BEIRUT

Middle East

Israel asks court to delay settlement's removal

Jewish settlers children ride bicycles at a play ground at the unauthorized West Bank outpost of Nofei Nehemya, Monday, July 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

JERUSALEM: Israel's government on Sunday asked the country's Supreme Court to delay the evacuation of an unauthorized West Bank settlement outpost by a month, its latest attempt to put off a potential clash with extremist settlers. No court decision was announced.

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. Some Migron settlers have petitioned the court to remain in their homes. About a third of them claim they've recently bought the land where their houses stand from Palestinians.

Palestinians want the West Bank to be at the core of their future state that would also to include Gaza and east Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war. They consider all Israeli settlements to be illegal - not just the unauthorized outposts - and most of the international community agrees.

The Israeli court has ordered the Migron outpost dismantled by Aug. 1, but the state asked to delay the operation until Aug. 30, citing the concerns of senior military commander Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon that carrying out the eviction during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan could set off clashes between settlers and Palestinians.

Three Supreme Court Justices heard the state's arguments Sunday and recessed for deliberations. It was not clear when they will issue their ruling.

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.

The government 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.

Migron has become a symbol of settler defiance, as its residents have resisted efforts to dismantle the enclave, in part by challenging Palestinian claims to ownership.

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

 

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