Question of Palestine home
31 March 1997
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
The Russian Federation considered Israel’s decision to build a new Jewish settlement south of East Jerusalem a mistake. Speaking in London, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov said: “In our view, the plans to settle Jerusalem with Israeli families will hinder the progress of the political process. I would like to recall that all the leading States of the world, including the United States and Great Britain, came out against this decision. We hope that, under the influence of the public opinion, the Israeli Government will renounce its plans.”
Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat arrived in Washington, D.C. on a four-day visit, which includes talks with President Bill Clinton. Mr. Arafat was also planning to meet with World Bank representatives and officials at the United States Department of State.
(AFP, CNN, Reuters)
Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem observed a general strike to protest against Israeli new settlement plans. Shops, businesses, public transport facilities, schools and Palestinian government offices across the West Bank and the Gaza Strip were closed following a call issued by the Palestinian Council.
(AFP, DPA, Reuters)
Saudi Arabia condemned Israel’s new Jewish settlement decision. The Saudi Cabinet said in a statement, carried by
Saudi Press Agency
, that it viewed the plan as “illegal and illegitimate, as well as constituting a serious violation of international treaties and accords.” It also said that the Israeli move showed the Jewish State was “proceeding with its plans aimed at the Judaization of Jerusalem and obliterating its Islamic identity and Arab character.”
The Gulf Cooperation Council condemned the latest settlement decision by Israel. A statement issued by the GCC said: “The Israeli Government’s latest decision … poses a massive threat to the process of building confidence and peace in the Middle East. It also threatens a return to the atmosphere of tension and violence in the region.”
Speaking before 2,000 members of the Likud party in Tel Aviv, Prime Minister Netanyahu said: “If someone wants to declare, today, the establishment of a Palestinian State, let him do it. It will be a serious mistake, a severe mistake, that will bring a halt to the entire process.”
PA President Arafat met with President Clinton in the White House for talks on the peace process.
(AFP, DPA, FNS, Reuters)
The Knesset rejected a motion of “no confidence” presented by left-wing opposition parties against Prime Minister Netanyahu over the Har Homa settlement issue.
Prime Minister Netanyahu pledged to quickly carry out the first phase of Israeli troop redeployment from the West Bank rural areas.
The European Union Middle East peace envoy Miguel Angel Moratinos met with Prime Minister of Jordan Abdul-Karim al-Kabariti in Amman. Following his talks, Mr. Moratinos said: “We have been in close contact with the Palestinians and we have been in contact with the Israeli authorities … to try to avoid decisions [that] can undermine the goodwill between the parties and the peace process.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu vowed to start work on a new Jewish settlement within days. Speaking on
Israeli Army Radio
, Netanyahu said: “It’s two weeks from the standpoint of the bulldozers. From the standpoint of the survey work, it’s only a few days. We are determined to go on building in Jerusalem.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu ordered four PA offices in East Jerusalem closed within 48 hours or be shut down. “The Prime Minister ordered the closure of four institutions, which are dependent on the PA and are directly financed by it”, said David Bar-Illan, media adviser to the Prime Minister. The names of the offices were not disclosed by the Israeli authorities, but Arabic newspapers identified them as the Palestinian Mapping Office, the Palestinian Small Businesses Project, the Palestinian Institute for the Wounded, and the National Islamic Committee Confronting Settlements. Saeb Erakat, chief Palestinian peace negotiator, said in reaction to the order: “I think this is part of Netanyahu’s war on the peace process. This is uncalled for because these offices are independent of the PA and the PLO, and they (the Israelis) know this. This all comes 10 days before the final status negotiations. I believe he (Netanyahu) has a calculated plan to ruin the peace process.”
(AFP, AP, Reuters)
Following a meeting between President Clinton and PA President Arafat a US-Palestinian committee was formed, which would regularize contacts on trade, technology and cultural affairs.
t the request of the Arab League and following a closed-door briefing of the Security Council by the PA President Arafat, the Council began its two-day debate of the issue of Israeli plans for a new Jewish settlement in a Jerusalem neighbourhood of Jabal Abu Ghneim (Har Homa).
