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West Bank settlers, U.S. consulate staff clash

By
Danielle Haynes

ADEI AD, West Bank, Jan. 2 (UPI) -- Tensions flared Friday in a West Bank outpost after settlers threw rocks at U.S. consulate staff members, who in turn drew firearms.

The U.S. diplomats entered the Adei Ad settlement to investigate allegations that Jewish settlers uprooted 5,000 Palestinian-owned olive saplings a day earlier. The owners of the trees suspect Jewish settlers were responsible for the vandalism.

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An Israeli police spokeswoman told Haaretz the U.S. officials hadn't first coordinated the visit with Israeli officials.

"Rocks were thrown at them by residents of Adei Ad. We are investigating. Arrests have yet to be made," the spokeswoman, said.

Witnesses said the diplomats drew an M16 and a sidearm in reaction to the stone-throwing, though no shots were fired. No injuries were reported, though the diplomatic vehicles suffered damage.

The U.S. diplomats canceled their visit after the confrontation.

Washington has been critical of Israel's settlement policy in the West Bank, an area controlled by the Palestinian Authority, a policy regarded as illegal under international law. Confrontations between United States personnel and Israelis are rare.

About a half-million Israelis live in Palestinian-controlled East Jerusalem and the West Bank, of a total population of about 2.5 million.

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The United States has long considered the Israeli settlements an impediment to any peace talks between Israel and Palestine.

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