Israel and Palestinian militants exchange rocket fire

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Israel and Palestinian militants exchange fire as graphic video of Israeli bulldozer carrying a body goes viral

Israel said it launched a series of strikes on Islamic Jihad targets, and Palestinian militants fired more than 20 rockets at Israel by early Sunday evening, according to the Israeli army.

(CNN)The Israeli military and Palestinian militants in Gaza exchanged fire on Sunday, hours after a graphic video showing an Israeli army bulldozer scraping the body of a dead man off the ground went viral.

Militants fired more than 20 rockets at Israel by early Sunday evening, according to the Israeli army, making it the largest single assault by militants on Israel in several months.
The army said its Iron Dome aerial defense system intercepted more than half of the launches, with many others landing in open areas. There are no reports of any Israeli injuries from the rockets.
Israel said it launched a series of strikes on targets belonging to Islamic Jihad, the smaller of the two main militant groups in Gaza. Israeli army spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus told CNN it was the army’s assessment that Islamic Jihad was responsible for the rocket fire.
Islamic Jihad took responsibility in a statement on its official website, saying its military wing, Saraya al-Quds, is responsible for the shelling. It promised to retaliate against any future “aggression.”
Among the strikes, Israel says it succeeded in hitting a group of Islamic Jihad operatives preparing to launch a fresh barrage of rockets.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health said four people were being treated in Gaza’s Shifa hospital for injuries, though it was not clear whether they were involved in the rocket attacks.

Graphic viral video

The escalation began Sunday morning when the Israeli army says it spotted two men trying to lay an explosive device close to the fence that separates Gaza from Israel. The army — which released a video it said showed the two men carrying out their operation — opened fire, killing one of them.
The dead man was identified as 27-year-old Mohammed Al-Naim. The Quds Brigade, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, said he was one of their fighters.
Gaza sources tell CNN the other man is being treated in a Gaza hospital for severe wounds.
It was the second time in several days that members of Islamic Jihad tried to place an explosive device close to the fence, according to the Israeli army.
As the dead man lay on the ground, a local journalist captured the scene on video, which was subsequently shared widely on social media.
In the video, a group of four men is seen moving toward the body in an apparent attempt to retrieve it. A bulldozer from the Israeli army approached from the opposite direction.
Gunshots could be heard as the bulldozer moved up to the group, which was forced to abandon its effort to carry the body away. Other men nearby could be seen throwing rocks at the vehicle.
The bulldozer’s front scoop then appears to come down on top of the dead body as the driver makes several unsuccessful attempts to pick it up.
Eventually the body is seen hanging from the scoop before the bulldozer drives back to the Israeli side of the fence, protected by a tank.

Defense minister: ‘That’s how we must act’

Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett defended the army’s actions in robust terms.
“I’m tired of the tainted left-wing criticism against the ‘inhumanity’ of using a bulldozer to bring to us the body of a terrorist who tried to murder Israelis. Hamas is holding the bodies of Hadar and Goldin,” he said in a statement, referring to the bodies of two Israeli soldiers killed during the Gaza war of 2014.
The statement went on, “I stand behind the IDF that killed the terrorists and collected the body. That’s how we must act and that’s how we will act. In the face of terrorists, we will act with strength.”
An Israeli military official told CNN that using bulldozers to clear the area after a militant attack was standard practice and said they had been used previously to remove bodies, though he admitted it was not the preferred way to do it.
Sunday’s escalation came on the final day of the latest visit to Gaza by Qatar’s ambassador to the territory, Mohammed Al-Emadi, who discussed a further tranche of Qatari financial assistance for Gazans worth millions.
Aid from Qatar is a key part of multilateral efforts, which also include Egypt and the United Nations, to broker a long-term ceasefire agreement between Israel and Gaza militants, which would see Israel loosen its restrictions on Gaza in exchange for a cessation of violence.
Islamic Jihad is widely seen as opposed to those negotiations, putting it at odds with Hamas, which controls Gaza.

Israel advances housing plan in Jerusalem area Trump plan marks for Palestinians

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Israel advances housing plan in Jerusalem area Trump plan marks for Palestinians

Project for 9,000 homes at inoperative Atarot airport would take over last open area in East Jerusalem neighborhood that US envisions will house tourism center for Muslims

The Qalandiya checkpoint near the Atarot industrial zone, between East Jerusalem and the West Bank, seen on April 7, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The Qalandiya checkpoint near the Atarot industrial zone, between East Jerusalem and the West Bank, seen on April 7, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The Housing Ministry has begun advancing a plan to build a massive Jewish neighborhood in an East Jerusalem area that appears to be earmarked in the Trump administration’s peace plan for a Palestinian tourism center.

