Posts Tagged ‘West Bank’

Palestinian shooting attack in West Bank kills two Israelis: army

October 7, 2018

A shooting attack by a Palestinian at an industrial zone for a West Bank settlement on Sunday killed two Israelis and wounded another, the army said.

Army spokesman Jonathan Conricus said the 23-year-old Palestinian had worked in the Barkan industrial zone, where the attack took place in the occupied West Bank.

Security forces were searching for the Palestinian.

Conricus called it a “terrorist attack” but added that other unspecified factors were involved.

© AFP | Israeli security forces deploy at the site of a shooting attack at an industrial zone for a West Bank settlement on October 7, 2018 where the army says a Palestinian killed two Israelis and wounded another

The Palestinian used a homemade gun in the attack, known locally as a Carlo, according to Conricus.

He said it appeared it was a “lone-wolf attack”.

The industrial zone is located next to Israeli settlement Barkan and near the settlement of Ariel in the north of the West Bank.

Palestinians work side by side with Israelis in the industrial zone.

A wave of Palestinian attacks against Israelis broke out in 2015, but they have since become sporadic.

Last month, a Palestinian teenager stabbed an Israeli to death at a junction at the entrance to a large bloc of Israeli settlements in the West Bank near Jerusalem.

A number of attacks have occurred at that location, the Gush Etzion Junction.

AFP

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Israel: Palestinian Man Sought in Terror Attack

October 7, 2018

Shin Bet, IDF launch manhunt for suspect in incident at Barkan Industrial Park, reportedly a Palestinian man who worked there

Medics and security forces arrive at the scene of a shooting attack in the Barkan Industrial Park in the northern West Bank on October 7, 2018. (Magen David Adom)

Medics and security forces arrive at the scene of a shooting attack in the Barkan Industrial Park in the northern West Bank on October 7, 2018. (Magen David Adom)

Three people were shot and wounded Sunday morning, two of them critically, in a suspected terror attack at the Barkan Industrial Park in the northern West Bank.

The two who were critically injured were a man and a woman in their 30s, the Magen David Adom medical service said.

The third victim, a woman in her 50s, was moderately wounded and taken to Petah Tikva’s Beilinson Hospital for treatment. A hospital spokesperson said the victim did not appear to be in life-threatening condition.

Security forces launched a manhunt for the shooter, who fled the scene after the attack.

“The suspect arrived at the industrial park and opened fire at three civilians. Large numbers of IDF and Shin Bet security service forces have launched a manhunt for the suspect, whose identity is known to security forces. In addition, large numbers of troops have spread out throughout the area to conduct searches and checks,” the army said.

Palestinian media reported road closures and checkpoints throughout the northern West Bank as security forces searched for the suspect.

The suspected assailant was a Palestinian man in his early 20s from the town of Qalqilya, according to defense sources.

Unconfirmed Hebrew media reports said that the suspect used an assault rifle in the attack. Security camera video from the scene appeared to show him fleeing after the attack, an improvised “Carlo” semiautomatic rifle in hand.

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הימלטות הפלסטיני היורה ממפעל אלון לאחר הירי. המרדף בעיצומו.

The suspect was said to have recently been fired by one of the businesses — the Alon Group, which manufactures waste management systems — in the industrial park, raising the suspicion that he could have had a vendetta against his former employers.

“The motive for the incident is not yet known, and all possibilities are being examined,” the IDF said.

Samaria Regional Council chairman Yossi Dagan asserted that the shooting was a terror attack.

The businesses in the Barkan Industrial Park, located near the settlement-city of Ariel, employ some 8,000 people, approximately half of them Israelis and the other half Palestinians.

The Barkan Industrial Park next to the West Bank settlement of Ariel. (Photo by Shuki/Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0)

“This is a very difficult incident. Until now there have not been any security incidents here. For decades, industrial zones have served as a bridge of coexistence,” Dagan said.

Shai Amichai, the director general of the industrial zone, also described the location as a good example of Israelis and Palestinians working side by side.

