Police evacuate Palestinian outpost, leave tents for now

Activists removed from makeshift tent village after court puts halt to demolition; departing protesters reportedly set one tent alight

Joshua Davidovich is The Times of Israel's Deputy Editor

Bab El-Shams, in the E1 parcel east of Jerusalem. (photo credit: Flash90)
Bab El-Shams, in the E1 parcel east of Jerusalem. (photo credit: Flash90)

Israeli forces evacuated a Palestinian outpost built on a controversial strip of land in the West Bank early Sunday morning, less than a day after the High Court stayed the demolition of the small tent village.

Police forces entered the makeshift Bab El-Shams village just before 3 a.m. Sunday, Israeli news site Ynet reported, citing eyewitness reports. Palestinian activists, who set up the village on Friday to protest Israeli settlement activity, reportedly set a tent on fire as the police entered.

A number of others sat on the ground as a form of nonviolent resistance, as hundreds of police surrounded the outpost. The activists were moved off the land and put on buses to Qalandiya.

Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said police evicted about a hundred protesters from the site after a court decision authorized their removal. Rosenfeld said no arrests were made during the half-hour operation.

The 25 tents at the site were left untouched, though soldiers remained at the site to keep any activists from returning.

Israel previously declared the area around the outpost a closed military zone and ordered the several hundred activists gathered there to disperse ahead of a planned demolition. On Saturday night, access roads around the outpost were blocked in an effort to keep more protesters from congregating there.

The court stopped the demolition on Saturday after four Palestinian families petitioned the court, saying the land belonged to them. Israel claims at least part of the outpost is built illegally on state land.

The government appealed the court decision late Saturday night, saying removing the outpost was an urgent security concern, and letting it remain could foment unrest “with national and international consequences.”

Israel maintains the court order keeps them from moving the tents but not people.

A police spokesperson told Ynet that the officers would not use force unless they encountered violent resistance.

On Friday, some 200 activists erected the tents on a parcel of land east of Jerusalem known as E1, saying they wanted to stop Israeli construction in the West Bank.

The tent village, called Bab el-Shams, or The Gate of the Sun, was set up in protest of the Israeli government’s announcement in November of plans to build housing in the disputed area, a move that critics say will preclude the possibility of a territorially contiguous Palestinian state in the West Bank.

The Supreme Court decision to temporarily halt the removal of the tent city came after four Bedouin families who claim the land submitted a petition. Tawfiq Jabarin presented their case, which contended that the tents were erected on private lands as part of a project that attracts tourists to learn about their culture, known as “Albadia.” The petition further claimed that the initiative, which includes learning how to bake pita or milling flour on stones, only takes places seasonally, in the winter and spring, Haaretz reported.

The army and police sought to remove the Supreme Court’s temporary order on the grounds that the petitioners misled the court, arguing that the outpost is a political provocation and not a cultural project.

In the state’s appeal to the court, Osnat Mandel, a senior official in the state attorney’s office, said the tents would not be removed until the state checked out the ownership of every parcel of land, but the evacuation had to happen quickly.

“An urgent evacuation is needed because of urgent security concerns in order to prevent a serious breach of public order,” she wrote.

Ilan Ben Zion, Michal Shmulovich and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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