Israeli soldiers backed Palestinian residents of the West Bank village of Kafr Qaddum, west of Nablus, in halting bulldozer work by Jewish settlers trying to expand the settlement of Kedumim.
According to Israeli Ministry of Industry and Trade, Egypt, Israel, Jordan and the PA will hold a regional food exhibition in Tel Aviv, in February 1998, under the auspices of the United States. The decision was taken by the “Taba Forum”, a body formed following the signing by Israel of agreements with Jordan and the PLO.
The Security Council concluded a two-day debate on the issue of Israel’s plans to build new Jewish settlement in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Jabal Abu Ghneim (Har Homa). Informal consultations continued on a draft resolution, proposed by the Council’s European Union members, among other things, calling upon Israel to refrain from any action or measure, which alters the facts on the ground, pre-empting the final status negotiations, and to abide by its legal obligations and responsibilities under the Fourth Geneva Convention. It also called upon all parties to continue their negotiations within the Middle East peace process. Virtually all the speakers criticized Israel’s decision to build the settlement.
(AFP, Inter Press Service, Reuters, Yomiuri Shimbun, XINHUA)
Israeli Foreign Ministry issued a protest over EU efforts to pass the Security Council resolution. A statement sent by the Foreign Ministry to EU Governments reportedly expressed “Israel’s serious reservations over the European countries’ activity and initiative in the UN Security Council debate”. In the statement, Foreign Ministry Director-General Eytan Ben-Tsur said “the actions and statements of the European representatives reflected one-sided positions, which negatively single out Israel and do not contribute to the advancement of the peace process”.
After a seven-hour overnight debate, Israeli Cabinet voted 10-7, over the strong objections of right-wing hardliners, to back a proposal by Prime Minister Netanyahu to withdraw from 9 to 10 per cent of the West Bank. Two other proposals, raised in the meeting, called for handing over to the PA of 5 and 7 per cent of the West Bank territory. The withdrawal will be the first phase of a three-phase withdrawal to be completed by mid-1998.
(AFP, AP, Reuters, The Jerusalem Post)
Some 3,000 Palestinians and Israeli peace activists marched in a peaceful protest from the town of Beit Sahour, south of Jerusalem, to the site where Israel had decided to build a new Jewish settlement. Organizers of the march sought to avoid any confrontation with the army. Soldiers of Israel’s Givati Infantry Brigade in battle gear, backed by snipers and at least one machine-gun, took up positions on a hill overlooking the demonstration. In Jerusalem, Israeli police deployed an extra 2,300 men to prevent a possible unrest. Faisal Husseini, a PA official in charge of Jerusalem affairs, said: “If we do not succeed in stopping them from building … it means that the peace process will be stopped.” Saeb Erakat, chief Palestinian peace negotiator, told
: “I think we are facing a real crisis in the peace process now and when I say a real crisis I mean it.”
(AFP, AP, Reuters)
The United States vetoed a Security Council resolution, drafted by the Council European Union members, calling on Israel to refrain from its plans to build a new Jewish settlement in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Jabal Abu Ghneim. The vote was 14 in favour to 1 against. Following the Council vote, Nasser Al-Kidwa, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the UN, requested that an emergency special session of the General Assembly be convened. He said: “In view of the failure of the Council to fulfil its obligations, we would request the members of the United Nations to agree to a meeting of the General Assembly in an emergency session … to take an appropriate action in that regard.”
(AFP, Reuters, The Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service)
The PA and the PLO Executive Committee accused the Israeli Government of planning to isolate East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank area. The two bodies met in the PA President’s offices in the Gaza City to discuss the Israeli plans to build 6,500 homes for Jews south of East Jerusalem. The statement issued after the meeting also criticized Israel’s stated intention to redeploy from 9 per cent of the West Bank, saying that it was only redeploying from 2 per cent of the West bank, while the other 7 per cent were already under Palestinian jurisdiction.
Following a three-hour meeting with the Israeli Foreign Minister in Jerusalem, the Palestinian side rejected Israel’s decision to withdraw from 9 per cent of the West Bank. Mohammed Dahlan, a Palestinian negotiator, said: “We totally reject their percentage. We informed them that this was not acceptable.” Israeli side, in turn, announced that it was freezing the redeployment pending a decision by the PA President Arafat.
