The Israeli army said all nine houses in the Amona outpost slated for demolition were reduced to rubble by late afternoon on Wednesday. Some forces remained in the area to prevent further unrest.

Thousands of troops in riot gear and on horseback had earlier fought with hundreds of stone-throwing Jewish settlers holed up behind barbed wire and on rooftops, after the Supreme Court cleared the way for the demolition of nine homes at the site.

More than 140 people were injured, including 60 police officers, in the clashes which police described as worse than the violence between settlers and police during the evacuation of settlements in the Gaza Strip last August.

The evacuation was seen as an early test for the acting Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, who has said he would act with determination against settlers violating the law.

Tactical demolitions?

Right-wing leaders have accused Olmert of timing the West Bank demolitions to enhance the popularity of his Kadima party, which has a healthy lead in the polls for the forthcoming March election.

Olmert is widely expected to withdraw from more areas of the West Bank and if elected prime minister he says he would dismantle 24 settlement outposts, whether unilaterally or in a deal with the Palestinians.

About an hour into the confrontation at Amona, troops had reached the first home and began tearing down window shutters with crowbars. They dragged out protesters through the windows, as settlers dropped paint balloons and stones on them from above.

Troops then climbed up a ladder to reach rioters barricaded on a rooftop, with settlers pushing the troops back with sticks and hurling eggs and sand at them.

'Rule of law'

Other troops stormed the roof, riding on the shovel of a bulldozer, and began forcing the settlers into the shovel and bringing them down.

Club-wielding soldiers on horseback charged into the crowd and water cannons tried to push back protesters.

 

David Baker, an official from the prime minister's office, said: "Israel is continuing to take the necessary steps to implement the rule of law and prevent the lawlessness from occurring and that is what we are seeing today in Amona. In Israel, the rule of law is paramount and the security forces are implementing that today."

The pullout is an early test for
Ehud Olmert ahead of elections

Two right-wing members of parliament were injured in the clashes. Effie Eitam from the far-right National Union Party, stood among the protesters with blood streaming from his forehead.

"They are treating people here like Arabs," said another politician Arieh Eldad in a telephone interview from the scene with Israel Radio. Eldad said he suffered a broken arm.

Illegal outposts

Troops began moving into the outpost after Israel's Supreme Court cleared the last hurdle to the evacuation on Wednesday morning. Under the court order, nine homes built illegally on private Palestinian land are to be demolished.

Several more temporary structures have been set up on state land.

Since the mid-1990s, settlers have established dozens of unauthorised outposts to prevent the transfer of disputed land to the Palestinians.

Under the internationally backed "road map" peace plan, Israel has committed to dismantle about two dozen outposts.

Amona is north of Jerusalem, near the Palestinian town of Ramallah.

About 6000 Israeli security forces were mobilised to forcibly remove opponents to the demolition of the nine structures at Amona.