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Israeli Troops Clash With Settlers at West Bank Outpost


More than 170 people were injured when Israeli troops clashed with Jewish settlers in the West Bank, after serving an eviction order. It is a sign that the settlers and the government are on a collision course.

Hundreds of Jewish settlers barricaded themselves around nine homes in Amona, an illegal West Bank outpost, as thousands of Israeli troops in riot gear stormed in to remove them by force.

"We are not afraid of you!" the settlers chanted as they pelted the soldiers with a hail of stones. Troops wielding batons beat the settlers and dragged them away. Other soldiers scaled ladders to remove the protesters from rooftops.

Then bulldozers moved in and demolished the nine homes.

Security forces launched the operation after Israel's Supreme Court cleared the way for the settlement's evacuation.

This demonstrator, who spoke on Israel Radio, accused the government and army of ethnic cleansing.

"This is our country, and what they are doing is absolutely, absolutely illegal," he said.

It was the most violent confrontation between the army and settlers since Prime Minister Ariel Sharon pulled Israel out of the Gaza Strip in August. Mr. Sharon is in a coma after suffering a massive stroke a month ago, and this was the first confrontation between acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the settlers.

Mr. Olmert, who is expected to win national elections on March 28, is committed to the internationally-backed "road map" peace plan that calls for all of the 100 illegal outposts in the West Bank to be dismantled. He has warned the settlers that illegal actions will not be tolerated.

He also appears to be setting the stage for future Israeli withdrawals from some areas of the West Bank, as part of Mr. Sharon's plan to draw defensible borders. Polls show a majority of the Israeli public supports the plan, but settlers are bitterly opposed to relinquishing any territory in the biblical heartland of the West Bank.

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