The new government of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has faced its first real test with the eviction of Jewish settlers from a Palestinian house in the city of Hebron.
Israeli police managed to coax out three families accused of squatting in the property but had to drag or carry out several teenagers. They had moved in last month, saying they had bought it from its Palestinian owners but Palestinian groups denied this, suspecting a gradual attempt to expand a nearby Jewish settlement. Police arrested 19 settlers while 17 officers were slightly injured in the violence. Hebron with its Tomb of the Patriarchs is holy to both Jews and Muslims. The evacuation offers a taste of what may happen if Olmert implements his plan to set Israel’s final borders, with or without Palestinian agreement, by 2010. In the absence of peace talks with the Palestinians, the proposal calls for dozens of the isolated settlements in the occupied West Bank to be evacuated while the major blocks are retained and fortified. The international community considers all settlements as illegal, although Israel disputes this.