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Israeli military clashes with Jewish settlers
Special to World Tribune.com
MIDDLE EAST NEWSLINE
Sunday, October 20, 2002
JERUSALEM Israeli troops clashed with Jewish settlers in a government effort to dismantle an unauthorized outpost in the West Bank.
About 1,500 Israeli civilians, most of them high school students, refused a military order to leave the so-called Gilead Farm, an outpost near the West Bank city of Nablus. The Israelis disabled a bulldozer sent to destroy the knot of structures placed over the last year.
About 30 people were said to have been injured in the military effort.
The military suspended its operation overnight Sunday and was awaiting further orders.
Israeli politicians said Orthodox Jewish soldiers were ordered to violate the Sabbath on Saturday to prepare for the confrontation with settlers. They said the order was in violation of military regulations that ban activities on the Sabbath that are not regarded as vital for security.
Both Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer expressed regret over the order for Orthodox soldiers to violate the Sabbath. At the same time, they appealed to Jewish settlers to end their opposition to the military evacuation effort of Gilead Farm.
"Israel is a nation of laws and any assault on the IDF [military], the security forces, and the Israel police is an assault on the rule of law and must be vigorously condemned," Sharon's office said in a statement. "Even protests, justified as they may be, must be within the framework of the law."
For his part, Ben-Eliezer said the military will soon resume efforts to dismantle the outpost. "I am going to continue this until the end," the defense minister said. "The rebellion by the settlers threatens us."
Over the weekend, Jewish settlers clashed with Palestinians and Israeli activists near Nablus. Nearby, Israeli troops captured four suspected insurgents in the Balata refugee camp outside Nablus. Israeli troops also captured six Hamas members in villages near Ramallah.
In the Gaza Strip, Israeli tanks shelled suspected insurgency targets south of Gaza City, a stronghold of Hamas in what was said to have been retaliation for mortar attacks on nearby Israeli communities.