Israeli army makes plans to resettle 1,000 Palestinians without government’s knowledge

Israeli army makes plans to resettle 1,000 Palestinians without government’s knowledge
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Updated 11 January 2023

Israeli army makes plans to resettle 1,000 Palestinians without government’s knowledge

Israeli army makes plans to resettle 1,000 Palestinians without government’s knowledge
  • Preparations reportedly began in November but the plans were not presented to the government until last week, sources said
  • The plans involve 12 West Bank villages, an increase over the eight included in a recent petition on the issue submitted by residents to the Supreme Court

RAMALLAH: Officials from the Israeli armed forces have been making plans to forcibly move about 1,000 Palestinians from villages in Masafer Yatta, near southern Hebron in the southern West Bank, without the Israeli government’s knowledge, according to Israeli sources.

The army’s Central District Command began preparations in November to displace the residents so that the military can conduct regular training exercises in the area, the sources said.

The plan was said to have been presented to the government for the first time only last week, after the new administration took over, and the displacement of residents is due to take place this year. The sources said decision was communicated by officials from the Israeli Civil Administration, which oversees civilian affairs in the Occupied Territories, to the Palestinian Authority during a meeting last week in the West Bank.

The forced displacement of civilians from, or within, the Palestinian Territories is prohibited under international humanitarian law.

Representatives of the Palestinian Authority have told people in Masafer Yatta that the Civil Administration officials informed them of plans to displace residents from 12 villages, an increase over the eight that were included in the most recent, failed, petition on the issue submitted by the residents to the Supreme Court. Officials from the Israeli armed forces propose that the residents of the villages be moved to two new sites in the region and can choose the location of one of them.

Israeli security and political sources reportedly have expressed concern about the behavior of military officials in the case, warning that it is a “warning signal” about future plans affecting Palestinians and the ability of the army to stand up to politicians, the far right and the settlers who “pressure senior officers and expect them to make decisions that are consistent with their ideas according to political and non-professional considerations.”

Nidal Younis, head of the Masafer Yatta Villages Council, told Arab News that attacks on Palestinians by the Israeli army, police and settlers have increased dramatically since a ruling by the Israeli Supreme Court in May to displace eight communities, restrict the movement of residents of other villages, prevent non-residents from entering certain villages, and confiscate agricultural machinery and vehicles. Meanwhile settlers have attacked residents of Masafer Yatta, their livestock pastures, and prevented them from plowing their land and cultivating crops used to feed their livestock.

“The goal of escalating attacks against us is to make our lives difficult and impossible, and thus push us and force us to leave our villages and leave our land for them to control,” said Younis.

The villages in Masafer Yatta occupy an area of about 13.5 square miles and include five schools and five medical centers. About 1,150 Palestinians from 215 households live there, including 569 children.

The residents depend on humanitarian aid due to the restrictive and discriminatory planning regime they face. Israeli authorities have issued demolition or “stop work” orders against most of the homes, animal shelters, and community infrastructure in the villages on the grounds that they were constructed without the required building permits, which are almost impossible for Palestinians to obtain. This has impeded the development of adequate housing, infrastructure and livelihoods.

In addition to the threat of their homes being demolished, the communities also face violence from settlers at a nearby outpost who have blocked roads in the area, attacked farmers, and set haystacks and grazing areas on fire. This has undermined the physical security of villagers, negatively affected their mental and psycho-social health, lowered their standard of living, and increased their dependence on humanitarian aid.

The rearing of livestock provides the community’s primary source of income but access to grazing land has been reduced by military and settlement activity.

Younis Arar, head of the International Relations Unit at the Settlement and Wall Resistance Commission, told Arab News that there is growing concern for the remaining villagers given that Israeli authorities removed eight of the 12 communities from the villages of Masafer Yatta following the Supreme Court decision last year — and especially since the new far-right Israeli government came to power in late December.

Arar said there has been an increase in demolitions of buildings and the destruction of land in Masafer Yatta carried out by Israeli authorities in the past two weeks, and that Palestinians are planning protests in an attempt to resist the forced displacement of residents.

Palestinian officials have expressed disappointment in the efforts of the international community to prevent Israeli authorities from implementing their forced resettlement plans, in particular the weakness of statements issued by the EU and the UN, which did not go beyond expressing concern and did not include any steps to attempt to force Israeli authorities to back down.

Humanitarian organizations and donors have been providing assistance to help meet the needs of the remaining communities in Masafer Yatta, including water and electricity, and prevent forced displacement. However, Israeli authorities are reportedly impeding such efforts by issuing demolition or “stop work” orders, confiscating vehicles and equipment, restricting access to land, and preventing humanitarian workers from entering the area.

The schools in the area, built with support from international donors, face pending demolition orders, as do the medical centers. Activists warn that forced evictions create many humanitarian needs that must be addressed to ensure people are protected and have access to essential services.

