Israeli settlers agree to government deal to leave illegal outpost

It came as Israeli troops shot dead a Palestinian teenager during a confrontation in the West Bank village of Beit Rima, near Ramallah, according to Palestinian security officials

Jewish settlers rest in a greenhouse at Amona, an unauthorised Israeli outpost in the occupied West Bank, on December 18, 2016. Oded Balilty/AP Photo
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JERUSALEM // Settlers due to be evicted from an outpost in the occupied West Bank under an Israeli court order accepted a government-proposed deal on Sunday to prevent a forced evacuation and confrontation with troops.

The supreme court had ruled that the Amona outpost, where 330 settlers live, must be evacuated by December 25. The court found that Amona was built illegally on privately-owned Palestinian land.

The case, a test of authority between an increasingly powerful far-right in Israel and an independent judiciary, led to legislation that would retroactively legalise settlement homes on Palestinian-owned tracts.

The proposed law has been promoted by ultranationalist partners in prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government and received backing from Mr Netanyahu himself.

It needs to pass two more parliamentary votes to go on the books, but could ultimately be overturned by the supreme court, where it is expected to face legal challenges by settlement opponents.

Due to the existing court eviction order, Amona was not included in the bill. The legislation was condemned by the United Nations, and described by Palestinians as a land grab and step towards annexation of the West Bank.

With concern mounting over possible clashes with Amona settlers and militant supporters, Mr Netanyahu and far-right coalition member Naftali Bennett held late-night talks with settler leaders on Saturday.

They agreed to increase the number of mobile homes that would be placed at a new site in Amona, on what Israel describes as land it holds in custodianship for absentee Palestinian owners. Settlers accepted the deal in a vote in Amona’s synagogue on Sunday.

But the proposal could face a snag: “absentee” status can be challenged in court if an property owner comes forward. An Israeli anti-settlement group said on Sunday it had located a Palestinian owner who would bring legal action.

Also on Sunday, Israeli troops shot dead a Palestinian teenager during a confrontation in the West Bank village of Beit Rima, near Ramallah, Palestinian security officials said.

The confrontation occurred when the troops entered the village just after midnight and were confronted by stone-throwing youths.

The Palestinian health ministry identified the teenager as 19-year-old Ahmed Hazem Atta.

* Reuters, Agence France-Presse