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.”


UN Security Council demands halt to siege of Sudan city of 1.8 mln people

The United Nations Security Council on Thursday demanded a halt to the siege of Al-Fashir by the paramilitary RSF.
The United Nations Security Council on Thursday demanded a halt to the siege of Al-Fashir by the paramilitary RSF.
Updated 59 min 47 sec ago
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UN Security Council demands halt to siege of Sudan city of 1.8 mln people

The United Nations Security Council on Thursday demanded a halt to the siege of Al-Fashir by the paramilitary RSF.
  • Council adopted British-drafted resolution that also calls for the withdrawal of all fighters that threaten the safety and security of civilians in Al-Fashir

UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations Security Council on Thursday demanded a halt to the siege of Al-Fashir — a city of 1.8 million people in Sudan’s North Dafur region — by the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and an immediate end to fighting in the area.
The 15-member council adopted a British-drafted resolution that also calls for the withdrawal of all fighters that threaten the safety and security of civilians in Al-Fashir, the last big city in the vast, western Darfur region not under RSF control.
War erupted in Sudan in April last year between the Sudanese army (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), creating the world’s largest displacement crisis. Top UN officials have warned that the worsening violence around Al-Fashir threatens to “unleash bloody intercommunal strife throughout Darfur.”


Israeli forces kill three Palestinians, seize weapons in West Bank raid

Israeli forces kill three Palestinians, seize weapons in West Bank raid
Updated 13 June 2024
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Israeli forces kill three Palestinians, seize weapons in West Bank raid

Israeli forces kill three Palestinians, seize weapons in West Bank raid
  • The West Bank has seen a surge in violence since the outbreak of the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza
  • Troops surrounded a building where two gunmen were holed up, exchanging fire with them, the army said

QABATIYA, West Bank: Israeli forces raided a town in the occupied West Bank on Thursday, killing three Palestinians and detaining several others in what the army described as an operation to pre-empt militant attacks.
The West Bank, among territories where Palestinians seek statehood, has seen a surge in violence since the outbreak of the war between Israel and the militant Islamist group Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
During the raid in Qabatiya, troops surrounded a building where two gunmen were holed up, exchanging fire with them, the army said. The two Palestinians were killed and witnesses saw the body of one them being lifted out by an armored bulldozer.
A third Palestinian was shot dead by Israeli troops elsewhere in the town, medical officials said.
There was no immediate claim of the dead men by any armed Palestinian faction. The army described the two killed in the building as “senior terrorists” without elaborating, and added that weapons were seized in the raid.
Several Palestinians were detained by troops, who also “exposed explosives planted into roads which were intended to be used to attack the forces,” the army statement said.
A soldier was wounded during exchanges of fire, it added.


Iran expands nuclear capacities further: IAEA

Iran expands nuclear capacities further: IAEA
Updated 13 June 2024
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Iran expands nuclear capacities further: IAEA

Iran expands nuclear capacities further: IAEA
  • Tehran is installing more cascades at the enrichment facilities in Natanz and Fordow
  • A cascade is a series of centrifuges, machines used in the process of enriching uranium

VIENNA: Iran is further expanding its nuclear capacities, the UN atomic watchdog said Thursday, one week after the agency’s board of governors passed a resolution criticizing Tehran’s lack of cooperation with the IAEA.
The International Atomic Energy Agency informed its members that Tehran told it that it was installing more cascades at the enrichment facilities in Natanz and Fordow, according to a statement sent to AFP.
A diplomatic source deemed this development as “moderate.”
A cascade is a series of centrifuges, machines used in the process of enriching uranium.
The motion brought by Britain, France and Germany — but opposed by China and Russia — at the IAEA’s 35-nation board last week was the first of its kind since November 2022.
The resolution — which Tehran slammed as “hasty and unwise” — came amid an impasse over Iran’s escalating nuclear activities and as Western powers fear Tehran may be seeking to develop a nuclear weapon, a claim Iran denies.
Although symbolic in nature at this stage, the censure motion aims to raise diplomatic pressure on Iran, with the option to potentially refer the issue to the UN Security Council.
In the past, similar resolutions have prompted Tehran to retaliate by removing surveillance cameras and other equipment from its nuclear facilities and ratcheting up its uranium enrichment activities.
According to the IAEA, Iran is the only non-nuclear weapon state to enrich uranium to the high level of 60 percent — just short of weapons-grade — while it keeps accumulating large uranium stockpiles.
The IAEA has said that Tehran has significantly ramped up its nuclear program and now has enough material to build several atomic bombs.
The Islamic republic has gradually broken away from its commitments under the nuclear deal it struck with world powers in 2015.
The landmark deal provided Iran with relief from Western sanctions in exchange for curbs on its atomic program, but it fell apart after the unilateral withdrawal of the United States under then-president Donald Trump in 2018.
Efforts to revive the deal have so far failed.


