12/04/2008, 00.00
ISRAEL
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Israeli forces evacuate 250 settlers from Hebron’s ‘House of Conflict’

About 600 policemen and soldiers move into the four-storey building held by settlers in the heart of the West Bank city. Israel’s High Court had ordered eviction by 16 November but settlers claim they bought the building.
Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – Israeli security forces have evacuated some 250 Jewish settlers from a house in the West Bank city of Hebron. Local media report that it took five minutes for 600 soldiers and policemen to take over the four-storey building and half an hour to evict those inside.

The operation caught residents by surprise. Whilst police took people out one at a time security forces used tear gas and stun grenades against the settlers who resisted by throwing stones, eggs and cleaning fluid.

Magen David Adom emergency services deployed two helicopters along with a fleet of ambulances to the scene to evacuate the wounded. Israel's rescue service said that 25 people on both sides were hurt.

After the evacuation settlers, attacked nearby Palestinian properties.

Once called the ‘House of Peace’ but renamed the ‘House of Conflict”, the building had become a flashpoint between the Israeli government and the settlers.

Located in a strategic part of the city but under Israeli control it was part of an area that constitutes the settlers’ enclave in the Palestinian city.

Following clashes between settlers and Palestinians, Israel’s High Court had ordered the former out setting 16 November as the deadline.

Settlers repeatedly said that they had legally bought the building from a Palestinian who however denied the claim.

As the evacuation date approached rightwing Israeli activists arrived in Hebron to prevent the eviction of the building’s residents.

The problem of the ‘House of Conflict’ goes back to March 2007, but is part of a broader problem that affects Hebron as a whole.

The city has been the scene of a dual conflict. On the one hand, the Israeli government has had to contain settlers’ aggressive occupation and anti-Palestinian actions. On the other, it has had to respond to continuous protests by Palestinian authorities and local Palestinian residents who have been victimised by settler vandalism against Palestinian mosques, cemeteries and properties, violence which has always been blamed on the settlers.

According to Israeli authorities the forced evacuation order was implemented only as a last resort.

Israeli defence Minister Ehud Barak had repeatedly tried mediation with the settler leadership but failed to get any agreement for a peaceful evacuation.

At the same time a spokesperson for the Palestinian Authority, Jamal Zakut, said that the AP would do all it could to stop violence by the Palestinian population but called on Israel to stop settler terror.

Today’s action is the largest operation by the army of its kind since January 2006.

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