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Israeli army to take over illegal outpost in West Bank in deal with settlers

Settler leader Yossi Dagan has cut a deal with the Israeli government, with 50 caravan houses staying on the Eviatar site as Palestinian protests continue
Israeli settlers gather in the Eviatar settlement near the northern Palestinian city of Nablus in the occupied West Bank, 28 June 2021 (AFP)

Israel is planning to evacuate dozens of Jewish settlers on Friday from the illegal settlement of Eviatar in the occupied West Bank, after a deal was reached between a settler leader and the government of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

Yossi Dagan, head of settler organisation the Shomron Regional Council, struck a deal with Israel's defence minister, Benny Gantz, and interior minister Ayelet Shaked, that will turn Eviatar into a religious school and a military base for the Israeli army.

Israel will keep about 50 caravan houses settlers installed in May on Palestinian lands belonging to the residents of the occupied West Bank village of Beita, while settlers would "return" to the land when Israeli authorities designate it as "state-owned."

Amid the political and media focus on the Israeli war on Gaza in May and the violent crackdown on Palestinians in East Jerusalem, Israeli settlers moved to Mount Sabih, or Jabal Sabih in Arabic, located on the southern outskirts of Beita.

Within days, settlers installed mobile houses, built roads and raised an Israeli flag over the settlement.

But Palestinian residents of Beita have protested the establishment of the settlement almost daily, calling on Israel to dismantle it.

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Israeli forces have killed six Palestinians and wounded almost 300 people since these protests started in May. Palestinians in the area have recently started rallying after midnight, using torches, lasers and honking horns in an effort to push the settlers out.

Israel illegally occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war and has since exponentially expanded settlements on occupied lands, which now house 650,000 Israelis, a vital electoral base for Israeli politicians.

On 6 June, Benjamin Netanyahu, then prime minister, froze an evacuation of settlers from Eviatar, in an order issued by Gantz.

Last month, the Israeli group Peace Now said in a statement that: “A small group of people is creating facts on the ground that affect dramatically Israel’s security and its foreign policy without any authority."

"The new government must not accept that. This outpost must be evicted not only because it is deepening the occupation of the Palestinians in the West Bank but because it is bad for the security of Israel and bad for the possibility of future peace for Israel," it said.

Shaked meanwhile praised the settlers of Eviatar, describing them as "pioneers... who, through their devotion, demonstrate what Zionism is.”