Saturday, 13 July 2013

Minister: Israel to build 10,000 new settler homes

JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israel is ready to "immediately" build 10,000 homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to lower housing costs, Housing Minister Uri Ariel was quoted as saying on Thursday.

"To immediately alleviate the housing crisis we must massively build in (East) Jerusalem and the settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria," the Yediot Aharonot newspaper quoted Ariel as telling a parliamentary committee.

"Settlements like Beit Arye, Ofarim, Elkana are in the center of the land," he said, "and we are prepared to launch 10,000 units there immediately."

On his Facebook page, pro-settler Ariel noted that "For an entire year there has been no state marketing in Judea and Samaria (the biblical term for the West Bank) and east Jerusalem." more

Canadian writers urge Israel to halt evictions of thousands of Palestinians and Negev Bedouins

Seventy prominent Canadian writers, including Michael Ondaatje (The English Patient), Yann Martel (Life of Pi), Lorna Crozier, and Lisa Moore (Open), wrote an open letter to Canadian and Israeli officials urging Israel to cease its plans to evict Palestinians in the South Hebron Hills, and to reject the Begin-Prawer Plan that would forcibly relocate 20,000-70,000 Bedouins from their homes in the Negev.

Israel has designated the land of the South Hebron Hills as a military firing zone, and says that the native Palestinians must be evicted because the area will be an unsafe and unsuitable place to inhabit. International law, however, dictates that Israel’s annexation of land in the West Bank is illegal, and Canadian writer Yann Martel asked “if you’re going to have a firing zone, why don’t you have it on your own land, not in occupied land?”

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OCHAOPT), Israel has designated about 18 percent of the West Bank as Israeli military training territory, which “is roughly the same amount of the West Bank under full Palestinian authority.”

The Canadian writers also urge the rejection of the Begin-Prawer plan that, if approved by Israeli lawmakers, would forcibly relocate 20,000-70,000 Bedouin of the Negev desert, many of whom live in “unrecognized” villages that were established before the creation of the State of Israel. According to the Begin-Prawer plan, the unrecognized villages would be destroyed and the Bedouin – who are citizens of Israel – would be concentrated in government-approved townships, a move that many argue would force them to abandon their traditional way of life. more

Egypt closes Gaza border amid security concerns

After two days of being partially open, Egypt once again closed its border crossing with the Gaza Strip on Friday, a security source told.

The Rafah crossing was closed on Friday 5 July due to security concerns, hours after an assault on military and police sites in north Sinai. It was later opened on Wednesday for several hours to allow stranded Palestinians to return and foreigners to leave the Gaza Strip.

The passage is the only gateway to the world for the 1.7 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, which is governed by the Islamist Hamas group, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood movement of ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi.

Tunnels along Egypt's border with the Gaza Strip, which Palestinians used to circumvent the Israeli blockade of the enclave and Egyptian-imposed border restrictions, have also been shut for ten days, leading to an acute shortage of food and goods in Gaza, particularly fuel. A crackdown by Egypt's army months ago on the large network of tunnels also exacerbated severe fuel shortages in Gaza.

Since Morsi’s ouster on 3 July, hardcore Islamist militants in the Sinai Peninsula have intensified their attacks on security checkpoints. more