Israel evicts Palestinian activists from Gate of Sun camp
Israeli police evicted dozens of Palestinian activists early Sunday from a first-of-its-kind protest camp they set up in a West Bank area slated for Jewish settlement.
Police and activists confirmed that hundreds of Israeli police entered the campsite in the controversial E1 area on the outskirts of Jerusalem at around 2:30 am (00.030 GMT) on Sunday.
They quickly bundled around 200 Palestinian activists at the Bab al-Shams (Gate of the Sun in Arabic) camp into buses and drove them from the site.
The camp has been set up on Friday in the E1 area between Israeli annexed east Jerusalem and the Maaleh Adumim settlement.
Israel recently moved forward with plans to build in the area, drawing international criticism for the move, which Palestinians say would effectively end the chances for the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state.
"Hundreds of Israeli police came from all directions, surrounding all those who were in the tents and arresting them one by one," Palestinian legislator Mustafa Barghouti said.
But police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that no arrests had been made.
"They were told they were trespassing and carefully escorted from the site one by one," he said.
"Nobody was hurt on either side," he added, saying around 500 police took part in the operation.
Protest organisers said that six people were injured during the operation, and that those detained were taken elsewhere in the West Bank by bus and released.
In a statement, the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee group that organised the camp vowed that the protest would not be the last of its kind.
"This is not the end of the popular struggle and it will continue in its full strength."
Speaking to Israeli army radio, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat praised the protest, saying, "Palestinians are trying to protect the land of their state and they have done something peaceful."
"It was shameful for the Israeli government to do what they did this morning," he added.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said on Saturday night that he wanted the protesters removed at once and that state lawyers were asking the Israeli Supreme Court to overturn a Friday injunction postponing the eviction.
In documents released to the media, the lawyers argued that the protest could attract rightwing Israeli settlers, "some of them extremists", who would stage counter-demonstrations that could result in "breaches of the peace against Palestinians and security forces."
The court did not overturn the injunction before the eviction, but activists said they were told that Israeli officials considered the injunction prevented only the removal of the tents, and not the eviction of activists.
The camp is a new tactic in the Palestinian arsenal of non-violent protest action against Israel's occupation of the West Bank.
"This is a new type of resistance, different to armed resistance or stone-throwing," 27-year-old protester Omar Ghassan, said.
It is modelled on the wildcat outposts that Jewish activists have set up on Palestinian land to try to force the government's hand into authorising settlements, though Palestinian protesters noted that Israel's government moves slowly, if at all, to dismantle Jewish outposts in the West Bank.
The international community regards all Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian land as illegal, but the Israeli government makes a distinction between those it has authorised and those it has not.