Israel dismantles Palestinian camp

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM - Hundreds of Israeli police dismantled a Palestinian protest camp on the outskirts of Jerusalem overnight, activists and police said on Sunday.

By (AP, AFP)

Published: Mon 25 Mar 2013, 11:50 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 5:52 PM

Activists set up the camp, which they dubbed Bab Al Shams or “Gate of the Sun” in Arabic, near the West Bank Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim, in a bid to draw attention to Israeli plans to boost building in the area known as E1.

Tents were pitched on Wednesday to highlight the issue ahead of a landmark three-day visit to the Palestinian and Israel territories by US President Barack Obama — his first since taking office more than four years ago.

Palestinian legislator Mustafa Barghouti, one of the organisers, told AFP by phone on Sunday that he and four others were arrested and taken for questioning at Maale Adumim police station.

He said about 50 other protesters were put on buses and released in a Palestinian Authority-controlled part of the West Bank.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that one woman was arrested for allegedly assaulting a policeman.

“Over 200 officers took part in the operation,” he said. “The area was cleared in about half an hour.” The camp was first set up in 
January but taken down by court order on the grounds of “public disorder.”

Similar encampments have sprouted elsewhere but have later been razed by troops or police.

The Palestinians say increased settlement construction in E1 would effectively cut the West Bank in two and prevent the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state. The international community has also reacted with consternation to Israeli plans to build in E1, urging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to reconsider.

A senior Palestinian official rejected on Sunday the idea of a partial Israeli settlement freeze as a way of restarting peace talks, a sign of tough times ahead for the Obama administration’s new attempt to bring the sides together.

US Secretary of State John Kerry met separately late on Saturday with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to talk about ending a deadlock of more than four years over settlements.

Abbas says he won’t return to negotiations without an Israeli construction freeze, saying Israel’s building on war-won land pre-empts the outcome of talks on a border between Israel and a future state of Palestine. Abbas last held talks with Netanyahu’s predecessor in late 2008.

Netanyahu has refused to halt construction and instead calls for an immediate return to negotiations. President Barack Obama sided with Israel’s position during a visit to the region last week, saying the Palestinians should return to talks to sort out the settlement issue.

The US has not spoken publicly about possible compromises in recent days, though there has been some speculation it would propose a partial construction stop in the West Bank heartland, east of Israel’s separation barrier.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said on Sunday that the Palestinians do not seek a confrontation with the Obama administration, but appeared to suggest that nothing short of a full freeze will bring them back to negotiations.

The Palestinians want a state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, areas Israel occupied in 1967. Since that war, Israel has built dozens of settlements — considered illegal by much of the world and now home to more than half a million Israelis — in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

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