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World - Middle East

Israeli removal of settlers prompts praise, criticism

Jewish settler
Israeli police officers try to evacuate a Jewish settler at the West Bank settlement of Havot Maon on Wednesday  

November 10, 1999
Web posted at: 7:39 p.m. EST (0039 GMT)


In this story:

Settlers try to establish facts

Confrontation was emotional

Israel plans land transfer

RELATED STORIES, SITES icon



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.

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VideoCorrespondent Jerrold Kessel reports on the eviction of West Bank settlers at Havat Maon
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"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 try to establish facts

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.

Confrontation was emotional

Jewish settler
Jewish settlers kicked and screamed as they were dragged by Israeli police from Maon Farm  

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 land transfer

bulldozer
An Israeli soldier stands guard as an excavator demolishes a house in the Jewish West Bank settlement of Maon Farm on Wednesday  

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.



RELATED STORIES:
Israeli soldiers start evacuating renegade West Bank settlers
November 9, 1999
Arafat to Barak: Stick to U.N. land resolutions
November 9, 1999
Some West Bank settlers forcing confrontation with Barak
November 8, 1999
Barak extends deadline, but warns settlers to leave
November 7, 1999
Barak defies security warnings at Rabin memorial
November 4, 1999
Rabin legacy casts long shadow over Barak, peace process
November 3, 1999
Barak approves expansion of West Bank settlements
October 11, 1999
Barak authorized to uproot rogue Israeli settlers Israeli parliament approves land-for-security agreement
September 8, 1999

RELATED SITES:
Israel's Institutions of Government
Office of the Israeli Prime Minister
The Middle East Network Information Center
Palestinian National Authority
Site internet du Premier ministre fran¨ais (French)
CIA World Factbook: Israel
CIA World Factbook: West Bank
CIA World Factbook: Gaza Strip
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