Israel planning new settlement in heart of Hebron

An Israeli soldier detains a Palestinian boy during an anti-Israel protest in Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on Friday.. REUTERS/Mussa Qawasma
Updated 01 December 2019

Israel planning new settlement in heart of Hebron

  • Hard-right defense minister Naftali Bennett ordered officials to start planning settlement in the heart of Hebron
  • Hebron is a flashpoint for clashes between Palestinians and Israeli settlers

JERUSALEM: Israel’s new hard-right defense minister on Sunday ordered officials to start planning a new Jewish settlement in the heart of the divided West Bank city of Hebron.
Naftali Bennett’s announcement came as the prospects of a third snap election since April loomed larger, with the minister’s New Right party leaning heavily on settlers for support at the polls.
The Defense Ministry said Bennett had instructed departments responsible for the Israeli occupied West Bank “to notify the Hebron municipality of planning a new Jewish neighborhood in the wholesale market complex.”
The market area is on Hebron’s once-bustling Shuhada Street, which leads to a holy site where the biblical Abraham is believed to have been buried.
The street is now largely closed off to Palestinians, who have long demanded that it be reopened.
The city is holy to both Muslims and Jews and is a flashpoint for clashes between Palestinians and Israeli settlers.
On Saturday, Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian southwest of Hebron, with the army saying he was one of three men throwing petrol bombs at a military vehicle.
About 800 Israeli settlers live in the ancient city under heavy military protection, amid around 200,000 Palestinians.
Sunday’s statement said the planned new building project would “double the number of Jewish residents in the city.”
Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said the new project was a result of the United States’ decision last month to no longer consider Israeli settlements illegal.
The Bennett plan, he wrote in English on Twitter, “is the first tangible result of the US decision to legitimize colonization.”
The move comes amid political turmoil in Israel after general elections in April and September ended in deadlock.
Neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and allies like Bennett, nor their opponents, won enough parliamentary seats to form a viable coalition.
Lawmakers now have until December 11 to find a solution or see parliament dissolved once again.
At Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu also offered good news for the settlers, pledging 40 million shekels ($11.5 million) for improved security.
“We are strengthening the security components in the communities in Judea and Samaria, of the Israeli citizens there,” he said, using the biblical terms for the West Bank.
Israel’s West Bank settlements are considered illegal under international law and are bitterly opposed by Palestinians.


Lebanese burn ruling parties’ offices after night of clashes

Updated 15 December 2019

Lebanese burn ruling parties’ offices after night of clashes

  • Attacks came just hours after Beirut was rocked by the most violent government crackdown on protesters

BEIRUT: Attackers in northern Lebanon set fire to the offices of two major political parties on Sunday, the state-run National News Agency said.
The assaults came just hours after the capital Beirut was rocked by the most violent government crackdown on protesters since nationwide demonstrations began two months ago. Lebanese security forces fired rubber bullets, tear gas and used water cannons throughout the night to disperse anti-government protesters from the city center — the epicenter of the protest movement in Beirut — and around parliament.
The overnight confrontations in Beirut left more than 130 people injured, according to the Red Cross and the Lebanese Civil Defense.
In the northern Akkar district on Sunday, attackers broke the windows and torched the local office for resigned Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s political party in the town of Kharibet Al-Jindi.
In a separate attack in Akkar district, assailants stormed the local office of the largest party in parliament, affiliated with President Michel Aoun and headed by Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil. Their party said the contents of the office in Jedidat Al-Juma town had also been smashed and burned.
Lebanon is facing one of its worst economic crises in decades, and the protesters accuse the ruling political class in place for three decades of mismanagement and corruption.
The violence comes a day before the president is due to hold talks with different parliamentary blocs to name a new prime minister on Monday.
Interior Minister Raya Al-Hassan on Sunday ordered an investigation into the clashes which she said injured both protesters and security forces. She said she watched the confrontations “with concern, sadness and shock.”
Al-Hassan blamed “infiltrators” for instigating the friction and called on the demonstrators to be wary of those who want to exploit their protests for political reasons. She didn’t elaborate.
Nationwide protests began on Oct. 17, and the government headed by Hariri resigned two weeks later.
Political parties have since been bickering over the shape and form of the new Cabinet. Protesters want a technocratic government, not affiliated with established political parties.
After weeks of back and forth, Hariri has emerged as the likely candidate for the job.