Israeli settlers leave West Bank outpost after govt deal
Israeli settlers were leaving an illegal settlement outpost in the occupied West Bank on Friday in adherence to an agreement struck with far-right premier Naftali Bennett's new government, an AFP reporter said.
The last cars were streaming out of Eviatar, near Beita, in compliance with the 4:00 pm (1300 GMT) deadline to leave the outpost.
Dozens of settler families several weeks ago started to build the settlement in defiance of both international and Israeli law, sparking fierce protests from Palestinians in nearby villages.
"I hope we'll be back here very soon," Sarah Lisson, a mother of six, told AFP before driving off. "We can build a big house."
The hilltop area where the settlers established a settlement of trailer homes, shacks and tents lies near Nablus in the northern West Bank.
Under the terms of the deal published by the Israeli government on Thursday, the settlers had to leave by Friday afternoon.
However, their temporary homes will remain, and the Israeli army will, against international law, establish a presence in the area.
As settlers departed, soldiers were at the site, an AFP reporter said.
The defence ministry will then assess the area to possibly declare it as state land, where Israel allows settlers to build.
Should this happen, the military would then allow a community with a religious school to be built.
The dispute around the flashpoint site put an early strain on Bennett's diverse eight-party coalition, that includes his right-wing nationalist Yamina party as well as left-wing groups and Palestinian-Israeli lawmakers.
The deal was rejected by leftwing Israeli groups, as well as the mayor of Beita, the nearby Palestinian village, who told AFP on Thursday that "clashes and protests will continue" as long as any Israeli "remains on our land".
Israel has occupied the West Bank illegally since 1967, and commits various abuses against Palestinian civilians, human rights groups say.
More than 700,000 Jewish Israelis live in settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, in constructions considered illegal under international law.