Israeli security forces continued working Thursday to clear the last remaining people from an illegal Jewish settlement in the West Bank.
The operation to clear the Amona outpost began Wednesday with police confronting hundreds of residents and protesters who set up barricades and threw stones at officers.
Angry protesters and settlers yelled at the police that “Jews don’t expel Jews.” About 20 officers were hurt.
By Thursday, the focus was on the synagogue in Amona where remaining settlers had planted themselves inside.
Israel’s Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that the Amona settlement was built on private Palestinian land and would have to be demolished by February 8. Ultra-conservative Israeli officials fought to reverse the ruling.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved 3,000 new homes for the evacuated settlers and others elsewhere in the West Bank.
As Amona's uprooted residents and their supporters bemoaned their fate, Arabs in a neighboring Palestinian village clapped and shook hands. Ibrahim Yakoob, 56, a Palestinian farmer who is part owner of the land that Amona occupied, told reporters: "It feels great to see settlers being taken off my land and their caravans removed. The court has done a good thing, although it has taken a long time."
Israel's Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that the Amona settlement had been built on private Palestinian land and would have to be demolished, over the objections of ultraconservative Israeli officials who fought to reverse the ruling.
Amona is the largest of about 100 unauthorized outposts erected in the West Bank without permission but — until now — generally tolerated by the Israeli government. Built in the 1990s, Amona stretches out over a rugged, grassy hilltop and looks out across a valley onto Palestinian villages.
Palestinians say Jewish settlements on land they want as part of a future state are a major impediment to peace. Israel says the Palestinians' refusal to recognize the Jewish state is blocking Mideast peace.
Israel was furious when the United States, under former President Barack Obama, abstained instead of vetoing a U.N. Security Council resolution in December calling the settlements illegal and demanding that Israel stop building them.
The new Trump White House has so far been silent on Israeli settlement construction, but Jewish settlers told reporters Wednesday that they expected the new U.S. administration would not stand in the way of a new wave of settlements in the West Bank.
"After eight years of Obama, who didn't let us build, now we'll say, 'We will build and build,' " said Shilo Adler, who heads the Yesha Council, which represents Jewish settlers in the West Bank.
"Now is history-making time," Adler told a reporter for The Washington Post. He said the settlers were seeking 100,000 new homes — which would at least double the Jewish population in the West Bank — on land the Palestinians seek for a future nation.