Netanyahu offers to come to … Ramallah

In public remarks after his meeting with U.S. Special Envoy George Mitchell this evening, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu offered to come to Ramallah if the Palestinian side were ready for direct negotiations.

It would be a first.

Netanyahu told Mitchell, in front of the cameras: “I call on President Abu Mazen to come to Jerusalem. I’m prepared to go to Ramallah. I think that this is the only way that we’ll solve the intricate problems that we’re discussing between us”… This statement was sent around by email from the Israeli Government Press Office, part of the Prime Minister’s Office.

Mitchell is currently conducting a fourth or fifth round indirect, or “proximity” talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

But Ramallah is Area A (a category dating from the Oslo Accords, designating where Palestinian Authority security forces have nominal control) — and Israelis are barred from entering Area A…

There are big red signs around the West Bank [ sometimes in the wrong places, actually, such as just after passing through Qalandia Checkpoint, on the way to Ramallah, where there are areas that are still legally Jerusalem by Israeli definition, such as Qafr Aqab and Semiramis, and that still must pay Jerusalem taxes, though they get virtually no services], warning Israelis — who can otherwise roam freely, say, to visit friends in the settlements — that they are approaching an Area A [usually a “built-up” Palestinian city — though even they can have parts which are classified Areas B or C — such as Abu Mazen’s house above Balloua…]

No Israeli can enter Area A without facing fines (5000 shekels, for endangering him/herself and the rescue services that would have to be called up if he/she calls for help or, G-d forbid, gets in trouble. There have been stories about people heading to weddings in the settlements who ended up in the middle of Qalandiya refugee camp while relying on their car’s Israeli GPS systems, which do not acknowledge either political reality or even the actual geography of the West Bank — in many areas of which the Israeli GPS simply goes blank…

Perhaps Netanyahu has been inspired by all the recent almost-irresistable media stories about cafes + malls + more in the “Tel Aviv” of the West Bank.

Meanwhile, there are still regular IDF and Border Police incursions in the West Bank — mainly at night, which is believed to be more protective to the Israeli forces on the prowl, but also during the day.

After midnight, but before dawn this morning, for example, the IDF arrested 8 “wanted” Palestinians overnight in the West Bank. The way the IDF spokespersons unit just described this on Twitter is: “Overnight, IDF forces arrested 8 wanted Palestinians suspected for terrorist activity in J + S [Judea + Samaria, meaning the West Bank] region”

These incursions happen at least several times a week, sometimes almost every night. Both Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad have complained about this, publicly and reportedly privately as well, for months and more.

The atmosphere is … almost indescribable, especially to people used to feeling secure in their homes and in their beds, who will not really understand the tension and terror this sows.

Netanyahu offers to go to … Ramallah.  Why not?  Everybody is: two Haaretz journalists [not Amira Hass, who has lived in Ramallah for more than a decade, since 1997 as it happens] bylined a story published today, datelined Ramallah. Actually it was part of the outreach program of the new Palestinian Presidential media advisory team at the Muqata’a — six Israeli journalists were specially invited, given lunch, allowed to see the man close-up, and ask whatever questions they wanted for three hours.

One can only imagine the security arrangements [well beyond the usual IDF waiver form they would have been required to sign]…  But, then again, the IDF and Israeli security services have reportedly long been involved in coordination of all movements — and even escorting — of President Abbas and his Prime Minister Salam Fayyad around the West Bank. There is, after all, the great threat of the bitter enemy, “Islamic fundamentalism”…

Actually, some Israeli journalists, but more often some well-connected Israeli analysts, have been coming to Ramallah without any fanfare [for security reasons too, let’s not forget]. And not just from the Israeli “left”, which means not Marxists but those opposed to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory, but also from the right. One of the more active analysts from former Israeli diplomat Dore Gold’s Jerusalem Center for Policy Affairs told me in 2009 that he had been coming on a weekly basis for a while, and if I remember correctly he was being briefed in the Palestinian Civil Affairs office run by Fatah’s Hussein ash-Sheikh (in the same building, just a bit more than a stone’s throw from the Israeli “Civil Administration” and Military Court at Beit El, where Fatah’s Mohammed Dahlan now has the entire top floor for his own media outreach operation).

