Lebanon looks to block Israeli frontier wall

A partial view taken on January 30, 2018 shows buildings of the Palestinian Shuafat refugee camp which is situated in East Jerusalem but surrounded by the Israeli controversial separation barrier. (AFP)
Updated 07 February 2018
0

Lebanon looks to block Israeli frontier wall

BEIRUT: Lebanon on Tuesday pledged a diplomatic push to prevent neighboring Israel’s construction of a dividing wall between the two countries as tensions mount over off-shore exploration for oil and gas.
President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Saad Hariri and parliament speaker Nabih Berri pledged to “pursue efforts to mobilize at the regional and international level to block building of the wall by Israel,” a statement said after a meeting.
Israel has been building a wall since 2012 on its volatile frontier with Lebanon — with the two countries still technically in a state of war.
Israel and the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah fought a devastating conflict in 2006.
Lebanon says part of the wall follows the UN-demarcated “Blue Line” that was drawn up after Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000, and insists some sections will cut into its territory.
Israel has dismissed these claims and said Tuesday that “construction continues as usual.”
“All the works are carried out in sovereign Israeli territory,” the army said.
The renewed focus on the wall comes as the two sides spar over Lebanon’s plans to explore for oil and gas off shore in waters eyed by both sides.
Beirut is set to sign contracts with a consortium including French firm Total, Italian company ENI and Russia’s Novatek to begin looking for energy deposits off its Mediterranean coast in 2019.
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman last month said awarding such bids amounted to “provocative behavior” by Lebanon’s government.
The statement from Lebanon’s presidency denounced the Israeli “allegations” and warned against attempts to “usurp” its resources.
Despite the hostility between the two countries, Israeli and Lebanese military officials meet regularly under the auspices of the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to discuss border issues.
On Monday a meeting was held and discussions focused on “engineering works south of the Blue Line,” UNIFIL said in a statement.
“Any activity close to the Blue Line should be predictable, with sufficient prior notification to allow for coordination by the parties, so as to avoid misunderstandings and prevent incidents,” it added.


UN, Palestinians launch humanitarian appeal after funding cuts

Updated 43 min 7 sec ago
0

UN, Palestinians launch humanitarian appeal after funding cuts

  • The 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan outlined 203 projects to be carried out by 88 different groups
  • The plan prioritized 1.4 million Palestinians most in need of food, health care, shelter, water and sanitation

JERUSALEM: The United Nations and the Palestinian Authority on Monday appealed for $350 million in humanitarian relief for Palestinians next year, saying that they needed more but had to be realistic in the face of “record-low” funding.
The 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan outlined 203 projects to be carried out by 88 different groups, including UN agencies and non-governmental organizations.
The plan prioritized 1.4 million Palestinians most in need of food, health care, shelter, water and sanitation, said Jamie McGoldrick, the UN humanitarian coordinator in the Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem.
“Humanitarian actors are facing unprecedented challenges, including record-low funding and a rise in attacks to delegitimize humanitarian action,” he said in a joint statement issued on Monday, ahead of the appeal’s launch in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Although “much more assistance is needed,” McGoldrick said, the plan was “reflecting what we can realistically accomplish in this highly constrained context.”
Over the past year, the United States has slashed its funding to the Palestinians, including to the UN agency that provides services to 5 million Palestinian refugees.
The United States promised $365 million to the agency in 2018, but paid only a first instalment of $60 million before announcing in August that it would halt all future donations.
The move was widely seen as a means of pressuring the Palestinian leadership to enter peace negotiations with Israel.
The Palestinians want to establish a state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem — territories that Israel captured and occupied in the 1967 Middle East war.
US-brokered peace talks between the sides collapsed in 2014 and a bid by US President Donald Trump to restart them has so far showed little progress.
Around 77 percent of the funds sought in the 2019 plan would go to Gaza, the appeal organizers said, because the densely populated coastal strip faced a “dire humanitarian situation” after years of an Israeli-led blockade, internal Palestinian political divisions and casualties from demonstrations and recurring hostilities.
“The humanitarian context in the oPt (Occupied Palestinian Territories) is still deteriorating due to the Israeli occupation violations in a time of lack of resources and declining funds because of the politicization of the humanitarian aid,” Palestinian Social Development Minister Ibrahim Al-Shaer said in the statement.