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The BBC's Jon Leyne
"The familiar routine continues almost daily"
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Thursday, 22 March, 2001, 17:58 GMT
Israel 'tolerates settler violence'
Jewish settlers
Jewish settlers: Villains or victims?
An Israeli human rights group has accused the country's security forces of turning a blind eye to violence by Jewish settlers against Palestinians.

The violence occurs against the background of leniency and prolonged impotence of the Israeli law enforcement authorities

B'Tselem report
A report by B'Tselem says six Palestinians have been killed by settlers during the last six months of unrest in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but that only two of the deaths are being investigated.

It follows a United Nations inquiry's finding that the Israeli army had also used "excessive force" against Palestinians.

Since the Palestinian uprising began in late September, the report says, Jewish settlers have stoned Palestinians' cars, rioted in their towns and villages - setting fire to at least one mosque - and shot and beaten them.

"The violence occurs against the background of leniency and prolonged impotence of the Israeli law enforcement authorities," it says.

"Even if the Israeli authorities do not directly encourage violent acts against Palestinian civilians, their neglect leads to the same results."

About 200,000 Jewish settlers live in the West Bank and Gaza, land seized by Israel 34 years ago, but their presence there is illegal under international law.

The police maintain law and order... in an objective, professional and impartial manner

Israeli police force statement
Yehoshua Mor-Yosef, a Jewish settler spokesman, said the settlers were angry that B'Tselem had not looked at months of Palestinian violence against Israelis.

"We are outraged that B'Tselem thought it right to make a special report on the Palestinian victims and did not do a similar report on the Israeli victims," he said.

An Israeli police statement said Palestinian violence against Jewish settlers had increased by 40% since the uprising began.

It claimed that settler violence had not risen as dramatically, but gave no figures.

"The Israel police force enforces the law according to the tasks and powers given it by law, without regard to religion, race or sex," the statement said.

George Mitchell
George Mitchell: Fact-finding mission
"The police maintain law and order and security of person and property in an objective, professional and impartial manner."

Ephraim Sneh, the Israeli Transport Minister ands a former Deputy Defence Minister, acknowledged that more could be done to enforce the law.

"It is true that small groups of extremist settlers are waging violence," he told Israeli army radio.

But he added that it was "unfair to make generalisations and accuse the 200,000 settlers of the incidents presented in the document".

An international fact-finding commission investigating the causes of the continuing violence has held further talks, meeting Palestinian officials in the West Bank.

The committee, led by the former American Senator George Mitchell, is expected to meet the new Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, on Friday.

Mr Sharon has repeatedly blamed Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's forces for instigating attacks on Israelis and has refused to resume negotiations until Mr Arafat orders a halt to the violence.

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See also:

15 Mar 01 | Middle East
Sharon signal to ease blockades
14 Mar 01 | Middle East
Gaza's lost generation
22 Jan 01 | Middle East
Israeli child-killer escapes jail
23 Oct 00 | Middle East
Claiming the 'Promised Land'
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