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Violence erupts as Israel evicts settlers in Amona

Protesters scuffle with Israeli police carrying out a court order to evict settlers from an illegal outpost in the occupied West Bank, hours after the government announced more construction in larger settlements.

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Protesters scuffled with Israeli police carrying out a court order to evict settlers from an illegal outpost in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday, hours after the government announced more construction in larger settlements.

Some 330 Israeli settlers live in Amona, the largest of scores of outposts built in the West Bank without official authorization. The Supreme Court ruled in November, after a lengthy legal battle, that settlers had to leave Amona because their homes were built on privately owned Palestinian land.

With no weapons visible, but wearing backpacks, hundreds of police walked past burning tires and pushed back against dozens of nationalist Israeli youths who flocked to Amona in support of the settlers.

Several protesters were detained by police during the scuffles and there were a few instances of stone-throwing. A police spokesmen said at least 15 officers were injured slightly by rocks and caustic liquid thrown at them.

We have lost the battle over  Amona .— Jewish Home leader  Naftali  Bennett

"A Jew doesn't evict a Jew!" the youngsters chanted.

The Amona settlers themselves stayed largely put inside their homes after erecting makeshift barriers in front of their doors and vowing passive resistance to eviction.

"We won't leave our homes on our own. Pull us out, and we'll go," one settler told reporters. "It is a black day for Zionism."

On a nearby hilltop, Issa Zayed, a Palestinian who said he was one of the owners of the land on which Amona was built, watched the scene through binoculars. "With God's help, it will be evacuated and our land will return to us," he said.

Police said the evictions will continue into the night. About 50 families, some 250 people, live in Amona, which is the largest of about 100 unauthorized outposts erected in the West Bank. A police spokesman said about 1,500 activists were in the area on Wednesday.

Tensions within coalition

Earlier, Israel announced plans for 3,000 more settlement homes in the West Bank, the third such declaration in 11 days since U.S. President Donald Trump took office. Trump, a Republican, has signalled he could be more accommodating toward such projects than his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama.

An announcement a week ago by Israel that it would build some 2,500 more dwellings in the West Bank, territory captured in a 1967 Middle East war and where Palestinians now seek statehood, drew rebukes from the Palestinians and the European Union. It followed approval a few days before of over 560 new homes in East Jerusalem, also taken by Israel in 1967.

"The decision … will place obstacles in the path of any effort to start a peace process that will lead to security and peace," said Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Israeli settlers argue with officials as Israeli security forces gather at the Amona outpost, northeast of Ramallah on Wednesday to evict the occupants of the settlement outpost. (Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images)

Palestinians want the West Bank and Gaza Strip for an independent state, with its capital in East Jerusalem. Israeli troops and settlers withdrew from Gaza in 2005.

In 2006 Amona saw a violent partial eviction, with nine shacks torn down by authorities. Police were confronted by thousands of settlers and more than 200 people were injured.

Most countries consider all Israeli settlements to be illegal. Israel disagrees, citing historical and political links to the land — which the Palestinians also assert — as well as security interests.

The Amona issue had caused tensions within Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition government. But they eased after he got behind a law proposed by the Jewish Home party, a far-right political ally, to retroactively legalise dozens of outposts. This would not apply to Amona because of the existing court decision.

"We have lost the battle over Amona but we are winning the campaign for the Land of Israel," cabinet minister and Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett tweeted after the evacuation began.

The legislation is expected to be passed in parliament next week. It is opposed, however, by Israel's attorney-general and legal experts predict it eventually would be overturned in court.

Israeli security forces gather at the Amona outpost, northeast of Ramallah, on Wednesday to prepare for the evacuation. (Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images)

With files from Derek Stoffel

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