On February 9, the ministry submitted a building plan that would see some 9,000 housing units constructed at the site of the Atarot Airport, which has been inoperative since the breakout of the Second Intifada in 2000.

While the Trump plan does not specify where exactly in Atarot the Palestinian tourism center would be located, the airport is the only open area in the East Jerusalem neighborhood where such a site could be built.

The new neighborhood in Atarot would break a long stretch of Palestinian urban areas extending from the East Jerusalem neighborhoods of Beit Hanina and Shuafat north to Kfar Aqab, Qalandiya and Ramallah on the other side of the security barrier.

Map of building plan in East Jerusalem neighborhood of Atarot advanced by Israel in February 2020. (Peace Now)

The project will still need to be authorized in several other planning stages that can take several years, but the submission of the building plan marks a significant step toward construction after several years of delays due to lack of funds.

The site designated for construction is mostly on state land but parts of the new neighborhood would sit on parcels currently privately owned by Palestinians, requiring the demolition of at least 15 families’ homes, the Haaretz daily reported.

In a statement blasting the Atarot building plan, the Peace Now settlement watchdog said the construction would prevent the establishment of a viable Palestinian state with a capital in East Jerusalem.

“Netanyahu is dragging Israel into a reality of a bi-national apartheid state and is putting the Zionist enterprise in jeopardy,” the left-wing group added.

According to the Trump plan, Israel will maintain control over Atarot and all other East Jerusalem neighborhoods west of the security barrier. However, the Jewish state “should allow for the development by the State of Palestine of a special tourism zone in Atarot, in a specific area to be agreed upon by the parties.”

“We envision that this area should be a world class tourist zone that should support Muslim tourism to Jerusalem and its holy sites. We envision that this zone will become a thriving and vibrant tourism center that includes state-of-the-art public transportation that provides easy access to and from the holy sites,” the plan states.

The Palestinians have rejected the US peace plan, which envisions the creation of a Palestinian state in about 70 percent of the West Bank, a small handful of neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, most of Gaza and some areas of southern Israel — if the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, disarm Hamas and other terror groups in the coastal enclave, and fulfill other conditions.

The plan also allows Israel to annex settlements, grants the Jewish state sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and overriding security control west of the Jordan River, and bars Palestinian refugees from settling in Israel.

Israel has welcomed the proposal.

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Kushner says Abbas responsible for spike in violence since release of peace plan

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Kushner says Abbas responsible for spike in violence since release of peace plan

After briefing UN Security Council members on proposal, Trump’s son-in-law says Palestinian leadership has long history of ‘inciting intifadas when they don’t get their way’

US presidential adviser Jared Kushner meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on June 21, 2017 (PA press office)

US presidential adviser Jared Kushner meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on June 21, 2017 (PA press office)

NEW YORK — US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, the architect of the US peace plan for the Middle East, on Thursday blamed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for a recent spike in violence in Israel and the West Bank.

“He does have a responsibility for it,” Kushner told reporters after briefing UN Security Council members on the plan that has been rejected by the Palestinians.

“He calls for days of rage in response and he said that even before he saw the plan,” Kushner added.

Three Palestinian attacks on Israeli soldiers and police officers took place within 12 hours on Thursday, leaving 14 service members wounded.

Two members of the Palestinian security services were also killed, at least one who was apparently mistaken for a terrorist by an Israeli sniper, as violence soared amid Palestinian anger at the US administration’s peace plan announced last week.

Rescuers at the scene of an attack near the Lions Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City in which a police officer was lightly injured and the assailant was killed, February 6, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Palestinian leaders said the violence was an inevitable result of the plan’s pro-Israel bias, while Israeli officials accused the Palestinian Authority of encouraging the attacks.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a direct appeal to Abbas: “This won’t help you. Not the stabbings, not the ramming attacks, not the sniping attacks, and not the incitement… We will do everything necessary to guard our security, secure our borders, and guarantee our future. We will do this with you or without you.”

Kushner said Abbas had “rejected the plan before he even saw it.”

“I think that he was surprised with how good the plan was for the Palestinian people but he locked himself into a position before it came out and I don’t know why he did that,” he added.

“There is a long history of the Palestinian leadership paying the families of terrorists, inciting intifadas (uprisings) when they don’t get their way,” said Kushner.

“I just think the international community has grown very tired of that behavior,” he added.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas holds a placard showing maps of (L to R) historical Palestine, the 1947 United Nations partition plan on Palestine, the 1948-1967 borders between the Palestinian territories and Israel, and a current map of the Palestinian territories without Israeli-annexed areas and settlements, as he attends an Arab League emergency meeting discussing the US-brokered proposal for a settlement of the Middle East conflict at the league headquarters in the Egyptian capital Cairo on February 1, 2020 (Khaled DESOUKI / AFP)

Kushner presented the plan to Security Council members at a private lunch Thursday hosted by the US Mission to the United Nations.

