Under cover of darkness early Sunday morning, Israel forces raided and forcefully evicted Palestinian and other multi-national activists from a hilltop protest camp they set up in the occupied-West Bank in an area recently slated for illegal Jewish settlement.
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the raid, indicating that the occupation of the West Bank and expansion of Israeli settlements in those territories—though agreed illegal by international law—would not be challenged without swift rebuke by Israeli security forces.
"I immediately called for the area to be closed off so there would not be large gatherings there that could cause friction and breach the public order," Netanyahu said.
"We will not let anyone harm the contiguity between Jerusalem and Ma'aleh Adumim," he said, referring to the area known as E1, which if settled would slice key portions of Palestinian land away from the contiguous West Bank.
UPDATE: A statement released Sunday by the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee, comprised of prominent activists in the occupied West Bank, pushed back against Israeli claims that the eviction of Bab al-Sham was conducted "carefully and swiftly, without any injuries to officers or protesters" and offers eye-witness accounts and context for the raid. According to the PSCC:
Although established on privately owned Palestinian lands, Israel forcefully expelled residents of the village in a pre-dawn raid this morning. Six required medical attention Shortly before 3 AM, hundreds of Israeli cops and soldiers staged a raid on the newly founded Palestinian village of Bab Al Shams (Gate of the Sun), violently evicting its 150 inhabitants. Use of police brutality is even more objectionable in light of the passive resistance offered by the residents. No arrests were made, and all persons detained were released shortly after.
“We will not remain silent as Israel continues to build Jewish-only colonies on our land... Israel continues to act in violation of every imaginable law and human decency. In establishing Bab Al Shams we declare that we have had enough of demanding our rights from the occupier – from now on we shall seize them ourselves.” –Mohammed Khatib, PSCC
In light of harsh international criticism over the plan to expand the Maaleh Adumim settlement, and in an attempt to draw away attention from the case, eviction took place early this morning. Following its arrival at the scene, a massive police force began by removing journalists from the residents’ immediate surroundings and proceeded to drag people away, beating some of them. Six Palestinians later required medical care at the Ramallah Hospital.
Following his release, Mohammed Khatib of the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee said, “We will not remain silent as Israel continues to build Jewish-only colonies on our land. Bab Al Shams is no more, but during its short days it gave new life and energy to all who passed through it. Israel continues to act in violation of every imaginable law and human decency. In establishing Bab Al Shams we declare that we have had enough of demanding our rights from the occupier – from now on we shall seize them ourselves.”
Last night the state appealed to the High Court to withdraw an injunction prohibiting the eviction. The state argued, among other things, that the very existence of the village may occasion rioting, despite its remote and isolated location. The state further argued that the village was established by the Committees to Resist the Wall (a body which does not exist), also behind a blockade of Route 443 in October 2012. This claim, backed only by an affidavit signed by an Israeli police chief, has never been supported by any indictments or arrests for the questioning of individuals.
The village of Bab Al Shams was established last Friday by Palestinian activists, on privately owned Palestinian lands, in an area between East Jerusalem and the settlement of Maaleh Adumim, which Israel refers to as E1. After the acceptance of Palestine as a non-member state to the UN, Israel announced the approval of a plan to expand the Maaleh Adumim settlement by building some 4,000 residential units in this area. Such construction would effectively bisect the West Bank and effectively cutting it off from Jerusalem.
An Israeli court on Friday, as Haaretz reports, had determined the encampment should be allowed to remain—for six days anyway—until the matter could be settled by legal means. Despite this order, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the raid anyway.
Author and Palestinian activist Ali Abunimah, writing at Electronic Intifada, responded to this aspect of the raid on Bab al-Shams by saying it once again demonstrates "the illusory nature of the rule of law in Israel when it comes to the rights of Palestinians."
Activists and journalists on Twitter using the hashtag #BabAlShams were covering the story best late Saturday night and into Sunday morning:
As RT reports:
Hundreds of Israeli security forces have raided and evicted an outpost set up by Palestinian activists in the occupied West Bank, despite an earlier injunction by Israel’s High Court preventing the government from such action.
Several activists have allegedly been detained. There were also reports of some protesters being injured.
On Friday over 200 Palestinians and foreign peace activists pitched tents in the disputed E1 area to protest Israeli settlement plans there. Around 20 large, steel-framed tents were set up in the “Bab Al Shams” camp, in a bid to preserve the area for an independent Palestinian state.
Israeli forces entered the encampment early Sunday morning after surrounding the site late on Saturday and preventing activists from entering.
The eviction was ordered by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and came after an earlier injunction ordered by Israel’s High Court preventing the state from taking such action, Haaretz reports. The government told the court that the evacuation was a matter of “urgent security.”
The eviction also comes despite the tents being pitched on private Palestinian land, according to Haaretz.
Late on Saturday the Israeli government managed to convince the High Court that "there is an urgent security need to evacuate the area of the people and tents," overturning an injunction on the action. Netanyahu’s office has said that it planned to declare the area a closed military zone.