Largest Palestinian displacement in decades looms after Israeli court ruling

Largest Palestinian displacement in decades looms after Israeli court ruling
Israeli security forces surround demonstrators raising Palestinian flags, as Palestinian, left-wing, Israeli and foreign activists gather to protest against a High Court decision to evict Palestinian communities from Fire Zone 918, on June 10, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 12 June 2022

Largest Palestinian displacement in decades looms after Israeli court ruling

Largest Palestinian displacement in decades looms after Israeli court ruling
  • Israel says West Bank area not permanently inhabited
  • Palestinian farmers, shepherds claim historic ties to land

MASAFER YATTA, West Bank: Some 1,200 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank region of Masafer Yatta face the risk of forced removal to make way for an army firing zone after a decades-long legal battle that ended last month in Israel’s highest court.
The ruling opened the way for one of the largest displacements since Israel captured the territory in the 1967 Middle East war. But residents are refusing to leave, hoping their resilience and international pressure will keep Israel from carrying out the evictions.
“They want to take this land from us to build settlements,” said Wadha Ayoub Abu Sabha, a resident of Al-Fakheit, one of a group of hamlets where Palestinian shepherds and farmers claim a historic connection to the land.
“We’re not leaving,” she said.
In the 1980s, Israel declared the area a closed military zone known as “Firing Zone 918.” It argued in court that these 3,000 hectares (7,400 acres) along the Israel-West Bank boundary were “highly crucial” for training purposes and that the Palestinians living there were only seasonal dwellers.
“It has been a year of immense grief,” said Abu Sabha, her voice breaking as she sat in one of the few tents left standing, lit by a single light bulb.
The communities in this part of the South Hebron Hills traditionally lived in underground caves. Over the past two decades, they have also started building tin shacks and small rooms above ground.
Israeli forces have been demolishing these new constructions for years, Abu Sabha said, but now that they have the court’s backing, the evictions are likely to pick up.
Steps away, her family’s belongings were reduced to a pile of rubble after soldiers arrived with bulldozers to raze some of the structures. She lamented the significant losses — the dwindling livestock even more than the destroyed furniture.
Much of the argument during the protracted case centered on whether the Palestinians who live across the area are permanent residents or seasonal occupants.
The Supreme Court concluded that the residents “failed to prove their claim of permanent habitation” before the area was declared a firing zone. It relied on aerial photos and excerpts from a 1985 book that both sides cited as evidence.
The book, titled “Life in the Caves of Mount Hebron,” was authored by Israeli anthropologist Yaacov Havakook, who spent three years studying the lives of Palestinian farmers and shepherds in Masafer Yatta.
Havakook declined to comment and instead referred Reuters to his book. But he said he had tried to submit an expert opinion on behalf of the residents following a request from one of their lawyers, and was prevented from doing so by the Israeli defense ministry, where he was employed at the time.

INTERNATIONAL CRITICISM
The United Nations and European Union condemned the court ruling and urged Israel to stop the demolitions and evictions.
“The establishment of a firing zone cannot be considered an ‘imperative military reason’ to transfer the population under occupation,” the EU spokesperson said in a statement.
In a transcript of a 1981 ministerial meeting on settlements uncovered by Israeli researchers, then-Agriculture Minister Ariel Sharon, who later became prime minister, suggested the Israeli military expand training zones in the South Hebron Hills to dispossess the Palestinian residents of their land.
“We want to offer you more training zones,” Sharon said, given “the spread of Arab villagers from the hills toward the desert.”
The Israeli military told Reuters the area was declared a firing zone for “a variety of relevant operational considerations” and that Palestinians violated the closure order by building without permits over the years.
According to the United Nations, the Israeli authorities reject most Palestinian applications for building permits in “Area C,” a swathe of land making up two-thirds of the West Bank where Israel has full control and where most Jewish settlements are located. In other areas of the West Bank, Palestinians exercise limited self-rule.
UN data also showed that Israel has marked nearly 30 percent of Area C as military firing zones. The designations have put 38 of the most vulnerable Palestinian communities at increased risk of forced displacement.
Meanwhile, settlements in the area have continued to expand, further restricting Palestinian movement and the space available for residents to farm and graze their sheep and goats.
“All of these olives are mine,” said Mahmoud Ali Najajreh of Al-Markez, another hamlet at risk, pointing to a grove in the near distance. “How can we leave?“
The 3,500 olive trees he planted two years ago — he counted each one — were beginning to bud.
“We will wait for the dust to settle, then build again,” Najajreh told Reuters. “We would rather die than leave here.”