The Haaretz story, co-authored by Aluf Benn and Akiva Eldar, that is one of the products of this Palestinian media outreach invitation is published here.

In it, we learn, for example, that Abu Mazen noted, with mild reproach, that the head of Palestinian Television [who is also the Secretary of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization or PLO], Yasser Abed Rabbo, invited Netanyahu for a PALestinian TV interview but got no response.

Perhaps Netanyahu is now ready to respond?

The Jerusalem Post’s report, which called this an “apparent charm offensive aimed at the Israeli public” is here, authored by Herb Keinon.

The JPost reported that Abbas “is willing to enter direct negotiations with the Netanyahu government, as soon as he hears from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu regarding Israel’s position on borders and security issues. Abbas, in the briefing with Israeli journalists Tuesday in Ramallah, said that originally he wanted to hear from Netanyahu whether he was willing to accept the understandings agreed upon by his predecessor, Ehud Olmert …

The JPost notes that “Abbas, who has come under pressure from the US to speak directly to the Israeli public, last spoke with the Israeli media when he gave an interview to Channel 2 at the end of April … When no answer from Netanyahu was forthcoming regarding the Olmert offer, Abbas said at Tuesday’s briefing, he sent a message through US envoy George Mitchell saying that he would suffice with an answer on only two of the issues: borders and security. ‘Answers like these are necessary to see if we are speaking the same language, and then it will be possible to continue. It is preferable that direct talks will not explode after 10 minutes, and then who knows when we will be able to renew negotiations again’, Abbas said.  Abbas said he would be willing to engage in direct negotiations with Netanyahu as soon as he received an answer”.

This apparently American-inspired Palestinian “charm offensive”, sullen though it may be at times, has been going on since the indirect or “proximity” talks presided by Mitchell have gotten well underway.

We may — or may not — be at a Sadat moment.

Abbas’ deputy as chief negotiator, Sa’eb Erekat, spoke to the INSS [Institute for National Security Studies] in Tel Aviv several weeks ago, and debated Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor in Washington more recently. In the same line, Abbas himself recently met with members of the American Jewish community in the U.S.

On all occasions, it is safe to say, the two Palestinians had considerably more rosy assessments of the encounters than did their more-distrustful Israeli counterparts.

On top of that, Abbas’ Prime Minister Fayyad is about to meet the Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who is the effective rule of the West Bank in the Israeli government and practice — supposedly to discuss “security” [even though there was an uproar when his er formEconomic Minister, Basim Khoury, caused a storm of criticism when he spoke to Silvan Shalom at a meeting in Tel Aviv — but that was before indirect talks began].

Fayyad is a legal permanent resident of [East] Jerusalem, of course — like the four elected Hamas-affiliated Palestinian parliamentarians who residency is about to be revoked [and they will be “deported”, unless a court intervenes].   But Fayyad is not affiliated with Hamas.  So, he could easily meet Barak in either East or West Jerusalem, or anywhere in Israel.  Alternatively, Barak could easily make arrangements to show up somewhere in Ramallah [though no doubt with a huge and very obtrusive security escort], and take in all the supposedly glittery sights…

East Jerusalem parliamentarian arrested, facing "deportation"

Facing possible “deportation” — whatever that means in the circumstances — from East Jerusalem, Mohammad Abu Tir, a Hamas-affiliated politician elected in January 2006 to the Palestine Legislative Council (PLC), was arrested this afternoon in Jerusalem (where he is not supposed to be, any more) reportedly by undercover Israeli police disguised as Palestinians, and taken to the Russian Compound in West Jerusalem, where —  if he’s lucky —  he may have a court hearing tomorrow.

