Palestinians vow return to Bab al-Shams following raid

Israeli forces raided the Bab al-Shams Palestinian encampment in the West Bank early Sunday morning, 13 January 2013, and evicted over 100 people. (Photo: AFP - Abbas Momani)

Israeli forces raided the Bab al-Shams Palestinian encampment in the West Bank early Sunday morning, 13 January 2013, and evicted over 100 people. (Photo: AFP – Abbas Momani)

Palestinians have vowed to erect a new set of encampments across the Israeli-occupied West Bank Sunday following an overnight raid on a newly established tent village.

Witnesses said that hundreds of soldiers invaded the two-day-old Bab al-Shams encampment at around 2:30am, destroyed their tents and beat the occupants before forcing them into vans and releasing them in other parts of the West Bank.

“We’re going to return to Bab al Shams,” Abdallah Abu Rahmeh, a Bab al-Shams coordinator, told Al-Akhbar. “It seems the army has besieged the village completely so it will be difficult, but we’re trying to organize our ranks to return.”

Some of the injured were sent to Ramallah for medical treatment.

“The wounded were punched in the face and left with injuries near their eyes,” Abir Kopty, an activist who was camped out at Bab al-Shams during the assault, told Al-Akhbar.

“Then the army started attacking the Al Jazeera crew. They were shining bright lights making it impossible for the cameramen to capture any footage at night,” she added.

Palestinians established the village on Friday, taking the name from Lebanese writer Elias Khoury’s book “Bab al-Shams,” or “Gate of the Sun,” on land slated for the expansion of illegal Jewish settlements in the area known as EI.

The aim was to create ‘facts on the ground’ mirroring tactics of Jewish settlers in an effort to reclaim their land and prevent Israel from expanding illegal settlements.

The 250 Palestinian men and women of the community published a statement vowing to remain in the village until the legal landowners were given “their right to build on their land.”

“For decades, Israel has established facts on the ground as the International community remained silent in response to these violations. The time has come now to change the rules of the game, for us to establish facts on the ground – our own land,” they said.

The soldiers acted in contravention of a Supreme Court ruling on Friday that allowed for the tent village to remain for six days while the issue was being discussed.

But a police spokesman said the court allowed for the removal of the protesters. The army and police argued that the court order only prevents the removal of tents at the outpost and not the individuals.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had ordered the area sealed off to prevent clashes.

“The court had decided that people could not be removed unless they were a security threat, so the state labelled the protesters as threats to national security,” Kopty said.

She added that the activists have regrouped and are discussing a new plan of action. They have promised more protest camps in areas designated by Israel for settlements.

“This is not the end of the popular struggle and it will continue in its full strength,” read a statement by the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee that organized the camp.

Fatah described the Israeli assault on the village as a “heinous crime.”

“We will challenge all of these practices of occupation, and we will build our villages across the country and strengthen our presence despite the brutal suppression by the occupation and organized state terrorism,” Ahmad Assaf, a Fatah spokesperson, said.

For years, Israel froze building in E1 over international pressure, but announced plans to expand illegal settlements, mainly in West Bank areas around Jerusalem, to punish Palestinians after launching a successful bid to upgrade their UN status in November.

Building in this previously no-go area would destroy hopes for a two-state solution as envisioned by the Palestinian Authority and Western countries.

The international community regards all Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian land as illegal, but the Israeli government makes a distinction between those it has authorized and those it has not.

(Al-Akhbar, Reuters, AFP)

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