Diplomats protest over West Bank clash with Israel troops

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French diplomat Marion Fesneau-Castaing at Makhul in the Jordan Valley, 20 Sept
Image caption,
French diplomat Marion Fesneau-Castaing said she was dragged from her vehicle

Diplomats from a number of European countries and the UN have reacted angrily after Israeli soldiers intervened to prevent them delivering aid to Bedouins in the West Bank.

One French diplomat said she was forced to the ground from her vehicle.

The aid was being delivered to Khirbet al-Makhul after homes there were demolished under a High Court order.

An Israeli spokesman said it was reviewing whether the diplomats had abused their privileges.

'Throwing stones'

The homes in Khirbet al-Makhul were knocked down on Monday after Israel's High Court ruled that they had been built without the correct permits.

BBC Middle East correspondent Kevin Connolly, in Jerusalem, says the Bedouin villagers of Khirbet al-Makhul have refused to leave the land where they say they have grazed sheep for generations.

Image caption,
The Israeli soldiers intervened to prevent the aid getting through

The diplomats said that as soon as they arrived, around a dozen Israeli army jeeps converged on them and ordered them not to unload their truck.

French diplomat Marion Fesneau-Castaing told Reuters news agency: "They dragged me out of the truck and forced me to the ground with no regard for my diplomatic immunity.

"This is how international law is being respected here."

One European official described the Israeli actions as "shocking and outrageous".

A spokesman for the British Consulate General in Jerusalem said it was "concerned at reports that the Israeli military authorities have prevented the affected community from receiving humanitarian assistance".

The spokesman added: "We have repeatedly made clear to the Israeli authorities our concerns over such demolitions, which we view as causing unnecessary suffering to ordinary Palestinians; as harmful to the peace process; and as contrary to international humanitarian law."

UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator James Rawley said the Israeli authorities should "live up to their obligations as occupying power to protect those communities under their responsibility".

The Haaretz news website quoted the Israel Defense Forces as saying that "dozens of Palestinians, foreign activists and diplomats" had tried to set up tents, which it called a "provocation".

Stones were thrown at security forces and stun grenades were fired to disperse the crowd, the IDF was quoted as saying. Reuters said its reporters at the scene did not see any stones being thrown.

Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Paul Hirschson told Agence France-Presse that Israel might lodge a complaint over Ms Fesneau-Castaing.

"If she did participate then a formal complaint will be filed because that is not the way diplomats behave," he said.

The first direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in three years were held in Jerusalem last month.

The talks broke down in 2010 amid disagreement on the issue of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Israel has occupied the West Bank since the 1967 Middle East war - the talks are aimed at reaching a permanent peace settlement with the Palestinians.