Hundreds of Palestinians accompanied by Israeli activists have occupied about a dozen abandoned houses near Jericho in the occupied West Bank.
The protest by nearly 300 people on Friday was aimed at denouncing the repeated refusal of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to dismantle settlements illegal under international law and agree to a pullout from the Jordan Valley.
Netanyahu on January 24 said that he “did not intend to uproot any Israeli citizen” from Jordan Valley as part of a peace deal, Haaretz newspaper reported.
I am deeply concerned about the ongoing displacement and dispossession of Palestinians... along the Jordan Valley where the number of structures demolished more than doubled in the last year
The protesters arrived by bus and car and paraded a banner proclaiming “No peace with settlements”, signed by the Youth Against Settlements group. They brought generators with them, indicating that they plan to at least stay overnight.
Israeli police and soldiers deployed in the area, but made no immediate move to disperse the protest.
In March last year, 200 Palestinian activists set up a protest camp on the site of an Israeli settlement that had been under construction, as US President Barack Obama visited Israel. Israeli police drove them out after several days of protest.
Meanwhile, the UN humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories has criticised Israel’s demolition of 36 homes in the Jordan Valley and urged a halt to such actions in the occupied West Bank.
The demolitions in the Jordan Valley community of Ain el-Helwe on Thursday displaced 66 people, including 36 children, James Rawley said in a statement.
“I am deeply concerned about the ongoing displacement and dispossession of Palestinians… along the Jordan Valley where the number of structures demolished more than doubled in the last year,” he said.
“This activity not only deprives Palestinians of access to shelter and basic services, it also runs counter to international law.”
Israeli soldiers open fire
His office said more than 1,000 people had been displaced last year in the West Bank and annexed East Jerusalem by demolitions on the grounds that homes had been built without Israeli permits, “which are virtually impossible to obtain”.
|Oxfam severed its ties with Johansson over her endorsement of SodaStream|
In a separate incident, Israeli soldiers shot and wounded 10 Palestinians near the West Bank town of Ramallah during a protest over the killing of a teenager, Palestinian medics and security sources said.
In Gaza, meanwhile, medics said five more Palestinians were wounded by Israeli army gunfire near the border fence with Israel.
The demonstration was called to protest at the Israeli army’s killing on Wednesday of Mohammed Mubarak, a 19-year-old from Jalazun working on a project funded by USAID and son of the camp’s locally elected leader.
The army said he was shot dead near a settlement outside Ramallah after opening fire on them, but witnesses insisted he was unarmed.
A total of 27 Palestinians were killed by the Israeli army in the West Bank in 2013, three times more than the previous year, figures from Israeli rights watchdog B’Tselem showed.
On Thursday, British charity Oxfam severed its ties with Hollywood actress Scarlett Johansson over her endorsement of an Israeli firm operating in a settlement in the occupied West Bank – a move that Oxfam said was “incompatible” with its stance.
The spat has come at a delicate time for US-backed peacetalks between Israel and the Palestinians. Israeli officials fear that if the talks fail, a nascent call for an economic boycott of Israel and its settlements might grow.