Israel steps up demolition of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem, West Bank

Israel steps up demolition of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem, West Bank
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A Palestinian family is rendered homeless following the demolition of their home by Israeli authorities at Khirbet Ma’in, south of Hebron, in the occupied West Bank. (AP)
Israel steps up demolition of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem, West Bank
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A Palestinian man walks amidst the debris of the house of Rateb Hatab Shukairat, after it was demolished by Israeli bulldozers, in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Jabal Mukaber on Jan. 29, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 02 February 2023

Israel steps up demolition of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem, West Bank

Israel steps up demolition of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem, West Bank
  • Properties were razed in the city’s Sur Baher, Wadi Al-Hummus and Silwan neighborhoods on Wednesday
  • Residents of Al-Khan Al-Ahmar are staging a sit-in amid fears they will be displaced after a final deadline to leave the village expired

RAMALLAH: Israeli authorities have stepped up the demolition of Palestinian homes in parts of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, following a policy formulated by extreme right-wing ministers in the country’s new government, local leaders say.

On Wednesday, Israeli bulldozers knocked down buildings in the Sur Baher, Wadi Al-Hummus and Silwan neighborhoods of Jerusalem. Rights activists urged people to publicly denounce the demolitions by posting messages on social media sites such as Twitter.

They also called on the Palestinian Authority, the international community and global institutions to intervene immediately to force Israel to halt the demolitions and displacements that threaten the Palestinian community in Jerusalem.

Since the beginning of this January, occupation forces have razed 30 homes in a number of the historic city’s neighborhoods. Last year, 211 Palestinian homes were demolished in Jerusalem.

In the village of Al-Khan Al-Ahmar, east of Jerusalem, a sit-in protest by villagers and activists from the Palestinian Wall and Settlement Resistance Commission continued for a second day on Wednesday.



This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

Residents of the village and surrounding Bedouin communities fear Israeli authorities will demolish their homes, after a final six-month deadline for them to leave expired on Wednesday.
Eid Khamis Jahalin, a Bedouin leader from Al-Khan Al-Ahmar, told Arab News that people are scared that Israeli bulldozers will destroy the village and displace its 250 residents.
“The electoral program of both Itamar Bin-Gvir (the new Israeli national security minister) and Bezalel Yoel Smotrich (the minister of finance) is based on the demolition of Al-Khan Al-Hamar and the displacement of its inhabitants,” he said.
Hussein Al-Sheikh, from the Palestine Liberation Organization, called on the international community to intervene immediately to halt the demolition carried out by Israeli occupation forces in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, which he described as a continuation of a policy of displacement and “apartheid.” He said the Palestinian leadership would meet on Friday to discuss ways to respond.
Elsewhere, Israeli army forces continued to besiege Jericho, in the eastern West Bank, for a fifth day on Wednesday as they searched for two young men responsible for an attempted gun attack on a settlers’ restaurant at the entrance to the city five days ago.
Critics accused Israeli authorities of imposing a collective punishment policy in the city by obstructing the free movement of residents, searching their cars and checking their identities, resulting in long queues and people being stuck in their vehicles for hours.
Journalist Adel Abu Nima from Jericho told Arab News that the Israeli army on Saturday set up military checkpoints at all main entrances to Jericho city and its camps, Aqbat Jabr and Ein Al-Sultan, and blocked secondary entrances with mounds of earth, causing great disruption to the lives of city residents and visitors.
“Some citizens and workers wait at the Israeli military checkpoints for four hours, and some are prevented from leaving Jericho,” Abu Nima said.