A month ago, he was released from jail after serving more than four years, basically for having been elected to the local Palestinian parliament on the Hamas-backed Change and Reform Party ticket.

YNet reported tonight that “During a Shin Bet interrogation just hours after his release, Abu-Tir was told he had to leave his hometown Jerusalem within a month (by June 19).  ‘I don’t know what to say, this is an injustice which reflects an attempt at extortion’, Abu-Tir said to Ynet at the time. ‘They told me I must remain in my village (Umm Tuba) and never go to the city. I don’t know the reason for this’.”

Instead, Ynet reported, “Palestinian sources said Abu-Tir was arrested as he left his village, and that among those who arrested him were undercover officers disguised as Arabs. His family was unable to define the area forbidden to Abu-Tir, who holds the second slot on Hamas’ party list”.   This YNet report is published here.

The “deportation” order dates back to before his arrest in the spring of 2006. Last month, Abu Tir and three other Hamas-affiliated elected members of the PLC were ordered to surrender their Jerusalem residency cards to the Israeli police.

Maybe if he had stayed at home, in his village, he would have been left alone?

If he is brought before a court on Thursday, maybe he will at least be able to get clarification of where he’s allowed to be — and where he is banned.

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Mousavian in America

Hossein Mousavian, a former lead Iranian nuclear negotiator has relocated to America, taking up residence at Princeton University, the Wall Street Journal reported today.

Actually, he’s apparently been at Princeton for ten months already.

Mousavian was been Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, during the presidency of Mohammad Khatami [who preceeded the present President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad], then later then deputy head of the Strategic Research Center of Iran’s Expediency Council.

The WSJ wrote that “In September, Mr. Mousavian, 53 years old, arrived at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs as a visiting scholar, where he has been writing on Tehran’s nuclear diplomacy and U.S.-Iranian relations. Neither Princeton nor the Obama administration would comment on the Iranian diplomat’s stay in the U.S., but American and European diplomats engaged in nuclear diplomacy with Iran say they are closely scrutinizing Mr. Mousavian’s work for insights into Tehran’s decision making”.

In the photo below, which was probably taken in 2003, Mousavian (on right side of photo) is seen talking to another Iranian diplomat Amir Zamaniniya (on left).

Hossein Mousavian whispering into the ear of Amir Zamaniniya - photo picked up from The Elephant Bar blogspot

Mousavian, a former Ambassador of Iran to Germany, and to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), was instrumental in what was — for those Iranian officials involved — a risky agreement to freeze Iran’s nuclear program in 2003 to allow for negotiations with European states, observed by the U.S. But it did not result in any diplomatic movement. There were American elections first. Then, in 2005, there were Iranian elections, and Mahmoud Ahmedinejad won — radically changing the Iranian political landscape.

The WSJ article continues: “Mr. Mousavian said in his first interview since arriving at Princeton that he wasn’t in the U.S. to rally support for Tehran’s political opposition, known as the Green Movement. He said he is focused on his academic work and recovering from an illness contracted during his imprisonment and subsequent legal battles. He said he intends to return to Tehran at some point. ‘I don’t need asylum from any country, and I would never apply for it’, he said” …

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A stunning admission (in Hebrew)

A stunning admission was published overnight on Richard Silverstein’s Tikun Olam blog, here: the Israeli Border Police person [apparently male] who finished off an already-wounded Ziad Julani in the Wadi Joz neighborhood of downtown East Jerusalem on 11 June, has reportedly admitted firing at “point blank range”.

Why? Because, the Border Police person said, because he believed Ziad was a “terrorist”.

This has been, for years, the excuse and justification for almost everything here. Until now, it is almost impossible to refute.

The Israeli general public, the media, and the country’s Supreme Court all fall into line “and salute”.

Apparently, this is so far published only on the Hebrew-language website of Haaretz — and not yet presented to the somewhat more sceptical English-language audience.

