Ma'an News Agency
August 30, 2011 - 12:00am

The Israeli army is training settlers in the West Bank to repel any violent protests in the territories when the Palestinians try to secure UN membership next month, the military said.

Asked to confirm a story first reported in Haaretz newspaper, the army issued a written statement saying it was in the process of training settlement response teams, "to deal with any possible scenario."

But it declined to give details on "operational preparedness."

Haaretz said the military had been training settlement security chiefs and their teams and giving them tear gas and stun grenades to equip them to handle any unrest which breaks out during the UN campaign.

Most settlers already have assault rifles or pistols.

"There is also a decision, in principle, to equip the chief security officers of settlements with the means for dispersing demonstrations," the paper said, citing a document in its possession.

"These would include tear gas and stun grenades."

More than 300,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank and settlement construction is a major obstacle to the resumption of negotiations.

Israel openly opposes the Palestinian bid for UN recognition in September, instead insisting that the Israeli government is willing to begin peace talks.

A report by the Palestinian Authority found that settler violence increased "dramatically" in June 2011, documenting 139 attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank and the destruction of over 3,600 olive trees and vineyards.

Annual figures compiled by Israeli rights group Yesh Din have repeatedly shown that nine out of 10 police investigations about settler crimes fail to lead to a prosecution.


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