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Dozens injured as Israeli army removes settlers from Hebron house

Dec. 4, 2008 11:01 A.M. (Updated: April 7, 2010 11:21 A.M.)
Jerusalem - Ma'an - Israeli forces forcibly removed 250 right-wing settlers from a Palestinian house in the West Bank city of Hebron, weeks after the Israeli High Court ordered their eviction.

The evacuation touched off violent settler attacks across the West Bank.

Witnesses said that there are Palestinian families "who are besieged in their homes" that were set on fire by Israeli settlers, while the Israeli army prevented Palestinian medics from reaching the homes. Ten Palestinians were reported injured as a result of the army's inaction.

Settlers have repeatedly attacked Palestinian homes in the city over the past few days. Prior to the evacuation, Israeli settlers fired randomly at Palestinian homes. Settlers set fire to two Palestinian homes and a store, later attacking a number of residents in the Wadi Hussein area of Hebron.

Haj Mohamad Abu Aisha, a resident of Tel Rumeida, said that settlers in the Ramaat Yesahi outpost chased children in the area and hurled stones at their homes. No injuries were reported there.

Mohamad Naser Ad-Din, a resident of the same area, said that dozens of settlers who were accompanied by the army attacked residents' homes with tear gas canisters and rubber-coated bullets. Cases of inhalation injuries were reported.

A child identified as Amal Al-Muhtaseb sustained bruises, along with her father, Abed-Ar Ra'uf, when they were attacked by settlers near the Al-Ibrahimi Mosque. Settlers also set fire to a Palestinian fire vehicle that was on the scene in Hebron.

Hebron Governor Husein Al-A'raj held the Israeli army responsible for the consequences of the events in Hebron, demanding they stop the settlers' attacks and affirming that "the protection of residents who are in an Israeli controlled area is the responsibility of the army, according to the Geneva Conventions."

Israeli troops were filmed dragging the settlers from the building. Police also reportedly used teargas. Twenty settlers sustained mild injuries during the evacuation.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak failed to reach an agreement during a meeting with settlers over the so-called "House of Contention" earlier on Thursday.

The meeting was a last ditch attempt to persuade the settlers to leave the building without a violent showdown with police. Barak now says that he is prepared to use force to evict the 13 settler families.

Fearing a crackdown by the army, settlers rioted in Hebron over the last three days, attacking Palestinians with stones and clubs while Israeli soldiers and police looked on.

Settler attacks on Palestinians in Hebron have been on the rise since the summer, and spiked after an Israeli High Court decision to evacuate Israeli settlers from the Al-Rajabi home in November.

The building at the center of the latest controversy belongs to the Al-Rajabi family, but was taken over by Israeli settlers in the spring of 2007 and renamed "Beit HaShalom." The Al-Rajabi family brought the case to court, where the setters claimed to have purchased the home. The Court found that the settlers presented forged ownership documents, and ordered the home to be evacuated pending investigation.

Earlier on Thursday, Israeli police arrested ten young Israeli boys suspected of storming another building near the Ar-Rajabi house in Hebron on Wednesday, as well as a 15-year-old girl suspected of attacking an Israeli soldier and seven right-winged activists who blockaded one of the routes to the house.

Settlers invaded the northern West Bank city of Nablus on Thursday afternoon, furious that the Israeli army evacuated the so-called House of Contention in Hebron.

Israeli extremists set fire to fields and vehicles in the city as dozens were injured in Hebron as soldiers evicted 13 families that were illegally occupying a house that belongs to a Palestinian family.

In the ensuing chaos, settlers set fire to Palestinian homes while Israeli soldiers arrested several Jewish settlers in the area. Palestinians and Israelis alike are reported to have suffered numerous injuries, including teargas inhalation and heavy bruising, medical sources told Ma'an on Thursday.

***Updated at 19:55 local time
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