The Israeli Civil Administration has given Palestinian activists an ultimatum to quit a protest camp in part of the occupied West Bank where Israel has vowed to build new settler homes.
As Palestinian politicians and others visited the site on Saturday in a show of support, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu issued a statement affirming his military’s order and asking that the “High Court of Justice rescind the injunction that it had issued and which is delaying the evacuation”.
The statement also declared the “closure of access roads to the area in order to prevent gatherings”.
More than 200 activists erected the 20-tent “outpost” on Friday in the sensitive West Bank corridor east of Jerusalem where Palestinians say Israeli settlement construction would make the creation of a viable Palestinian state highly problematic.
The protesters modelled their action on the wildcat outposts set up by Israeli settler activists on Palestinian land in a bid to force the government’s hand into authorising settlement activity.
“Members of the Israeli Civil Administration told us this morning that we have one hour to evacuate the site,” one of the organisers, Abir Kopty, told the AFP news agency.
“We have no intention of leaving of our own accord,” she said, adding that the Israeli authorities had declared the area a “closed military zone” and demanded that the activists leave, but had made no demand for the tents to be taken down.
‘Highly creative’ action
The Israeli military administration had issued previous expulsion orders against the activists but late on Friday they successfully petitioned the Israeli supreme court for the orders to be frozen.
Late on Saturday morning, Israeli security forces were deployed near the camp and a police helicopter hovered overhead.
“The supreme court gave them six days as of yesterday,” said Al Jazeera’s Jane Ferguson, reporting from the outpost.
“However, people say they’re going to stay until the military forcibly moves them out,” our correspondent said. “That could happen in the next few hours or over the next few days.”
More than 50 more activists managed to reach the camp from the West Bank city of Ramallah to join the activists and others were trying to do so from the city of Hebron, organisers said on Twitter.
Palestinian politicians, including member of parliament Mustafa Barghouti, also made solidarity visits to the protest camp, where activists were recovering from a freezing night under canvas amid the cold snap gripping the Middle East.
PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat said soldiers prevented him from joining the protest on Saturday and told him to turn back to Ramallah, just down the hill from the camp.
The protest outpost, dubbed Bab al-Shams (Gate of the Sun in Arabic), was welcomed on Friday by a senior Palestinian official who described it as a “highly creative and legitimate non-violent” way of protecting Palestinian land from Israeli settlement activity.
The camp lies between annexed East Jerusalem and the Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim.
The international community regards all Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land as illegal.
The Israeli government makes a distinction between those which it has authorised and those it has not, and sometimes takes action against the latter.