Houthi opening of Taiz road raises hopes of end to blockades

Houthi opening of Taiz road raises hopes of end to blockades
Updated 13 June 2024
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Houthi opening of Taiz road raises hopes of end to blockades

Houthi opening of Taiz road raises hopes of end to blockades
  • Bus driver says the opening of Al-Houban road reminds him of the fall of the Berlin Wall
  • Yemeni government military officials urged the Houthis to unlock the seven city entrances that remain closed

AL-MUKALLA: The besieged Yemen city of Taiz was filled with jubilation on Thursday as people crossed into the city from Houthi-controlled areas for the first time in years.

In a surprise move, the Houthis opened a key road, raising hopes of an end to the militia’s blockade of Yemen’s main city after almost a decade.

The arrival of the first car from Al-Houban in Taiz sparked huge celebrations among hundreds of Yemenis, who crowded the government side of the city to wave the national flag and sing patriotic chants.

Abdul Kareem Shaiban, the head of the government’s delegation at talks with the Houthis, told Arab News that the opening of the Al-Houban-Taiz city road would alleviate over nine years of suffering for local residents. The move would connect the city to Taiz, Ibb, Sanaa, and other Yemeni centers, allow food and supplies to be delivered, and reduce travel costs.

“Today, we were relieved that our families, mothers, sisters and brothers arrived and exited Taiz after the opening of this road and that the family finally united after years of separation,” Shaiban said. He also called on the Houthis not to harass individuals who crossed into their area, to open the city’s remaining blocked exits, and to lift their siege altogether.

The Houthi militia laid siege to the city of Taiz in early 2015 after their forces were unable to seize control due to stiff opposition from Yemeni government troops and allied resistance fighters.

The group barricaded the city’s major exits, posted snipers and laid landmines to prevent civilians from leaving or entering. The blockade has forced more than two million civilians to use perilous dirt tracks to leave or enter the city.

Local and international relief and rights organizations have long chastised the Houthis for impeding the delivery of essential humanitarian supplies and products to the besieged city, driving people to starvation.

As well as the Al-Houban road, they have reopened a route connecting Marib with Sanaa via Al-Bayda and have committed to consider lifting blockades on additional restricted highways. 

Responding to the Houthi proposal, the Yemeni government in Taiz sent bulldozers to clear trees, dunes, and barriers, while deminers cleared landmines from its side of the route.

Abu Mohammed, a bus driver from Taiz, said the opening of the road reminded him of the fall of the Berlin Wall. He added that he could now travel to his mother and other relatives in the countryside in one hour instead of seven, the length of his journey while the road was closed.

“This is an extremely significant event. This year’s Eid (Al-Adha) will be very joyful since I’m bringing my family from the city to see my mother in the countryside,” he told Arab News joyfully.

Other Yemenis from Taiz residing overseas, including politicians, journalists, businesspeople, and activists, expressed similar excitement.

“Thanks to the productive efforts of all serious people, smiles returned today to brighten the faces of the residents of Taiz, with the reopening of the major artery,” Shawki Ahmed Hayel Saeed, a prominent businessman from Taiz, said on X.

At the same time, Yemeni government military officials urged the Houthis to unlock the seven city entrances that remain closed and allow large vehicles carrying food and other supplies to enter the city via the newly opened route.

“This is a partial lifting of the siege on Taiz because the militia only allowed small cars and pedestrians to enter or leave Taiz through this road and does not yet allow trucks or food supplies to enter the city,” Abdul Basit Al-Baher, a Yemeni military official in Taiz, told Arab News.


Short circuit caused fire in Kuwait building housing foreign workers: fire service

A picture shows a building which was engulfed by fire, in Kuwait City, on June 12, 2024. (AFP)
A picture shows a building which was engulfed by fire, in Kuwait City, on June 12, 2024. (AFP)
Updated 13 June 2024
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Short circuit caused fire in Kuwait building housing foreign workers: fire service

A picture shows a building which was engulfed by fire, in Kuwait City, on June 12, 2024. (AFP)
  • Those killed were mostly Indians, and the Indian Minister of State for External Affairs Kirti Vardhan Singh was received by his Kuwaiti counterpart on Thursday

RIYADH: Kuwait’s fire service said on Thursday that an electrical short circuit caused the blaze that killed 50 people in a building housing foreign workers on Wednesday.

The fire broke out around dawn on Wednesday at the base of the block housing nearly 200 workers in the Mangaf area, south of Kuwait City.

Those killed were mostly Indians, and the Indian Minister of State for External Affairs Kirti Vardhan Singh was received by his Kuwaiti counterpart Sheikh Fahad Yusuf Saud Al-Sabah on Thursday.

Sheikh Fahad expressed his condolences over the tragic incident and Singh thanked Kuwait and its Emir Sheikh Meshal Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah for the help and support extended to the families of those killed and injured in the blaze. 

Kuwaiti authorities said earlier on Thursday that three people had been detained for suspected manslaughter over the fire.