Netanyahu says Israel firm on Jerusalem as global concern mounts

Netanyahu says Israel firm on Jerusalem as global concern mounts
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said Israel firmly rejects pressure not to build in Jerusalem. (File/AFP)
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Updated 10 May 2021

Netanyahu says Israel firm on Jerusalem as global concern mounts

Netanyahu says Israel firm on Jerusalem as global concern mounts
  • Pope Francis has also called for an end to the violence in Jerusalem
  • Tunisia calls for UN Security Council meeting, as Arab League and Arab Parliament to hold emergency sessions to discuss Israeli crimes and attacks

LONDON: Israel “firmly rejects” pressure not to build in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday following spreading international condemnation of planned evictions of Palestinians from homes in the city claimed by Jewish settlers.
“We firmly reject the pressure not to build in Jerusalem. To my regret, this pressure has been increasing of late,” Netanyahu said during a televised address ahead of national commemorations of the Israeli capture of east Jerusalem in a 1967 war.
“I say also to the best of our friends: Jerusalem is Israel’s capital and just as every nation builds in its capital and builds up its capital, we also have the right to build in Jerusalem and to build up Jerusalem. That is what we have done and that is what we will continue to do,” Netanyahu said.
His comments come as Israel’s justice ministry said it would delay the key Monday hearing in the case that could see Palestinian families evicted from their Jerusalem homes to make way for Jewish settlers.
“In all the circumstances and in light of the attorney general’s request, the regular hearing for tomorrow, May 10, 2021 (is) canceled,” it said in a statement, adding it would schedule a new hearing within 30 days.
The delay follows days of clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces, fueled in part by the dispute in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.
Meanwhile, UNICEF urged the Israeli authorities to refrain from using violence against children and release all those detained, after 37 Palestinian children have been injured and arrested in east Jerusalem in the last two days.
“Over the past two days, 29 Palestinian children were injured in east Jerusalem, including in the Old City and the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood (and) eight Palestinian children were arrested.
“A one-year old toddler was among those injured. Some children were taken for treatment at hospitals with injuries in the head and the spine,” the UN children’s body said.
UNICEF said it received reports that ambulances were restricted from arriving on location to assist and evacuate the injured and that an on-site clinic was reportedly hit and searched.
“All children should be protected from violence and kept out of harm’s way at all times. Families’ rights to access all places of worship should be preserved and those injured be assisted without restrictions,” it said in a statement.
Pope Francis expressed his concern at the unrest in Jerusalem, saying: “Violence only generates violence. Let’s stop these clashes.”
“I pray so that this might be a place of encounter and not violent clashes, a place of prayer and of peace. I invite everyone to seek shared resolutions so that the multireligious identity and multiculture of the holy city might be respected and so that fraternity might prevail,” he said after reciting the Regina Caeli prayer.
Jordan also urged Israel on Sunday to stop what it described as “barbaric” attacks on worshippers in Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque and said it would step up international pressure.
Jordan, which has custodianship of Muslim and Christian sites in Jerusalem, said Israel should respect worshippers and international law safeguarding Arab rights.
King Abdullah II condemned the violations and said he rejected attempts by Israeli authorities to change the demographic situation in east Jerusalem, and all measures aimed at changing the city’s historical and legal status. The king also called on Israel to adhere to international law and international humanitarian law.
During a phone call with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, King Abdullah said Jordan would continue to protect Islamic and Christian holy sites and to preserve its Arab and Islamic identity, and called for coordination between Arab states to put an end to the Israeli violations in east Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa mosque.
