Militant settlers back on the warpath

Jerusalem - Militant Jewish settlers last night resumed their civil disobedience campaign against the extension of Palestinian autonomy into the heart of the occupied West Bank, writes Eric Silver.

Their leaders, who called a truce in their cat-and-mouse war with the army and police after a meeting with the Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, on Friday, voted to end it yesterday. It was clear, they complained, that the government was not going to change course.

"We are planning to expand and intensify our struggle," said Yehiel Leiter, a spokesman for the 130,000 settlers. "Our objective is to force the issues into the open. This so-called peace process, which exposes us to increasing dangers, can't go on."

Mr Leiter admitted the campaigners faced their moment of truth. "The question is whether the public is sufficiently aroused to come and join us," he said. Have we reached the point where thousands, not just hundreds, are ready to sit in jail?"

So far, the security forces have kept the upper hand. Squatters were evacuated from hilltops near three settlements, and ministers exploited the truce to clarify their strategy for handling more such challenges.

Yesterday, Jerusalem police averted violent clashes on the Temple Mount, a site sacred to Jews and Muslims by closing the site to both religions.

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