Israel plans new east Jerusalem settlement

Israeli construction cranes and excavators at a building site of the Jewish settlement of Neve Yaakov, in the northern area of East Jerusalem. (AFP)
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Updated 18 February 2020

Israel plans new east Jerusalem settlement

  • Peace Now said the housing ministry had a week ago submitted plans to Jerusalem’s Municipality to build the settlement units on the site of the former Atarot airport
  • It would be the first new settlement in east Jerusalem since a previous government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu built the Har Homa settlement

JERUSALEM: Israel has developed plans to build 9,000 settler homes in annexed east Jerusalem, the first such project in the city in more than 20 years, watchdog Peace Now said Tuesday.
Details of the plan emerged a day after Israel’s transport ministry approved a controversial proposal to extend a train line from Tel Aviv into Jerusalem’s flashpoint Old City.
Peace Now said the housing ministry had a week ago submitted plans to Jerusalem’s Municipality to build the settlement units on the site of the former Atarot airport, between two Palestinian neighborhoods.
It said final approval of the project could take years.
But if built, it would drive “a wedge in the heart of the Palestinian urban continuity between Ramallah and East Jerusalem, thus preventing the establishment of a viable Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem.”
It would be the first new settlement in east Jerusalem since a previous government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu built the Har Homa settlement near Bethlehem in 1997, Peace Now said.
More than 600,000 Jewish settlers live in the occupied West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem, in communities considered illegal under international law.
Peace now said the Atarot plan “also includes the demolition of dozens of Palestinian residential units that were built in the area without permits throughout the years.”
Palestinians regularly build without the required permissions because they are unable to obtain them from Israeli authorities.
Jordan, the custodian of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, blasted the proposed rail extension as “a flagrant violation of international law.”
A Middle East peace plan unveiled last month by US President Donald Trump gave a green light for Israel to declare sovereignty over all of Jerusalem as well as settlements and other territory in the West Bank.
The Trump proposal has been rejected by the Palestinians, who demand east Jerusalem as the capital of their state.


UN panel urges halt to Syria fighting as virus strikes

Updated 6 min 26 sec ago

UN panel urges halt to Syria fighting as virus strikes

  • The UN fears large numbers of preventable deaths may follow although Damascus has reported only five cases of the novel coronavirus so far
  • Just 64 percent of hospitals and 52 percent of primary health care centers that existed before 2011 are functioning

GENEVA: Warring parties in Syria must stop fighting “to avoid further catastrophe,” UN investigators said on Saturday, as the first cases of the COVID-19 epidemic are recorded in a country already torn apart by nine years of war.
The UN fears large numbers of preventable deaths may follow although Damascus has reported only five cases of the novel coronavirus so far.
“Syrian civilians now face a deadly threat in the form of the COVID-19 outbreak, one that will strike without distinction and that will be devastating for the most vulnerable in the absence of urgent preventative action,” said Paulo Pinheiro, chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria.
The parties must heed calls for a cease-fire or face a “looming tragedy,” Pinheiro said, adding: “Anything short of that will likely condemn large numbers of civilians to preventable deaths.”
The conflict has left more than 380,00 dead and the World Health Organization says Syria’s health system has been acutely weakened.
Just 64 percent of hospitals and 52 percent of primary health care centers that existed before 2011 are functioning, and 70 percent of the country’s health workers have left.
The commission noted that “much of this situation is a result of pro-Government forces systematically targeting medical facilities.”
“Nurses, doctors and medical volunteers have been attacked, detained and disappeared by parties to the conflict,” the statement said.
“All attacks on medical providers, facilities, hospitals, and first responders must cease immediately.”
The 6.5 million displaced Syrians still living in the country are particularly threatened by the spread of the virus, including one million mainly women and children in the camps of Idlib province along the Turkish border.
The camps offer limited access to water in a region where dozens of hospitals have closed because of the fighting.
Rights groups have also warned of a health disaster in overcrowded prisons.