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Jericho is the only place from which 3 million Palestinians in the West Bank can travel to other countries, so the checkpoints have affected people traveling abroad and those who are returning.
“As a journalist covering the events in West Bank, including Jenin and Nablus, I have not seen such Israeli military measures against entire cities as is happening now against Jericho,” Abu Nima said.
Meanwhile, an Israeli human rights organization has accused Israeli authorities of tolerating settler violence against Palestinians for more than 17 years.
Yesh Din said in a report published on Feb. 1 that only 3 percent of cases of ideological crimes committed by Israelis against Palestinians in the West Bank during that time resulted in convictions and 93 percent of cases were closed with no indictment filed.
Data contained in the report showed that between 2005 and 2022, Israeli police failed to investigate 81.5 percent of alleged crimes committed by Israelis against Palestinians and their property.
The researchers said: “The state of Israel is evading its duty to protect Palestinians from Israelis who seek to harm them in the West Bank, as international law requires.
“Yesh Din’s long-term monitoring of the results of police investigations into incidents of ideological crime committed by Israelis demonstrates the enduring systemic failures of the Israeli authorities to enforce the law on Israeli civilians who harm Palestinians and their property in occupied territory.
“The fact that this systemic failure has persisted for at least two decades indicates that this is a deliberate policy of the state of Israel, which normalizes ideological settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank, supports it and then reaps the rewards resulting from it.”
In another development, the Israeli Cabinet is due to discuss a decision to stop recognizing degrees awarded by Palestinian universities.
Avi Dichter, the Israeli agriculture minister, who previously was chief of the Israeli spy agency Shin Bet, said: “During the studies of Palestinian students from Israel in Palestinian universities, they are exposed to anti-Israel materials and messages, with which they return to the country and pass on to their students.”
Sheeran Haskel, a member of the Likud Party, claimed that more than 20 percent of teachers in Arab schools in Israel had graduated from Palestinian universities “after they absorbed the implications of portraying Israel as an enemy.”
Thousand of Palestinians who live in Israel study at universities in the West Bank.

Palestinian residents ‘in constant fear’ over eviction threat

Palestinian residents ‘in constant fear’ over eviction threat
Updated 04 June 2023

Palestinian residents ‘in constant fear’ over eviction threat

Palestinian residents ‘in constant fear’ over eviction threat
  • Israeli Supreme Court has approved the expulsion of Palestinians from Masafer Yatta, claiming the area is a “firing zone”

RAMALLAH: Residents of Masafer Yatta, south of Hebron in the West Bank, are living in constant fear they will be forced from their homes by Israeli troops. 

The Israeli Supreme Court has approved the expulsion of Palestinians from Masafer Yatta, claiming the area is a “firing zone.”

Most roads leading to the collection of villages have been closed by the Israeli army, residents said, while Israel has also allowed the establishment of six settlement outposts in the area.

About 3,000 people live in Masafer Yatta, spread over 14 villages.

Residents, many living in tin-roofed dwellings and in caves, say they will not leave whatever the cost.

The Palestinians say they could be evicted at any time amid an escalation of the Israeli army’s campaign to demolish homes in Area C in the West Bank.

Palestinians’ fears are growing following a rise in the number of violent settler attacks against them and the establishment of settlement outposts on their land.

Settlers also burn residents’ crops, and prevent livestock from reaching pastures or water springs.

Grazing areas have been seized, and residential caves and Palestinian farms destroyed.

There are also concerns over what the Palestinians see as a decline in popular and international pressure on the Israeli government to back down from implementing the court’s decision to evict them.

Masafer Yatta residents on Friday called for urgent action to protect them from attacks and attempts to expel them.

Nidal Younis, head of the Masafer Yatta Village Council, told Arab News that settler attacks on residents have increased dramatically in recent weeks.

The Israeli army tolerates the violence, he said.

Residents have filed complaints with the Israeli police, but to no avail.

Shawan Jabarin, director general of the Palestinian Al-Haq Association for Human Rights, told Arab News that European and international diplomatic pressure on the Israeli government had eased, which may embolden the Israeli authorities to implement the court’s decision to evict the residents.

Palestinian sources believe Israel’s right-wing parties will push to have the West Bank annexed before the fall of the current regime, he said.

