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Last Updated: Sunday, 7 May 2006, 07:54 GMT 08:54 UK
Hebron settler families evicted
Masked settler youths try to set alight to the Israeli flag on the top of the house occupied by Jewish settlers in Hebron
Settler youths joined the families' eviction fight
Israeli police have evicted dozens of Jewish settlers from a Palestinian house they had illegally occupied in the West Bank town of Hebron.

The operation by hundreds of security forces, which was ordered by Israel's high court, took over two hours.

Earlier, clashes with settler youths who threw stones and firebombs left at least 13 policemen wounded, police say.

The eviction was closely watched after PM Ehud Olmert said he wanted to mark out Israel's permanent border by 2010.

Mr Olmert's plan will mean the removal of dozens of Jewish settlements from the occupied West Bank, while keeping others.

Legal dispute

Three families of settlers had occupied the Hebron house since April.

The house is situated within a Palestinian area of the Old City of Hebron, close to a controversial Jewish enclave and the Tomb of the Patriarchs - a site holy to Jews and Muslims.

The settlers said they had legally leased the property from its Palestinian owner. But the eviction order said the documents on which the transaction was based had been forged.

Police managed to coax out most of the settlers, some of whom were crying, after using an electric saw and a sledgehammer to break down the door.

In January, Israeli police removed Jewish settlers who had been squatting in buildings in the city's market since 2001.

The eviction followed a long legal battle in which the settlers claimed Jews owned plots in the market before the creation of Israel in 1948.

Hebron - which is home to about 170,000 Palestinians and about 500 Jewish settlers - has been the scene of frequent tensions between the two communities.

Television footage showed police officers using a disc-saw to cut through the metal-reinforced door of the house.

As they did so, settler youths - who had moved in to help fight off the eviction - poured paint on them from above, Haaretz newspaper reports.

Jewish settler family who face forced eviction from a Palestinian home in Hebron
Three settler families occupied the Hebron house in April

Hours earlier, stones, firebombs and flaming tyres were thrown as youths battled with the security forces.

Among the wounded officers, seven were taken for medical treatment.

Army radio reported that five settlers had been lightly wounded. Seven settlers had been arrested.

The Israeli high court agreed to an army request for the eviction, due on Friday, to be delayed.

The military was concerned that the operation might not be completed by sundown, the start of the Sabbath.

But the court ordered that the eviction be carried out by Monday.

Israel has occupied the West Bank since 1967.

The international community considers all settlements, including those in East Jerusalem, as illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

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