Israeli land grab alarms Palestinians in occupied West Bank

Israeli land grab alarms Palestinians in occupied West Bank
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An aerial view shows people around a portable building under construction at the Israeli settler outpost of Homesh, near the Palestinian village of Burqah, in the occupied West Bank, on May 29, 2023. (Photo by Menahem Kahana / AFP)
Israeli land grab alarms Palestinians in occupied West Bank
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Israeli soldiers walk outside a portable building under construction at the former Israeli settler outpost of Homesh in the occupied West Bank on May 29, 2023. (Photo by Menahem Kahana / AFP)
Israeli land grab alarms Palestinians in occupied West Bank
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The Palestinian village of Burqa is seen as an Israeli flag is placed in the West Bank outpost of Homesh in 2022. (AP/File)
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Updated 18 June 2023
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Israeli land grab alarms Palestinians in occupied West Bank

Israeli land grab alarms Palestinians in occupied West Bank
  • The rebuilding work follows an Israeli government decision in March to allow Israelis to resettle four illegal settlements in the northern occupied West Bank
  • Homesh was one of the four settlements evacuated in 2005 as part of a “disengagement” plan

RAMALLAH: Residents of four Palestinian villages in the occupied West Bank are living in fear as dozens of Israeli settlers return to rebuild a settlement that was evacuated in 2005.
Settlers are clearing land, setting up mobile caravans and building a religious school in Homesh, an outpost on the road connecting the governorates of Nablus and Jenin.
To help the settlers, the Israeli army has stepped up mobile and foot patrols, placed cement blocks on the main road, and built military observation towers.
Eyewitnesses said settlers destroyed Palestinians’ crops and troops detained Palestinian farmers while work at the settlement continued.
The rebuilding work follows an Israeli government decision in March to allow Israelis to resettle four illegal settlements in the northern occupied West Bank, including Homesh.
Palestinians see the rebuilding of Homesh, which is located deep in the northern West Bank, as a severe blow to plans to establish a future Palestinian state.
Saeed Abdel Rahim, a Palestinian activist from the village of Burqa, near Homesh, said that buses, caravans and other heavy vehicles were being used to transport building equipment for houses, while the settlement’s surroundings have been transformed into military barracks, reinforced by the army and guards.




Israeli settlers installing a portable building at the former settler outpost of Homesh in the occupied West Bank on May 29, 2023. (Photo by Menahem Kahana / AFP)

Homesh was one of the four settlements evacuated in 2005 as part of a “disengagement” plan.
Israeli sources said the government has laid out plans to absorb half a million new settlers in the West Bank, and to improve infrastructure in settlements and outposts.
Ghassan Daghlas, a Burqa resident who is in charge of the settlement file at the Palestinian presidency, told Arab News that the latest development is a catastrophe in light of settlers’ plans to build what is called “Homesh Al-Kubra.”
Settlers have installed at least 30 housing units in the past few days and begun building infrastructure, he said.
The return of the Homesh settlement will affect at least 34,000 Palestinians who live in the villages of Burqa, Wasila Al-Zahr, Bazariya, Sebastia and other nearby towns, Daghlas added.
He said that returning settlers have been given political cover by Israel’s extreme right-wing government, “which only thinks of strengthening settlements and seizing more land.”
However, Daghlas added: “We will continue blocking their way through popular resistance until this project is thwarted.”
Work on Homesh means “more checkpoints and restrictions on the Palestinians in the area, and more soldiers turning the area into a military base. We are heading toward violence,” he said.
During a visit to Burqa on Saturday, Majdi Al-Saleh, a Palestinian government minister, was urged by village representatives to provide substantial assistance and not be content with media statements.
A resident told Arab News that Israeli intelligence officers were calling on activists to calm down after young men set up WhatsApp groups with 1,400 active members to alert each other in the event of any settler or army attack.
The Palestinian presidency said that all settlements built on Palestinian land, including Homesh, are illegal and condemned the decision to allow settlers to return.
The move is part of a “quiet annexation” of the occupied West Bank under the supervision and support of the Israeli government, it added.
Israel’s left-wing Peace Now movement said the rebuilding of the Homesh settlement violated international law and Israel’s commitment to the US.
Israel signed an agreement with President George Bush’s administration to refrain from building new settlements in areas vacated during the 2005 disengagement.
The movement said on its website that more than 465,000 settlers live in 132 settlements and 146 random outposts established on the West Bank.
These numbers do not include 230,000 settlers living in 14 settlements in East Jerusalem, it added.
Peace Now warned that the Israeli government would confiscate private Palestinian land in the public interest, but use them for settlements.
The Homesh settlement was established in 1978 as an Israeli military base on land owned by Palestinians from the neighboring villages of Burqa and Silat Al-Dhahr.
In 1980, the Israeli army handed over the base to settlers, as happened with several other settlements in the West Bank.
Ziyad Abu Omar, head of the local council in Burqa, said the resettlement of Homesh means the “destruction of Burqa and other surrounding villages.”


