US officials attend Israeli settler-linked event in east Jerusalem

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US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, left, White House Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt, center, and Lindsey Graham, a US Senator, attend the opening of an ancient road in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan in east Jerusalem. (AP)
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) Photo/Tsafrir Abayov, Pool)
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US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman speaks during the ceremony, which was condemned by Palestinian leaders. (Reuters)
Updated 03 July 2019

US officials attend Israeli settler-linked event in east Jerusalem

  • White House adviser Jason Greenblatt and US ambassador to Israel David Friedman attend the completion of an archaeological project next to the Old City
  • Event follows another night of clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian residents in east Jerusalem

JERUSALEM: US officials attended an archaeological event organized by an Israeli settler-linked group in east Jerusalem on Sunday, their latest move breaking with precedent and angering Palestinians.
White House adviser Jason Greenblatt and US ambassador to Israel David Friedman were among US officials present at the event marking the completion of an archaeological project next to the Old City in mainly Palestinian east Jerusalem.
Greenblatt and Friedman, who gave a speech at the ceremony organized by the City of David Foundation, dismissed accusations it was a further acknowledgement of Israeli sovereignty over east Jerusalem.
They called it a historic moment unveiling an ancient road the foundation says was a pilgrimage route to the second Jewish temple some 2,000 years ago.
US Senator Lindsey Graham was also in attendance, as were three US ambassadors to other countries and Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, backers of the US Republican party as well as Jewish and Israeli causes.
The wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Sara Netanyahu, attended as well.
“Were there ever any doubt about the accuracy, the wisdom, the propriety of President (Donald) Trump recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, I certainly think this lays all doubts to rest,” Friedman said in his speech of the archaeological findings.
He said that “some people — not necessarily friends of ours — are obsessing about my being here,” but described American values as originating from biblical texts and “those words came from Jerusalem.”
Friedman was later first to ceremonially help break down a wall with a sledgehammer leading to the ancient road, now underground in a tunnel.
Some 350 meters of the road, which runs around 600 meters, have been exposed and it is expected to be opened to the public at a later date, organizers said.
Work took place in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan in the eastern sector of the disputed city.
Palestinians accuse Israel and the foundation of seeking to push them out of Jerusalem.
The Palestinian foreign ministry condemned “in the strongest terms the colonialist plans to replace the existing reality in occupied Jerusalem and the environs of the Old City.”
Emek Shaveh, an Israeli group that opposes the “politicization” of archaeology, also condemned the American presence, calling it “a political act which is the closest the US will have come to recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Old City basin of Jerusalem.”
Israel occupied east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognized by the international community.
It sees the entire city as its capital while the Palestinians see the eastern sector as the capital of their future state.
The foundation oversees activities in Israel’s City of David national park in east Jerusalem that seek to demonstrate the connection between Jewish history and the city.
Trump in 2017 broke with decades of precedent by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The White House later cut hundreds of millions of dollars in Palestinian aid and closed the Palestinians’ de facto embassy in Washington, among other steps.
Last week, it organized an economic conference in Bahrain meant to kickstart a long-awaited Middle East peace effort, but the Palestinians boycotted it.
Friedman has been a supporter of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, and Greenblatt last week said he preferred to call them “neighborhoods and cities” rather than settlements.
Israeli settlements in east Jerusalem and the West Bank are viewed as illegal under international law and major obstacles to peace since they are located on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state.
The event Sunday also comes after another night of clashes between Israeli police and residents of a Palestinian neighborhood in east Jerusalem. At least 15 Palestinians were injured in the Issawiya neighborhood.
The clashes erupted Thursday following the shooting death of a Palestinian man by Israeli police.
Residents say police have stepped up their presence in Issawiya for several weeks and that demonstrators were protesting police violence when 20-year-old Mohammed Obeid was shot.
Police say he hurled fireworks at officers and presented a lethal threat. But residents accuse police of using excessive force and shooting Obeid from close range.
Mohammed Abu Homus, a community leader, said the family was demanding an autopsy. The family has also asked a court to order the release of Obeid’s body. Israeli authorities sometimes hold bodies of Palestinians, fearing the funerals will turn violent.
The Palestinian Red Crescent medical service said the injuries came from rubber bullets, which are used by police to disperse crowds.
*With AP


Turkey to arrest 82 including mayor over pro-Kurdish protests

Updated 25 September 2020

Turkey to arrest 82 including mayor over pro-Kurdish protests

ANKARA: Turkish authorities on Friday issued arrest warrants for 82 people, including a mayor, over pro-Kurdish protests six years ago, officials and local media said.
The warrants relate to October 2014 protests in Turkey sparked by the seizure by Islamic State (IS) jihadists of the mainly Kurdish Syrian town of Kobane.
Police were on the hunt for the 82 suspects in the Turkish capital and six other provinces, the Ankara chief public prosecutor's office said in a statement.
The prosecutor's office did not specify what offences the 82 are alleged to have committed.
But it said crimes committed during the protests included murder, attempted murder, theft, damaging property, looting, burning the Turkish flag and injuring 326 security officials and 435 citizens.
There was also a warrant for the mayor of the eastern city of Kars, Ayhan Bilgen, Hurriyet daily reported.
Bilgen won the city in 2019 local elections representing the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), which is Turkey's second-largest opposition group in the parliament.
Of a total of 65 HDP mayors returned in those elections, 47 have now been replaced by unelected officials, with some detained on terror charges, the party said last month.
The Turkish government accuses the HDP of being a political front for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party -- which has waged an insurgency against the state since 1984 -- but the party denies this.
Former HDP co-leaders, Figen Yuksekdag and Selahattin Demirtas, were named in the investigation but both have been in jail since 2016 pending multiple trials.
The government accused the HDP of urging people to take part in the protests across Turkey that left 37 dead.
But the HDP blames Turkish police for the violence.