Israel launches arrest campaign in Palestinian cities after Huwara attack

Update Israel launches arrest campaign in Palestinian cities after Huwara attack
Shops in Huwara were closed over fear of attacks by settlers, and there was disruption after Israeli security personnel were deployed on the streets. (Reuters)
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Updated 20 March 2023

Israel launches arrest campaign in Palestinian cities after Huwara attack

Israel launches arrest campaign in Palestinian cities after Huwara attack
  • Fears that violence between Israeli settlers and Palestinians will continue after end of Sharm El-Sheikh meeting

RAMALLAH: Hours after the end of the Sharm El-Sheikh meeting between Israeli and Palestinian officials, overseen by Egypt and attended by Jordan and the US, the Israel Defense Forces arrested a number of Palestinians after two Israeli men were wounded in an attack in the northern West Bank town of Huwara on Sunday. 

Shops in Huwara were closed over fear of revenge attacks by Israeli settlers, and there was disruption after IDF personnel were deployed on the streets.

At dawn on Monday, the IDF stormed several towns and villages in the Jenin governorate, and intensified their measures around the city of Nablus in the northern West Bank. 

Israeli police arrested several Palestinian activists in East Jerusalem — a few days before the start of Ramadan.

Muin Al-Dumaidi, mayor of Huwara, told Arab News that Israeli troops were deployed heavily inside the town and on the rooftops of houses, preventing shop owners from opening their shops. 

“The closure of the town will destroy Huwara’s economy and displace shopkeepers along the main street ahead of Ramadan, as trade forms the backbone of the town’s residents,” Al-Dumaidi said.

He said the closure aims to facilitate the movement of Israeli settlers who pass through the town so that they are not hindered by traffic congestion.

“Shop owners keep calling me, asking when we will be allowed to reopen them, and I have no answer,” Al-Dumaidi said.  

On Feb. 26, Israeli settlers burned more than 40 houses and over 50 vehicles in the town. 

Elisha Yared, spokesman for Israeli politician Limor Son Har Melech, called for the Palestinian town of Huwara to be wiped out. 

“Wipeout Huwara now, without apology and hesitation ... As long as we don’t understand this, the killing (of Israelis) will continue in the streets,” Yared wrote on Twitter in response to the Huwara attack.

Meanwhile, settlers assaulted Palestinians in different parts of the West Bank, such as Jericho, Ramallah, and Nablus, smashing the windows of their vehicles and assaulting them with no intervention from the IDF or police. 

They ransacked several shops in the Old City of Hebron, and slashed the tires of vehicles and wrote racist slogans on the walls of houses in Salfit. Earlier in the day, settlers smashed the windows of several cars at the entrance to Beitin village, east of Ramallah.

The Israeli Minister of National Security Itamar Ben- Gvir signed a decision banning the official Voice of Palestine radio station in Jerusalem on Monday, removing its broadcast towers. Israeli sources said that Ben Gvir’s decision came within the framework of combating what he described as “Palestinian incitement.”

Meanwhile, Palestinians reacted angrily to statements by the Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich in which he denied the existence of the Palestinian people. 

Rejecting these remarks, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said: “We are the ones who gave Palestine its name and the land its value and status … We have learned from history that colonialism is coming to an end and that the will and belonging of our people are not shaken by the statements of the falsifiers of history and their false claims.” 

Separately, the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, will vote on a bill to nullify the “disengagement” law in the occupied West Bank, which allows the return to settlements that Israel evacuated in 2005 in the northern West Bank. 

The bill allows for a return to settlements in the northern occupied West Bank after lifting the ban imposed by the “disengagement” law drafted by the party of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. 

Israeli media reported that the Legislative Committee in the Knesset amended the proposal’s wording to ensure that it does not apply to the settlements evacuated in the Gaza Strip in 2005. 

Meanwhile, Palestinians in the West Bank said they did not expect any change in their lives after the Sharm El-Sheikh summit on Sunday, believing that Israel will not fulfil any of the promises or agreements that have been agreed upon. 

Political analyst Riyad Qadriya told Arab News that he ruled out the implementation of any of the Sharm El-Sheikh security understandings on Sunday, either by Israel or the Palestinian Authority.

“It will be impossible to implement the security provisions of the Sharm El-Sheikh understandings without handing over all of Area A to Palestinian security,” Qadriya said.

