Israeli troops clear West Bank protest camp
JERUSALEM - Agence France-PresseIsraeli troops cleared a Palestinian protest camp in the Jordan Valley on Friday, ending a week-long demonstration against Israel's refusal to pull out of the area in any future peace deal.
Soldiers, border guards and police asked the protesters to leave before forcefully evicting them, a statement from the army said.
"The agitators were evacuated due to rock hurling earlier this week at the main Jordan Valley route, and other legal considerations," it said.
But protesters said the army had not given them any warning.
"At 1:30 am (on Friday, 2330 GMT on Thursday) the army raided the village unexpectedly," activist Diana al-Zeer said.
"They started throwing sound grenades and were very violent while they evacuated us." Last Friday, around 300 Palestinians together with Israeli and foreign activists set up the camp in abandoned houses in the village of Ain Hijleh near Jericho in the West Bank to protest against Israel's refusal to pull out of the Jordan Valley in the event of a peace deal.
In US-brokered peace talks, Israel has insisted on maintaining a long-term military presence in the Jordan Valley, where the occupied West Bank borders Jordan.
But Palestinian leaders want a full withdrawal to make way for an international security force.
The UN last week slammed Israel's ongoing policy of house demolitions, saying that 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".
The Red Cross said Thursday it had suspended provision of tents to displaced Palestinians in the Jordan Valley, in a rare protest over Israeli "confiscation" of aid material.
Security forces and Palestinians also clashed at the flashpoint Al-Aqsa compound in Jerusalem's Old City on Friday, with police arresting five people.
"Five were arrested for throwing stones at police officers, and police used stun grenades to disperse rioters," police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
Several Palestinians were injured, an AFP correspondent said.
Jerusalem sees regular clashes between Palestinians and police at the compound that houses the Al-Aqsa and Dome of the Rock mosques in the Old City.