Israel moves to ‘legalize’ rogue settlement

A picture taken from the outskirts of the Palestinian city of Nablus shows a view of the wildcat Jewish settlement outpost of Havat Gilad on Feb. 2, 2018.(AFP)
Updated 04 February 2018

Israel moves to ‘legalize’ rogue settlement

JERUSALEM: The Israeli government is due on Sunday to discuss giving retroactive approval to a wildcat settlement in the occupied West Bank, where an Israeli rabbi was shot dead last month.
The official agenda for Sunday's weekly cabinet meeting says ministers will hear a motion to designate the 15-year-old Havat Gilad outpost as a "new community" which will have the necessary building permits and a state budget.
Rabbi Raziel Shevah was shot dead near Havat Gilad, where he lived, on January 9.
The following week, Israeli troops searching for his attackers shot dead a Palestinian suspect in the city of Jenin in the northern West Bank, about 35 kilometres (22 miles) north of Havat Gilad.
At Shevah's funeral there were calls for "revenge" during a speech by Education Minister Naftali Bennett of the far-right Jewish Home party.
Bennett responded by saying that the only revenge should be in building more settlements.
Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman, sponsor of the forthcoming cabinet motion, spoke on Wednesday of getting official recognition for Havat Gilad.
"We promised and the proposal to normalise Havat Gilad outpost as a regular community will be brought to the cabinet for approval this coming Sunday," Lieberman wrote on Twitter.
According to his cabinet motion the outpost was founded in 2002 and currently houses about 40 families.
Israeli settlements are seen as illegal under international law and major obstacles to peace as they are built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state.
Israel however differentiates between settlements it has approved and those it has not.
Those without approval are referred to as outposts and are typically populated by hardline religious nationalists who see the entire West Bank as part of Israel.
Past attempts by Israeli authorities to dismantle Havat Gilad have led to clashes with settlers there.
Israel has several times given retroactive approval to outposts and last year work began on the first government-sanctioned settlement built in the Palestinian territories in some 25 years.
Israel faced sharp criticism from the administration of former US president Barack Obama over settlement construction, but that has not been the case with Donald Trump's White House and Israeli officials have sought to take advantage.
European nations and the UN maintain their strong opposition to settlement building.


At least 13 people drown in migrant shipwreck off Libya

Updated 51 min 18 sec ago

At least 13 people drown in migrant shipwreck off Libya

  • The boat had set off from the town of Zliten, east of the Libyan capital of Tripoli
  • The Libyan Coast Guard said that it had ordered the rescue, and that search teams were scouring the area

CAIRO: Over a dozen migrants trying to reach Europe drowned in the Mediterranean Sea when their small dinghy capsized off the coast of Libya, the United Nations reported Friday, the latest shipwreck to underscore the deadly risks facing those who flee the war-afflicted North African country.
Libyan fishermen spotted the sinking boat late Thursday, said the International Organization for Migration, and managed to pull 22 people from the water, including those from Egypt, Bangladesh, Syria, Somalia and Ghana.
But at least 13 of the other passengers were missing and presumed drowned. Three dead bodies were found floating in the water, including one Syrian man and woman. The boat had set off from the town of Zliten, east of the Libyan capital of Tripoli, late on Wednesday.
The Libyan Coast Guard said that it had ordered the rescue, and that search teams were scouring the area for more victims.
“So many boats are leaving these days, but autumn is a very difficult season,” said Commodore Masoud Abdal Samad. “When it gets windy, it’s deadly. It changes in an instant.”
Following the 2011 uprising that ousted and killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi, Libya has emerged as the dominant transit point for migrants hoping to get to Europe from Africa and the Middle East. Smugglers often pack desperate families into ill-equipped rubber boats that stall and founder along the perilous Central Mediterranean route. At least 20,000 people have died in those waters since 2014, according to the UN
Those who survived Friday’s disaster were taken to the Tripoli port, where they received medical care for their burns, a common consequence of leaked engine fuel mixing with saltwater, said Safa Msehli, an IOM spokeswoman.
Libyan authorities shepherded the survivors to the Zliten detention center, run by the Tripoli-based government’s Interior Ministry. Migrants rescued at sea and returned to Libya routinely land in detention centers notorious for torture, extortion and abuse. Amnesty International revealed in a report Thursday that thousands of migrants have been forcibly disappeared from unofficial militia-run detention centers.
The shipwreck, the second to be recorded by the UN in as many weeks, “signals the need now more than ever for state-led search and rescue capacity to be redeployed and the need to support NGO vessels operating in a vacuum,” said Msehli.
Since 2017, European countries, particularly Italy, have delegated most search-and-rescue responsibility to the Libyan Coast Guard, which intercepts migrant boats before they can reach European waters. Activists have lamented that European authorities are increasingly blocking the work of nongovernmental rescue organizations that patrol the Mediterranean and seek to disembark at European ports.