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Jewish Settlers Vow to Stay in Occupied Territories - 2003-12-29

Jewish settlers are vowing to oppose Israeli government plans to dismantle unauthorized Jewish outposts in the West Bank. The settlers say they will launch a legal challenge to the move and confront soldiers who attempt to evacuate them.

Jewish settlers reacted angrily to an order from Israel's prime minister, Ariel Sharon, who demanded that four outposts in the West Bank be removed.

All four were established without Israeli government approval. Three are currently empty, but the government fears that settlers are planning to inhabit them in the near future.

The fourth, known as Ginnot Arieh, is populated by about 10 families.

The secretary of the populated outpost, Oren Brund, says he will appeal to Israel's High Court to block the evacuation of the community.

If the court backs the government, he said, he will gather thousands of fellow settlers at the site in a bid to prevent the dismantling of the settlement.

Rabbis in the West Bank also called for settlers to form what they called a living wall and resist the planned evacuation.

More than 200,000 Jewish settlers live in the West Bank, one of the areas seized by Israel during the 1967 Middle East war.

Many settlers say the area is part of the land given to the Jews by God and refer to the territory as Judea and Samaria, the names used in biblical times.

Palestinians vehemently oppose the existence of all Jewish settlements, saying they are an attempt to reduce the amount of land on which they want to establish a future independent state.

Israel is also facing pressure from the United States and Europe over the settlements issue.

Under the international road map peace plan, Israel is called upon to freeze all settlement activity in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.