Israeli settlers block government inspectors

Israeli inspectors trying to enforce a government moratorium on new building starts in Jewish settlements ran into defiance on Tuesday at an enclave in the occupied West Bank.

About a dozen settlers turned out at a building site in the settlement of Kiryat Arba, adjacent to the West Bank city of Hebron, to challenge several inspectors who came to halt construction work.

“You should be ashamed of yourselves,” one settler shouted as an inspector, accompanied by a policeman and an army officer, surveyed the hilltop tract where several red-roofed homes stood next to empty plots.

There was no violence, but also no sign that government stop-work orders would be obeyed by settlers in Kiryat Arba who claim a biblical right to the land.

The 10-month freeze on new housing projects was announced last week by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who pitched it as a attempt to persuade Palestinians to return to United States-sponsored peace talks suspended a year ago.

The temporary moratorium does not apply to some 3 000 settler housing units already under construction in the West Bank nor to areas of the territory that Israel annexed to its Jerusalem municipality after a 1967 war.

Settlers at the site in Kiryat Arba argued that foundations had already been laid and since construction had effectively begun, the stop-work orders did not apply.

“It’s a mistake. Call your superiors,” one settler implored.

After a brief standoff, filmed by Reuters Television, the inspectors got into their jeeps and left the site to the derisive applause of settlers who lined the sides of the dirt road.

“Go home,” they shouted as the vehicles pulled away.—Reuters

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