Palestinians surround overturned Israeli army jeep, throw stones at trapped soldiers

Dozens of Palestinians surrounded an overturned Israeli army jeep in a West Bank village on Wednesday and threw stones at trapped soldiers who fired tear gas, rubber bullets and live rounds, witnesses and the military said.

Five Palestinians were hurt, including two by shots to the legs and one who was in serious condition after being hit in the head by a tear gas canister, doctors said. Two soldiers were hurt by rocks, the army said.

In the Gaza Strip, meanwhile, Jewish settlers said Wednesday they plan to bring thousands of supporters to the Gaza Strip for the upcoming Passover holiday, and that they have collected hundreds of tents to allow many of the visitors to remain to resist this summer's evacuation.

The Israeli military does not intend to stop the expected influx, even though the presence of thousands more protesters would further complicate what the army has described as one of its most difficult missions in recent years. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon reportedly has told the military not to seal off the Gush Katif bloc of settlements during the weeklong Passover holiday, which begins April 24.

Gaza settler Datya Yitzhaki said she and her husband Arye have set up a "war room" and have already collected 1,500 tents. He said the plan is to "pitch a tent in every backyard in Gush Katif."

All 21 Gaza settlements and another four in the West Bank are to be dismantled, starting July. Many among the 9,000 residents of these communities have said they would resist evacuation.

Yitzhaki said she is also expecting shipments of water tanks, canned foods, baby food and refrigerators next week, to be held in a warehouse until more protesters arrive.

Settler spokesman Eran Sternberg said organizers hope to bring some 100,000 supporters to Gush Katif for Passover. He said police have issued permits for the gatherings, including concerts and marches. He said he did not know how many of the visitors would remain in Gush Katif after the holiday.

In a sign of how difficult it could be to evacuate the settlers, soldiers for the 25th time demolished an unauthorized West Bank outpost, but settlers vowed to rebuild it quickly.

Late Tuesday, soldiers moved into the Hazon David outpost _ established three years ago on the site where two settlers were killed by Palestinians _ and removed a tent that has served as a synagogue, including holy books and ritual items, the army said. The outpost is just outside Kiryat Arba, a large settlement near Hebron.

Baruch Marzel, a settler leader in Hebron, said Hazon David would be rebuilt later Wednesday.

"After 25 times, they think we're tired. We're not going to be tired," he said. "Every time they destroy it, we will build something bigger and better and more beautiful."

Meanwhile, the Housing Ministry is preparing to offer temporary housing to the evacuated Gaza and West Bank settlers. Kobi Bleich, ministry spokesman, said the ministry plans to install 500 mobile homes and rent 600 apartments in the southern Negev Desert region for the settlers.

The settlers will be able to live rent-free in the temporary housing for 18 months, Bleich said. Infrastructure work for the mobile homes is to begin next week, and evacuees will have the option of building permanent housing on those sites, he added. However, the ministry doesn't know how many people to expect.

"The problem is, they aren't engaging in dialogue with us," he said.

The Israeli police, who are supposed to be the ones directly responsible for removing settlers from their homes, are already preparing for what is being dubbed one of the most complex operations in Israel's 57 history.

"We are preparing in the best and greatest possible manner," said Gabi Gal, commander of human resources in Israel Police. "We are investing great efforts in matters of implementation, operational issues, public relations, mental preparation and training the forces."

Associated Press

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