“What the Israeli police and special forces are doing, from violations against the mosque to attacks on worshippers, is barbaric (behavior) that is rejected and condemned,” the government said in a statement.
Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said the kingdom would do its utmost to protect rights of Palestinians against ownership claims by Jewish settlers.
“Israel as the occupying force carries responsibility for protecting rights of Palestinians in their homes,” Safadi said in comments on state media.
Tunisia, the only Arab member of the UN Security Council, in coordination with Palestine, submitted a request to hold a session on Monday to discuss the dangerous escalation and aggressive practices of the Israeli authorities in Palestinian territories.
The request was supported by China — current president of the council — along with Norway, Ireland, Vietnam, Saint Vincent, the Grenadines and Niger.
The session will also discuss Israeli attacks against the Palestinians and their insistence on their expansionist policies, including settlement plans, demolition and dispossession of homes, displacement of Palestinian families, land grabbing, and obliterating the historical and civilizational identity of Jerusalem, the Tunisian foreign ministry said.
“These practices constitute a flagrant violation of international law, a threat to international peace and security and undermine efforts aimed at achieving a just and comprehensive peace in the region,” the ministry added.
Arab League foreign ministers announced they would hold an emergency meeting on Tuesday at Palestine’s request, which has been supported by a number of countries. 
Hossam Zaki, assistant secretary-general of the Arab League, said in a statement “the meeting will discuss Israeli crimes and attacks in the occupied city of Jerusalem, Islamic and Christian holy sites, especially Al-Aqsa Mosque, and attacks on worshipers, in addition to the brutal Israeli attacks and plans to seize the homes of Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood to empty the city of its residents and displace its people.”
Zaki said the decision was taken to raise the level of the meeting to the ministerial level, instead of ambassadorial, in proportion to the “seriousness of the Israeli attacks that are part of the Zionist regime’s systematic policy to Judaize Jerusalem and change the existing legal and historical status of the city and its sanctities.”
The Arab Parliament also said it will hold an emergency session on May 19 in Cairo to discuss the same issues.
Adel bin Abdulrahman Al-Asoumi, president of the Arab Parliament, stressed the need for Israel to stop the ongoing crimes committed against the Palestinian people, and support all their rights, foremost of which is the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, with east Jerusalem as its capital.
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation is also set to hold an emergency session on Tuesday. 
Dozens of Palestinians and several Israeli police officers have been wounded in clashes in recent days in east Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, the scene of a long-running land dispute and located a short walk from flashpoint holy sites.
The case dates back to before the creation of the state of Israel, when a small Jewish community lived in Sheikh Jarrah.
After Israel’s independence and the 1948 war with its Arab neighbors, east Jerusalem came under the control of Jordan.
Many refugees settled in the district after fleeing Zionist forces in other parts of what was now Israel.
Israel then seized east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed it.
Early this year, the Jerusalem district court ruled in favor of Jewish settlers who laid claim to land in the Sheikh Jarrah district, now home to around 30 Palestinians from four families.
Palestinians argue that discriminatory laws mean they are unable to claim back their properties inside what is now Israel.
The Palestinian families’ lawyer, Hosni Abu Hussein, also accused the settlers of fraud.
“The registration of the lands in the name of the settlement association took place through fraud and deception, in collusion with the commissioner of public properties and the registrar of Israeli lands,” he told AFP.
The dispute, in a strategic location close to Jerusalem’s Old City, has added fuel to tensions around the nearby Al-Aqsa mosque, Islam’s third-holiest mosque, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. 
Hamas in Gaza have threatened attacks against Israel if the high-profile case goes against the Palestinian families.
(With Reuters and AFP)

