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Police confront Ultra-Orthodox Jews over grave removal

16 May 10 17:17 GMT

Israeli riot police have tussled with Ultra-Orthodox Jews furious about an operation to relocate ancient graves in the southern city of Ashkelon.

Police arrested 30 of the protestors, who regard disturbing Jewish remains as sacrilege.

Archaeologists say there are probably no Jewish graves at the site, which dates from the Byzantine era.

Israel's PM says the land is needed for a bomb-proof hospital ward, safe from any Palestinian rocket attack.

Two months ago, the government voted to relocate the planned facility, under pressure from Ultra-Orthodox coalition members of the Cabinet.

But Premier Benjamin Netanyahu reversed that decision.

It was estimated moving the new hospital wing instead would have cost taxpayers at least 100m shekels ($26m; £14m).

Officers carried off dozens of demonstrators who staged a sit-in on Sunday outside Barzilai Hospital in the city, which is not far from the Gaza Strip.

Riot police deployed around the hospital the evening before to deter attempts to disrupt the excavations by the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The protesters say there are Jewish bones that should not be disturbed at the site, which the authorities say is about 1,400 years old.

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