Israeli troops block Palestinian protest camp near Hebron

AL-TIWANEH, West Bank Sat Feb 9, 2013 4:29am EST

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AL-TIWANEH, West Bank (Reuters) - The Israeli military prevented Palestinians from setting up an encampment on Saturday to protest at Jewish settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank, land where they seek statehood.

With peace talks stalled for more than two years, grassroots Palestinian activism has been on the rise. Four tent camps - dubbed nascent Palestinian towns by the activists - have been erected and swiftly dismantled by the Israelis since last month.

A military spokeswoman said soldiers evicted around 20 Palestinians on Saturday morning as they tried to erect a cluster of steel-framed tents near Al-Tiwaneh, a Palestinian village south of the city of Hebron.

"We came here to build a Palestinian village upon Palestinian land, and to freely use our land in the way we want as Palestinians have rights and own this land," activist Younis Araar said.

Hebron and its surroundings have Jewish settlements whose growth Israel views as its biblical and security prerogative.

Most world powers deem Israel's settlement of land it seized in the 1967 Middle East war illegal, and Palestinians fear the hilltop enclaves will deny them a viable state.

(Reporting by Mustafa Abu Ganeyeh; Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Alison Williams)

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