Israel minister calls for more settlement approvals

A boy holds a poster of Palestinian Mosab Al-Tamimi, 17, who was killed by Israeli troops a day earlier, during his funeral near the West Bank city of Ramallah on Thursday. (Reuters)
Updated 04 January 2018
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Israel minister calls for more settlement approvals

JERUSALEM: Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has summoned a meeting of top Israeli planning officials for next week to expand Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, his office said Thursday.
A brief statement said he had convened a session of the Supreme Planning Council for Monday “to approve new programs for the planning and sale of housing units in all parts of the (West Bank).”
It did not give details.
The Hebrew-language statement said the move was “part of the policy of Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman to strengthen settlement in Judea and Samaria,” the Hebrew biblical term for the West Bank.
Israel occupied the territory in the Six-Day War of 1967. Today more than 600,000 Jewish settlers live there and in annexed east Jerusalem among 2.9 million Palestinians, with frequent outbreaks of violence between the sides.
The settlements are deemed illegal under international law and widely seen as a main obstacle to peace.
The central committee of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party on Sunday passed a resolution urging its MPs to work for annexation of the West Bank settlements.
Taking such a measure could effectively end prospects for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as there would be little area left for a Palestinian state.
But a significant number of members of Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition say that is precisely what they are seeking and openly oppose a Palestinian state.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday harshly condemned the Likud vote and criticized the US for its silence.
“We hope that this vote serves as a reminder for the international community that the Israeli government, with the full support of the US administration, is not interested in a just and lasting peace,” he said.
The prime minister says he still supports a two-state solution with the Palestinians, although he has also pushed for Jewish settlement expansion in the West Bank.
According to settlement watchdog Peace Now, Israel advanced plans for 6,742 settlement units in the West Bank in 2017, the most since 2013.
Israeli right-wing politicians have seized on support from US President Donald Trump to promote measures seen as further damaging remaining hopes for a two-state solution.


Egypt says security forces killed 14 militants in Sinai

Updated 4 min 25 sec ago
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Egypt says security forces killed 14 militants in Sinai

  • Egyptian forces said their offensive involved clashes with Islamic militants in desert areas outside the city of el-Arish

CAIRO: Egyptian security forces say they’ve killed 14 militants and seized a ton of explosives in an operation in the restive northern part of the Sinai Peninsula.
They said on Sunday that their offensive involved clashes with Islamic militants in desert areas outside the city of el-Arish, adding that the extremists had intended to plant roadside bombs in areas between there and the cities of Rafah and Sheikh Zuweyid.
Other weapons caches including explosives were found in the more central Sinai Jabal Al-Halal mountain area.
The officials spoke anonymously as they weren’t authorized to brief reporters.
The army has been battling extremist insurgents led Daesh militants in north Sinai for years. The area is off limits for journalists, diplomats and other observers so information from there cannot be independently verified.