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Israel demolishes nine West Bank settler units it deems illegal

Since Trump took office in January, Israel has announced plans to build 6,000 more settler homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem
Police carried some of the settlers and protesters out of the red-roofed structures in the settlement of Ofra (Reuters)

Israeli police began removing settlers and hundreds of supporters on Tuesday from nine houses built on privately owned Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli authorities deem those units "illegal" - ie built without it's authorisation - but international law and most countries consider all settlements to be illegal.

Police carried some of the settlers and protesters out of the red-roofed structures in the settlement of Ofra, while others walked out, escorted by officers.

They had cleared eight of the nine houses but dozens of predominantly young protesters made a final stand on the roof of the ninth.

Two people were arrested for attacking officers, a police statement said, and eight officers were lightly injured, including by being bitten.

Israel's supreme court had ordered the demolition of nine buildings in the settlement of more than 3,000 people after finding that those homes were constructed on land where Palestinians proved ownership.

Such judicial rulings upholding Palestinian property rights have riled Israel's right wing, as it promotes plans to expand construction in settlements built on occupied territory Palestinians seek for a state.

Israeli policemen remove pro-settlement activists and residents from several homes in the Israeli settlement of Ofra, in the occupied West Bank (Reuters)

Yet the nine-house demolition is a paltry number compared to the fact that 550,000 Israelis live in settlements located in the West Bank - including East Jerusalem.

There was little initial sign of the kind of violence that accompanied a larger-scale evacuation on 2 February of Amona, a West Bank settlement-outpost built without Israeli government permission in 1995.

More than 100 youths had protested against the removal of Amona's 300 settlers. Some 60 officers and at least four demonstrators were hurt in scuffles there that included bleach being thrown at police.

Palestinians want to establish a state in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip, which Israel continues to blockade, with East Jerusalem as its capital. They say settlement construction could deny them a viable and contiguous country.

Three weeks ago, Israel's parliament retroactively legalised about 4,000 settler homes built on privately owned Palestinian land. The new law did not apply to Amona or the nine dwellings in Ofra because of standing court rulings.

Since Donald Trump became president in January, Israel has announced plans to build 6,000 more settler homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

But at a White House news conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on 15 February, Trump startled the Israeli leader by saying he would like to see him "hold back on settlements for a bit".

Netanyahu later said he hoped to "reach an understanding" with Trump on settlements.