New settler units on Palestinian land hand Israel a powerful demographic weapon

There has been “a major uptick” in efforts to create illegal settlements in East Jerusalem either within or alongside Palestinian neighborhoods. (AFP)
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Updated 28 May 2024
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New settler units on Palestinian land hand Israel a powerful demographic weapon

  • Israeli authorities accused of exploiting Gaza war to create “more facts on the ground” in occupied West Bank
  • Uptick noticed in approvals for illegal settlements in East Jerusalem within or alongside Palestinian neighborhoods

LONDON: On July 11 last year, 68-year-old Nora Ghaith and her husband Mustafa Sub Laban lost their battle to hold on to their home in Jerusalem’s Old City — in which Ghaith was born — when Israeli police broke down their door and forcibly evicted the elderly couple.

The eviction of the last remaining Palestinians in an apartment building now filled with settlers was carried out under a controversial law. This legislation enables Jews to claim properties that supposedly belonged to their families before they were evicted in 1948, and were subsequently occupied by Palestinian refugees.




Since Oct. 7, plans for no fewer than eight new settlements in East Jerusalem have been fast-tracked. (AFP)

The Legal and Administrative Matters Law was passed in 1970 after Israel annexed East Jerusalem. The same law does not, however, permit the far larger number of Palestinians whose families were evicted from West Jerusalem in 1948 to reclaim the properties they lost.

In fact, the Absentee Property Law, passed in 1950 and amended in 1973, prevents Palestinians from reclaiming lost properties.

Both laws are doubly unjust, critics say, because Jews who left East Jerusalem in 1948 were later given Palestinian properties in West Jerusalem as compensation, and in being allowed to “reclaim” properties in East Jerusalem are being doubly compensated.




Israeli troops patrol the Palestinian refugee camp of Al-Fara, in the occupied West Bank. (AFP)

Last year, the “deeply shocking and heart-breaking” eviction of the Ghaith-Sub Laban family and many other Palestinian families in East Jerusalem was condemned by UN experts as “part of Israel’s apartheid machinery at work, designed to consolidate Jewish ownership of Jerusalem and racially dominate the city’s population.”

The human rights special rapporteurs said such evictions were “a gross violation of international humanitarian law and a war crime,” and evidence of “intention to annex and colonize the occupied territory in violation of international law.”




Between Oct. 7 last year and March 10, some 98 Palestinian homes were demolished, research reveals. (AFP)

Less than a year on, however, two Israeli human rights nongovernmental organizations said that while the global community’s attention has been focused on the death and destruction unfolding in Gaza, there has been “a major acceleration in the promotion and fast-tracking of new settlement plans in East Jerusalem and a dramatic spike in the rate of demolitions of Palestinian homes.”

The Israeli government “is clearly exploiting the war to create more facts on the ground to predetermine the final status of Jerusalem and thwart all prospects for a negotiated political agreement, while forcibly displacing Palestinians from their homes and the city,” Amy Cohen, director of international relations at Ir Amim, told Arab News.

Ir Amim, or City of Nations, is an Israeli NGO working “to render Jerusalem a more equitable and sustainable city for the Israelis and Palestinians who share it and to help secure a negotiated resolution on the city.”

Research, carried out jointly with Bimkom-Planners for Planning Rights, reveals that between Oct. 7 last year and March 10, some 98 Palestinian homes were demolished — an almost two-fold monthly increase compared with the period preceding the war.

At the same time, there has been “a major uptick” in efforts to create illegal settlements in East Jerusalem either within or alongside Palestinian neighborhoods.

These plans provide for more than 12,000 housing units. With an average 6.5 births per woman among ultra-Orthodox Jewish families recorded in the period 2019 to 2021, this means tens of thousands of additional settlers will be moving into East Jerusalem.




From 2008 to May 12 this year, 1,498 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. (AFP)

According to the most recent census, approximately 361,700 (61 percent) of East Jerusalem’s population are Palestinian Arabs. The remaining 234,000 (40 percent) are Jewish — all of whom are regarded by the international community as illegal settlers in the territory, which has been occupied by Israel since the Six Day War in 1967.

The growing number of illegal settlements is especially concerning in light of the statistics for violent assaults in the West Bank. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, from 2008 to May 12 this year, 1,498 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank and East Jerusalem — 10 times as many as the 149 Israeli deaths reported.