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Israeli reforms ‘threat to Palestine’: report

Israeli reforms ‘threat to Palestine’: report
Updated 19 sec ago

Israeli reforms ‘threat to Palestine’: report

Israeli reforms ‘threat to Palestine’: report

RAMALLAH: Controversial judicial reforms proposed by Israeli’s far-right coalition government pose a threat to Palestinians, an independent commission of inquiry set up by the UN said on Thursday.

The proposals, which would curb some Supreme Court powers and increase government control of judicial appointments, have set off unprecedented protests in Israel.

In a 56-page report, the commission said proposed legislation could increase taxation of pro-Palestinian NGOs and limit their ability to document Israeli soldiers’ activities in the occupied West Bank.

Other proposals by members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s extreme religious-nationalist coalition would strip Israel’s Arab minority of citizenship and enable their deportation if they commit pro-Palestinian violence, the report said.

“The proposed changes would dismantle fundamental features of the separation of powers and of the checks and balances essential in democratic political systems,” it said.

“Legal experts have warned that they risk weakening human rights protections, especially for the most vulnerable and disfavored communities, including Palestinian citizens.”

The commission, set up by the UN’s Human Rights Council in 2021, found Israel had increasingly stifled rights advocates “through harassment, threats, arrests, interrogations, arbitrary detention, torture and inhuman and degrading treatment.”

The commission, which conducted about 130 interviews, also found that Palestinian authorities in the occupied West Bank and Gaza had targeted Palestinian rights activists.

“The arrest and detention of Palestinian activists by both Israeli and Palestinian authorities was noted as a particularly harsh reality for many Palestinian activists,” the report said.

Yemen’s central bank denies depletion of foreign currency reserves

Yemen’s central bank denies depletion of foreign currency reserves
Updated 08 June 2023

Yemen’s central bank denies depletion of foreign currency reserves

Yemen’s central bank denies depletion of foreign currency reserves
  • Media report suggests value is less than $200m
  • IMF praises government’s efforts to bolster economy, increase revenue

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s central bank has sufficient foreign reserves outside the country to fulfill its needs for hard currency and payments for imports, the Aden-based lender said.

The bank rejected media reports that its reserves had fallen below $200 million and said that despite the suspension of crude exports it had sufficient funds to meet demand and stabilize the national currency.

The reserves were held in a number of international banks and were sufficient for it to carry out its duties, it said.

It added it “will continue to hold weekly (foreign exchange) auctions to cover a portion of the market’s foreign currency requirements for imports of basic and essential materials through a transparent and competitive mechanism.”

The statement came after a Reuters report citing three Yemeni government sources said the central bank’s foreign currency reserves were almost depleted, having fallen below $200 million.

One of the sources declined to give a figure for the value of the reserves — to prevent a collapse of the Yemeni riyal — but the lender dismissed the claims and said its reserves were healthy.

Concerns were raised after representatives from the International Monetary Fund said that Houthi attacks on oil facilities in government-controlled Hadramout and Shabwa had reduced the country’s primary source of foreign currency revenue by more than 50 percent, which along with the rise in global oil prices, would increase its fiscal deficit to 2.5 percent of GDP in 2022.

“Without a resumption of oil exports, the deficit is expected to widen further in 2023 despite cuts in much-needed expenditures,” the IMF team’s leader Joyce Wong said.

But she lauded the Yemeni government’s efforts to bolster the economy and increase revenue, which include strengthening state bodies, controlling expenditure, budget planning, tax management, taking additional measures to implement market exchange rates for customs revenues and controlling inflation.

“The mission encouraged the authorities to maintain this welcome reform momentum, including to push forward reforms in the electricity sector to reduce costs and increase revenue collection.”

Despite the central bank’s upbeat statement and the IMF’s backing for the government, the Yemeni riyal on Thursday fell to a new low of 1,350 to the US dollar, from 1,200 a month ago.

The currency began falling late last month, probably due to a stalemate in international diplomatic efforts to achieve a deal between Yemen’s warring factions.

Economic integration key to African peace, says Egyptian president

Economic integration key to African peace, says Egyptian president
Updated 08 June 2023

Economic integration key to African peace, says Egyptian president

Economic integration key to African peace, says Egyptian president
  • El-Sisi calls for continental unity while handing over leadership of COMESA trade bloc

CAIRO: Advancing economic integration in Africa is key to achieving peace and security on the continent, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has said.

His comments on Thursday came at the 22nd Summit of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa in Zambia.

