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Source: Division for Palestinian Rights
30 April 1999

5
D i v i s i o n f o r P a l e s t i n i a n R i g h t s



Chronological Review of Events Relating to the
Question of Palestine

Monthly media monitoring review


April 1999


4

Israeli police took preliminary steps to close three Palestinian offices in East Jerusalem. Police spokesperson Shmuel Ben-Ruby said notices of the upcoming closure were delivered to the offices concerned and that they had 12 hours to express in writing their reservations to a closure. Palestinian lawyers were preparing to appeal. (AFP)

Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Arens said Israel would build more Jewish settlements in Hebron. The Voice of Palestine reported that Mr. Arens spoke to local Jewish settlers while laying down a cornerstone for a new settlement that was to be built near Dabouya in Hebron. Meanwhile, Israeli troops in Hebron shut down the Al-Ibrahimi Mosque to enable local Jewish settlers to celebrate Passover. (XINHUA)

5

Israel again closed the Karni commercial crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel as part of a long-running dispute over Israel’s unilateral tripling of transit fees of Palestinian cargo trucks. The crossing had been closed last month after Palestinians refused to agree to the new tariff structure but later reopened the crossing after a two-day standoff. (AFP)

A poll conducted by the Peace Research Center of Tel Aviv University revealed that 56 per cent of Jewish Israelis polled believed that the Palestinian demand for an independent state was “justified.” Forty-three per cent answered in the negative, down from 49 per cent six months ago. (AFP, XINHUA)


8

Israel agreed to hold off for now from closing two Palestinian offices in East Jerusalem, the offices of PA President Arafat’s adviser on Christian affairs and the prisoners’ support group, after their lawyer told the Israeli Supreme Court that his clients’ activities were not linked to the PA. The Palestinian news agency, WAFA, had earlier been removed from the closure list. The parties would try to come to a definite agreement on the matter next week. (AFP)



9

About 150 Peace Now activists held a demonstration in Hebron to protest against the Israeli Government’s policy of building more Jewish settlements in the city. Several Jewish settler leaders tried to intervene but were stopped by Israeli police. An organizer of the protest said the peace activists were coming from different parts of Israel. (XINHUA)

10

One Israeli naval vessel opened fire at a Palestinian fishing boat off the southern coast of the Gaza Strip, wounding two Palestinian fishermen. The Israeli naval patrol intercepted the Palestinian fishing boats and asked them to stop for inspection. One of the boats did not stop, and the patrol vessel opened fire. (XINHUA)

11

US Secretary of State Albright criticised Israeli expansion of settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip during a meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Sharon who was in Washington. A spokesman for Mr. Sharon said settlement was not considered a unilateral action and that all extensions were on government land, not confiscated land. US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Indyk, while in Israel, reiterated the Administration’s displeasure with the policy. He urged Israel to stop these activities that could affect and prejudge the negotiations. (AFP, Reuters, The Jerusalem Post, XINHUA)

Israel’s Interior Ministry announced it would halt withdrawal of identity cards of the Palestinians born in Jerusalem but living outside the city. The Ministry’s decision was made in response to Jerusalem Mayor Olmert who said that withdrawing identity cards had not achieved “positive results,” but forced more Palestinians to return to Jerusalem. According to Palestinian statistics, more than 25,000 Palestinians have returned to East Jerusalem during the past several years. (XINHUA)
12

A dozen Israeli settlers occupied a hill near Hebron, located at the northern entrance to the city and 200 meters away from the nearest Palestinian house. The settlers, who were armed, arrived under the cover of darkness, bringing with them tents and a water tank. Israeli soldiers were quickly deployed in the area but there had been no immediate move to evict the settlers. According to the Bethlehem-based Applied Research Institute, the latest incident brought to 18 the number of hills that have been seized since the Wye River agreement. (AFP)

Jordanian Prime Minister Abdel Raouf al-Rawabdah announced that a referendum would be conducted by the people of Jordan, as well as Palestinians living there, to choose what form the unity between them would take after the establishment of a full sovereign State of Palestine. He also stated that Jordan would play an important role in the final status talks between the Palestinians and Israel, particularly talks involving refugees, water distribution, borders and security. (XINHUA)



13

Armed Israeli settlers occupied new land outside two existing West Bank settlements, firing shots in the air when approached by Palestinian journalists. The settlers placed five mobile homes near the “Yakir” and “Novim” settlements south of the West Bank town of Nablus. Reports said a Palestinian family at the site was forced to move out of its own mobile home when the Israeli army destroyed their house in 1982. Palestinian and Israeli peace groups have also accused Israel of building on the outer boundaries of existing settlements, notably on hilltops, in an effort to keep the maximum amount of land under Israeli control. Meanwhile, Israeli Foreign Minister Sharon said the Jewish settlers had government approval to seize new hilltops, adding that such moves were acts of self-defence. (AFP, AP)
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The Israeli Peace Now Movement said it had recorded 3,900 housing starts in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, up from 1,900 in 1997 and 1,680 in 1996. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu insisted that the new housing was needed for the “natural growth.” However, according to Peace Now, the number of housing starts registered inside Israel in 1998 fell 20 per cent from 1997 to 38,020 units. (AFP)

22

According to Middle East Newsline, Arafat has decided to seek approval for a declaration of statehood on June 4, a one-month delay of his original date to announce independence. Arafat would present the proposal to the Palestinian Central Council (PCC) for discussion and approval. The 124-member PCC meeting called for a meeting on 27 April to discuss whether to delay a declaration of a Palestinian State. (Reuters, UNTSO).