UAE to issue new-generation Emirati passports

UAE to issue new-generation Emirati passports
Updated 11 August 2022

UAE to issue new-generation Emirati passports

UAE to issue new-generation Emirati passports
  • Part of efforts to use technology in reinforcing identification of personal identity and eliminating forgery

DUBAI: The UAE will issue a new generation of Emirati passports from Sept. 1, authorities said on Thursday.

The Federal Authority for Identity, Citizenship, Customs and Port Security (ICP) said the new passports, equipped with the latest technologies, will have advanced security features.

 

 

The new-generation passports are part of efforts to use technology in reinforcing identification of personal identity and eliminating forgery or fraud, according to Ali Muhammad Al-Shamsi, Chairman of ICP, in a report from state news agency WAM.

The complex security specifications feature a polycarbonate introduction page, laser technologies and “three-dimensional tangible elements.”

Authorities said holders of the current passports can still use their travel document until expiry.


Egypt warns of cracks in Ethiopian dam

Egypt warns of cracks in Ethiopian dam
Updated 11 August 2022

Egypt warns of cracks in Ethiopian dam

Egypt warns of cracks in Ethiopian dam
  • Cairo, Khartoum fear it will reduce their share of Nile waters
  • Egypt says it will take all necessary measures to protect national security

CAIRO: In a letter to the UN Security Council, Egypt has warned of cracks in the concrete facade of the sub-dam linked to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

Cairo said this is particularly alarming due to Ethiopia’s failure to comply with its duty to conduct the required environmental and socioeconomic impact studies.

The letter, sent to the UNSC president, said Egypt’s Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Mohamed Abdel-Aty had received a message about Ethiopia’s intention to unilaterally resume filling the GERD during the current rainy season.

Abdel-Aty said Ethiopia’s decision comes in the absence of an agreement between it and Egypt and Sudan on the rules governing the filling and operation of the dam, constituting a violation of the 2015 Declaration of Principles signed by the three countries.

He stressed that Cairo holds Ethiopia fully responsible for any significant harm that may be caused to Egypt by these repeated violations.

Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said the country reserves its right guaranteed in the UN Charter to take all necessary measures to ensure and protect its national security, including against any harm that Ethiopia’s unilateral measures may cause.

The GERD has raised tensions between Ethiopia on one hand and Egypt and Sudan on the other.

The latter two countries are demanding a legally binding agreement on the filling and operation of the dam, which they fear will reduce their share of the Nile’s waters.

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UK police seek urgent help locating boy last seen in Turkey

UK police seek urgent help locating boy last seen in Turkey
Updated 11 August 2022

UK police seek urgent help locating boy last seen in Turkey

UK police seek urgent help locating boy last seen in Turkey
  • 4-year-old George Jack Temperley-Wells visited Antalya with his mother to see his father

LONDON: Police in the UK have asked for help to locate a 4-year-old boy who is thought to be missing after traveling to Turkey.

George Jack Temperley-Wells is believed to have gone to visit his father Scott Nigel Wells in the city of Antalya on June 29 with his mother Brogan Elizabeth Temperley. Antalya is a popular summer holiday destination for Britons.

Durham Police said anyone in contact with Temperley should notify authorities in Turkey or the UK immediately with information on her whereabouts, adding that they have serious concerns for the welfare of her son.

The police said the boy has red hair, a pale complexion and dark eyes, while his mother is described as being slim with long dark hair and dark eyes.

The force released two images of the trio dining in the area at a restaurant recently, where they were seen smiling together.

People in Turkey with information should visit their nearest police station or call 112/115. Anyone in the UK with information should contact Durham Constabulary on 101, and quote the incident number 325 for June 30.


