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Israeli forces can fire on settlers as last resort

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JERUSALEM, July 12 (Reuters) - Israeli security forces will be allowed to shoot at Jewish settlers resisting next month's withdrawal from Gaza if the lives of soldiers and police are endangered, the Haaretz daily reported on Tuesday.

Quoting a military document drawn up for the evacuations of all 21 Jewish settlements in Gaza and four in the West Bank, Haaretz said troops could open fire at evacuation opponents only as a last resort when "all else has failed".

Security forces fear that some radical settlers might attack soldiers and police involved in the evacuation of some 8,500 Jews from Gaza and the northern West Bank.

Soldiers and police directly involved in the evacuations will not be armed but back-up forces will be at the ready to curtail any acts of violence by ultrarightist protesters during the withdrawal, expected to begin in mid-August.

The army said they were checking the report.

The document, which Haaretz called a "code of conduct" for security forces handling evacuations, stipulates that troops whose lives are endangered by protesters must respond in the way that police officers would respond to a similar threat.

It says that a police officer opens fire on a criminal "only when he has no alternative, when all else has failed, when it is impossible to defend himself in any other way".

The document also says security forces must not storm houses where settlers might be holed up with weapons, but rather act cautiously and "operate in a restrained and responsible manner".

The pullout is due to take about six weeks.

Settlers and their ultranationalist supporters have threatened to bring Israel to a halt with mass protests in hopes of scuttling the withdrawal, which was approved by parliament and has majority support in opinion polls.

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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