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Israel to end support of outposts

By Tim Franks
BBC News, Jerusalem

Settlement outpost of Nofei Nehemia in the northern West Bank (2005)
No significant outposts have been shut down by the current government

The Israeli government has announced that it will cut off all public funding and support for illegal Jewish settlement outposts in the West Bank.

Ministers said the move was in response to an "intolerable" rise in violence and threats from some settlers directed towards the Israeli security forces.

The settlement outposts are regarded as illegal under Israeli law.

The US-brokered "roadmap" peace plan demands Israel uproot all unauthorised outposts built since March 2001.

About 450,000 Jews live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in settlements considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.

'Disgrace'

Israeli ministers have long complained about the behaviour of a minority of settlers, particularly those who live in outposts. Now, they say, they will take action.

The government will stop money and amenities from the public purse going to outposts.

This is an intolerable situation that we refuse to accept
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert

"There is a not insignificant group of outlaws that are behaving in a manner that is threatening the rule of law," caretaker Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said ahead of Sunday's cabinet meeting.

"This is an intolerable situation that we refuse to accept."

Under international law, all Israeli settlements on occupied territory are regarded as illegal, except by Israel itself.

However, even Israel says that the 100 or so smaller, unauthorised settlements - known as outposts - break the country's own law.

Recently, there has been an increase in violence around outposts, as the Israeli army and police have attempted to evict a few of the settlers living on some of the newer and smaller outposts.

The head of the internal intelligence service, Shin Bet, said it was "very concerned" by the danger of Jewish extremists reverting to political assassinations.

The government's declaration that it is going to get serious with outposts may raise eyebrows in some quarters.

Almost four years ago, a government-commissioned report detailed how a large number of outposts had been established with official collusion.

Mr Olmert has described them as a "disgrace". And yet not one significant outpost has been dismantled or shut down by his government.



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