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IDF Chief-of-Staff Says Amona Will be Destroyed Next Week

By Scott Shiloh Arutz Sheva January 24, 2006

IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Wednesday that the IDF will destroy the Jewish community of Amona next week.

Halutz did not set a date for expelling the Jewish residents living in the Hevron market, though that action is expected to take place by February 15.

Amona, a small village overlooking and east of Ofrah, 15 miles north of Jerusalem, was ordered destroyed by Israel’s High Court of Justice by the end of January. The order was issued after the court ruled in favor of a petition filed by Peace Now that claimed that the town was built on private Arab land. No Arabs, however, have filed legal claims against construction of the town.

Residents of Amona, who have built permanent homes on the site, said they would make a final appeal to the court tomorrow in order to prevent what they called “a draconian and irreversible act.” They said they would be willing to consider a compromise proposal to save their town.

Halutz told the Knesset committee that the IDF would destroy Amona in the same way it operated to destroy 25 Jewish communities in Gaza and northern Samaria last August. Close to 10,000 Jews were forcibly expelled from their homes in that operation. Many of those Jews still lack permanent housing, and many who lost their jobs in their communities are still unemployed.

Unlike the Gaza Disengagement, however, residents of Amona will receive no compensation for the homes they built in the community, and are not entitled to government aid of any kind in order to relocate. Families who took out mortgages to pay for their homes will be legally obligated to repay their loans even after their houses are demolished.

The government contends that people who built homes illegally have no grounds for compensation. In Gaza, Jews who built homes in Shirat HaYam, a town not expressly authorized by the government, have not received compensation, though former town residents are contesting their status.

Also in contrast with the expulsion from Gaza, sources in the IDF and the police said that brute force might be used against Amona residents, if they resist. Over 2,000 troops, police, and paramilitary police are being called up to carry out the order.

MK Uri Ariel (National Union) attacked Halutz in the committee for the way he implemented the Disengagement, saying he should have pointed out the plan’s dangers to the political echelon.

“We’re seeing the results in the firing of Kassam rockets and a reorganization of the terror groups in Gaza. The IDF must evaluate whether [the Disengagement] harmed enlistment in combat units. Having the IDF involved in expulsions ruins the army’s image, and the Chief of Staff must warn of that,” said Ariel.

Last week, Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ordered Halutz to act immediately to destroy Amona and remove Jews from the Hevron market. He also told Halutz to present a plan for destroying all Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria which the government claims were built without explicit authorization.

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