Israeli police delayed the closure of the offices of four Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem. The attorney, Jawad Bulos, submitted his arguments against the closure orders to representatives of the Israeli Ministry of Public Security.
Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), the chief Palestinian negotiator, handed PA President Arafat his resignation in protest at Israel’s decision to redeploy from 9 per cent of the West Bank. The Palestinian side expected a 30 per cent Israeli redeployment in each of the three redeployment phases to be completed in mid-1998.
Israeli soldiers in Hebron beat Palestinians who tried to stop workers from opening a road for Jewish settlers through land claimed by the Palestinians.
Concluding his talks with Fares Boueiz, the Foreign Minister of Lebanon, the EU Special Envoy Miguel Angel Moratinos said he was trying to convince leaders in the region of a new formula aimed at reviving the Middle East peace process. He said: “I talked about the formula: complete withdrawal in return for complete security. He (Boueiz) found it was a good formula that needs to be developed and which can satisfy all parties, Palestinians, Syrians, Lebanese and Israelis, because everyone will have what he is seeking. Some seek a withdrawal and to regain their territories and some others - total security.”
PA President Arafat invited diplomats from the United States, the Russian Federation, the European Union, Egypt, Jordan, Japan and Norway for a meeting in Gaza to be held later in the week. Nabil Abu Rudeineh said the participants in the meeting would “assess the peace process in its entirety and the crisis in the negotiations resulting from the Israeli practices.”
Russian President Yeltsin told the visiting Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu that he was concerned about Israel’s plans to build a new Jewish settlement in an East Jerusalem neighbourhood. A Kremlin statement said President Yeltsin “voiced concern about Israel’s unilateral steps in East Jerusalem.” The President said he hoped “the Israeli Government, in the current situation and in future, will weigh up all the circumstances and take decisions aimed at achieving peace and stability in the Middle East.”
France urged chief PLO negotiator Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) to reverse his decision to resign in protest to Israel’s hard-line policy. Jacques Rummelhardt, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, said: “We strongly desire that Abu Mazen, who played a very positive role in delicate negotiations with the Israelis, reverse his decision. We believe he has an important role to play in reviving the peace process. That is why we once again call for consultations between the two sides to find a solution.”
The PA President Arafat refused to accept the resignation of Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), a top Palestinian peace negotiator.
In an interview with the French Jewish weekly
, Hervé de Charette, Foreign Minister of France, said that negotiations between Israel and the PLO on Jerusalem should be accompanied by separate international talks on the city’s holy sites. He stated: “The status of Jerusalem will be agreed in the framework of talks between Israelis and Palestinians. But there are also religious aspects, which are the concern of the three religions. That is a separate question from the city’s status. And it will be up to the three religions to establish a status for the holy sites. When a status is established for the city and another for the holy sites, the solution will have been found for Jerusalem.”
The United States rebuffed Israeli attempts to discourage Governments from attending an international conference to consider the situation in the peace process following Israel’s decision to build a new Jewish settlement in an East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Jabal Abu Ghneim. The conference, to be convened by the PA President Arafat in Gaza City, is scheduled for 15 March. Expressing his Government’s opposition to the meeting, Foreign Minister David Levy said after his meeting with the US Ambassador Martin Indyk: “This act is against the agreements. Whoever thinks that such an outside forum will solve problems without us is wrong.” The US said it would attend the meeting. The US Consul General in Jerusalem Edward Abington: “We are going to the meeting that Yasser Arafat has invited us to attend. We regard this as a briefing on Arafat’s concerns about the peace process. We do not see it as an alternative forum in any way whatsoever to the peace process or direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.”
(AFP, AP, CNN, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)
At the request of Qatar, on behalf of the Arab Group of States at the United Nations, the General Assembly met to consider the situation with regard to the decision by Israel to build the new settlement at Jabal Abu Ghneim. The GA considered the issue under its agenda items “The situation in the Middle East” and “Question of Palestine”.
The Israeli army opened Palestinian civilian traffic on a 1.5 km (1 mi) road running near a Gaza Strip Jewish settlement of Netzarim. According to General Saeb al-Hijaz, commander of the Palestinian police in central Gaza, the road was opened for all traffic with the exception of buses and large trucks.
