AMMAN: Tensions are rising in the occupied territories as the date for the approval of thousands of new Jewish settlement units nears.
Peace Now, an Israeli campaigning group, announced that 4,430 settlement units are set to be approved on Oct. 14 by the Israeli Army’s Civil Administration’s Higher Planning Council.
Peace Now said in a statement: “Instead of taking advantage of the agreements with the Gulf states and promoting peace with the Palestinians, he (Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu) is distorting Israel’s priorities and catering to a fringe minority for these settlement units approvals that will continue to harm future prospects for peace.”
It called on top Israeli ministers to veto the plans.
“By doing so, Israel will be signaling to the world its bi-partisan support for the end to the concept of a two-state solution and a Palestinian state — the paradigm that until now has largely shielded Israel from formal pressure over its 53-year occupation. The settlement enterprise is not in Israel’s national or security interest and is a strategic mistake at the international level,” Peace Now concluded.
Khalil Toufakji, director of the Jerusalem-based Arab Studies Society, told Arab News that the new Israeli move sends troubling messages to all sides.
“By looking at the location of the new units, it is a clear message to Palestinians that the Israeli occupiers have no plans towards the two-state solution,” Toufakji said, adding that Israel continues to unilaterally draw borders deep into Palestinian occupied territories.
“The planned new units in Bitar Elite and the Gush Etzion block are within the greater Jerusalem area. Also, new units are targeting the Jordan valley and the south Hebron areas, all areas that Israel is targeting for annexation,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Prisoners Club has announced that Israeli troops arrested 21 Palestinians from different West Bank locations.
Tensions are also on the rise in Israeli prisons as Maher Al-Akhras, who has been detained under administrative orders without charge or trial, has entered his 77th day of a hunger strike. Protesters in Gaza called for his release. Khaled Batash, a member of the politburo of Islamic Jihad, warned Israel against harming Al-Akhras or any other prisoner.
Prisoners belonging to the Popular Front have threatened to start an open-ended hunger strike on Sunday if Israeli prison authorities fail to address their grievances about conditions.
In Jerusalem, Israeli police prevented thousands of worshipers from accessing Al-Aqsa Mosque. Vigilante settlers were filmed attacking homes and torching Palestinian farms and groves as the olive-picking season begins.
The Israeli Army commander of the West Bank issued 63 separate military orders barring Palestinians from reaching some 3,000 dunums of olives because they are “close” to Jewish settlements. Only a handful of farmers with rare permits were allowed to participate.