There is an even greater disparity in the number of injuries on both sides — 95,383 Palestinians and 2,373 Israelis.

The Israeli authorities “are certainly exploiting the circumstances right now, taking advantage of the fact that the international community is obviously overwhelmed with the horrific, catastrophic conditions in Gaza and all of its implications,” said Cohen.




The growing number of illegal settlements is especially concerning in light of the statistics for violent assaults in the West Bank. (AFP)

“So, while the attention is diverted there — and the Israeli government is complicit in this — the activists in the settler movement are really taking advantage of the circumstances to create more ‘facts on the ground.’”

These “facts” are motivated by the Israeli government’s policy “to ensure that Jerusalem remains what they often call the ‘united, eternal capital of Jerusalem,’ and to preserve the essence of the city being a Jewish capital.

“That means not only do they have to secure control over as much space as possible, but also over the demographic balance of the population — the demographic majority must be in favor of Jewish Israelis, which is being achieved by targeting the Palestinian population.”

She added: “These policies and these measures essentially put a cap on the Palestinian demographic, which serves as a form of — and it’s horrific to even say this — but a form of displacement and population control, to ensure that there will be a Jewish demographic majority in the city.

INNUMBERS

98 Palestinian homes demolished in Oct. 7-March 10 period in East Jerusalem.

12,000 Housing units planned in illegal settlements in East Jerusalem.

“And this has been playing out in the form of demolitions.”

Since Oct. 7, plans for no fewer than eight new settlements in East Jerusalem have been fast-tracked.

The fear, said Cohen, was that the situation was approaching a tipping point beyond which the implementation of a two-state solution would become impossible.

“If the international community were to come together today with representatives of Israel and the Palestinian Authority and begin to sit down and draw some sort of road map, it would look very, very different than it did 20 years ago, during Camp David or even before that during the Oslo Accords,” she said.




The Israeli government ‘is clearly exploiting the war to create more facts on the ground to predetermine the final status of Jerusalem,’ said Amy Cohen.

“Obviously, any road map would have to be adapted to the reality of today. You cannot reverse most of what has happened up until now in Jerusalem. But you can certainly prevent what Israel is trying to do right now.

“And so first and foremost is the need to really address the here and now, to halt the major developments on the ground for settlements and to halt the mechanisms of displacement, such as demolitions and evictions.”

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She added: “If the international community is really serious about a two-state solution, it needs to act now to hold Israel accountable to international law and the parameters of a two-state solution, and so far we haven’t seen that.”

Since the outbreak of the war there has been renewed discussion about the need to jump-start a new peace process, to renew dialogue toward an agreed-upon negotiated resolution.




The Absentee Property Law, passed in 1950 and amended in 1973, prevents Palestinians from reclaiming lost properties. (AFP)

“But with that, we have to bring back the centrality of Jerusalem in the debate, because without Jerusalem there is really no two-state solution.

“And as we all know, without a two-state solution, we will not be able to achieve peace and security for all of us, Israelis and Palestinians, living between the river and the sea.”

Battleground: Jerusalem
The biblical battle for the Holy City

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Nine Palestinians killed in Israeli strike on citizens waiting for aid in Gaza: medical sources

Mourners react next to the bodies of Palestinians, killed in Israeli strikes due to a military operation in Rafah.
Updated 47 min 17 sec ago
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Nine Palestinians killed in Israeli strike on citizens waiting for aid in Gaza: medical sources

  • More than eight months of war have led to dire humanitarian conditions in the Palestinian territory and repeated UN warnings of famine

GAZA: Nine Palestinians were killed in an Israeli strike that hit a group of citizens and merchants in the southern Gaza Strip as they waited for convoys of aid trucks carrying goods through the Kerem Shalom crossing, medical sources told Reuters on Wednesday.

Kerem Shalom on the Israeli border “is operating with limited functionality, including because of fighting in the area,” UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq has said. 

He told reporters that in recent weeks, there had been “an improvement” in aid reaching northern Gaza “but a drastic deterioration in the south.”
More than eight months of war, sparked by Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel, have led to dire humanitarian conditions in the Palestinian territory and repeated UN warnings of famine.