“Both in the industrial area and in the community itself, the cooperation is fruitful,” he told the Ynet news site. “We are in a relationship of neighborliness and professional relations at the highest level. The residents feel secure in their workplace, and many forge connections outside of their place of work.

“I do not know the security procedures of the zone,” added Amichai. “But there was no decrease in the number of security forces in the region, neither overt nor undercover.”

The mayor of the nearby city of Ariel, Eli Shviro, told the Walla news site that “the industrial zones in which Jews and Palestinians work together are the path to coexistence in our region.”

In 2015, a Palestinian stabbed and injured two security guards at the same industrial park. Guards at the site shot and killed the attacker during that incident.

Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

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UNRWA concerned over plan to shut its East Jerusalem operation

October 5, 2018

The UN agency that helps Palestinian refugees expressed concern on Friday over moves by the mayor of Jerusalem to close down its operations in the city.

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Mayor Nir Barkat said on Thursday he had developed a plan to end the Jerusalem operations of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which aids Palestinians displaced by the 1948 war of Israel’s founding and to millions of their descendants, and to replace them with Israeli services.

In this file photo,a Palestinian man carries a bag of wheat flour distributed at an aid distribution centre of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. (AFP)

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UNRWA has faced a financial crisis since the United States in August announced it was cutting aid to the body, calling it an “irredeemably flawed operation” with an “endlessly and exponentially expanding community of entitled beneficiaries.”

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Barkat, on Twitter, said the US decision created an opportunity to change the current situation, which he said would otherwise “perpetuate the ‘refugee problem’ and encourage incitement.”

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UNRWA, in a statement, said it “expresses its concern about recent statements made by the mayor of Jerusalem on its operations and installations in East Jerusalem.”

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“UNRWA has continuously maintained operations in the occupied Palestinian territory including East Jerusalem since 1967 with the cooperation and on the basis of a formal agreement with the State of Israel, which remains in force,” it said.

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It said it provided education, health, relief and social services in East Jerusalem, which Palestinians want as a capital of a future state.

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Barkat said that under his plan the municipality would take over education, welfare and health services. “We provide services for all residents alike — there are no refugees in our city,” he said.

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Israel regards all of Jerusalem as its capital. The government’s Central Bureau of Statistics says it has a population of 900,000, including about 340,000 Arabs.

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has in the past called for UNRWA to be dismantled.

Arab News

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1383136/middle-east

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Israel to remove UN Palestinian agency from Jerusalem

October 5, 2018

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees on Friday expressed concern after Jerusalem’s Israeli mayor said he would remove it from the city.

Mayor Nir Barkat announced in a statement Thursday a “detailed plan to remove UNRWA from Jerusalem and replace its services with municipal services”.

UNRWA said such a move would affect its humanitarian operations and installations in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.

The agency runs schools and health centres particularly in the Shuafat refugee camp where it says 24,000 Palestinians are estimated to live.

UNRWA has come under pressure from Israel and the United States.

© AFP/File | Palestinian girls outside a school run by UNRWA in the Askar refugee camp east of Nablus in the occupied West Bank on September 2, 2018

The two countries object to the fact that Palestinians can pass refugee status to their children, and want the number of refugees covered by the agency to be sharply reduced.

The US administration ending its funding to UNRWA in August, the latest in a series of controversial moves applauded by the Israeli government but criticised by the Palestinians and the international community.

“The US decision has created a rare opportunity to replace UNRWA’s services with services of the Jerusalem Municipality,” Barkat said.

“We are putting an end to the lie of the ‘Palestinian refugee problem’ and the attempts at creating a false sovereignty within a sovereignty,” he added.

The issue of Palestinian refugees — along with the status of Jerusalem — has long been a major sticking point in peace efforts.

More than 750,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled during the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation.

They and their descendants are now classified as refugees who fall under UNRWA’s mandate.

Palestinian leaders continue to call for at least some of them to be allowed to return to their former homes now inside Israel under any peace deal.

Israel says Palestinians must give up the so-called right of return and that allowing descendants of refugees to inherit their status only perpetuates the problem instead of solving it.