Kushner described the two-hour-long talks with the Council’s 14 other members as “very constructive.”

Last chance for the Palestinians

Kushner warned that his plan “may be the last chance to resolve the situation,” because the rate of expansion of Israeli settlements may preclude a contiguous Palestinian state.

Right now, Kushner said, “it’s very, very difficult to have a contiguous state where you can drive from the top to the bottom,” but it is still possible.

He said the most constructive thing the Palestinians can do is to sit down with the Israelis and go over the plan “line by line.”

“If they would like to meet, we’re happy to do it, but we’re not going to chase them,” Kushner said.

His briefing comes as Palestinian supporters have circulated a draft UN resolution that would reject the plan, saying it violates international law and Security Council demands for a two-state solution based on borders before the 1967 Six Day War.

The resolution, obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, could be put to a vote on Feb. 11 when Abbas is expected to address the Security Council and deliver his government’s objections to the Israeli-backed US peace plan. If a vote is held, the resolution is virtually certain to be vetoed by the United States.

The US plan, unveiled by Trump on Jan. 28, envisions a disjointed Palestinian state that turns over key parts of the West Bank to Israel, siding with Israel on key contentious issues including borders and the status of Jerusalem and Jewish settlements.

The Palestinians seek all of the West Bank and East Jerusalem — areas captured by Israel in 1967  — for an independent state and the removal of many of the more than 700,000 Israelis from these areas.

But under terms of the “peace vision” that Kushner worked on for nearly three years, all Israeli settlers would remain in place, and Israel would retain sovereignty over all of its settlements as well as the strategic Jordan Valley.

Dismissing the plan as “nonsense,” Abbas declared: “We say 1,000 no’s to the ‘Deal of the Century,’” using a nickname for Trump’s proposal.

Netanyahu, who stood beside Trump when the plan was announced, called it a “historic breakthrough” equal in significance to the country’s declaration of independence in 1948. He said it provided a green light for annexation of large parts of the occupied West Bank.

US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu participate in a joint statement in the East Room of the White House, in Washington, DC, on January 28, 2020. (Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images/AFP)

The proposed resolution, drafted by Indonesia and Tunisia, condemns recent Israeli statements calling for annexation “of areas of the occupied Palestinian territory” and stresses “the illegality” of any annexation.

It also reaffirms that all Israeli settlements and other measures “aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including east Jerusalem, are illegal and imperil the viability of a two-state solution.”

The draft emphasizes the need to preserve “the territorial integrity, contiguity and unity of the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.”

It reiterates the call to achieve lasting peace “without delay” based on UN resolutions dating back to 1967. It would also give the Security Council’s “unwavering support” to a two-state solution, with Israelis and Palestinians living side by side in peace based on pre-1967 borders.

The proposed resolution calls on all 193 UN member nations to comply with all relevant Security Council resolutions — and “not to render aid or assistance to illegal settlement activities” or recognize any actions or measures that might imply Israeli sovereignty over occupied Palestinian territories.

It would also express the council’s determination “to examine practical ways and means to secure the full implementation of its relevant resolutions, including enforcement measures under Chapter 7 of the (UN) Charter.”

Chapter 7 provides for both military and non-military enforcement measures.

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Israel: Likud hopeful Sa’ar says two-state solution with Palestinians is an ‘illusion’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Likud hopeful Sa’ar says two-state solution with Palestinians is an ‘illusion’

Attacking PM from the right, challenger blames Netanyahu’s ‘endless concessions’ for helping perpetuate the idea that a Palestinian state is the only way to achieve a peace deal

Likud MK Gideon Sa'ar speaks at a conference at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, December 15, 2019. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar speaks at a conference at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, December 15, 2019. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Gideon Sa’ar, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s sole challenger in the upcoming Likud party leadership race, said Sunday that a two-state solution with the Palestinians is an “illusion,” and attacked the premier for giving the notion credibility over the last decade.

“Throughout the world they say that a two-state solution remains the path to an agreement,” Sa’ar said, speaking at a conference.”I have to say to you, this is not a position that helps anyone. Two-states in an illusion.”

Sa’ar said this had been shown through decades of negotiations based around two-states that had failed to bring peace. He also blamed the Palestinians for “never being able to agree to a compromise, despite very generous offers.”

Sa’ar castigated Netanyahu for perpetuating the idea that two-states was the only solution, accusing him of making “endless concessions” to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during the last decade, including settlement building freezes in the West Bank.

He also referred to Netanyahu’s famous speech at Bar-Ilan University in 2009, in which the prime minister expressed support for the creation of a Palestinian state. Netanyahu has since said conditions for statehood no longer exist in the current reality in the Middle East.

