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Israel Begins Dismantling Some Jewish Outposts in West Bank - 2003-06-09

Israeli troops have begun dismantling illegal Jewish outposts in the West Bank, in line with Israeli commitments under the "road map" peace plan sponsored by the Quartet of Russia, the United States, the United Nations and the European Union.

Israeli forces removed several empty trailers from an illegal Jewish outpost close to the West Bank City of Ramallah.

Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz has presented Jewish settlers with a list of 15 illegal outposts, four of them inhabited, that the army intends to dismantle in the near future.

The decision followed a pledge to remove such settlements by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon during last week's summit with his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas, and U.S. President George W. Bush in Jordan.

Mr. Sharon's pledge angered Jewish settlers, who said the West Bank belongs to the State of Israel.

Adi Mintz, a spokesman for the Yesha Council for Jewish settlers, said his organization would protest the government's policy, but only through peaceful means. "We think Jews have the right to live anywhere in the State of Israel. This is our land. It is a Jewish land. It is state land. We never took somebody [else's] land. And we are going to resist. [But] we are not going to disobey the law," he said.

Israel's interior minister, Avraham Poraz, said the Jewish settlers' council does not have a legitimate case to argue.

He said that the Jewish outposts were built without the approval of the government and should be dismantled, even if the current peace efforts with the Palestinians do not succeed.

"These settlements should be removed, regardless of the peace process, because in a state of law we should not tolerate people who are building illegally. This is good for Israel, this is good for the territories," Mr. Poraz said.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Abbas has condemned a new wave of attacks against Israelis by Palestinian armed groups. But he ruled out using force against such groups for fear it could draw Palestinian society into a civil war.