Israel also considers all of Jerusalem as its united capital, while the Palestinians see the predominantly Arab eastern area as the capital of their future state.

Some five million registered Palestinians refugees are eligible for UNRWA services in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, the blockaded Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

Barkat said that under his plan all UNRWA schools in east Jerusalem will be closed by the end of the current school year. Health centres will likewise be shut down.

The municipality will also lobby Israeli political leaders and press them to exercise their “authority to remove UNRWA (headquarters) from Israel’s sovereign territory” in Jerusalem.

“In parallel, the city will work to expropriate the area for public purposes,” he said.

But on Friday UNRWA said it was “determined to continue to carrying out” its services in east Jerusalem and criticised Barkat’s plan.

“Such messaging challenges the core principles of impartial and independent humanitarian action and does not reflect the robust and structured dialogue and interaction that UNRWA and the State of Israel have traditionally maintained,” the agency said.

AFP

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A child works at a shop across from a poster of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat
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U.S. envoy Kushner calls UNRWA corrupt, inefficient, unhelpful for peace

A Palestinian woman takes part in a protest against possible reductions of the services and aid offered by United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), in front of UNRWA headquarters in Gaza City August 16, 2015. (photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMMED SALEM)

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Germany’s Angela Merkel in Israel amid deep divisions

October 4, 2018

Israel and Germany have restarted bilateral consultations after longstanding disagreements about settlement building. Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to press the German leader to leave the Iran nuclear deal.

    
Angela Merkel and Benjamin Netanyahu

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was in Israel on Thursday, a week after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused European leaders of “coddling Iran’s dictators.” The two leaders were set to resume regular government consultations between the two nations that were paused in 2017 after Merkel expressed her disapproval of Israeli settlement building in the West Bank.

There had been no shortage of controversy ahead of the visit, with Netanyahu expected to press Merkel and other EU leaders to follow US President Donald Trump’s lead and pull out of the Iran nuclear deal.

Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly last week, Netanyahu claimed that the EU had adopted a policy of “appeasement” towards Tehran, a word evoking how European leaders had failed to stand up to Adolf Hitler in the 1930s. He also mentioned the EU’s “absolutely crazy” demands of Israel, including the call to stop displacing Palestinians for settlement building.

Germany opposes demolition of village

Ahead of her arrival on Wednesday, children in the West Bank Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar put up posters imploring the chancellor to stop the demolition of their homes. Merkel had previously voiced opposition to plans to raze the village. Israel maintains that the hamlet was built illegally and dangerously close to a highway.

Merkel also visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial on Thursday and was set to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Haifa.

The leader said that they planned to discuss trade and innovation, but concerns about rising anti-Semitism in Germany were also likely to be addressed.

es/ng (AFP, dpa)

https://www.dw.com/en/germanys-angela-merkel-in-israel-amid-deep-divisions/a-45745537

Palestinians in West Bank strike over Israel’s nation law

October 1, 2018

Palestinians are on a general strike across the West Bank in solidarity with Arab citizens of Israel over a contentious law that defines Israel as a Jewish state.

The streets of Ramallah and other West Bank cities were largely empty on Monday as schools, universities, government offices and private business were closed. (File/AFP)

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The streets of Ramallah and other West Bank cities were largely empty on Monday as schools, universities, government offices and private business were closed. Public transportation also wasn’t available.

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For the Palestinians, the strike is a rare foray into domestic Israeli politics.

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Critics of Israel’s Jewish nation state law, passed last month, say it sidelines Israel’s non-Jewish citizens.

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Israel’s 1948 declaration of independence defined the country as a Jewish and democratic state. The government says the new law merely enshrines Israel’s existing character, but critics say it undercuts Israel’s democratic values and marginalizes the Arab minority, about 20 percent of the population.

