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
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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.


Turkey: EU sanctions over gas drilling ‘worthless’

Updated 16 July 2019
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Turkey: EU sanctions over gas drilling ‘worthless’

  • EU foreign ministers said they are suspending talks with Turkey over air transport agreement
  • They backed EU’s proposal to decrease financial assistance to Turkey

ANKARA: Turkey on Tuesday rejected as “worthless” an initial set of sanctions approved by the European Union against Ankara, and vowed to send a new vessel to the eastern Mediterranean to reinforce its efforts to drill for hydrocarbons off the island of Cyprus.
EU foreign ministers on Monday approved sanctions against Turkey over its drilling for gas in waters where EU member Cyprus has exclusive economic rights. They said they were suspending talks on an air transport agreement, as well as high-level Turkey-EU dialogues, and would call on the European Investment Bank to review its lending to the country.
They also backed a proposal by the EU’s executive branch to reduce financial assistance to Turkey for next year. The ministers warned that additional “targeted measures” were being worked on to penalize Turkey, which started negotiations to join the EU in 2005.
Speaking at a news conference in Macedonia, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the sanctions aimed to “appease” Cyprus and were of “no importance.”
“The EU needs us concerning the migration issue or other issues,” he said. “They will come to us and hold contacts; there is no escaping that.”
“They know that the decisions they took cannot be applied,” he said. “They were forced to take the worthless decisions under pressure from the Greek Cypriots and Greece.”
Cavusoglu added: “If you take such decisions against Turkey, we will increase our activities. We have three ships in the eastern Mediterranean, will with send a fourth.”
Earlier, the Turkish Foreign Ministry criticized the EU for ignoring the rights of Turkish Cypriots and accused the 28-nation bloc of “prejudice and bias.”
It added that Turkey was determined to protect its rights and the rights of Turkish Cypriots.
Two Turkish vessels escorted by warships are drilling for gas on either end of ethnically divided Cyprus. A third Turkish exploration ship is also in the area. Turkey insists that it has rights over certain offshore zones and that Turkish Cypriots have rights over others.
Cyprus was split along ethnic lines in 1974 when Turkey invaded in the wake of a coup by supporters of union with Greece. A Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence is recognized only by Turkey, which keeps more than 35,000 troops in the breakaway north. Cyprus joined the EU in 2004, but only the internationally recognized south enjoys full membership benefits.
Cypriot officials accuse Turkey of using the minority Turkish Cypriots in order to pursue its goal of exerting control over the eastern Mediterranean region.
The Cypriot government says it will take legal action against any oil and gas companies supporting Turkish vessels in any repeat attempt to drill for gas. Cyprus has already issued around 20 international arrest warrants against three international companies assisting one of the two Turkish vessels now drilling 68 kilometers off the island’s west coast.