In biggest settler land grab since Oslo, Israel seizes 800 hectares in occupied West Bank

In biggest settler land grab since Oslo, Israel seizes 800 hectares in occupied West Bank
The United Nations human rights chief has reported a drastic acceleration in illegal settlement building since Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza began months ago. (AFP)
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Updated 23 March 2024
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In biggest settler land grab since Oslo, Israel seizes 800 hectares in occupied West Bank

In biggest settler land grab since Oslo, Israel seizes 800 hectares in occupied West Bank
  • Israel’s Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich declares as ‘state lands’ the area in the northern Jordan Valley
  • Land grab launched as top US diplomat holds talks with Netanyahu in Tel Aviv

JERUSALEM/JEDDAH: Israel publicly humiliated America’s top diplomat on Friday by launching a massive settler land grab in the occupied West Bank while US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv.

Israel’s seizure of 800 hectares of land in the northern Jordan Valley on Friday was the single largest since the 1993 Oslo Accords. Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now said the size of the seized area is the largest since 1993’s Oslo Accords, and that “2024 marks a peak in the extent of declarations of state land.”

Israel’s Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich declared as “state lands” the area in the northern Jordan Valley, as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Israel for Gaza war talks.




Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich. (REUTERS/File Photo)

Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

“While there are those in Israel and the world who seek to undermine our right over the Judea and Samaria area and the country in general, we are promoting settlement through hard work and in a strategic manner all over the country,” Smotrich said, using Israel’s term for the West Bank.

Settlements in the Palestinian territories are illegal under international law.

Smotrich, who heads the extreme-right Religious Zionism party, lives in a settlement.

Peace Now said the timing of the latest land grab was a “provocation.”

Despite opposition abroad, Israel has in recent decades build dozens of settlements across the West Bank.

They are now home to more than 490,000 Israelis, who live alongside around three million Palestinians in the territory.

The United Nations human rights chief has reported a drastic acceleration in illegal settlement building since Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza began months ago, and said this risks eliminating any likelihood of a viable Palestinian state.

Blinken has described settlement expansion as “counterproductive to reaching enduring peace” with the Palestinians.

Netanyahu rebuffs Blinken

After their talks, Netanyahu said he had told Blinken that Israel would not reverse plans to launch a military offensive against Rafah in southern Gaza, where up to 1.5 million Palestinians have sought shelter after being driven from their homes elsewhere in the enclave.

“I told him that I hope we will do it with the support of the US, but if we have to we will do it alone.”

Blinken said Washington shared Israel's goal of defeating Hamas but a major military ground operation in Rafah was not the way to do it.

“It risks killing more civilians. It risks wreaking greater havoc with the provision of humanitarian assistance. It risks further isolating Israel around the world and jeopardizing its long-term security and standing,” he said.

Blinken had said he would push Netanyahu to take urgent steps to allow more aid into Gaza, where mass death from famine is imminent. US officials say the number of aid deliveries via land needs to increase fast and that aid needs to be sustained over a long period.

“A hundred percent of the population of Gaza is experiencing severe levels of acute food insecurity. We cannot, we must not allow that to continue,” Blinken said.

Eight people were killed on Friday in an airstrike on a house in Al-Naser, east of Rafah. The dead included a father, a mother and five of their children, said mourner Turkiah Barbakh.

“They are all children, they haven’t resisted or done anything. What happened to them is unjust,” she said. “How much longer do we have to endure this?”

In their meeting, Netanyahu sternly rejected the visiting US secretary of state’s plea not to launch a ground invasion into Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah, saying Friday “we will do it alone” if necessary.

The looming Rafah invasion has cast a shadow over ongoing efforts to forge a ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas. Blinken told reporters “there’s still a lot of work to be done” as he wrapped up his sixth trip to the Mideast since the war began.

International aid officials say the entire population of the Gaza Strip — 2.3 million people — is suffering from food insecurity and that famine is imminent in the hard-hit north. 

Gaza’s Health Ministry raised the territory’s death toll to 32,070 people, with around 74,300 wounded. The ministry doesn’t differentiate between civilians and combatants in its count, but says women and children make up two-thirds of the dead.

Some 1,200 people were killed on Oct. 7 when Palestinian militants launched a surprise attack out of Gaza, triggering the war, and abducted another 250 people. Hamas is still believed to be holding some 100 Israelis hostage, as well as the remains of 30 others.

(With Agencies)

 

 


UAE allocates $70 million in humanitarian aid for Sudan

UAE allocates $70 million in humanitarian aid for Sudan
Updated 6 sec ago
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UAE allocates $70 million in humanitarian aid for Sudan

UAE allocates $70 million in humanitarian aid for Sudan

DUBAI: The UAE has said 70 percent of the $100 million pledge it announced for UN agencies last April will go towards supporting humanitarian aid efforts in Sudan, Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the funds would be directed to key UN partners, including the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the World Food Programme, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the Food and Agriculture Organization, and the World Health Organization. The money will provide food and health support, protect women and children, and offer livelihoods and shelter in emergencies.
Minister of State for International Cooperation Reem bint Ibrahim Al-Hashemi emphasized the UAE’s commitment to humanitarian support for the Sudanese people. She highlighted ongoing efforts to provide aid in cooperation with the WFP, including operations in El-Fasher and other areas in Sudan.
Since the onset of the crisis, the UAE has launched an air bridge with Sudan and Chad, delivering 9,500 tons of food and medical supplies through 148 relief flights and a ship carrying some 1,000 tons of urgent supplies. Additionally, the UAE has supported Sudanese refugee camps in Chad and South Sudan by providing food.


