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IDF Blocks Roads Leading to Amona; Main Highway Cut

Security personnel have blocked the roads leading to the town of Amona, to be demolished tonight. Despite the barriers, thousands of protestors have already reached Amona. More are on the way.
By Scott Shiloh
First Publish: 1/31/2006, 6:12 PM / Last Update: 1/31/2006, 7:08 PM

IDF and police forces have blocked all the roads leading to the town of Amona, north of Jerusalem.

Barricades have been set up along Route 60, the main north-south highway in Judea and Samaria, to block access to the Jewish town, slated for demolition late Tuesday night. Giant concrete slabs have been set down on the roadway in both directions to ensure that no traffic passes near the area.

The barriers were set up just outside the town of Shiloh to the north and at Givat Assaf, at the intersection leading to Bet El, in the south. Motorists driving north from Jerusalem on Route 60 must end their journey at Givat Assaf. Likewise, persons traveling south on that route cannot proceed past Shiloh.

Vehicles bearing Arab plates are allowed to pass through the area. Egged buses are also being permitted to pass through the roadblocks.

Persons in vehicles who can prove via their identity cards that they live in Ofra are also being given access to their homes. Other residents of nearby communities report of being in a “state of siege.”

A number of tour guides familiar with the area and the terrain are leading demonstrators into Amona on alternative routes through Arab villages.

Despite the roadblocks, thousands of demonstrators have already reached Amona and Ofra. The demonstrators are being housed in private homes, tents, and public buildings.

Over 6000 security personnel are expected to take part in the demolition. The driver of one of the commanders charged with carrying out the operation refused to obey orders on Tuesday, and will probably be faced with a court martial..

Soldiers are being carefully scrutinized to limit instances of insubordination. Those suspected of sympathy with Amona residents are being temporarily assigned to other units.

Amona residents are still hopeful that some form of compromise will be reached with the authorities before the bulldozers start demolishing nine private homes shortly before dawn. An IDF proposal to allow the residents to destroy their own homes and avert a clash with security personnel was overwhelmingly rejected by the townspeople.

The IDF claims that Amona was built on private, Arab owned land. Townspeople claim that the village, set up in part with funds provided by the World Zionist Organization, was built on property purchased from Arabs. No Arabs have gone to court or filed a complaint with the authorities to reclaim the land.

An official transfer of ownership has yet to occur, residents claim, because under PA law, selling land to a Jew is a crime punishable by death.

The issue came to a head when Peace Now, a group opposed to Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria, petitioned Israel’s High Court to have the town removed. They claimed that town residents lacked building permits from the Israeli government’s Civil Administration which is subordinate to the Defense Ministry.

Around the same time, a private attorney, Talia Sasson, wrote a government sponsored report, claiming that dozens of new Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, including Amona, were set up illegally. That report has since been mired in controversy. Many legal experts have contested the report’s findings and politicians on the right have attacked Sasson for personal bias against Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.

As the controversy surrounding the legality of the new communities reached a crescendo, the government told the court that it did not approve the construction at Amona and would demolish the town.