World Bulletin / News Desk
Israeli army forces Thursday afternoon raided a "symbolic village" set up in the Jordan Valley in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, according to eyewitnesses.
Named after iconic Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, the village was built Thursday morning in response to proposed Israeli legislation that aims to legalize Jewish-only settlements built on Palestinian land.
Eyewitnesses told Anadolu Agency that Israeli troops and military vehicles had raided the village, firing live ammunition, rubber bullets and teargas.
Dozens of Palestinians suffered teargas inhalation, while at least ten Palestinian activists were arrested, eyewitnesses said.
Walid Assaf, head of the Palestine Liberation Organization's anti-settlement committee, told Anadolu Agency that the Israeli army had recently demolished 32 homes in the Jordan Valley (which runs along the West Bank’s eastern frontier) on the pretext that they were built without government permission.
"We will stay in this village," Assaf, who played a leading role in the village initiative, said. "We have the right to build -- and live -- on our own land."
He added: "We do not need the Israeli army’s permission to practice this right."
According to the Oslo Accords, signed between the Palestinians and Israelis in 1993, "Area C" of the West Bank -- which includes the Jordan Valley -- falls under full Israeli administrative and security control.
There are currently 21 Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley, and the Israeli government has announced plans to enlarge existing settlement blocs.
The Jewish state sees the strategic valley as a vital economic and security buffer zone for its settlements and wants to keep the region under its control in any future peace deal with the Palestinians.
Palestinians, for their part, want the Jordan Valley -- a large, fertile strip of land that accounts for roughly one quarter of the West Bank -- as part of a sought-for state of Palestine.
More than 10,000 Palestinians live in makeshift homes in the valley, as Israel has prohibited the construction of permanent structures in the area.
Animal husbandry and farming constitute the main source of livelihood for most of the valley’s inhabitants.
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