Silverstein reports, on his Tikun Olam posting, that “The Justice Ministry has begun an internal investigation and Jilani’s body has been exhumed and an autopsy will be done [n.b. – the autopsy is apparently complete, but results are not yet reported]. As part of the investigation, the murder scene and entire incident were reconstructed. During this event, the shooter admitted, according to Haaretz’s report (Hebrew), that he shot Jilani at point-blank range. He claimed, however, that he believed Jilani was a terrorist and killed him because he feared he was wearing a suicide vest. Further, he claimed he fired to protect the lives of innocent bystanders”.

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Investigation: IHH says it was notified of 40-mile Israeli no-go zone

2010.05.07
On 7 May, the Turkish relief organization IHH posted these remarks on its website [in a post entitled “Israel Is Acting Like Pirates”]:

“Bulent Yildirim, President of IHH, said ‘If they harass the flotilla, what is left to separate the state of Israel from the pirates of Somalia?’ noting that the convoy will not even draw close by Israel’s territorial waters, in his response to the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s threats of attacking the ships, should they sail near the Gaza territory.

IHH administration said ‘We will not even pass close by the Israeli waters. If they attack us regardless, what is the difference between them and the pirates of Somalia?’, in their response to the threats by Israeli Foreign Ministry regarding the humanitarian aid ships to Palestine, saying ‘We will strike on the ships if they sail near Gaza’.

Bulent Yildirim, President of IHH (The Foundation For Human Rights And Freedoms And Humanitarian Relief) , said ‘Let them come and attack us, we have no preparation to strike back. Whether they fire down on us, bomb us with airplanes, we will not let them onto our ships. They can attack, yes, but they will not be let onboard. We are not carrying weapons to Palestine, we are carrying humanitarian aid only’.

Yildirim went on to say ‘As a requirement of international laws, 12 miles off the shores belong to the territorial waters of countries. It applies to Israel as well. Our flotilla will be sailing 80 miles off of Israeli coast. We will never enter Israeli waters. We will take a 90 degrees turn just before entering the Egyptian territorial waters. Therefore, Israel have no right to claim ‘They have entered our territorial waters.’ They have no authority there. If they decide to attack us regardless of this fact, then, there is no difference left between Israel and the pirates of Somalia’.”

This statement is posted here.

There is no mention whatsoever on the IHH website — or in any of the organization’s statements that I have been able to locate so far — of the formal declared Israeli Naval blockade [which was announced on 3 January 2009, as the Israeli Army lauched the ground phase of Operation Cast Lead], though this should have factored into the Freedom Flotilla’s strategic planning, and though in fairness and full disclosure all passengers who joined the trip should have been made aware of the implications.

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Investigation: As it happened – "IHH statement as Israeli naval warships approached the Mavi Marmara

This statement, an IHH communication dated 31 May, is posted [still] on the IHH website.

It is entitled: “Crisis Furthers In the Mediterranean, Turkish Government Expected To Intervene”, and is posted here.

Here is the sub-title:
“Israeli assault boats are harassing the ships of the Freedom Flotilla, which are carrying humanitarian aid to Palestine. 6 ships are persistently followed by Israeli warships despite being in international waters”.

Here is the text:
“Helicopters and unmanned aircrafts are tracking the ships as well. Israeli officials are calling the Captain of Mavi Marmara and they are constantly harassing the ships. The Captain of Mavi Marmara refused to change the route of the ship. Meanwhile 578 passengers onboard Mavi Marmara have been given life jackets. Passengers were also provided with gas masks. The ships are on alert now. Israel can carry out a possible operation any minute now. They are expected to intercept the ships.

“The activists onboard are trying to make their voices heard through live broadcast. There are women, children and the elderly onboard. The ship is packed with civilians. An operation by the Israeli navy with gas canisters might lead to chaos onboard.

“As the crisis furthers in Mediterranean, Turkish government is expected to interfere. Flotilla organizers expect the Prime Minister of Turkey, Erdogan, to interfere into the situation and stop a possible military operation by Israel.

