Uproar over Israeli plan to build 4,000 settlement units in occupied West Bank

Uproar over Israeli plan to build 4,000 settlement units in occupied West Bank
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An Israeli settler scuffles with a Palestinian activist as Israeli soldiers hold him back during a protest in Masafer Yatta, Israeli-occupied West Bank, on May 13, 2022. (REUTERS/Mussa Qawasma)
Uproar over Israeli plan to build 4,000 settlement units in occupied West Bank
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An Israeli soldier chases a protester while Palestinian and Israeli peace activists attempt to open a road to the Jewish settlement of Mezbi Yair, West Bank, on May 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)
Uproar over Israeli plan to build 4,000 settlement units in occupied West Bank
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Palestinian, Israeli and foreign peace activists clear a road block near the Jewish settlement of Mezbi Yair, Masafer Yatta, West Bank, on May 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)
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Updated 14 May 2022

Uproar over Israeli plan to build 4,000 settlement units in occupied West Bank

Uproar over Israeli plan to build 4,000 settlement units in occupied West Bank
  • Mustafa Barghouti calls for US sanctions on Israel

RAMALLAH: Fears over the future of the two-state solution in Palestine have mounted after Israel approved a plan to build more than 4,000 settlement units in the West Bank.

The move threatens Palestinians’ hopes for a two-state solution and the establishment of an independent state.

If constructed, the settlements will sever the geographical contiguity between the occupied territories.

The Higher Planning Committee of the Israeli Civil Administration approved the construction of 4,427 new settlement-housing units in the occupied West Bank, according to NGO Peace Now.

Fifteen European countries, including France, Germany and Italy, have denounced the plans, and demanded that Israel shelve the proposal.

The US also confirmed its opposition to the new approvals.

The Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the approval of the new settlement plans that include 3,988 housing units, including many isolated outposts.

The ministry said in a statement that the approval was granted despite strong opposition from the US administration, which was expressed by more than one US official last week.

The UN stressed that efforts to build confidence between the Palestinian and Israeli sides and the establishment of a truce is a prelude to resolving the conflict.

The ministry said that “the racist colonial decision comes within the framework of the creeping annexation of the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Masafer Yatta and the Jordan Valley — to eliminate any chance of establishing a viable, geographically connected and sovereign Palestinian state.”

Some Palestinian critics argue that the Israeli government is racing against time to resolve the future of the final negotiated issues unilaterally and by force of occupation in accordance with Israel’s interests.

It is also trying to preserve the ruling coalition at the expense of Palestinian land and the rights of people, they claim.

The ministry called on the US administration to fulfill its commitments and promises, and to translate its positions and words into actions to pressure the Israeli government to stop all its settlement activities in a way that leads to the protection of the two-state solution.

About 700,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank across 125 settlements considered illegal under international law. Some Israelis marked the recent approval with celebrations.

Critics warn that Israeli governments have tolerated and even encouraged settlers to seize Palestinian land in Area C, which forms 60 percent of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Settlement activities reached their peak during the term of former US president Donald Trump, who supported Israeli unconditionally.

The ruling Israeli regime of Prime Minister Naftali Bennet is an ultimate supporter of settlement expansion and settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, critics say, pointing to Bennet’s tenure as mayor of a settlement in the West Bank.

Many in Palestine are deeply concerned that the expansion of settlements is detrimental to the two-state solution and forms a serious threat to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with geographical continuity — a longtime goal of Palestinian political figures.

Mustafa Barghouti, secretary-general of the Palestinian Initiative Party, told Arab News: “This confirms that Israel’s intention is to destroy any possibility of establishing an independent Palestinian state.”

Barghouti said that the expansion of settlement-building under the Naftali government “is faster than any previous right-wing government, and it is, of course, worse than the Netanyahu government.”

He added: “It is shameful that parties such as the left-wing Meretz party and Mansour Abbas’ party remain in such a government, which must be brought down immediately.”

Barghouti said that Israel “will not be deterred unless sanctions by the US are imposed on it and the companies that invest in settlements.”

He noted that the US imposed heavy sanctions on Russia in the wake of the Ukraine invasion, but did not impose a single punitive measure against Israel, despite its apparent violation of international law.


