Israe’ls YNet is reporting tonight that “Defense Minister Ehud Barak is slated to authorize the building 450 to 500 housing units in the West Bank, in accordance with the agreement he reached with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. … Netanyahu decided to give the go ahead to hundreds of housing units before bending to international pressure to put a moratorium on settlement building. Officials in Barak’s office said that the units that will be up for authorization are located in larger settlement blocs and focus around six or seven towns. This move is being made prior to the Thursday arrival of US special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell in Israel. According to the law, the defense minister is the sovereign ruler of West Bank territories. As suc h, Barak must be a signatory on the building authorizations”. This YNet report can be read in full here.
Remember the new Israeli police station constructed in the West Bank, near the settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, that the Israeli government assured Condoleezza Rice last year would not be opened for a long time — a long, long time? Then, the police station was opened even before the Rice and the rest of the George W. Bush Administration even left office. Now, the Jerusalem Post is reporting, the police station will become the center of a large new section of the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement: “Israel police on Sunday afternoon lifted their ban on a symbolic cornerstone-laying in the E-1 section of Ma’aleh Adumim following a petition from the city’s municipality filed to the High Court of Justice earlier in the day. According to the appeal, since the event was defined as a ‘cornerstone-laying’, implying the beginning of construction, the Civil Administration could not allow such a process to take place. The police, therefore, objected to the ceremony. But the event planned on Monday is in fact meant as ‘an act of protest rather than the beginning of actual construction’, and therefore should be permitted, the appeal continued. Following the police decision to allow the ceremony, the municipality withdrew its petition … The zone, which is under the jurisdiction of the Ma’aleh Adumim municipality, is an undeveloped territory that in recent years was the focus of controversy surrounding the construction of a large police base. The base was eventually opened and serves as the new headquarters of the Judea and Samaria Police”. This JPost article can be read in full here.
Just a little further to the west, in the West Bank, according to a report published by Ma’an News Agency, “Work began on a new Israeli settlement in the Jordan Valley on Sunday to house settlers who were removed in 2005 from one of Israel’s former colonies in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported that workers began working on the first 20 units in the new settlement, called Maskiot, in the northern Jordan Valley. Maskiot is the site of a former Israeli army base established in the 1980s. In 2002 it was abandoned and a number of religious settlers set up camp there. When then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon unilaterally decided to remove settlers from the Gaza Strip, residents of the former outpost of Shirat Hayam, along the southern Gaza shore near Khan Younis moved to Maskiot. In December of 2006 Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz approved the construction of 100 housing units in the new settlement. Amid widespread international condemnation of this announcement, Peretz eventually reversed his decision. The former Gaza settlers then moved mobile homes to the site, awaiting government approval for a new settlement. In 2008 construction there was once more approved by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Yedioth Ahronoth states. A settler-run quasi-governmental organization, the Jordan Valley Regional Council, issued tenders on the construction of 20 housing units just before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu left for his US visit last June”. This report can be read in full here.
Ma’an News Agency is also reporting today that “the Israeli military has begun an investigation into the deaths of two Palestinian children who came under fire while carrying white flags to signal their civilian status, a human rights group says. According to the Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, one of four groups that filed a demand for a criminal investigation, Israeli military police interviewed Khalid Abed Rabbo and his mother, Su’ad Abed-Rabbo, at the Erez Crossing on 2 September “. This is the first reported Israeli interview of Gazan victims of the IDF’s Operation Cast Lead conducted between 27 December and 18 January. Ma’an added in its report that “According to Al-Mezan’s own investigation, Israeli soldiers opened fire at close range at the Abed Rabbo family, killing two of Khalid Abed Rabbo’s daughters and severely injuring a third. Khalid’s mother, Su’ad Abed-Rabbo, was also injured … Al-Mezan, along with the rights groups Adalah, Al-Haq, filed the complaint with the Israeli Military Advocate General in early June 2009 demanding an investigation…After the shooting, Al-Mezan said, the Israeli army then destroyed the family’s house and more than two hundred other houses in the Ezbet Abed-Rabbo neighborhood, where the attack occurred … In early August the prominent New York-based organization Human Rights Watch released a 63-page report presenting evidence that Israeli forces killed 11 Palestinians who were carrying white flags during the Gaza assault. Human Rights Watch urged Israel to launch a credible investigation of the killings”. This report is posted on the Ma’an website here.
Finally, we are now just half-way through the holy month of Ramadan, in which Muslim faithful fast from two hours before sunrise until sunset. Those who are sick are exempted from fasting. But some of those who should not be fasting for medical reasons fast anyway — partly for religious reasons, partly out of pride. After the first two weeks of Ramadan, those who should not be fasting begin go exhibit real medical symptoms — and there is a rush to the doctors offices. Ma’an News Agency reported from Ramallah that “Palestinian Minister of Agriculture Ismail Deiq was hospitalized because for medical issues related to diabetes on Sunday. Deiq was taken to a hospital in Jerusalem. Sources close to the minister said that by fasting for Ramadan, his diabetic condition worsened, causing him to be hospitalized for treatment and follow-up”. This report is posted here.