ma’an.
Palestinian spokesperson Nabil Abu Rudeineh says in a statement that discussions would take place over “necessary procedures” to challenge the decision.
Abu Rudeineh also reportedly demanded that the US administration intervene to halt Israeli settlement policies.
France condemns settlement building plans
France says it “bitterly condemned” Tuesday’s announcement by Israel of plans to build a further 3,000 homes in the West Bank, some of them outside settlement blocs Israel hopes to keep in a future peace deal with the Palestinians.
The decision came a week after Israel approved the construction of 566 housing units in East Jerusalem and plans to build 2,500 homes in the West Bank.
The new homes will include 700 homes in Alfei Menashe, 650 in Beitar Illit, 650 in Beit Arye, 200 in Nofim, 150 in Nokdim (Liberman’s home settlement), 100 in Shilo, 100 in Karnei Shomron and 100 in Metsudot Yehuda.
Police say 15 officers wounded, 11 taken to hospital
Police say 15 officers have been wounded in the Amona evacuation so far.
Eleven of them have been taken to a hospital, according to a statement.
Police considering delaying end of evacuation due to nightfall
Police are considering pausing the ongoing evacuation over night and completing it in the morning, Channel 2 news reports.
Authorities will hold a meeting in the next hour to assess the situation and decide whether to continue the evacuation after night falls, according to the report.
Bennett said to call on PM not to destroy Amona’s fields
Education Minister Naftali Bennett reportedly calls on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to prevent the destruction of agricultural lands that currently belong to Amona residents.
Bennett says the court-ordered evacuation does not include the adjacent fields, according to Hebrew media.
Residents take Torah scrolls out of Amona
Residents take the Amona settlement’s Torah scrolls by car out of the settlement as police forcibly remove protesters from the buildings.
Asked is they were leaving willingly, a police officer directing them out said, “At this point no one is going willingly, but it’s not by force.”
Protesters being forcibly removed from houses
Police are forcibly removing dozens of protesters who had barricaded themselves inside houses.
The majority are being carried out by officers.
Police trying to untangle protesters from one another as they empty a house where they're holed in Amona. pic.twitter.com/zrdtWSg0Q6
— Judah Ari Gross (@JudahAriGross) February 1, 2017
Baruch Marzel arrested
Right-wing settler leader Baruch Marzel has been arrested for clashing with police in Amona, according to Hebrew media reports.
An unapologetic extremist, Marzel is known for participating in nationalist marches through Arab towns, provocatively waving Israelis flags; demonstrates against Jewish-Arab intermarriages and Nakba Day celebrations; and organizes big parties to celebrate the actions of Baruch Goldstein, who massacred 29 Arabs at prayer in Hebron in 1994.
Police release drone footage of Amona evacuation
7 families agree to leave homes
Seven of the 42 families in the Amona outpost have left their houses peacefully after discussions with police, according to a police statement.
13 police officers wounded, 4 protesters arrested in clashes
Police say 13 officers have been wounded by solvents, rocks and glass thrown at them by protesters.
Four protesters have been arrested for clashing with police.
Police allow social workers into outpost to talk to distressed protesters
A team of five social workers from the Beit El Welfare Office receive permission from police to enter the settlement and speak to protesters who may be in distress,
Four female and one male social worker are speaking with the younger protesters to see if they are OK and to ask them if they want to leave voluntarily.
“If I’m being honest, I think there should be more social workers than police officers,” one of the social workers tells The Times of Israel.
2 policewomen, 1 protester admitted to Hadassah emergency room
Three people with light injuries have been been admitted to the emergency room in Hadasah Hospital on Mount Scopus, Jerusalem.
Two are policewomen and one is a 28-year-old protester.
Police start entering houses
Police have started to enter some of the houses in Amona.
A tweet by an account run by an Amona resident shows officers inside one of the houses.
— Amona_EN (@AmonaEn) February 1, 2017
Families and other protesters have barricaded themselves inside several buildings including the synagogue.
Protesters would not let a Times of Israel reporter inside the synagogue but one of the protesters said there were “over a hundred in there.”
Police try to forcibly enter houses
Police are attempting to remove corrugated metal sheets that have been bolted across the windows on houses in the Amona outpost.
Residents have locked themselves inside the buildings in an attempt to prevent police from removing them.
Protesters throw bleach and paint at police
Several officers were lightly injured after protesters throw bleach and paint in their faces, police say.
They are being treated by medics on the scene.
“We will not allow anarchists to take advantage of police restraint. If they act violently to us, we will act accordingly,” a statement says.
