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Police Remove Jewish Settlers From Hebron House in West Bank


Israeli police and army units removed two Jewish settler families from a house in the West Bank city of Hebron early Tuesday. More than a dozen police were injured in the incident and eleven Jewish settlers were arrested. VOA's Jim Teeple has details from our Jerusalem bureau.

Police moved in at dawn to remove the two families who have been squatting in apartments near the Hebron market for several months. About 500 militant Jewish settlers live in the area surrounded by Hebron's 160,000 Palestinian residents.

Clashes between the two groups occur daily, but on Tuesday it was Israeli police who clashed with the settlers.

"Upon entering the site, unfortunately stones were thrown at our police personnel at the beginning," said Mickey Rosenfeld, the spokesman for the Israeli police. "Over fourteen police officers were injured, not specifically at that area, but in and around the market area, which is a problematic dense area."

The area around the Hebron market has been closed since 1994 when the Jewish settler, Baruch Goldstein opened fire at a shrine venerated by both Muslims and Jews, killing 29 Palestinians. Ever since, settlers have been seeking to re-establish a presence in the area.

The Hebron settlers say they properties they were evicted from on Tuesday were owned by Jews until 1948 when Jordan seized the area during Israel's War of Independence. After Israel captured the area in the 1967 Six Day War, Jewish settlers returned to Hebron. Noam Arnon, a spokesman for the settlers told Israeli Radio that the settlers are not giving up.

Arnon says the settlers will attempt to return to the properties and that Israeli leaders should not try and prevent them from doing so.

Tuesday's operation came as Israeli military authorities sentenced 12 Israeli soldiers to jail terms of up to four weeks for refusing to take part in the Hebron operation. The soldiers belonged to units made up mainly of orthodox Jews who support Israeli settlements in the West Bank. When told they were being mobilized to Hebron to enforce the court-ordered evictions they refused.

It was the first instance of Israeli soldiers disobeying orders since several refused to take part in operations to remove about 9,000 settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005. A spokesman for the Israeli Defense Forces says the IDF will deal harshly with any Israeli soldiers who refuse to follow orders no matter what their personal beliefs may be.

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