Hady Amr describes appointment as US envoy to Palestine as ‘unprecedented step’

Hady Amr describes appointment as US envoy to Palestine as ‘unprecedented step’
Updated 18 sec ago

Hady Amr describes appointment as US envoy to Palestine as ‘unprecedented step’

Hady Amr describes appointment as US envoy to Palestine as ‘unprecedented step’
  • He said it will enhance US-Palestinian relations and he will work to ensure the freedom, security, prosperity, justice and dignity of Palestinians
  • He reiterated that President Joe Biden remains ‘committed’ to reopening the US consulate in Jerusalem, which was closed by former President Donald Trum

CHICAGO: Hady Amr, the new US Special Representative for Palestinian Affairs, described his appointment as an “unprecedented” move that will “elevate” the American relationship with the Palestinian people.

It will also help to coordinate engagement with the US Office of Palestinian Affairs in Jerusalem, which was established in June, he added.

Amr was appointed to his new post Nov. 22. He previously served as deputy assistant secretary for Israeli and Palestinian affairs in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs within the US Department of State.

In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Amr said he has two main objectives: “To advance and work toward equal measures of freedom, security, and prosperity and justice and dignity for the Palestinian people; and to take steps to try to try to preserve and advance the two-state solution along the 1967 lines, with mutually agreed (land) swaps.”

He also stressed that President Joe Biden remains “committed” to reopening the US consulate in Jerusalem, which was shut down in 2018 by the former Trump administration.

He also acknowledged that his appointment comes at a crucial time, as tensions and violence between Israelis and Palestinians have escalated in the past year.

“It is very clear that 2022 has been an extremely painful year on the ground over there,” said Amr.

“In fact, for West Bank Palestinians it has been the deadliest year since 2004, with about 150 West Bank Palestinians killed out of about 200 overall, alongside 31 Israeli deaths, and also over 9,000 Palestinian injuries and over 150 Israeli injuries. So we are aware the situation on the ground is very difficult.

“I’ll be engaging with the Palestinian people and leadership to better understand the challenges we face, and to better align our policy to address those challenges. And I’ll also be engaging with the Israeli government and other governments in the region to try to advance our policy objectives.”

Amr said his appointment reflects Biden’s commitment to pursuing efforts that can ensure Israelis and Palestinians are able to “live safely and securely and enjoy equal measures of freedom, prosperity, dignity and justice,” and to supporting a two-state solution to a conflict that has persisted for more than 70 years.

“The creation of this position is a step forward for the US-Palestinian relationship,” said Amr. “It is also an unprecedented step, elevating the attention that will be paid to issues of concern to Palestinians in Washington.

“And so our goal, week-on-week, month-on-month, is to seek ways to make the world a better place … that is our objective and that is how we plan to move forward.

“I think the administration and the secretary of state felt it was important for the administration to strengthen our bilateral relationship with the Palestinian people. And so, they sought to create this position, for the first time ever to have a Washington-based special representative for Palestinian affairs engaging with the Palestinian people and the Palestinian leadership. In my new role, my primary responsibilities will be to do just that.”

Although he declined to go into detail about what actions he has taken since his appointment a little over a week ago, Amr said the Biden administration has already done a lot to improve the lives of Palestinians.

 

“I don’t want to speak about any steps in the last week but what I do want to point to is the commitment of the United States to improving the quality of life of the Palestinian people,” he said.

“We are now the world’s largest donor to UNRWA (the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East); we have given more than $680 million in the past 18 months. We’ve restarted our assistance, through USAID (the United States Agency for International Development), to the Palestinian people and we are tripling that assistance, nearly tripling it this year from $75 million last year to $219 million in the year ahead. And we are continuing to provide a full range of assistance.

“In my new role, essentially, I am going to be focusing in a little bit more on this assistance and making sure it aligns with our foreign policy objectives as the United States.”

Amr also highlighted a key issue that needs to be addressed by all sides as he pursues his goals in his new position.

“The key thing, as we have said for some time, is we call on the parties themselves to contain the violence and to contain the armed conflict,” he said.

“The US and international partners stand ready to help but we can’t substitute for vital actions by the parties themselves. So when it comes to whatever those actions are — whether it is Palestinian violence against Israelis, Israeli violence against Palestinians, home demolitions, settlement expansion — these are all areas where the United States cares deeply and where we will continue to address those issues with the parties.