Jabarin said the International Criminal Court should pressure the Israeli government to back down on the eviction plan.

Settlers have become “tools used by the Israeli army to seize large areas of Palestinian land, from Masafer Yatta in the south to the northern West Bank,” he said.

Younis Arar, head of the International Relations Unit in the Settlement and Wall Resistance Commission, told Arab News that he feared Israeli military authorities could deport the residents of Masafer Yatta at any moment.

He described any deportation attempt as “a new catastrophe,” and said there was no European, international or even Arab pressure on the Israeli government to discourage it from taking such a step.

The Palestinian National Initiative movement described the Israeli court’s approval of the expulsion plan as ethnic cleansing committed by Israel against the Palestinian people.

“The successive Israeli occupation governments have been seeking for several years, through their arbitrary measures and continuous repression of our people in Masafer Yatta, to uproot and expel them to implement their settlement expansion plans,” it said.

Christian opposition backs Jihad Azour’s nomination for Lebanon presidency 

Christian opposition backs Jihad Azour’s nomination for Lebanon presidency 
Updated 04 June 2023

Christian opposition backs Jihad Azour’s nomination for Lebanon presidency 

Christian opposition backs Jihad Azour’s nomination for Lebanon presidency 
  • MPs press for new election after uniting around single candidate

BEIRUT: Patriarch Bechara Al-Rai has praised Christian politicians as they united around a presidential candidate, in a move that could end a nearly eight-month power vacuum in Lebanon.

His blessings during Sunday sermon came after opposition parliamentary blocs agreed to support the nomination of Jihad Azour, a former minister who is the director of the International Monetary Fund’s Middle East and Central Asia department.

He is expected to contest the presidency against Suleiman Frangieh, the preferred candidate of Hezbollah, the Amal Movement and their allies.

Al-Rahi also sent Bishop Paul Abdel Sater on Sunday to meet Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah as part of “dialogue with non-Christian forces, especially Hezbollah, to elect a president for all of Lebanon.”

The bishop is expected to continue visiting all political forces this week.

Sunday’s move by the opposition parliamentary blocs follows an announcement by the Free Patriotic Movement on Saturday.

There is now agreement between Christian MPs, Change MPs and some independent MPs to nominate Azour after Michel Moawad, an MP, withdrew from the election on Sunday.

Some had previously supported Moawad, whom Hezbollah saw as a provocative candidate.

The Progressive Socialist Party bloc is due to announce its position on Azour on Tuesday.

The decision to back Azour by the FPM, the largest Christian party in parliament, came after its leader Gebran Bassil fell out with Hezbollah after the group’s nomination of Frangieh.

“In the event of a call to a presidential election session, the FPM will vote for the agreed-upon name instead of submitting a blank ballot,” he said.

Waddah Sadek, an MP, told Arab News that estimates of the opposition indicate that Azour will receive more than 65 votes, which means he would win if a vote went to a second round.

“The ball will then be in the court of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who has been delaying the call for an election session since January unless he and his allies secure the election of Frangieh,” he said.

MPs have failed in 11 sessions to elect a new president due to the lack of quorum in the second round of each, as a result of the withdrawal of Hezbollah and Amal Movement MPs.

Hashem Safi, the head of the party's political council, dismissed the significance of Azour’s nomination.

“There is no single party capable of electing a president in Lebanon, regardless of the candidate's name, nature, affiliation, color, or political choices,” he said. “Therefore, unless the parties agree with each other, we cannot accomplish the presidential election."

During his sermon, Al-Rahi said: “If the political officials invoked God, they would have elected a president within the two months before the end of Michel Aoun’s term.

“They would have rushed to agree on electing a president that Lebanon needs in the face of complete political, economic, financial, and social collapse.”

Mohammed Khawaja, an Amal MP, said that the nomination of Azour was a ruse to block Frangieh, adding that he lacked the reformist vision that Lebanon needed.

