UK calls for dialogue over Israeli annexation plan

Palestinians walk past a sign with information on Area A in the Jordan Valley, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, June 13, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 15 July 2020

UK calls for dialogue over Israeli annexation plan

  • On July 1, Johnson published an article in Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper urging Tel Aviv not to push ahead
  • 11 European foreign ministers have written to the EU to ask for possible actions that the bloc could take to prevent the proposed annexation

LONDON: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called for dialogue to resolve tensions over the proposed annexation by Israel of parts of the occupied Palestinian territories.

Johnson spoke with Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, over concerns about Israel’s plan, a week after discussing it with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Johnson “urged President Abbas to engage in negotiations and offered the UK’s support to foster dialogue,” a Downing Street spokesman said. “The leaders agreed to continue to work together on this issue and others.”

On July 1, Johnson published an article in Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper urging Tel Aviv not to push ahead. 

“It is with sadness that I have followed the proposals to annex Palestinian territory. As a life-long friend, admirer and supporter of Israel, I am fearful that these proposals will fail in their objective of securing Israel’s borders and will be contrary to Israel’s own long-term interests,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, 11 European foreign ministers have written to the EU to ask for possible actions that the bloc could take to prevent the proposed annexation.

Ministers from Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden and Finland asked EU Minister for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell to set out the “legal consequences” of the move, following an initial request made at a meeting in May.

The letter suggested that doing so could help members “deter annexation” by laying out to Israel the consequences of such action.

“The possible annexation by Israel of parts of the occupied Palestinian territory remains a matter of grave concern for the EU and its member states,” it said.

“We understand that this is a sensitive issue and timing is important, but time is also short. We are concerned that the window to deter annexation is fast closing.”

Moves to formally incorporate what could amount to up to 30 percent of the West Bank into Israel began with the signing of a coalition government agreement earlier this year, after Netanyahu made the issue a central pledge in his re-election campaign.

The EU relies on consensus among members to take steps in any direction on issues of foreign policy, but though some states have called for sanctions against Israel, others oppose punitive measures.

In June, over 1,000 European politicians signed a letter that condemned Israel, saying: “Acquisition of territory by force has no place in 2020 and must have commensurate consequences.”

A similar letter signed by 47 UN experts called Israel’s plan “a vision of a 21st-century apartheid.”

In February, Borrell said Israeli annexation would not be allowed to go “unchallenged.” However, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said annexation is a matter for Tel Aviv.


At least 14 civilians killed by booby traps in Egypt’s Sinai

Updated 47 min 11 sec ago

At least 14 civilians killed by booby traps in Egypt’s Sinai

  • Daesh militants in July attacked several villages in the town of Bir Al-Abd, forcing people to flee their homes
  • The militants had laid booby traps in several houses that killed at least 14 people after they returned to their homes

EL-ARISH: More than a dozen civilians, including women and children, were killed in Egypt’s restive northern Sinai Peninsula over the past two weeks from explosive devices laid down in their homes by militants, security and medical officials said Sunday.
Daesh militants in July attacked several villages in the town of Bir Al-Abd, forcing people to flee their homes. The military then secured the villages in August and allowed residents to return to their homes a few weeks later, the officials said.
The militants, however, had laid booby traps in several houses that killed at least 14 people, including six from the same family late on Saturday, officials said. The causalities included women and children.
At least ten others have been wounded since Oct. 12 and were taken to the town’s hospital for treatment, they said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.
Bir Al-Abd was the site of a horrific extremist attack on a mosque in 2017 that killed over 300 worshippers, some of them fathers praying with their young sons. The tribes of North Sinai have been heavily targeted by militants who view their veneration of Muslim saints and shrines as heretical, forcing a mass exodus of residents from the impoverished area that has long been underdeveloped by the government.
Violence and instability there intensified after the military overthrew the country’s president in 2013 amid nationwide protests against the Muslim Brotherhood group’s divisive rule. Extremist militants have since carried out scores of attacks, mainly targeting security forces and minority Christians.
The conflict has largely taken place out of public view, with journalists and outside observers barred from the area. The conflict has so far not expanded into the southern end of the peninsula where popular Red Sea tourist resorts are located.
In February 2018, the military launched a massive operation in Sinai that also encompassed parts of the Nile Delta and deserts along the country’s western border with Libya. Since then, the pace of Daesh attacks in Sinai’s north has diminished.