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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

Israeli settlers await demolition of West Bank outpost

Israeli settlers at a "wildcat" outpost in the occupied West Bank held a protest rally on Monday, on the eve of their expected eviction from their homes, a settlers' group said.

A statement from the Yesha settlements council said "thousands" of supporters joined the 50 residents of Netiv Haavot outpost, near Bethlehem.

Among them, it said, were rabbis and settlement leaders.

Israel's Supreme Court in February gave the residents until June 15 to vacate 15 settler homes found to have been built partly on private Palestinian land.

But residents, and settlement watchdog Peace Now said they expected the evictions to take place on Tuesday.

"Tomorrow we shall leave here sad and in pain at the destruction, but with our heads held high and our eyes turned toward the permanent neighbourhood of Netiv Haavot," the statement quoted Yesha Council chairman Hananel Dorni as saying at Monday's rally.

The right-wing government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu draws support from the settlement movement, and has settlers in cabinet posts.

It has approved a plan to build 350 homes at new plots in Netiv Haavot not subject to the Supreme Court.

The plan also reportedly includes about 60 million shekels (Dh61.6m) in compensation for the settlers leaving the homes to be demolished, and provision for temporary housing for them until construction of the new homes is complete.

"You wanted to demolish 15 homes, you will get hundreds of homes," Mr Dorni said.

"We will not rest or be silenced until the permanent neighbourhood is built — and it will be built."

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All Israeli settlements are viewed as illegal under international law, but Israel differentiates between those it has approved and those it has not.

Peace Now said the Palestinian owners of the land to be vacated have been seeking to have their plots restored since the settlers arrived there in 2001.

"After 17 years of theft, evasions, delays, and manipulation, justice will be served as the private land on which the Netiv Haavot outpost was built will be vacated," its said in a statement on Monday.

"We call upon the relevant security bodies to allow the rightful Palestinian landowners, who have waited 17 years, to return to their land following the evictions."

Israel occupied the West Bank in the 1967 war. Settlements there are seen as major stumbling blocks to a peace deal since they are built on land the Palestinians want for their future state.

About 600,000 Israeli settlers live among nearly three million Palestinians in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.