Former MP Fares Souaid, head of the National Council to End the Iranian Occupation of Lebanon, described the Christian parties’ reconciliation as “brave.”

He said that confronting Hezbollah could not be done through ballot boxes or electoral alliances.

“The confrontation lies in re-forming internal unity around the Lebanese choice based on the Taif Agreement and coexistence,” he said.

“Confronting one sect against another is dangerous. A ballot box against a gun is dangerous. Spreading illusions in the face of killing is dangerous.”

Dubai Customs seizes narcotics destined for Canada 

Dubai Customs seizes narcotics destined for Canada 
Updated 04 June 2023

Dubai Customs seizes narcotics destined for Canada 

Dubai Customs seizes narcotics destined for Canada 
  • Narcotics found in shipping containers originating from an Asian country

DUBAI: Dubai Customs have aided Canadian authorities with the seizure of more than 547 kilograms of drugs destined for the country, Emirates News Agency reported on Sunday. 

The narcotics were found in shipping containers originating from an Asian country. Officers used sophisticated systems for tracking suspicious shipments, the news agency said.

The drug seizure was in line with the authority’s efforts to combat cross-border crimes and prevent the trafficking of illegal substances, it said. 

Dubai Customs Director-General Ahmed Mahboub Musabih  commended his officers “for their exceptional work in intelligence analysis, shipment tracking, and the seamless exchange of information and expertise in all aspects of security and customs operations.”

Dr. Khaled Al Mansouri, Director of Customs Intelligence Department at Dubai Customs, added: “The aim is to bolster the UAE's standing in global security. 

“To this end, the government organization dedicates all its resources and capabilities to safeguarding the global supply chain. 

“With internally developed innovative systems, Dubai Customs effectively analyzes data and monitors high-risk operations, driven by its skilled workforce.”


Houthis fire Sanaa commerce chamber leaders over criticism

The Houthis have dismissed the leaders of Sanaa’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry. (Sanaa’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry)
The Houthis have dismissed the leaders of Sanaa’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry. (Sanaa’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry)
Updated 04 June 2023

Houthis fire Sanaa commerce chamber leaders over criticism

The Houthis have dismissed the leaders of Sanaa’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry. (Sanaa’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry)
  • Militia ‘imposed own prices, stole and let goods rot’
  • Iran group accused of wanting their own firms to benefit

AL-MUKALLA: The Iran-backed Houthis have dismissed the leaders of Sanaa’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, days after the chamber issued a strongly worded statement condemning the militia’s harsh measures against the private sector in areas under their control.

Yemeni government officials and local activists said that armed Houthis stormed the chamber building in Sanaa and replaced the chamber’s chief and his deputy with allies.

In a rare recent statement, the Federation of Yemeni Chambers of Commerce and Industry and the Sanaa Chamber of Commerce and Industry accused the Houthis of imposing a price list without their consent, preventing traders’ goods from entering the militia’s territories, allowing those goods to rot, and selling them without telling traders.

The two merchant unions also stated that the Houthis shut down businesses without providing any justification and delayed for months the issuance of new business licenses or the renewal of existing licenses.

Some Yemenis claim that the Houthis have never tolerated criticism, and punished the Sanaa chamber leader and his deputy by replacing them with “inexperienced” loyalists. They also assert that chambers of commerce executives are elected by members and not appointed by the state.

The Houthis’ severe policies, according to many Yemenis, are aimed at favoring the militia’s parallel business and trade sectors, warning that a collapse of the private sector in densely populated areas under its control would exacerbate the humanitarian situation and result in people starving.

“This perilous step confirms the Houthi militia’s continued implementation of its plan to destroy the private sector and eliminate commercial houses in areas under its control in favor of companies and investors loyal to it,” Yemen’s Information Minister Muammar Al-Eryani said in a tweet.

