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Israel moves to shut down E1 protest, activists vow to remain

Jan. 12, 2013 12:37 A.M. (Updated: Jan. 13, 2013 4:55 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces moved to shut down protest tents in the E1 area of East Jerusalem on Saturday as Palestinian activists vowed to remain on the land.

Israel's military handed evacuation orders to activists in the Bab al-Shams, or 'Gate of the Sun', protest village on Saturday, stating that the military intends to move protestors by force, local activist Abdullah Abu Rahma said.

Israel's military has also prevented activists from neighboring areas access to the protest village since Friday.

"We only have our determination, and it will not be easy to expel us from our homes. We will use our experience and skills to remain on the land," Abu Rahma said.

Palestinian activists erected over 25 tents and a medical center in the E1 area of East Jerusalem on Friday to protest Israeli settlement plans and protect Palestinian land from annexation.

Senior Fatah official Saeb Erekat said during a meeting Saturday that the Bab al-Shams protest movement is attempting to save the two-state solution at a time when Israel is determined to build settlements and undermine the very principles of two states.

PLO leader Hanan Ashrawi also praised the activists for their "highly creative and legitimate non-violent tool" to protect Palestinian land, saying she fully supported and encouraged non-violent popular resistance against Israeli occupation.

"What is happening at Bab al-Shams is a reminder of the apartheid regime that Israel has imposed for the exclusive use of land for Jewish Israeli settlers all over Palestine," Ashrawi added.

Abu Rahma told Ma'an on Saturday that it would take at least 800 Israeli soldiers to remove the 200 or so activists from the site, adding that activists would try to remain steadfast.

Fatah Central Committee member Mahmoud al-Aloul told Ma'an that the Bab al-Shams protest village was a "bold move" by activists, adding that the popular resistance seeks to install a permanent village on the land, which is part of the Palestinian state.

Leading activist Salah al-Khawaja said that the group is determined to stay on the land. "This is Palestinian land, it is our right to build our villages on our land whenever we like. We will not accept displacement and we will stay," he said.

In December, Israel announced plans to build some 3,000 settler homes in the E1 corridor near Jerusalem, drawing widespread international condemnation.

Britain, France and several other European countries summoned Israeli envoys to protest the plan, while President Mahmoud Abbas called the E1 area "a red line that cannot be crossed."

Construction in E1 would divide the West Bank and make the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state - as envisaged by the internationally backed two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict - almost impossible.
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