Israeli forces have evicted scores of Jewish settlers who had refused court orders to leave a house in the West Bank town of Hebron. The violence Thursday left about 20 people injured and has raised concerns of wider protests by Jewish settlers.
Television images of soldiers dragging Jewish settlers - some kicking, punching, and screaming - from the disputed building in Hebron brought back images for Israelis who remember Israel's 2005 withdrawal of Jewish residents from the Gaza Strip.
Israel's high court two weeks ago ordered the settlers to move out of the dwelling. Tensions over the eviction orders sparked clashes between Jews and Palestinians in the town in the last few days. Jewish residents prepared for a confrontation. The standoff came Thursday when Israeli security forces went into the house, using batons and tear gas.
Some residents left voluntarily, while others had to be dragged out. None were arrested.
The violence has raised concerns among Israeli leaders who fear that settlers' resistance to leave their homes in disputed areas may jeopardize the peace process. The presence of Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories is one of the main sticking points in peace negotiations.
After the eviction Thursday in Hebron, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told reporters the ability of the state to impose law and order upon its citizens was put to the test.
He said there is no alternative for him but to maintain order under any circumstances. He said the internal violence that Israel has seen in the last few days puts Israel very close to "complete anarchy."
Hebron has long been the scene of tension between Jews and Palestinians. About 700 Jewish people live in fortified, separate neighborhoods in the center of the town. They are surrounded by nearly 200,000 Palestinian residents.
Palestinian officials on Thursday welcomed the eviction in Hebron, but called on Israel to do more and remove all Jewish residents from the city.
Jewish settlers in other parts of the West Bank have vowed to resist any further evictions. On Thursday, scores of demonstrators temporarily blocked one of the main highways into Jerusalem in protest of the eviction in Hebron.