Israeli plan for 15,000 more settlement homes in Jerusalem condemned

A general view shows the Israeli settlement of Ramot in an area of the occupied West Bank that Israel annexed to Jerusalem, in this photo taken on January 22, 2017. (REUTERS)
Updated 29 April 2017

Israeli plan for 15,000 more settlement homes in Jerusalem condemned

JERUSALEM: Israel intends to build 15,000 new settlement homes in East Jerusalem, the Housing Ministry said on Friday despite US President Donald Trump’s request to “hold back” on settlements as part of a possible new push for Israeli-Palestinian peace.
A formal announcement of the settlement plan, quickly condemned by the chief Palestinian negotiator, could come around the time Trump is scheduled to visit Israel next month.
Israel views all of Jerusalem as its “eternal and indivisible capital,” but the Palestinians also want a capital there. Most of the world considers Jerusalem’s status an issue that must be decided through negotiations. The last peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed in 2014.
Housing Minister Yoav Galant told Israel Radio that his ministry and the Jerusalem Municipality had been working on the plan for two years, with proposals for 25,000 units, 15,000 of which would be in East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war and later annexed.
“We will build 10,000 units in Jerusalem and some 15,000 within the (extended) municipal boundaries of Jerusalem. It will happen,” he said.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Israel’s move was a systematic violation of international law and a “deliberate sabotage” of efforts to resume talks.
“All settlements in occupied Palestine are illegal under international law,” he said in a statement. “Palestine will continue to resort to international bodies to hold Israel, the occupation power, accountable for its grave violations of international law throughout occupied Palestine.”
Channel 2 news said an announcement on building could be made on Jerusalem Day which this year, according to the Hebrew calendar, falls on May 24, when Israel celebrates its capture of the eastern part of the city.
This year marks the 50th anniversary, with a large number of celebrations planned. Trump’s visit is expected to take place on or shortly after May 22.
Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a state they hope to establish in the occupied West Bank and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
Trump told Reuters in an interview at the White House on Thursday that he wanted to see a peace deal.
“I want to see peace with Israel and the Palestinians,” he said. “There is no reason there’s not peace between Israel and the Palestinians — none whatsoever.”
The US leader met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington in February and is to see Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House on May 3.


Egypt army drill ‘sends a message to Erdogan’

Updated 10 min 40 sec ago

Egypt army drill ‘sends a message to Erdogan’

  • Military exercise near Libyan border a ‘warning shot,’ experts say

CAIRO: A major Egyptian army exercise near the border with Libya is being viewed by military and strategic experts as a message of deterrence to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over his backing for the Government of National Accord led by Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj and supported by militia groups.

The combat exercise, codenamed “Hasm 2020” (Firmness 2020), was carried out by Egypt’s Western Region units together with armed forces formations and special troops, including paratroops and SEAL teams.

The drills included strategic incursions by land forces and land-sea operations by troops in coastal areas of the Western Region near the border with Libya. Other exercises focused on the threat from mercenary or terror groups.

Air defense and artillery maneuvers were also carried out during the exercises, which lasted several days. 

African affairs and national security expert Gen. Mohammed Abdel-Wahed said the Hasm 2020 exercise “carries many internal and external messages of assurance to our brothers in Libya and deterrence to some regional parties.”

The drill “was a message of deterrence to anyone who thinks he can threaten Egyptian national security” and “a simulation of war,” he added.

According to an army statement, the drill’s main phase was attended by Egyptian Minister of Defense Mohamed Zaki, and included live artillery and weapons fire.

Strategic expert Gen. Samir Farag said: “What happened was not an ordinary drill because the forces attacked mercenaries. Our army always fights a regular army. What is different about this drill is training to combat mercenaries. One of the training tasks is to carry out attacks to eliminate mercenaries in cooperation with the air force.”

Farag said the drill “is a message that we will operate on the coasts if they are under threat.”

He said the Egyptian air force succeeded in providing air supplies, “meaning that we have forces capable of going anywhere.”

Farag said that the Western Region had been carefully selected as a location for the exercises.

“We closely monitor any drill carried out by any of our enemies,” he said, adding that Hasm 2020 had been studied and followed up by some countries in the region. 

Egyptian MP and journalist Mustafa Bakry said that “every Egyptian should be proud of their armed forces and their extensive preparation to counter any attack on Egypt or threaten its national security.”

Bakry said that Hasm 2020 sent “a clear message to anyone who attempts to threaten Egypt or its people.”

The Libyan cities of Sirte and Al-Jufra are a red line, he said, adding that “Egypt will never leave Libya and its brotherly people as an easy prey to the Turkish invader.”