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Salt of the Earth Occupation

Ein Hiljeh

Some 300 Palestinian activists descended on a cluster of palm trees and long-abandoned houses north of the Dead Sea last Friday to establish the protest village of ‘Ein Hijleh.’ The aim of the action was to protest demands made by the Israeli government to retain control of the Jordan Valley and other settlements in the midst of current peace negotiations. The action is the first in a campaign of protest villages activists termed ‘Melh Al-Ard’ (Salt of the Earth).

The Palestinian protest village known as Ein Hijleh continued into its fourth day in the Jordan Valley despite episodes of harassment and intimidation by Israeli forces. Mid-morning, Israeli officers briefly entered the camp and then left, leading activists to speculate that they were gauging their numbers for eventual forced evacuation. Military patrols and checkpoints also challenged and sometimes detained those entering and exiting the site–a collection of abandoned buildings now occupied by Palestinian activists in protest of Israeli government demands to retain the Jordan Valley in current U.S.-led peace negotiations. However, residents and local officials from nearby Jericho managed through various means to deliver food and water to those still encamped there.

Haaretz reported earlier this month that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he "did not intend to uproot any Israeli citizen" from the West Bank and doubled down on his insistence to hold onto the Jordan Valley amid peace talks brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

According to the Popular Struggle Coordinating Committee, which organized the action in Ein Hijleh: "Ein Hijleh village is located in what is called 'Area C' in the Jordan Valley, which is under threat of annexation by Israeli policies and Kerry’s plan. Therefore, we have decided to take charge and call for a national action to protect the Jordan Valley and put an end to the constant Judaization of Palestinian lands."

Last year, Palestinian activists erected a massive protest village named Bab al-Shams in the E1 area near Jerusalem to protest the threat of Israeli settlements and annexation there. A month later, activists built a shorter-lived protest village named Al-Manatir, near the West Bank village of Burin.

In addition to Israeli settlements, the Jordan Valley has been the site of numerous demolitions of Palestinian homes by Israeli authorities recently, including entire villages. On Thursday, demolitions in the Jordan Valley community of Ein el-Helwe displaced 66 people, including 36 children.

"I am deeply concerned about the ongoing displacement and dispossession of Palestinians," said UN humanitarian coordinator James Rawley, noting that in the Jordan Valley, "the number of structures demolished more than doubled in the last year."

The above was originally published at +972mag

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