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Clearing protesters, Netanyahu pledges to build

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By The Washington Post
Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013, 10:00 p.m.

JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised on Sunday to follow through with plans for settlement construction in a key West Bank area known as E-1 when police evicted scores of Palestinian protesters who had set up a tent camp there.

“We will complete the planning, and there will be construction,” Netanyahu told Army Radio hours after the eviction, but he cautioned that the planning process for the new development “will take time.”

Netanyahu, who is in the home stretch of an election campaign, moved swiftly against the Palestinian encampment, a new form of grass-roots protest modeled after scores of wildcat outposts set up by Jewish settlers on West Bank hills without government approval.

While many of those outposts remain in place, Netanyahu ordered the evacuation of the Palestinian camp — a cluster of about 20 tents that protesters called the village of “Bab al-Shams,” or Gate of the Sun — a day after it went up on Friday.

It was cleared early Sunday after Israel's Supreme Court overturned an earlier injunction delaying the removal of the protesters, who had argued that they were on private Palestinian land. The court accepted the government's argument that the continued presence of the protesters could lead to riots and that there was an urgent security need to remove them.

About 500 police officers moved into the area at 2:30 a.m. and evicted about 120 Palestinians, some of whom had to be carried off when they put up passive resistance, said Micky Rosenfeld, a police spokesman. He said there were no injuries during the hourlong operation.

But Abir Kopty, a spokeswoman for the protesters, said that some were punched in the face as they sat on the ground and resisted removal, and that six required hospital treatment. Pictures of men with facial injuries were later distributed by protest organizers, known as the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee.

Mustafa Barghouti, a Palestinian legislator and political activist who was at the encampment when it was cleared, accused Israeli authorities of a double standard.

“They are allowing more than 100 outposts to stay, illegal settlements by every standard of international law, while preventing people from being on land privately owned by Palestinians,” he said.

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