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Israeli authorities forcibly evacuate Palestinian demonstrators

By Kareem Khadder and Hamdi Alkhshali, CNN
updated 5:40 AM EST, Fri February 7, 2014
Activists wave Palestinian flags atop an abandoned house near Jericho.
Activists wave Palestinian flags atop an abandoned house near Jericho.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Palestinian activists set up an encampment that they called Ein Hijleh
  • Israeli troops, police forced them out; Palestinian groups say that dozens were hurt in the process
  • IDF official: Action came "due to rock hurling ... and other legal considerations"
  • "Our will is strong, and we will return," a Palestinian activist says

Jerusalem (CNN) -- Israeli authorities late Thursday forcibly evacuated hundreds of Palestinian demonstrators from a recently created camp.

The actions Thursday night into Friday followed what the Palestinian Popular Struggle Coordination Committee, an activist group, described as an "Army siege" of their encampment in Ein Hijleh. Located in the central Jordan Valley not far from Jericho, Ein Hijleh was hatched a week ago by Palestinian activists on West Bank land that belongs to the Greek Orthodox Church.

A spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces said authorities moved in -- after having given ample warning to the demonstrators "to independently evacuate"-- "due to rock hurling earlier this week at the main Jordan Valley route and other legal considerations."

"The agitators were evacuated," according to the military spokesman, by Israeli troops, border guard personnel and police.

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Video of the raid aired on Palestinian TV showed hundreds of Israeli troops and police entering Ein Hijleh on foot.

Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, an independent Palestinian lawmaker who heads a medical relief group, said he saw bulldozers and other vehicles accompany the Israeli authorities into the camp using stun grenades and physically manhandling those inside, including women and children.

At least 24 people -- including at least one with broken ribs -- needed medical treatment for their injuries, Barghouti told CNN early Friday. The Palestinian Popular Struggle Coordination Committee later tweeted that 35 people were being cared for -- some of them in intensive care -- at a hospital in Jericho, which is about 24 kilometers (15 miles) east of Jerusalem.

The Palestinian activist group claimed that before the forced evacuation, Israeli forces had cut off water pipes into Ein Hijleh five times over two days and targeted vehicles carrying food and water. The group said that "local and international solidarity groups (visited) the village," as did members of various Palestinian organizations, six European diplomats and Greek Orthodox Archbishop Atallah Hanna, who "declared his full support."

"Our will is strong and we will return," said Barghouti, vowing that activists would return to the site soon.

This incident isn't the first time that Israeli authorities have forced out Palestinian activists who have hastily and defiantly set up such tent cities.

In January 2013, for instance, hundreds of Israeli police swarmed such a makeshift camp in part of the West Bank -- called Bab Alshams by protesters and dubbed E1 by Israel -- over Israel's settlement activity there.

READ: Israel approves permits for new settlements in East Jerusalem

READ: Palestinian refugees starving to death in Syrian camp, human rights groups say

CNN's Kareem Khadder reported from Jerusalem and Hamdi Alkhshali reported from Atlanta. CNN's Greg Botelho contributed to this report.

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