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Israel set to approve 2,500 settlement housing units

Israeli authorities will meet next week to approve new units in illegal settlements across the occupied West Bank.

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Occupied West Bank

Israel is expected to approve nearly 2,500 new settlement housing units across the occupied West Bank next week after the projects were tabled at a planning council meeting on Friday.

Israeli NGO Peace Now said on Friday that Israel’s Civil Administration – the military body governing the occupied West Bank – was scheduled to meet on Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss 27 separate plans for settlement housing units across the West Bank.

According to local media reports, about 1,500 of the housing units set to be approved are in major settlement blocs including Maaleh Adumim and Ariel, which Israel wants and expects to annex in any potential peace deal.

One of the items on the agenda will allegedly pave the way for the construction of 102 housing units in Amichai, the first new settlement to be officially created by the government in 25 years.

The rest lie outside the blocs and deep within the West Bank, including the Beit El settlement, northeast of Ramallah, and the Susiya settlement in the South Hebron hills.

The deal comes on the heals of US President Donald Trump’s visit to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

The Palestinians and the majority of the international community view settlements as unlawful and a major obstacle to a two-state solution, as they are built on land that the Palestinians want for a future state.

When Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, visited Trump in Washington DC in February, the US president publicly urged Netanyahu to hold back on settlement building in order to improve the prospects for the possibility of US-brokered peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

The international community views Israeli settlements as illegal [File: Reuters]

June marks 50 years since Israel conquered and occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the June 1967 war. The Israeli victory was followed by the spread of Jewish settlements throughout the occupied territories.

Although Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005, currently more than half a million Jewish settlers reside across the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

According to a new report published by the European Council on Foreign Relations, both the length and characteristics of Israel’s 50-year occupation of Palestinian territory show that it has no serious plans to relinquish the territory and is moving towards annexation instead.

Authored by Valentina Azarova, a postdoctoral fellow at the Centre for Global Public Law, Koc University in Turkey’s Istanbul, the report addresses the failure of using the framework of international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law (IHRL) to assess Israeli policies in the occupied territories.

“Attempts by third states and international actors to enforce IHL and IHRL have failed to bring about Israel’s compliance because this partial legal framework neither adequately captures the legal consequences of continued occupation with the aim of acquiring the territory, nor generates appropriate remedial action for such a situation,” the report said.

Hugh Lovatt, Israel-Palestine Project Coordinator at ECFR, told Al Jazeera that the use of IHL and IHRL does not fully take into account Israeli policy in the occupied territory, including moves to annex areas.

“In a situation in which the intent of Israel’s continued control over the OPT is one of the territorial acquisition, which is revealed through the use of an integrated legal framework, then third-party actors such as the EU and its members states are under an obligation to act collectively to bring to an end Israel’s occupation. This requires a new approach to peace making in Israel/Palestine,” he said, using OPT to refer to the occupied Palestinian territories.

“The EU should articulate a new foreign policy that more effectively harnesses the conflict resolution aspects offered by international law, namely the law on the use of force [jus ad bellum] in order to more effectively disincentivise Israel’s unlawful acquisition of Palestinian territory and institutional violation of Palestinian rights.

“This means placing greater emphasis on bringing about Israel’s withdrawal, rather than conditioning this on political compromise between the two sides.”

Policy of ‘differentiation’

The ECFR report also called on the European Union, other third party states, and international actors to recognise Israel’s prolonged occupation of Palestinian territory as unlawful, and to review their dealings both with Israel and Israeli entities in accordance with their obligations under international law.

In its bilateral relations with Israel, the European Union has in recent years adopted a policy of “differentiation” in an attempt to exclude settlement-linked entities.

“At a minimum the EU must continue to advance its measures to differentiate between Israel and its settlements, in order to ensure the full and effective non-recognition of Israel’s unlawful practices in the OPT, including its settlement activity,” Lovatt told Al Jazeera.

“Of particular focus should be dealings by EU corporations in relation to settlement entities and activities.”

 

Middle East

UN appeals for countries to take in 1,300 Libyan refugees

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Libyan refugees

The UN has appealed to countries worldwide to take in 1,300 mainly African refugees stranded in Libya. Many of them were mistreated while being detained appalling conditions.

Niger has agreed to temporarily host the most vulnerable of the evacuees, including unaccompanied children and single mothers, pending their processing and departure for resettlement, Reuters said.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Monday that it “urgently requests 1,300 places for resettlement” to be made available by the end of March. The UNHCR intends to evacuate between 700 and 1,300 people from Libya to Niger by the end of January 2018.

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Middle East

‘Don’t buy from Arabs’, says Israeli Defense Minister

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Avigdor Lieberman

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has called on his fellow citizens to boycott the Palestinian market of the Wadi Ara region of north-east Israel, after riots broke out there on Saturday over the American decision to move their embassy to Jerusalem.

Three people were injured when protesters began hurling stones at a bus. “I am calling for a boycott of Wadi Ara. Don’t go there and don’t buy there. They need to understand that it is impossible to demonstrate with Hezbollah flags, Palestinian flags and pictures of [Hezbollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah.

To accept billions from the National Insurance [Institute] and to also destroy us from within,” Haaretz quoted Lieberman telling Army Radio.

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Middle East

Hamas leader calls for ‘new intifada in the face of Israel’

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Ismail Haniyeh

Palestinian Islamist group Hamas has called for a new uprising against Israel following US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as capital of the Jewish state.

“We should call for and we should work on launching an intifada in the face of the Zionist enemy,” said Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, in a speech in Gaza Thursday, Reuters reports.

Anti-US protests erupted almost immediately after Trump’s declaration Wednesday, with Palestinians first to take to the streets, calling for three days of rage against the move.

World leaders expressed serious concern over the decision and its potential to destabilize the region.

The decision has been welcomed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who thanked Trump, and said he be believes “many” other nations will follow suit in recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Pope Francis said he could not “remain silent” and spoke of his “great anxiety” surrounding the decision, while the EU voiced “serious concern.”

“I cannot remain silent about my deep concern for the situation that has developed in recent days,”Francis said at his weekly general audience at the Vatican.

“Jerusalem is a unique city,” he added, “sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims, where the Holy Places for the respective religions are venerated, and it has a special vocation to peace.”

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