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.

Lebanese security men hit by COVID-19

Updated 02 April 2020

Lebanese security men hit by COVID-19

  • Pets being dumped by owners over fears

BEIRUT: The Lebanese Army Forces Command confirmed on Wednesday that an officer from the second Land Border Regiment has tested positive for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) along with a law enforcement officer at the Guard Brigade of the Internal Security Forces (ISF).

The army officer is undergoing treatment, and “precautionary measures have been taken,” according to the army, including placing anyone with whom he has recently been in contact in quarantine.

On Wednesday, 16 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed, with number of laboratory-confirmed cases in Lebanon now at 479.

Two deaths were announced in the intensive care unit for coronavirus patients — one in their fifties and the other in their sixties — both of whom were suffering from chronic diseases. The Health Ministry’s report stated that Matn in Mount Lebanon (99 cases) and Beirut (89) are the two areas with the highest number of cases.

A TV report falsely claiming that cats and dogs can transmit COVID-19 to humans is believed to be one of the main causes behind an increase in owners abandoning their pets in Lebanon.

According to the Animal Health Department at the Ministry of Agriculture — based on the number of vaccines that Lebanon imports for veterinary use — there are 110,000 dogs and around 55,000 cats kept as pets in the country. Images of dogs that have reportedly been abandoned or, in some cases, poisoned, have been circulating widely on social media. The network responsible for the incorrect report later apologized.

Dr. Bassel Bazzal, head of the Animal Health Service at the Ministry of Agriculture told Arab News, “We witnessed this phenomenon in the last week of February and the first week of March, and then it subsided after the veterinarians’ clarifications on television, based on reports from the World Health Organization (WHO), that there is no evidence that companion animals/pets transmit the virus to humans.”

The Lebanese Veterinary Syndicate, headed by Dr. Ihab Chaaban, had called on pet guardians “to comply with specified vaccination dates, and not to take any information except from relevant scientific authorities.”

Bazzal said that the television report was based on news from Hong Kong that a dog there had been infected with coronavirus by its owner. However, he stressed, that dog did not transmit the virus to others.

He noted that dogs can be infected with a particular strain of coronavirus (IBV), for which a vaccine already exists and that cannot be transmitted to humans.

Jounieh-based veterinarian Rami Mdawar told Arab News that his clinic has already received “three or four” poisoned dogs. “We used to only see poisoning cases sometimes, but after the spread of coronavirus and the false information about dogs transmitting the virus to humans, we are now witnessing abandonment cases of pets and poisoning in many areas.”

While Mdawar said he understood that people who abandoned their pets were probably acting out of “panic and fear for their families,” he also stressed that “it is not based on correct scientific information.” In fact, he said, he has been preventing clients from accompanying their animals into his clinic, because, “it is animals that face the threat of humans, and I do not want the virus to be transmitted to the animals at the clinic.

Mdawar noted that although parliament has approved the Animal Welfare Law which will punish those who kill or harm animals, that law has yet to be implemented.

The veterinarian stressed, however, that the majority of people in Lebanon are not cruel to animals. “It is not all negative,” he said. “There are a lot of people who are adopting dogs, and some have more than one dog in their homes. Other people are actually buying pets at this time because they help them psychologically and comfort them. And that’s not just seniors or people who live alone”.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Veterinary Syndicate in France warned of “the danger of using detergents or hand sterilizers to clean pets” after images of dogs whose legs were burned after their guardians used sanitizers or bleaching products on their pets surfaced online.