HEBRON // Dozens of Jewish settlers rampaged through the West Bank town of Hebron today after Israeli troops removed an illegal settlement outpost, according to Palestinian residents. Witnesses said the settlers hurled rocks at houses, vandalised several Muslim graves in a local cemetery and slashed the tyres of cars belonging to Palestinian residents near the Kiryat Arba settlement. The violence broke out after Israeli security forces removed several settlers from a building outside of an existing settlement.
"A settlement outpost was evacuated and several settlers were arrested," an Israeli army spokesman said. Military radio said five settlers had been arrested and charged with assaulting soldiers. The incident came a day after more than 500 Palestinian police reinforcements fanned out across the flashpoint town as part of a widening security crackdown in the Israeli-occupied territory. It also comes amid a recent surge in settler violence directed against Palestinians and Israeli security forces.
With more than 160,000 Palestinian residents, Hebron is the largest town in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and has long been a flashpoint because of a settlement of around 800 hardline Jews in the heart of the town. The settlement is guarded by hundreds of Israeli soldiers who will remain in Hebron despite the deployment of the additional Palestinian forces deployed to patrol Arab neighbourhoods and villages.
Israel has said its troops will continue to operate everywhere in the West Bank to prevent attacks on its citizens and settlers. *AFP