AP

Hamas says Abbas is pushing Israel to launch a new war in Gaza

September 30, 2018

Hamas delegation in Cairo for talks reconciliation deal and a possible long-term truce with Israel, as PA leader vows to impose further sanctions on the Strip

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Israeli Merkava tanks drive near the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip as they return from the Hamas-controlled Palestinian coastal enclave on August 5, 2014, after Israel announced that all of its troops had withdrawn from the Gaza Strip. (photo credit: AFP/THOMAS COEX)

Israeli Merkava tanks drive near the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip as they return from the Hamas-controlled Palestinian coastal enclave on August 5, 2014, after Israel announced that all of its troops had withdrawn from the Gaza Strip. (photo credit: AFP/THOMAS COEX)

A senior Hamas official on Sunday accused Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas of fomenting violence in the region and pushing Israel toward a new war in the Gaza Strip.

“Abbas wants to control everything in Gaza, war is good for him,” Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior leader in the Gaza Strip, told Arab media. Al-Zahar is in Cairo as part of a large delegation from Gaza taking part in talks to reach a Palestinian reconciliation deal and a possible long-term truce with Israel.

The talks have been deadlocked in recent months and Hamas blames Abbas who has imposed a series of crippling sanctions on the Strip in a bid to force Hamas to give up control. The terror group has ruled Gaza since it ousted Abbas’s rival Fatah faction in 2007.

Al-Zahar charged that the PA, together with several unnamed Arab states, were trying to persuade Israel to launch a wide-scale campaign in Gaza.

File: Chief Fatah negotiator for reconciliation talks Azzam al-Ahmed, left, sits next to Hamas leaders Moussa Abu Marzoug, center, and Mahmoud Al Zahar, right, during a news conference in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, April 27, 2011. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

Recent days have seen a fresh upsurge in violence and al-Zahar said the border violence would not subside until they achieved their goals.

“The Marches of Return will not end, no matter how much pressure they put on us,” he said.

Firefighters on Sunday worked to extinguish two blazes in southern Israel sparked by airborne incendiary devices launched from the Gaza Strip and police sappers defused another fire balloon on a highway, as a weekend of violent border clashes was followed by relative quiet.

Since Sunday morning, firefighters have combated two fires caused by incendiary balloons near Israeli towns along the Gaza Strip, a spokesman for the Israeli Fire and Rescue Services said.

Israeli firefighters arrive to a field set on fire by an incendiary balloon launched by Palestinians from the Gaza Strip, Monday, September 3, 2018 near the Gaza border. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

The Hamas delegation, reportedly lead by Hamas deputy leader Salah al-Arouri, arrived in Cairo on Saturday. The Gaza officials were scheduled to meet with Egyptian intelligence officials throughout the day for deliberations.

Meanwhile, a top Hamas official on Saturday warned Abbas against imposing additional “sanctions” on the coastal territory.

Kahlil al-Hayya, a senior member of the Hamas political bureau, told Gaza newspaper Felesteen that the ruling terrorist group would respond with a “free hand” against any additional measures imposed by the rival Ramallah government headed by Abbas.

Image result for Khalil al-Hayya, photos
Kahlil al-Hayya

Hayya did not elaborate what the response from Hamas might entail, but stressed that Abbas needed to take full responsibility for Gaza.

The remarks came in response to Abbas’s speech to the UN General Assembly earlier this week in which he threatened to “give up responsibility” for Gaza if Hamas refused to respond positively to Egyptian efforts to broker a reconciliation deal between the rival Palestinian factions.

Palestinians follow PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s speech at the annual UN General Assembly, on a large screen in the West Bank city of Ramallah, September 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

Abbas has slashed funding to Gaza and cut salaries of PA employees there to pressure Hamas into handing over the territory, making it increasingly difficult for Hamas to govern. Hamas fears Abbas may reduce funding for health care and other services for Gazans.

Further cuts to Gaza’s budget are seen as a move that could worsen the Strip’s already dire humanitarian situation and deepen a rift between the rival groups.

During his speech on Thursday, Abbas indicated he would cut the remaining PA budgets allocated for Gaza if Hamas refused to hand over control of the coastal territory.

“There is an agreement between Hamas and us. We abided by it and our Egyptian brothers know that, but they have not abided by it. Therefore, from now on, we will not bear any responsibility [for Gaza]. I ask you to understand that. We will not bear any responsibility if they insist on rejecting agreements,” he said, referring to an Egyptian-brokered agreement Hamas and Fatah signed last year.