Sa’ar said that the solution needs to be an autonomous Palestinian entity linked together in a federation with Jordan. “Between the Jordan River and the (Mediterranean) Sea there cannot be another state,” he said.

Sa’ar appeared to be trying to outflank Netanyahu from the right ahead of the Likud party leadership vote, set for December 26. However, Netanyahu has in recent years also moved away from tacit support for a two-state solution and has, over the last few months, been promising to annex the Jordan Valley in the West Bank if reelected.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks before a map of the Jordan Valley, vowing to extend Israeli sovereignty there if reelected, during a speech in Ramat Gan on September 10, 2019. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

Likud MK Sharren Haskel on Sunday said she would back Sa’ar, becoming the fourth lawmaker to publicly endorse him. Most Likud MKs have announced support for Netanyahu, with a few notable lawmakers keeping mum. Despite the defections, Netanyahu is expected to defeat Sa’ar handily.

The vote marks the first real challenge to Netanyahu’s leadership of the party in 14 years. He and Sa’ar are the only contenders who have announced they will run in the primary.

Sa’ar argues that Netanyahu is divisive and has proved he cannot put together a coalition, after failing to muster a governing majority following two national elections in April and September. Israel will go to polls again on March 2.

Sa’ar has expressed his opposition to a two-state solution in the past. Earlier this year he was one of a group of right-wing lawmakers who sent a letter to US lawmakers warning that calls for a two-state solution are “far more dangerous to Israel” than efforts to boycott the Jewish state, and urging them to refrain from such appeals in the future.

“We believe (the proposed resolution) contains a grave error because it expresses, among other things, support for a so-called ‘Two-State Solution,’ meaning the establishment of a ‘Palestinian state’ in the heart of tiny Israel… We would like to make our position clear that the establishment of a Palestinian state would be far more dangerous to Israel than BDS,” they wrote.

A crane is used at the construction site in the West Bank settlement of Amichai on September 7, 2018. (AFP/Thomas Coex)

The letter was sent to the offices of the four congressmen who co-sponsored a resolution that condemned BDS but also called for a two-state solution — Brad Schneider, Lee Zeldin, Jerry Nadler and Ann Wagner. It was written and sent at the initiative of Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan, the Land of Israel caucus in the Knesset and the National Conference of Likud, an informal group of hawks within the ruling party.

Creating a Palestinian state in the region would “severely damage” both Israel’s and America’s national security, the Israeli legislators wrote.

In recent years the Trump administration has moved away from its support for a two-state solution.

Last month US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the US was softening its position on Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Pompeo repudiated a 1978 State Department legal opinion that held that civilian settlements in the occupied territories are “inconsistent with international law.”

US moves that have weakened Palestinian efforts to achieve statehood have included President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the moving of the US embassy to that city and the closure of the Palestinian diplomatic office in Washington. These moves have been widely, though not universally, welcomed in Israel.

Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and his point man for the Middle East peace process, has said that the administration’s as-yet-unreleased peace plan would avoid speaking about the two-state solution.

“I realize that means different things to different people,” he said earlier this year. “If you say ‘two states’ to the Israelis it means one thing, and if you say ‘two states’ to the Palestinians it means another thing. So we said, ‘let’s just not say it.’ Let’s just work on the details of what this means.”

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Saudi: Israel Strikes Hamas in Gaza after Rocket Fire

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Israel Strikes Hamas in Gaza after Rocket Fire

Sunday, 8 December, 2019 – 12:15
Rockets are launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, November 13, 2019. (AP)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Israeli jets bombed several Hamas positions in Gaza early Sunday, hours after three rockets were fired from the Palestinian enclave toward southern Israel.

The military said in a statement the airstrikes targeted military camps and a naval base for Hamas.

There were no immediate reports of casualties, reported The Associated Press.

On Saturday evening, Israel announced that its air defenses, known as “Iron Dome,” intercepted two of three missiles coming from Gaza. Later, it said all three rockets had been shot down.

No Palestinian group claimed responsibility for the rocket fire. The Israeli army said Hamas was responsible for any attack transpiring in Gaza.

Cross-border violence between Israel and Palestinian factions in Gaza has ebbed and flowed in recent years. Last month, the two sides fought their worst round of violence in months.

Leaders from Hamas and the smaller but more radical Islamic Jihad are in Cairo, talking with Egyptian officials about cementing a ceasefire that would see some economic incentives and easing of restrictions on Gaza.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned at his weekly cabinet meeting Sunday that no steps would be made toward any form of ceasefire as long as rocket fire continued.

He said last month’s onslaught, in which 34 Palestinians were killed, including a top militant commander, would be just a “promo” to what came next if aggression from Gaza continued.