He said: “Egypt has assumed the leadership of the COMESA over the past two years, during a very delicate period that witnessed important developments at the international and regional levels.”

The Egyptian leader highlighted important steps that the group has made over the past two years.

He said: “With regard to the field of economic development, Egypt has paid great attention to activating the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement and achieving harmony between it and the COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area through specific measures to urge member states to implement customs exemptions and facilitate the movement of trade exchange among them.

“These efforts resulted in an increase in intra-exports of the COMESA to reach $13 billion in 2022, the highest value since the establishment of the free trade zone within the framework of the COMESA in 2000.”

Trade between Egypt and the COMESA countries last year reached its highest value ever, $4.3 billion, since Egypt joined the bloc, El-Sisi added.

EAC and SADC refer to Southern African Development Community and East African Community, respectively.

COMESA includes 21 countries: Egypt, Burundi, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Kenya, Ethiopia, Eswatini, Malawi, Madagascar, Libya, Seychelles, Rwanda, Mauritius, Tunisia, Sudan, Somalia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Uganda.

El-Sisi also highlighted recent developments in a number of African countries, notably Sudan, with the situation “requiring us to join forces to support its people.”

He said: “I emphasize that Egypt is assuming its responsibilities as a direct neighboring country by making all endeavors with the active parties and international partners, and engaging in existing mechanisms, to ensure coordination between them in order to reach a secure and stable Sudan.”

The Egyptian president announced his country’s candidature for the African Peace and Security Council for the 2024–2026 term.

Egypt’s proposed leadership demonstrates its belief in supporting peace and security efforts on the continent, he said.

El-Sisi announced the end of Egypt’s chairmanship of the COMESA, saying: “It is my pleasure to hand over the chairmanship of the COMESA to my brother, president of the Republic of Zambia.”

A new bureau of the COMESA Summit was also announced by the Egyptian leader, and will include Zambia as chair, Burundi as vice chair and Egypt as rapporteur.

El-Sisi arrived in Zambia on Wednesday on an official visit after ending his visit to Angola at the start of an African tour that also includes Mozambique.

He met Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema on the sidelines of the COMESA Summit.

The two leaders discussed ways to enhance bilateral relations, agreeing on the importance of activating mechanisms for cooperation and developing economic ties.

They stressed the need to reach the goals outlined in the African Development Agenda 2063.

The continent’s strategic agenda promotes inclusive and sustainable development as part of a pan-African drive for unity.

Separately, Egypt’s Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics revealed an annual increase in trade between Egypt and southern African countries — Zambia, Mozambique, and Angola — of 6.5 percent.

In 2022, Egyptian trade with the three countries grew to $381.9 million from 2021’s $358.6 million.

Lebanon recalls France envoy after rape accusation: ministry

Lebanon recalls France envoy after rape accusation: ministry
Updated 08 June 2023

Lebanon recalls France envoy after rape accusation: ministry

Lebanon recalls France envoy after rape accusation: ministry
  • Adwan is being investigated in France following complaints by two former embassy employees
  • Recalling the diplomat to Lebanon, however, could put him beyond the grasp of the French authorities, as Lebanon does not extradite its nationals

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s foreign ministry said Thursday it was recalling its ambassador to France, Rami Adwan, after an investigation was opened into allegations of rape and intentional violence by the envoy.
Adwan is being investigated in France following complaints by two former embassy employees.
Recalling the diplomat to Lebanon, however, could put him beyond the grasp of the French authorities, as Lebanon does not extradite its nationals.
“Following the circumstances surrounding the case of the Lebanese ambassador to France... it has been decided to recall ambassador Rami Adwan,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
The envoy has rejected the allegations.
Lebanon this week sent an investigation team to the embassy in Paris to question the ambassador and hear statements from embassy staff.
Thursday’s foreign ministry statement said the decision to recall Adwan also came “in light of” the dispatch of that team to France.
It said a charge d’affaires was appointed on Wednesday.
A first former embassy employee, aged 31, had filed a complaint in June 2022 for a rape she said was committed in May 2020 in the ambassador’s private apartment, sources close to the investigation told AFP earlier, confirming a report by the Mediapart news site.
According to the complaint, she had a relationship with the ambassador, who carried out “psychological and physical violence with daily humiliations.”
The second woman, aged 28, made a complaint last February after what she said was a series of physical attacks after she turned down sexual relations.
She claims Adwan tried to hit her with his car after an argument on the sidelines of last year’s Normandy World Peace Forum.
She also accused the ambassador of trying to suffocate her at her home last December by pressing her face to her bed.
Adwan’s lawyer Karim Beylouni has said his client “contests all accusations of aggression in any shape or form: verbal, moral, sexual.”
He said Adwan had had “romantic relationships” with the two women between 2018 and 2022 that were “punctuated by arguments and breakups.”
A French diplomatic source told AFP on Monday that French authorities would ask Lebanon to lift the ambassador’s immunity.
France’s foreign ministry had earlier told AFP that “in view of the seriousness of the facts mentioned, we consider it necessary for the Lebanese authorities to lift the immunity of the Lebanese ambassador in Paris in order to facilitate the work of the French judicial authorities.”