Algeria votes for new parliament for first time since Bouteflika’s exit

Algeria votes for new parliament for first time since Bouteflika’s exit
Updated 12 June 2021

Algeria votes for new parliament for first time since Bouteflika’s exit

Algeria votes for new parliament for first time since Bouteflika’s exit

ALGIERS: Polling stations opened Saturday in Algeria's first parliamentary election since a popular uprising forced longtime autocratic president Abdelaziz Bouteflika from office in 2019.

The vote is meant to satisfy demands of pro-democracy protesters and turn a new leaf for the troubled, albeit gas-rich, country — but which many activists plan to boycott.
Authorities have tightened the screws on the Hirak protest movement in recent weeks, and police arrested a politician and journalist who are prominent opposition figures in the run-up to the voting.
The early election is supposed to exemplify President Abdelmadjid Tebboune’s “new Algeria,” with an emphasis on young candidates and those outside the political elite. A huge number of candidates — more than 20,000 — are running for the 407-seat legislature, more than half as independents and the rest on party lists.
It’s the first legislative election since former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was forced from office in 2019 after 20 years in power amid protests over corruption, joblessness and repression.
But the threat of boycott, worries about the coronavirus and general frustration with the political system mean Saturday’s turnout may be low.
Women make up half of candidates for the first time, among efforts to make a fresh start. But women have been largely invisible from the campaign — and in some cases their faces were blurred or concealed in campaign posters, according to newspaper El Watan.
Candidates had just 20 days to campaign, and Algerian media said real debate on major issues of concern, like unemployment, was mostly absent.
“With such a slew of candidates, the calculation of power is simple: to elect a patchwork assembly, without a majority, which will allow the president to create his own parliamentary majority with which he will govern,” said political scientist Rachid Grime.
A new election authority was formed to run the vote, and its chief said results may take up to 10 days to tally given the large number of candidates and the new system.
Many candidates couldn’t afford campaign posters. Independent candidates like Djamel Maafa, a former TV producer, used social networks to spread his message for lack of access to the funds and logistical structure of big parties.
Parties supporting the Hirak movement called for a boycott because they want a more fundamental political transition.
“Elections in Algeria have always proved that they are not the solution. The solution lies in democratic transition, it also lies in a dialogue around a table in order to solve the crisis,” said activist Sofiane Haddadji.

Abu Dhabi to provide free COVID-19 vaccines to those with expired residency or entry visas

Abu Dhabi to provide free COVID-19 vaccines to those with expired residency or entry visas
Updated 12 June 2021

Abu Dhabi to provide free COVID-19 vaccines to those with expired residency or entry visas

Abu Dhabi to provide free COVID-19 vaccines to those with expired residency or entry visas
  • Prior to the decision, only those with an Emirates ID or valid residency could register to take the vaccine in the capital

DUBAI: Abu Dhabi will provide free coronavirus vaccines to people with expired residency or entry visas to ensure their safety, Abu Dhabi Media Office said in a tweet on Saturday.
“To receive the free COVID-19 vaccine, any type of formal identification, even if expired, can be used to register at the designated vaccination centers,” it added.
Prior to the decision, only those with an Emirates ID or valid residency could register to take the vaccine in the capital.
The decision comes days after the emirate announced the implementation of the ‘green pass’ system of entry into most public places in the emirate.
Starting June 15, visitors to places including malls, large supermarkets, gyms and hotels must show their color code on Al Hosn app to be allowed entry.
“Abu Dhabi Emergency, Crisis and Disasters Committee has approved usage of green pass on Al Hosn app, based on the emirate’s 4-pillar strategy to combat COVID-19 focused on vaccination, active contract tracings, safe entry and adopting preventive measures,” it tweeted.
The Al Hosn color-coding system has six categories, including fully vaccinated, second dose recipients and first dose recipients waiting for a second dose appointment, Abu Dhabi Media Office said.
The decision covers individuals aged 16 and above.

Gulf, Arab states and organizations hail UAE election to UN Security Council

Gulf, Arab states and organizations hail UAE election to UN Security Council
This United Nations handout photo shows a view of the Security Council meeting at the UN in New York. (AFP file photo)
Updated 12 June 2021

Gulf, Arab states and organizations hail UAE election to UN Security Council

Gulf, Arab states and organizations hail UAE election to UN Security Council
  • The UAE is one of five countries elected to sit as non-permanent members on the Security Council in 2022 and 2023

DUBAI: Gulf and Arab states and organizations hailed the UAE’s election to a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council for 2022-2023.
Ali bin Saleh Al-Saleh, Bahrain’s Shura Council Chairman, expressed his pride in the UAE’s achievement.
This confirms the country’s dedicated efforts to promote global peace and security, the official added, in a report from state news agency BNA.
Adel bin Abdul Rahman Al-Asoumi, speaker of the Arab Parliament, expressed his full confidence in the UAE’s ability to face major challenges, wishing the country success, Saudi Press Agency reported.
Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Dr. Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen congratulated the UAE, Gabon and Albania for their achievement. He said their winning of seats in the UN Security Council reflects their role in consolidating international peace, SPA added.
Kuwait’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Dr. Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah meanwhile discussed with UAE counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan during a phone call his country’s full support to the UAE in achieving world peace and security.
Jordan’s foreign ministry, likewise, expressed its support for the UAE in serving common Arab issues and interests and preserving international stability and security, according to state news agency Petra.

