Friday, May 25, 2018

Israeli settlers evacuated from West Bank outpost

MIGRON, West Bank — Under court order, Israel evacuated one of the largest unauthorized settlement outposts in the West Bank on Sunday, moving to dismantle what had become a symbol of efforts by Jewish settlers to seize land without government approval.

Migron was ordered removed by the Israeli Supreme Court because it was built without official permits on land privately owned by Palestinians.

The hilltop community of about 50 religious families living in mobile homes was emptied with nearly no resistance from the settlers, other than a few holdouts who had to be carried off by police.

By day's end, almost all of the 300 residents had left the site, near the Palestinian city of Ramallah, after being served with eviction orders. They traveled to temporary quarters at a neighboring settlement and are to move this month into prefab homes about a mile away from their original location.

After several postponements of the evacuation, the government tried to delay it for another three years under a compromise negotiated with the settlers, but it was compelled to act by a new court-imposed deadline.

"We are committed to the rule of law," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared.

Israeli settlement expansion on land the Palestinians seek for a future state has been at the core of the impasse in peace efforts. The Palestinians say they will not resume peace talks without a halt to the construction, a matter Israel says should be resolved in negotiations.

Peace Now, an Israeli group that opposes the settlements and petitioned the Supreme Court in 2006 for the removal of Migron, called the evacuation a "significant achievement for anyone who believes in the two-state solution and the democratic rules of the game."

Israel has 120 established settlements in the West Bank, communities it views as legitimate, though they're considered illegal by most foreign governments. The smaller settlement outposts like Migron were built without official approval, but many have roads and utilities provided by state agencies.

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