Palestinians set up outpost near hamlet Israel seeks to raze

A Palestinian Bedouin pupil walks in the courtyard of their primary school in the village of Khan Al-Ahmar in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on September 6, 2018, after Israel’s top court upheld an order to raze the village. (AFP)
Updated 12 September 2018

Palestinians set up outpost near hamlet Israel seeks to raze

  • Israel says Khan Al-Ahmar was illegally built and has offered to resettle residents 12 kilometers away
  • Critics say its removal is meant to make room for an Israeli settlement

RAMALLAH: A top official said Tuesday the Palestinians have filed a new complaint against Israel with the International Criminal Court, after the US said it would resort to any means to protect its allies against such actions at the international war crimes body.

The move comes a day after the US closed the Palestinian de facto embassy in Washington because of its leaders’ refusal to enter peace talks with Israel. National security adviser John Bolton also lashed out at the Palestinians for their attempts to have Israel prosecuted at the ICC, denouncing the court’s legitimacy and threatening sanctions if it targeted Israel and others.

But at a press conference in Ramallah, Saeb Erekat doubled down by saying the Palestinians have asked the ICC to investigate Israel’s planned demolition of the Palestinian Bedouin village of Khan al Ahmar in the West Bank. He also indicated the Palestinians plan to join other international bodies.

Erekat said the Palestinians have asked the chief prosecutor to meet with village representatives and include Israel’s actions as part of her investigation into possible war crimes by Israel.

“The US threats against the ICC are a coup against the rules in the international system,” he said. “The Trump administration wants to dismantle the international order to ensure that it can stay above the laws and escape accountability.”

Israel has long denounced Palestinian efforts to globalize their conflict by turning to external bodies with bogus claims. In particular, it says the ICC lacks jurisdiction because Israel is not a member of the court.

The Trump administration dramatically ratchetted up its rhetoric by threatening sanctions if the court pursues investigations against the US,  Israel or other allies. John Bolton said the ICC “is already dead” to the US.

“The United States supports a direct and robust peace process, and we will not allow the ICC, or any other organization, to constrain Israel’s right to self-defense,” he said in a speech to The Federalist Society, a conservative, Washington-based think tank.

The administration also cited the refusal of Palestinian leaders to enter into peace talks with Israel as the reason for closing the Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington, although the US has yet to present its plan to resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

The Palestinians accuse the administration of dismantling decades of US engagement with them by blatantly siding with Israel.

The closure of the PLO office was the latest in a series of moves targeting the Palestinians. Just last month, it canceled more than $200 million in aid for projects in the West Bank and Gaza as well as the remainder of its planned assistance for the UN agency that helps Palestinian refugees around the Middle East. Over the weekend, it announced it would cut $25 million in assistance for hospitals in East Jerusalem that provide critical care to Palestinian patients.

“We don’t want confrontation with the US,  by the way, but how can anyone with all these American decisions, Trump’s decisions, believe that these people can be honest brokers, facilitators in any peace process? They are no longer partners in the peace process,” Erekat said.

He said Israel should be held accountable for its plans for the Khan Al-Ahmar encampment, a West Bank hamlet that has focused attention on what critics say is the displacement of Palestinians by Israel. European countries urged Israel this week to refrain from demolition.

Israel says Khan Al-Ahmar was illegally built and has offered to resettle residents 12 kilometers (7 miles) away. But critics say it’s impossible for Palestinians to get building permits and that the demolition is meant to make room for an Israeli settlement.

Israel’s Supreme Court rejected an appeal last week, paving the way for demolition.

Palestinian activists put up several trailers early Tuesday in protest. Abdallah Abu Rahmeh said the white shipping containers, one with a Palestinian flag, were a message to Israel that “it’s our right to build on our land.”

Meanwhile, the Palestinian envoy to Washington said his staffers have been given a month to pack up after the US punished them for what the State Department called the Palestinian leadership condemnation of “a US peace plan they have not yet seen.”

Husam Zomlot told The Associated Press the closure of the PLO mission would not deter Palestinians from seeking a state with east Jerusalem as the capital.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas halted ties with the Trump administration in December after the US recognized contested Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The US Embassy was later moved there from Tel Aviv.

Zomlot was called home by Abbas in the spring as part of the crisis.

 


Will European arms ban impact Turkey’s Syria operation?

Updated 14 October 2019

Will European arms ban impact Turkey’s Syria operation?

  • Several European countries imposing weapons embargoes on Turkey

ANKARA: With an increasing number of European countries imposing weapons embargoes on Turkey over its ongoing operation in northeastern Syria, Ankara’s existing inventory of weapons and military capabilities are under the spotlight.

More punitive measures on a wider scale are expected during a summit of EU leaders in Brussels on Oct. 17.

It could further strain already deteriorating relations between Ankara and the bloc.

However, a EU-wide arms embargo would require an unanimous decision by all the leaders.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned last week of a possible refugee flow if Turkey “opened the doors” for 3.6 million Syrian refugees to go to Europe — putting into question the clauses of the 2016 migration deal between Ankara and Brussels.

“The impact of EU member states’ arms sanctions on Turkey depends on the level of Turkey’s stockpiles,” Caglar Kurc, a researcher on defense and armed forces, told Arab News.

Kurc thinks Turkey has foreseen the possible arms sanctions and stockpiled enough spare parts to maintain the military during the operation.

“As long as Turkey can maintain its military, sanctions would not have any effect on the operation. Therefore, Turkey will not change its decisions,” he said.

So far, Germany, France, Finland, the Netherlands and Norway have announced they have stopped weapons shipments to fellow NATO member Turkey, condemning the offensive.

“Against the backdrop of the Turkish military offensive in northeastern Syria, the federal government will not issue new permits for all armaments that could be used by Turkey in Syria,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told German newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

Following Germany’s move, the French government announced: “France has decided to suspend all export projects of armaments to Turkey that could be deployed as part of the offensive in Syria. This decision takes effect immediately.”

While not referring to any arms embargo, the UK urged Turkey to end the operation and enter into dialogue.

Turkey received one-third of Germany’s arms exports of €771 million ($850.8 million) in 2018. 

According to Kurc, if sanctions extend beyond weapons that could be used in Syria, there could be a negative impact on the overall defense industry.

“However, in such a case, Turkey would shift to alternative suppliers: Russia and China would be more likely candidates,” he said.

According to Sinan Ulgen, the chairman of the Istanbul-based EDAM think tank and a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe, the arms embargo would not have a long-term impact essentially because most of the sanctions are caveated and limited to materials that can be used by Turkey in its cross-border operation.

“So the arms embargo does not cover all aspects of the arms trade between Turkey and the EU. These measures look essentially like they are intended to demonstrate to their own critical publics that their governments are doing something about what they see as a negative aspect of Turkey’s behavior,” he told Arab News.

Turkey, however, insists that the Syria operation, dubbed “Operation Peace Spring,” is undeterred by any bans or embargoes.

“No matter what anyone does, no matter if it’s an arms embargo or anything else, it just strengthens us,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told German radio station Deutsche Welle.