Today in Hebron, Israeli troops used sledgehammers to smash through welded doors and concrete bunkers to get at Jewish settlers who threw stones and poured oil and water on them. The settlers had claimed ownership of two houses. Dozens of settlers and soldiers were slightly injured in the melee.

Hundreds of thousands of other Israelis remain in illegal settlements in the West Bank. They were established after Israel began its occupation of the territory in 1967 following the Six Day War.

Hebron is home to about 150,000 Palestinian Muslims and Christians as well as 700 ultra-religious Israeli settlers who are often heavely armed. Prior to riots in 1929, there was a Jewish Quarter in biblical Hebron.

Twelve orthodox soldiers who had refused to take part in today’s operation were earlier sentenced to 28 days in jail. The evictions came one day after the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas met for three hours in the West Bank town of Jericho.

In a deal with the Palestinian Authority, Israel agreed to evacuate 80 percent of Jewish settlers from Hebron in 1997. But Israel kept control of Hebron’s market. It has been a closed military zone since 1994 when a Jewish extremist, Baruch Goldstein, shot and killed 29 Palestinians at the Tomb of the Patriarchs, sacred to both Muslims and Jews.

APTN cameras recorded today’s drama as it began just after sunrise and ended about three hours later.

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