Representatives of the European Union were confronted with Givat Hamatos residents and right-wing activists when they arrived at the East Jerusalem settlement on Monday morning, and were forced to depart the area.
The incident came a day after Israel announced plans to build another 1,257 housing units in the settlement, which is considered a neighborhood of Jerusalem beyond the Green Line.
The right-wing activists branded the EU officials "anti-Semites" and "terrorism supporters."
The EU representatives departed the area without making a statement.
The area between the Har Homa and Har Gilo neighborhoods in East Jerusalem has become a source of contention over the years. According to the Palestinians, construction there will form an Israeli buffer between the Arab neighborhoods in the eastern part of the city and prevent them from having future territorial contiguity, especially around the nearby Beit Safafa neighborhood.
The Givat Hamatos construction plan, which was approved six years ago, was stalled due to international pressure and is only now due to be implemented. The deadline for submitting bids for the tender is set for January 18, two days before Democrat Joe Biden replaces Republican Donald Trump in the White House.
Residents of the area were joined by right-wing activists, including from the Im Tirtzu movement, led by Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Arieh King.
The activists branded the EU officials "anti-Semites" and "supporters of terrorism" and ordered them away from the area.
The EU officials left after the confrontation and relocated to instead of making a statement on the hill, they moved to the local UN headquarters at nearby Government House.
The head of the delegation and the EU representative to the Palestinians, Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff, said that without dialogue there is no progress towards peace and said the delegation had decide to visit the area themselves after learning of the plans for new housing units.
"We are here early on, 24 hours after the decision has been taken, to demonstrate our disagreement with this move, and to underline the importance of creating an atmosphere of trust between the parties," von Burgsdorff said, according to the local media.
"What we’re seeing right now here is a de facto annexation attempt. And that cannot go on," he said, adding that it was the first time in more than two decades that such a construction project had been approved in an area viewed internationally as Palestinian territory and warning that it could affect the Palestinians' ability to establish a contiguous state.
The EU representative also referred to the timing of the announcement of the tender, saying that the schedule gave the impression that Israel wished to establish facts on the ground before Biden, a strong advocate of the two-state solution, took office. But, von Burgsdorff said, any construction that did not comply with international law could not be allowed to proceed.
Nurit Baruchi, a resident of Givat Hamatos for 30 years, protested against the delegation's visit.
"The residents of Givat Hamatos have always been here. We have been allowed to live here. I have children and grandchildren here. It is ours and no one else can decide on us," she told Ynet.
Meirav Hajaj, the mother of slain soldier Shir Hajaj, also joined the protest.
"Once again we see EU intervention," she said. "Just as in the courts that protect terrorists, we see them here today to prevent the legitimate construction of Jews in the Land of Israel. They have no reason to interfere here. We will build here without asking them. I hope they remove their hands that are stained with the blood of Israeli Jews."