A large number of Palestinians demonstrated in the Old City of Jerusalem against Israel’s policy of revoking the residency status and confiscating identity cards of Palestinians who were born in Jerusalem but lived outside the city. Israel’s Supreme Court ordered the government to explain why it has revoked the residency permits of hundreds of Palestinians living in the city. (AP, XINHUA)


23

An expected call for an early July summit in Washington to discuss ways of implementing the Wye River memorandum and interim agreement and to determine a time table for negotiations on a permanent agreement between the PA and Israel was reported in Yediot. (UNTSO)

The Commission on Human Rights condemned Israeli settlement policy and other activities in the occupied Arab territories, citing continued violations such as torture of Palestinians as well as the expropriation of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem. (Reuters.

The Israeli weekly Kol Hazman highlighted a new area of conflict in East Jerusalem where some Jewish worshippers have been frequenting the `small [western] wall in the Arab Quarter’ and were confronting Palestinians. (UNTSO)

A family of Israeli settlers had set up home in a large container on a hill in the West Bank, Israeli public radio reported. Peace Now said settlers moved into a structure set up on a hill located several hundred meters from the West Bank settlement of Maaleh Levona, which was just over 18 kilometers north of Ramallah. (AFP, AP)
25

A right-wing MP announced that Israeli settlers planned to take over nine houses in East Jerusalem. The buildings in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood had been acquired by the ultra-nationalist religious group ‘Mityashvei Tzion’, which is run by MP Benny Elon of the extreme right-wing Moledet party. The aim was to create continuity on the ground between west and east Jerusalem, Elon told Israeli public radio. (AFP) 26

The Palestinian Legislative Council left open the door to continued peace talks with Israel, passing a resolution that did not mention a declaration of statehood on 4 May. The non-binding resolution, adopted 41-1, with two abstentions, was issued a day before Arafat was to convene the Palestinian Central Council. Many Palestinian legislators were also members of the PCC which had been widely expected to decide to postpone a statehood declaration. (AP)

Israeli police formally notified Palestinian officials that three offices in the Palestinian headquarters in east Jerusalem would be closed. Palestinian officials said the three offices at Orient House had no ties to the Palestinian Authority. Observers said Netanyahu was seeking a confrontation now because he hoped it would win him votes in the 17 May elections. (AP)

27

PA President Arafat convened the Palestinian Central Council (PCC) to decide whether to declare a Palestinian state on 4 May. (AP)

Israel welcomed yesterday's United States call for Israel and the Palestinians to reach a final peace deal within a year, saying that it put pressure on Arafat to back down from declaring a State in the West Bank and Gaza. Netanyahu stressed that the new target date for completion of an agreement was not a deadline. (Reuters.

Settlers moved into seven homes in an Arab neighbourhood of Jerusalem, as friction grew between Israel and the Palestinians for control over the city. (AP)

Israel had secretly begun laying the groundwork for the construction of a new city in the occupied West Bank, the Ma'ariv daily reported. When completed, the city will have 8,000 housing units, in two neighbourhoods - one for ultra-orthodox and one for secular Israelis. The first stage of 2,000 housing units would be completed within four years, the paper said. The city was reportedly being built on land from the nearby Israeli settlement of "Ofarim," which was inhabited by 180 families. It was located just over the ‘green line.’ The Housing Ministry denied the report that it was planning to build an entire new city next to the small West Bank settlement of "Ofarim" and said only 200 units were being built near "Ofarim," based on a 1990 plan. (AP, DPA)
28

A spokesman for Hamas in Gaza said that it would participate in general elections and join a Palestinian government, once a state had been established. (AP)

Palestinian police shot and wounded an Israeli soldier when his army patrol entered into a West Bank village area under Palestinian rule. (Reuters)

The Commission on Human Rights adopted yesterday a resolution on the Palestinians' right to self-determination by a vote of 44 in favour to 1 against (US), with 8 abstentions. (XINHUA

Donor countries assisting the cash-strapped UNRWA opened a meeting in Amman to discuss the 1999 budget, amid strike threats by its 22,000 employees. (AFP)
29

The Palestinian Central Council (PCC) voted overwhelmingly to postpone making a final decision on the declaration of an independent Palestinian State. A statement issued after the meeting said that Palestinians would begin a new period of establishing the Palestinian State on the ground. The PCC decided to reconvene meeting in June, and make its final decision on the statehood issue. The statement also said that committees charged with preparatory work for statehood, including formulating the constitution and election laws, would be formed. The PCC also expressed thanks to Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the spiritual leader of HAMAS, for his participation in the meeting as an observer, which was regarded as a big step forward in the direction of national reconciliation. The US had sent a letter to PA President Arafat on the eve of the meeting, suggesting the extension of the interim period by another year, to give Israelis and Palestinians more time to work out a final settlement of their conflict. (AFP, AP, DPA, XINHUA)

At the meeting in Amman, donor Governments agreed to grant new funds to UNRWA, but officials warned that the agency’s financial position remained “difficult.” The US agreed to provide an additional US$4 million, bringing its total contribution for 1999 to US$77 million. Other Governments also pledged new funds including Canada (40 percent higher than its 1998 contribution), United Kingdom (US$11 million), France (increase by US$ 170,000), Japan (US$ 6.7 million for UNRWA’s food aid programme) and Australia (US$ 16 million for Palestinians for the next three years, with $8 million for UNRWA activities). UNRWA Commissioner-General Peter Hansen said the 1999 budget had a cumulative deficit of US$ 60million and US$70 million for the year 2000. He was continuing talks with representatives of the agency’s 22,000 staff to head off a strike threat. (AFP)


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