Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has pledged to move ahead with building a Jewish settlement in a strategic area of the West Bank, speaking just hours after Israeli troops dragged anti-settlement protesters from the site marked for construction.
The planned settlement, known as E1, would deepen East Jerusalem’s separation from the West Bank, both war-won areas the Palestinians want for their own state.
Netanyahu told Israel army radio Sunday that planning for E1 is moving ahead and that “there will be construction”.
In a meeting with his Cabinet, Netanyahu said: “As soon as I was updated on the Palestinian gathering, I ordered the evacuation and it was indeed carried out last night in the best possible manner.”
About 200 Palestinian activists had set up the camp, named Bab al-Shams, which means Gate of the Sun in Arabic, on Friday in the controversial E1 area between Israel-annexed East Jerusalem and the illegal settlement of Maaleh Adumim.
“We will not allow anyone to harm the contiguity between Jerusalem and Maale Adumim.We will not allow anyone to harm the contiguity between Jerusalem and Maale Adumim,” said Netanyahu.
The protesters had defied Israeli orders to leave until police moved in at around 2:30am (00:30 GMT) on Sunday.
“Hundreds of Israeli police came from all directions, surrounding all those who were in the tents and arresting them one by one,” Palestinian legislator Mustafa Barghouthi said.
Micky Rosenfeld, a police spokesman, said that no arrests had been made.
“They were told they were trespassing and carefully escorted from the site one by one,” he said. “Nobody was hurt on either side.”
About 500 police took part in the operation, he added.
Protest organisers said that six people were hurt as they were carried away by police and vowed that the protest would not be the last of its kind.
“This is not the end of the popular struggle and it will continue in its full strength,” the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee said in a statement.
Al Jazeera’s Jane Ferguson, reporting from Jerusalem, said several activists were detained during the Sunday morning eviction, including Barghouthi.
Our correspondent also said the activists who were detained were driven to Qalandiya checkpoint and then released.
“We also heard from medical sources that four people were admitted to hospital in Ramallah with injuries, but none serious.”
“The media has no more access to the site, so we are not sure if the Israeli police are in the process of dismantling the tents.”
Netanyahu’s office ordered the move after asking the Supreme Court to lift a stay of evacuation.
Palestinian activists erected tents on Friday, saying they wanted to “establish facts on the ground” to stop Israeli construction in the West Bank.
The activists were borrowing a phrase and a tactic, usually associated with Jewish settlers, who believe establishing communities means the territory will remain Israeli.
Activists said they wanted to establish a village on the protest site.
Netanyahu’s office said on Saturday night that the state was petitioning the Supreme Court to rescind an earlier injunction blocking the evacuation. In the meantime, he ordered the area declared a closed military zone and shut off access.
The Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the Palestinian outpost could remain for six days while the issue of its removal was being discussed.
Israel announced it was moving forward with the E1 settlement after the UN recognised a de facto state of Palestine in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem in November.
Palestinians say E1 would be a major blow to their statehood aspirations as it blocks East Jerusalem from its West Bank hinterland. Palestinians are demanding these areas, along with Gaza, for their future state.
The construction plans drew unusually sharp criticism from some of Israel’s staunchest allies including the US who strongly oppose the E1 project.