Israeli Police Dismantle West Bank Settlement

Israeli police, backed by troops, evicted overnight about 200 Israelis who had set up an impromptu settlement at the spot where Palestinian gunmen killed 12 soldiers and settlers last month, police and settlers said.

The unauthorized settlement, named "Heroes of Hebron" was sited on Palestinian land along a lane used by Jewish worshippers going between shrines in Hebron and the nearby settlement of Kiryat Arba.

The large force of police and soldiers met little resistance; three settlers were arrested on suspicion of assaulting members of the security forces.

Kiryat Arba spokesman Malahi Levinger said settlers would continue to press their claim for an Israeli presence along the lane to create a safe corridor for worshippers.

"We shall continue to act, all the time, against everybody, to fulfill the prime minister's pledge for contiguity of settlement between Kiryat Arba and Hebron," he told Israeli radio.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced soon after the Nov. 16 attack that Israel would widen the lane, which connects Kiryat Arba with the Cave of the Patriarchs, a site holy to Jews, Muslims and Christians.

The Israeli army issued warrants to seize 15 Palestinian homes along the road, intending to demolish them and fortify the thoroughfare, but the Israeli supreme court has blocked the plan for the time being.

About 130,000 Palestinians live in Hebron, along with some 500 Jewish settlers in several small enclaves. There is constant friction between the two sides. Several thousand Jewish settlers live in Kiryat Arba.