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Source: Division for Palestinian Rights
31 December 1996










CHRONOLOGICAL REVIEW OF EVENTS

RELATING TO THE QUESTION OF PALESTINE

December 1996










Monitored from the media by the
Division for Palestinian Rights

1 December - The League of Arab States met in Cairo for a special
session on Israeli settlements policy in the Palestinian territory and the Golan Heights.


During the extraordinary session, the League delegations called
"on all countries to stop any financial aid capable of being used for settlements," the Palestinian delegate Mohammad Sobeih said, quoting a statement. (dpa)



1 December - Israeli soldiers "humiliated" Palestinian women
by forcing them to strip naked during raids on their homes in the West Bank city of Hebron last month, B'tselem, an Israeli human rights center, reported.


In late-night raids on seven apartments in Hebron on November 19 and 26, "security forces forced seven women to undress from head to toe in the presence of women soldiers or policewomen," the center said in a statement.


Two pregnant women -- Attaf Abu Miala, 32, and Iman al-Qawasmi, 18, were beaten as they stripped. Qawasmi, seven months pregnant, was beaten in the stomach, said Yael Stein, a B'tselem official. (AFP)



2 December - French President Jacques Chirac warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the danger of a flare-up in Middle East violence.

During a 40-minute meeting on the sidelines of the OSCE summit which began in Lisbon on, Chirac urged Israel to "make a gesture which will change the atmosphere."

For several months, he said, "there has not been a positive gesture from the Israeli authorities" which he said "counted for a lot in the misunderstandings we can see at the moment."


Chirac said he considered a resumption of talks between Israel and Syria was possible on condition the principle of exchanging territory for peace was accepted. (AFP)


3 December - Israel has confiscated over half the land in the
West Bank and Gaza Strip since occupying them in 1967 and confiscations have continued during the peace process, the Palestinian information ministry said in a report received by AFP. Land confiscated by Israel in the Palestinian territories since 1967 totals 300,000 hectares (741,000 acres), over 51 percent of the total area of the West Bank and Gaza.


Since September 1993, when Israel and the PLO signed the declaration of principles leading to self-rule, Israel has confiscated 30,000 hectares (74,100 acres) of land, the report said. In the West Bank, 74 percent of the land has been confiscated, while 40 percent of Gaza has been expropriated. (AFP)



4 December - Palestinians trapped on the Libyan-Egyptian border were staging a hunger strike for the fifth day running on Wednesday as a "demonstration of their despair," Eric Stobbaerts, the local head of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF, Doctors Without Borders), told AFP.

Egyptian security sources at the Sallum border post said the six were holed up in a tent near a highway between Libya and Egypt and were still fasting on Wednesday. The six are among a group of 200 Palestinians stuck at the border since September 1995, after Libya expelled thousands of Palestinians to protest the peace accords with Israel. (AFP)
   

5 December - The European Union's first Middle East peace envoy, Miguel Angel Moratinos, started work Thursday and said he had been given a warm welcome by both Palestinians and Israelis. Moratinos, who is also Spain's ambassador to Israel, met with Palestinian President Yasser Arafat in Gaza City before holding talks at the Israeli foreign ministry.

"I received a very warm welcome, from President Arafat as well as from the Israelis," the diplomat told AFP. "There was no cool reception from the Israelis, quite the opposite. They have appreciated the appointment of an EU special envoy," he added. (AFP)



6 December - Israel's housing ministry is planning to construct 20,000 housing units in Jewish settlements around Jerusalem, the newspaper Kol Ha'ir said Friday.

Noting that this will place the new dwellings inside West Bank
territory, the paper said 7,500 units would be built in the settlement of Maale Adumim, bringing its population up to 60,000 from the current 23,000. Another 5,500 housing units would be constructed in the settlement of Beitar, 1,300 in Givat Zeev near Jerusalem and 900 in Efrat near Bethlehem.


