Uproar over Israeli plan to build 4,000 settlement units in occupied West Bank

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An Israeli settler scuffles with a Palestinian activist as Israeli soldiers hold him back during a protest in Masafer Yatta, Israeli-occupied West Bank, on May 13, 2022. (REUTERS/Mussa Qawasma)
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An Israeli soldier chases a protester while Palestinian and Israeli peace activists attempt to open a road to the Jewish settlement of Mezbi Yair, West Bank, on May 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)
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Palestinian, Israeli and foreign peace activists clear a road block near the Jewish settlement of Mezbi Yair, Masafer Yatta, West Bank, on May 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)
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Updated 14 May 2022

Uproar over Israeli plan to build 4,000 settlement units in occupied West Bank

  • Mustafa Barghouti calls for US sanctions on Israel

RAMALLAH: Fears over the future of the two-state solution in Palestine have mounted after Israel approved a plan to build more than 4,000 settlement units in the West Bank.

The move threatens Palestinians’ hopes for a two-state solution and the establishment of an independent state.

If constructed, the settlements will sever the geographical contiguity between the occupied territories.

The Higher Planning Committee of the Israeli Civil Administration approved the construction of 4,427 new settlement-housing units in the occupied West Bank, according to NGO Peace Now.

Fifteen European countries, including France, Germany and Italy, have denounced the plans, and demanded that Israel shelve the proposal.

The US also confirmed its opposition to the new approvals.

The Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the approval of the new settlement plans that include 3,988 housing units, including many isolated outposts.

The ministry said in a statement that the approval was granted despite strong opposition from the US administration, which was expressed by more than one US official last week.

The UN stressed that efforts to build confidence between the Palestinian and Israeli sides and the establishment of a truce is a prelude to resolving the conflict.

The ministry said that “the racist colonial decision comes within the framework of the creeping annexation of the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Masafer Yatta and the Jordan Valley — to eliminate any chance of establishing a viable, geographically connected and sovereign Palestinian state.”

Some Palestinian critics argue that the Israeli government is racing against time to resolve the future of the final negotiated issues unilaterally and by force of occupation in accordance with Israel’s interests.

It is also trying to preserve the ruling coalition at the expense of Palestinian land and the rights of people, they claim.

The ministry called on the US administration to fulfill its commitments and promises, and to translate its positions and words into actions to pressure the Israeli government to stop all its settlement activities in a way that leads to the protection of the two-state solution.

About 700,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank across 125 settlements considered illegal under international law. Some Israelis marked the recent approval with celebrations.

Critics warn that Israeli governments have tolerated and even encouraged settlers to seize Palestinian land in Area C, which forms 60 percent of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Settlement activities reached their peak during the term of former US president Donald Trump, who supported Israeli unconditionally.

The ruling Israeli regime of Prime Minister Naftali Bennet is an ultimate supporter of settlement expansion and settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, critics say, pointing to Bennet’s tenure as mayor of a settlement in the West Bank.

Many in Palestine are deeply concerned that the expansion of settlements is detrimental to the two-state solution and forms a serious threat to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with geographical continuity — a longtime goal of Palestinian political figures.

Mustafa Barghouti, secretary-general of the Palestinian Initiative Party, told Arab News: “This confirms that Israel’s intention is to destroy any possibility of establishing an independent Palestinian state.”

Barghouti said that the expansion of settlement-building under the Naftali government “is faster than any previous right-wing government, and it is, of course, worse than the Netanyahu government.”

He added: “It is shameful that parties such as the left-wing Meretz party and Mansour Abbas’ party remain in such a government, which must be brought down immediately.”

Barghouti said that Israel “will not be deterred unless sanctions by the US are imposed on it and the companies that invest in settlements.”

He noted that the US imposed heavy sanctions on Russia in the wake of the Ukraine invasion, but did not impose a single punitive measure against Israel, despite its apparent violation of international law.