Hamas and Fatah signed an agreement to bring the West Bank and Gaza under the PA’s authority in October 2017, however the rival parties failed to implement deal.

A Palestinian woman walks past a closed health center run by United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) during a strike of all UNRWA institutions in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on September 24, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)

US President Donald Trump’s administration has cut more than $500 million in aid to the Palestinians, including ending all support for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, sparking a budget crisis.

Last week, the World Bank warned the Gaza Strip’s economy was in “free fall.” The report said Gaza’s economy shrunk by six percent in the first quarter of 2018 “with indications of further deterioration since then,” it said.

The bank said one in two Gazans now lives below the poverty line and that unemployment is running at 53 percent. More than 70% of young people are jobless, it said.

UN envoy Nickolay Mladenov said this week the failure to implement the Hamas-Fatah unity agreement was a key factor behind the Strip’s worsening humanitarian situation.

The Palestinian delegation traveled to Cairo a day after the Gaza health ministry said seven Gazans, including 2 boys, were killed in clashes with Israeli troops along the border.

The IDF said about 20,000 Palestinians took part in violent protests, spread out among a few locations along the Gaza security fence. In several instances they threw hand grenades and explosive devices at soldiers. In two cases IAF aircraft carried out strikes against grenade throwers, the army said, noting there were no injuries to IDF forces.

Egypt has also been trying to broker a long-term ceasefire between Israel and Hamas that would see an end to the ongoing border protests in exchange for loosening the blockade on the coastal territory.

However, those talks have stalled as well and the riots along the border have gone from a weekly event to nightly protests.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/hamas-says-abbas-is-pushing-israel-to-launch-a-new-war-in-gaza/

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US envoy urges world to join America in ‘being direct, frank with Palestinians’

September 28, 2018

Defending aid cuts, Jason Greenblatt cites need for ‘sustainable’ path to peace, says Washington provided support to Palestinians ‘year after year’ while they squandered it

US President's peace process envoy Jason Greenblatt, left, meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the President's office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, March 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

US President’s peace process envoy Jason Greenblatt, left, meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the President’s office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, March 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

NEW YORK — US peace envoy Jason Greenblatt on Thursday defended the US administration’s drastic funding cuts to the Palestinians, arguing that billions given to this cause over decades have failed to significantly advance the matter.

Rather, he said in a speech to a conference of international donors, it was time to “realistically evaluate what works and what does not,” and to embark on “a new, sustainable path.” While he declined to provide any details of the peace proposal he and other White House officials have been working on for months, he asked members of the international community to study it carefully and be open for new ideas.

“It is time to look at the situation realistically. We could continue the same pattern for years to come, but that would be folly,” Greenblatt told participants of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee’s annual meeting at the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

“Clearly, none of our financial assistance is getting Israelis and Palestinians closer to a solution.”

The US recently decided to divert all its foreign aid to the Palestinians to other “regional priorities,” a move that has caused alarm among the international community, which has struggled to come up with alternative sources of funding for agencies such as UNRWA, which provides health and educational services to Palestinian refugees.

On Thursday, several countries raised nearly $120 million for UNRWA. The European Union, which together with the US cosponsors the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, alone pledged an additional 40 million euros for the agency. Over the last three years, the EU and its members states have give 1.2 billion to UNRWA.

“Supporting the agency means supporting peace and security in the Middle East. And this is in our strategic interest,” the union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini said at a ministerial meeting focused on UNRWA.

A Palestinian man transports bags of flour outside an aid distribution center run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip ,on September 4, 2018. (Said Khatib/AFP)

Greenblatt, in his speech to the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, hailed the international community’s “noble effort,” but at the same time implied that money given to UNRWA and other Palestinian causes was wasted if things don’t change dramatically.

For instance, he accused Hamas but also the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas of not using other countries’ taxpayers money responsibly.

“We must all ask ourselves why we should keep struggling to raise money when everyone can plainly see the Hamas regime and the PA are squandering the opportunities our money provides for a better future for Palestinians,” he said.