Military escalation in southern Lebanon after US envoy’s visit

Updated 19 June 2024
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Military escalation in southern Lebanon after US envoy’s visit

  • Hochstein reassures Mikati on ‘positive atmosphere’ regarding Biden’s Gaza ceasefire plan
  • Hezbollah shells Kiryat Shmona after 3 members were killed in raid on Yaroun

BEIRUT: Hostilities flared between Hezbollah and the Israeli army in southern Lebanon on Wednesday following a visit by US envoy Amos Hochstein to Beirut and Tel Aviv.

Opinions varied on the outcome of Hochstein’s visit, which aimed to reduce tensions between Hezbollah and Israel on Lebanon’s southern border.

A political observer noted an “unsettling atmosphere” amid the visit — Hochstein’s trip coincided with Hezbollah’s release of aerial drone footage captured inside Israel, showing military bases and the Haifa port.

The footage, released by the group on Tuesday, alarmed and angered Israeli military observers.

Media reports on Wednesday from Beirut said that Hochstein reassured caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati that the atmosphere was “positive” regarding US President Joe Biden’s initiative for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Hochstein said that the situation was “under control.”

Hezbollah has said that any ceasefire on Lebanon’s southern border will only be reached following a truce in the Gaza Strip.

A Paris meeting earlier this month between President Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron focused on the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701.

Several Hezbollah members and civilians were killed and injured in fresh violence as Hochstein left the region.

Hezbollah said on Wednesday it fired dozens of Katyusha rockets and artillery rounds at a barracks in Kiryat Shmona in northern Israel, in retaliation for the Israeli attacks on Yarun and Khiam.

The group said it targeted the headquarters of the 769th Eastern Brigade — affiliated with the 91st Division — at the Kiryat Shmona barracks with rockets and artillery shells.

Israeli media reported that about 20 rockets were launched from Lebanon toward Kiryat Shmona.

Haaretz quoted the Israeli army as saying that about 10 rockets were fired toward the town, causing damage to infrastructure and property.

Sirens and Israel’s Iron Dome air defense was activated in Israeli settlements near the Lebanese border.

Since Wednesday morning, southern Lebanon has faced Israeli attacks, injuring civilians residing near targeted sites.

Army artillery shelled the outskirts of the border towns of Taybeh and Hula.

The city of Khiam was targeted with heavy shells, causing significant damage to a healthcare center belonging to the Amel Association International.

Israeli aerial and artillery attacks targeted the outskirts of the towns of Aita Al-Shaab, Shebaa, Odaisseh, Rachaya Al-Foukhar, Tallouseh, Bani Haiyyan and Mays Al-Jabal.

The head of the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, MP Fadi Alame, counted “more than 5,000 Israeli attacks on Lebanon since the southern front opened over eight months ago, resulting in the death of more than 400 people and over 15,000 injuries.”

The MP added that Israel had used “internationally banned phosphorous bombs, affecting more than 12,000 hectares of land, while more than 75 schools were damaged.”

Israeli aerial and artillery attacks reached the outskirts of Aita Al-Shaab, Chebaa, Odaisseh, Rachaya Al-Fakhar, Tallouseh, Bani Haiyyan and Mays Al-Jabal.

Israeli jets raided Yaroun in Bint Jbeil, killing three people. Hezbollah mourned the deaths of Hassan Mohammed Ali Saab, 54, from Yaroun in southern Lebanon; Jihad Ahmad Hayek, 25, from the south of the village of Adshit; and Hassan Al-Mujtaba Youssef Ahmad, 27, from Rchaf.

An Israeli military drone targeted a car in Wazzani, but the driver escaped by jumping out of the vehicle upon seeing the drone.

The coastal area between Borgholiyeh and Chabriha in Tyre was also targeted.

In response to the raid on Borgholiyeh, Hezbollah carried out “an aerial attack with a fleet of attack drones targeting gatherings and positions of Israeli soldiers inside the Metula settlement, causing confirmed hits.”

According to an Israeli army investigation reported on by Israel’s Ynet, one of the three Hezbollah surveillance drones that infiltrated Israeli airspace was shot down.

Also on Wednesday, Hezbollah commemorated the death of a senior field commander, Taleb Sami Abdallah, in Beirut’s southern suburb. He was killed by Israel a week ago.