Palestinian teenager shot dead by Israeli forces during raid in occupied West Bank

Updated 21 May 2022

Palestinian teenager shot dead by Israeli forces during raid in occupied West Bank

  • Jenin refugee camp has served as a flashpoint amid recent tensions following a wave of attacks
  • Last week journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed by Israeli firing while covering a raid

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories: A Palestinian teenager was shot dead by Israeli forces early Saturday during a raid in Jenin in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian health ministry said.
“A 17-year-old boy was killed, and an 18-year-old was critically wounded by the Israeli occupation’s bullets during its aggression on Jenin,” a statement by the health ministry said.
Jenin refugee camp has served as a flashpoint amid recent tensions following a wave of attacks in Israel in which 19 people were killed.
Thirteen Palestinians were injured last week during an operation by Israeli forces in the camp in which one Israeli commando and one Palestinian were also killed.
Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett named the Israeli commando as Noam Raz.
The Palestinian was later named as Daoud Al-Zubaidi, a brother of Zakaria Al-Zubaidi, who headed the armed wing of the Fatah movement of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and briefly escaped from Israeli prison last year.
The raids came hours before violence erupted at the funeral of Shireen Abu Akleh, an Al Jazeera journalist who was killed last week while covering another Israeli raid on the camp.
As her funeral unfolded, Israeli police stormed the grounds of a Jerusalem hospital as the body of the slain journalist was being transported for burial, prompting an international outcry.


Tunisia heads for ‘new republic’ in dialogue without political parties

Updated 21 May 2022

Tunisia heads for ‘new republic’ in dialogue without political parties

  • On Friday the official gazette announced that law professor Sadeq Belaid would head the newly created "National Consultative Commission for a New Republic"
  • Saied announced in early May the establishment of a long-awaited "national dialogue"

TUNIS: Tunisia’s President Kais Saied on Friday appointed a loyalist law professor to head a committee charged with writing a constitution for a “new republic”, through a national dialogue that excludes political parties.
On July 25 last year, Saied sacked the government and suspended parliament, sidelining the political parties that have dominated Tunisian politics since the 2011 revolution that sparked the Arab Spring uprisings.
He has since vowed to scrap the country’s 2014 constitution and draft a replacement to be put to referendum in July, but has repeatedly inveighed against political parties despite calls for an inclusive dialogue.
On Friday the official gazette announced that law professor Sadeq Belaid would head the newly created “National Consultative Commission for a New Republic”, charged with drawing up a draft constitution.
Saied has also created three other committees to focus on socio-economic issues, the judiciary and on national dialogue.
While major organisations including the powerful UGTT trade union confederation are supposed to be involved, no political party is set to take part.
Saied announced in early May the establishment of a long-awaited “national dialogue” – at the same time attacking the political parties he accuses of having plundered the country.
Since his July power grab, many Tunisians have supported his moves against a political class seen as corrupt, but opponents have labelled his moves a coup and he has faced calls from home and abroad for a dialogue involving all of the country’s major actors.


Iran holds pro-government rallies after price protests turn political

Updated 20 May 2022

Iran holds pro-government rallies after price protests turn political

  • "The enemies mistakenly think the Iranian people will respond to ...the rumours that they spread and lies they tell," Guards commander Hossein Salami said
  • Iranian authorities say the unrest over rising food prices has been fomented by foreign enemies

DUBAI: Thousands of supporters of Iran’s clerical establishment, including 50,000 Revolutionary Guards and Basij militia members, rallied on Friday, state media reported, after protests against rising food prices turned political.
“The enemies mistakenly think the Iranian people will respond to ...the rumors that they spread and lies they tell,” Guards commander Hossein Salami said in televised remarks at the massive rally outside the capital Tehran, which marked a major victory in Iran’s war with Iraq in the 1980s.
Iranian authorities say the unrest over rising food prices has been fomented by foreign enemies. On Friday, state television showed pro-government marchers chanting “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” in southwestern cities of Yasuj and Shahr-e Kord, scenes of recent protests.
Iranians took to the streets last week after a cut in food subsidies caused prices to soar by as much as 300 percent for some flour-based staples. The protests quickly turned political, with crowds calling for an end to the Islamic Republic, echoing unrest in 2019 which began over fuel prices hike.
The government acknowledged the protests but described them as small gatherings. State media reported last week the arrests of “dozens of rioters and provocateurs.”
Authorities have also arrested a number of labor union and rights activists, accusing them of contacts with foreigners, a leading rights group said on Friday.
“The arrests of prominent members of civil society in Iran on baseless accusations of malicious foreign interference is another desperate attempt to silence support for growing popular social movements in the country,” said Tara Sepehri Far, senior Iran researcher at Human Rights Watch, in a statement.
Iran’s state television on Tuesday showed what it described as details of the arrest of two French citizens earlier this month, saying they were spies who had sought to stir up unrest.
France has condemned their detention as baseless and demanded their immediate release, in an incident likely to complicate ties between the countries as wider talks stall on reviving a nuclear deal.
In recent months, teachers across Iran have staged protests demanding better wages and working conditions. Dozens have been arrested.
Social media users inside Iran say Internet services have been disrupted since last week, seen as an apparent effort by authorities to stop use of social media to organize rallies and disseminate videos. Iranian officials denied any disruption to Internet access.