Civil Defense extinguishes major fire in northern Jordan

Civil Defense extinguishes major fire in northern Jordan
Updated 23 min 50 sec ago
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Civil Defense extinguishes major fire in northern Jordan

Civil Defense extinguishes major fire in northern Jordan
  • The fire affected over 320,000 square meters of trees and dry grass

DUBAI:  Civil Defense teams on Monday extinguished a fire that spread from the Zamal area in the Koura District to the Anaba area in the Northern Mazar District.

Koura District Superintendent Bassem Al-Khalayleh informed the Jordan News Agency that the fire affected over 320 dunams (320,000 square meters) of trees and dry grass. He praised the quick response of the Civil Defense, which contained and extinguished the fire, preventing it from spreading to neighboring areas.

Al-Khalayleh urged citizens to clean the areas surrounding their homes, remove waste and dead vegetation that pose safety risks, ensure the presence and readiness of fire extinguishers, and educate individuals about fire hazards. He emphasized the dangers of throwing cigarette butts in forests, leaving flammable waste unattended, lighting fires in grassy areas, and using fireworks near forests or residential areas.

Jordan is currently experiencing a severe heatwave, with temperatures soaring to record highs of 45 degrees Celsius in several regions.

The Jordan Meteorological Department reported that the heatwave is expected to persist over the coming days, particularly impacting the desert areas, Jordan Valley, Dead Sea, and Aqaba. Residents are advised to stay indoors during peak sunlight hours, stay hydrated, and avoid strenuous outdoor activities.


Tunisian security units foil 59 sea border crossing attempts, rescue 1,806 migrants

Tunisian security units foil 59 sea border crossing attempts, rescue 1,806 migrants
Updated 18 June 2024
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Tunisian security units foil 59 sea border crossing attempts, rescue 1,806 migrants

Tunisian security units foil 59 sea border crossing attempts, rescue 1,806 migrants
  • At least 18 Tunisians were rescued on June 15 and 16 with the remainder being from sub-Saharan countries

DUBAI: Security units in Tunisia thwarted 59 attempts to illegally cross its sea borders and rescued 1,806 individuals, state news agency Tunis Afrique Press reported on Monday.

At least 18 Tunisians were rescued on June 15 and 16 with the remainder being from sub-Saharan countries, the Directorate General of the National Guard announced in a statement.

Two bodies were also recovered, and 24 wanted individuals, including smugglers and middlemen, were detained. In addition, the authorities seized boats and outboard motors used in illegal migration operations.


Yemeni minister condemns Houthi attack on Taiz officials

Yemeni minister condemns Houthi attack on Taiz officials
Updated 18 June 2024
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Yemeni minister condemns Houthi attack on Taiz officials

Yemeni minister condemns Houthi attack on Taiz officials
  • The minister called on the international community, the UN, and its special envoy to Yemen to condemn this attack.

DUBAI: Yemeni Minister of Information, Culture, and Tourism Muammar Al-Eryani strongly condemned the Houthi militia on Monday for targeting government officials in Taiz, state news agency SABA reported. 

The attack targeted Maj. Gen. Abdul Karim Al-Sabri, undersecretary of Taiz Governorate for defense and security affairs; Maj. Gen. Abdul Aziz Al-Majidi, acting commander of the Taiz Axis; Brig. Gen. Mohammed Al-Mahfadi, commander of Brigade 22 Mika; Samir Yahya Abdul-Ilah, director-general of the Cairo Directorate; and several other civilian, security, and military leaders. They were on a visit to National Army officers stationed at the old airport camp northwest of Taiz.

Al-Eryani said that the attack occurred less than 500 meters from the recently reopened Al-Kamp-Republican Palace road, after a decade-long siege imposed by the Houthi militia on the governorate.

The attack highlights the Houthi militia’s lack of commitment to peace and their intent to undermine any efforts to alleviate the suffering of citizens, the minister said. 

Al-Eryani called on the international community, the UN, and its special envoy to Yemen to condemn this attack. He urged for the militia to be classified as a terrorist organization, for its financial, political, and media resources to be cut off, and for measures to be taken to support the government in establishing control and achieving security throughout Yemeni territory.


US imposes new sanctions on Houthis

US imposes new sanctions on Houthis
Updated 18 June 2024
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US imposes new sanctions on Houthis

US imposes new sanctions on Houthis
  • Three individuals and six entities that facilitated the purchase of weapons for the Houthis have been sanctioned

DUBAI: New sanctions on the Iranian-supported Houthi militia have been imposed by the US, Yemen News Agency (SABA) reported.

“We have sanctioned three individuals and six entities that facilitated the purchase of weapons for the Houthis. Additionally, we have designated one ship owned by one of the sanctioned entities as prohibited property,” said US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller.

Miller emphasized Washington’s commitment to using “the tools available to obstruct the flow of military materials to Yemen, which enables the Houthis to launch these terrorist attacks.”

He also noted that “Houthi attacks against unarmed commercial ships continue to obstruct navigation in a vital waterway.”