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Israel dismantles 7 settler outposts

Israeli Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer said the removal of the outposts would allow more protection for legitimate Israeli settlements.
Israeli Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer said the removal of the outposts would allow more protection for legitimate Israeli settlements.  

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Seven Israeli settlement outposts in the West Bank have been removed without a feared confrontation between settlers and the Israel Defense Forces.

Officials did not say whether the outposts, which Israeli settlers had constructed without government authorization, were dismantled by the settlers themselves or by the army.

Some of the outposts consisted of no more than one or two trailer homes. Officials said the three other outposts will likely be removed Monday.

The mainstream Settlers Council would not comment, other than to say it opposes the dismantling of settlements.

The move came a day before Israeli Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer faces the annual meeting of his Labor Party, which is expected to challenge his leadership and the party's participation in the government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Ben-Eliezer has been accused by Labor opponents of giving in to Sharon's conservative policies.

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Some analysts say this action against settlement outposts is not an indication of a change in policy, but a political gesture by Ben-Eliezer to show the influence wielded by having his Labor Party remain in government.

Ben-Eliezer said the outposts pose a burden for Israeli security forces charged with protecting settlers, some of whom live in remote areas, from possible terror attacks.

The outposts are set up at a distance from established Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. The settlers build the illegal outposts as an attempt to lay claim to the land.

Meanwhile, the IDF says it killed a man it describes as a senior bombmaker with Hamas' military wing, Izzedine al Qassam, in an operation on the outskirts of the West Bank town of Nablus. Hamas is designated by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist organization.

The army says Mohammed Taher was killed along with another activist after IDF forces surrounded the house of one of Taher's colleagues.

Taher is suspected by Israel of being responsible for attacks that have killed at least 100 Israelis, including the bombing of a disco near Tel Aviv that killed 20 Israelis, the March bombing during the Passover holiday at a beachside hotel that killed 29, and a bombing in Jerusalem last week in which 19 Israelis died.

Palestinian security sources confirmed the killing of two people but said they could not confirm the identities.

Also, a Palestinian boy was killed Sunday during clashes with Israeli troops in the Deheishe refugee camp, near Bethlehem in the West Bank.

Palestinian security sources identified him as 16-year-old Mohammad Attalah. The IDF said troops opened fire in an effort to disperse stone throwers who had violated curfew.

Israel's army has reoccupied seven Palestinian towns and cities in the West Bank and is routinely entering Palestinian areas to conduct searches and arrests.

The Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz reported that the IDF entered the Al Amri refugee camp near Ramallah on Sunday and rounded up all male residents over the age of 15. Some were released after questioning, while others were arrested, according to the newspaper.

Ha'aretz added that the IDF also confiscated several ambulances and mobile clinics in the area. No IDF comment was immediately available, but Israel has in the past accused Palestinians of using ambulances to cart explosives.

In Hebron, Israeli forces ended search operations in the rubble of the former Palestinian security headquarters building it destroyed Saturday. Officials say they have found no sign of 15 suspected Palestinian militants the army had said were holed up in the building.




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