In addition the ministry would turn 5,000 already finished apartments over to tenants next year. Half of these were in Maale Adumim, and others in Efrat, Kiryat Arba near Hebron, Givat Ze'v and Beitar near Jerusalem. (dpa)



8 December - Israel's interior ministry formally submitted on
Sunday a plan to build a Jewish neighborhood in the heart of annexed Arab East Jerusalem despite Palestinian warnings the project could spark violent protests. Interior Minister Eli Suissa put the plan to build 132 housing units for Jews in the Ras al-Amud quarter to his ministry's committee for planning and construction, officials said.


It would be the first homes built specifically for Jews in the heart of the Arab part of Jerusalem.

The site in Ras al-Amud, which has an Arab population of 11,000, was purchased by a wealthy Miami businessman, Irving Moskowitz. He is one of the key donors behind Ateret Cohanim, a radical movement which promotes Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem. (Haaretz)



8 December - A total of 625 Gazans have been killed by Israelis
since the beginning of the Intifada, 140 of them since the start of the peace process in 1994, said a report issued Sunday for the ninth anniversary of the Palestinian uprising. The Gaza Center for Rights and Law also said in the report that 61,582 Palestinians in Gaza had been injured by Israeli bullets or gas since 8 December 1987, the start of the Intifada uprising.


More than 5,000 Palestinians are in Israeli prisons, the report said, adding that 14 Palestinians have died in prison since 1987. (AFP)



9 December - Hundreds of Palestinian students broke into the campus of Hebron University, demanding the re-opening of the university which has been long closed by Israel. Hebron University was closed after a 1994 massacre by a Jewish settler of 29 Palestinians praying in Hebron's Ibrahimi Mosque, but some classes have since been held in a small apartment building elsewhere in the city. (AFP)


10 December - Israel and the Palestinian Authority have agreed
to extend for another month the mandate of unarmed Norwegian observers in Hebron.


The observer force, known as the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH), deployed early this year in preparation for Israel's troop withdrawal from most of the city as called for under the Israeli/PLO agreement. Pending the outcome of negotiations, the TIPH mandate has regularly been renewed for one-month periods. (AFP)


10 December - Palestinians clashed with Israeli forces on Tuesday at two sites in the occupied West Bank.

In the city of Hebron, Palestinians scuffled with Israeli troops who prevented about 1,500 students from entering Hebron University, which Israel shut in 1994.

In the Jordan Valley near Jericho, Palestinian Agriculture Minister Abdel-Jawwad Saleh led 100 Palestinians in a protest against attempts by Jewish settlers to plough lands controlled by the Israeli military that the PLO says should fall under Palestinian self-rule. (Reuter)


10 December
- Israel is attempting to force Palestinians with
US passports to surrender American citizenship by blackmailing them over residency in annexed East Jerusalem, the US consul general to Jerusalem told AFP Tuesday. "It appears the Israeli interior minister is using procedures to force Palestinians to give up United States citizenship in order to renew their Jerusalem residency," Edward Abington said. "We consider this an attempt to force US citizens to renounce their citizenship under duress. We have complained to the ministry about this but it has said there is no new policy in force." (AFP)



11 December - Suspected Palestinian Gunmen shot dead a twelve- year-old Israeli boy and his mother in a drive-by shooting near the West Bank town of Ramallah. Five others, all from the same family, were wounded. It was reported that after the attack on the Israeli settlers the gunmen's car, with number plates issued by the Palestinian Authority, sped off toward the city of Ramallah in the West Bank.

In response to the attack, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the army to blockade Ramallah and surrounding villages and announced he sent a "sharp message" to Yasser Arafat, President of the Palestinian Authority. (The Washington Post)


13 December - The Israeli government decided on a vast incentive program to speed up growth of settlements in the West Bank, brushing aside international criticism and Palestinian warnings. A cabinet meeting approved Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's proposal to declare the West Bank settlements "national priority" zones. The status grants them tax breaks and subsidies, government spokesman Moshe Vogel said. Vogel insisted Israel was acting "within the framework of the Oslo accords" with the Palestinians, which he said allowed expansion of existing settlements in the self-rule areas. (AFP)


14 December - The 15 European Union leaders, at a summit in Dublin, the Irish capital, addressed a series of demands to Israel to ease a blockade on the Palestinian territories and instructed their special Middle East envoy to promote them as immediate measures.