“We cannot continue to provide aid year after year to areas whose leadership, for political purposes, thwarts our efforts to improve the economic well-being of Palestinians.”

Turning to the political dimension of the peace process, Greenblatt dismissed the “the standard talking points about the solutions to this conflict,” noting that they have failed to advance a peace agreement.

“Another hundred resolutions in the UN General Assembly won’t make the lives of Palestinians in Gaza more bearable,” he said.

“Another hundred resolutions will be ignored by Hamas, which continues to hold the missing Israeli soldiers and civilians, who must be returned, and which indiscriminately launches rockets and flaming kites displaying Swastikas into Israel.”

Members of the Hamas terror group’s military wing attend the funeral of six of its fighters at a cemetery in the Deir al-Balah refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip on May 6, 2018. (Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

The status quo is “unsustainable for both sides,” Greenblatt said. “We must focus on realistic ways forward. If Palestinian lives are going to be changed for the better, their leaders need to change their behavior. It needs to start with Hamas in Gaza. I will say it clearly: We will not fund a situation that empowers Hamas, an unrepentant terrorist organization. It’s that simple.”

Americans are a generous people and continue to be inclined to provide humanitarian aid, Greenblatt went on. However, the administration “will not reward provocations and violence.”

Since President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US Embassy there, Palestinian officials have declared Trump unfit to mediate between them and Israel.

“Insults and attacks directed at President Trump and members of the Administration will not help the Palestinian people,” Greenblatt said. “While some may be uncomfortable with our direct, frank message, the United States will continue speaking directly and frankly because we must tell the truth. We do this because we care about the Palestinian people and their future.”

Returning to the issue of financial aid to the Palestinians, Greenblatt said that the administration will no longer pay for “temporary solutions that only prolong the cycle of suffering and violence.”

Many countries are or will soon be unable to contribute large sums for foreign aid, Greenblatt said, citing private conversations with representatives from donor countries.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the 73rd session of the General Assembly at the United Nations in New York September 27, 2018. (TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP)

“We have had enough of the status quo. We have had enough of Hamas diverting funds donated by the generous, well-meaning countries sitting around this table, and using those funds for illicit activity,” he said. “We have had enough of Hamas taking all of our and your generous donations to the Palestinians and then failing to provide even the most basic services – safe water, electricity and hospitals to those who they purport to govern.”

Greenblatt then urged the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee donor countries to join the US in “being direct and frank with the Palestinian Authority about charting a new, sustainable path – one that improves all Palestinian lives.”

The US peace proposal aims at improving the lives of Israelis and Palestinians, he said.

“We are working on a plan that both sides will gain more from than they give; a plan that is realistic, fair, and implementable. Neither side will like everything in the plan, but we are confident both sides will understand why we came to the conclusions that we did — if they are willing to engage.”

PA President Mahmoud Abbas refuses to engage with the US, citing Trump’s alleged bias in favor of Israel.

But, Greenblatt said, “leaders must have the courage to guide their people to a better future.”

It was time to “stop focusing on tired talking points and throwing more money at the same things we have been doing since 1993,” he continued. “It is time to realistically evaluate what works and what does not.”

https://www.timesofisrael.com/us-envoy-urges-world-to-join-us-in-being-direct-and-frank-with-palestinians/

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A child works at a shop across from a poster of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat
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U.S. envoy Kushner calls UNRWA corrupt, inefficient, unhelpful for peace

A Palestinian woman takes part in a protest against possible reductions of the services and aid offered by United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), in front of UNRWA headquarters in Gaza City August 16, 2015. (photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMMED SALEM)

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Palestinian leader Abbas tells UN ‘Jerusalem is not for sale’ — Rejects U.S. as Middle East Peace Broker

September 28, 2018

The Palestinians will no longer accept the US as the sole mediator in the Middle East peace process, Abbas said.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared on Thursday that his people’s rights “are not up for bargaining” and he accused the US of undermining the two-state solution, a day after President Donald Trump suggested for the first time in office that he “liked” the long-discussed idea as the most effective way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the United Nations General Assembly on September 27, 2018 in New York City. (AFP)

Abbas said Trump’s promise of a peace agreement contradicted decisions made by his administration since taking office.

