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Amona evacuation completed following synagogue stand off

The evacuation of the West Bank outpost of Amona was completed yesterday afternoon, following a violent confrontation between police and protestors.

Almost all of the 40 or so homes in Amona had been evacuated by Wednesday evening. However, a core of several dozen protestors, thought largely to be youths from outside Amona, had barricaded themselves in the synagogue as a final act of resistance.

As police gathered at the synagogue entrance, an officer was reportedly struck with an iron bar while projectiles, including a fire extinguisher, were hurled at them. Smoke then billowed from the windows in what is thought to have been tear gas that was fired towards the protestors. Officers then forced their way into the synagogue and forcibly removed the protestors. Seventeen police officers and several protestors were lightly injured in the commotion. Police made 13 arrests.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan called them “unworthy hooligans who hold Judaism in contempt and have no respect for religion”.

Jewish Home MK Betzalel Smotrich, who himself had joined the protestors at Amona on Wednesday, said that those who acted violently at the synagogue yesterday were a “small minority” but that “harming police is crossing a red line”.

Opposition leader and Zionist Union head Isaac Herzog condemned the protestors, claiming that there is a “direct line” between them “and the underground movement that carried out the Duma massacre,” in reference to a terror attack carried out by Jewish extremists in July 2015, in which a firebomb killed a Palestinian infant.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had urged that protestors refrain from violence and said that he “shares the great pain of the families who were forced to leave their homes”.

Israel’s High Court had ruled that the outpost was built illegally on private Palestinian land and therefore had to be evacuated. Nine homes in nearby Ofra are scheduled for evacuation next week.