UN, Italian agency sign deal to rebuild damaged Beirut suburbs

UN, Italian agency sign deal to rebuild damaged Beirut suburbs
Updated 11 August 2022

UN, Italian agency sign deal to rebuild damaged Beirut suburbs

UN, Italian agency sign deal to rebuild damaged Beirut suburbs
  • Italian Embassy: Project will improve housing for vulnerable people affected by port blast

LONDON: The Italian Agency for Development Cooperation and the UN Program for Human Settlements have signed an agreement in Beirut to finance the rehabilitation of the public park of the Mar Mikhael train station in the Lebanese capital.

The program will also restore some of the housing damaged by the Beirut port explosion on Aug. 4, 2020.

The Italian Embassy in Beirut reported the signing, hosting a ceremony at the Italian diplomatic headquarters in Baabda. It was attended by Italian Ambassador to Lebanon Nicoletta Bombardiere.

The project, titled “Ensuring safe public spaces and adequate housing for all within the city of Beirut,” is being funded by the agency and will be implemented by the UN program alongside Lebanese authorities.

The embassy said the project will improve “housing conditions for vulnerable populations affected by the explosion of the port of Beirut, in particular in the vicinity of the old Mar Mikhael railway station.”

It added that the project intends to increase “access to safe and inclusive public spaces within the railway station, also revitalizing the urban fabric of the city.”

Bombardiere said: “This project will allow the citizens of Beirut to rediscover the old Mar Mikhael railway station and its historical relevance.

“At the same time, we continue our commitment to respond to basic needs, such as social housing, restoring the cultural and social fabric of the districts most affected.”


Hostage situation: Armed man storms Lebanese bank, demands release of frozen assets

Hostage situation: Armed man storms Lebanese bank, demands release of frozen assets
Updated 11 August 2022

Hostage situation: Armed man storms Lebanese bank, demands release of frozen assets

Hostage situation: Armed man storms Lebanese bank, demands release of frozen assets
  • Civilians gather outside bank in support of gunman
  • Bank's lawyer claims efforts under way to reach a negotiated conclusion

BEIRUT, LEBANON: A gunman has entered a Beirut bank in Al Hamra Street demanding his savings are released so he can pay his father’s hospital bills.
The man, named as Bassam Sheikh Hussein, 42, says his money has been withheld as part of measures taken by the Banque du Liban  (Federal Bank of Lebanon) since 2019.

It is understood that the man took eight hostages, six employees and two customers.

On entering the bank, witnesses said the man poured gasoline into the bank hall on Thursday morning and pulled out a gun threatening to burn himself and kill those in the bank unless he was given the $2,000 to pay for his father’s hospital costs.

The security services have cordoned off the area where crowds have gathered - some shouting their support for the gunman  with chants of “give him his money back,” and even calling him a “hero.”

Later in the afternoon people became increasingly impatient, and warned the Lebanese minister of interior that any attempt to enter the bank by force to bring the gunman out would be met with a violent response by civilians at the scene.

 

Customers who were inside the bank when the gunman stormed it said, he had had an account with the bank, containing $210,000 and was demanding they release $2,000.

It is understood the gunman told customers to leave the bank and kept the employees inside.

Shortly after the siege began the gunman was seen leading an elderly man from the branch, before letting him go.

Hasan Moghnieh, head of the depositors’ association, told Arab News that the gunman had originally demanded $2,000 to pay for his father’s hospital bill.

But when the bank refused, he demanded the whole $210,000 balance.

“The bank brought $10,000 as a settlement to give it to the gunman, but he refused,” Moghnieh added.

“Now further negotiations are underway.”

He said he did not know the gunman personally, but added: “By negotiating with him, it became clear that he is serious about his threats and he is ready for ‘collective damage.’"

Outside pople gathered in the area in solidarity with the gunman chanting: “Down with the rule of the bank.”

They told media at the scene that the siege was an inevitable outcome of government’s actions that had ultimately led to millions of people’s finances being frozen by the banks.

And they warned that their could be repeats of the siege in the future unless something was done - later warning that any attempts to the end the siege by force by security would be met with civil unrest.

A number of customers who had gathered in the area shouted to the media that they supported the actions of the gunman, stressing that they too wanted their money.

Mughniyeh said the gunman “fired two shots inside the bank,” adding that the man was with his brother who also holds money in the branch.

He said the gunman justified the siege as the only way he could get his money.”

Some of the gunman’s supporters said he might be protected under Lebanese laws permitting citizens to protect themselves, their possessions and money by force.