Israel removes Palestinian encampment outside East Jerusalem

JERUSALEM Thu Jan 17, 2013 12:50am EST

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JERUSALEM Jan 17 (Reuters) - Israeli forces removed Palestinian protest tents on Thursday from land earmarked for Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, having evicted activists from the encampment earlier this week, police said.

"The area was cleared of all tents," said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld. "There were no disturbances."

On Sunday, police evicted 50 protesters from the so-called "E1" area outside the Arab suburbs of East Jerusalem, where planned Israeli settlements could split much of the West Bank - a worry for world powers who want to see a Palestinian state set up in the territory seized by the Jewish state in the 1967 war.

The activists' large, steel-framed tents had remained standing in accordance with an Israeli court order while judges considered a Palestinian claim of ownership of land where the encampment, dubbed "Bab al-Shams", was built.

The Supreme Court approved removal of the tents on Wednesday, agreeing with the government's argument that they could be a magnet for violent Palestinian protests. That ruling was decried by activists who describe Bab al-Shams as a non-violent implementation of Palestinian rights.

Most countries view Jewish settlements in areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war as illegal and echo concerns voiced by Palestinians that building more settler homes could deny them a viable and contiguous state.

E1 covers some 12 square km (4.6 square miles) and is considered 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.

About 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.

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