Israel’s Ministerial Committee on Jerusalem Affairs revoked an order to close down four Palestinian offices in East Jerusalem following a recommendation by the Minister of Public Security Avigdor Kahalani that the offices were not illegal branches of the PA.
(AFP, AP, Reuters)
The World Council of Churches condemned Israel’s decision to build a new Jewish settlement in an East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Jabal Abu Ghneim stating that it “constitutes one of the most serious violations of the Oslo Accord to date.” The WCC also said in the statement: “We believe that any unilateral decision, which alters the status of Jerusalem violates the spirit of the recent agreement and undermines the credibility of the Middle East peace process. The nature of Jerusalem, a holy city for three monotheistic faiths, has to be determined by its people, both Israeli and Palestinian.”
The General Assembly adopted a resolution (51/223) entitled “Israeli settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, in particular in occupied East Jerusalem”. The resolution was adopted with 130 votes in favour, 2 against (Israel, United States), with 2 abstentions (Marshall Islands, Micronesia).
The European Parliament adopted a resolution deploring Israel’s decision to build the new settlement. The resolution said that “such action is bound to have a negative impact on the peace negotiations.”
PA President Arafat convened an emergency session of the Palestinian Council in Bethlehem to work out plans aimed at confronting a series of recent decisions of the Israeli Government. He called on Israel to “preserve the peace process” and offered to meet Prime Minister Netanyahu to calm the increasing tensions.
The PA issued a statement with regard to the PA President Arafat’s call for an international conference on the peace process, scheduled to take place in Gaza City, on 15 March. In it, the PA expressed its concern at the Israeli decision to construct more Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and to redeploy its forces from no more than 2 per cent of the Palestinian territory. The statement criticized the position taken by the Israeli Government with respect to the Oslo accords. A reference was also made to the action on the issue of settlements by the Security Council and a veto cast by the United States.
(PA Ministry of Information)
The Israeli Cabinet decided to start construction of a new Jewish settlement in an area south of East Jerusalem on 17 or 18 March despite warnings by the security heads of a possible violent reaction to the building plan. Prime Minister Netanyahu told Israeli daily
: “I will, next week, build on Har Homa and nothing will stop me”.
PA President Arafat said on
he had “no objection” to meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu but only if the Prime Minister was ready to implement the agreements. The Prime Minister’s spokesman Shai Bazak said Israel was checking the possibility of an Arafat meeting and a visit by King Hussein of Jordan but “nothing has been set”.
Ignoring strong protests from Israel, representatives from the United States, the Russian Federation, the European Union, the UN, Egypt, Japan, Jordan and Norway attended a conference, convened by the PA President Arafat to discuss the latest developments affecting the peace process. The French Consul in Jerusalem represented the EU, the US was represented by Consul General Edward Abington and Russia by its ambassador to the PA Alexei Tchistiakov. Japan sent its Tel Aviv envoy, Egypt sent Deputy Foreign Minister Badr Hammam and Jordan sent Nayef Qadi, its ambassador to the Arab League. The UN was represented by its Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories and Norway sent its roving envoy to the Middle East. The conference was held at Mr. Arafat’s residence in Gaza City. Mr. Arafat warned the conference that the peace process was in danger. After the meeting, Edward Abington said the “meeting reflected the level of Palestinian frustration and feeling of powerlessness.” Moshe Fogel, an Israeli Government spokesman, called the conference an “act of bad faith”. He added that by defining the conference as one intended to save the peace process, the Palestinians were going outside the framework of the Interim Agreement.
(AFP, AP, Reuters, The Jerusalem Post, The Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service)
Faisal Husseini, PA member in charge of Jerusalem affairs, began a sit-in protest near the site at Jabal Abu Ghneim slated for a new Jewish settlement construction. Mr. Husseini and some 20 Palestinian supporters set up two tents near the site. He said: “We decided we will have a tent here to watch what is going on the mountain. If they enter with their bulldozers, we will enter.” Israeli Defence Minister Yitzhak Mordekhai: “I ordered the deployment of forces starting today along a very wide perimeter in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and along the seam (dividing Israel from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.”
