JERUSALEM,(Reuters) – Israeli police have evicted dozens of Jewish settler youths trying to set up unauthorised outposts in the occupied West Bank, a police spokesman said on on Thursday.
Settlers have built more than 100 such enclaves in recent years, mostly on the fringes of established settlements, and Israel has done little to dismantle them as required by a U.S.-sponsored "road map" to peace with the Palestinians.
But, perhaps mindful that additional outposts could raise hackles in Washington, Israeli police on Wednesday evacuated 180 youths from hilltops where they had camped out in the past week.
The settlers did not have time to install any permanent structures, police said. Three people were arrested, including a settler leader.
A spokesman for the main West Bank settler council said three enclaves were set up last week near the city of Hebron and the settlements of Alon Moreh and Kedumim.
A government-appointed commission called in March for removal of 105 West Bank outposts built without formal government permission but which it said had enjoyed state funding and military protection in violation of the law.
Such enclaves usually consist of a handful of caravans, shipping containers or tents on hilltops where settlers seek to stake a claim to more land in the West Bank, a territory the Palestinians want along with Gaza for a future state.
Israel has evicted settlers from a few outposts since the introduction of the road map in 2003, but most have been rebuilt in days.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said last month that Israel would remove some outposts, as urged by Washington, but it has not yet done so. He says that before Israel takes broader action, the Palestinians must first meet their road map obligation to disarm militants.
Sharon has vowed after Israel”s pullout from Gaza last month never to give up large West Bank settlement blocs. Some 8,500 Jews were evacuated from Gaza. More than 245,000 settlers live in the West Bank, home to 2.4 million Palestinians.
The World Court has said that all of Israel”s settlements on land it captured in the 1967 Middle East war are illegal. Israel disputes this.