Sharon orders settlement evacuation

30 December 2003
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ordered the evacuation of four West Bank settlements on 28 December, a move that has outraged the national settlers council (YESHA). The order to dismantle the outposts - Ginot Aryeh, Hazon David, West Bat Ayin Maarav and Havat Shaked - has been signed by Sharon, Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz and the head of the Israeli Defence Force (IDF), Moshe Kaplinski. Those wishing to challenge the orders have three days to petition the Civil Administration's planning department, after which they have an additional three days to petition the High Court, reported local daily Haaretz. Local settlers have said they will petition the orders, although only 10 families stand to be rehoused. 'The YESHA Council will bring thousands of people here and we will not move,' said secretary of the Ginnot Arieh outpost, Oren Brund. 'There will be a clash.'

Israel's decision to dismantle largely uninhabited settlements has been seen as a first step in Sharon's unilateral steps to 'disengage' with the Palestinians. In general the policy, which encompasses continued construction of the security wall around the West Bank, has been much criticised by the international community. Washington said it would oppose any 'unilateral steps that block the road towards negotiations under the roadmap that leads to the two-state vision,' said White House spokesman Scott McClellan. 'A settlement must be negotiated and we would oppose any Israeli effort to impose a settlement.'

The decision to evacuate four outposts came two days after Israeli soldiers opened fire on a group of demonstrators protesting against the controversial wall. Two Israelis were wounded in the incident, which took place near the Palestinian village of Mahase.

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