Israeli forces prevent PA officials from entering Bab al-Shams

BETHLEHEM, January 12, 2013 (Ma’an) – On Saturday, Israeli forces prevented Palestinian officials from entering the E1 area east of Jerusalem to visit protest tents set up a day earlier by activists.

In December, Israel announced plans to build some 3,000 settler homes in the E1 corridor near Jerusalem, drawing widespread international condemnation. Construction in E1 would divide the West Bank and make the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state – as envisaged by the internationally backed two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict – almost impossible.

Friday, Palestinian activists erected over 25 tents and a medical center in the E1 area of East Jerusalem to protest Israeli settlement plans and protect Palestinian land from annexation.

Saturday, Israel’s military handed evacuation orders to activists in the Bab al-Shams, or ‘Gate of the Sun’, protest village, stating that the military intends to move protestors by force, local activist Abdullah Abu Rahma said.

The same day, a vehicle carrying PLO Executive Committee Member Hanan Ashrawi and PA Minister of Social Affairs, Majida al-Masri, was stopped and searched at a checkpoint. Despite holdings of Jerusalem ID cards, the two officials were denied access to entering the E1 area by the Israeli soldiers. Ashrawi told Ma’an: “The soldiers treated us improperly and savagely before they forced us to go back to Ramallah”.

Earlier, Ashrawi said that she fully supported and encouraged non-violent popular resistance against Israeli occupation, thereby praising the activists for their “creative” means of protecting Palestinian land.

Al-Masri also congratulated the activists for their actions by saying it provided an example which should be followed across the occupied West Bank. “Establishing a Palestinian village on Palestinian land slated for confiscation by Israel for thousands of settlement units is a form of popular resistance to the Israeli occupation and land theft,” the PA official said.

Senior Fatah official Saeb Erekat said Saturday that the Bab al-Shams protest movement is attempting to save the two-state solution at a time when Israel is determined to undermine it by building illegal settlements.

Source: Ma’an News