“With all of these decisions, this administration has reneged on all previous US commitments, and has undermined the two-state solution,” Abbas said in his address to the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations.

He said Palestinians welcomed the US president’s launch of a peace initiative, but said they were “shocked” by decisions and actions that clearly contradicted his commitment to the process.

Abbas halted ties with Trump’s administration in December after the US recognized contested Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and Palestinians have said a pending US peace plan will be dead on arrival because of that and other recent US moves that Palestinians see as favoring Israel.

“Jerusalem is not for sale,” Abbas said to applause as he began his speech at the annual UN General Assembly. “The Palestinian people’s rights are not up for bargaining.”

He said Palestinians would never reject negotiation, but that “it’s really ironic that the American administration still talks about what they talk call the ‘deal of the century.’”

“What is left for this administration to give to the Palestinian people?” he asked. “What is left as a political solution?”

Palestinian schoolchildren a protest Gaza city on February 4, 2018, against the difficult economic situation and the US decision to withhold funds earmarked for the UN relief agency for Palestinian refugees. (AFP).The report was released ahead of a high-level meeting of the bank’s Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, responsible for coordinating development assistance to the Palestinians, on September 27.

Added Abbas: “We are not redundant. Why are we treated as redundant people who should be gotten rid of?”

The Palestinians will no longer accept the US as the sole mediator in the Middle East peace process, Abbas said.

“We will also not accept sole American mediation in the peace process,” Abbas added, saying the US president had shown that he was “biased” toward Israel since coming to power.

“This administration has reneged on all previous US commitments, and has undermined the two-state solution, and has revealed its false claims of concern about the humanitarian conditions of the Palestinian people,” President Abbas said.

Trump made his comment about the two-state solution while meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday. The US president told reporters he believes that two states — Israel and one for the Palestinians — “works best.”

He has been vague on the topic, suggesting he would support whatever the parties might agree to, a message he also recapped Wednesday.

“If the Israelis and Palestinians want one state, that’s OK with me. If they want two states, that’s OK with me. I’m happy if they’re happy,” he said.

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman expressed indifference to Trump’s remarks, saying that the Israeli interest is “a safe Jewish state.”

A Palestinian state “simply doesn’t interest me,” Lieberman said.

Netanyahu has reluctantly accepted the concept of Palestinian statehood but has since backtracked. A top coalition partner is threatening to topple his government if it returns to the agenda.

The two sides in one of the world’s most high-profile and volatile conflicts are always forceful voices at the UN and its annual General Assembly, but their leaders are speaking after a particularly eventful year in their relations.

 

Gaza economy in “free fall”

Hamas that rules Gaza has led protests for months along the border with Israel, aiming partly to draw attention to the Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed after Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007.

At least 137 Palestinians, mostly unarmed, have been killed by Israeli fire since the border protests began on March 30. During that time, a Gaza sniper killed an Israeli soldier.

Hamas and Israel came close to serious conflict earlier this summer as violence soared along the border. Gaza militants bombarded southern Israel with mortars and rockets, and Israel struck Hamas targets in Gaza.

Israel says it is defending its border against attempts by Hamas, a militant group that sworn to its destruction, to infiltrate and carry out attacks. But Israel has faced heavy international criticism over the large number of unarmed protesters who have been killed or wounded.

Israel has also been struggling to deal with near-daily fires caused by kites and balloons rigged with incendiary devices launched by Palestinians in Gaza. The blazes have destroyed forests, burned crops and killed wildlife.

Egyptian mediated cease-fire talks have hit a deadlock, and Hamas is now intensifying its campaign with more protests. Palestinians were infuriated, and many Israelis were thrilled, by a series of decisions Trump has made within the last year, starting with his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The Palestinians also claim the holy city as the capital of an eventual state. Earlier this year, Trump followed up on the recognition by moving the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a step that was widely protested by Palestinians and others in the Arab world.

