[News] Settler numbers rise 16% under Sharon

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Tue Dec 30 08:57:19 EST 2003

Settler numbers rise 16% under Sharon

Tuesday 30 December 2003 10:08 AM GMT

The population of Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories has 
grown by 16% since Prime Minister Ariel Sharon came to power in March 2001.

The overall number of settlers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip now stands 
at 236,000, Israel's interior ministry said on Tuesday.

The numbers living in several isolated settlements has grown much more 
rapidly including at the controversial Netzarim settlement in southern Gaza 
that is now home to about 65 families and guarded by several hundred 
troops, after growing by 24% since Sharon's election.

Under the terms of the US-backed road map peace plan, Israel is obliged to 
freeze settlement activity, but the Israeli government has continued to 
issue tenders for the building of more apartments in the West Bank and Gaza.

Quit notices

Meanwhile, on Tuesday Israeli defence ministry officials began posting 
notices to quit on the doors of homes in Ginot Aryeh West Bank settlers' 
outpost, after orders for its dismantling were issued.

"The evacuation orders have been posted on the door of the
houses in Ginot Aryeh," a spokeswoman for the settlers, Rachel Avital, told 

"This neighbourhood is just 300 metres from the last houses in Ofra and 25 
people live here," she added. Ginot Aryeh, which houses a handful of 
families from the nearby settlement of Ofra in the central West Bank, is 
one of four outposts due to be dismantled in the coming days, after orders 
were signed by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz.

Emotional confrontation

A senior Israeli officer for the West Bank admitted on Tuesday the army 
could expect an emotional confrontation with the settlers over the 
dismantling orders, but said that they would be carried out.

Avital said the settlers would vehemently oppose any evacuation, but would 
not resort to violence.

"We will do everything we can to oppose the dismantlement but we will not 
lift a hand against the forces of order," she said.

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