Dozens of settlers have returned to rebuild the site of an unauthorized West Bank outpost evacuated by the state, in what they said was a response to recent deadly Palestinian attacks on Israelis. Three people — two soldiers and a newborn — have been killed in the past two weeks in attacks in the West Bank. The renewed violence comes just two months after two Israelis were murdered by their Palestinian co-worker at a factory in the West Bank.
The settlers returned for ceremonial event at the Amona outpost in the Mateh Binyamin region, which was evacuated less than two years ago. During the event, they placed two units on plots of land they said former Amona residents purchased from Palestinians, with the assistance of private investors and donors. Amona was evacuated in February 2017, following a court ruling that it was built on private Palestinian land.
The event was attended by members of the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council, Shomron Regional Council head Yossi Dagan, MK Bezalel Smotrich of the right-wing Bayit Yehudi party, and Avihai Boaron, a representative of the residents of the outpost.
Haaretz daily newspaper quoted defense sources as saying that the settlers had not coordinated the event with the Israel Defense Forces army or the Civil Administration. Furthermore, Haaretz said, the area is classed as a closed military zone.
"After two years of this place being uninhabited, we are fortunate to resume Israeli life here," said Yisrael Gantz, head of Binyamin Regional Council. "The plots upon which we erected the structures were legally purchased. Yesterday, I promised to establish a new settlement in Binyamin in response to the deadly attacks and today we are carrying it out."
'We will fight to the end'
Avihai Boaron, who led the Amona residents in recent years, said: "The night we were expelled from our homes we swore to do everything to bring back Jewish life here, to raise the Israeli flag high up so that all our enemies will know — we will be victorious! This land is our home and we will fight for our home to the end."
"In these dark days, when terrorist attacks are so numerous and the honor of the people of Israel is harmed, we must get fired up and today's ascent to Amona is an appropriate Zionist response," said Yossi Dagan, head of the Shomron Regional Council.
After the evacuation of the outpost, the security cabinet approved a new settlement for Amona residents, the first time Israel has created a new settlement in over 20 years. The settlement, named Amichai, received its first residents in March.
The left-wing anti-settlement movement Peace Now condemned the return to Amona, accusing the settlers of disregarding the law of the land.
"There is no limit to the cynicism of the hilltop criminals who exploit the events of recent days to trample the law and ignite disturbances, all with public funds," the organization said. "These pyromaniacs are backed by Knesset members and local politicians… It is difficult to understand how an order has not yet been issued to evacuate them, and we ask whether the IDF and the police would have allowed this if they were Palestinians. This disgrace should be addressed today."
Peace Now said it would file a complaint with the police against the settlers, and make an appeal to the attorney general.