Anti-settlement activists set up protest town near Jericho

300 Palestinians and sympathizers gather in abandoned Jordan Valley village

A view of the Jordan Valley (CC-BY heatkernel/Flickr/File)
A view of the Jordan Valley (CC-BY heatkernel/Flickr/File)

Palestinian and foreign activists set up a makeshift protest settlement in the Jordan Valley on Friday afternoon to stake a claim to a part of the West Bank whose final status is in dispute in US-mediated peace talks with Israel.

Some 300 Palestinians accompanied by Israeli and foreign activists occupied around a dozen abandoned houses near Jericho, according to AFP.

Hundreds of protesters went to the site of Ein Hijleh, a Palestinian village in the Jordan Valley abandoned after Israel captured the land from Jordan in the 1967 Mideast war, to “rebuild” the village.

Activists claim the residents were forced to leave.

The protest was aimed at denouncing the repeated refusal of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to dismantle Jewish settlements and agree to a pullout from the Jordan Valley.

The protesters arrived by bus and car and paraded a banner proclaiming “No peace with settlements,” signed by the Youth Against Settlements group.

They brought generators with them, indicating that they planned to stay the night.

Israeli police and soldiers deployed in the area, but made no immediate move to disperse the protest, but activists said the military set up barriers to stop more protesters joining.

In March last year, 200 Palestinian activists set up a protest camp on the site of a Jewish settlement that had been under construction, as US President Barack Obama visited Israel.

Israeli police drove them out after several days of protest.

In recent months, right-wing MKs have drafted bills seeking to annex the Jordan Valley and place it under Israeli law.

The area currently has the legal status of a captured territory administered by the IDF. The bill is similar to the 1981 Golan Heights Bill, which applied Israeli civil law and effectively annexed the Syrian border region to Israel.

The strategic Jordan Valley has become a key sticking point in peace negotiations with the Palestinians. Jerusalem insists on maintaining a militarized buffer in the region, while Ramallah is staunchly opposed to any Israeli troops on its land.

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