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Israel orders 3 settler buildings to be destroyed

June 12, 2011 4:40 P.M. (Updated: June 13, 2011 9:11 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Defense Minister Ehud Barak has ordered Israeli forces to demolish three buildings in a West Bank settlement outpost within 45 days, Israeli media and his office said on Sunday.

The move comes after the Israeli state told a court on Friday that it would remove the buildings, which are part of the Migron settlement outpost in the northern West Bank and built on private Palestinian land, the Haaretz daily reported.

Barak's office confirmed the report.

"The position of the defence minister, in accord with the prime minister, is that illegal construction on private Palestinian land must be prevented and such buildings will be destroyed," his office said in a statement.

"This obviously applies to Migron too."

The Israeli government has said it is committed to removing settlements on private Palestinian land, but the Palestinians and the international community consider all settlements built in the West Bank to be illegal.

Israel only considers those settlements built without government approval to be illegal, and of that category has said it will only remove buildings that are built on private Palestinian land.

Israeli human rights group Yesh Din has filed a series of petitions on behalf of Palestinians seeking to force the Israeli government to remove outposts they claim stand on their private land.

Under the 2003 international "roadmap" peace plan, Israel pledged to dismantle outposts erected since March 2001 and a government commission later determined there were 26 such wildcat settlements in the West Bank.

Watchdog groups number dozens of such unauthorized outposts.

Successive prime ministers have made commitments to remove them but, despite strong US pressure, they have not been dismantled.

The government has been seeking to differentiate between outposts built on private Palestinian land and others built on public land.

Palestinians claim all Israeli construction in the West Bank is in violation of international law and the settlement issue has been a major obstacle to the resumption of peace talks.

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