Jewish settlers try to block West Bank roads

JERUSALEM (AP) — Dozens of Jewish settlers demonstrating against any deal over a West Bank troop pullback blocked several highways Wednesday, forcing Palestinians to use side roads.
Settlers, some draped in white prayer shawls and waving Israeli flags, took up positions along three West Bank junctions. At first police kept the demonstrators from interfering with traffic but later allowed them onto the roadways and diverted Palestinian traffic to backroads.
In the Gaza Strip, Palestinians held a similar protest, busing in dozens to block roads used by Israeli troops and Jewish settlers there.
At one point, several Palestinian demonstrators sat down in front of a a white van driven by a uniformed soldier and refused to move. Palestinian police eventually removed the protesters from the road.
Jewish settlers have led Israel’s opposition to the Israeli-Palestinian autonomy accords and vehemently oppose handing any land to the Palestinians.
Israeli hardliners who helped bring Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to power in 1996 have warned that they will return to the streets if he transfers any West Bank land to the Palestinians.
Netanyahu has been meeting with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and President Clinton in Wye Plantation, Md., for the past week to try and reach agreement on an Israeli troop withdrawal from 13 percent of the West Bank, in exchange for an intensified Palestinian crackdown against militants.