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Israeli police again remove settlers from illegal West Bank outpost of Amona

Twenty-three policemen injured and several settlers hurt as more than 300 protesters try to prevent evacuation, police say
The evacuation was carried out after the Jerusalem District Court on Wednesday denied the settlers' petition against eviction (Reuters)

Israeli police have removed scores of settlers from an illegal outpost in the occupied West Bank on Thursday in an evacuation that left several people injured.

Settlers had set up two caravans at the Amona outpost last month, in what they described as a protest against a recent surge in Palestinian attacks in the West Bank.

Micky Rosenfeld, a police foreign press spokesman, said: "During the evacuation 300 protestors were involved in disturbances with police when stones and oil were thrown at them at the time of the evacuation

"Police responded using non-lethal weapons in order to deal with the disturbances at the scene. Police evacuated the two buildings where the disturbances and protests took place.

"Twenty-three policemen were injured. Seven suspects were arrested at the scene for being involved in the disturbances. Further arrests will be made."

Israeli media reports said six settlers had also been hurt.

The evacuation was carried out after the Jerusalem District Court on Wednesday denied the settlers' petition against eviction.

On Wednesday, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that a non-profit group called Ofek Lehityashvut, which is publically funded, was behind the construction of the new outpost.

Two years ago, Amona's 300 settlers were removed by police after the Supreme Court determined it had been built illegally and without Israeli government authorisation on privately owned Palestinian land in 1995.

Dozens of settlers entered the area last month and erected new structures.

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Haaretz reported that defence sources said the settlers did not coordinate with either the army or the civil administration.

By building the homes at the outpost, they therefore violated not only the planning laws, but also an order declaring the area a closed military zone.

It is not yet clear why the army did not prevent them from doing so, since it prevents Palestinians from entering the area, Haaretz said.

Khan al-Ahmar comparison

The Israeli human rights organisation B'Tselem compared the situation in Amona to recent calls by the New Right party of Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked to evict residents of Khan al-Ahmar.

Israeli forces are expected to raze the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar and evict nearly 200 Palestinian residents after approval for the plan officially came into effect in October.

Building Amona was illegal, and evicting it is legal. By contrast, the race on the right to commit the war crime of demolishing Khan al-Ahmar is horrific

- B'Tselem

Bennet and Shaked announced the formation of the New Right party on Saturday, ahead of elections on 9 April.

B'Tselem said: "Building Amona was illegal, and evicting it is legal.

"By contrast, the race on the right to commit the war crime of demolishing Khan al-Ahmar is horrific.

"This election propaganda of new ideas for harming Palestinians is taking place over the heads of millions of subjects under occupation that can't participate in the elections."

Israeli settlements on land occupied in the 1967 Middle East war are illegal under international law.

Since the election of US President Donald Trump in 2016 there has been a severe uptick in settlement building, and last week Israeli authorities issued approvals for more than 2,000 settler homes in the West Bank.

About 500,000 Israelis live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which was also captured by Israel in the 1967 conflict.

The two areas are home to more than 2.6 million Palestinians.

While Israel's settlement projects have regularly drawn condemnation from the Palestinians, Europe and other places, the Trump administration has taken a largely uncritical public stand.