 


Hezbollah chief says nowhere in Israel will be spared in case of full-blown war

An image grab taken from Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV on June 19, 2024, shows Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah giving an address.
Updated 17 min 40 sec ago
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Hezbollah chief says nowhere in Israel will be spared in case of full-blown war

  • Hezbollah chief: “There will be no place safe from our missiles and our drones” in Israel in the event of broader war
  • Nasrallah also threatened Cyprus for the first time, saying it had been allowing Israel to use its airports and bases for military exercises

BEIRUT: Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah on Wednesday warned “no place” in Israel would be spared in case of full-blown war against the Lebanese group, and threatened Cyprus if it opened its airports to Israel.
“The enemy knows well that we have prepared ourselves for the worst... and that no place... will be spared our rockets,” Nasrallah said in a televised address.
Israel must expect “us on land, by sea and by air,” he said.
“The enemy really fears that the resistance will penetrate Galilee” in northern Israel, he said, adding that this was possible “in the context of a war that could be imposed on Lebanon.”
Israel and Hezbollah, a powerful Lebanese movement allied with Hamas, have traded near-daily cross-border fire since the Palestinian militant group’s October 7 attack on Israel which triggered war in the Gaza Strip.
The exchanges between the foes, which last went to war in 2006, have escalated in recent weeks, and the Israeli military said Tuesday that “operational plans for an offensive in Lebanon were approved and validated.”
Earlier, Foreign Minister Israel Katz had warned of Hezbollah’s destruction in a “total war.”
Nasrallah said his Iran-backed group had been informed that Israel could use airports and bases in Cyprus if Hezbollah struck Israeli airports.
Cyprus, a European Union member, has good relations with Israel and Lebanon, and lies close to the coast of both countries.
“Opening Cypriot airports and bases to the Israeli enemy to target Lebanon would mean that the Cypriot government is part of the war, and the resistance will deal with it as part of the war,” Nasrallah threatened.
Britain has also retained sovereign control over two base areas in its former colony Cyprus under the terms of the treaties that granted the island independence in 1960.

Nasrallah’s statements came a day after US envoy Amos Hochstein — who in 2022 brokered a maritime border deal between Israel and Lebanon — called for “urgent” de-escalation during a visit to Lebanon.
He also met with senior officials in Israel on his regional tour.
“Everything the enemy says and that the mediators convey, including with threats of war on Lebanon... this doesn’t scare us,” Nasrallah said.
On Tuesday, Hezbollah released a more than nine-minute video showing aerial footage purportedly taken by the movement over northern Israel, including what it said were sensitive military, defense and energy facilities and infrastructure in the city and port of Haifa.
Nasrallah said the footage was taken by a drone that “flew for long hours” over the Haifa port.
He also warned that his group had only used “a part of” its weapons since October.
“We have obtained new weapons,” Nasrallah said, without elaborating.
“We have developed some of our weapons... and we are keeping others for the days that will come,” he said.
“Years ago we talked about 100,000 fighters... today, we have greatly exceeded” that number, Nasrallah added.
“The resistance has more (manpower) than it needs... even in the worst circumstances,” he said.
Hezbollah on Wednesday claimed several attacks on Israeli troops and positions in northern Israel, and announced the death of four of its fighters.
The cross-border violence has killed at least 478 people in Lebanon, most of them fighters but also including 93 civilians, according to an AFP tally.
Israeli authorities say at least 15 soldiers and 11 civilians have been killed in the country’s north.


Jerusalem official takes on French consulate after Israel arms show ban

Jerusalem’s deputy mayor has asked for rubbish not to be collected from the French consulate (pictured above).
Updated 19 June 2024
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Jerusalem official takes on French consulate after Israel arms show ban

  • Organizers of the Eurosatory trade show just outside Paris said last month French authorities had banned Israeli firms
  • A City Hall statement said King’s request would not be implemented

