Israeli security forces have stormed a disputed house in the biblical city of Hebron and evicted 250 settlers.
Israeli forces storm West Bank house
HEBRON, West Bank // Israeli security forces stormed a disputed house in the biblical city of Hebron today, dragging out 250 settlers who barricaded themselves inside and hurled rocks, eggs and chemicals at their evictors. It was the first major West Bank evacuation since a violent 2006 confrontation. Settlers attempted to go back into the four-story structure, but soldiers formed a human chain around the house to keep them from doing so. Army spokeswoman Maj. A vital Leibovitz said the evacuation of the house, one of the most volatile flashpoints in the West Bank, was completed in about 20 minutes. Scenes of violence played themselves out as 600 soldiers and policemen started to evict the settlers. Television images showed two young girls punching and hitting soldiers. Security forces in full riot gear used stun grenades and tear gas to repel the settlers. "This is an act of scoundrels, Jews evicting Jews from their homes," a settler leader, Daniella Weiss, told Israel's Channel 10 TV. Israel's rescue service says 20 people on both sides were hurt. One of the settlers sustained serious head wounds, and was whisked into an ambulance on a stretcher. The security forces took over the house in a surprise operation. Then they began dragging out the 250 people inside one by one, their hands and legs held by teams of two or four officers. Nearby, fist fights broke out between settler youths and Palestinians in the area. Israeli rescue services deployed two helicopters along with a fleet of ambulances to the scene to evacuate the wounded. Right-wing activists blocked the main road to Jerusalem this afternoon, and scuffled with police who tried to disperse them. The Israeli defence minister Ehud Barak said he ordered the army to evict the settlers after all attempts to persuade them to leave peacefully failed. Mr Barak had met with settler leaders earlier in the day and the sides failed to reach a compromise. "This could have been done peacefully and legally. Instead Barak chose violence," said Danny Dayan, leader of the Yesha settler council. "This surprised us completely. He threw a match in a pile of gunpowder." The army said its troops, along with police, carried out the evacuation and vowed to deal fiercely with resisters. "Any act of violence will be met with force," Mr Leibovitz said. More than a dozen settler families took over the house in March 2007 and remained there despite a series of eviction orders. About 600 of Israel's most extreme settlers have taken up residence in the centre of Hebron, living amid 170,000 Palestinians. The settlers, fearful of a possible evacuation, have stepped up their violence in recent months. Hebron is the traditional burial site of Abraham, the shared patriarch of both Jews and Muslims.