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Israel seeks to remove E1 protest tents

Jan. 12, 2013 8:27 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 14, 2013 11:10 P.M.)
E1, West Bank (Reuters) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday he was seeking court approval to remove Palestinian protest tents pitched in an area of the occupied West Bank that Israel has earmarked for a new settlement.

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

Israel's Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the Palestinian tents, built in the geographically sensitive area known as E1, could remain for six days while the issue of its removal was being discussed.

The protest village, called Bab al-Shams, or 'Gate of the Sun', has been praised by Palestinian officials as a form of popular resistance against Israeli occupation.

The Israeli prime minister's office said in a statement on Saturday that the government was petitioning the court to retract its ruling on the tents and had instructed security forces to block off roads leading to the rocky desert terrain.

Palestinian activist Irene Nasser, who is at Bab al-Shams, told Ma'an that the 250-strong group will stay on the land even if Israel tries to forcibly remove them.

"One of the main things that we are trying to do here is reclaim our land," she said.

"Bab al-Shams is another action in the wider strategy of popular resistance in Palestine, and we will not let this area turn into another Maale Adumim, which we see across the hill from us," Nasser added.

Earlier on Saturday, Israeli forces prevented PLO official Hanan Ashrawi and PA minister of social affairs, Majida al-Masri, from entering the E1 area to visit the protest tents.

A vehicle carrying the officials was stopped and searched at a checkpoint and told to go back to Ramallah, despite the fact that both officials had Jerusalem ID cards.

"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," al-Masri said.

Israel's military handed evacuation orders to activists in the Bab al-Shams protest village on Saturday, stating that the military intends to move protestors by force.

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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