Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak is pondering a plan to compensate Palestinian victims for their loss caused by rampaging Jewish settlers in the West Bank city of Hebron, local news service Ynet reported on Sunday.
Barak was quoted as saying at a weekly cabinet meeting that he had instructed the defense establishment to send appraisers and a legal committee to Hebron to examine the possibility of such a soothing effort.
The ancient city, home to the traditional burial site of Abraham, the shared patriarch of both Jews and Muslims, has been haunted by settler violence after Israeli security forces expelled some 250 settlers from a disputed house earlier this month, leaving dozens of local Palestinians injured and many Palestinian properties damaged.
"The recent disturbances in the West Bank are an attempt by a small extreme group to undermine the authority of the state to enforce the law within its boundaries. Lawbreakers should be punished with severity," Barak told his fellow ministers, while criticizing the judicial system for being too lenient to violent extremists.
Israeli officials have vowed to tame the radical Jewish settlers, who clashed with Israeli forces and attacked Palestinians and their properties in apparent revenge for the expulsion, stressing that law and order must be restored across the region.
Israel's Supreme Court ordered on Nov. 16 that occupants of the disputed Hebron building "the house of peace" should leave within 72 hours, or the police would be authorized to force them out. The Jewish inhabitants defied the order and the deadline passed without a forcible eviction.
Since then, radical settlers have been flowing into the already volatile area, and tensions between them and both Palestinian residents and Israeli security forces have been mounting. Israeli police has arrested tens of rioters.
On Dec. 4, Israeli security forces began evicting Jewish inhabitants from the building, which has been occupied by dozens of hardline settlers since March 2007 who claim that they have bought the house from its Palestinian owner.