Israel agreed to allow PA President Arafat to use a partially completed first Palestinian airport at Dahaniya in the Gaza Strip. Israeli concerns over possible smuggling of weapons and unauthorized persons into the self-rule areas have held up approval for the airport and for construction of a deep-water seaport in Gaza City.
(AFP, The Jerusalem Post)
According to UNRWA, it is facing a 50-million-dollar shortfall in funds this year that could lead to cuts in vital services. Speaking at Kuwait City, UNRWA Commissioner-General Peter Hansen said: “We, in UNRWA, reached a situation that makes it very difficult to manage the future. We are facing a major deficit. This deficit must be covered if we are to avoid the spectre of a reduction of services.”
Nasser Al-Kidwa, the Permanent Observer of Palestine to the UN, addressed identical letters to the Secretary-General and the President of the Security Council, urging the Council to take action with respect to Israel’s decision to build a new Jewish settlement south of East Jerusalem. The letter said the Council should “exercise its responsibilities under the Charter of the United Nations” and “demand immediate and full cessation of all Israeli settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, especially the settlement in the Jabal Abu Ghneim.”
Peace Now presented its latest report on changes in Jewish settlements under the present Government. The report cited statistics to uphold claims that during 1996 thousands of housing units had been approved by the Israeli Government for construction in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In addition, the report stated that there had been an increase in the population in these areas of 9.4 per cent (approximately 13,000 settlers). Peace Now also stated that up until the end of 1996, 4,000 units in Kiryat Sefer, Emmanuel, the Jordan Valley and Ma’ale Adumim had been approved for construction and an additional 3,000 units, that had been frozen under the previous Government, had been released for sale.
(The Jerusalem Post)
Following a morning meeting attended by Prime Minister Netanyahu, senior Israeli Cabinet ministers and security chiefs, Israel began work on the new Jewish settlement. Preparing for possible riots, the army declared the site a closed military area. PA President Arafat said he had ordered Palestinians to avoid violence as the work on the site begins. Saeb Erakat, a chief Palestinian negotiator, said the Palestinian leadership, composed of the PA Cabinet and the PLO Executive Committee would hold an emergency meeting to discuss a Palestinian response to the Israeli actions.
Israeli police scuffled with Palestinians near the site for the new Jewish settlement after bulldozers broke ground on the housing project. At least three students from Hebrew University were hurt trying to reach a Palestinian protest camp when Israeli soldiers hit them with rifle butts.
China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States, in statements by their respective Foreign Ministries, expressed concern at the decision of Israel to go forward with a new Jewish settlement construction at Jabal Abu Ghneim.
The statement issued by the spokesman of the Secretary-General read: “The Secretary-General has learned with disappointment and deep concern that, despite international appeals, the Israeli authorities have decided to proceed with construction at Abu Ghneim/Har Homa. He calls on the Parties to do their utmost to find mutually acceptable solutions and proceed with the peace negotiations.”
The PA lodged a formal protest with Israel over the start of the construction work at Jabal Abu Ghneim. The letter was handed to Israeli Cabinet Secretary Danny Naveh by chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat.
Palestine called upon the Security Council to convene an “immediate, official meeting” to consider the situation and adopt a resolution with regard to the serious situation brought about by the decision of Israel to start the settlement construction at Jabal Abu Ghneim.
Israel’s High Court of Justice rejected two appeals seeking a temporary halt to construction of the new settlement south of East Jerusalem. A third appeal was still pending before the court.
President Mubarak of Egypt criticized Israel for its decision to proceed with the construction at Jabal Abu Ghneim. At a press-conference after a series of meetings with his key Cabinet ministers to examine the latest developments facing the peace process, he said: “If this settlement is built this will not be the end of the whole thing. It will be the beginning of a new era of violence, which we would like to avoid.”
The Jerusalem Post
, in what appeared to be an attempt to regain its political offensive, the Legal Division of the Israeli Foreign Ministry issued a 15-point paper to its almost 100 diplomatic missions abroad alleging that the PA has systematically violated the “Note for the Record”, attached to the Hebron Protocol. The paper details those alleged violations.
