Palestinians rejoiced Wednesday over Israel’s evacuation of the West Bank settlement outpost of Amona, saying they had waited 20 years for their land.
“Our feeling is indescribable,” Abdel-Rahman Saleh, the mayor of the nearby Palestinian town of Silwad, told The Associated Press. “We struggled for 20 years to get our land back.”
Amona is one of about 100 outposts across the West Bank that Israel considers illegal but tolerates and often allows to flourish. It was established in 1996, when a small group of settlers erected caravans on the windswept hilltop.
The outpost became a symbol of settler defiance when Israel demolished nine of its structures in 2006, sparking violent clashes between settlers and Israeli security forces.
In 2008, the Palestinian landowners, represented by lawyers from the left-wing Israeli legal rights group, Yesh Din, petitioned the Supreme Court to have the outpost removed, setting off a years-long struggle.
As the organization representing the petitioners in their struggle to remove the unauthorized outpost of Amona, Yesh Din…
The state agreed to demolish the outpost peacefully by the end of 2012 but the move was repeatedly delayed. What seemed like a final ruling in 2014, declaring the land private Palestinian property, gave the government until December 25, 2016, to carry out the evacuation.
But under fierce pressure from settlers and their supporters in parliament, the government secured a 45-day extension until early February — and on Wednesday, the first day of the month, evacuating forces went in.
Yesh Din, which represented the Palestinian landowners in court, welcomed the evacuation. In a Facebook post, it said the landowners were “waiting to return.”
The organization said Amona was built on private Palestinian land registered in the land registry under the names Mariam, Ibrahim and Munir, as well as additional residents from the West Bank villages of Taybeh, Ein Yabrud and Silwad.
It claimed that reports about land theft filed with Israeli police in the late 1990s went unaddressed and that Palestinian attempts to draw awareness to the issue were thwarted.