The UAE is one of five countries elected on Friday by the UN General Assembly to sit as non-permanent members on the Security Council in 2022 and 2023. The others are Brazil, Albania, Gabon and Ghana, and the new arrivals could potentially shift the power balance within the world body, diplomats predicted.

“The UAE’s campaign for Security Council membership was based on its commitment to promoting inclusiveness, stimulating innovation, building resilience and securing peace at all levels,” state news agency WAM reported.

The country affirmed its firm belief in the importance of building bridges to strengthen relations between members of the Security Council, and rebuilding the confidence of member states in the council’s ability to respond effectively to challenges to international peace and security.

“The UAE has always been ready to assume its share of the responsibility to confront urgent global challenges, in cooperation with the international community, and this was the primary motivation for our campaign for Security Council membership,” said Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the UAE’s minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation.

“The UAE has committed itself to multilateral action, international law and the UN Charter since its establishment, and the country will continue to adhere to these principles during its membership of the Security Council.

“I am confident that our history and our role as a reliable partner and mediator will enable us to make an effective contribution during the two years that we will serve on the Security Council. We are aware of the great responsibility associated with the membership, the importance of the challenges facing the Security Council, and with determination and perseverance the UAE will be keen to maintain international peace and security.”

Lana Zaki Nusseibeh, the UAE’s permanent representative to the UN, said her country’s role on the Security Council “stems from our belief that our values and principles can help advance progress toward our common goal of international peace and security.”

She added: “During the two years that we will serve on the council, our team here in New York, Abu Dhabi and around the world will work constructively with our colleagues from the member states to overcome divisions and make tangible progress in addressing the most serious challenges, from building resilience to climate change to addressing global health crises and epidemics, and taking advantage of the potential of innovation to achieve peace.”

The UAE will be committed to working as part of the Security Council in a spirit of cooperation and partnership, she said.


The five new UN Security Council members will start their terms on Jan. 1, replacing five countries whose two-year terms end on Dec. 31 — Estonia, Niger, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Tunisia and Vietnam.

Nusseibeh also congratulated Albania, Brazil, Gabon and Ghana on their election to the council and said she “looks forward to working together to build a more peaceful, secure and inclusive future.”

The five countries will take their seats on the council in January, replacing Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Vietnam, Estonia, Niger and Tunisia.

The shift will change the balance of power within the Security Council, diplomats predicted. One diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “Brazil and the UAE have strong positions in foreign policy, and Albania, which will sit on the council for the first time in its history, is also a member of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation.”

Of the 193 available votes, Brazil received 181, the UAE 179, Albania 175, Gabon 183 and Ghana 185.

The Security Council has 15 members. Five (the US, the UK, China, Russia and France) are permanent members with a right of veto, and 10 are elected, non-permanent members, half of whom are replaced every year.

The UAE joined the UN in 1971, the year the country was founded. The only time it has previously held a seat on the Security Council was in 1986-1987.

– with AFP

15-year-old Palestinian shot dead by Israeli soldiers

15-year-old Palestinian shot dead by Israeli soldiers
Palestinian women mourn during the funeral of Mohammad Hamayel, 15, who was killed during clashes with Israeli security forces in Beita, West Bank, on June 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
Updated 12 June 2021

15-year-old Palestinian shot dead by Israeli soldiers

15-year-old Palestinian shot dead by Israeli soldiers
  • Violence in the West Bank increased in early May, with at least 30 Palestinians killed in clashes with Israeli forces and in alleged attacks

RAMALLAH: A Palestinian teenager died on Friday after the Israeli Army shot him during clashes in the West Bank, Palestinian medics and the Health Ministry said.
“Mohammad Said Hamayel, 15, died in clashes” with Israeli forces near Beita, south of Nablus, the Palestinian Red Crescent said.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said six others had been wounded by live gunfire.
The Israeli Army did not immediately respond to an AFP request for comment.
According to Wafa, the Palestinian news agency, the violence took place during “a public protest against Israel’s construction of a colonial settlement outpost near the village,” to which the army responded with live fire and teargas.


The teenager’s death comes a day after three Palestinians were killed by Israeli special forces on a mission to arrest suspected ‘terrorists’ in the occupied West Bank.

