Removal of residents from West Bank settlement termed a ‘media stunt’

Israeli youths supporters of settlements argue with Israeli border guards in the settlement of Ofra in the occupied West Bank, during an operation by Israeli police to evict settlers' houses, on Tuesday. (AFP)
Updated 01 March 2017
0

Removal of residents from West Bank settlement termed a ‘media stunt’

OFRA, Palestinian Territories: Israeli police began removing residents and protesters on Tuesday from nine West Bank settler homes set to be demolished under a Supreme Court ruling.
The homes in the Ofra settlement — a symbol of Jewish settler defiance to international concerns — were found to have been built on private Palestinian land and ordered razed by March 5.
Police cleared protesters from the houses one at a time over several hours, an AFP reporter said.
They had cleared eight of the nine houses but dozens of predominantly young protesters were crammed into the final home with others on the roof.
Two people were arrested for attacking officers, a police statement said, and eight officers were lightly injured, including by being bitten.
Eight families had agreed to leave their homes ahead of time, police said.
Leaders of the Ofra community said they were intent on preventing major clashes like those during the eviction of the nearby Amona settlement three weeks ago, where youths barricaded themselves in a synagogue and attacked security forces.
Amona residents announced they would begin a hunger strike on Wednesday until the government kept its commitment to build them a new settlement.
The Palestinian Information Ministry denounced what it said was a media stunt.
“Nine houses are destroyed in exchange for thousands of others built,” it said.
Since the Jan. 20 inauguration of US President Donald Trump, who has pledged to lead the most pro-Israel administration in history, the Israeli government has rapidly increased its settlement activities.
After Trump took over, Israel announced more than 5,000 new homes in settlements in east Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.
The government also backed a bill passed by Parliament earlier this month legalizing dozens of other settlements that even Israel previously considered illegal. The UN said the law crossed a “red line” toward the annexation of the West Bank, but the US chose not to condemn the move.
More than 400,000 Jewish settlers live in the West Bank, which Israel has occupied since the Six-Day War of 1967. Most of the international community sees settlements as a major obstacle to peace, as they are built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state.


Envoy: US working to consult allies on Syria

US Special Representative for Syria Engagement, James Franklin Jeffrey attends a panel discussion during the 55th Munich Security Conference in Munich, southern Germany, on February 17, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 1 min 27 sec ago
0

Envoy: US working to consult allies on Syria

  • Kurdish fighters have spearheaded the fight against Daesh terrorists, who were expected to lose their final stretch of land in coming days. However, neighboring Turkey views them as “terrorists”

MUNICH: The US envoy for Syria said his country’s withdrawal from Syria will not be “abrupt” and that Washington is working to ensure allies don’t feel “under-consulted.”
President Donald Trump’s decision to pull US troops out of Syria angered some allies, confounded US military officials and prompted Jim Mattis to resign as defense secretary.
Speaking at the Munich Security Conference on Sunday, US envoy James Jeffrey said the Trump administration has told allies “continuously since mid-December that ... this is not going to be an abrupt or a rapid withdrawal. It’s going to be an orderly, step-by-step withdrawal.”
Jeffrey added: “We are consulting very carefully and very closely with them. If they felt that they weren’t consulted enough initially, we are doing our very, very best night and day, believe me, to ensure that they don’t feel under-consulted right now.”
Meanwhile, Russia said Syria’s Kurds should start a dialogue with President Bashar Assad as their military allies the US are readying to pullout.
“We support this dialogue between Damascus and the Kurds,” said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin, whose country is a key backer of the Assad regime.
Kurdish fighters have spearheaded the fight against Daesh terrorists, who were expected to lose their final stretch of land in coming days. However, neighboring Turkey views them as “terrorists.”
The presence of American troops in areas held by Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has so far acted as a shield against any Turkish offensive. But Trump in December shocked Washington’s allies by announcing a full withdrawal soon of all 2,000 US troops from Syria.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar charged again on Sunday, at the Munich Security Conference, that the Kurdish YPG, a major part of the SDF, are a “terrorist group.”
“Our main concern before and after the withdrawal of the Americans is the safety and security of our border and our people,” he said.
Turkey and its Syrian rebel proxies have led two previous offensives inside Syria, most recently seizing the northwestern enclave of Afrin from the Kurds last year.
Russia’s Vershinin addressed the same issue at the conference, asking “what will happen after the US withdraws from Syria?
“If there are no foreign troops on the ground of Syria’s northeastern part, I think that the best solution would be to start up a dialogue between the Kurds and Damascus.”
“The Kurds are a part of the population of Syria ... We know about the problems between Damascus and the Kurds but I think there is a solution through dialogue.”
The Kurds have largely stayed out of Syria’s eight-year civil war, instead building their own institutions in a third of the country under their control.
Trump has attempted to ease tensions about their fate by speaking of a 30-km “safe zone” on the Syrian side of the border.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said his country would establish the “security zone” itself if it took too long to implement.
James Franklin Jeffrey, US special representative for Syria engagement, said that the US “want to take care of the security concerns of our Turkish NATO allies vis-a-vis in particular the SDF, and we are very concerned that the SDF, with whom we fought, is not mistreated.”
Lebanese Defense Minister Elias Bou Saab said it was “clear the Americans are looking at it from one angle, and the Turks are looking at it from a different angle.”