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Settlers remove mobile homes

JERUSALEM, Jan. 5 (JTA) — Jewish settlers from Beit El have backed away from plans to expand the West Bank settlement by creating a neighborhood on a nearby hill. The settlers began removing seven mobile homes Sunday after Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai agreed to meet with them to discuss expanding the settlement. Last Friday, the settlers set up the seven homes on Artis Hill, where they wanted to establish a new neighborhood in memory of Ita and Ephraim Tsur, an Israeli mother and son from Beit El who were killed in a terrorist shooting last month. The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voted last year to expand existing Jewish settlements. But with the government citing bureaucratic and technical problems, few steps have been taken on the ground — prompting the anger of settlement activists. Mordechai was appointed last year to review all settlement expansion plans before any government approval was granted.