"The European Council is gravely concerned by the continuing deterioration in the peace process," the statement said. It called on all parties to discourage violence. It also said that "The settlements issue is eroding confidence in the peace process,... "Settlements contravene international law and are a major obstacle to peace. The European Council urges the Israeli authorities to remove all restrictions except where Israel's legitimate security interests are manifestly engaged, as in the case of
acts of terrorism," the draft said. Among the detailed demands the EU special envoy was instructed to make were:



18 December - Egypt and Israel signed an agricultural protocol in Cairo on the occasion of a biannual joint Egyptian-Israeli agricultural committee meeting, the Egyptian news agency MENA reported. (AFP)


18 December - British Prime Minister John Major warned Israel's leaders on Wednesday not to inflame tension by expanding Jewish settlements in disputed areas.

"In the current tense atmosphere ... it will be all the more important for both sides to avoid anything that could be construed as provocation," Major told a dinner attended by senior figures with links to Israel.


"The question of Israeli settlements is again becoming urgent. It is hard to see how the reports of settlement expansion there and of the renewed financial incentives can do other than inflame the situation," he warned. (Reuter)


19 December - Pope John Paul and Palestinian President Yasser Arafat discussed the Middle East peace process and tensions in Jerusalem on Thursday during their fifth meeting, the Vatican said. (Reuter)


23 December - Arab education ministers decided on Monday to make 1997 the year of Jerusalem in support of its cultural and education institutions in order to preserve its "Arab identity." In a statement after a four-day meeting at the League of Arab States headquarters in Cairo, the ministers also called on their governments to make the question of Jerusalem "a top priority." (AFP)


24 December - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat met at Erez Crossing in search of an agreement to end Israeli occupation of Hebron and revive the peace process, but officials said a final deal was unlikely to emerge from the day's talks. (AFP)


26 December - A group of radical rabbis have renewed a religious decree ruling that soldiers must disobey orders to withdraw from Hebron or other West Bank territory, it was reported Thursday. The group, which calls itself "The Rabbis Unite for the People of Israel and the Land of Israel," said Jewish law forbids "giving away parts of Israel, and especially Hebron," according to reports in the Israeli press. (AFP)


27 December - Rejecting right-wing opposition to Israel's planned withdrawal from Hebron, Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai said Friday that the government would not permit radicals to "set the region on fire" just to save some "ruins" in the explosive city. "Do you really think we ought to go and fight over some house from 1929 that Arabs have been living in for 30 years," Mordechai said in an interview published in the Maariv newspaper, referring to settler efforts to reclaim Jewish property abandoned after Arab riots in Hebron in 1929.

"It is possible we could have gotten more in this or that corner of Hebron, but that is the nature of negotiations. And today, because of some houses in ruins should we set the whole region on fire" by refusing to withdraw? he asked. (AFP)



28 December - The Israeli army announced Saturday the reopening
of Hebron University, closed after a 1994 massacre by a Jewish settler of 29 Palestinians praying in the Ibrahimi Mosque. "The opening of the university was made possible after the institute's management committed itself to keeping law and order there," the army said in a statement. (AFP)



30 December - An Israeli settler killed a Palestinian in the Jewish settlement of Kfar Darom in Gaza, Israeli police said. The settler said he had been attacked by the Palestinian and was acting in self defense. According to settlers who witnessed the incident, the Palestinian had broken into the settlement and attacked a settler, who had called for help. Another settler opened fire, killing the Palestinian. Israeli police were investigating the matter. Palestinian police confirmed that the Palestinian had been killed by an Israeli settler and opened their own investigation. (AFP)


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