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AMONA - BLOODY ISRAELI CLASH

One Israeli Policeman Seriously Injured During Eviction of Settlers From Illegal Amona Outpost On West Bank

More Than One Hundred Protesters & Policemen Were Lightly Hurt

The Settlers: 'This Was Only Round One'

Public Security Minister Ezra: 'Government's Policy Of Restraint Toward Settlers Is Over'

Settlers evicted

Violence was expected when Israeli police were sent to evict some two thousand angry settlers who barricaded themselves inside the illegal outpost of Amona on the West Bank. However, the clash turned more bloody and ugly than most expected. When it was over, one Israeli policeman was in serious condition and some 115 Israelis were lightly injured. Bulldozers then enforced the ruling by Israel's Supreme Court to demolish the nine buildings at the outpost. But the question is what will happen next time if there is a further escalation in the violence?

:: IsraCast Audio ::

When it was over, more than one hundred Israeli policemen and settlers were hurt. One Border Guard is in serious condition after he was hit in the head by a brick thrown by a settler on a roof. He was rushed to a Jerusalem hospital. The other causalities were lightly hurt in the fracas. One Knesset Member Effy Eitam of the right wing National Union party was one of several MKs who went to protest the eviction. Eitam was knocked unconscious when he was struck on the head, apparently by a policeman wielding a baton. His party later issued a statement saying: 'Where MKs are beaten is where democracy ends'. Forty- three protesters were arrested.

Some 2,800 Israeli policemen were sent to Amona in keeping with a ruling by the Supreme Court to dismantle the illegal outpost. An eleventh hour appeal by the settlers was turned down by the court and then policemen mounted on horses moved in to evict the settlers. They did not go quietly. Several thousand, many of them teenagers had previously ignored an IDF order closing off the area. The settlers built obstacles around the nine buildings and then barricaded themselves inside and on the roofs armed with rocks, bricks, building blocks and anything they could throw down on the policemen. After the policemen finally subdued the protesters, the bulldozers rumbled in to demolish the nine empty buildings. Unlike the settlements, the illegal outposts are clusters of several buildings throughout the West Bank that were set up without formal government approval. There are an estimated one hundred of them and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon promised the U.S. to dismantle those established after the outbreak of the Palestinian uprising more than five years ago.

Last summer, Israeli troops were sent into the Gaza Strip to evacuate the Israeli settlements there as part of Sharon's unilateral disengagement. They were under strict orders to use kid gloves while settler leaders also instructed protesters not to clash with the soldiers. It was a different story this time. Public Security Minister Gideon Ezra declared: 'The government's policy of restraint is over.' On the other side, the settler leaders also adopted their own get- tough approach. It was a sharp escalation compared to the Gaza Strip eviction. The Israeli police say they expected trouble but not the ferocity of the young settlers, many of them teenagers. The settlers charge police brutality, that the policemen used far more force than was necessary. There was no gunfire at Amona but this danger next time has become a clear and present danger. Both the government and the settlers were out to prove a point at Amona. Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert wanted to show that although Ariel Sharon is no longer calling the shots, Olmert will not back down from threats of violence by the settlers. For their part, the settlers were out to prove they are digging in and are prepared to resist with force. Olmert may have won at Amona; but the settlers warn this is only round one and they are ready for many more bloody clashes if there are more attempts to evacuate other outposts not to speak of full-fledged settlements.

David Essing

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