Dozens of protesters led away by police
Police are removing protesters, preventing them from reaching the settlement houses.
Several dozen have been led away, each by a number of officers, after clashing with police.
It is not clear if they have been arrested with intent to be charged or just removed from the settlement.
Police start surrounding houses
Police officers have started surrounding houses inside the Amona settlement.
A large chain of officers in continuing to make its way through the outpost as smaller groups of police break off toward the buildings.
Residents and protesters have locked themselves inside the houses and some can be seen on the roofs.
2 police officers ask to be recused from evacuation
Two police officers in Amona have asked not to be involved in the evacuation, according to Hebrew media reports.
They were reportedly removed from the settlement.
At least 10 protesters said arrested
A handful of protesters have been arrested after struggling with police, Channel 2 news reports.
Protesters continue to clash with officers trying to make their way through the settlement.
Police say around 3,000 officers in Amona, 600 protesters
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld says there are around 3,000 officers in and around Amona to move the 42 families, “and hopefully people will evacuate the area peacefully and quietly.”
He estimates that another 600 people who were not from the outpost had arrived for the eviction.
“We’re hoping that things will go relatively calmly and quietly. We’re ready to respond if necessary to any violence,” he says.
— with AFP
Protesters try to block police
Protesters try to block police moving through the settlement by linking arms.
Police, their arms also linked, attempt to push through the human blockade to reach the outpost buildings.
Police close main West Bank thoroughfare
Police have closed the main West Bank highway, Route 60, between Shiloh and Kochav Yaakov.
They say it will be opened intermittently through the day and recommend that drivers find alternate routes.
Bulldozers clear path into settlement
Bulldozers clear makeshift roadblocks that have been put in the way of the entrance of the Amona settlement.
Light clashes between police and protesters
Light physical clashes take police and protesters as officers make their way deeper into he settlement.
Several protesters are pushing police who march arm-in-arm through the settlement as others shout, “You should be ashamed of yourselves,” at the officers through loudspeakers.
Bennett says West Bank annexation will follow Amona evacuation
The evacuation of the illegal West Bank outpost Amona will lead to Israel’s annexation of the entire West Bank, Education Minister Naftali Bennett vows.
“From this legal defeat we will establish a new legal regime in Judea and Samaria that will regulate the entirety of settlements, and from the painful loss of this foothold in this mountain will emerge the State of Israel’s application of sovereignty over all of Judea and Samaria,” he says at a Knesset debate.
“From the ruins of Amona’s houses we will build a new settlement,” he says. “From the destroyed kindergartens will be established new kindergartens all across Judea and Samaria.”
Bennett calls the residents of Amona “heroes” and hails their determination to remain steadfast on this windy hilltop, defying harsh conditions in their struggle to settle the Land of Israel even after it emerged that their outpost was built on private Palestinian land.
“We fought a hard fight but we were confronted with a final court order by the High Court of Justice. We came to Amona and looked the residents in the eye. We knew that we were embarking on a struggle against all odds, but we didn’t give up. Together with the residents, we turned around every stone, we explored all possibilities and exhausted all ways to save Amona. To our regret, the struggle over Amona was not successful. We lost the battle, but we will in the war over the Land of Israel.”
— Raphael Ahren
Deputy FM vows outpost bill will prevent future evacuations
Ahead of the evacuation of Amona, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely says a bill to legalize West Bank outposts — set to face a final vote in the Knesset next week — “will prevent disgraceful events like this in the future.”
“The Amona evacuation is a difficult moment because the term ‘the rule of law’ today becomes an empty phrase,” she says in a statement.
“Instead of the rule of law embodying values of justice, morality and reason, it today embodies a decision that will not help any Palestinians but will deeply damage settler families that came to this land with the permission of the State of Israel.”
“I call on the settlers who fought valiantly for the outpost bill to continue to be pioneers for the Land of Israel,” she adds.
Chief rabbi calls on residents to refrain from violence
Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau calls on Amona residents and those who have joined them to refrain from violence against security forces.
“Evacuating a settlement and those living there arouses pain and sadness but we have an obligation to respect the law and not to use any violence towards anyone,” he says.
“Everyone should act in accordance to Jewish law.”
Police talking with residents to prevent violence
Police say they’re talking with residents in an effort to prevent violence but “if any incident occurs police will respond immediately.”
Public security minister laments ‘hard and sad day’
“This is a hard and sad day for the people of Israel,” Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan says ahead of the Amona evacuation.
“Despite the difficulty and the pain, I call on everyone who is still on the mountain – let the police do their job,” he says in the statement, adding that he also calls on Knesset members and public leaders to avoid statements that could “exacerbate the situation.”