Violence in the West Bank increased in early May, with at least 30 Palestinians killed in clashes with Israeli forces and in alleged attacks.
That came amid a flare-up in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem that led to 11 days of airstrikes launched by Israel against Hamas fighters in the besieged enclave of Gaza.
West Bank villages often hold Friday demonstrations against land confiscation, house demolitions and Israeli settlements deemed illegal under international law.
The events are often punctuated by clashes with the Israeli army.
Some 475,000 Israeli settlers live in the occupied West Bank, home to more than 2.8 million Palestinians.

Two Algerian opposition figures held ahead of vote, capital sealed

Two Algerian opposition figures held ahead of vote, capital sealed
Karim Tabbou was imprisoned from September 2019 to July 2020, and spent more than a month under judicial supervision, which grounded him politically. (AFP)
Updated 12 June 2021

Two Algerian opposition figures held ahead of vote, capital sealed

Two Algerian opposition figures held ahead of vote, capital sealed
  • Decree opens new avenue for prosecution of Hirak activists by changing definition of terror

ALGIERS: A politician and a journalist who are prominent opposition figures in Algeria have been arrested days ahead of the country’s parliamentary election, according to a group of lawyers defending jailed activists of the pro-democracy movement.

The Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights said seven leading protest movement figures had been arrested on Thursday evening, five in Algiers and two in other parts of the country. “We do not know the grounds for these arrests,” its vice president, Said Salhi,  said.
Among those detained in Algiers were leading opposition figure Karim Tabbou and independent journalist Khaled Drareni, as well the director of a pro-reform radio station, Ihsane El-Kadi.
Drareni was being held in a barracks on the outskirts of the capital. His only contact with his family was a 1:30 a.m. phone call, his lawyer Zoubida Assoul said.
The journalist, who was only released on bail in February after being detained while covering a mass demonstration in the capital in March last year was expected to face a new trial.
Tabbou and Ihsane El-Kadi were being held in the same barracks, their lawyers said.
Algerian Communication Minister Ammar Belhimer accused El-Kadi of “divulgating information likely to be detrimental to the national unity.”
El-Kadi was placed under judicial supervision on May 18 with orders to present himself at a police station once a week. His passport was confiscated.
Since last month, the government has clamped down on the weekly protests of the Hirak reform movement, detaining hundreds of activists who have defied new restrictions on public gatherings.


On Saturday, Algeria is set to hold its first legislative election since former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was forced from office in 2019 after 20 years in power.

Prior approval is now required from the Interior Ministry, an impossible demand for a movement that prides itself on having no formal leadership, making all of its demonstrations effectively illegal.
A presidential decree published in the official gazette on Thursday opens a new avenue for the prosecution of Hirak activists by changing the penal code’s definition of acts of terrorism.
It establishes an official blacklist of individuals and entities suspected of terrorism that could be used against activists, opposition leaders or journalists.
Police were out in force in Algiers to preempt any attempt by the Hirak to protest.
“This repressive atmosphere and the restrictions placed on human rights and freedoms mean these elections have no democratic value,” Salhi said.
Hirak supporters have vowed to boycott the election, which President Abdelmadjid Tebboune called as part of his pledge to tackle corruption and build a “new Algeria,” as they denounce a crackdown on opposition and increased repression of protests.
Police sealed off the Algerian capital on Friday to prevent protesters gathering on the eve of the election.
Algeria’s president and the generals backing him hope Saturday’s parliamentary election will mark an end to two years of upheaval, but in the capital’s steep, winding streets few people seemed enthused.
While thousands of candidates rallied supporters at official campaign events for an election that moderate Islamist parties aim to win, the low turnout in recent national votes has underscored public skepticism for the process.
“I won’t vote because nothing will change. Nothing at all,” said Khadidja, a woman in a facemask and pink headscarf speaking near a wall plastered with election posters.
The establishment believes replacing the old president, parliament and constitution, coupled with the jailing of numerous Bouteflika cronies, is the best way to end the biggest crisis in decades, said a former senior official.
“The election is another effort to gain some popular legitimacy with the aim of building a new political map,” said Abdelhak Bensadi, a political science professor at Algiers university.
Supporters of the leaderless “Hirak”  protest movement point to an increasing security crackdown on dissent and dismiss Saturday’s election as a charade. They want a more thorough purge of the ruling elite and the army to quit politics.