Continue reading “Investigation: As it happened – "IHH statement as Israeli naval warships approached the Mavi Marmara”

Investigation: the interview with the Captain of the Mavi Marmara

Here are extended excerpts of an interview with Mahmut Tural, Captain of The Mavi Marmara, about the Israeli Naval assault on the Freedom Flotilla that took place just before dawn on the 31st of May.

The interview was posted on 16 June on the website of the Turkish relief organization IHH, which had chartered the Mavi Marmara for the planned excursion to Gaza.

The interview was apparently conducted by IHH.

Here are excerpts from what Captain Tural had to say, prompted by questions from an interviewer:

“The ships of the convoy gathered in south of Cyprus and sailed on at 4 p.m. on the 30th of May, 2010. The ships were sailing together as a convoy. Our first contact with the Israeli navy was at 10.30 p.m.. They inquired about the ship’s registration details, then they said that Gaza is blockaded area and requested us to change our route. At the time of these calls we were sailing in international waters, around 75 miles off the Israeli coast, in route 222. We were completely away from Israeli territorial waters and heading towards southwest. We told them that we were in international waters and they have no right to request us to change our route.

Q: Were you able to see the Israeli warships?

“No. Israeli ships were not in visible distance yet, but I could guess that they were military warships from the radar echoes which came from 3-4 miles away. Around 11.30 p.m. we changed our route to 185. Our aim was to sail 70 miles away from Israeli waters. We never entered into the zone that they had declared as restricted. The calls continued intermittently from 10.30 p.m. till 02.00 a.m.. From that point on we did not receive any calls or warnings. Israel launched claims like ‘We told them to stop, they did not.’ Between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. we did not receive any calls or warnings. They fired from the helicopters without any warning or call as soon as they neared us.

“We evaluated all the possibilities prior to embarking on this journey, but I was not expecting Israel to carry an attack of this kind in international waters…

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Hagit Ofran in Silwan: "This time it sounded serious"

Hagit Ofran of Peace Now is one of the Israeli experts on the settlements her compatriots are building in the West Bank [including East Jerusalem].

Hearing from Silwan on Sunday evening about the escalating clashes there, she went to see what was happening, and then posted her account, complete with photos and a video, on her blog, Eyes on the Ground in East Jerusalem.

For anyone who thinks these are just minor incidents, the title of her post, Battlefield, gives a good idea of what happened in a crowded, run-down Palestinian area of East Jerusalem where Israeli Border Police are the only available authority — and they are hostile. They are on the side of the settlers.

Hagit observed, in this post, that “Most of my neighbors in West Jerusalem heard nothing of this and don’t even know that 5 minutes drive from us, in East Jerusalem, there are Palestinian neighborhoods with tens of thousands of residents, including the neighborhood of Silwan which in the last months has been at the center of clashes between settlers, police and residents … Silwan and East Jerusalem in general, are far from the hearts and minds of the Israeli media and public attention. Police feel they are in the Wild West and that nobody will do anything to them”.

In her post, Hagit reported that: “Almost every evening over the last weeks there have been clashes in Silwan between police, guards and residents. This time it sounded serious. M. reported on injured and ambulances that were delayed. I decided to go see close up. … When I got there the situation was heated: a force of Border Police, armed and shielded from head to toe, were running through the narrow alleys of the neighborhood and being pelted by a shower of stones. They were shouting, firing tear gas, firing shock grenades and occasionally also live fire.

“How did it all begin? According to the residents’ testimony, this time again it was a group of guards from a private security company who guard the settlers at Beit Yehonatan [n.b., the seven-structure house built without pemits by a settlement organization in this Palestinian but now hotly-contested neighborhood of East Jerusalem], who were walking around the streets provocatively. According to some of the testimonies the guards spat at Palestinian children, and according to others, the children were the ones to start cursing the guards. One way or another friction was created, followed by a confrontation, during which stones were thrown at the guards, who did not hesitate and fired in the air (see for example how they acted two weeks ago).