(The Jerusalem Post)
Israeli troops fired tear-gas at some 500 Palestinian university students in Bethlehem. The clashes broke out during a Palestinian march protesting the start of work on a new settlement at Jabal Abu Ghneim. The students marched from the centre of the city to Rachel’s Tomb heavily guarded and barricaded by the Israeli army. One Palestinian was reported wounded in the leg when a soldier fired a rubber bullet to keep him from coming too close to Israeli lines.
(AFP, AP, Reuters)
Prime Minister Netanyahu reportedly proposed to the Palestinian side an accelerated timetable for negotiating the permanent status issues. According to this proposal, the two sides would focus on the permanent status issues with the negotiations completing within six months, but no later than nine months. The talks would move to a Camp David-style mediation supervised by the United States President Clinton, if necessary. A stipulation was included that should the two sides fail to reach agreement within the timetable, they would return to the current interim agreement, with the second and third redeployment phases occurring as planned. PA President’s spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said Arafat had received no official proposal, but if he had, it would not have been accepted. Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erakat commented on the issue: “It’ a new trick from Netanyahu and an attempt to divert people’s attention from the destruction of the peace process that is taking place by Israeli bulldozers on Jabal Abu Ghneim.”
(AP, Reuters, The Jerusalem Post)
The Palestinian Council, meeting in Gaza City, officially opened its second term. In a vote of 62 to 14, the Council re-elected Ahmed Qorei (Abu Ala) as its Speaker.
Speaking at the Palestinian Council session, PA President Arafat criticized Israel’s settlement policies and its position on Jerusalem: “The continuation of this irresponsible Israeli position threatens to destroy and undermine the whole peace process and endanger order and security in the region. … It must realize that settlements, like terrorism, do not go along with a just and lasting peace. Regarding Jerusalem, the Israeli Government must realize that this issue is not subject to compromise and that it is a Palestinian and an Arab and a Muslim and a Christian red line. There will be no peace and no stability in the region without the return of Jerusalem to be the capital of the Palestinian State.”
The PA condemned a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv that killed three people and wounded over 40.
(AFP, AP, CNN, Reuters)
Following the bombing in Tel Aviv, Israel imposed a closure on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
(AP, Reuters, The Jerusalem Post)
More than 1,000 Palestinians, protesting a Jewish settlement construction at Jabal Abu Ghneim, clashed with Israeli troops in Hebron. According to Palestinian sources, at least 13 youths were lightly injured by rubber bullets and more than 30 were treated for tear-gas inhalation. Protests were also held in other parts of the West Bank after the Friday noon prayer.
(AFP, AP, CNN, MSNBC, Reuters)
The Foreign Ministry of Japan announced that the country would provide some US$11 million to the UNDP to promote a job-creation project for Palestinians as part of Japan’s support for the Middle East peace process.
The United States vetoed a Security Council resolution, drafted by Egypt and Qatar, demanding that Israel “immediately cease construction of the Jabal Abu Ghneim settlement in East Jerusalem, as well as all other Israeli settlement activities in the occupied territories”. The vote was 13 in favour to 1 against with 1 abstention (Costa Rica).
Some 125 Palestinian protesters were injured in Hebron, when the Israeli soldiers fired live ammunition, rubber bullets and tear-gas.
(AFP, MSNBC, Reuters)
A one-day OIC summit, held at Islamabad, concluded its work. A special declaration on Jerusalem reaffirmed that the Holy City was “an integral part of the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.” The declaration urged the UN “to compel Israel to immediately halt its confiscation of Palestinian territory and the construction of new settlements”. The UN was also called upon to compel Israel “not to effect any geographic or demographic changes in the city of Al-Quds Al-Sharif”.
Israeli Minister of Public Security Avigdor Kahalani and the Palestinian Chief of Security in the West Bank Jibril Rajoub, following a meeting at Kahalani’s Jerusalem office, established a telephone “hot line” to boost coordination between their forces amid increasing tensions on the ground.
