Israel seeks to remove Palestinian tent outpost in West Bank

E1, West Bank Sat Jan 12, 2013 3:44pm EST

Palestinians, together with Israeli and foreign activists, stand near newly-erected tents in an area known as E1, near Jerusalem January 12, 2013. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Palestinians, together with Israeli and foreign activists, stand near newly-erected tents in an area known as E1, near Jerusalem January 12, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Baz Ratner

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E1, West Bank (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday he was seeking court approval to remove an outpost of Palestinian tents pitched in an area of the occupied West Bank that Israel has earmarked for a new settlement.

Israel's Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the Palestinian outpost, built in the geographically sensitive area known as E1, could remain for six days while the issue of its removal was being discussed.

Netanyahu's pledge last November to build settlements on E1 caused an outcry, with European diplomats warning that it could kill off any hope of creating a contiguous Palestinian state.

The prime minister's office said in a statement on Saturday that the government was petitioning the court to retract its ruling on the outpost, and had instructed security forces to block off roads leading to the rocky desert terrain.

A group of Palestinian lawmakers was refused entry. But others who came from nearby villages made the long trek up the hillside northeast of Jerusalem to join scores of protesters who have erected 20 large, steel-framed tents in an effort to preserve the land for a future Palestinian state.

The encampment's name, "Bab el Shams", which means "Gateway to the Sun" in Arabic, was taken from a novel by Lebanese writer Elias Khoury which tells the history of the Palestinians through a love story. The writer called the protesters in solidarity.

Hanan Ashrawi, a top Palestine Liberation Organization official, said Israeli forces had prevented her from entering the compound with other lawmakers.

"We will continue to try to enter the village of Bab el Shams, which to us means freedom," she told Reuters.

For years Israel froze building in E1, which currently houses only a police headquarters, after coming under pressure from former U.S. President George W. Bush.

But Netanyahu has recently announced a wave of plans to expand settlements after the Palestinians won de-facto statehood recognition at the United Nations General Assembly last year.

International powers view all Jewish settlement building in areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War as detrimental to securing an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

E1 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.

Palestinians want to establish an independent state in the West Bank, which is dominated by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction, and the Gaza Strip, which is run by the rival Islamist group Hamas.

Approximately 500,000 Israelis and 2.5 million Palestinians live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians broke down in 2010 over the issue of Israel's continued settlement building.

(Editing by Rosalind Russell)

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Comments (5)
Anthonykovic wrote:
This kind of constant Jewish pushing, pushing and more pushing into
Arab lands undermines so much of the creditably and legitimacy the Jewish state has achieved since 1948.

As the whole world can see, the Jews are no better morally than the Arabs. These two people have been at each other’s throats for four thousand years.

Obviously, that’s how they like it. It’s just the natural order for them.

Jan 12, 2013 4:59pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Hagel’s challenge: US Foreign Policy determined by AIPAC lobby

President Obama’s foreign policy in the Middle East is determined by AIPAC and its associated lobbyists. In the context of democratic government, this is a travesty. The policy of the US president should be to enforce international law and to insist that all illegal settlements in the Occupied Territories are dismantled, and all 500,000 illegal settlers repatriated to their homes in Israel, in accordance with UN resolution and Article 4 of the Geneva Conventions.

Otherwise, America’s client state in the Middle East will be increasingly seen as the hand that controls the US presidency. That is the challenge for Chuck Hagel, Obama‚Äôs Defense Secretary designate.

Jan 12, 2013 5:13pm EST  --  Report as abuse
If the Israelis can’t get rid of the Palestinians one way, they’ll do it another; but they obviously intend to get rid of the Palestinians, and will likely succeed at it.

Jan 12, 2013 8:11pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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