US envoy says Trump peace plan to focus ‘heavily’ on Israeli security

Palestinian protestors at the Gaza border with Israel on Monday. (AFP)
Updated 08 October 2018
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US envoy says Trump peace plan to focus ‘heavily’ on Israeli security

  • Jason Greenblatt said the plan would be fair to the Palestinians

JERUSALEM: One of the US officials tasked with drafting a blueprint for Israel-Palestinian peace says it will strongly reflect Washington’s commitment to Israel’s security but will also address Palestinian concerns.
In an interview published Monday by the English-language Times of Israel news site, presidential special envoy Jason Greenblatt said the plan would “be heavily focused on Israeli security needs.”
“But we also want to be fair to the Palestinians. We have tried hard to find a good balance,” he added.
“Each side will find things in this plan that they don’t like.”
US President Donald Trump said in September he would unveil a new peace plan within months.
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas accuses Trump of bias toward Israel and refers mockingly to his evolving peace program as “the deal of the century.”
Abbas has in particular criticized Trump’s decisions to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, his order to close the Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington and to cut off aid funding, including to a UN agency that supports millions of Palestinian refugees.
The peace plan, Greenblatt said, “will include a resolution to all of the core issues, including the refugee issue.”
He said that it would not propose a Palestinian-Jordanian confederation as a possible solution — something that Abbas has been reported as saying Greenblatt and Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner sounded him out about at a meeting last month.
“We’re not looking at a confederation model,” Greenblatt said in Monday’s interview.
An end to Israeli occupation and a sovereign, independent state of their own is at the heart of Palestinian demands.
Israel, however, says it must retain a security buffer between the West Bank and neighboring Jordan and Israeli officials speak of an undefined “state-minus” or “less-than-state” for the Palestinians.
According to Israeli activists who met Abbas in September, the Palestinian leader said he had told Greenblatt and Kushner that he would only be interested in a confederation if Israel joined too.
His response was seen as a way of torpedoing the proposal since Israel would be highly unlikely to agree.


Air raids kill 12 civilians in militant-held Syrian town: monitor

Updated 22 May 2019
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Air raids kill 12 civilians in militant-held Syrian town: monitor

  • The militant-dominated Idlib region is nominally protected by a buffer zone deal
  • The Observatory said they have no proof of the chemical attacks

BEIRUT: Air strikes by Damascus or its ally Moscow killed 12 civilians in a market in Syria’s Idlib province, a monitor said Wednesday, and denied allegations that the government used chemical weapons.

Another 18 people were wounded when the warplanes hit the militant-held town of Maarat Al-Numan around midnight on Tuesday, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The market was crowded with people out and about after breaking the daytime fast observed by Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan.

The Observatory said it had no evidence to suggest the Syrian army had carried out a new chemical attack despite Washington’s announcement it had suspicions.

“We have no proof at all of the attack,” Rami Abdul Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told AFP.

“We have not documented any chemical attack in the mountains of Latakia,” he said.
The air strikes in Idlib came as heavy clashes raged in the north of neighboring Hama province after the militants launched a counterattack on Tuesday against pro-government forces in the town of Kafr Nabuda.
Fresh fighting on Wednesday took the death toll to 52 — 29 troops and militia and 23 militants, the Observatory said.
It said that the militants had retaken most of the town from government forces who recaptured it on May 8.
The militant-dominated Idlib region is nominally protected by a buffer zone deal, but the regime and its Russian ally have escalated their bombardment of it in recent weeks, seizing several towns on its southern flank.
A militant alliance led by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate, Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, controls a large part of Idlib province as well as adjacent slivers of Aleppo, Hama and Latakia provinces.

The northern mountains are the only part of Latakia province, on Syria’s Mediterranean coast, that are not firmly in the hands of the government.

The Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham accused government forces on Sunday of launching a chlorine gas attack on its fighters in the north of Latakia province.

The Syrian army dismissed the reports as a fabrication, a military source told the pro-government Al-Watan newspaper.

But the US State Department said on Tuesday it was assessing indications that the government of president Bashar Assad used chemical weapons on Sunday.

“There were no civilians in the area,” Abdel Rahman said.

White Helmets rescue volunteers, who have reported past chemical attacks in rebel-held areas of Syria, told AFP Wednesday that they had no information on the purported gas attack.

International inspectors say Assad’s forces have carried out a series of chemical attacks during the Syrian civil war, which has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011.
Russia and rebel ally Turkey inked the buffer zone deal in September to avert a government offensive on the region which threatened humanitarian disaster for its three million residents.
President Bashar Assad’s government has renewed its bombardment of the region since HTS took control in January.
Russia too has stepped up its air strikes in recent weeks as Turkey proved unable to secure implementation of the truce deal by the militants.
The Observatory says more than 180 civilians have been killed in the flare-up since April 30, and the United Nations has said tens of thousands have fled their homes.