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January 14, 2013

Israel prime minister to proceed with construction

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Israel’s prime minister pledged Sunday to move ahead with construction of a new Jewish settlement in a strategic part of the West Bank, speaking just hours after Israeli forces dragged dozens of Palestinian activists from the area.

The activists pitched more than two dozen tents at the site on Friday, laying claim to the land and drawing attention to Israel’s internationally condemned settlement policy.

Before dawn Sunday, hundreds of Israeli police and paramilitary border troops evicted the protesters. Despite the eviction, Mustafa Barghouti, one of the protest leaders, claimed success, saying the overall strategy is to “make (Israel’s) occupation costly.”

The planned settlement, known as E-1, would deepen east Jerusalem’s separation from the West Bank, war-won areas the Palestinians want for their state. The project had been on hold for years, in part because of U.S. objections.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revived the E-1 plans late last year in response to the Palestinians’ successful bid for U.N. recognition of a state of Palestine in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem.

Jewish settlements are at the heart of the current four-year impasse in Mideast peace efforts. The Palestinians have refused to negotiate while Israel continues to build settlements on the lands they seek for their state.

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