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Israeli forces prevent PA officials from entering Bab al-Shams

Jan. 12, 2013 5:23 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 13, 2013 7:06 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces on Saturday prevented Palestinian officials from entering the E1 area east of Jerusalem to visit protest tents set up a day earlier by activists.

"The soldiers treated us improperly and savagely before they forced us to go back to Ramallah," PLO official Hanan Ashrawi told Ma'an.

A vehicle carrying Ashrawi and PA minister of social affairs, Majida al-Masri, was stopped and searched at a checkpoint, with soldiers preventing the officials from continuing to the E1 area, despite holding Jerusalem ID cards.

Ashrawi said earlier that she fully supported and encouraged non-violent popular resistance against Israeli occupation, praising the activists for their "creative" means of protecting Palestinian land.

Al-Masri also congratulated the activists for their actions, saying it provided an example which should be followed across the occupied West Bank.

"Establishing a Palestinian village on Palestinian land slated for confiscation by Israel for thousands of settlement units is a form of popular resistance to the Israeli occupation and land theft," the PA official said.

"Bab al-Shams must be set up in all Palestinian districts, in Hebron, Bethlehem, Ramallah, Nablus, Tubas, the Jordan Valley, Salfit, Qalqiliya, Jenin, and Tulkarem. Organizers of such protests must receive support," al-Masri added.

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.

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.

Senior Fatah official Saeb Erekat said Saturday that the Bab al-Shams protest movement is attempting to save the two-state solution at a time when Israel is determined to undermine it by building illegal settlements.

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

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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