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Last Updated: Monday, 17 May, 2004, 16:31 GMT 17:31 UK
Settlers fight outpost evacuation
Mitzpeh Yitzhar standoff
It took hundreds of troops to remove the protesters
Israeli troops have begun dismantling an unauthorised settlement in the West Bank despite furious protests.

Few settlers live at Mitzpeh Yitzhar outpost near Nablus, but hundreds were bussed in on Monday to join protests.

Police in riot gear linked arms to push them from the hilltop while settlers set fields alight to block a bulldozer.

Israel has made little headway on making good its promise to dismantle about such 100 outposts as part of the peace plan known as the roadmap.

Most of those removed have been uninhabited, but they have almost all been systematically rebuilt within days.

Mitzpeh Yitzhar has been forcibly evacuated several times, only to be reoccupied by settlers.

Human shields

Police officers broke a makeshift wooden structure at the outpost with sledgehammers before the bulldozer arrived at the site to destroy the only permanent structure.

Mitzpeh Yitzhar standoff
20 people were arrested as scuffles broke out
About 50 young women tried to act as human shields in front of the vehicle before the demolition finally took place.

Twenty people were detained, said police.

The standoff came amid reports that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz to discuss speeding up the process of evacuating the outposts.

Under the terms of the roadmap, Israel must dismantle all the outposts erected without government approval since Mr Sharon came to power in March 2001.

International law views all Jewish settlements built on occupied land - whether authorised or not by the Israeli government - as illegal, but the consensus view is that their fate must be determined in negotiations with the Palestinians.

The BBC's Alan Johnston
"The Israeli army may well want to show the militants they have all the cards in their hands"

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