Israel Dismantles West Bank Settlement Outpost
KOKHAV HASHAHAR, West Bank - Israeli police said they razed a tiny Jewish settlement outpost in the West Bank on Thursday in what media called a gesture to US President Barack Obama after his talks with Israel's prime minister.
"We dismantled seven tin huts," said police spokesman Danny Peleg, specifying that the outpost had been built without government authorisation.
No violence was reported as police, backed by army troops, evacuated settlers from the Maoz Ester outpost, near the Kokhav Hashahar settlement east of Ramallah, the political capital of the West Bank.
The international community considers all settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory illegal, while Israel considers as illegal only the outposts, often just a few hundred meters away from larger settlements, built without Israeli government authorisation.
Obama told right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during White House talks on Monday that Israel should stop all settlement activity, in line with its commitments at peace negotiations.
"Evacuating illegal outposts in the West Bank is expected to be the Netanyahu government's first gesture toward Obama and the Palestinian Authority," the Haaretz daily said, linking Thursday's operation to the talks in Washington.
Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak have agreed on a plan to evacuate illegal outposts in the West Bank, the newspaper said.
On Wednesday Defence Minister Ehud Barak told a delegation of settler leaders Israel would uphold the law and evacuate any illegal settlements.
The settlers met Barak to protest what they claim is a continuation of a West Bank settlement "construction freeze."
Israeli settlements in the West Bank are among the main obstacles in the stumbling peace talks with the Palestinians.
Israel reiterated at the 2007 Annapolis, Maryland peace conference it would freeze the activity but Israel's anti-settlement Peace Now movement says that 1,518 new structures were built in settlements and outposts in 2008, compared to 898 structures in 2007.
Peace Now says more than 280,000 people live in 120 settlements and about 100 outposts in the West Bank.