More than half of cropland in hungry Gaza is damaged, UN says

More than half of cropland in hungry Gaza is damaged, UN says
Updated 7 sec ago
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More than half of cropland in hungry Gaza is damaged, UN says

More than half of cropland in hungry Gaza is damaged, UN says
GENEVA: More than half of Gaza’s agricultural land, crucial for feeding the war-ravaged territory’s hungry population, has been degraded by conflict, satellite images analyzed by the United Nations show.
The data reveals a rise in the destruction of orchards, field crops and vegetables in the Palestinian enclave, where hunger is widespread after eight months of Israeli bombardment.
The World Health Organization warned on Wednesday that many people in Gaza were facing “catastrophic hunger and famine-like conditions.”
Using satellite imagery taken between May 2017 and 2024, United Nations Satellite Center (UNOSAT) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) found that 57 percent of Gaza’s permanent crop fields and arable lands essential for food security had shown a significant decline in density and health.
“In May 2024, crop health and density across the Gaza Strip showed a marked decline compared to the average of the previous seven seasons,” UNOSAT said on Thursday.
“This deterioration is attributed to conflict-related activities, including razing, heavy vehicle movement, bombing, and shelling.”
The decline, UNOSAT said, marked a 30 percent increase in damaged agricultural land since it published its last analysis in April.
Israel’s ground and air campaign was triggered when Hamas stormed southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.
The offensive has killed more than 37,000 people in Gaza, according to health authorities in the Hamas-run enclave, and has caused mass destruction and cut off routes for aid.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday there were more than 8,000 children under five years old in Gaza who had been treated for acute malnutrition.
As well as damage to crop fields and orchards, greenhouses across the Gaza Strip had also sustained significant damage, UNOSAT said.
The Gaza Strip has an estimated 151 square kilometers of agricultural land, which makes up about 41 percent of the coastal enclave’s territory, according to data from UNOSAT.

Iraq warns of ‘danger’ in Lebanon conflict expanding

Iraq warns of ‘danger’ in Lebanon conflict expanding
Updated 45 sec ago
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Iraq warns of ‘danger’ in Lebanon conflict expanding

Iraq warns of ‘danger’ in Lebanon conflict expanding
  • The exchanges between Israel and Lebanon’s powerful Iran-backed Hezbollah group, an ally of Hamas, have intensified in recent weeks, sparking fears of wider war
BAGHDAD: Iraq’s foreign minister on Thursday, receiving his Iranian counterpart in Baghdad, warned of the dangers of conflict expanding in southern Lebanon and its repercussions across the Middle East.
Near-daily cross-border fire between Lebanese-based militants and Israeli forces have occurred since Palestinian group Hamas attacked southern Israel on October 7, triggering the ongoing aggression in the Gaza Strip.
The exchanges between Israel and Lebanon’s powerful Iran-backed Hezbollah group, an ally of Hamas, have intensified in recent weeks, sparking fears of wider war.
“If southern Lebanon is attacked, it will affect the entire region,” Iraq’s top diplomat Fuad Hussein said at a press conference with Iran’s acting Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri, who also voiced opposition to a regional escalation.
“The expansion of the war is a danger, not only for Lebanon but for the entire region,” Hussein said, repeating his call for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza.
The Iranian minister similarly called for “putting an end as quickly as possible, and without preconditions,” to “war crimes” and “genocide” in the Gaza Strip.
He said Israel, in response to their “failure” in Gaza, “may seek to commit further wrongs and broaden the scope of their aggression,” but Iran would not allow anyone “to harm stability and regional security, even if only a little.”
Experts have said they believe risk of a wider war is limited.
Hezbollah, a major ally of Tehran’s, launched a barrage of rockets at northern Israel on Wednesday and promised to intensify its attacks after the killing of a top military commander the day before in an Israeli strike.
The Israeli military said more than 150 projectiles were fired from Lebanon into Israel in successive barrages, without any reported casualties, adding that they responded with strikes against several targets in southern Lebanon.

Most of Kuwait fire victims are Indians, minister says

Most of Kuwait fire victims are Indians, minister says
Updated 29 min 31 sec ago
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Most of Kuwait fire victims are Indians, minister says

Most of Kuwait fire victims are Indians, minister says
  • Victims will be repatriated to India by military aircraft
  • Kuwait’s Emir orders financial compensation for the families of the victims

KUWAIT: Most of the victims in a deadly blaze that engulfed a block housing immigrant workers were from India, Kuwait’s foreign minister said on Thursday, raising the death toll to 50.
Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Meshaal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah ordered financial compensation for the families of the victims, who will be repatriated to India in military aircraft, according to an official statement.

