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Jewish Settlers Ordered To Evacuate Illegal West Bank Outpost


Israel has been approving thousands of new homes in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, but today, Israeli police clashed with one group of settlers. Palestinians seek the West Bank for their independent state, and Israeli settlement construction there is condemned by the U.N. and most countries. The tussles there today were at a group of homes not recognized even by Israel.

The Amona outpost was built in the '90s, but the Israeli high court has ruled it illegal. NPR's Joanna Kakissis reports.


JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: On Jewish settlers scuffled with 3,000 Israeli police officers sent to begin the evacuation of some 40 families from the outpost of Amona. They burned tires, slicked the roads with oil and helped families barricade themselves inside their homes. Amona resident Ayelet Vidal is a 35-year-old book editor and mother of four. She sipped tea and said she'd stay until security forces physically carry her out.

AYELET VIDAL: (Through interpreter) I believe we're headed for a big change, and I want to believe that this fight here in Amona is a step there. I hope this fight will lead to our annexation of Judea and Samaria.

KAKISSIS: Judea and Samaria is what Jewish settlers call the West Bank, which Israel captured from Jordan nearly 50 years ago. Amona is one of scores of outposts not officially authorized but allowed by the Israeli government. The Israeli court ordered it evacuated because it's built on private Palestinian land.

While the government is following the court order for this outpost, it also approved 6,000 new homes in official settlements in the West Bank just in the last 10 days. Shilo Adler, who's with a group that represents settlers, says that with the Trump administration backing Israel, now is the time to build on what he says is Jewish land according to the Bible.

SHILO ADLER: This is the historical - this is the Bible land here where you stand now.

KAKISSIS: Adler says he's pushing for at least a hundred thousand more units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. The U.N. Security Council recently called settlements illegal, and the Obama administration warned they could make peace with the Palestinians impossible.

A few days ago, I spoke to a Palestinian woman who owns land in Amona and lives nearby. Mariam Hammad says she's been farming here since she was a child. Now 82, she says she was chased out more than 20 years ago by settlers while she was harvesting wheat.

MARIAM HAMMAD: (Through interpreter) This bouquet of wheat I took very quickly when they came and pushed us out. This is from my land.

KAKISSIS: In her home, she showed me a bowl of grain.

HAMMAD: (Through interpreter) Smell it. It's beautiful. It's the smell of my land. It's a souvenir from my land. It is what I use to make bread from.

KAKISSIS: Lawyers from the Israeli human rights group Yesh Din represent the Palestinian landowners. Gilad Grossman is the group's spokesman.

GILAD GROSSMAN: While we've won all the legal battles, victory will be achieved only if and when the Palestinian land owners will be able to return to their land.

KAKISSIS: The Israeli parliament is considering a bill to give official approval to scores of other outposts. Amona's not covered because the court ruled on it before the bill was drafted. Joanna Kakissis, NPR News, the West Bank.

(SOUNDBITE OF GLEN PORTER SONG, "TRANSIENT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.