Israel has completed evacuation of a large unauthorized West Bank settlement outpost, culminating years of legal wrangling.
The case had become a rallying cry for hardline settler groups opposed to any withdrawal from occupied land claimed by the Palestinians.
By midday Sunday, all of Migron’s roughly 300 residents had left, authorities said, two days before a court-ordered deadline to clear out.
Most of Migron’s residents left voluntarily and peacefully, but officers dragged out a few youths who had holed themselves up in an evacuated trailer home.
At another white prefab home, where a toy tractor and a bicycle with training wheels were left discarded outside, several youths climbed to the roof waving a large Israeli flag and refused to come down.
In a text message from the prime minister’s office, Binyamin Netanyahu, declared his support for settlement – an issue dear to his base – despite having carried out, eventually, the court-ordered evacuation.
"We are committed to respecting the rule of law and we are committed to strengthening the settlement enterprise," he said.
Earlier on Sunday, graffiti and signs on their homes sounded defiant tones. "Migron, we shall return" and "We will never forget Zionism", slogans read.
The largest and oldest settlement outpost in the occupied West Bank unauthorised by Israeli authorities, Migron was built on private Palestinian land.
In August 2011 Israel’s supreme court ordered that it be cleared.
The evacuation has been repeatedly delayed in the face of fierce settler opposition, but last week the court said the 50 or so families resident in the outpost had to be out by the end of Tuesday.
Early on Sunday, officials began distributing the evacuation orders to the families, with scores of police officers on hand to prevent unrest.
In anticipation of police attempts to forcibly move the families, around 20 young settler activists, who do not live in Migron, took over a caravan at the site and were preparing to barricade themselves in, while others could be seen on the roof.
‘Victory for State of Law’
Some of the families placed signs on their cars saying: "Please don’t take photos", in a vain attempt to dissuade the herd of press photographers on hand to cover their departure.
Last week, the supreme court said Migron must be cleared of all residents by September 4 and all the buildings removed by September 11, after rejecting an appeal by 17 of the families that they had legally purchased the land where their homes stood.
Settlement watchdog Peace Now welcomed the ruling as a "victory for the state of law", but the settlers described it as a "brutal rape".
Israel officially forbids the dozens of settlement outposts built without government approval and often sends security personnel to demolish newer encampments. They often consist of little more than a few hilltop trailers.
The international community considers all settlements built in the occupied West Bank – including annexed Arab East Jerusalem – to be illegal.
Settlers had sought a delay in moving out, saying temporary homes for them elsewhere in the West Bank were not ready. Others maintained they had indeed purchased the land in question.
(Agencies via Al Jazeera)