Palestinian activists begin confiscating Israeli goods, as boycott campaign is stepped up

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RAMALLAH, West Bank — Palestinians urging a boycott of Israeli products have begun confiscating goods in the West Bank, a movement leader said Tuesday, after activists dumped a truckload of Israeli milk and yogurt in a main square to the cheers of supporters.

Activists will visit shops and target products from six major Israeli food companies in the coming days, boycott leader Abdullah Kmail said.

"We entered the second phase of the campaign which is confiscating and damaging these goods," he said, adding that Monday's stunt was meant to show Palestinians that "the campaign is serious."

The activists drove a truck carrying Israeli dairy products to a main square in Ramallah, Kmail said. Images in Palestinian media showed a white stream flowing by the crowd of cheering activists.

Activists in the Fatah movement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced the boycott plans last month, after Israel halted transfer of vital tax revenues to Abbas' cash-strapped Palestinian Authority. Israel took that step after the Palestinians joined the International Criminal Court to seek war crimes charges against Israel.

Activists initially urged shop owners to remove the Israeli products from their shelves, warning they would destroy what remained.

The West Bank is an important market for Israeli exports, including an estimated $700 million a year in food products. The current campaign targets the companies Tnuva, Strauss, Elite, Osem, Prigat and Jafora.

Emmanuel Nahshon, a spokesman for Israel's foreign ministry, called the campaign "counterproductive."

"Any strategy of boycott, confiscation, hatred and rejection is absolutely counterproductive and is not conducive to an atmosphere of dialogue and negotiations," he said.

Rinat Friedman, a spokeswoman for the Israeli dairy company Tnuva, said she was not aware of the dumping incident and declined to comment on the boycott.

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