Anger over Israeli plan for new homes in Hebron
Anger over Israeli plan for new homes in Hebron
The Israeli Planning Commission has approved the construction of 31 new settlements in and around Shuhada Street, an area under Israeli security control. New settlements in the heart of the city are banned under an Israeli-Palestinian agreement, and this is the first such approval since 2001.
Israel intentionally chose a time when Palestinians are engrossed by the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation and the prospect of a unity government, said Nayef Hashlamoun, director of Al-Watan, a civil society group in Hebron. “This action is extremely dangerous and it aims at further exasperating the already tense situation in the heart of the Palestinian city of Hebron,” he said.
Israeli settlers had worked methodically to change the nature of the city, Hashlamoun said. “They have converted Palestinian schools into synagogues and the bus station into a military post, and now they are destroying the ability of Palestinians to regain access to Shuhada street despite earlier agreements.”
About 800 Israeli settlers live under heavy military guard in the heart of Hebron, among about 200,000 Palestinians. Peace Now, the Israeli peace advocacy group, said the Hebron settlement was “the occupation at its most ugly.”
“The permits approved today would increase the number of settlers in Hebron by 20 percent, and they required significant legal acrobatics that might not stand the test of the High Court of Justice, while doing everything to please a small group of settlers,” the group said.
The latest settlements are part of a long-held Israeli plan to make the center of Hebron more Jewish, Mohammed Aboushi, a Palestinian expert on settlements, told Arab News.
“They have been trying to Judaize the city for some time, and even though they have not added any new settlements in 15 years this decision will make the already tense situation in the city unbearable,” he said.
The West Bank and East Jerusalem are occupied territories under international law and all Israeli settlement-building there in illegal.
Syrian children study on the ground in abandoned villa
- Some sit with their knees drawn on a plastic woven carpet, their shoes neatly by its side
ALEPPO, Syria: In rebel-held northern Syria, displaced children sit or lie on the ground of an unfinished villa, bending over their notebooks to apply themselves as they write the day’s lesson.
Four teachers instruct around 100 children — girls and boys aged six to 12 — at the makeshift school in an opposition-held area in the west of the northern province of Aleppo.
Between the bare walls of the villa abandoned mid-construction, children sit or lie on sheets or plain carpets, their small backpacks cast by their side.
Dubbed “Buds of Hope,” the teaching facility has no desks, library or even working toilets.
Instead, the air wafts in from beyond the pine trees outside through the gaping windows in the cement wall.
Dressed in a bright blue T-shirt and jeans, her hair neatly tied back in a pony tail, a barefoot girl kneels over her book, carefully writing.
“This isn’t a school,” says 11-year-old Ali Abdel Jawad.
“There aren’t any classrooms, no seats, nothing. We’re sitting on the ground,” he says.
In one classroom, a gaggle of veiled young girls sit on a bench, as the teacher explains the lesson to one of their male counterparts near a rare white board.
In another, the school’s only female teacher perches on a plastic chair, as her students gather around on the floor, their backs against the wall.
Some sit with their knees drawn on a plastic woven carpet, their shoes neatly by its side.
The children — as well as their teachers — have been displaced from their homes in other parts of Syria due to the seven-year war, a teacher told an AFP photographer.
Some hail from Eastern Ghouta outside Damascus, a former rebel stronghold that fell back under regime control in April after a blistering offensive and surrender deals.
Others come from the central provinces of Hama or Homs.
A dry fountain lies in the courtyard outside the villa’s elegant facade, where girls link arms and swing around in a circle.
Schools in opposition-held areas are generally funded by aid organizations, but have in the past been hit by bombardment.
“We’re always scared of bombardment and of the situation in general,” says one of the teachers, giving his name as Mohammed.
The building lies in rebel-held territory adjacent to regime-controlled parts of Aleppo city to the east, but also the major opposition stronghold of Idlib to the west.
Some three million people live in the Idlib province and adjacent areas of the neighboring Aleppo and Latakia provinces, around half of them displaced by war in other parts of Syria.
Earlier this month, many feared a regime assault on Idlib, but last week Damascus ally Moscow and rebel backer Ankara announced a deal to temporarily halt it.