West Bank settlers cross Jordan line in protest

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JERUSALEM — A group of Jewish settlers crossed the Jordan River and entered Jordanian territory on what was their second day of protest against expanding Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank.

Israeli security forces reportedly failed in their efforts to prevent about 100 settlers from breaking through a border fence and wading across the Jordan River.

Carrying placards written in English, Hebrew and Arabic, the residents of Jordan Valley settlements said they were demonstrating against what they called security threats confronting them as a result of the Interim Agreement, signed by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization last week in Washington, D.C.

"We just don't know what will happen," said Coreen Friedman, a resident of a farming settlement. "We are tired of being left in the dark."

Settlers said they were protesting plans to expand the Jericho self-rule enclave.

The demonstrators said they would rather live under the rule of Jordanian King Hussein than under Palestinian autonomy.

The group agreed to return to the Israeli side of the Jordan River after they met with two Jordanian army officers and presented them with a message to deliver to Hussein.

About 13 of the settlers were arrested by Israeli security forces after they crossed back into Israel.

Military sources said charges may be filed against them for illegally crossing a border.

In Jerusalem, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin dismissed the settlers' claims.

He told a Cabinet meeting that no changes had been made to the West Bank maps signed by Israel and the PLO, and that the Jericho self-rule area would only be expanded by about three or four miles.

No Palestinian police stations would be set up in the Jordan Valley, he said.

Meanwhile, Likud opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu toured Jewish settlements in the region Monday, charging that Rabin had allowed the Jordan Valley to slip out of Israel's hands.

Netanyahu also maintained that Rabin had broken his promise to make the Jordan Valley region Israel's security border.

Netanyahu told settlers that he planned to submit a bill in the Knesset that would call on the government to annex the region.