Israeli removal of settlers prompts praise, criticism
November 10, 1999
HAVAT MAON, West Bank (CNN) -- Some groups are praising Israel for its forcible evacuation of Jewish settlers from a West Bank outpost. Others are calling the move a form of "ethnic cleansing."
"This is ethnic cleansing of Jews by Jews and we are ashamed of our government," said Nadia Matar, leader of the Israeli ultranationalist Women in Green group, at the unauthorized hilltop settlement Wednesday.
Palestinian Cabinet Secretary Ahmed Abdel-Rahman said the removal would help restore trust, but he called for the dismantling of all Israeli settlements.
"It is a step, but it should be followed by other steps in the same direction," Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat said.
The outpost was the last of a dozen illegal settlements ordered removed by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Although other settlements have been vacated voluntarily, some settlers have resisted police and unarmed soldiers.
Settlers positioned themselves at Maon Farm and other unauthorized outposts to establish "facts on the ground" ahead of Israeli-Palestinian talks on a final peace agreement. The talks began in earnest Monday and are scheduled to resume Thursday.
The resistance was largely passive. Still, Israeli soldiers and police arrested more than 30 people. Some reports indicated as many as 50 people were detained. Some of the settlers called Barak an anti-Semite.
Some of the hundreds of settlers threw eggs, paint and flour at the security forces. No serious injuries were reported during the three-hour operation, carried out mainly before dawn.
It was the most serious and emotional confrontation between soldiers and settlers since the evacuation of the settlement-town of Yamit in 1982, when Israel returned the Sinai Desert to Egypt.
Crying "shame" and "Arafat is proud of you," settlers kicked and screamed as they were dragged away.
"What happened at the site was a test, and not a simple one, for democracy and a red light on the road to anarchy," Barak's office quoted him as telling his Cabinet, which approved Israel's next handover of West Bank land to the Palestinians.
Maj. Gen. Moshe Yaalon, chief of the army's Central Command, said soldiers received psychological counseling before the mission. Soldiers smashed their way into a small wooden synagogue, erected at the site two weeks ago, and pulled out men wrapped in Jewish prayer shawls.
Israel plans to transfer another 2 percent of the area to full Palestinian control Monday, and another 3 percent to joint administration. The Palestinians already control almost thirty percent of the West Bank.
Arafat is expected to decide by Thursday whether he will accept the plan. Palestinians hope to have either partial or full control over 40 percent of the West Bank by early next year.
Israel also prevented Palestinian journalist Ahmed Qatamesh from leaving the country to address the Danish Parliament on Palestinian political prisoners, Israeli human rights group B'Tselem said Wednesday.
"Israel's refusal to allow him to leave the West Bank, made arbitrarily, without explanation and without a right to appeal, violates his right to free movement and contravenes international law," the group said.
Correspondent Jerrold Kessel and Reuters contributed to this report.
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