Palestinians slam ‘provocative’ Brazil embassy move to Jerusalem

President-elect Jair Bolsonaro said that he would move Brazil’s Israel embassy to Jerusalem. (Reuters)
Updated 02 November 2018
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Palestinians slam ‘provocative’ Brazil embassy move to Jerusalem

  • Move comes six months after the United States controversially transferred its embassy
  • Palestinians consider the Israeli-annexed eastern part of the city the capital of their future state

RAMALLAH: A senior Palestinian official on Friday condemned Brazilian far-right President-elect Jair Bolsonaro’s announcement that he would move his country’s Israel embassy to Jerusalem.
The move announced Thursday comes six months after the United States controversially transferred its embassy, and aligns the incoming Brazilian leader squarely with US President Donald Trump.
The Palestinians consider the Israeli-annexed eastern part of the city the capital of their future state.
“These are provocative and illegal steps that will only destabilize security and stability in the region,” Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee, told AFP.
“It is very unfortunate that Brazil has joined this negative alliance against international law,” she said, referring to a small number of countries supporting the US decision, which sparked fury among Palestinians.
On Thursday Bolsonaro tweeted that “as previously stated during our campaign, we intend to transfer the Brazilian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.”
“Israel is a sovereign state and we shall duly respect that,” he said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the move as “historic.”
“I congratulate my friend Brazilian president-elect Jair Bolsonaro for his intention to move the Brazilian embassy to Jerusalem, a historic, correct and exciting step!” he said in a statement.
Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement that controls the Gaza Strip and has fought three wars with Israel in a decade, also condemned the announcement.
“We consider this a hostile step against the Palestinian people and the Arabic and Islamic world,” spokesman Sami Abu Zahri wrote on Twitter Friday.
The Palestinians cut off ties with the Trump administration after the decision was first announced in December 2017, saying the government’s pro-Israel bias meant it could no longer lead peace negotiations between themselves and Israel.
Ashrawi did not mention any potential downgrading of ties with Brazil.
Israel occupied Arab east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed it in moves never recognized by the international community.
It sees the entire city as its capital.
For decades the international community maintained that the city’s status should be negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians.
Guatemala and Paraguay also moved their embassies to Jerusalem after the US transfer, though the latter announced in September it would return its embassy to Tel Aviv.
The embassies of all other countries are located in Tel Aviv.


Work underway to clear land mines from Jesus baptism site

Updated 10 December 2018
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Work underway to clear land mines from Jesus baptism site

  • Work at the site just north of the Dead Sea is being overseen by Israel’s Defense Ministry
  • Mines and other ordnance have been cleared from Ethiopian and Greek Orthodox monastery sites, organizers said

QASR AL-YAHUD, Palestinian Territories: Efforts to clear thousands of land mines and other ordnance around the site where many believe Jesus was baptized have reached a milestone and officials allowed a rare glimpse Sunday of abandoned churches there.

The church grounds around the site in the occupied West Bank have sat empty and decaying for around 50 years, though pilgrims have been able to visit a nearby restricted area at the traditional baptismal spot on the banks of the River Jordan.

Work at the site just north of the Dead Sea is being overseen by Israel’s Defense Ministry, de-mining charity Halo Trust and Israeli firm 4CI.

According to the ministry, the project covers around 1 square kilometer (250 acres) as well as some 3,000 mines and other explosive remnants.

It is expected to cost 20 million shekels ($5.3 million, €4.7 million).

The work began in March and would require another eight months to a year to complete, said Moshe Hilman of Israel’s Defense Ministry.

Mines and other ordnance have been cleared from Ethiopian and Greek Orthodox monastery sites as well as a Franciscan chapel, organizers said.

Other grounds belonging to Russian, Syrian, Romanian and Coptic Orthodox churches are yet to be cleared.

The plan once complete is to return the plots to the various church denominations and allow visits. At the crumbling, brick-and-concrete Ethiopian monastery on Sunday, a fading fresco of Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist could still be seen inside.

Signs hung on the walls with notifications that the location had been cleared of explosives.

A collection of pieces of mortars and other explosive remnants sat alongside a nearby roadside as a demonstration of some of what had been found.

“The Halo Trust has reached a pivotal point in our work to clear the baptism site of land mines and other remnants of war,” the charity’s CEO James Cowan said in a statement.

He added that “we have completed clearance of the Ethiopian, Greek and Franciscan churches.”

The majority of the mines were laid by Israeli forces after the country seized control of the West Bank in 1967 from Jordanian troops. Other unexploded ordnance from both Israel and Jordan has remained lodged in the ground, including around the churches, which were evacuated by Israel in the 1970s.

Israel’s control of the West Bank has never been recognized by the international community, which considers the land occupied Palestinian territory.