Three Filipinos were among the dead, Philippines officials said, after the fire sent black smoke billowing through the six-story building south of Kuwait City.
At least 43 more were injured in the fire in Mangaf, south of Kuwait City, which broke out around dawn on Wednesday at the ground level of the block housing nearly 200 workers.
“One of the injured died” overnight, Foreign Minister Abdullah Al-Yahya told reporters, after 49 people were declared dead on Wednesday.
“The majority of the dead are Indians,” he added. “There are other nationalities but I don’t remember exactly.”
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the country is “doing everything possible to assist those affected by this gruesome fire tragedy,” in a post on X late on Wednesday.
Next of kin will receive payments of 200,000 rupees ($2,400), Modi’s office announced.
In Manila, the Department of Migrant Workers said three Filipinos died from smoke inhalation, with two more in critical condition while six escaped unharmed.
“We are in touch with the families of all the affected (workers), including the families of those two in critical condition and the families of the three fatalities,” Migrant Workers Secretary Hans Leo J. Cacdac said in a statement.
Kuwaiti officials have detained the building’s owner over potential negligence and have warned that any blocks that flout safety rules will be closed.

Since the fire broke out, Kuwaiti officials have carried out intensive inspections to demolish violating properties.
Stories of the victims

From a father-of-two who planned to leave his job to a 29-year-old due to visit his family in August, two dozen Indians from the southern state of Kerala died, leaving their families bereft.
Among the Keralite victims was Muralidharan Nair, who had been working in Kuwait for 32 years, including 10 as a senior supervisor in the company that owned the housing facility where the fire broke out.
“He came on leave in December for two months with a plan to end his career in Kuwait. The company called him back,” his brother, Vinu V Nair, told Reuters, adding that the family identified the 61-year-old from a list published by India’s embassy. His two roommates also died in the blaze.
For decades, a disproportionately large share of Indian workers in the Gulf have been drawn from Kerala, a densely packed state along southern India’s Arabian Sea coast.
News of the disaster spread quickly in Kerala. The family of Saju Varghese, 56, found out about the fire from television and social media, and confirmed his death from friends and relatives in Kuwait.
Working in the Gulf nation for the last 21 years, Varghese planned to visit Kerala later this month to arrange his daughter’s higher education.
“The family is in a state of shock,” their neighbor, George Samuel, said.
Another victim, Stephin Abraham Sabu, 29, was an engineer in Kuwait since 2019 and called home almost daily.
He had visited his hometown Kottayam “two or three times” since he left, and had booked air tickets to return in August for the housewarming of his family’s new home and to help them buy a new car, his friends said.
Sabu’s father has a small shop in Kottayam while his mother is a housewife. His brother, Febin, also works in Kuwait but lived separately.

With agencies


Turkiye signs deal with US to buy F-16 warplanes

Turkiye signs deal with US to buy F-16 warplanes
Updated 13 June 2024
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Turkiye signs deal with US to buy F-16 warplanes

Turkiye signs deal with US to buy F-16 warplanes
  • Under the deal, Turkiye will get 40 new F-16s and upgrades to 79 of the jets in its existing fleet

ISTANBUL: Turkiye and the United States have signed a contract for the sale of F-16 warplanes after Washington greenlighted the $23 billion deal following months of negotiations, Turkish defense ministry sources said Thursday.
“The contract was signed and delegations from both sides are negotiating the details,” the ministry sources said.
Under the deal, Turkiye will get 40 new F-16s and upgrades to 79 of the jets in its existing fleet.
The State Department last week hailed “a major step forward” in Turkiye’s purchase of new F-16 fighter jets calling them “the most advanced F-16 ever made available only to closest Allies and partners.”
“Just the latest example of US enduring commitment to security partnership with Turkiye,” it said in a social media post.
As required by law, the State Department notified Congress of the agreement in January, as well as a separate $8.6 billion sale of 40 F-35s to Greece.
The United States did not green light the transaction until Turkiye’s instruments of ratification of Sweden’s membership had arrived in Washington.
Turkiye’s parliament ratified Sweden’s NATO membership in January after more than a year of delays that upset Western to unite in the face of Russia’s war on Ukraine.
Erdogan is due to join NATO leaders’ summit in Washington next month.
He had been set for talks with US counterpart Joe Biden last month but what would have been their first White House meeting was postponed over scheduling problems.


Vessel reports being struck 129 NM east of Yemen’s Aden

Vessel reports being struck 129 NM east of Yemen’s Aden
Updated 13 June 2024
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Vessel reports being struck 129 NM east of Yemen’s Aden

Vessel reports being struck 129 NM east of Yemen’s Aden
  • Ambrey said it assessed the vessel to be aligned with “the Houthi target profile”

ADEN: A merchant vessel issued a distress call reporting a missile impacting the vessel approximately 129 nautical miles east of Yemen’s Aden while on route from Malaysia to Italy’s Venice, British maritime security firm Ambrey said on Thursday.
Ambrey said it assessed the vessel to be aligned with “the Houthi target profile.”
Iran-allied Houthis have attacked international shipping in the Red Sea region since November in solidarity with the Palestinians in the war between Israel and Hamas. They have sunk one ship, seized another vessel, and killed three seafarers in another attack.
The group controls Yemen’s capital and most populous areas.
The Yemeni militants on Wednesday
took responsibility
for small watercraft and missile attacks that left a Greek-owned cargo ship taking on water and in need of rescue near Yemen’s Red Sea port of Hodeidah.
Separately, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) agency said it has received a report of an incident 98 NM east of Aden as well.