HEBRON, West Bank, (Reuters) – Israeli police took more than 15 Jewish settlers into custody on Wednesday after clashes with Palestinians in the West Bank city of Hebron, a police spokesman said.
Hundreds of settlers have come to the Jewish enclave in recent days to protest against Israel’s plans to remove 13 families from a building in accordance with a high court ruling.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said police detained more than 15 settler youths for questioning after evicting them from another building they broke into earlier on Wednesday.
Another Israeli was arrested for suspected involvement in stone-throwing with Palestinians over recent days, Rosenfeld said.
At least five Palestinians and a settler have been injured in such violence since Monday, medics on both sides said.
Israeli media said some settlers have also thrown rocks at Israeli soldiers in the town, sparking calls by some Israeli politicians for tougher measures against the settlers.
Some 650 settlers live in fortified enclaves in Hebron, a flashpoint of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and city of 180,000 Palestinians in the West Bank, land Israel captured in a 1967 war.
Controversy over the disputed house dubbed by settlers “the house of peace” was the latest effort on the part of settlers to expand the Jewish enclave in Hebron, a city they see as holy as the burial site of biblical patriarchs.
Settlers moved into the building in 2007 saying they had purchased it from a Palestinian. Palestinian Faiz Rajabi said the building belongs to him and denies selling it to the settlers.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Wednesday in a speech he would respect a court order of last month to evict the settlers. He said the building “will be evacuated,” and that he would also take steps to avoid further violence.
Palestinians and Western countries see Jewish settlement in the occupied territory as an obstacle in U.S.-brokered peace efforts. The World Court has deemed the settlements illegal, a decision disputed by Israel.