US vice president Kamala Harris: Israel needs ‘independent judiciary’

US vice president Kamala Harris: Israel needs ‘independent judiciary’
Updated 25 sec ago

US vice president Kamala Harris: Israel needs ‘independent judiciary’

US vice president Kamala Harris: Israel needs ‘independent judiciary’
  • Israeli foreign minister Eli Cohen: Harris was perhaps not fully informed about the details of the judicial changes his government was seeking
WASHINGTON: US vice president Kamala Harris said on Tuesday that Israel’s democracy requires “an independent judiciary,” wading into the controversy over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposed judicial overhaul that has drawn mass protests in Israel.
“America will continue to stand for the values that have been the bedrock of the US-Israel relationship, which includes continuing to strengthen our democracies, which as the (Israeli) ambassador has said, are both built on strong institutions, checks and balances, and I’ll add: an independent judiciary,” Harris said.
The vice president spoke at a reception celebrating the 75th anniversary of Israel’s founding hosted by the country’s embassy in Washington. Her remarks on the judiciary drew applause.
Harris also reiterated the Biden administration’s “ironclad commitment to the security of Israel.”
Israeli foreign minister Eli Cohen said Harris was perhaps not fully informed about the details of the judicial changes his government was seeking, which were intended, he said, to ensure a strong and independent judiciary which was more balanced.
“If you ask her what troubles her about the reform, she may not be able to cite even one clause that bothers her,” Cohen told Israel’s public broadcaster Kansas “I don’t know whether she read the bill, my estimation is that she has not.”
Weeks of unprecedented street demonstrations followed Netanyahu’s proposed package of reforms of the Supreme Court, which members of his religious-nationalist coalition accuse of overreach and elitism.
Under pressure at home and abroad, including from US President Joe Biden’s administration, Netanyahu has suspended the overhaul to try to negotiate a consensus with the political opposition.
Critics see a threat to independence of the courts by the prime minister, who is on trial on graft charges that he denies.
Top economists and national security veterans have warned of fallout, saying an independent court system is crucial to Israel’s democratic norms and economic strength.
Before Harris spoke, Israeli president Isaac Herzog said in a video address to the crowd that he planned to visit the White House and address a joint session of the US Congress “in the near future.” The trip is expected in July.
Biden has yet to extend a White House invitation to Netanyahu, despite Israel’s status as a key Middle East ally.
The two leaders have had chilly relations since Biden took office. Biden had pressed Netanyahu in recent months to drop the judicial overhaul plan.
Netanyahu, who was prime minister for three years in the 1990s and then from 2009 to 2021, took office again in December to start his sixth term.

Turkiye jails teen who added moustache to Erdogan poster

Turkiye jails teen who added moustache to Erdogan poster
Updated 07 June 2023

Turkiye jails teen who added moustache to Erdogan poster

Turkiye jails teen who added moustache to Erdogan poster
  • He was arrested after being identified by CCTV cameras

ISTANBUL: Turkish authorities on Tuesday seized and jailed a 16-year-old youth for drawing a moustache on an election campaign poster showing re-elected President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, media reports said.
Several media close to the opposition, including daily newspapers BirGun, Cumhuriyet and private TV station Halk TV, said the youth from the southeastern town of Mersin was accused of defacing the poster near his home with a pen, scribbling “a Hitler moustache and writing insulting comments.”
He was arrested after being identified by CCTV cameras, media reports said. Authorities interviewed him at his home where he reportedly “admitted drawing the moustache” while denying writing the accompanying comments.
Taken before the public prosecutor he was found to have “insulted the president” and was jailed at a nearby youth facility, according to Halk TV.
Erdogan extended his 20-year rule over Turkiye after winning the May 28 second round of the presidential election to embark on a new five-year term.
According to the justice ministry, “insulting the president” is one of the most common crimes in Turkiye, resulting in 16,753 convictions last year.

Short of animals, Gaza Zoo fights to survive

Short of animals, Gaza Zoo fights to survive
Updated 06 June 2023

Short of animals, Gaza Zoo fights to survive

Short of animals, Gaza Zoo fights to survive
  • Two of Gaza’s zoos have closed

GAZA: Large paintings of a bear, an elephant and a giraffe decorate the outer walls of NAMA Zoo in Gaza City, but none of these wild creatures is represented live among those caged inside.

Six years ago, the lone tiger died, and despite visitors’ frequent demands for a replacement, the owners have not been able to afford to buy or feed a new one.

There were once six zoos in Gaza, a narrow coastal enclave which has been closed off behind security walls since 2007.

But with the economy crippled by a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt, two of the zoos have closed.

“Because of the lack of resources and capabilities and the high prices of animals it is difficult to replace an animal you lose,” said Mahmoud Al-Sultan, the medical supervisor of the NAMA zoo.

