JERUSALEM/BURIN: Israeli troops are firing tear gas and stun grenades to disperse Palestinian activists who have pitched a camp in the West Bank to protest Israeli restrictions on building in the territory.
The soldiers were trying Saturday to dismantle tents and shacks built on Palestinian-owned farmland near the village of Burin. About a dozen young men and boys, apparently Jewish settlers living nearby, also hurled rocks at the activists. No injuries were immediately reported.
It's the fourth protest encampment that Palestinians have built in recent weeks to draw attention to Israel's control of territory that they seek for their future state. In particular, they protest what they say is Israel's broader policy of not allowing Palestinians to build in areas under its control.
An AFP correspondent said the camp near Burin, south of Nablus, so far comprised of four huts and three tents.
“The neighbourhood is called Al-Manatir,” activist Abir Kopty told AFP.
“Burin lost a lot of its land to the settlements around, Har Bracha and others, and is subject to settlers' terror and attacks on the people.”
Kopty and the AFP correspondent said settlers looked on from afar and threw stones at village residents and activists, as a military force stood between the opposing sides.
Earlier, a military spokesman said that “30 Palestinians are currently gathering near Burin. They set up two tents at the scene. IDF (Israel Defence Forces) soldiers are in the vicinity and are watching for any developments.”
An Israeli officer threatened AFP photographer Jaafar Ashtiye as he documented Saturday's events that he would be arrested at his home during the night.
A military spokesman said in response to an AFP call that such remarks were inappropriate, and that he would investigate the allegation.
Kopty said the encampment was on Burin village land. She also noted that there were “small attempts here and there, but this was the third massive” such undertaking.
In January, Palestinians put up a 24-tent protest camp on disputed land on the eastern outskirts of Jerusalem, dubbed Bab al-Shams or Gate of the Sun in Arabic, in a bid to draw attention to Israeli plans to build in the area, known as E1.
Later that month, activists set up an encampment of four tents and a structure under construction to protest against Israel's intention to confiscate land near Beit Iksa northwest of Jerusalem, naming it Bab al-Karama, or “Gate of Dignity.”
Both encampments were later removed by the Israeli military which controls those parts of the occupied West Bank.