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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 September 2005, 12:28 GMT 13:28 UK
Israel buries West Bank synagogue
Masked Palestinian stands on top of buried synagogue in Sanur
Palestinians celebrated on the mound of sand and rubble
Israel has allowed Palestinians to enter an evacuated settlement in the West Bank, after ending patrols there.

Before leaving troops covered Sanur's synagogue in sand, to save the deconsecrated building from being vandalised by Palestinians.

Israeli rabbis have ordered that synagogues in former settlements cannot be dismantled under Jewish law.

Dozens of Palestinians entered Sanur at dawn to pray in a mosque built before the settlement was established.

It had been used as the settlement's second synagogue but appears to have been left intact, according to local Palestinian officials.

'Desecration'

Earlier this month several former synagogues in Gaza were damaged or destroyed by Palestinian militants and civilians, who saw them as symbols of the Israeli military occupation.

Israel's chief rabbi told army radio that burial was the best way to save the Sanur synagogue from the same fate.

"We decided that in order to avoid a desecration of a synagogue we should bury it in order to keep the building intact on the spot where it stood," Rabbi Shlomo Amar said.

Pouring tons of sand on a synagogue amounts to its destruction, its desecration
Yossi Dagan, former Sanur resident
However, former Sanur resident Yossi Dagan said the move was tantamount to the synagogue's "destruction" and "desecration".

An Associated Press report from the scene says dozens of Palestinian militants climbed on top of the mound containing the synagogue to celebrate the evacuation.

They hung Palestinian flags over the structure, but did not try to demolish it, an official is quoted saying.

Israel evacuated settlers from four isolated settlements in the West Bank in addition to the 21 enclaves in the Gaza Strip as part of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan.

The army ended patrols in Homesh settlement last week, but has yet to relinquish the other two, Ganim and Kadim.


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