At the same time, Yemen’s Interior Ministry said the Houthis demolished a house belonging to Maj. Gen. Abdullah Yahyia Jaber, the deputy interior minister, in Sanaa’s Geraf neighborhood, the latest in a series of such actions.

Jaber is one of hundreds of Yemeni politicians, officials, military and security officers, journalists, and others who fled Sanaa following the Houthi military takeover in late 2014. The Houthis condemned them in absentia and confiscated their homes and other properties, turning a few into detention facilities, handing some to supporters, and selling others.

The Houthis also blew up the home of Ali Ahmed Al-Hejazi, a pro-government tribal leader in Marib’s Serwah area, over the weekend.

“The group has a lengthy history of murdering, kidnapping, displacing, bombing homes, recruiting children, and kidnapping women, among other crimes,” the Yemeni Network for Rights and Freedoms said in a statement, adding that the Houthis have blown up more than 700 of their opponents’ homes since early 2015.

Erdogan has eye on local, global challenges with new Cabinet

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stands with the new cabinet members during the inauguration ceremony in Ankara.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stands with the new cabinet members during the inauguration ceremony in Ankara.
Updated 04 June 2023

Erdogan has eye on local, global challenges with new Cabinet

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stands with the new cabinet members during the inauguration ceremony in Ankara.
  • President’s picks focus on economy, foreign policy, says expert
  • ‘Friendly to West, less antagonistic toward region’s nations’

ANKARA: Turkiye’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan unveiled his new Cabinet on Saturday night during his inauguration ceremony, with the appointments providing some indication on the direction the new government is heading on the economy and foreign policy.

The fact that the new vice-president, Cevdet Yilmaz, has a background in economic governance may be an indication that the economy will be a priority as Erdogan embarks on his third decade at the helm of the nation.

Mehmet Simsek, an advocate of investor-friendly and orthodox economic policies, and viewed positively by the financial markets, was named as treasury and finance minister.

Simsek, a former economy chief and deputy prime minister between 2009 and 2018, will be responsible for restoring the confidence of the markets post-elections.

In his previous post, he urged for tighter monetary policy but was replaced by Berat Albayrak, Erdogan’s son-in-law.

Whether his presence in the cabinet will see a departure from the current unorthodox economic policies, with its low interest rates, remains to be seen.  But his appointment is already an important signal to the markets that there will be some changes.

Rather than an abrupt shift in economic policy, gradual steps are expected to be taken in an environment where the lira is sliding to record lows against the dollar.

In his post-election speech, Erdogan said: “We are designing an economy focused on investment and employment, with a finance management team that has a global reputation.”

Turkiye’s economy expanded 4 percent in the first quarter of the year, remaining just above expectations.

Soner Cagaptay, senior fellow at The Washington Institute, told Arab News: “If he is also given some independence to adjust ultra-low interest rates, the Turkish economy can make a comeback. But I expect first a devaluation of the lira, which will make Turkiye very cheap for the tourists and affordable for the exports.”

“If Simsek is given enough flexibility, the markets will believe that he has the mandate to (do) what he has to do for restoring the Turkish economy,” said Cagaptay.

With reserves diminishing, some changes in economic governance in the short term are inevitable.

But how substantial and sustainable these changes will be in a centralized decision-making structure remain uncertain and depends on the new roadmap announced.

Experts believe that if Erdogan insists on keeping interest rates low rather than taking austerity measures ahead of local elections that are 10 months away, Simsek’s appointment would not result in much change to economic policy.

According to Wolfango Piccoli, co-president of London-based Teneo Intelligence, Simsek’s return would result in a partial re-adjustment of Turkiye’s current economic policy, while a dramatic U-turn embracing an outright conventional monetary policy approach remains unlikely.

“It is also unclear for how long Erdogan may tolerate a more pragmatic stance on the economic front, given the priority he assigns to the March 2024 local elections,” said Piccoli.

