Israel vows action against settlers

Leaked document says military will be used to enforce partial 10-month halt on building.

    The Israeli army is planning to use commando units, unmanned spy planes and mobile phone-jamming equipment to prevent new settlement construction in the occupied West Bank, according to a leaked report.

    Army officials said on Sunday that the plan was only a "first draft" for potential measures to enforce a 10-month suspension on the building of new housing units in settlements.

    Inspectors tasked with monitoring the suspension have been repeatedly clashing with settlers since the halt was announced last month and the leaked document is expected to raise tensions further. 

    "The major problem of the plan is it seems to view us as the enemy," Yisrael Meidad, a representative for the Settler Council, told Al Jazeera.

    "It shows that Mr [Defence Minister Ehud] Barak is much more concerned with his own political future than the stability of Israeli society."

    Illegal construction

    According to the report, unmanned spy drones could be used to photograph illegal construction, and closed military zones could be created to keep out protesters and reporters during demolitions of illegal buildings.

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    The document said various units of the military would be used, including special forces, military police and communication specialists to jam settler mobile phone frequencies.

    "All that is required of the settlers and their leaders is to carry out the government's decision regarding freezing new construction in the West Bank for this defined period and that will prevent the use of force and friction with the defence forces,'' Barak said.

    Binyamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, announced the settlement halt last month, saying he wanted to restart peace talks with the Palestinians.

    But the Palestinians have dismissed the move, which
    allows construction to continue on 3,000 settlement homes already being built in the West Bank and does not even cover east Jerusalem, which Palestinians see as their capital in any future Palestinian state.

    Settlers have repeatedly blocked inspectors and security forces trying to enter their communities to enforce the order, and the settlement issue has also caused turmoil in the Israeli army.

    A number of soldiers have refused to obey orders to act against settlers.

    The government has jailed defiant servicemen, issued stern warnings to rebellious rabbis and expelled one pro-settler seminary from a programme combining religious study and military service.

    About 290,000 settlers currently live in the occupied West Bank, while another 190,000 Israelis live beyond the Green Line in east Jerusalem.

    Both areas were captured by Israel during the 1967 Middle East war.

    The United Nations, World Court and European Union have all deemed the settlements to be illegal under international laws.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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