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Activists construct second protest village in Jordan Valley

Feb. 2, 2014 10:44 A.M. (Updated: Feb. 3, 2014 1:29 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Palestinian and international activists erected a new protest encampment called "al-Awda," or "Return," near the Bisan checkpoint in the northern Jordan Valley on Sunday morning.

The move comes two days after activists set up a similar camp at Ein Hajla, as part of a campaign entitled "Salt of the Earth" to prevent further Israeli settlement expansion and to combat Israeli moves to annex the Jordan Valley of the West Bank as part of ongoing US-sponsored negotiations.

Activists began work on the "al-Awda" camp under the cover of darkness, preparing the land and setting up tents before dawn.

Khaled Mansour, a member of the political bureau of the People's Party which is taking part in the action, said that the move was meant to emphasize "the Arab character of the Jordan Valley" and to reject "any projects to lease or annex it."

He also said that the actions is meant to confirm that the Jordan River is the Palestinian-Jordanian border and that there cannot be any Israeli nor international presence in the area, instead calling for Palestinian sovereignty over all borders and crossings.

US and Israeli leaders have floated proposals in recent weeks to allow a permanent Israeli military presence in the area, while others have called for outright annexation of the entire region.

Mansour called for Palestinian national factions and popular resistance committees to build "a thousand new villages on the outskirts of the settlements and on the lands threatened with confiscation to confound and exhaust the occupation forces."

"We named the village 'al-Awda' in order to emphasize that the right of return of the Palestinian people is a sacred right that cannot be surrendered," he explained, referencing the Israeli refusal to accept the implementation of the right of return of Palestinian refugees who were expelled from their homes in what is today Israel in 1948.

He added that the action is "a message to Kerry that our people reject his proposals of liquidation and a message to Netanyahu and the Israeli authorities that the Palestinian people cannot accept the recognition of the Jewishness of the state of Israel because that would install a false narrative about the rights of the Jews in Palestine," he said, referencing Israeli demands that Palestinians recognize Israel as a "Jewish state."

"It would also mean ending the right to return and it would harm the interests of the steadfast Arab minority on the land of our fathers and grandfathers that was captured in 1948."

Mansour stressed that the approach of the popular resistance is becoming stronger every day and is the "path of salvation from the occupation," stressing the effectiveness of the global movement of boycott, divestment, and sanctions against the state of Israel.

The encampments at al-Awda and Ein Hajla follow similar efforts by Palestinian protesters in the encampments of Bab al-Shams and Ahfad Younis in early 2013.

The two villages were set near Eizariya just east of Jerusalem in a strategic area that Israeli refers to as E1 and has previously threatened to build more settlements on.

Israeli forces eventually attacked both encampments and forcibly removed the protesters.

Jewish settlers frequently raid Palestinian lands and set up illegal outposts across the West Bank, usually uninhibited by Israeli authorities and often supported by Israeli military forces. These outposts are often chosen for their strategic locations between Palestinian villages and atop hills or major roads.

Israeli forces often provide security for the settlers, confiscating nearby Palestinian lands and expanding military presence.

Many of these outposts are eventually developed into permanent settlements, and today nearly 500,000 Israeli Jews live in settlements built across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The internationally recognized Palestinian territories of which the West Bank and East Jerusalem form a part have been occupied by the Israeli military since 1967.
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