In the meantime, former intelligence chief Hakan Fidan joined the cabinet as the new foreign minister. Fidan is known for initiating rapprochement with multiple countries, especially Egypt and those in the Gulf.

“He is highly respected in Washington and he is seen as a reliable counterpart,” said Cagaptay.

“He had been also handling key international portfolios, especially Syria and Russia policies. His appointment is really significant. He is now in the driver’s seat.”

Cagaptay expects the new cabinet to be friendlier toward Western nations and less antagonistic with regional countries.

In late April, Fidan attended a meeting with his Russian, Iranian and Syrian counterparts in Moscow as part of a rapprochement process with the Bashar Assad regime.

Last year, the handshake between Erdogan and Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi on the sidelines of the World Cup in Qatar, was also believed to be the result of meetings between the two sides’ intelligence organizations and foreign ministries.

According to Cagaptay, Erdogan wants top-notch experts on economic and foreign policy, so that he can focus on domestic areas which require almost daily macro-management, including social issues and drafting a new charter.

“That he has saved parliamentary seats while forming his cabinet tells us he wants to quickly get to a referendum-triggering legislative majority,” he added.

Meanwhile, although Turkiye has already started the process of normalizing ties with Syria and the Assad regime through several high-level meetings under Russian mediation, the Turkish military presence in northern Syria is not expected to end soon.

But new moves for facilitating the safe return of Syrian refugees to their homeland might be taken to fulfil the pledges made by Erdogan during his reelection campaign.

The counterterrorism campaigns in northern Iraq and Syria are also set to continue in the light of the composition of the new cabinet.

Dalia Ziada, director of the Cairo-based MEEM Center for Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean Studies, believes that Fidan is the right man for the job at this particular time with Turkiye rising as a key regional player.

“He holds all the important cards and knows by practice the behind-the-scenes issues in Turkiye’s foreign policy,” she told Arab News.

“Fidan enjoys a deep understanding of the situation in the hotspots of the Middle East, ranging from Libya to Sudan and Syria, and he is the only Turkish official to continue to be part of the four-way meetings in Moscow that brought together senior officials from Turkiye, Syria, Russia and Iran in the past few months,” Ziada said.

According to Ziada, tangible progress on Turkiye’s foreign policy in Syria and the mediating role of Turkiye in the Russia-Ukraine conflict can be expected in the short run with Fidan’s active role in the foreign policy apparatus.

As Fidan has been the “behind-the-curtains” architect of the rapprochement in the past two years to fix broken ties with Egypt and Arab Gulf countries, Ziada thinks that his appointment may accelerate the reconciliation process between Turkiye and the North African country.

“This will consequently lead to mitigating the civil conflicts in Libya, facilitating the political solution process, and may eventually bring Libya to elections sooner than we think,” she said.

El-Sisi and Erdogan have agreed on “the immediate start of upgrading diplomatic relations, exchanging ambassadors,” Egypt’s presidency said in a statement last Monday.

Ziada added that Fidan’s background could enhance Turkiye’s relationship with the Arab Gulf countries.

“I won’t be surprised to see Fidan being involved in talks between Arab Gulf countries and Iran in the near future. In reverse, this will be reflected positively on Turkiye by increasing Gulf countries’ investments and thus enhancing the struggling Turkish economy,” she said.

“Fidan is expected to be Turkiye’s winning horse on the chessboards of the Middle East, the Eastern Mediterranean, and the Black Sea.”

Yasar Guler, the country’s chief of general staff, was appointed as the defense minister in the renewed cabinet.

Although not announced yet, presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin is expected to be named as the new intelligence chief.

The governor of the central bank has not been announced yet but the name of Hafize Gaye Erkan has come up.

Erkan holds a doctorate from Princeton University, worked for many financial institutions in the US, including Goldman Sachs as a financial services executive, and is the former president of First Republic Bank.

Over the past four years, Turkiye has seen four governors at the helm of the central bank.