PLO outraged over 85% increase in Israeli settlement activity

An Israeli soldier fires a weapon during clashes with Palestinians following a protest against the nearby Jewish settlement of Qadomem, in the West Bank village of Kofr Qadom near Nablus. (Reuters)
Updated 08 September 2017

PLO outraged over 85% increase in Israeli settlement activity

PHILADELPHIA: Arab News has obtained a four-page letter sent on Sept. 5 by Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Secretary-General Saeb Erekat to Palestinian diplomatic missions expressing anger over increased Israeli settlement activity.
Erekat, who is also chief Palestinian negotiator, said in the letter that Israel has increased settlement activity by 85 percent so far this year compared to 2016.
“Israeli unlawful practices have included at least 56 plans for 4,909 colonial settlement units between January-August 2017,” he wrote.
The biggest settlement hot spots are Jerusalem and Hebron. In Hebron, Israel has granted the 800 Jewish settlers living illegally in the heart of the 200,000-strong Palestinian city separate legal status.
While the city is divided into two separate areas, H1 under Palestinian control and H2 under Israeli control, both parts fall under the administrative control of the Palestinian municipality.
The separate legal status for settlers has created an apartheid-like situation in Hebron, where a tiny minority has preferential treatment over the majority.
The Associated Press (AP) reported that the military order, signed on Aug. 31, alters a 20-year-old agreement and “establishes a new municipal services administration for the Jewish neighborhood.”
AP quoted the order as saying: “An administration will be established to represent the residents of the Jewish neighborhood in Hebron and to provide them with municipal services in a variety of fields.”
In his letter, Erekat called Israel’s decision a clear violation of the Hebron protocol signed in 1997 by then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Hebron Gov. Kamel Hmeid said Israel’s decision is the “most dangerous one since 1967, which prepares to apply total Israeli sovereignty and will create further chaos and instability throughout Palestinian governorates.”
At the time the order was signed, Israeli NGO Peace Now said: “By granting an official status to the Hebron settlers, the Israeli government is formalizing the apartheid system in the city. This step, which happened immediately following the announcement on the evacuation of the settlers who took over a house in Hebron, is another illustration of the policy of compensating the most extreme settlers for their illegal actions.”
Peace Now said the Israeli order “does not create a new local authority or a new community within a regional authority, but rather a settler body with a certain degree of administrative power,” which would not include any Palestinian representation.
Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said the order is a “violation of international humanitarian law and international conventions.”
Hamdallah, who met Wednesday with the newly elected mayor and members of the Hebron city council, promised to provide “whatever is necessary to support the steadfastness of our people in the face of constant violations from the occupiers and settlers.”
Osama Qawasmeh, a spokesman for Fatah in Hebron and a member of the Palestinian faction’s revolutionary council, warned of a “grave disaster” for Hebron’s people, history and heritage if the Israeli order is not stopped.
Hamas spokesman Abdel Latif Qanouh said the order “contradicts international conventions and reflects the extremism of the occupation government, and further escalates apartheid policies.”


Stranded Lebanese desperate to rebuild after blast

Updated 51 min 15 sec ago

Stranded Lebanese desperate to rebuild after blast

  • The blast wrecked thousands of homes and businesses in large parts of the capital
  • International humanitarian aid has poured into the Mediterranean city of some 2 million people

BEIRUT: Sitting amid the debris, Lebanese on Wednesday expressed their frustration at the state for abandoning them in their desperate efforts to rebuild after last week’s catastrophic Beirut port explosion compounded a dire financial crisis.
Lebanon has been plunged into further political uncertainty after the government resigned this week over the Aug. 4 blast that killed at least 171 people, injured some 6,000 and wrecked homes and businesses in large parts of the capital.
International humanitarian aid has poured into the Mediterranean city of some 2 million people and Germany’s foreign minister arrived in Beirut on Wednesday in the latest visit by a foreign dignitary.
But residents said they needed practical help now.
“Who knows what will happen. How will we get back to business,” said Antoinne Matta, 74, whose safe and lock store was heavily damaged by the blast. Five employees were wounded.
“We in Lebanon are used to the government not doing anything.”
Unrest has erupted with Lebanese calling for the wholesale removal of what they see as a corrupt ruling class they brand as responsible for the country’s woes, including an economic meltdown that has ravaged the currency, paralyzed banks and sent prices soaring.
Officials have said the blast could have caused losses of $15 billion, a bill Lebanon cannot pay, given the depths of the financial crisis that has seen people frozen out of their savings accounts since October amid dollar scarcity.
The central bank has instructed local banks to extend exception interest-free dollar loans to individuals and businesses for essential repairs, and that it would in turn provide those financial institutions with the funding.

‘Everything is gone’
Bandali Gharabi, whose photo studio was destroyed, said that so far local authorities had only give him a compensation sheet to fill out. He does not know if the bank will provide financial assistance because he already has a car loan.
“Everything is gone,” he said. “I just want someone to rebuild my shop.”
President Michel Aoun has promised a swift and transparent investigation into the blast at a warehouse where authorities say more than 2,000 tons of ammonium nitrate was stored for years without safety measures. He has said the probe would look into whether it was negligence, an accident or external factors.
Reuters reported that Aoun and Prime Minister Hassan Diab were warned in July about the warehoused ammonium nitrate, according to documents and senior security sources.
The presidency did not respond to requests for comment about the warning letter.
Diab, when announcing his cabinet’s resignation, blamed endemic graft for the explosion, which was the biggest in Beirut’s history.
The World Bank Group said last week it would work with Lebanon’s partners to mobilize public and private financing for reconstruction and recovery. An emergency donor conference on Sunday raised pledges worth nearly 253 million euros ($298 million) for immediate humanitarian relief.
Volunteers and construction workers with bulldozers were still clearing wreckage from neighborhoods more than a week after the blast. Rows of destroyed cars were still parked in front of damaged stores and demolished buildings.
Nagy Massoud, 70, was sitting on the balcony when the blast gutted his apartment. He was saved by a wooden door that protected him from flying debris. A stove injured his wife.
His pension is frozen in a bank account he cannot access due to capital controls prompted by the economic crisis.
“Where is the government,” he said, looking around his shattered apartment.