Hundreds of Palestinians clashed with Israeli troops in Bethlehem in protest to Israel’s decision to build a Jewish settlement at Jabal Abu Ghneim. Some 200 Palestinian police officers formed human chains to keep the protesters from the Israeli positions. Israeli soldiers responded with rubber bullets and tear-gas. Three Palestinians were wounded. A Palestinian was shot in the shoulder by a rubber bullet and five were arrested during stone-throwing protests in Hebron. About 1,000 Palestinians marched in a peaceful demonstration in Gaza. Later in the day, Israeli soldiers shot in the back and seriously wounded Ayman Qishteh, 29, who was trying to pass a military checkpoint at Rafah.
(AFP, AP, MSNBC, Reuters)
Speaking at the session of the UN Commission on Human Rights at Geneva, Hanan Ashrawi, PA Minister of Higher Education, accused Israel of endangering the peace process with extremism and territorial expansionism. Ashrawi’s speech was delayed by objections over whether she should be allowed to use the main podium microphone.
As Palestinian protests against Israel’s settlement policies went into the sixth day, more than 25 Palestinians were wounded by rubber-coated metal bullets in clashes with Israeli troops in Bethlehem. 90 others were taken to a hospital for treatment from tear-gas inhalation. About 200 youths briefly clashed with Israeli soldiers in a part of Hebron that is still under occupation.
(AFP, MSNBC, Reuters)
Israel and the Palestinians said they were prepared to meet each other to restore the peace process. PA President Arafat on a trip to Sri Lanka said he was prepared to meet Prime Minister Netanyahu. In Jerusalem, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s communications director David Bar-Illan said the Israeli leader had been willing to meet Arafat.
(AFP, MSNBC, Reuters)
Yevgeny Primakov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, quoted by
news agency, condemned all acts of terrorism, but also stressed concern over the start of construction of Israel’s new settlement south of East Jerusalem. Primakov said the status of Jerusalem had to be defined by negotiations on permanent status of Palestinian territories. He called on both parties to refrain from unilateral actions, which could harm negotiations.
Ahead of a GCC foreign ministers meeting in Riyadh, convened to consider a possible halt to the Gulf countries’ involvement in the multilateral track of the peace process, King Fahd of Saudi Arabia condemned Israel’s actions on Jerusalem. He said: “Saudi Arabia is following with extreme concern the repeated acts of aggression of the Israeli authorities against the city of Jerusalem, its holy places and its citizens. Such actions are in defiance of all international resolutions and conventions, which ban Israel from modifying the status of the territories it occupied in 1967, including Jerusalem. For Saudi Arabia, the question of Jerusalem is at the core of all Arab and Islamic causes.”
In view of Israel’s closure of the Palestinian territory, the United Arab Emirates decided to send US$2 million worth of food aid for the Palestinians.
Fierce clashes continued between Palestinians protesting Israel’s settlement activities and IDF troops in Bethlehem and Hebron. Clashes also erupted in other parts of the West Bank that remain under full Israeli control.
(AP, The Jerusalem Post)
The PA Ministry of Information issued a press release criticizing the Israeli Government for laying the blame for the recent Tel Aviv bombing on the PA. It accused Israel of building a new Jewish settlement south of East Jerusalem. The statement also criticized the US for vetoeing Security Council resolutions calling on Israel to refrain from building Jewish settlements in the occupied territory, thus “giving Netanyahu the green light to end the peace process”. It further called upon the US Administration to take a “clearer, more understood position” on the issue.
(PA Ministry of Information)
The Israeli army announced a slight easing of a closure on the entry into Israel of Palestinians from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, imposed after the Tel Aviv bombing. The closure prevented some 50,000 Palestinians from reaching day jobs inside Israel, notably in the farming and construction sectors.
