Israeli landgrabbers evicted from private Palestinian land

Israeli police evicts settlers from the West Bank settlement of Ofra, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017. Israeli forces began evacuating nine homes in the settlement following a Supreme Court decision that ruled they were built on private Palestinian land. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
Updated 01 March 2017
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Israeli landgrabbers evicted from private Palestinian land

OFRA, West Bank: Israeli police began removing settlers and hundreds of supporters on Tuesday from nine houses built illegally on privately owned Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank.
Police carried some of the settlers and protesters out of the red-roofed structures in the settlement of Ofra, while others walked out, escorted by officers.
Israel’s Supreme Court has ordered the demolition of nine buildings in the settlement of more than 3,000 people after finding that those homes were constructed on land where Palestinians proved ownership.
Such judicial rulings upholding Palestinian property rights have riled Israel’s right-wing, as it promotes plans to expand construction in settlements built on occupied territory Palestinians seek for a state.
In one home in Ofra, police and protesters, mainly youths, linked arms and swayed in prayer before the youngsters, offering passive resistance, were taken outside.
“We feel that this is not right at all, what’s being done here: the destruction of these homes in the center of a Jewish town, in the center of a populated town that was established legally 42 years ago,” said Eliana Passentin, a spokeswoman for the local settler regional council.
There was little initial sign of the kind of violence that accompanied a larger-scale evacuation on Feb. 2 of Amona, a West Bank settlement-outpost built without Israeli government permission in 1995.
More than 100 youngsters had protested against the removal of Amona’s 300 settlers. Some 60 officers and at least four demonstrators were hurt in scuffles there that included bleach being thrown at police.
Most countries consider all Israeli settlements on land occupied in the 1967 Middle East war to be illegal. Israel disagrees, citing biblical, historical and political links to the land as well as security interests.
Palestinians want to establish a state in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip, which Israeli forces left in 2005, with East Jerusalem as its capital. They say settlement construction could deny them a viable and contiguous country.
Some 550,000 Israelis live in West Bank settlements and East Jerusalem, areas that are home to more than 2.6 million Palestinians.
Three weeks ago, Israel’s parliament retroactively legalized about 4,000 settler homes built on privately owned Palestinian land. The new law did not apply to Amona or the nine dwellings in Ofra because of standing court rulings.
Since US President Donald Trump took office in January, Israel has announced plans to build 6,000 more settler homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
But at a White House news conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Feb. 15, Trump startled the Israeli leader by saying he would like to see him “hold back on settlements for a bit.” Netanyahu later said he hoped to “reach an understanding” with Trump on settlements.


UN hopes for meeting on Syria constitution by late December

US Deputy United Nations Ambassador Jonathan Cohen, left, address the UN Security Council after a report from UN chief mediator for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, shown center in a live video broadcast, on Monday, Nov. 19, 2018 at UN headquarters. (AP)
Updated 21 November 2018
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UN hopes for meeting on Syria constitution by late December

  • Staffan de Mistura said the UN welcomes “constructive and moderate suggestions” to change the list of the disputed 50 members

NEW YORK: The UN is still aiming to send invitations to 150 Syrians by mid-December to participate in a committee that would draft a new constitution for Syria, which is key to holding elections and ending the country’s civil war, a UN envoy said on Monday.
Staffan de Mistura, the UN special envoy for Syria, told the Security Council that the UN also aims to hold the committee’s first meeting before Dec. 31.
But de Mistura said the Syrian regime is objecting to 50 members of the committee representing civil society, experts, independents, tribal leaders and women that he was authorized to put together at a Russian-hosted Syrian peace conference in Sochi on Jan. 30.
Under the Sochi agreement, the committee is to comprise 150 members. There is already agreement on the 50-member delegation from the regime and the 50-member delegation from the opposition.
But de Mistura warned that if there is no agreement on the remaining members, the UN may have to conclude that it is not possible to form a “credible and inclusive” constitutional committee at this stage.
He said the UN welcomes “constructive and moderate suggestions” to change the list of the disputed 50 members. But de Mistura said they must “maintain the same spirit of credibility, balance and international legitimacy,” and he stressed that the list cannot be filled with political leaders who are already represented.
The UN envoy said that at his last briefing to the Security Council in December “it will be my duty to explain where we are on the constitutional committee, and leave a clean and clear ground to my successor regarding it.”
De Mistura was supposed to step down at the end of December but UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Monday he will be staying on “for a bit longer” to make sure there is no gap “at an extremely critical time in the Syria talks.”