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Jewish settlers brace for clashes with Israeli army

Israeli ultra-nationalists barricaded themselves to fight police sent to demolish part of an unauthorised outpost.

india Updated: Feb 01, 2006 12:25 IST

Thousands of Israeli ultra-nationalists barricaded themselves at a Jewish settlement in the West Bank on Wednesday vowing to fight police and soldiers sent to demolish part of an unauthorised outpost.

The confrontation over Amona threatened to break into the worst violence between Israeli troops and Jewish settlers since Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip last September.

About 5,000 protesters, many of them teenagers, took over the rooftops of nine uninhabited houses slated to be demolished on Wednesday and prepared to confront police with stones, glass bottles, buckets of cooking oil and paint.

"We are expecting a high level of violence," said Gidon Mor, a police commander at the scene.

Settlers threw stones at police overnight, hurting three officers who were taken to hospital.

The evacuation had been slated to take place at dawn but was delayed pending a Supreme Court hearing later on Wednesday.

Amona has become the latest battleground for settlers angry over Israel's withdrawal from Gaza and keen to prevent any additional pullouts in the West Bank if Interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's Kadima party is elected in a March 28 election.

Olmert has targeted 24 settlement outposts for removal in a bid to implement a commitment in a US-backed peace "road map", and assert control after assuming the powers of an incapacitated Ariel Sharon.

Olmert also hinted yesterday that he would remove isolated West Bank settlements if elected, telling Kadima supporters that after the election he would "shape the permanent borders of Israel as a country with a clear and solid Jewish majority".

Israel does not plan to remove the entire unauthorised enclave of Amona, but to bulldoze nine uninhabited buildings constructed without permits and in defiance of Israel's commitment to stop building West Bank settlements.

First Published: Feb 01, 2006 12:25 IST