Palestinians pitch tents on land Israel plans for settlers

Fri Jan 11, 2013 6:22am EST
 
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By Ismail Khader

E1, West Bank (Reuters) - Palestinians from villages in the occupied West Bank near Jerusalem pitched tents on Friday on land Israel has earmarked for a new urban settlement, looking to preserve the area for an independent Palestinian state.

Scores of Palestinians erected about 20 large, steel-framed tents on a windswept hillside in an area known as E1, a geographically sensitive area where Israel announced last month it would build homes for hundreds of settlers.

"We are setting up a Palestinian village here where people will stay permanently in order to protect this Palestinian land," said Mohammad Khatib, one of the organizers of the tent village.

The tents were erected in an area close to established Palestinian villages that lie on slopes north-east of Jerusalem and overlook the descent to the Dead Sea.

Palestinians named their encampment "Bab el Shams", which means "Gateway to the Sun" in Arabic.

"This is not a symbolic act, but comes in response to Israeli settlement building and we are sending a message to the international community that urgent action must be taken against Israel's settlement construction," Khatib said.

Although there was no immediate response from the Israeli authorities, police and soldiers in the past have moved quickly to shut down any such spontaneous Palestinian camps

International powers view all settlement building in areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War as detrimental to securing an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.   Continued...