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Settlers resist dismantle outpost { June 19 2003 }

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Settlers resist military's effort to dismantle outpost
JASON KEYSER, Associated Press Writer
Thursday, June 19, 2003
2003 Associated Press

(06-19) 04:24 PDT MITZPEH YITZHAR, West Bank (AP) --

Angry settlers scuffled Thursday with soldiers trying to dismantle their West Bank outpost of Mitzpeh Yitzhar, the first inhabited outpost being removed under a new U.S.-backed peace plan.

The year-old outpost consisted mainly of tents and had about 10 inhabitants.

About 200 people from nearby Jewish settlements converged on the hilltop Thursday morning, blocking the road leading to Mitzpeh Yitzhar with cars and burning tires to prevent the authorities from dismantling the outpost.

Settlers also set fire to underbrush and threw purple paint on armored bulldozers, limiting the visibility of the soldiers trying to make their way to the hilltop.

Yosi Peli, a settler from the nearby Yitzhar settlement, said there had been minor scuffles at the outpost, and that two settlers were injured.

As part of the "road map" peace plan, which envisions the creation of a Palestinian state by 2005, Israel must take down unauthorized outposts set up by settlers in the West Bank over the last two years. Officials from the Peace Now group, which opposes settlements, says there are 62 such outposts and a total of more than 100 set up since 1996.

Settler leaders have sued the government to prevent removal of inhabited outposts, but courts have rejected many of their arguments.

Mitzpeh Yitzhar is the first inhabited outpost to be dismantled, but 10 uninhabited outposts were removed last week.

The hundreds of paratroopers and police who made their way to the hilltop were armed only with the knives they carried to remove the settlers' tents.

Peli said that despite the large contingent of troops, the protesters remained committed to retaining the outpost.

"This is our land, our home," he said. "Tomorrow we will be here again on this hill or on other hills."

He showed The Associated Press a list of rules of engagement provided by the settlers' council. Demonstrators were advised to avoid violence and to use passive resistance.

But, Peli said, "When someone is trying to take you from your home, it's difficult to know what will be."

2003 Associated Press

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