Palestinian fury as Israel unveils building plans

2014-10-27 22:32
(Dan Balilty, AP)

(Dan Balilty, AP)

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Jerusalem - Israel pledged on Monday to build more than 1 000 new settler homes in Arab east Jerusalem, in a move the Palestinians warned was likely to trigger an "explosion" of violence.

The announcement by the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu angered the Palestinians who said it would inflame tensions in the eastern sector of the city which has been plagued by almost daily clashes for the past four months.

"The government has decided to advance the planning of more than 1 000 units in Jerusalem - roughly 400 in Har Homa and about 600 in Ramat Shlomo," a source in Netanyahu's office told AFP.

The source also confirmed that Israel was to advance plans "for infrastructure projects in the West Bank", without giving further details.

The news emerged just weeks after hardline settlers took over 35 homes in Silwan, a densely populated Palestinian neighbourhood on the southern edge of the Old City, sparking fury in the West Bank city of Ramallah and condemnation from Washington.

Nabil Abu Rudeina, a spokesperson for Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, slammed the move as a "dangerous escalation" that had the potential to create an "earthquake" in the region.

And Jibril Rajoub, a senior member of Abbas's Fatah faction, warned it would likely fuel further violence.

"Such unilateral acts will lead to an explosion," he told foreign journalists in Ramallah just days after a 21-year-old Palestinian from Silwan rammed his car into a crowd of Israelis, killing an infant and a young woman.

"The Israelification of east Jerusalem is the most provocative act for us as Palestinians, as Muslims, as Christians, as Arabs," he said.

The root cause

"The root cause [of the ongoing unrest] is the Israeli occupation - the frustration, the disappointment, losing hope in the future are all symptoms of what is going on on the ground," Rajoub said.

"Even the Americans have started to understand that Mr Netanyahu is responsible for what's going on."

But in a speech for the opening of the Israeli parliament's winter session, Netanyahu denied that Israel's actions in east Jerusalem had fuelled anger on the Palestinian street.

"The violence against us is not the result of construction in Jerusalem... it is because of our enemies' desire that we not be here at all," he said, pledging to crack down on the unrest until calm was restored to the city.

"You cannot build peace on a foundation of lies and illusions. And the root of this conflict always has been and always will be the refusal to recognise the Jewish state in any borders at all," he said.

Over the weekend, police fired tear gas at hundreds of Palestinians participating in a "symbolic funeral" for the perpetrator of the car attack, Abdelrahman Shaludi, who was shot by police as he tried to flee the scene, later dying of his injuries.

The incident, which took place on Wednesday evening, sparked clashes between stone-throwers and police in several Palestinian neighbourhoods which raged late into the night.

Clashes continued until Shaludi was buried late Sunday night under tight security restrictions, with the number of mourners restricted to 50.

'Jerusalem is burning'

Lior Amichai of Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now also said the announcement on construction in Har Homa and Ramat Shlomo was likely to boost tensions.

"There is never a good time to do such things, now more than ever as Jerusalem is burning," he told AFP.

Israel seized east Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community. It views the city as its undivided capital and does not view construction in the eastern sector as settlement building.

But for the Palestinians, who want east Jerusalem as capital of their future state, Israel's ongoing construction there is a major issue.

Israel's settlement policy was one of the main reasons for the collapse of the latest US-led round of peace talks in April, prompting the Palestinians to push ahead with diplomatic plans to seek international recognition.

Read more on:    palestine  |  israel

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