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A Jewish Intifada

A Jewish Intifada.

That is what the Israeli media warns the violent events that took place Thursday afternoon and evening in Hebron could escalate into.

The events Thursday began when, in a haze of tear gas and stun grenades, a relatively swift and easy evacuation of Jewish settlers from a disputed house in Hebron took place.

In what was described as a surprise move, the Israeli riot police moved in at about 2.30 p.m., forcibly expelling about 250 Jews who had defied a Supreme Court order to evacuate a disputed house (video clip here).

"Because the building is now empty does not mean that the event is over. I think there will be a price to be paid for this," said David Wilder, a spokesperson for Hebron's Jewish community as he watched the last of the some 200 people in the house, many of them teenagers from across the West Bank, get physically dragged out by police in riot gear down a dusty hill.

Indeed, it didn't take long for hard-line religious nationalist Jews to seek payback -- and they went on a rampage that the Israeli army did little to control. With new twin rallying cries of "not turning the other cheek" and extracting a "price," the settlers, part of an increasingly radical and violent new anti-state element within the community, angrily entered nearby Palestinian neighborhoods. Dozens of settlers set ablaze Palestinian houses, fields, olive trees, and cars. In at least one case, an armed settler was filmed as he shot an unarmed Palestinian at point-blank range.

The response was not accidental, but part of a new policy embraced by their camp to cause as much mayhem as possible in response to any government crackdown. They hope that by taking as tough and violent a line as possible, they might succeed in scaring off the government from its policy of facilitating the eventual creation of a Palestinian state which would likely mean the uprooting of some West Bank Jewish settlements.