KIRYAT ARBA, West Bank - Israeli inspectors trying to enforce a government moratorium on new building starts in Jewish settlements ran into defiance Tuesday at an enclave in the occupied West Bank.
About a dozen settlers challenged several inspectors who had come to halt construction at a building site in the settlement of Kiryat Arba, adjacent to the West Bank city of Hebron.
You should be ashamed of yourselves, one settler shouted as an inspector, accompanied by a policeman and an army officer, surveyed the hilltop tract where several red-roofed homes stood next to empty plots.
There was no violence, but also no sign that settlers in Kiryat Arba, who claim a biblical right to the land, would obey the stop-work orders.
Under pressure from the United States, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a 10-month freeze on new housing projects last week in an attempt to persuade Palestinians to return to U.S.-sponsored peace talks suspended a year ago.
The moratorium does not apply to some 3,000 settler housing units already under construction in the West Bank, nor to areas of the territory that Israel annexed to its Jerusalem municipality after a 1967 war.
Settlers at the site in Kiryat Arba argued that foundations had already been laid and since construction had effectively begun, the stop-work orders did not apply.
It's a mistake. Call your superiors, one settler implored.
After a brief standoff, the inspectors got into their jeeps and left to the derisive applause of settlers who lined the sides of the dirt road.
Go home, they shouted as the vehicles pulled away.
In East Jerusalem, scuffles erupted between Jewish settlers and Palestinians as the settlers cleaned part of a home an Israeli court has awarded them in what Palestinians say is part of a campaign to drive them out of the city.
An Israeli man suffered a minor head injury after being smacked with a wooden plank, television footage showed.
The house was the seventh in East Jerusalem awarded this year to settlers following Israeli court battles.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon expressed his dismay at the continuation of demolitions, evictions and the installment of Israeli settlers in Palestinian neighborhoods in occupied East Jerusalem, a written statement said.
Provocative actions such as these create inevitable tensions, undermine trust, often have tragic human consequences and make resuming negotiations and achieving a two state solution more difficult, it added.
(Writing by Jeffrey Heller and Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Paul Taylor)