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Israel demolishes West Bank settler outpost

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MAOZ ESTHER, West Bank (AP) — Israeli security forces demolished a minor Jewish settlement outpost in the West Bank on Thursday, three days after President Barack Obama told visiting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he must halt settlement activity.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said troops and police evicted settlers who had been staying in seven metal huts, and removed the structures. He said there was no violent resistance and no arrests were made.

Israeli peace groups say there are at least 100 wildcat outposts in the West Bank, in addition to 121 settlements authorized by the government. For years, Israel has pledged to remove illegally built outposts, but taken little action against them.

At their White House meeting Monday Obama told Netanyahu that progress must be made on settlements and that \"settlements have to be stopped.\"

The U.S. has long criticized settlements as obstacles to peace since they are built on captured land that the Palestinians claim for a future state.

The outposts, often little more than a water tower and a few mobile homes, are seen as seeds of additional settlements meant to cement Israel\'s control over disputed territory.

Some 280,000 Israelis now live in West Bank settlements, including several thousand residents in outposts.

Israeli defense officials said that after returning from Washington on Wednesday, Netanyahu met Defense Minister Ehud Barak and they agreed to take down seven unproved outposts in the coming weeks.

Barak also met settler leaders and warned them that the unauthorized satellite settlements would be taken down, by force if necessary. \"If it is not done through dialogue then it will be done through swift and aggressive enforcement,\" he told them.

Maoz Esther resident Avraham Sandak said 40 people had been living at the hilltop site northeast of Ramallah and they would start work immediately to replace the demolished buildings.

\"We hope to sleep here tonight and we hope, with God\'s help, to rebuild it, not like before but bigger,\" he said.

By: Sebastian Scheiner, AP

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