JERUSALEM -- The six-year legal battle over Migron came to an end Sunday as residents left the flagship Jewish outpost in the West Bank, leaving security forces to deal with outside pro-settlement activists on the site throughout the morning and Defense Ministry crews to pack their belongings.
"Jews do not expel Jews," supporters of Migron chanted at the special police units filing into the outpost in the morning, carrying shields in case of possible clashes. By late afternoon, officials were satisfied with the operation. Some families had left overnight, others early in the morning in cooperation with authorities, police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said.
Police roadblocks deployed overnight kept most protesters out; the few activists holed up in vacated homes were carried out by police, who arrested eight people.
No injuries were reported. The roadblocks will remain another day while the site is turned over to government authority.
Rosenfeld said the police would step up patrols over the next 24 hours to counter possible backlash from Jewish extremists.
Police teams delivered eviction notices throughout the outpost earlier in the morning, requiring that the settlers comply with last week's ruling by Israel's Supreme Court that the 50 families living in the outpost -- the largest unauthorized Jewish community in the West Bank -- vacate the site by Tuesday. The homes will be removed next week.
"This is a difficult day,"
After a petition was delivered by the veteran anti-settlement organization Peace Now in 2006, the Israeli government conceded that Migron was built at least in partly on land owned privately by Palestinians, which has been prohibited since a court ruling more than 30 years ago.
A previous Israeli government promised to remove the outpost in 2007 but requested an extension to negotiate the settlers on a peaceful evacuation, hoping to avoid a politically damaging high-profile eviction.
Last year, the court lost its patience with repeated promises and delays and ruled that the outpost had to be removed by March. This prompted current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government to negotiate with the settlers, who agreed to leave voluntarily and relocate to a new site built for them on the nearby hilltop of Givat Hayekev, with full government funding and approval.
The court has yet to rule on a last-minute petition filed by 17 of Migron's 50 families, claiming they had purchased part of the lands from their Palestinian owners. The houses on that small part of the site will not be demolished until the court rules in the case.
"This will end with two settlements," not one, said Migron spokesman Itay Hemo, with hopes they would yet return.
On Sunday afternoon, the army declared the empty site a closed military zone. Residents of Migron did not want to speak to the media. Some of the houses were painted with slogans such as "Bibi is good for Arabs," a reference to Netanyahu's nickname, and "We will not lose hope."
Most families left for the nearby settlement of Ofra while finishing touches are put on the new site.