MIGRON - Agence France-Presse
A Jewish settler with her children in the illegal Jewish settlement of Migron, the West Bank, 30 August 2012. EPA Photo
Several Israeli families began leaving the West Bank settler outpost of Migron early Sunday as a court deadline for their evacuation loomed, an AFP correspondent reported.
Migron, the largest and oldest settlement outpost in the occupied West Bank unauthorised by Israeli authorities, was built on private Palestinian land and 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.
A handful of mostly women and children were seen leaving their homes early Sunday, although none appeared to be taking their luggage with them, the AFP correspondent reported.
Graffiti and signs on their homes sounded defiant tones. "Migron, we shall return," and "We will never forget Zionism," slogans read.
But the outpost's residents were largely silent, trying to avoid being questioned or photographed by the media scrum.
The Israeli military said implementation of the court order was under way.
"Several families began leaving Migron voluntarily during the night," a spokeswoman said. "The evacuation process has begun." 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.
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, who argued 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
outlaws settlement outposts built without government approval and often sends security personnel to demolish them. They usually consist of little more than a few trailers.
The international community considers all settlements built in the occupied West Bank -- including annexed Arab east Jerusalem -- to be illegal.