The Jerusalem Post
, an Israeli-Palestinian environment protection group has recently been established under the motto “People to people - Nature knows no boundaries”. The group, known as The Israeli-Palestinian Environment and Nature Protection Secretariat, is the brainchild of Yossi Leshem, former executive director of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI). The project is financed by the Government of the Netherlands. The group plans to establish a joint centre, probably based in Jerusalem, with a Palestinian chairman and an Israeli director-general, create cooperative projects and establish SPNI-style field schools in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
At the UN, the Arab Group of States held a closed meeting to consider requesting an emergency special session of the General Assembly to address the issue of Israel’s settlement activities. Ambassador Nasser Bin Hamad Al-Khalifa of Qatar, Chairman of the Group for the month of March, cited the General Assembly “Uniting for peace” resolution adopted in November 1950. This calls for convening an emergency special session of the Assembly “within 24 hours of the receipt by the Secretary-General of a request for such a session from the Security Council, on the vote of any nine members thereof , or of a request from a majority of the Members of the United Nations expressed by vote in the Interim Committee”. No date for the session has yet been set. Ambassador Al-Khalifa said the Group was awaiting the outcome of a meeting in Rabat of the OIC Al-Quds Committee, the Arab League ministerial meeting in Cairo and the NAM meeting scheduled to take place in New Delhi.
The ‘Uniting for peace” resolution 377 A (V) was adopted by the Assembly at its fifth session on 3 November 1950. By this resolution paragraphs (b) were added to Rules 8 and 9 of the Rules of Procedure of the General Assembly, explaining the above-mentioned procedure. The formula was proposed by the US to enable the Assembly to act “if the Security Council, because of lack of unanimity of the permanent members, fails to exercise its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.”
Near Ramallah, about 200 Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli soldiers who responded by firing rubber bullets at the youths. Clashes also occurred in the West Bank town of Bir Zeit
(AFP, AP, Reuters, The Jerusalem Post)
Dennis Ross, United States Middle East envoy, met with the PA President Arafat in Rabat at the start of a mission aimed at salvaging the peace process. Following the talks, Ross proceeded to Israel for a meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu.
The PA issued a statement in Gaza City reiterating its commitment to fight terrorism. The document stated: “Certain Israelis have launched a rabid media campaign with the dangerous message that the PA encourages terrorism. The Palestinian leadership is known for fighting all forms of terrorism and is completely committed to the obligations put on it by self-rule agreements. Confronting terrorism and those who stand behind it is one of the priorities”. The statement appeared in the Palestinian press ahead of the talks between Ross and Arafat.
The Russian Federation expressed concern about Israeli-Palestinian tensions. Gennady Tarasov, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, commented on the situation: “We are seriously concerned about clashes between the Palestinian population and Israeli security forces in the West Bank. The deterioration of the situation has been caused by Israel’s actions to unilaterally change the status quo in East Jerusalem”.
Abdullah Khalil Salah, 21, a Palestinian engineering student from Bir Zeit University, was killed during a protest on the outskirts of Ramallah. Palestinian officials said he had been killed by live ammunition.
The PA rejected Israeli conditions for resuming peace talks while demonstrators protesting at Israel's building a settlement south of East Jerusalem continued to clash with Israeli troops.
A Palestinian youth, aged 15, was shot in the chest with live ammunition, another 35 protesters were hit by rubber bullets and several were injured by gravel shot by an armoured vehicle. Israeli tanks and snipers were on standby throughout the West Bank, after a Palestinian student was killed by Israeli army gunfire during rioting on 29 March.
(CNN, MSNBC, Reuters)
PA President Arafat, a guest of honour at the Arab League session in Cairo, urged Arab States to press on with plans for an "Uniting for peace" session of the UN General Assembly in order to bypass United States vetoes of Security Council resolutions critical of Israel. He said: “I urge you to make an effort so that this ("Uniting for peace") resolution can have an effect. Israel has refused to abide by what it has signed. Unfortunately, the Israeli Government has turned its back on the peace process. It has started with the most dangerous point (Jerusalem) in order to defy not only Palestinians but all Arab nations and the Islamic nation. The challenge is blatant and explicit, to Judaize Jerusalem. It is proceeding insolently and arrogantly, making a mockery of all UN resolutions."
A Palestinian boy was shot in the head during a clash between some 200 high school students and Israeli army near the West Bank town of Jenin. A second boy was sent home after being treated at the Jenin hospital. An Israeli army spokesman said students threw firebombs and stones at the Israelis who responded with tear-gas and rubber bullets. Protests continued in Bethlehem, Nablus and Hebron.
The Arab League approved an Egyptian-sponsored resolution to halt all steps towards normalizing relations with Israel.
(AFP, AP, CNN, Reuters, The Jerusalem Post)
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