Hamas has fought three wars with Israel since seizing Gaza in 2007 and dozens of shorter skirmishes.

Israel: US Christians build field hospital in Gaza

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

US Christians build field hospital in Gaza, deepening rift between PA and Hamas

PLO official claims project, funded by pro-Israel evangelical donors, serving ‘military, intelligence and security’ purposes, but terror group brushes off concerns

Construction of field hospital in the Gaza Strip near the Erez crossing. (Screenshot from the Friend Ships-Project-Camp Gaza Facebook page)

Construction of field hospital in the Gaza Strip near the Erez crossing. (Screenshot from the Friend Ships-Project-Camp Gaza Facebook page)

A field hospital being built by a US Evangelical Christian aid group in the northern Gaza Strip has become a source of controversy for the already feuding Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership and the Hamas terrorist group that controls the coastal enclave.

An official in the West Bank has claimed the project, spearheaded by pro-Israel donors, is a front for American and Israeli intelligence operations, an allegation Gaza’s rulers have dismissed as “unfounded.”

Over the past several months, trucks carrying materials and equipment for the hospital have entered Gaza, which suffers from inadequate health infrastructure. Now American volunteers affiliated with Friend Ships, the aid group, have begun building the medical facility adjacent to the Erez crossing, the sole pedestrian passageway between Israel and the enclave.

Pictures posted on Facebook last week showed the volunteers erecting tents a short distance from the barrier separating Israel and Gaza.

The construction of the hospital is one part of the unofficial ceasefire understandings between Israel and terror groups in Gaza, which the Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership has fiercely protested.

From Syria to Gaza

Friend Ships, whose evangelical founders Don and Sondra Tipton have expressed strong support for Israel, has described the project as “a multi-faceted mobile (tent-based) medical facility.”

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نشطاء ينشرون صور للعاملين في المستشفى الامريكي المنوي إقامته شمال غزة، يظهرون فيها بلباس عسكري أمريكي، مما اثار جدلا على منصات التواصل الاجتماعي حول اهداف المستشفى.

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“We will have [telemedicine] for worldwide consultation with specialists, a large children’s play area, hydroponics training program and distribution center,” the organization’s website said.

Friend Ships, which is headquartered in Louisiana, plans to eventually provide a wide range of health services at the hospital, including cancer treatment, physical therapy, post-traumatic stress disorder therapy, dental care, among others, according to the group’s website.

The hospital will include equipment that Friend Ships used for a similar project close to Syria, Al-Monitor, a news site based in Washington, reported in June.

The group also operated a field hospital in the Golan Heights in 2017-2018 with Israel’s permission, where medical staff treated some 7,000 Syrians.

The medical facility in Gaza will include 16 wards with a “focus on diagnosing patients with hereditary or life-threatening diseases” and receive funding from the Qatari government, the Al-Monitor report said.

Mohammed al-Emadi, a Qatari envoy who maintains contacts with Hamas, the PA and Israel, told a press conference in May that the hospital will occupy an area equivalent to 40 dunams.

Exploring Israel on the weekend

Friend Ships has also been advertising opportunities to volunteer at the hospital, highlighting the chance to travel through Israel on days off.

“Friend Ships Camp Gaza will offer a wonderful opportunity to work in an important and productive project and at the same time, to see and enjoy the Biblical sites of Israel,” its website said.

A post on the Friend Ships Facebook page said volunteers will learn about the region and “become part of what God is doing there today.”

Sondra Tipton, one of the founders of the organization, told a Louisiana news outlet in 2015 about her passion for Israel: “We feel like it’s very important for people to realize that Israel is a true democracy and a true friend to the United States and then from a Christian point of view, the Bible is emphatic about the land of Israel being the apple of God’s eye and how, as believers in Jesus, we need to stand with the Israelis.”

Illustrative: An injured Palestinian man arrives at a hospital to receive treatment following an Israeli air strike in Beit Lahia, in the northern Gaza Strip, on December 8, 2017 .(AFP/Mohammed Abed)

Friend Ships, the IDF, and the Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories, the branch of the Defense Ministry responsible for liaising with the Palestinians, declined to comment.

Brewing controversy between Palestinian factions

In the past week, however, the hospital has transformed into a major source of controversy between the rivals Fatah and Hamas.

After Palestinian news sites reported on the photos of the volunteers last Tuesday, which were posted on the Friend Ships Facebook page, a number of Fatah, PA and PLO officials lashed out at the project.

Senior Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmad claimed on Palestine TV, the official PA television channel, on Monday, that the hospital was for “military, intelligence and security” purposes. He later confirmed to The Times of Israel that he was referring to the US and Israeli intelligence.

PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh accused the hospital on Monday of serving the Trump administration’s peace plan.

PLO Executive Committee member Wasel Abu Yousef told The Times of Israel on Tuesday that he believed the hospital was deepening the division between the West Bank and Gaza because its planning and construction was not coordinated with the PA.

Friend Ships has since removed almost all of its posts related to the hospital from its Facebook page and wiped other information about it from its website.

Hamas, meanwhile, has pushed back against the Ramallah-based Palestinian officials’ allegations, calling them baseless.

“The statements of Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh and PLO Executive Committee and Fatah Central Committee member Azzam al-Ahmad are based on false and unfounded data,” Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassim told Dunya al-Watan, a Gaza-based news site on Tuesday. “They wove them together with imaginary information.”

Hamas deputy chief in Gaza, Khalil al-Hayya, also questioned the intentions of the hospital’s critics. But he said the terror group would not hesitate to shut it down if it determined the humanitarian project was against its interests.

Hamas senior political leader Khalil al-Hayya during a press conference at the end of two days of closed-door talks attended by representatives of 13 leading political parties held in the Egyptian capital Cairo on November 22, 2017 (AFP/Mohamen El-Shahed)

“If we found anything in it that undermines our national or security interests, we will tell them to leave,” he told the Islamic Jihad-linked Palestine Today on Tuesday.

A source familiar with the details of the project, who asked to remain nameless, called the claims leveled against the hospital “complete nonsense.”

An official in the Hamas-run health ministry declined to specifically comment on the hospital, but said that it welcomes any effort to improve the health sector in Gaza.

“The Israeli restrictions on movement of goods and people have totally undermined the health sector. We are dealing with a major shortage in our hospitals in terms of medicines and medical supplies,” the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said in a phone call. “So we believe any efforts to mitigate these dire circumstances are positive.”

Israeli officials have said they maintain limitations on movement to prevent terror groups in Gaza from importing weapons or the means to build them into the territory.

Talal Okal, a Gaza-based analyst, said he thought the hospital shows that the ceasefire understandings between Hamas and Israel were moving forward.

“It s a clear indication that Hamas and Israel are advancing the understandings,” he said in a phone call. “But what we really need in Gaza is to improve the existing hospitals and health centers. We don’t need a field hospital.”

AFP contributed to this article.

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Israel: In surprise change, 13 countries vote against pro-Palestine UN resolution

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

In surprise change, 13 countries vote against pro-Palestine UN resolution

States led by Germany change their voting pattern in favor of Israel, opposing Division of Palestinian Rights, although motion still passes by wide margin

View of the United Nations General Assembly during a vote the US-imposed embargo on Cuba on November 7, 2019. (Evan Schneider/ UN)

View of the United Nations General Assembly during a vote the US-imposed embargo on Cuba on November 7, 2019. (Evan Schneider/ UN)

Over a dozen countries on Tuesday abruptly changed their voting pattern at the United Nations in Israel’s favor, opposing an annual resolution expressing support for a pro-Palestinian UN agency traditionally critical of the Jewish state.

Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Lithuania, Netherlands, Romania, Slovakia, Brazil and Colombia for the first time voted against the resolution regarding the Division of Palestinian Rights at the UN Secretariat.

In past years, these countries had abstained on the resolution.

“I am pleased that this significant group of countries has decided today to voice a clear moral stance against discrimination toward Israel at the UN,” Foreign Minister Israel Katz said in a statement. “This represents an important step in the long struggle against the prejudiced bias toward Israel at the United Nations. Particularly noticeable is the shift in the stance of several member states of the European Union and I trust that the remaining EU members will adopt this position soon.”

The UK, France and Spain abstained, as they do every year.

The resolution — co-sponsored by Comoros, Cuba, Indonesia, Jordan, Kuwait, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, United Arab Emirates and Yemen — still passed with a comfortable majority, with 87 “yes” votes, 54 “no” votes and 23 abstentions.

UN Watch

@UNWatch

The resolution titled “Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine” was adopted by a vote of 147 – 7 – 13.

The U.S., Canada, and Australia voted No.

See text here: https://undocs.org/en/A/74/L.15 

View image on Twitter

UN Watch

@UNWatch

The resolution titled “Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat” was adopted by a vote of 87–23–54.

A group of EU states who last year abstained switched their votes to No, including:

🇩🇪 Germany
🇳🇱 Netherlands
🇩🇰 Denmark
& more

See text here: https://undocs.org/en/A/74/L.16 

View image on Twitter
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Katz also thanked the United States, Canada, Australia, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, Nauru and Kiribati who again voted against the resolution.

The New York-based Division for Palestinian Rights is notorious among Israeli officials and pro-Israel advocates for its harsh criticism of Israeli policies. It serves as the Secretariat of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and organizes international conferences that usually focus on bashing Israel. It is also responsible for the annual observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People on November 27.