Demolitions ‘will not weaken Palestinian resistance’ says leading politician

Demolitions ‘will not weaken Palestinian resistance’ says leading politician
Updated 09 June 2023

Demolitions ‘will not weaken Palestinian resistance’ says leading politician

Demolitions ‘will not weaken Palestinian resistance’ says leading politician
  • Mustafa Barghouti says Israel is repeating failed policies with destruction of house in Ramallah
  • Israeli security minister criticized after banning dental treatment for Palestinian prisoners

RAMALLAH: The Israeli army blew up the house of a Palestinian security prisoner in Ramallah in the West Bank at dawn on Thursday.

The family home of Islam Farroukh was in a four-floor residential building with an area of 250 square meters. The parents of the prisoner and his four sisters lived in the house.

Clashes erupted on Thursday after Israeli forces raided the old town of Ramallah in what the military said was an operation to demolish the house. Several people including two journalists were struck by bullets and affected by riot gas during the clashes. 

Mustafa Barghouti, secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative Party, said that the demolition policy was collective punishment and “a failed method used by the Israeli occupation since 1967 to deter the Palestinians from participating in the resistance. 

“The people have lost everything ... and therefore (this) will not deter them,” he told Arab News.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh promised to “rebuild every house destroyed by the occupation.”

“We will deal responsibly with the needs of families whose homes are demolished, and this is our responsibility towards our people,” he said.

He called the demolition a “heinous crime that turned a family overnight into a homeless family after demolishing its house. These collective punishments are an attempt by the occupation to break the morale of our people.

“What is being done is a complete reoccupation of the West Bank ... and it is quite clear that this government is ignoring any Palestinian sovereignty.”

Meanwhile, Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir has been criticized after depriving Palestinian security prisoners in Israeli prisons of the right to dental treatment.

Yasser Mezher, representative of the Islamic Jihad Movement in the Prisoners Committee of the National and Islamic Forces, described the decision as dangerous and disturbing.

Mezher said that Ben-Gvir's decision comes among the first recommendations he announced to clamp down on prisoners and not treat them inside Israeli prisons.

There are 730 sick Palestinian detainees in Israeli jails, which have 4,900 prisoners in total.

Qadura Faris, head of the Palestinian Prisoners Club, told Arab News that Ben-Gvir’s step “is dangerous and constitutes a prelude to a series of sanctions he intends to implement against Palestinian prisoners.”

Faris said: “This is the beginning of more dangerous steps that Ben-Gvir will implement against our prisoners in the prisons of the occupation.”

He estimated that hundreds of Palestinians in Israeli prisons needed dental treatment, and that dozens use the dentist during the twice-monthly surgeries.

“There is no country in the world that claims that it is not responsible for feeding, treating, and providing all the humanitarian needs of its prisoners except Israel,” Faris said.

Barghouthi said that Ben-Gvir wanted to provoke the Palestinians in every possible way.

“This is not the first measure of abuse that Ben-Gvir has taken against Palestinian prisoners. He previously called for the death penalty to be carried out against them,” said Barghouti, who worked as a doctor before entering politics.

“Depriving prisoners of dental treatment may lead to serious health consequences that negatively affect the health of the heart and nervous system,” he added.

The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday condemned the Israeli Knesset’s approval of the preliminary reading of the “Acceptance Committees Law.”

The bill perpetuates the settlement and Judaization schemes in all Palestinian areas, the ministry said, adding that it would impose Israeli law on settlements in the West Bank “as an essential step toward consolidating its annexation.”

It called the bill as the latest in a long line of “racist and discriminatory colonial laws that deepen the apartheid regime against the Palestinians.”