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Israel razes Bab al-Shams protest village

Jan. 17, 2013 9:33 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 19, 2013 10:48 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces tore down tents in the Bab al-Shams protest village overnight Wednesday following an Israeli high court ruling, activists and police said.

Activist Ali Abedat told Ma'an that Israeli forces deployed heavily in the area on Wednesday, sealing entrances to the village with cement blocks.

Overnight, four Israeli bulldozers, several military vehicles and dozens of settlers raided the village and tore down the tents, Abedat said.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said all tents had been cleared from the area. "There were no disturbances," he added.

Bab al-Shams village council member Mahmud Zawahra told Ma'an that activists would rebuild the village soon.

On Sunday, police evicted 50 protesters from the so-called "E1" area outside the Palestinian suburbs of East Jerusalem, where planned Israeli settlements could split much of the West Bank -- a worry for world powers who want to see a Palestinian state set up in the territory seized by the Jewish state in the 1967 war.

The activists' large, steel-framed tents had remained standing in accordance with an Israeli court order while judges considered a Palestinian claim of ownership of land where the encampment was built.

The Supreme Court approved removal of the tents on Wednesday, agreeing with the government's argument that they could be a magnet for violent Palestinian protests. That ruling was decried by activists who describe Bab al-Shams as a non-violent implementation of Palestinian rights.

Jewish settlements in areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war are illegal under international law and most world powers echo concerns voiced by Palestinians that building more settler homes could deny them a viable and contiguous state.

E1 covers some 12 square km and is considered particularly important because it not only juts into the narrow "waist" of the West Bank, but also backs onto East Jerusalem, where Palestinians want to establish their capital.
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