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Israeli settlers clash with police over construction freeze

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Sebastian Scheiner/AP

(Read caption) Jewish settlers and a child build a cement foundation for a synagogue as a symbolic act of protest against the Israeli government decision to freeze construction of private homes, in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Efrat south of Jerusalem on Wednesday.

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Violent clashes broke out between settlers and Israeli police over a temporary building freeze in the West Bank, escalating a rift between the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and religious nationalists – an important constituency.

Police arrested the mayor of one settlement who tried to block building inspectors from entering the town, Haaretz newspaper reported on its website. Settlers also threw rocks at Palestinians near the city of Nablus in protest, Israel Radio reported.

The inspectors have issued 64 stop-work orders in the past two days at construction sites where building foundations have not been completed, stunning settlers who say they had received government construction approval. The settler leadership council on Monday called on residents to participate in nonviolent civil disobedience. The council called a demonstration against the freeze for next Wednesday and said Mr. Netanyahu's decision was "a shameful capitulation to American demands'' and a "collapse of ideology.''

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