“But we call on the parties themselves to do their utmost to contain violence and armed conflict.”

Amr said that in his new role he expects to travel to the Middle East more often than he has in the past.

“I will be able to focus the main portion of my time on engagement with the Palestinian people and leadership and on Palestinian-related issues with other governments in the region, including, Israel, Jordan, Egypt and other governments, as well as with European governments,” he said.

In addition to his exclusive interview with Arab News on Tuesday, Amr also held a press briefing on Wednesday during which he reiterated Biden’s commitment to a two-state solution, and to the fundamental principle that both Israelis and Palestinians have an equal right to live safely and securely and enjoy equal measures of freedom, prosperity and dignity.

“We remain committed to reopening a consulate in Jerusalem,” he said at the briefing. “We continue to believe it is an important way to engage with the Palestinian people … and we will continue to discuss the timeline.”

Amr also reiterated that he will work to strengthen the US relationship with the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authority, and “engage on important reforms we believe are important to make Palestinian society more vibrant and more free.”

On the issue of Palestinian elections, he said: “Elections are a decision for the Palestinian people.”


Man reportedly shot dead in Iran after celebrating national team’s World Cup elimination

Man reportedly shot dead in Iran after celebrating national team’s World Cup elimination
Updated 3 min 51 sec ago

Man reportedly shot dead in Iran after celebrating national team’s World Cup elimination

Man reportedly shot dead in Iran after celebrating national team’s World Cup elimination
  • Mehran Samak said to have been shot in the head after honking his car horn in delight after Iran’s defeat by the USA
  • At least 30 people shot and wounded by security forces as protesters cheered the team’s exit, rights group said

LONDON: A man was killed by Iranian security forces in Bandar Anzali on Tuesday as anti-government protesters celebrated the national football team’s elimination from the World Cup following a 1-0 defeat by the USA, nongovernmental organization Iran Human Rights reported.

Many Iranians chose not to support their national football team during the tournament in Qatar because they viewed it as a symbol of the Islamic Republic, the BBC reported.

Videos posted online showed protesters across the country, particularly in the Kurdish northwest of Iran, publicly cheering after the team were knocked out of the competition. Among them was Mehran Samak, a 27-year-old reportedly shot in the head after honking his car horn in celebration of the defeat.

A video obtained by BBC Persian appeared to show mourners at his funeral on Wednesday chanting an anti-regime slogan: “You are the filth, you are the immoral, I am a free woman.”

In Sanandaj, protesters were filmed dancing along to music, while in Kermanshah and Marivan they were heard chanting the popular slogan “Woman, life, freedom.”

State-affiliated media accused forces inside and outside of Iran of being unfair to the national team and putting pressure on the players.

 

 

Iranian officials deny killing peaceful protesters but videos posted on 1500tasvir, a social media channel for opposition activists, appear to show security forces opening fire on people in Behbahan and assaulting a woman in Qazvin.

At least 30 people were shot and wounded by security forces while celebrating the World Cup defeat in Marivan, Sanandaj, Kermanshah, Saqqez, Ilam and Bukan, according to Kurdish human rights group Hengaw.

 


Russia sends reinforcements to northern Syria

Russia sends reinforcements to northern Syria
Updated 30 November 2022

Russia sends reinforcements to northern Syria

Russia sends reinforcements to northern Syria
  • The move by Damascus ally Moscow comes after Ankara launched air strikes on Kurdish targets in Syria and Iraq on November 20
  • Residents of Tal Rifaat, a Kurdish-held pocket north of Aleppo, told AFP that Russian troop reinforcements had reached the city

