Police reinforcements arrived in Amona early Thursday, after nearly all the buildings in the outpost were evacuated overnight Wednesday. Police proceeded with the evacuation through the cold, dark night, removing protesters and residents in preparation for the final demolition of the three dozen-some homes on the hilltop.
The last holdouts had barred themselves in the community’s synagogue. At some point Thursday it is expected that police and border guards will issue a final warning to those inside, demanding that they leave voluntarily – and if they refuse, security officers will enter the building by force and remove them.
One thing police sought to avoid Wednesday, and will continue to avoid Thursday, is violence, said IDF reserve general Gershon Cohen, who was in charge of IDF forces in the 2006 disengagement from Gaza, when 10,000 Jews were thrown out of their homes in Gush Katif and northern Shomron. “The scenes that seared themselves onto the memories of Israelis in 2006 in Amona – when police used truncheons, horses and heavy equipment to remove protesters – did not repeat themselves this time,” he told Army Radio.
Back then, he said, police, who were also in charge of removing the protesters and residents in Amona, “were in the mood to teach settlers a very hard lesson,” after the resistance residents of Gush Katif put up a year earlier. “This time they examined the situation carefully in advance and reached out to residents and leaders.” Cohen pointed out that the officers who operated in Amona Wednesday were not carrying weapons, shields or any other items that protesters could perceive would be used to hurt them, and there were no horses to be seen.
Cohen said that police were prepared for any eventuality, however, with a large group hidden out of sight equipped with anti-riot weapons and measures. But it appeared that the police strategy of lowering the threat level had a positive effect: only about 30 injuries, evenly split between police and protesters, were reported Wednesday, with nearly all of them light injuries.
Residents who were removed from their homes were taken to temporary housing in Ofra, the town next to Amona. The High Court on Wednesday rejected a deal in which the government would place caravans on another part of the hilltop, after Arabs filed petitions claiming ownership of the parcels where the caravans were to be placed. Speaking Wednesday night, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that he was appointing a committee to examine alternatives for the Amona evictees, including the possibility of setting up a new settlement for them.