Israel approves 31 settler homes in flashpoint Hebron: minister

The Hebron units are to be built on Shuhada Street, once a bustling shopping street leading to a holy site where the biblical Abraham is believed to have been buried. (AFP)
Updated 15 October 2018

Israel approves 31 settler homes in flashpoint Hebron: minister

  • The project will comprise 31 settler homes and two kindergartens
  • Hebron is holy to both Muslims and Jews, with Old Testament figures including Abraham believed to be buried there

AMMAN: An Israeli plan to construct 31 settler homes in Hebron has triggered angry reactions from Palestinian officials and rights activists calling on the Palestinian Authority to challenge the move in the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Hebron is home to around 200,000 Palestinians, with about 800 settlers living under Israeli army protection in several heavily fortified compounds in the heart of the city.

Bassam Shweiki, a senior PLO official in Hebron, said the city’s Palestinian population has been fighting legal battles in Israeli courts without progress. “They have now set aside $6 million to build 31 settlement units in an area (old bus station) that has been the center of unresolved legal fighting for decades.”

Shweiki who heads the PLO’s Refugee Rights Committee said the Israeli army took over the old bus station in the 1980s for “security reasons.” It was supposed to be a temporary arrangement, he said.

Construction permits were agreed in October last year but needed the government’s approval, according to the Peace Now NGO which monitors settlement construction in occupied territory.
“For the first time in more than 20 years, Hebron will have a new Jewish neighborhood where a military camp once stood,” Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said after the weekly Cabinet meeting.

Hussein Sheikh, a lawyer from Hebron, said the issue of settlements has intensified manifold since the Oslo Accords.

“After Oslo Accords, Israel stopped worrying about local resistance and worldwide accountability and the Palestinian Authority has failed to check Israel’s hegemonic designs,” the lawyer lamented.

Hebron is a flashpoint reflecting the deep tensions that run between Palestinians and Israelis.

The Hebron units are to be built on Shuhada Street, once a bustling shopping street leading to a holy site where the Prophet Ibrahim is believed to have been buried.
The street is now largely closed off to Palestinians who have repeatedly demanded that it be reopened to traffic.
Brian Reeves, a spokesman for the Israeli Peace Now movement, said the Israeli government is again stoking conflict by approving construction of settlement units in Hebron. “It is well known that Hebron is one of the centers of the conflict, yet Netanyahu’s coalition chooses to appease a fringe radical settler minority on the taxpayers’ dime rather than act earnestly to disentangle Israel from the West Bank and to strive to end the conflict.”

He believes there is some connection between this decision and the possibility of calling early elections.

Reeves in an email said Education Minister Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home party has reportedly criticized Lieberman’s party for appearing weak on Gaza and on the settlements issue.

He said this appears to be an attempt to compete for right-wing voters.

“Likewise, 14 ministries headed by a handful of parties within the governing coalition have contributed to the $6 million slush fund to restructure the military base to make way for the settlement housing project,” Reeves said.

Erdogan calls for fight on Islamophobia as on anti-Semitism

Updated 18 min 1 sec ago

Erdogan calls for fight on Islamophobia as on anti-Semitism

  • The Turkish leader believes the New Zealand attack was part of a wider assault on Islam
  • He demands the West do more against anti-Muslim sentiment

ISTANBUL: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday called for a global fight against rising Islamophobia like “anti-Semitism after the Holocaust” following the deadly attacks on two New Zealand mosques.
The Turkish leader has presented the mosque attacks by a self-avowed white supremacist who killed 50 people as part of a wider assault on Islam and demands the West do more against anti-Muslim sentiment.
“Just as humanity fought against anti-Semitism after the Holocaust disaster, it should fight against rising Islamophobia in the same determined fashion,” Erdogan told a meeting of ministers from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Istanbul.
“Right now we are facing Islamophobia and Muslim hatred,” he said.
Erdogan said far-right neo-nazi groups should be treated as terrorists in the same way as Daesh terrorists.
On 15 March, alleged shooter Brenton Tarrant killed 50 men, women and children — the victims aged between three and 77 years old — and left dozens injured in an attack that sparked global revulsion.
He livestreamed much of the attack and spread a manifesto on social media claiming it was a strike against Muslim “invaders.”
New Zealand’s government on Friday reassured Muslims living in the country they would be “safe and secure” despite the deadly attacks in Christchurch.
“Ensuring Muslim communities in New Zealand feel safe and secure is a particular focus,” New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters told the OIC meeting.
Peters said New Zealand authorities would make sure “no stone stays unturned” in the prosecution of the attacker.
“This person will face ... the New Zealand law and spend the rest of his life in isolation in a New Zealand prison,” he said.

Erdogan, campaigning for local elections this month, has angered New Zealand by repeatedly showing the video made by the alleged gunman, an Australian who was arrested.
He has also angered Australia with comments about anti-Muslim Australians being sent back in “coffins” like their grandfathers at Gallipoli, a WWI battle.
On Friday, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu praised New Zealand authorities and their “sincere solidarity messages.”
“We are here to show we are one body against Islamophobic actions across the world,” he said.
The Muslim call to prayer rang out across New Zealand on Friday followed by two minutes of silence nationwide to mark a week since the attack.
Thousands of people — including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern — stood silently in a park opposite the mosque where the killing began.