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Israeli army gives West Bank settlers 48 hours to leave

Residents of the Amona outpost have been given 48 hours to evacuate the area, according to media reports. The move comes as tensions increase in Israel between nationalist hardliners and the country's top court.

Israeli media outlets reported on Tuesday that the army was giving the settlers 48 hours before it blocked entry to the West Bank outpost. The settlement has been condemned as illegal by critics of the administration of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the settlers must remove their property and leave by midnight Wednesday local time. The order comes as the High Court of Justice simultaneously deliberates over a relocation plan that would see the settlers moved to a nearby site.

The outpost, Amona, is the largest of about 100 outposts established in the West Bank without permission. The country's Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that it should be demolished, with Wednesday February 8 being the last possible date for its removal.

Israel Amona Konflikt um Siedlung im Westjordan (Reuters/T. Coex)

Demonstrators in favor of the eviction protested in front of the country's parliament

In 2006, Israeli policies tore down nine homes at the outpost, sparking clashes between settlers and the authorities. Several dozen trailers remained at the location and have become a symbol for the settlers' movement.

Simmering anger over outpost issue

Outposts like Amona have been the source of intense debate within Netanyahu's government. Hardline nationalists in the prime minister's cabinet have supported the settlers' cause even as the top court ruled against them.

Palestinians have argued the settlements are illegal. They want the West Bank, along with the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, for a future  Palestinian state.

On Monday, demonstrators protested against the Israeli army ahead of the possible eviction.

Tensions have also run high in the country due to the election of US President Donald Trump. He has backed a proposal to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem. This has emboldened settlers and angered Palestinians and many on Israel's political left.

blc/jm (AP, dpa)

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