“Then came Border Police forces. They accompanied the guards into the home of the Abu Nab family, who are in the middle of a legal procedure against settlers over ownership of the house. Lately MK Uri Ariel of the right announced the settlers’ intention to forcefully enter the house soon. According to residents’ testimony, the guards, with the police, broke the house’s shutters and the window and threw a tear gas grenade into the house“…



“Tear gas is a strong substance. It causes anyone near it suffocation and severe burning of the eyes. If you throw it into a house – it is a real danger. The members of the family were at home at the time, including small children and women, who were evacuated from the house coughing and frightened.

“At first I didn’t believe that the police really threw tear gas into a house. The tear gas must have been in the street and entered through the open window, I thought to myself. But when I got to the house at midnight, three hours after the gas was thrown, there was still a smell of gas in the air, and when I stood in the kitchen for a minute I began coughing and suffocating from the remnants of gas that were still hanging in the air.

“In light of the settlers’ threats of their intention to evacuate the family from the home, everybody was sure it was an infiltration [sic – maybe she means incitement, a ruse to effect eviction?] by settlers: the family goes out of the house because of the gas, and the guards and police who already entered the house take over it…

“The residents were quick to respond, stones were thrown at the police and the guards, and police responded by firing gas, shock grenades and sometimes also live fire.

“Eventually the Abu Nab family returned home…

“East Jerusalem is so tense right now. Every small thing is perceived as a provocation. On a week when the mayor announced the intention to demolish homes in Silwan for a biblical park, with rumors about the beginning of construction at the Shepherd Hotel continuing to circulate and when the settlers threaten to forcefully enter another house in the middle of the Palestinian neighborhood in Silwan, things seem to be on the brink of explosion.

“And another thing: this time, just like yesterday, the Border Police took advantage of the situation to vandalize the neighborhood. A police jeep forcefully crashed into Palestinian cars parked on the street, and according to residents’ testimony, the police broke car windows with rifle butts“…

Hagit Ofran’s post can be viewed in full here.

Quote of the day – (2nd in our series)

After Hamas police on Sunday made a “forced withdrawal” from the Islamic Bank in Gaza of cash [belonging to an Islamic charity] that had been frozen by a decision of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Monetary Authority, Ma’an News reported on Monday that “officials within the banking sector said making withdrawals at gunpoint was not a good sign for financial stability“.

Hamas officials claim that a Gaza court had ordered the release of the frozen funds.

Ma’an noted that it was “the second time this year that Hamas-affiliated police entered a bank and demanded [that] cash from charity accounts be handed over”…

This story can be viewed in full here.

This development came at the same time that Gaza’s Power Plant has virtually shut down in Gaza City (where 500,000 people, one-third of the population of the Gaza Strip, live). Gaza’s electrical technicians are apparently doing dangerous and difficult maneouvers to re-route the available electricity — coming now only from Israel with some from Egypt via Rafah — to serve all the population as best as possible. This means, in practical terms, that there are now power outages for 12-16 hours a day for everyone…

The problem is a shortfall in the special industrial diesel fuel needed to run Gaza’s Power Plant.

From November 2006 until the end of 2009, the European Union paid for this fuel, which must be ordered from Israel.

[In June 2006, in retaliation for the capture of IDF Corporal Gilad Shalit near the Kerem Shalom crossing, the Israeli Air Force bombed and badly damaged Gaza’s Power Plant. It was offline until November — repairs were difficult because of Israeli restrictions. Once it was back online, the EU funded the special industrial diesel fuel, until the PA decided to take over, in exchange for the salary support. This does not appear to have been a good deal for Gaza]

Over the past two years, the Gaza power plant shut down several times because Israel restricted deliveries as part of the military-administered sanctions that it imposes on Gaza, and kept the power plant running on a very short leash, then didn’t deliver on some days because of fighting and clashes between Israel and Palestinian groups in Gaza.

