Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Monday ordered the evacuation of an illegal settlement outpost in the West Bank in the coming days, despite talks with the settlers living there on a compromise for voluntary evacuation.
The Eviatar outpost was set up in early May and quickly became home to 50 settler families who erected huts and tents and brought in trailer caravans in defiance of international and Israeli law.
According to the compromise drafted by Gantz and Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, the majority of the residents will leave the site and the Defense Ministry will establish an interim base there as the government decides on the legal status of the land.
Some media reports said that the area was tapped to ultimately become a yeshiva or Jewish religious seminary.
Gantz, who was also defense minister in the previous government, had ordered the outpost be removed but was blocked by then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Civil Administration, the Israeli body that oversees government activity in the West Bank, began looking into the status of the land two weeks ago, at the request of the settlers there.
The administration found that 80% of the land on which the outpost is located is not private land, and could therefore be declared state land. The access road to the outpost was also not built on private land, the Civil Administration found.
The settlers also consulted with Kobi Eliraz, an adviser to four defense ministers including Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who believes that the status of the outpost can be formalized.
Settler leader and head of Samaria Regional Council Yossi Dagan said that the results of the land survey proved that there is "no substantive reason" to prevent the establishment of Eviatar as a settlement.
The arrival of the settlers at Eviatar, which is named for 2013 terror victim Eviatar Borovsky, caused outrage in the nearby small Palestinian town of Beita, where protests over the illegal outpost have repeatedly ended in clashes with Israeli troops.
Four Palestinians including a teenager have been killed and more than 300 wounded, the Palestinian Red Crescent says.
"When they set up their base... we thought they would stay a day or two," said Raad, a young man from Beita, who declined to give his second name for fear of arrest.
But in less than 48 hours, "they put in place more than 20 caravans - which means that they intend to stay," he said.