More settlements announced despite US peace efforts [May 5 - May 11]
The Israeli government announced on May 9 that it will build 296 new homes in the settlement of Beit El near Ramallah. Hagit Ofran of Peace Now denounced the move. "This initiative proves Netanyahu is deceiving the world," she said.
"On the one hand, he lets us believe that he is putting the brakes on settlement and on the other, he gives the go-ahead for an enormous building project." Earlier in the week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had reportedly ordered a freeze on new settlement tenders in the West Bank.
Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat said the new settlement homes sent a clear message to Washington that Israel was not interested in resuming talks.
"We condemn this new decision which is proof that the Israeli government wants to sabotage and ruin the US administration's efforts to revive the peace process," he told AFP.
"This is a message to the American administration and a blow to the peace process," he said, saying it would drag the region into a cycle of violence rather than towards peace.
Settlers meanwhile continued their rampages in the West Bank. On May 10, Jewish settlers uprooted about 80 olive trees and scrawled graffiti near Al Tawani village south of Hebron.
Also on the 10th, Ibrahim Awad, 21, was hit by a bullet in the head during clashes in Beit Ummar, according to popular committee spokesman Yousef Abu Maria. Abu Maria said Palestinians were protesting continuous settler attacks in Hebron. Twenty other Palestinians were injured with rubber-coated steel bullets during the clashes.
Furthermore, 14 people were injured by rubber-coated steel bullets in clashes in Silwad northeast of Ramallah. One protester, Asif Hami, 17, was hit twice in the head and suffered severe bleeding.
On May 10 Israeli occupation forces demolished properties in the Bartaa industrial zone in Jenin. Mayor Ghassan Qabha said Israeli military bulldozers and vehicles razed the facilities because they were not licensed. The installations demolished include a used car parts warehouse, a car servicing shop and an iron shop. Eight demolition orders were also given to property owners, allowing them three days to vacate their properties, Qabha said.
On May 6, Israeli forces issued demolition orders to 11 homes in the Ramallah-area of Deir Nidham, all located near the settlement of Halmish. Around 40 people will be made homeless if the demolition orders are carried out.
On May 8, Israelis celebrated what they call “Jerusalem Day” commemorating the occupation and unilateral annexation of east Jerusalem following the 1967 War. Tens of thousands of Jewish settlers pranced through the Old City, carrying Israeli flags and banging on Palestinian doors. Israeli police vacated the city to make way for the hours-long marches but Palestinians raised Palestinian flags and chanted pro-Palestine slogans at Damascus Gate. Clashes ensued and over 30 Palestinians were arrested, including three children between the ages of seven and 12. A day later, Israeli minister of religion Naftali Bennett said he would seek to amend a law that would allow Jews to pray at Al Aqsa Mosque compound.
"We would like to ensure that Jews who want to pray there can do so," he said. “Tours” by Israeli settlers and extremists have become a daily occurrence at Al Aqsa, but according to Israeli law, they cannot perform Jewish prayers inside.
A settler from the east Jerusalem settlement of Gilo stabbed a Palestinian cabbie on May 7, seriously wounding him. Khalil Shawish 51, had driven the settler to his destination at four in the morning when the settlers pulled out a sharp object and stabbed him. According to Shawish’s brother, he was stabbed six times in the shoulder, chest and thigh before the settler escaped. He said his brother was in hospital but could not talk because of a stab wound to the lung.
Bedouin in the Negev Desert protested this week after Israel approved a draft law on May 6 to implement the Prawer-Begin plan, which would result in the displacement of tens of thousands of Bedouin residents. According to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the plan would forcibly evict nearly 40,000 Bedouins and destroy their communal and social fabric, condemning them to a future of poverty and unemployment.
The Bedouin community being threatened by the plan staged a protest in front of Netanyahu’s office in Jerusalem and threatened with escalatory measures if the plan goes into effect.
In local news, several people were injured on May 11 when residents of the Hebron-area town of Sair clashed with Palestinian police following the shooting death of a local woman. Angry residents opened fire and threw firebombs the night before on a police station with police officers firing back. The clashes came on the back of the shooting death of Khalida Kawazba, 30. Kawazba was killed when PA police opened fire at the car she was traveling in with her husband, who is reportedly wanted by PA security services. A security source said police had ordered Kawazba to stop, but he instead accelerated, "forcing police to open fire."
Finally, Muslim cleric Yousuf al-Qaradawi is in the Gaza Strip on a controversial visit, which has been sharply criticized by the PA in the West Bank and several factions in the Strip. The leadership has said Qardawi’s visit would contribute to the ongoing political split. Qardawi meanwhile spoke to the people of Gaza during Friday prayers on May 11 and urged them to continue resistance. "I advise all the people of Gaza to be patient and continue to build their country, and continue resistance," the sheikh told worshipers at al-Omari Mosque.
"We will not give up on the resistance, and we will not give up our arms," he added.
He also called on Palestinians to implement national reconciliation. A day earlier during a meeting with deposed Hamas premier Ismail Haniyeh, Qaradawi warned that nobody has the right to cede "any part of Palestine."
Qaradawi came to Gaza as head of a delegation of 50 clerics from 14 countries.
Meanwhile Haniyeh granted Qaradawi a Palestinian passport. In response, the PA Ministry of Interior has said the passport was “fake”, notifying countries that recognize Palestine to take legal action to seize the passport if it is used.
Finally, and Hondurus announced that they had established diplomatic relations on May 10, during the Foreign Minister Riyad Al Malki’s Central America tour.