Israel settlers reject relocation offer

AMONA OUTPOST, Palestinian Territories: Residents of a wildcat Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank on Thursday rejected a proposal to leave voluntarily, raising fears of violence as an evacuation deadline nears.
The Amona outpost, home to some 40 families, is under a High Court order to be evacuated by December 25 since it was found to have been built on private Palestinian land in a case that has taken on international importance.
The rejection in the early hours of Thursday led to concerns the army would move in imminently to clear them out, leading dozens of youths to stream into the hilltop outpost in windy and bitterly cold weather.
Many crowded into a small synagogue and dozed in sleeping bags on the floor, while others stayed in their cars or simply walked the streets.
After sunrise, some of the more extreme youths spread nails on roads along with stones and wooden poles.
Several took up position on top of a water tower while waving an Israeli flag. They also hauled an empty dumpster with them for unclear reasons.
A spokesman for Amona residents who has lived in the outpost for 14 years said they had not been given any notice of when an evacuation could happen.
In a press conference on Thursday afternoon, residents defended turning down the government’s offer.
The dispute over whether to demolish the outpost northeast of Ramallah has taken on international importance because of concern over settlement expansion in the West Bank, occupied by Israel since 1967.
Israeli nationalist politicians, settlement advocates and Amona residents have resisted the move, and the international community is watching closely over whether the court order will be obeyed.
All Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including annexed east Jerusalem, are seen as illegal under international law, but Israel differentiates between those it has approved and those it has not.
Settlements such as Amona are called outposts — those that Israel has not approved.
After recent efforts to pass a bill to legalise it failed, the state presented residents with what it described as a way to relocate them to nearby plots.