Policemen evict Palestinians from Israel ‘territory’
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Israel's Prime Minister pledged Sunday to move ahead with construction of a new Jewish settlement in a strategic part of the West Bank, speaking just hours after Israeli troops dragged dozens of Palestinian anti-settlement activists from the area.
The activists had pitched more than two dozen tents at the site on Friday, laying claim to the land and drawing attention to Israel's internationally condemned settlement policy.
Before dawn Sunday, hundreds of Israeli soldiers removed the protesters by force, beating some, activists said. Despite the eviction, Mustafa Barghouti, one of the protest leaders, claimed success, saying the overall strategy is to "make (Israel's) occupation costly.''
The planned settlement, known as E-1, would deepen east Jerusalem's separation from the West Bank, war-won areas the Palestinians want for their state. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israel Army Radio on Sunday that it would take time to build E-1, citing planning procedures. Still, he said, "we will complete the planning and there will be construction.''
Barghouti, one of the protest leaders, said the demonstrators pitched the tents on private Palestinian land and obtained an Israeli court injunction preventing the removal of the tents for several days. In response, Israel declared the site a closed military zone, enabling Israeli soldiers to evict the activists, Barghouti said.
When asked why the protesters were removed, Netanyahu said: "They have no reason to be there. I asked immediately to close the area so people would not gather there needlessly and generate friction and disrupt public order.''
About half a million Israelis live in the dozens of settlements that dot the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
Over the past 15 years, Jewish settlers have also set up dozens of rogue settlements, without formal approval, and critics say the government has done little to remove them.