JERUSALEM: Jerusalem’s deputy mayor, an ultranationalist Israeli politician, has asked for rubbish not to be collected from the French consulate after Paris barred Israeli firms from an arms show.
Organizers of the Eurosatory trade show just outside Paris said last month French authorities had banned Israeli firms, with the French defense ministry attributing the decision the Israel’s military operations in the Gaza Strip’s Rafah city.
Deputy Mayor Arieh King posted on social media platform X a letter he had addressed to the municipal sanitation department, asking “to instruct Jerusalem municipal maintenance workers to cease immediately garbage removal service from the French consulate building.”
A City Hall statement said King’s request would not be implemented.
In his letter, he denounced “traitorous and anti-Israeli conduct” by French President Emmanuel Macron, who King said aimed “to harm the State of Israel and Israeli industry,” in an apparent reference to the French expo move.
“As the City Hall of Israel’s capital, we must not stand idly by and accept the French president’s decision to stand alongside the Hamas terrorist organization,” King wrote.
France has an embassy in the coastal city of Tel Aviv and a consulate in Jerusalem which also serves Palestinians in the city’s Israeli-annexed east as well as the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Palestinians seek east Jerusalem as the future capital of an independent state, while Israel considers the whole of Jerusalem as its indivisible capital.
The Jerusalem City Hall told AFP in a statement that garbage collection would continue at the French consulate.
“The Jerusalem municipality removes trash from all parts of the city on a professional basis and provides the best service to all its residents,” it said.
A municipal official, requesting anonymity as they were not authorized to discuss the matter with the press, told AFP King has no authority to decide on such a move.
French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu has told French media it was inappropriate to host Israeli weapons manufacturers and defense firms at the expo given Macron’s calls for an end to the fighting in Rafah, which went unheeded.
Israel, which has vowed to crush Hamas militants in Gaza following the group’s October 7 attack, sent ground troops into the far-southern city in early May despite widespread concern for Palestinian civilians sheltering there.
Seventy-four Israeli firms were set to take part in the Eurosatory event which opened on Monday. Organizers said about 10 of them were planning to exhibit weapons.
“By decision of the government authorities, there will be no stand for the Israeli defense industry at the Eurosatory 2024 fair,” Coges Events had said in a statement confirming the ban.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant last week condemned “hostile policies against Israel” by France, in remarks rejected by other senior officials.


Germany cancels arrest warrant for Lebanon’s ex-central bank chief

German authorities have canceled their arrest warrant for Lebanon’s former central bank chief Riad Salameh for technical reasons
Updated 19 June 2024
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Germany cancels arrest warrant for Lebanon’s ex-central bank chief

  • The cancelation had come after an appeal from the defendant, and because he no longer held the position of central bank chief
  • The regional court of Munich had “confirmed the urgent suspicion with regard to the offenses charged against the defendant“

MUNICH/BEIRUT: German authorities have canceled their arrest warrant for Lebanon’s former central bank chief for technical reasons, but are continuing their probe and keeping his assets frozen, the Munich prosecutor’s office told Reuters on Wednesday.
Riad Salameh, 73, was Lebanon’s central bank governor for 30 years until July 2023. In his final months as governor, Germany issued an arrest warrant for him on corruption charges, two sources in Lebanon told Reuters.
Responding to questions from Reuters, a spokeswoman for the Munich prosecutor’s office confirmed on Wednesday that the arrest warrant was canceled on June 10.
The spokeswoman said the cancelation had come after an appeal from the defendant, and because he no longer held the position of central bank chief — meaning there was “no longer any risk that he will suppress evidence in this function.”
She said the regional court of Munich had “confirmed the urgent suspicion with regard to the offenses charged against the defendant” and that Germany’s “investigations are ongoing.”
Salameh declined a Reuters request for comment on the development.
Salameh and his brother Raja are being investigated in Lebanon and at least five European countries for allegedly taking hundreds of millions of dollars from Lebanon’s central bank and laundering the funds abroad. They deny the accusations.
Germany confirmed in February that it was conducting money laundering investigations into Salameh and his brother, and had issued an arrest warrant.
The Munich public prosecutor’s office said in February it had also seized three commercial properties in Munich and Hamburg with a total value of around 28 million euros, and shares worth around seven million euros in a Duesseldorf-based property company, as part of the case.
On Wednesday, a spokeswoman for the public prosecutor’s office said it had “dismissed as unfounded” an appeal against the seizure order, which it said dated back to Jan. 26, 2023.
Lebanese judge Helene Iskandar, who has charged Salameh in a separate case in Lebanon and has been following up on the foreign probes into him, confirmed on Wednesday that the warrant had been canceled but that Germany’s investigation into Salameh would remain open.
Salameh still faces an arrest warrant in France as part of its own investigation into whether he embezzled public funds, as well as a resultant Interpol red notice.