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Israeli military dismantles illegal Jewish settlement

JERUSALEM — A 15-year-old Palestinian throwing stones at Israeli troops in the West Bank was killed by army fire Monday, Palestinian hospital officials said.

Earlier Monday, the military said troops dismantled an illegal Jewish settlement near the West Bank city of Hebron, the first such outpost taken down since Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's new government took office last month.

The Palestinian teen, Ahmed Abahreh, was killed in the West Bank town of Jenin, where troops were enforcing a curfew as they searched about 30 homes. Dozens of Palestinians, many of them youths, threw stones at soldiers, who fired live rounds from armored vehicles and jeeps, residents said.

Abahreh died after a shot to the head and a second youngster was wounded in the leg, doctors at Jenin Hospital said.

The Israeli military said it was checking the report.

Israeli troops reoccupied most West Bank towns last summer, as part of an offensive against Palestinian militants.

The settlement outpost dismantled overnight was known as Hill 26. It consisted of a few makeshift buildings, where about a dozen settlers lived. On Jan. 17, a settler was shot to death at the outpost by Palestinian gunmen.

The Israeli military said the evacuation was carried out "to enforce a Supreme Court ruling" against a settlement at the site. Israel Radio said the settlers at the site did not resist the soldiers and all the buildings were dismantled.

Watchdog groups say dozens of illegal outposts are on hilltops all over the West Bank, near existing settlements.

Sharon has been hesitant to take them down, since his constituency is heavily in favor of the settlements. The moderate Labor Party was a member of Sharon's first government and saw to the dismantling of a few of the outposts.

However, hard-line parties have replaced Labor in Sharon's new coalition and they favor expanding the Israeli presence in the West Bank. Sharon himself, in previous governments, was behind creation of many of the settlements.

It was unclear whether additional outposts would be dismantled.

Palestinians say all Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza are illegal encroachment on the land they claim for a state. About 200,000 Israelis live in about 150 settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, among 3 million Palestinians.

In the West Bank, Israeli troops shut down three Islamic charities — two in the city of Hebron and one in a nearby village — which according to the military provided financial and ideological assistance to the militant Hamas group. Hamas has killed hundreds of Israelis in scores of suicide bombings and shootings.

In Gaza, about 10 Israeli tanks moved into the Rafah refugee camp near the border with Egypt early Monday, surrounded several houses and arrested at least five Palestinians — two of them Hamas activists, the army and residents said. Two Israeli soldiers were slightly wounded in a gun battle, the army said.