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Israeli Police, Settlers Clash in Hebron

Israeli police and settlers have clashed in the volatile West Bank town of Hebron. It is the first salvo between the settlers and the new Israeli government, which was sworn in last week.

Jewish settlers threw firebombs, stones and bottles at police in riot gear, who moved in to evacuate squatters from a Palestinian home. Armed with batons, the police pushed through the crowd. Using an electric saw, they broke down the door of the three-story building where dozens of settlers were holed up.

Some settlers left the building peacefully; others, like Tzippe Schlussel, were dragged out.

"If I had a kaffiyeh, I would not be dragged out like this," she said, referring to the traditional Arab headdress. She was effectively saying that the Palestinians have more rights in Hebron than the Jews.

About 500 ultra-nationalist settlers live among about 160,000 Palestinians in Hebron. The city is home to the Tomb of the Patriarchs and is sacred to both Muslims and Jews.

The officer commanding the evacuation, Amir Cohen, said the settlers tried everything they could to stop the police.

They shouted, cursed, spit and pushed," Cohen told reporters. He said the police responded with restraint.

Three settler families moved into the disputed building a month ago, claiming they purchased it from its Palestinian owner. He denied it. Israel's Supreme Court ruled that the Jewish ownership documents were forged, and it ordered the evacuation.

It could be the shape of things to come. Israel's new Prime Minister Ehud Olmert plans to withdraw from large parts of the West Bank over the next four years and remove some 60,000 settlers from their homes. The settlers say they will resist the plan and fight for the right of Jews to live everywhere in the biblical Land of Israel.