The original animals at the zoo were smuggled through tunnels from Egypt over a decade ago. 

As well as four pairs of lions, each of which goes through 60 kg of meat a week, the zoo has crocodiles, hyenas, foxes, deer and monkeys, as well as a lone ibex and a solitary wolf.

At the lions’ cages, children stand to take pictures from a distance and giggle as they touch the bars on the cages of deer and birds. 

A ticket costs less than $1 because people can’t afford more, Sultan said.

“I come here to have some fun, but I see the same animals every time,” said nine-year-old Fouad Saleh. “I wish I could see an elephant, a giraffe or a tiger.”

For the moment, that appears unlikely. Gaza lacks the medical facilities to treat animals like lions and tigers.

In the past, the Four Paws international animal welfare group has had to rescue animals and find them new homes in Israel, Jordan or as far away as South Africa.

“We struggle to afford the food,” said Sultan. “Sometimes we provide frozen food, chicken, turkeys, and sometimes if a donkey is injured we have it slaughtered and shared out between the lions.”

UAE to tighten insurance cover for ships flying its flag

UAE to tighten insurance cover for ships flying its flag
Updated 06 June 2023

UAE to tighten insurance cover for ships flying its flag

UAE to tighten insurance cover for ships flying its flag

DUBAI: The UAE is tightening insurance requirements for vessels registered under its flag, according to a government advisory, amid growing concerns over ships sailing without top tier cover in the event of an oil spill.

Ships typically have protection and indemnity insurance which covers liability claims including environmental damage and injury. Separate hull and machinery policies cover vessels against physical damage.

About 90 percent of the world’s ocean going tonnage is covered by the 12 ship insurers that make up the International Group.

P&I insurers outside of the IG that cover UAE flagged ships will need to meet a number of requirements including providing evidence of membership of a recognized maritime related professional agency or regulatory body, the UAE’s Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure said in a June 2 advisory posted on its website.

Other requirements include providing details of the five largest settled claims or details of claims over $10 million, the advisory said, adding that applications needed to be submitted before June 30.

The advisory, which was also addressed to ship owners, said evidence would need to be shown about so-called blue cards, which cover pollution damage.

The UAE flagged fleet includes dozens of oil tankers — many of which are old — and over 200 offshore vessels typically used in oil related trading, according to shipping data on public database Equasis.

Hundreds of “ghost” tankers, which are not fully regulated, have joined an opaque parallel shipping trade over the past few years, carrying oil from countries hit by Western sanctions and restrictions, including Russia and Iran.

The number of incidents last year, including groundings, collisions and near misses involving these ships reached the highest in years, a Reuters investigation showed.

Ports in China’s Shandong province are demanding more detailed information about oil tankers that are more than 15 years old that call at their terminals, sources with knowledge of the matter said this week.

Khartoum islanders ‘under siege’

Khartoum islanders ‘under siege’
Updated 06 June 2023

Khartoum islanders ‘under siege’

Khartoum islanders ‘under siege’
  • Residents of Tuti island in the Nile reported being “under siege” amid desperate shortages

KHARTOUM: Battles raged in Sudan’s war-torn capital of Khartoum on Tuesday, witnesses said, and the residents of an island in the Nile reported being “under siege” amid desperate shortages.

Eight weeks of fighting have pitted army chief Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan against his former deputy Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, who commands the powerful paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.

A number of broken ceasefires have offered brief lulls but no respite for residents of the city, where witnesses again reported “the sound of heavy artillery fire” in northern Khartoum.

Witnesses also said there were “clashes with various types of weapons” in south Khartoum, where “the sound of explosions shook our walls.”

In the city center, at the confluence of the White Nile and Blue Nile rivers, the island of Tuti is “under total siege” by RSF forces, resident Mohammed Youssef said.

Paramilitaries have blocked the only bridge to the island and prevented residents from going by boat to other parts of the capital.

“We can’t move anyone who’s sick to hospitals off the island,” Youssef said. “If this continues for days, stores will run out of food.”

Since the fighting began on April 15, more than 1,800 people have been killed, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project.

Al Arabiya channel reported that the warring parties had resumed indirect ceasefire talks in Jeddah on Tuesday.

The UN says that more than a million and a half people have been displaced, both within the country and across its borders.

For those still in Khartoum and the western region of Darfur — which together have seen the worst of the fighting — the situation is growing increasingly dire.

“We face a massive humanitarian crisis that is only going to get worse with the collapse of the economy, collapse of the health care system,” the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies warned.

The danger will increase with “the flood season fast approaching and the looming hunger crisis and disease outbreaks that now are becoming more inevitable.”

Sudan’s annual rainy season begins in June, and medics have repeatedly warned that it threatens to make parts of country inaccessible, raising the risks of malaria, cholera and water-borne diseases.