Jewish extremists barricaded in wildcat outpost
RAMALLAH - Police moved into a synagogue of a wildcat outpost in the occupied West Bank Thursday to remove dozens of hardline Jewish settlers barricaded inside on the second day of an operation to evict residents.
The eviction of settlers and their supporters came just hours after the government unveiled plans for 3,000 new homes in other West Bank settlements, viewed by the global community as illegal and barriers to peace with the Palestinians.
Police on Wednesday managed to remove all but one of the 42 families living in the Amona outpost near Ramallah in line with a High Court order that found that it was built illegally on private Palestinian land.
On Thursday, large numbers of police moved in to evict the last remaining family, carrying them and supporters out of a house one by one with the mother screaming loudly as she was dragged away, an AFP correspondent reported.
Police had tried to negotiate the voluntary departure of dozens of "anarchists" who had barricaded themselves inside a nearby synagogue, but entered after talks broke down.
Hundreds of far-right activists slipped past army roadblocks early on Wednesday in a show of support for the Amona residents.
Police said they removed 800 people, making 13 arrests.
They said 24 officers sustained minor injuries in scuffles with protesters, some from rocks and glass bottles thrown at them, others with chemical burns from cleaning fluid launched by the activists.
Around 100 police were positioned Thursday outside the synagogue wearing protective glasses with the first line of officers carrying shields.
Eliana Passentin, a spokeswoman for the Benjamin Regional Council which covers settlements, said that police were being "very violent" on Thursday, "very different from yesterday."
"We condemn violence on both sides but people here have a right for peaceful civil disobedience," she said.
Police said they intend to finish the eviction on Thursday, after which the defence ministry would begin to remove residents' possessions before bulldozing the structures.
- 'A new era' -
When announcing the latest round of new settlements on Tuesday, Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Israel was entering a "new era" in which settlement building would return to normal.
All Israeli governments since 1967 have built settlements but none has formally created a new outpost since 1992, before the Oslo peace accords signed with the Palestinians, settlement expert Hagit Ofran of the Peace Now NGO said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu broke with that tradition late Wednesday when he said a new settlement would be built for the evicted Amona families, with a task force including representatives of the settlers asked to choose a location.
Ofran called the announcement "very dramatic," noting that settlements had continued to grow since 1992 either by construction within existing settlements or by legalising wildcat outposts such as Amona, formed without initial Israeli approval.
Hardliners within the governing coalition -- viewed as Israel's most right-wing ever -- had bitterly opposed the eviction and spent months trying to pass legislation to overturn the court order.
The international community considers all Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian land illegal and regards their construction as the biggest obstacle to a peaceful settlement of the conflict.
Israel has now approved more than 6,000 new homes for settlers since US President Donald Trump took office less than two weeks ago having signalled a softer stance on settlement construction than predecessor Barack Obama.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini warned Wednesday that the quickening expansion of Jewish settlements risked making a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict impossible.