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Israeli Police Remove Settlers From West Bank Outpost


Israeli police have removed about 400 Jewish settlers from a former West Bank settlement. VOA's Jim Teeple reports from Jerusalem, the settlement had been abandoned nearly two years ago as part of the Gaza disengagement plan. Israeli riot police dragged defiant settlers from the Homesh outpost ending a three-day standoff between the settlers and the Israeli government.

During the past few days, more than a thousand settlers and their supporters had gathered at Homesh in the northern West Bank - one of four West Bank settlements dismantled by Israel in 2005 as part of the Gaza disengagement plan. The settlers say they will return to rebuild the outpost.

Alisa Hertz of the Yesha Settlers Council, a group that works to support Jewish settlements in the West Bank, says demonstrations like the one at Homesh help the settler cause.

"I think they help to strengthen Israel. I think it bolsters the morale of people in Israel to realize that we have a right to be here in all of Israel," Hertz said. "It shows that places that are wrested away from us, that are taken away from us, that it is important to go back and make it part of the education of our young, and generations to come. That this country is our country."

Israel pledged to freeze settlement activity in 2003 as part of the road map peace plan that pledges Israel to stop building settlements and Palestinians to stop attacking Israelis.

Speaking earlier this week, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said under no circumstances would settlers be allowed to reoccupy settlements in the West Bank that Israel had withdrawn from.

"We have no intention of reoccupying settlements that were disengaged as part the disengagement that took place at the end of 2005," Olmert says. "We certainly are committed to carry out the Israeli promise to dismantle the unauthorized outposts. So we are currently not now in the process of creating new unauthorized outposts at a time when we want to dismantle the existing unauthorized outposts."

Jewish settlers have built dozens of unauthorized outposts in the West Bank over the past decade, considered by Israel to be separate from the officially-backed Israeli settlements that receive government support.

Prime Minister Olmert was overwhelmingly elected last year on a platform to disengage from large parts of the West Bank, while keeping major settlements near Israel's West Bank border that house the majority of the 270,000 Israelis who live in the West Bank, among more than 2.5 million Palestinians.

But that plan has been put on hold as the prime minister's popularity has sunk following Israel's war in Lebanon last summer, and growing Israeli anger over Palestinian militancy, and rocket fire from the Gaza Strip hitting southern Israeli towns.

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