Senior Palestinian Authority officials were involved in the creation of a Palestinian tent camp in the West Bank's E-1 corridor in an attempt to create a serious public disturbance, Israeli authorities stated in court on Wednesday. The accusations were made by the state's attorney during a hearing at the High Court of Justice over the evictions of Palestinians from the Bab al-Shams outpost they established at the end of last week.
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"This wasn't happenstance or some tourist venture as might be thought when first reading the petition," said attorney Hani Ofek, who represented the state. Ofek was referring to a petition filed by Palestinians requesting the High Court of Justice issue an injunction against the state's attempt to evict them from the Bab al-Shams camp. "There was behind-the-scenes involvement by senior PA officials with the goal of creating serious public disturbances, like those that occurred yesterday afternoon."
Continuing, Hani said, "Yesterday afternoon, dozens of people arrived and tried to enter the site, despite a sign declaring it a closed military area. During the eviction, there were confrontations with security forces. Close to 20 people were detained and a number of individuals were also hurt." She added that as a result of the disturbances at the tent site, it was in the public interest that entire camp be evacuated.
The Palestinian plaintiffs are disputing the state's right to evict them from 23 of the 27 tents erected at Bab al-Shams. They have agreed, however, that the court injunction against removing the tents should not apply to four specific tents that were erected on state-owned land. They claim, however, that tents on privately owned or unclaimed land did not need government permits and that the state has no grounds to order their removal. The High Court has yet to issue a final ruling on the matter.
At the end of last week, the state also presented the court with the confidential opinion of a security figure. The opinion arrived in a sealed envelope, but supposedly supports the state's claim that there is senior PA involvement in the Bab al-Shams camp.
This opinion was paraphrased in the state's request on Tuesday to revoke the temporary injunction preventing the government from removing the tents at the site.
"This isn't a new political struggle," the state said in its motion. "Foreign elements frequently involved in protests tied to the location of the security fence are also involved here. They are trying to take advantage of international sensitivity regarding the site at which the tents were pitched in a bid to do public damage to Israel. The behind-the-scenes involvements of senior PA officials (like Saeb Erekat – who was arrested at a checkpoint on the way to the site) and attempts to join forces with the protesters strongly suggest that we aren't dealing with private individuals trying to exercise their right to property. They suggest instead that this is a demonstration aimed at provoking a confrontation [and] at its foundation is an act of defiance with the purpose of triggering riots with national and international consequences."
The claim was supported in a declaration signed by the head of the National Security Council, Yaakov Amidror. In his declaration, Amidror said that claims made by the state in court were true to the best of his knowledge.