The resolution passed Tuesday states that the Division for Palestinian Rights “continues to make a constructive and positive contribution to raising international awareness of the question of Palestine and of the urgency of a peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine in all its aspects.”

“This body represents the structural discrimination against Israel in the UN arena and uses UN manpower and budgetary resources to promote a Palestinian narrative while simultaneously encouraging a distinctly anti-Israel agenda,” Katz said.

According to Hillel Neuer, the executive director of Geneva-based UN Watch, the surprising change in the voting pattern of 11 EU states has to do with “an unprecedented focus” on Germany, whose Foreign Minister Heiko Mass earlier this year pledged to oppose the unfair treatment of Israel at the UN.

“I think Germany felt the need to modify some of its anti-Israel votes, and that this rare EU split at the GA allowed Netherlands, Austria and others to follow,” Neuer told The Times of Israel. “We were disappointed that countries like the UK, France and Spain did not join this principled opposition.”

“With it’s ‘no’ this year, Germany expresses its criticism on the disproportionally high number of resolutions that are critical of Israel,” Germany’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement. The ministry further said that there was no reason for the special status enjoyed by the Division for Palestinian Rights.

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Israel: Defense minister green-lights new Jewish neighborhood in Hebron

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Defense minister green-lights new Jewish neighborhood in Hebron

Naftali Bennett praised by right, slammed by left over move to double number of Jews living in flash point West Bank city

People walk near houses belong to Jewish settlers in the West bank city Hebron on November 12, 2018. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

People walk near houses belong to Jewish settlers in the West bank city Hebron on November 12, 2018. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

Newly installed Defense Minister Naftali Bennett on Sunday announced his approval for planning of a new Jewish neighborhood in the flash point West Bank city of Hebron, in a decision that was quickly praised by the right and bashed by the left.

The Jewish community in Hebron is made up of several enclaves located deep in the heart of the largest Palestinian city. The roughly 1,000 Jewish settlers there live under heavy military guard amid some 215,000 Palestinians. It has been the scene of numerous stabbings and other violent incidents between Palestinians and Israelis in recent years.

Hebron differs from other Arab West Bank cities in that it is home to a Jewish community that, per the 1997 Hebron Agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, lives in an area under Israeli control — about 20 percent of the city, known as H2. This community has existed for hundreds of years, though with several gaps during the 20th century.

On Sunday, the defense minister’s office said in a statement that Bennett, who serves in a transitional government, had ordered the relevant offices within the Israel Defense Forces to inform the Hebron municipality that planning was starting for the new neighborhood near the city’s old market.

The land of that market has been under Jewish ownership since the early 19th century. Local Jews fled following the 1929 massacre in which some 65 Jews were murdered by Arab mobs. After Israel gained control of the city in 1967, it approved the construction of a Palestinian market that was active until the 1990s.

In this Monday, June 5, 2017 photo, the Mayor of Hebron Tayseer Abu Sneineh greets a shopkeeper at a market in the West Bank city of Hebron. (AP Photo/Nasser Shiyoukhi)

The statement said the neighborhood would double the number of Jewish settlers in the city, and create Jewish “territorial continuity” between the existing Avraham Avinu neighborhood and the Tomb of the Patriarchs holy site.

“The market’s buildings will be demolished and new stores will be built instead,” the statement said. “The rights of Palestinians on the ground floor will be preserved as they are today.”

New Right party leader Naftali Bennett speaks during a press conference at the Expo Tel Aviv on September 5, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Bennett made the decision following a series of discussions with the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories and the Civil Administration — which serves as the military liaison to Palestinians — as well as the Shin Bet and other security officials, the statement added.

The Committee of the Jewish Community of Hebron hailed the announcement, saying in a statement that it “thanks Defense Minister Naftali Bennett from the bottom of the heart for the decision to return Jewish life to the Jewish property in Hebron. Taking the lands of the murdered out of the hands of the murderer, the Hebron mayor, is an act of historic justice for which the Israeli nation has been waiting for 90 years.”

The statement was apparently referring to the then-mayor of Hebron who allegedly ordered the 1929 massacre.

New Right MK Ayelet Shaked, the former justice minister, also commended the decision by Bennett, her party leader, calling it “a historic and important decision.”

“As justice minister I worked for two years to free the land from a legal entanglement in which it was for many years, and the neighborhood had waited about a year for the defense minister’s approval. Bennett’s courageous decision will boost the Jewish community and develop the city.”

However, the decision was slammed by left-wing and Arab lawmakers.

