Assaf Hefetz, the Israeli police commissioner, said yesterday that he feared the settlers' takeover in Ras al-Amoud would "trigger riots and a renewal of the Palestinian uprising in Jerusalem". Meanwhile Elyakim Rubinstein. the attorney-general, said the government, which is to decide what to do today, had the legal right to remove the settlers.
It is unclear if the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is willing or able to do so in the face of ministers who support the settlers.
Dr Irving Moskowitz, the Miami multi-millionaire who purchased the properties, said: "This is the first time in millennia that Jews come to the Mount of Olives not to be buried but to live there."
The impact on the life of the 11,000 Palestinians in Ras al-Amoud is significant because the 15 settlers are protected by some 60 paramilitary police who stop and search all Palestinian vehicles entering the street where the settlers live.
So far Palestinian reaction has been limited, with only small demonstrations, although Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader, is to meet with Arab foreign ministers and tour Europe. Potentially more effective is a United States demand that Israel remove the settlers, saying that their action was contrary to the demand of Madeleine Albright, the US Secretary of State, when in Israel last week, that the Israeli government refrain from "unilateral actions".
- Patrick CockburnReuse content