Palestinians set up outpost near hamlet Israel seeks to raze

A Palestinian Bedouin pupil walks in the courtyard of their primary school in the village of Khan Al-Ahmar in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on September 6, 2018, after Israel’s top court upheld an order to raze the village. (AFP)
Updated 12 September 2018
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Palestinians set up outpost near hamlet Israel seeks to raze

  • Israel says Khan Al-Ahmar was illegally built and has offered to resettle residents 12 kilometers away
  • Critics say its removal is meant to make room for an Israeli settlement

RAMALLAH: A top official said Tuesday the Palestinians have filed a new complaint against Israel with the International Criminal Court, after the US said it would resort to any means to protect its allies against such actions at the international war crimes body.

The move comes a day after the US closed the Palestinian de facto embassy in Washington because of its leaders’ refusal to enter peace talks with Israel. National security adviser John Bolton also lashed out at the Palestinians for their attempts to have Israel prosecuted at the ICC, denouncing the court’s legitimacy and threatening sanctions if it targeted Israel and others.

But at a press conference in Ramallah, Saeb Erekat doubled down by saying the Palestinians have asked the ICC to investigate Israel’s planned demolition of the Palestinian Bedouin village of Khan al Ahmar in the West Bank. He also indicated the Palestinians plan to join other international bodies.

Erekat said the Palestinians have asked the chief prosecutor to meet with village representatives and include Israel’s actions as part of her investigation into possible war crimes by Israel.

“The US threats against the ICC are a coup against the rules in the international system,” he said. “The Trump administration wants to dismantle the international order to ensure that it can stay above the laws and escape accountability.”

Israel has long denounced Palestinian efforts to globalize their conflict by turning to external bodies with bogus claims. In particular, it says the ICC lacks jurisdiction because Israel is not a member of the court.

The Trump administration dramatically ratchetted up its rhetoric by threatening sanctions if the court pursues investigations against the US,  Israel or other allies. John Bolton said the ICC “is already dead” to the US.

“The United States supports a direct and robust peace process, and we will not allow the ICC, or any other organization, to constrain Israel’s right to self-defense,” he said in a speech to The Federalist Society, a conservative, Washington-based think tank.

The administration also cited the refusal of Palestinian leaders to enter into peace talks with Israel as the reason for closing the Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington, although the US has yet to present its plan to resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

The Palestinians accuse the administration of dismantling decades of US engagement with them by blatantly siding with Israel.

The closure of the PLO office was the latest in a series of moves targeting the Palestinians. Just last month, it canceled more than $200 million in aid for projects in the West Bank and Gaza as well as the remainder of its planned assistance for the UN agency that helps Palestinian refugees around the Middle East. Over the weekend, it announced it would cut $25 million in assistance for hospitals in East Jerusalem that provide critical care to Palestinian patients.

“We don’t want confrontation with the US,  by the way, but how can anyone with all these American decisions, Trump’s decisions, believe that these people can be honest brokers, facilitators in any peace process? They are no longer partners in the peace process,” Erekat said.

He said Israel should be held accountable for its plans for the Khan Al-Ahmar encampment, a West Bank hamlet that has focused attention on what critics say is the displacement of Palestinians by Israel. European countries urged Israel this week to refrain from demolition.

Israel says Khan Al-Ahmar was illegally built and has offered to resettle residents 12 kilometers (7 miles) away. But critics say it’s impossible for Palestinians to get building permits and that the demolition is meant to make room for an Israeli settlement.

Israel’s Supreme Court rejected an appeal last week, paving the way for demolition.

Palestinian activists put up several trailers early Tuesday in protest. Abdallah Abu Rahmeh said the white shipping containers, one with a Palestinian flag, were a message to Israel that “it’s our right to build on our land.”

Meanwhile, the Palestinian envoy to Washington said his staffers have been given a month to pack up after the US punished them for what the State Department called the Palestinian leadership condemnation of “a US peace plan they have not yet seen.”

Husam Zomlot told The Associated Press the closure of the PLO mission would not deter Palestinians from seeking a state with east Jerusalem as the capital.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas halted ties with the Trump administration in December after the US recognized contested Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The US Embassy was later moved there from Tel Aviv.

Zomlot was called home by Abbas in the spring as part of the crisis.

 


Syrian children study on the ground in abandoned villa

Displaced Syrian children attend class at a makeshift school in the village of Muhandiseen, in the south western countryside of the Aleppo province, on September 24, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 25 September 2018
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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.