His administration has also slashed aid to the Palestinians by hundreds of millions of dollars and ended US support for the UN agency that helps Palestinian refugees.

Trump and his national security team have defended their position, saying that decades of attempts to forge Israeli-Palestinian peace have failed.

The World Bank warned Tuesday that Gaza’s economy is in “free fall,” with a 6 percent contraction in the first quarter of this year and unemployment standing at over 50 percent. A report from the bank urged Israel and the international community to take action to avoid “immediate collapse.”

A Palestinian protestor covers his nose with a piece of cloth on the beach near the maritime border with Israel (background), in the northern Gaza Strip, during a demonstration calling for the lift of the Israeli blockade on the coastal Palestinian enclave, on September 10, 2018. (AFP)

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It attributed the downturn to a combination of factors, including Israel’s decade-long blockade of the Hamas-controlled territory, budget cuts by the rival Palestinian Authority and a reduction in international aid, particularly from the US.

Laughter and headshakes

Other leaders who spoke at the General Assembly Thursday included Haiti’s President Jovenel Moise, who told the gathered leaders he had “spared no effort to ensure that institutions are stable and to make sure we are creating a safe and stable enviro conducive to investment and to relaunching growth” in his country since the UN peacekeeping mission there wrapped up in October 2017.

The mission had helped the most impoverished country in the Western Hemisphere through 13 years of political turmoil and natural catastrophe. It has been followed by a new “stabilization” mission made up of about 1,300 international civilian police officers, along with 350 civilians tasked with helping Haiti reform its justice system.

The Caribbean island country continues to face economic and environmental challenges, including its vulnerability to natural disasters. It suffered heavy blows from a devastating 2010 earthquake and Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Earlier, Lithuania’s president assailed world leaders for being “too quiet, too passive, too ignorant” in the face of abuses, corruption and inequality, and took a dig at Trump’s America-first vision.

“We cannot let the voice of nationalism and division win over dialogue and cooperation,” said Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite.

Much of the attention at the international community’s most prominent gathering has been focused on Trump, whose brash behavior and boastful address on Tuesday provoked laughter and headshakes from other leaders. On Wednesday, he chaired a Security Council meeting on nonproliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and fired off more tough words at Iran.

(With AP & AFP)

Arab News

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1378876/middle-east

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A child works at a shop across from a poster of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat
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U.S. envoy Kushner calls UNRWA corrupt, inefficient, unhelpful for peace

A Palestinian woman takes part in a protest against possible reductions of the services and aid offered by United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), in front of UNRWA headquarters in Gaza City August 16, 2015. (photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMMED SALEM)

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Clashes in West Bank as Israelis visit Joseph’s Tomb holy site

September 27, 2018

Clashes broke out overnight as hundreds of Israelis visited a religious site in the occupied West Bank, the Israeli army and Palestinian sources said Thursday.

A Palestinian protester hurls a rock at Israeli soldiers during clashes following a weekly demonstration against the expropriation of Palestinian lands in the village of Kfar Qaddum, near Nablus in the occupied West Bank, on September 21, 2018. (AFP)

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Around 1,500 Jewish Israelis visited the Joseph’s Tomb site near Nablus in the northern West Bank late Wednesday, protected by Israeli soldiers, the army said.

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“At the entrance of the city of Nablus a violent riot was instigated during which Palestinians hurled rocks and firebombs,” a spokeswoman told AFP.

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Joseph’s tomb in Nablus

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She said the army had used “riot dispersal means” to break up the protest.

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More than 20 Palestinians were injured, including two journalists, a Palestinian medical source said.

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An Israeli army bulldozer caught fire after Palestinians apparently threw Molotov cocktails at it, videos published by local media showed.

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The army said no soldiers were injured.

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The tomb is holy to Jews but is deep inside the West Bank, territory that is supposed to form a key part of a future Palestinian state.

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It has been the scene of repeated clashes and was torched in October 2015 before being repaired later.

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The Israeli army regularly carries out raids inside Nablus and other Palestinian cities.

AFP