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Settlers hold Palestinians hostage as Northern West Bank pullout deadline looms

Hundreds of pro-settlement Israelis have flocked to the area around Jenin to protest the dismantling of four small settlements scheduled to be part of Israel’s disengagement plan for the northern part of the West Bank. Not exactly what you’d call a peaceful demonstration.

The group, numbering in the hundreds are flocking to settlements that have been mostly empty or home to small groups of people. Sanur, previous to this week, had a population of a little more than a dozen people. Now that it has been added to Sharon’s dismantlement list, there are reportedly about 450.

About 150 others have pitched tents to camp out near the small Palestinian village of Suweitat and have taken to throwing stones at villagers and stopping a family from holding a funeral at the village cemetery. At least one Palestinian has reportedly been kidnapped by the group. Israeli police were called in and after negotiating with the pro-settlement group for three hours, were able to free the Palestinian and get him back home.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s disengagement plan mostly focuses on settlements and the military presence in Gaza. However, four small settlements in the West Bank near Jenin (Ganim, Kadim, Homesh and Sanur) along with a nearby military camp are scheduled to be removed as well.

Long ignored by most, Israeli’s anger over Sharon’s plan has sent people in support of these often ghost town-like settlements scurrying out to the occupied territories in order to keep a foothold for what they see as an eventual expansion of “Greater Israel.”

“Masses of people will come,” pro-setttler spokesman Yossi Dagan said in in one report on the situation. “People are already familiar with the routes. When there will be tens of thousands of people here it would be impossible to deport them forcefully…. The prime minister will fail here. The Jewish people will come and prevent it.”

Meanwhile, roads in and out of Jenin have been shut by checkpoints, keeping many Palestinians there from being able to get to jobs, schools or to their family’s homes.

These four tiny settlements have as much legal standing as the ones in Gaza. However, Ariel settlement and all the others scattered around the West Bank also lack the legal standing to exist and are only in place because an Israeli military force keeps them there.

These token steps, taken in the West Bank are meant to distract from the massive land grab currently under way. While a few hundred supporters of “Greater Israel” work to keep in place what are essentially some squatter trailer parks, the thousands of Israelis living illegally on Palestinian land in the permanent colonial structures don’t seem to be in too much worry about having to pack their bags.