Israeli police on Sunday evicted a protest camp set up by Palestinians and international activists on a patch of West Bank land designated for a new settlement, a spokesman said.
E-1 lies between East Jerusalem and the Jewish settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim, where Israel has announced controversial building plans despite massive international opposition.
The Palestinians fear it would seriously harm prospects for a contiguous state in the West Bank because it would cut off the northern and southern areas of the occupied territory, and encroach on East Jerusalem, which they want as the capital of their future state.
More than 100 Palestinians and foreign activists had erected a camp of about 20 tents in protest, calling it Bab al-Shams and saying it would be a new Palestinian village.
Israel declared the area a “closed military zone” and as many as 500 police arrived before dawn. The protesters resisted passively, and security forces carried them onto buses, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
He denied claims by activists that a few protesters were injured and taken to hospital, saying the eviction passed “without any unusual incidents or injuries.” Police had not used teargas or other riot dispersal means, he said.
But Palestinian legislator Mustafa Barghouti, among those removed back to Palestinian-controlled territory, claimed the activists were pushed and treated roughly, and that several were injured, including himself.
“While this Israeli government is allowing settlers to steal our land and build on our land in an illegal manner according to the opinion of all the nations of the world and the United Nations, now they are arresting us because we are standing on our own land,” Mr. Barghouti told al-Jazeera, as he was being driven in Israeli-hired tour buses back into Palestinian-controlled territory, north of E-1.
He slammed the eviction as “unprecedented discrimination and oppression,” and charged that it was motivated by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “trying to win elections in every possible way — by killing Palestinians in Gaza and now by arresting us.” Israel’s parliamentary elections are due to be held on January 22, 2013.
Mr. Barghouti said Palestinians would build protest camps or outposts as a new tactic against Israeli construction plans in the occupied West Bank.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party condemned the move as a “heinous crime.”
Mr. Netanyahu, speaking to his Cabinet in Jerusalem, praised the Israel police for the “excellent operation.” “We will not allow anyone to harm the contiguity between Jerusalem and Maale Adumim,” he vowed.
Israel’s High Court ruled that the camp set up on Friday should not be demolished for six days, but the protesters were informed that the injunction only forbade the removal of tents, not the people.
The government also appealed to the court to revoke the injunction, claiming an “urgent security need” existed. Israel said that leaving the protesters in the area would have led to “severe disturbances of the order.” An Israeli border police force remained in the area to prevent their return.