Netanyahu orders crackdown on pro-settler vandals

JERUSALEM (REUTERS) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday ordered a crackdown on pro-settler activists accused of assaulting Israeli troops at a Jewish enclave in the occupied West Bank.

Following news reports that settlers had thrown stones at reservist troops, slashed their tents, spilled kerosene and overturned equipment at a Jewish enclave near Nablus, Netanyahu demanded that defence chiefs "act with all due force" to enforce the law.

There were no reported injuries in the assault, which settlers said followed the military's razing of homes built near the enclave of Yitzhar without government authorisation.

Israeli public anger was particularly piqued at the vandalism amid publication of embarrassing accounts of soldiers standing idly by as their encampment was destroyed.

The assault also came just two days after a senior officer had his tyres punctured at the same site.

Human rights groups have often accused Israel of failing to take steps against pro-settler Israelis accused of assaulting Palestinians in the West Bank, something Israel denies.

Israel has permitted more than 120 settlements to be built in West Bank territory it captured in a 1967 war that Palestinians seek for a state. In addition to these, more than 100 unauthorised outposts dot the territory.

Palestinians, and much of the world, sees the settlements as illegal and an obstacle in US-brokered peace talks, at risk of collapse with each side accusing the other of violating terms of negotiations launched last year.

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