Erdan says he expects the police to bring to justice anyone who acts violently.
Protesters try to dissuade police from evacuating outpost
Amona residents and the protesters who have joined them attempt to dissuade police from taking part in the evacuation of the settlement.
“Don’t you have a heart,” one protester asked officers who have entered the outpost. “What if this were your house?”
“You are making this into a show,” another says, pointing to the large press contingency, “but this isn’t a show, it’s people’s lives.”
Amona children leave outpost
Amona parents are sending their children down the hill toward the adjacent Ofra settlement ahead of the impending evacuation.
Police officers given go-ahead to enter Amona outpost
Hundreds of police officers who had gathered at the entrance to the Amona outpost have begun to enter the settlement.
Protesters throw rocks at police officers at outpost entrace
Protesters throw rocks at police officers at gathered at the Amona outpost entrance ahead of the impending eviction.
A police commander was heard telling officers, “Don’t freak out.”
The protesters retreated after a few minutes.
They are also lighting tires on fire in protest.
Hundreds of police officers arrive at Amona entrance
Hundreds of police officers have arrived at the entrance of the Amona outpost.
They are awaiting instructions from the political echelon to move in and carry out the evacuation, a police spokesperson tells The Times of Israel.
The spokesperson would not specify how many officers have been deployed but said it was “in the hundreds.”
Amona residents hand over weapons to police
As part of preparation for the impending eviction, residents of Amona have handed over to authorities a bag containing non-lethal weapons, police say.
The bag contained stun grenades and flares, according to a police statement.
Police are calling on residents “to continue to show responsibility so that the court order can be carried out appropriately and to prevent the eviction turning violent.”
Buses approach Amona
A line of buses reportedly full of police officers ascends the road from the adjacent Ofra settlement towards Amona.
Organizers tell protesters to lock themselves in houses
Protest organizers announce over the Amona outpost loudspeaker that large numbers of police officers have arrived at the adjacent Ofra settlement, and encourage demonstrators to lock themselves in houses and in the central synagogue.
Ofra residents call for fast day tomorrow
Residents of the Ofra settlement where, along with the adjacent outpost of Amona, nine houses are due to be demolished, announce a “public fast day” tomorrow.
The fast — a Jewish sign of mourning — is being called “over the destruction of houses and communities in the Land of Israel, a merciless and unjust [High Court] ruling, and the wantonness of elected officials.”
Protesters claim police barred ambulances from entering outpost
Amona protest organizers claim police are not allowing ambulances from the Binyamin regional council up the hill into the outpost.
A police spokesperson says he’s “not familiar” with the incident.
Israeli authorities have named the evacuation operation “Locked Garden 2” — “Gan na’ul 2” in Hebrew.
— Judah Ari Gross
Jewish Home minister heckled at Amona
Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel arrives at Amona, joining fellow Jewish Home lawmakers Bezalel Smotrich and Shuli Muallem-Refaeli.
He’s met with heckles from protesters who ask him why he bothered showing up if he’s abandoned their cause.
Amona evacuation ‘a dark day for Zionism’
Amona protest leader Avichai Boaron tells Army Radio that the imminent demolition is “a dark day for Zionism.”
“Likud, Jewish Home [parties]: You believe in return to the homeland. This is a dark day for you,” he says.
Last-ditch petition to delay demolition rejected
Several Amona residents filed a petition overnight asking the High Court to delay the evacuation of Amona until after the court reaches a decision on the petition filed by Palestinians against a now-moot deal struck between residents and the government.
Justice Miriam Naor rejected that plea, Israel Radio reports.
Police, protesters settle in for standoff over Amona
Police have brought in a skunk truck and bulldozer, which are sitting on the road below Amona, and several dozen officers are spaced out along the road leading to the outpost. The closest are standing at a distance from the entrance.
Several teens are setting up blockades and scattering boulders on the road, but most people are indoors, at homes and in the synagogue, doing their best to keep out of the cold.
An unverified claim by protest organizers says there are around 1,700 people in the outpost, the vast majority of whom are young religious teens, but that could not be independently verified.
— Judah Ari Gross
Jewish Home MK compares Amona evacuation to rape
Jewish Home MK Bezalel Smotrich compares the evacuation of the illegal West Bank outpost of Amona to “a brutal rape.”
“The evacuation won’t be violent because the people aren’t violent, but it will hurt just like when something terrible happens, it hurts,” the right-wing lawmaker, who arrived at the scene of the illegal outpost near Ramallah, says. “When a woman is raped, it hurts. What they’re doing here is a brutal rape.”