Jerusalem: Israeli police have
evicted Palestinian and international activists from an area of
the West Bank where Israel is planning fresh settlement building.
Several activists were detained during Sunday morning eviction,
including Mustafa Barghouthi, secretary general of the Palestinian
National Initiative, Al Jazeera reported.
Al Jazeera's Jane
Ferguson, reporting from Jerusalem, said the activists who were
detained were driven to Qalandiya checkpoint and then released.
"We also heard from medical sources that four people were admitted
to hospital in Ramallah with injuries, but none serious. The media
has no more access to the site, so we are not sure if the Israeli
police are in the process of dismantling the tents."
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's office ordered the move after asking
the Supreme Court to lift a stay of evacuation.
activists erected tents in the area known as E-1 on Friday, saying
they wanted to "establish facts on the ground" to stop Israeli
construction in the West Bank.
The activists were borrowing a
phrase and a tactic, usually associated with Jewish settlers, who
believe establishing communities means the territory will remain
Scores of Palestinians erected about 20 large, steel-framed tents
on a windswept hillside in E1, a geographically sensitive area
where Israel announced last month it would build homes for
hundreds of settlers.
“We are setting up a Palestinian village
here where people will stay permanently in order to protect this
Palestinian land,” said Mohammad Khatib, one of the organizers of
the tent village.
The tents were erected in an area close to
established Palestinian villages that lie on slopes north-east of
Jerusalem and overlook the descent to the Dead Sea. Palestinians
named their encampment “Bab Al-Shams”, which means “Gateway to the
Sun” in Arabic.
“This is not a symbolic act, but comes in response
to Israeli settlement building and we are sending a message to the
international community that urgent action must be taken against
settlement construction,” Khatib said.
The site covers some 4.6 sq. miles (12 sq. km) and is seen as
particularly important because it not only juts into the narrow
“waist” of the West Bank, but also backs onto East Jerusalem,
where Palestinians want to establish their capital.
building in E1 would create a linked-up stretch of Jewish neighborhoods in the West Bank between Pisgat Zeev on the
outskirts of Jerusalem, and Maale Adumim, an urban settlement of
some 30,000 Israelis.
Netanyahu's office said on Saturday night that the state was
petitioning the Supreme Court to rescind an earlier injunction
blocking the evacuation. In the meantime, he ordered the area
declared a closed military zone and shut off access.
Court ruled that the Palestinian outpost could remain for six days
while the issue of its removal was being discussed. Israel
announced it was moving forward with the E-1 settlement after the
UN recognized a de facto state of Palestine in the West Bank, Gaza
and East Jerusalem in November.
Palestinians say E-1 would be a major blow to their statehood
aspirations as it blocks East Jerusalem from its West Bank
hinterland. Palestinians are demanding these areas, along with
Gaza, for their future state.
The construction plans drew
unusually sharp criticism from some of Israel's staunchest allies
including the US who strongly oppose the E- 1 project.
Israeli officials have said actual
construction on the project may be years away if it ever gets off
the ground, while Israeli critics have questioned whether Israeli
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu actually intends to develop E-1,
or is pandering to hard-liners ahead of Israel's January 22