Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Israel presses on with plans for 6,000 new settler homes


JERUSALEM (Reuters) -- Israeli officials said they would press on with plans this week to build 6,000 homes for settlers on Palestinian land, defying criticism from Western powers who fear the move will hit already faint hopes for a peace accord.

Stung by the de facto recognition of Palestinian sovereignty in a UN General Assembly vote last month, Israel announced it would expand settlements in the occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem.

An Israeli interior ministry planning committee on Monday gave preliminary approval for 1,500 new homes in the Ramat Shlomo settlement.

The panel will now start discussing plans for another 4,500 homes in two other settlements, Givat Hamatos and Gilo, in back-to-back sessions that could run into next week, ministry spokesman Efrat Orbach said Tuesday.

Israel counts the three settlements as part of its Jerusalem municipality even though they are on West Bank land seized in the 1967 Middle East war. more

Agriculture ministry warns beetles threaten Gaza date harvest


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Agriculture minister Ali al-Tarshawi on Tuesday warned that beetles are threatening the date harvest in the Gaza Strip.

The red palm weevil, a species of beetle, has been spreading in the Gaza Strip since Sept. 2011, al-Tarshawi said at a news conference in Gaza City.

Al-Tarshawi urged farmers to monitor their crops and contact the agriculture ministry if their trees are infested. more