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Occupation magazine - Settlements

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Israel evicts settlers from Hebron building
Ma`an News Agency

JERUSALEM (Reuters) -- Israeli police evicted Jewish settlers Wednesday from a building they said they had bought from a Palestinian in the heart of the West Bank city of Hebron.

The presence of the 15 settlers in the two-story structure had caused divisions within Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu`s mainly right-wing cabinet, where Defense Minister Ehud Barak, leader of a centrist party, has pushed for eviction.

Netanyahu had asked Barak to give the settlers more time so they could present legal evidence of their claim to ownership of the building, which has been disputed by Palestinian authorities.

But security officials said the settlers had entered without the approval of Israeli security authorities in a particularly sensitive area in the occupied West Bank. A statement issued by Barak`s office hours before the eviction said the government had a duty to `uphold the rule of law.`

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said police and paramilitary border police carried out the eviction in accordance with a government decision. There was no violence.

The settlers had sought to expand an illegal settlement of some 500 Israelis in the heart of Hebron, a city that is home to about 250,000 Palestinians.

Though politically strong, Netanyahu has faced questions within his Likud party and other right-wing coalition partners about his commitment to the settlers, many of whom see themselves as exercising a Jewish birthright to biblical land.

In an announcement issued just minutes before the settlers were removed from the building, Netanyahu said he would soon ask the government to grant formal status to three West Bank settler outposts built more than a decade ago without state permission.

Netanyahu`s move to approve those outposts retroactively raised speculation he was trying to mollify settler leaders angered by the Hebron eviction.

About 500,000 Israelis and 2.5 million Palestinians live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, areas which, along with the Gaza Strip, were captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war.

Settlements are illegal under international law.
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