QAMISHLI, Syria: Russia deployed troop reinforcements Wednesday to an area of northern Syria controlled by Kurdish fighters and government troops, residents and a war monitor said, amid fears of a Turkish ground incursion.
The move by Damascus ally Moscow comes after Ankara launched air strikes on Kurdish targets in Syria and Iraq on November 20, a week after a deadly Istanbul bombing that it blamed on Kurdish militants, who have denied responsibility.
Residents of Tal Rifaat, a Kurdish-held pocket north of Aleppo, told AFP that Russian troop reinforcements had reached the city.
Tal Rifaat lies 15 kilometers (nine miles) south of the border with Turkiye. Kurdish forces control the city and surrounding villages, and Russian troops were already present in the area.
Residents said Russian forces had set up roadblocks at a nearby village separating it from positions under the control of Turkish forces and their Syrian rebel proxies.
Turkish proxies control areas surrounding Tal Rifaat from the north, while Russian-backed Syrian troops control zones mostly to the south.
After carrying out a series of air strikes, Turkiye has threatened to launch a ground incursion into northern Syria, including the Tal Rifaat pocket as well as Kobani and Manbij further east.
Kobani and Manbij are under the control of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which include the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), one of the groups Turkiye accuses of being behind the Istanbul bombing.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said Russia was also reinforcing its troops at a government-controlled air base near Tal Rifaat.
The reinforcements could be an attempt “to stop or put off the Turkish operation,” Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
Kurdish-led forces in northern Syria have called on Russia to dissuade Turkiye from launching a ground offensive against them, their commander said on Tuesday.
The Observatory said Russian reinforcements had also reached the outskirts of the border city of Kobani.
Russian troops deployed in some Kurdish-controlled border areas of northern Syria following a 2019 agreement that sought to avert a previous Turkish incursion threat.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last week that Turkiye was more determined than ever to secure its border with Syria from attacks by Kurdish fighters, threatening a ground operation “at the most convenient time.”
Since 2016, Turkiye has carried out successive operations against Kurdish forces in northern Syria that have installed its proxies in several areas along the border.


Earthquake of magnitude 5.6 strikes southern Iran; felt in UAE — EMSC

Earthquake of magnitude 5.6 strikes southern Iran; felt in UAE — EMSC
Updated 30 November 2022

Earthquake of magnitude 5.6 strikes southern Iran; felt in UAE — EMSC

Earthquake of magnitude 5.6 strikes southern Iran; felt in UAE — EMSC
  • Iranian state TV reported that rescue teams were dispatched to the quake-hit area and added there were no casualties

DUBAI: An Earthquake of magnitude 5.6 struck southern Iran on Wednesday and was felt in the United Arab Emirates, the European-Mediterranean Seismological Center (EMSC) said.
Iranian state TV reported that rescue teams were dispatched to the quake-hit area and added there were no casualties.
The quake was at a depth of 10 km (6 miles) and about 88 km northwest of Ras Al Khaimah City in the UAE, EMSC added.


Daesh announces death of leader

Daesh announces death of leader
Updated 20 min 9 sec ago

Daesh announces death of leader

Daesh announces death of leader
  • Speaking in an audio message, the spokesman identified the group’s new leader as Abu Al-Hussein Al-Husseini Al-Qurashi
  • The White House welcomed the news that the leader was killed

BEIRUT: Daesh said Wednesday that its leader Abu Hasan Al-Hashimi Al-Qurashi has been killed in battle and announced a replacement.
A spokesman for the group said Hashimi, an Iraqi, was killed “in combat with enemies of God,” without elaborating on the date of his death or the circumstances.
Speaking in an audio message, the spokesman identified the group’s new leader as Abu Al-Hussein Al-Husseini Al-Qurashi.

The US military said in a statement on Wednesday that the Free Syrian Army carried out the operation that killed Al-Quraishi in Syria’s Daraa province in mid-October.
“Daesh remains a threat to the region,” US Central Command said in a statement.
“CENTCOM and our partners remain focused on the enduring defeat of Daesh,” it added. 

The White House welcomed the news that the leader had been killed, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters.
“We welcome the announcement that another leader of Daesh is no longer walking the face of the Earth,” he said.
After a meteoric rise in Iraq and Syria in 2014 that saw it conquer vast swathes of territory, Daesh saw its self-proclaimed “caliphate” collapse under a wave of offensives.
It was defeated in Iraq in 2017 and in Syria two years later, but sleeper cells of the Sunni Muslim extremist group still carry out attacks in both countries and claim attacks elsewhere in the world.
The group’s previous leader, Abu Ibrahim Al-Qurashi, was killed earlier this year in a US raid in Idlib province in northern Syria.
His predecessor Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi was killed, also in Idlib, in October 2019.