Amnesty urges Yemen’s Houthi militia to free journalists on death row

Updated 20 May 2022

Amnesty urges Yemen’s Houthi militia to free journalists on death row

  • The four, Abdul Khaleq Amran, Tawfiq al-Mansouri, Harith Hamid and Akram al-Walidi were arrested in June 2015 in Sanaa
  • In April 2020, a Houthi court sentenced the four journalists to death on charges of "treason and spying for foreign states"

DUBAI: Amnesty International has urged Yemen’s Houthi militia to free four journalists facing the death penalty for “espionage” in the war-torn country, ahead of an appeal court hearing on Sunday.
The four, Abdul Khaleq Amran, Tawfiq Al-Mansouri, Harith Hamid and Akram Al-Walidi were arrested in June 2015 in Yemen’s Houthi-held capital Sanaa.
“Yemen’s Houthi de facto authorities must quash the death sentences and order the immediate release of four Yemeni journalists who are facing execution following a grossly unfair trial,” the rights group said in a statement on Friday.
In April 2020, a Houthi court sentenced the four journalists to death on charges of “treason and spying for foreign states.”
“This has been a sham of a trial since the beginning and has borne a terrible toll on the men and their families,” said Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa deputy director Lynn Maalouf, according to the statement.
One of the detained men, Mansouri, is in a “critical health condition” with heart and other ailments, Amnesty said.
“Pending their overdue release, the journalists must be provided with urgent medical care — the denial of medical treatment for the seriously ill is an act of cruelty which amounts to torture and other ill-treatment,” the statement said.
At the time of their trial, Amnesty criticized their sentencing on “trumped-up charges,” while Reporters Without Borders called the verdict “totally unacceptable.”
Their arrest was motivated by their reporting on “human rights violations committed by Houthis,” the International Federation of Journalists and the Yemeni Journalists’ Syndicate have said.
An appeal will be heard by the Specialized Criminal Appeals Division in Sanaa on Sunday.

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Sudan frees detained anti-coup figures, Communist Party says

Sudanese demonstrators take to the streets of the capital Khartoum on May 19, 2022. (AFP)
Updated 20 May 2022

Sudan frees detained anti-coup figures, Communist Party says

  • Thousands of protesters took to the streets, mainly in Khartoum but also elsewhere, to again call for civilian rule in the latest rally against the October coup

KHARTOUM: Sudanese authorities released on Friday two anti-coup figures from the Communist Party a day after their arrest, the party said.
The military’s October takeover in Sudan has sparked nationwide demonstrations which sparked a crackdown that has killed at least 95 protesters and wounded hundreds, medics say.
Hundreds have also been arrested after rallies calling for civilian rule in the northeast African nation.
On Thursday during protests mainly in Khartoum, authorities arrested the Communist Party’s political secretary Mohammed Mukhtar Al-Khatib and another member.

BACKGROUND

The military’s October takeover in Sudan has sparked nationwide demonstrations which sparked a crackdown that has killed at least 95 protesters and wounded hundreds, medics say.

They were detained after meeting rebel leader Abdel Wahid Nour who has refused to sign a landmark 2020 peace deal with the Sudanese government, the party said.
The pair were released on Friday, it said.
Army chief Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, who led the coup, pledged in April to release political detainees to set the state for talks among Sudanese factions.
Last year’s military power grab has sparked international condemnation.
The UN and African Union have called for a dialogue between all Sudanese factions to resolve the crisis.