PM: Israel will not yield to 'bullying' by settlers
Police complete eviction of Hebron home, avoiding conflict as standoff ends with few casualties.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Sunday that the eviction of three settler families holed up in a Palestinian-owned house in the West Bank city of Hebron was the expression of the government's uncompromising approach to lawlessness in the territories.
"We will not reconcile ourselves to bullying and creating facts outside of the law, certainly not in sensitive areas like this," Olmert said.
The prime minister spoke after security forces completed the eviction of the three families from the Al-Nazar house in Hebron. The families left the premises having agreeed with police that they would resist the eviction without exercising violence.
"In every case where the law is violated, we will respond without compromise, and we won't reconcile ourselves to illegal facts on the ground," he went on.
Speaking at the first cabinet meeting of his new government, Olmert said the eviction of the families bears no relation to the government's plan to evacuate most West Bank settlements.
New Defense Minister Amir Peretz updated the government on the chain of events that lead to the eviction. He said that the government is obligated to enforce the law down to the last letter in the territories as much as it is obligated to do so in Israel proper.
On Friday the High Court of Justice ordered the evacuation of the house by Monday after rejecting a petition by the settlers to reconsider the eviction order.
Three settler families had refused to evacuate the Palestinian home that they had been illegally occupying for a month.
The three families forced their way into the Al-Nazar family home near the Avraham Avinu neighborhood on April 6.
Some 40 to 50 youths who came to reinforce the families' resistance remained in the house after its residents were evicted. They threw paint at the security forces personnel who came to evict them but were also removed from the premises eventually.
A policeman sustained light facial wounds during the scuffle.
The standoff's conclusion followed a night of clashes between settlers and police in which thirteen Border Police were wounded and seven settlers were arrested.
Policemen entered the house close to 8.00 A.M. after cutting its front door with a disc-saw for nearly an hour. Channel 10 TV showed pictures of Israel Police and Border Police making their way slowly into the house without meeting any opposition.
Earlier, Channel 2 and Channel 10 TV showed pictures of policemen trying to break down the house's iron door with hammers, as police refrained from using any heavy equipment.
After evacuating the house, settler Tzippi Schlissel said she and her husband Yisrael contacted police to negotiate a peaceful eviction after overhearing policemen saying they want to "break hands and legs."
"Palestinians will receive much strength today. There is no justice and no righteousness in this corrupt state," said Schlissel as she left the house.
But there was relief among Palestinian neighbors.
"The last month has been very difficult for us. We have had stones thrown at us and our electricity and water tampered with. I wish all the settlers in Hebron would leave," said Umm Nemer, a 43-year-old mother of eight who lives next door.
13 officers injured overnightIn the nighttime struggles between police and dozens of rioters 13 Border Police officers were injured, as the three families facing eviction were joined by settler reinforcement.
As officers attempted to enter the house, youths holed up inside poured paint on them from above. Police sources estimated there were between 30 and 60 people, mostly youths, inside the home.
Rabbi Yisrael Schlissel, speaking with Israel Radio Sunday morning from the house, denied any violence was used against police and accused the evacuators of violence.
"I have not seen any violence directed at police," he said.
The eviction began after the security forces managed to evacuate the dozens of settlers who had set up in front of the home during the night. They threw stones, firebombs, paint and flaming tires at the officers.
The condition of the injured officers was not immediately known, but seven were evacuated to receive medical treatment.
Seven settlers were reportedly arrested at the onset of the clashes, according to an Army Radio report.
The report said that in addition to the injured officers, five settlers were lightly injured.
The High Court of Justice gave security forces until Monday to evacuate the settlers. The court ruled that the settlers could be removed forcibly if necessary.
The eviction, which was approved a month ago by the defense minister, was delayed while the High Court considered a petition against the eviction order submitted by the Jewish community of Hebron.
The eviction order was based on claims that the lease was based on identity fraud carried out by a Palestinian falsely claiming to be the home's owner.