Israel freezes controversial settlement law

A picture taken from Hebron shows a Palestinian boy riding a horse, with the Israeli settlement of Givat Harsina appearing in the background, West Bank, February 5, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 18 August 2017
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Israel freezes controversial settlement law

JERUSALEM: Israel’s Supreme Court has frozen implementation of a law legalizing dozens of Jewish settlements built on private Palestinian land, which the UN labelled a “thick red line.”
Court documents seen by AFP Friday show that Judge Neal Hendel issued Thursday an open-ended restraining order suspending a bill passed by parliament that would retroactively legalize a number of outposts across the occupied West Bank.
The decision was in response to a petition brought by 17 Palestinian local councils on whose land the settlements are built.
Israeli and Palestinian rights groups were also parties to the petition.
Hendel wrote in his decision that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit had asked him to grant the order.
It did not specify a time limit but demanded that Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, deliver its response by September 10 and that Mandelblit submit an opinion by October 16.
The act, known as the “legalization law,” was passed in February and brought immediate condemnation from around the world.
International law considers all settlements to be illegal, but Israel distinguishes between those it sanctions and those it does not — so-called outposts.
Mandelblit himself warned the government the law could be unconstitutional and risked exposing Israel to international prosecution for war crimes.
UN envoy for the Middle East peace process Nickolay Mladenov said following the February Knesset vote the bill set a “very dangerous precedent.”
“This is the first time the Israeli Knesset legislates in the occupied Palestinian lands and particularly on property issues,” he told AFP at the time.
“That crosses a very thick red line.”
The act allows Israel to appropriate Palestinian private land on which settlers built without knowing it was private property or because the state allowed them to do so.
Palestinian landowners whose property was taken for settlers would be compensated with cash or given alternative plots.
Palestinians said the law was a means to “legalize theft” and France called it a “new attack on the two-state solution.”
Some members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government advocate the annexation of much of the West Bank, a move that would end any hope of an independent Palestinian state.
Mladenov said that the “legalization law” could be a prelude to that.
“It opens the potential for the full annexation of the West Bank and therefore undermines substantially the two-state solution,” he said after its passing.


Iraqi forces launch anti-Daesh operation north of Baghdad

Updated 50 min 18 sec ago
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Iraqi forces launch anti-Daesh operation north of Baghdad

  • The mainly Shiite PMF have been an effective force against Daesh
  • This is the second phase of the operation dubbed “Will to Victory”

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s military said Saturday its troops in partnership with security agencies and paramilitary forces launched the second phase of an operation aimed at clearing remnants of the Daesh group from north of Baghdad and surrounding areas.
This is the second phase of the operation dubbed “Will to Victory,” which started two weeks earlier and targeted the area along the border with Syria. The military said the new target area is north of Baghdad and in the Diyala, Salahuddin and Anbar provinces.
Although Iraq declared victory against Daesh in July 2017, the extremists have turned into an insurgency and continue to carry out deadly attacks in the country.
The military said Iraqi troops, Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Forces, the federal police and others are taking part in the operation supported by the Iraqis and the U.S-led international coalition.
On Saturday, Iraq’s Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi visited the operation room alongside the deputy head of the PMF, Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis.
Earlier this month, the Iraqi government moved to place the Iranian-backed militias under the command of the armed forces. The move was believed to be an attempt to curb the powerful militias, particularly amid rising tension between Iran and the US, the power brokers in Iraq.
The mainly Shiite PMF have been an effective force against Daesh and are a significant political force, with government ministers and 48 seats in the 329-member parliament.