State removes Palestinian tent camp protesters in E1 area
Police evict about 100 protesters from the site early Sunday after court decision authorizing their removal, despite a temporary High Court injunction preventing such action • State says the tent camp poses security concerns • Protesters vow to return.
Edna Adato, Shlomo Cesana, Daniel Siryoti, News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff
Israeli police evict Palestinian activists from the "Bab al-Shams" tent site in E1 near Jerusalem early Sunday morning, Jan 13, 2013.
Photo credit: AP
Border Policemen remove a Palestinian activist from the E1 tent camp.
Photo credit: AP
Activists at the "Bab al-Shams" tent site said they want to "establish facts on the ground."
Photo credit: Oren Nachshon
Palestinian protesters who pitched tents in a controversial area of Judea and Samaria to protest Israeli plans to build a housing project there were evicted early Sunday, police said.
Judge Neal Hendel of the High Court of Justice had issued a temporary injunction on Friday preventing the state from removing the encampment – provided there were no pressing security concerns – established by Palestinian activists in the E1 area east of the Arab village al-Zaim, which lies between the cities of Ma'aleh Adumim and Jerusalem.
Israel Police Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said police evicted about 100 protesters from the site early Sunday morning after a court decision authorizing their removal. He did not know which court had allowed the eviction.
According to Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz, the eviction was carried out despite the temporary High Court injunction preventing it, issued following a request submitted by four Palestinians through their attorney, Tawfik Jabarin.
Rosenfeld said no arrests were made during the half hour operation and that no injuries were sustained on either side. He said the tents were not dismantled and that a decision on that would be made later Sunday.
At Sunday's cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised security forces for the eviction operation and said, "We will not allow anyone to harm the contiguity between Jerusalem and Maale Adumim."
"I would like to praise the Israel Police, with the support of the IDF, for its rapid and determined operation to evacuate the Palestinian gathering in the area between Jerusalem and Maale Adumim. As soon as I was updated on the Palestinian gathering, I ordered its immediate evacuation and it was indeed carried out last night in the best possible manner," Netanyahu said.
The state told the High Court on Saturday that there was indeed a "pressing security necessity" to remove the outpost and its inhabitants, out of concerns that it would lead to disorderly conduct in the area.
Osnat Mendel, the director of High Court petitions in the State Prosecutor's Office, told the High Court that due to the number of people gathered in the area there was real concern over public disturbances and the "creation of problematic centers of friction."
Mendel stressed that "erecting the tents and dwelling in the encampment, considering its location, is at its core an act of defiance intended to cause upheaval with national and international consequences."
The state also argued that, "the vast majority of the tents were placed on state-owned lands in the area designated as E1; some of the tents were pitched on land that is not the property of the state."
Some 200 Palestinian activists supported by international activists pitched the tents on Friday, saying they wanted to "establish facts on the ground" to stop Israeli construction in the West Bank. They said their intention was to build a village called Bab al-Shams ("Gate of the Sun," a reference to a novel by Lebanese novelist Elias Khoury) at the site.
The activists belong to the same group that recently blocked the 443 Highway and held protest rallies at branches of the Rami Levi supermarket chain in Judea and Samaria.
"This is our land and we will be silent no more," said one of the protest organizers, Bassem Abu Rahma.
Palestinian activist Abdullah Abu Rahma said, "Today (Sunday), we will see if we can return."
On Saturday evening, Netanyahu ordered roads leading to the area closed and instructed the IDF to declare a closed military zone to shut off access. The order prevented the arrival of senior PLO officials Saeb Erekat and Hanan Ashrawi, as well as Palestinian Authority Labor Minister Ahmed Majdalani, among others.
A state official said Saturday that the encampment was identical to the one built during Netanyahu's first tenure as prime minister on land adjacent to the Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Homa. At the time, it was believed that the demonstrators intended a disturbance.
Meanwhile, Israel announced that it's moving forward with the E1 construction plan. Construction in the E1 corridor would connect Jerusalem to Ma'aleh Adumim, but effectively sever east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians intend to be the capital of their future state, from the West Bank. Officials said the plans will be made public prior to the Jan. 22 elections.
The construction plans have drawn sharp criticism from some of Israel's international allies, including the U.S.
Israeli officials have said actual construction on the project may be years away if it ever gets off the ground.
A senior official said over the weekend that Netanyahu's decision to advance the E1 plan requires a long line of approvals, and that in the coming days the plan would be pushed forward another step.