Joint List party leader Ayman Odeh participates along with residents of the northern Arab Israeli town of Akbara in a demonstration against a hate crime carried out in their village the previous day,. November 1, 2019. (David Cohen/FLASH90)

The leading Arab lawmaker in Israel called the decision a “dangerous step that deepens the occupation regime over millions of Palestinians.”

“The war against peace continues,” Joint List leader Ayman Odeh added in his statement, condemning the “dangerous and messianic vision of the right.”

MK Ofer Cassif, the only Jewish member of the Joint List, made a reference to Baruch Goldstein, a Jewish terrorist who murdered 29 Palestinians at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron in 1994 and was subsequently shot and killed.

“Baruch Goldstein is looking from hell at Defense Minister Naftali Bennett and swelling with pride,” he said, warning that the move would escalate violence. “Apparently more people being killed is a price Bennett is happy to pay as election bribery to the Kahanists” — followers of the late rabbi Meir Kahane.

MK Tamar Zandberg of the Democratic Camp called the move a “win” for the ideology of the racist far-right former lawmaker Kahane.

“Someone who establishes Jewish neighborhoods in the heart of the capital of Israel’s apartheid, instead of dismantling them, is a messianist who intentionally harms the State of Israel,” she said.

Palestinian Authority senior negotiator Saeb Erekat blamed the move on the recent US announcement that it no longer views settlements as “inconsistent with international law.”

Dr. Saeb Erakat الدكتور صائب عريقات@ErakatSaeb

Israel’s decision to build a new illegal settlement in occupied Hebron is the first tangible result of the US decision to legitimize colonization;this cannot be taken out of the context annexation: Concrete measures,including sanctions against settlements are an Int.responsibility

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We’ve achieved this by investing ever-greater resources in our journalism while keeping all of the content on our site free.

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Bolivia Renews Diplomatic Ties with Israel

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Bolivia Renews Diplomatic Ties with Israel

Saturday, 30 November, 2019 – 10:45
Bolivia’s Foreign Minister Karen Longaric speaks during a conference with the international press in La Paz, November 28, 2019. AFP
Tel Aviv – Asharq Al-Awsat
Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz has welcomed Bolivia’s decision to restore relations with Israel.

Ties were severed on Jan. 14, 2009 following Israel’s Operation Cast Lead on the Gaza Strip.

Bolivian Foreign Minister Karen Longaric made the announcement in a meeting with foreign reporters, without giving a date for the reestablishment of ties.

However, Katz said that the “Foreign Ministry has been working for a long time directly as well as through mediation of the Brazilian president to promote the renewal of relations.

“The resignation of President (Evo) Morales, who was hostile to Israel, and his replacement with a friendly administration, has enabled the process to come to fruition.”

Bolivia designated Israel a ‘terrorist’ state in objection to the war on Gaza in July 2009. Back then, Morales said Israel’s operation was evidence on its disrespect for life and basic rights.

Ashrawi Accuses Israel of Expelling Witnesses to Its Oppressive Practices

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Ashrawi Accuses Israel of Expelling Witnesses to Its Oppressive Practices

Tuesday, 26 November, 2019 – 12:30
HRW’s Omar Shakir at Ben Gurion Airport after being expelled from Israel. (File photo: AFP)
Tel Aviv- Asharq Al-Awsat
Israeli authorities expelled Monday Human Rights Watch (HRW) Israel and Palestine Director Omar Shakir after Israel’s Supreme Court had upheld the government’s deportation order on November 5 and gave him until November 25 to leave.

Israel argues that Shakir actively supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. He denies that his HRW work and pro-Palestinian statements he made before being appointed to the HRW post in 2016 constitute active support for BDS.

Hanan Ashrawi, member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), slammed the deportation as an Israeli desperate measure to conceal its war crimes and violations.

Ashrawi said that expelling Shakir is a desperate action consistent with the unlawful practices of the occupation regime. She described it as an alarming wake-up call to all those who seek peace and justice for both sides that Israel will resort to extreme measures to hide the truth.

“Israel is getting rid of local and international witness of its crimes,” she warned.

HRW held a press conference in Jerusalem hours before Shakir’s departure flight and indicated that Shakir would continue his role remotely from Amman, Jordan, relying on a network of researchers in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza to conduct fieldwork.

Shakir condemned the decision as an escalating assault on the human rights movement.

“If the Israelis can deport somebody documenting rights abuse without facing consequences, how can we ever stop rights abuse?” said Shakir.

Speaking at the conference, he said that Israel joins the likes of Venezuela and Iran in barring Human Rights Watch researchers, but it, too, will not succeed in hiding its human rights abuses.

“This decision shows why the international community must reboot its approach to Israel’s deteriorating human rights record. A government that expels a leading human rights investigator is not likely to stop its systematic oppression of Palestinians under occupation without much greater international pressure.”