Israeli army: 3 houses razed in West Bank outpost

Associated Press
Israeli security stands nearby after three houses were demolished in the West Bank settlement of Migron near the Palestinian city of Ramallah, early Monday, Sept. 5, 2011. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
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MIGRON, West Bank (AP) — The Israeli military razed three buildings in an unauthorized West Bank settlement outpost before dawn on Monday, and clashed with settlers who reject a Supreme Court ruling ordering the enclave to be dismantled.

Shortly after, Palestinians reported a mosque was torched in a West Bank village. The name of the outpost, Migron, was spray painted on the mosque, suggesting the act was settler retaliation for the demolitions.

Migron has become a symbol of settler defiance. A large contingent of soldiers and police was sent to the outpost, which is the largest in the West Bank and home to some 50 settler families.

Bulldozers knocked down three houses there, but only after settlers scuffled with security forces. Settlers also briefly got a court injunction stopping the demolition, but the injunction was soon overturned.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said six settlers were arrested in connection with the unrest.

Other buildings and mobile homes were left standing on the site.

Yariv Oppenheimer of the anti-settlement group Peace Now said the three buildings were razed because they were built after settlement opponents sued the state to dismantle the entire outpost, which was built on land seized from private Palestinians, in violation of Israeli law.

Outposts are wildcat enclaves that settlers erected in a bid to claim more West Bank land where Palestinians want to build a state. The government did not authorize their erection but turned a blind eye while they were built.

Several thousand of the West Bank's 300,000 Jewish settlers live in more than 100 outposts built since the 1990s. Israel has not honored its promise to the U.S. to dismantle two dozen of the enclaves.

The demolitions at Migron were carried out under a key Supreme Court ruling last month. The court gave the state until March 31 to tear down the entire outpost and faulted it for failing over the course of five years to come up with a program to evacuate it after it agreed to do so.

Shortly after security forces reached Migron, arsonists used burning tires to set a fire in the first floor study hall of a new mosque in the West Bank village of Qusra, Israeli and Palestinian officials said. Fire damage was confined to the walls and ceilings, which were cracked and covered with soot, said Qusra Mayor Hani Ismail.

The name of two outposts, including Migron, were spray painted on the mosque's outer wall, as was a Star of David. Graffiti calling the Muslim Prophet Muhammad "a pig" was also scrawled on the wall — a grave insult because pigs are considered unclean in Islam.

No one claimed responsibility.

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