Israel's top court delays evacuation of settlement

Last Updated: Fri, Jul 27, 2012 08:45 hrs

Israel's Supreme Court on Friday delayed by at least three weeks the scheduled evacuation of an unauthorized West Bank settlement outpost that has become a symbol of settler defiance.

The court said it has scheduled another hearing for the state to argue its case against the evacuation on Aug. 21, after previously ordering the Migron outpost be dismantled by Aug. 1.

The Migron outpost, about 15 kilometers (10 miles) north of Jerusalem, was built on privately owned Palestinian land, a practice the court outlawed decades ago. The state asked to delay the operation until the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, citing security concerns that an evacuation during this period could set off clashes between settlers and Palestinians.

Migron settlers have resisted efforts to dismantle the enclave, challenging Palestinian claims of ownership and petitioning the court to remain in their homes. Israeli police is investigating whether Migron residents used forged land deal documents as part of the effort.

The government, meanwhile, has negotiated a deal with Migron's 300 settlers to build new homes for them on a nearby hilltop. But the military is concerned that some residents will still resist removal, and zealots from other settlements could also clash with soldiers.

Ultranationalists began settling Migron more than a decade ago. The government says the settlers took over the territory unlawfully in 2001.

Palestinians want the West Bank to be at the core of their future state and consider all Israeli settlements to be illegal — not just the unauthorized outposts.

Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan in the 1967 Mideast war.

Friday's court ruling is just the latest in a drawn-out legal battle over Migron. In March, the court rejected a government request to delay the evacuation until 2015, but gave it a four-month extension. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to respect the court decision, but his government is also wary of creating a conflict with the settler community.

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