At the beginning of 2010, the Palestinian Authority said it would take over payments for the fuel, if the European Union would be responsible for paying the salaries and pensions of Palestinian Authority personnel.

Since then, the fuel deliveries have been cut down drastically — apparently because the Palestinian Authority is ordering less than the Gaza Power Plant needs to operate correctly.

This has now become a dispute over payments.

Gaza’s technicians say they have paid for the special industrial diesel fuel that must be imported from Israel to run the power plant, but the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah says that they are paying nearly 80 percent of the cost of the industrial diesel fuel — and won’t pay for a larger quantity until Gaza contributes more.

UPDATE + POSSIBLE CORRECTION [but who really knows?]: The Jerusalem Post, and Ma’an, report that the Palestinian Authority (or PA) says it has been paying 95 percent of Gaza’s electricity bill [since the PA started paying in January, instead of the EU.]

UPDATE TWO: Ma’an reported Monday night that the PA says it will pay only 75 percent, and that Gazans must pay 25 percent.

Earlier today, the Jerusalem Post reported that UNRWA’s Director of Operations in Gaza, John Ging, said that “It’s an unbearable situation here at the moment, and it needs to be solved very quickly. It’s a Palestinian problem, made by Palestinians, and causing Palestinian suffering. So let’s have a Palestinian solution”. This was reported here.

Clashes escalate in Silwan

Clashes escalated on Sunday in Silwan, an Israeli Border Police official told YNet that “red lines” have been crossed with reported molotov cocktails being thrown, in addition to stones.

YNet reported that clashes have continued since the announcement a week ago that the Jerusalem municipal planning committee had advanced a proposal to demolish 22 Palestinian homes in Silwan to expand a Jewish tourism complex.

Some six Israeli Border Police and four private Israeli guards were reported injured in clashes with Palestinian residents of this East Jerusalem neighborhood on the southeastern side of the walls of the Old City.

UPDATE: It was later reported [on Monday] that Palestinians had successfully repelled, overnight, an attempt by Israeli settlers to remove them from a structure in Silwan used as a home for Palestinian families for over half a century.

There are no reports, yet, of Palestinian casualties on Sunday just after nightfall though Ma’an News Agency reported that “additional forces of undercover units arrived on the scene, firing rubber-coated bullets and tear-gas canisters to disperse the locals who had gathered”. This story can be read in full here.

The previous night [overnight Saturday to Sunday], some 23 Palestinians were injured, including one shot by live ammunition, Ma’an reported here.  The same Ma’am report said that Palestinian medics “had to treat patients in the field as Israeli forces would not allow ambulances to leave the area”.

UPDATE: It was reported today that as a result of his injuries in these clashes, one of the Palestinian wounded had to undergo surgery in a hospital in East Jerusalem to remove one of his eyes. This is also reported by Hagit Ofran, Peace Now’s settlement watch director, on her blog here.

YNET on Sunday night quoted a senior Border Police official as saying: “The rioters will be arrested … A red line was crossed here in terms of violent disturbances of the peace against civilians and police. We will catch the rioters, and the defense establishment will bring them to justice.”   This is posted here.

The same YNet article has now been updated to report that “Nasrin Alian, of the Association for Civil Rights, said dozens of Palestinians were hurt in the clashes. ‘The settlers’ security guards abuse the residents, because of MK Uri Ariel’s threat that if Abu-Nab [n.b. – a house inhabited by Palestinians that was a synagogue before 1948] was not evacuated by July 4 they will clear it themselves’, she said”. It also says that ” Avner, a left-wing activist in contact with the Arab residents, said police were trying to create a provocation in order to keep from evicting the residents of Beit Yehonatan” [the seven-story building built in Silwan by an Israeli settler organization and inhabited by Jewish families protected by constant armed guard; it was built without permits and in violation of municipal codes for maximum building height, and an Israeli court affirmed last week an earlier verdict that Beit Yehonatan must be sealed and evacuated…]

We reported on this earlier here.

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