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.

 


UN: Threat to Idlib civilians remains high

Kurd demonstrators stage a protest rally in Syria’s western Afrin region bordering Turkey. (AFP)
Updated 20 September 2018
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UN: Threat to Idlib civilians remains high

  • Egeland: Russia, Turkey ‘still working out deal on demilitarized buffer zone’
  • Russia stressed it would continue operating against fighters it identifies as terrorists

The deal to avoid a Syrian regime offensive on Idlib province is still being worked out by Russia and Turkey, the UN said on Thursday, stressing that the threat to civilians remained high.

“This is not a peace deal. It is an aversion of (a) whole-scale-war deal,” the head of the UN Humanitarian Taskforce for Syria, Jan Egeland, said in Geneva.

Syrian regime ally Russia and rebel supporter Turkey reached an agreement to create a demilitarized buffer zone in Idlib, Syria’s last opposition bastion, where half of its 3 million residents have been displaced from areas retaken by Syrian forces.

While briefing the task force about the pact on Thursday, Russian and Turkish envoys made clear they “are still working... on the details,” Egeland said.

He expressed hope it was an indication that “the big war was averted” in Idlib, although Russia stressed it would continue operating against fighters it identifies as terrorists.

“I see a great potential for a lot of fighting,” Egeland said. 

“We are concerned for the civilians in these areas, so it is not over.”

The UN has repeatedly warned that a full-scale assault on Idlib could trigger the bloodiest episode of Syria’s seven-year war, which has killed more than 360,000 people and displaced millions.

Despite the ongoing concerns, Egeland said he was “relieved” for now.

“The outcome here was the least bad of (the) realistic solutions,” he said.

The leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia has welcomed the Russian-Turkey agreement agreement signed in Sochi, calling it a “step on the road to making a political solution possible.”

Hassan Nasrallah said his group may reduce the number of its fighters in Syria because of an easing of the conflict, particularly after the recent agreement.  

It “will take Syria in the next weeks and months to a new phase,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech to supporters. 

He said the deal’s success will depend whether it’s properly implemented. “We will remain there even after the Idlib accord,” Nasrallah said.

“We will stay until further notice,” he stressed.

On Thursday, Nasrallah said Hezbollah had acquired “precision missiles” despite extensive efforts by Israel to prevent the movement developing this capability.

“It has been done. The resistance now owns precision missiles” as part of its weaponry, Nasrallah said in a televised address.

“Attempts in Syria to block the way toward this (missile) capability” have failed, Nasrallah said.

“If Israel imposes a war on Lebanon, it will face a fate that it never would have expected.”

Israel has fought several conflicts against Hezbollah, the last in 2006.

The Israeli military believes Hezbollah has between 100,000 and 120,000 short-range missiles and rockets, as well as several hundred longer-range missiles.