23 officers wounded as illegal Israeli settlers go berserk

Israeli security forces remove a caravan belonging to the illegal settlers on Thursday from the former outpost in the occupied West Bank. (AFP)
Updated 03 January 2019

23 officers wounded as illegal Israeli settlers go berserk

  • The Israeli troops were enforcing a court-ordered evacuation of two homes

AMONA, WEST BANK: Israeli police faced stiff resistance early Thursday as they tried to dismantle mobile homes of settlers who had moved back into an illegal West Bank outpost, with 23 officers lightly injured by stone-throwing settlers.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the Israeli troops were enforcing a court-ordered evacuation of two homes, popularly called caravans, when they were pelted with rocks and stones from some of the 300 protesters in Amona, in the northern West Bank. One officer was stabbed with a sharp object. Police dragged away several protesters with bleeding cuts.

Rosenfeld said police responded with non-lethal means and arrested seven settlers on the scene. Dozens of mattresses remained strewn about the abandoned structures.

The outpost was dismantled two years ago after the Supreme Court ruled that it had been built on private Palestinians land. The Israeli government has promised to build a new settlement to replace it. Amona has become a rallying cry for extreme settlers and a small group returned there recently in protest, amid an outburst of Palestinian violence.

“We will come back here because we love this place and we feel this is our home,” said Oren Amitai, a settler from Amona. “We hope, we pray, that sooner or later the government will agree that we bought this land.”

The Palestinians and most of the international community consider Israeli settlements to be illegal and obstacles to peace. Over 400,000 Israelis now live in the West Bank, in addition to 200,000 in East Jerusalem. The Palestinians seek both areas, captured by Israel in 1967, as parts of their state.

While Israel’s settlement projects have regularly drawn condemnation from the Palestinians and Europe, the US administration under President Donald Trump has taken a largely uncritical public stand.

Thursday’s events came amid a highly partisan election campaign, with various camps seizing on the incident to stake out positions.

Hard-line Cabinet Minister Naftali Bennett, who this week broke off from the pro-settler Jewish Home party to start a new right-wing movement, called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to also demolish the illegally built Palestinian encampment of Khan Al-Ahmar.

“The law is the law is the law,” he said. “The selective enforcement against only Jews in Amona, in the face of the fear of evacuating illegal and unrestrained Arab construction in Khan Al-Ahmar, portrays the Israeli government’s weakness and hesitation.”

Alternatively, Yair Lapid, head of the centrist Yesh Atid party, denounced the assault on law enforcement officers.

“The violence in Amona is a result of the fact that the rioters think they have political backing from within the coalition,” he said. “Whoever acts wildly needs to be evacuated and restrained without hesitation.”

Jumblatt expresses concern over torture of Syrian refugees

Syrian children are pictured at a refugee camp in the village of Mhammara in the northern Lebanese Akkar region on March 9, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 18 March 2019

Jumblatt expresses concern over torture of Syrian refugees

  • Walid Jumblatt has expressed concern about Syrian refugees returning to their country from Lebanon
  • Jan Kubis: “The UN and the humanitarian community will continue to facilitate these returns as much as possible

BEIRUT: Lebanese Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt has expressed concern about reports that Syrian refugees returning to their country from Lebanon face torture and murder.

This coincides with a debate in Lebanon about whether Syrian refugees should return without waiting for a political solution to the conflict in their country. 

UN Special Coordinator Jan Kubis stressed after meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Monday the “urgent need to ensure the safe, voluntary and dignified return of Syrian refugees home, according to international humanitarian norms.” 

Kubis added: “The UN and the humanitarian community will continue to facilitate these returns as much as possible. Another very important message was also to support the host communities here in Lebanon.”

Mireille Girard, representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), on Monday said: “The reconstruction process in Syria may not be enough to attract refugees to return. We are working to identify the reasons that will help them to return.”

She added: “The arrival of aid to the refugees is an element of trust that helps them to return. Their dignity and peaceful living must be ensured.”

Social Affairs Minister Richard Kouyoumdjian said the Lebanese General Security “issued lists containing the names of refugees wishing to return to their homes, but the Syrian regime accepted only about 20 percent of them.”

He added: “The solution is to call on the international community to put pressure on Russia, so that Moscow can exert pressure on (Syrian President) Bashar Assad’s regime to show goodwill and invite Syrian refugees to return to their land without conditions, procedures, obstacles and laws that steal property and land from them.”

Lebanese Education Minister Akram Chehayeb said: “The problem is not reconstruction and infrastructure, nor the economic and social situation. The main obstacle is the climate of fear and injustice in Syria.”

He added: “There are 215,000 Syrian students enrolled in public education in Lebanon, 60,000 in private education, and there are informal education programs for those who have not yet attended school to accommodate all children under the age of 18.” 

Chehayeb said: “As long as the displacement crisis continues, and as long as the (Assad) regime’s decision to prevent the (refugees’) return stands … work must continue to absorb the children of displaced Syrians who are outside education to protect Lebanon today and Syria in the future.”