Entries in West Bank (11)


Israelis Ignore Critics of West Bank Settlement Plans

AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images(JERUSALEM) -- Israel is not backing down from plans to build 3,000 homes in West Bank settlements and East Jerusalem despite mounting international pressure that included another criticism Monday from the Obama administration.

While the White House urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "to reconsider these actions," a State Department spokesman called the Israeli plan "especially damaging" to peace efforts.

However, even a move by five European nations to lodge formal complaints with Israeli ambassadors seemed to have no effect.

An official with Netanyahu's office said on Monday, "Israel will continue to stand by its vital interests, even in the face of international pressure, and there will be no change in the decision that was made."

Washington and its allies who either voted against or abstained from the United Nations' resolution last week elevating the Palestinians to a non-member observer state feel that Israel's intransigence on the issue will ultimately hurt the goal of a two-state solution to the ongoing crisis between the Israelis and Palestinians.

At the U.N., Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that building in the area east of Jerusalem "would represent an almost fatal blow to the remaining chances of securing a two-state solution."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Israel Defends Plans to Build New Settlement Units in West Bank

AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images(JERUSALEM) -- The Israeli government is defending its move to build 3,000 new homes for Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem and other parts of the West Bank. 

The government made the announcement Friday after the United Nations voted to recognize the Palestinian territories, which includes the West Bank and Gaza, as a “non-member observer state.”

After the settlement initiative was announced, Israeli Cabinet Minister Uzi Landau defended his country's decision, declaring, “We don't tell the British or the French where to build in Paris or London and we do not expect anybody to tell us what to do in Jerusalem.”

A spokesman for United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is calling Israel’s action an “almost fatal blow” to the chances of securing peace and a two-state solution.

The U.N. chief’s office says the building of new Israeli settlements “risks completely cutting off East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank." 

The secretary-general warns Israel that the building of settlements in the area is illegal under international law.

Ban Ki-moon says that in the interests of peace, the settlement plans must be rescinded.  He also called on all parties to resume negotiations towards “a comprehensive, just and lasting peace...”

Meanwhile, the British and French governments have strongly objected to Israel's plans, summoning Israeli ambassadors and calling it a "considerable obstacle to the two-state solution."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Palestinians Rally for Statehood

Jim Ballard-Getty Images(RAMALLAH, West Bank) -- Thousands of Palestinians gathered in cities in the occupied West Bank Wednesday in a show of support for the Palestinian statehood bid at the United Nations.

The demonstrations coincided with the opening of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, where the Palestinian bid is topping the agenda.

In the West Bank city of Ramallah, around 2,000 people rallied in a central square as they listened to speakers on a stage. Civil servants and students were given the day off, and many of the students wore their uniforms and waved flags while others sported traditional Palestinians scarves.

The mood was festive and upbeat as the bid is a popular challenge to the world after what Palestinians say are years of failed talks with Israel moderated by a prejudiced United States.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has vowed to apply for full membership at the U.N. on Friday, a mission Obama administration officials have been trying to quash for months and now admit there's little hope of stopping. The U.S. has promised to veto the request in the Security Council, a prospect they are trying to avoid so as not to further anger an Arab world that sees American support for Israel as heavily biased against Arabs.

If the Palestinian bid for full U.N. membership fails, they will likely go to the General Assembly for an upgrade in status from "observer entity" to "observer state." This would allow Palestine to join international bodies and go after Israel in international courts, a threat Palestinian officials have repeatedly made.

American and European diplomats are working desperately behind the scenes to try and contain the fallout and bring both sides back to the negotiating table while allowing Palestinian and Israeli leaders to save face with their respective peoples.

Palestinians are largely realistic about the fact that no matter what happens at the U.N., little will change on the ground. Many worry that living conditions will actually get worse, with Israel clamping down further as punishment. But after almost two decades of failed negotiations, many Palestinians say they need to try something new.

Palestinians are asking for recognition based on borders before the 1967 Six-Day War, when Israel was attacked by the surrounding Arab countries. That territory includes Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem as the capital.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Palestinians Take to Gaza, West Bank to Protest for Change

Antenna Audio, Inc./Getty Images(JERUSALEM) -- Inspired by the protests sweeping the Middle East, Palestinians on Tuesday are demonstrating across Gaza and the West Bank. Nearly 10,000 people have come out in Gaza; thousands more in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Organized on Facebook by activists that call themselves the "March 15 Youth Movement," protesters are demanding political change from their divided government. The people are demanding the rival Palestinian Authority and Hamas reconcile and form a unity government. They say it's the best way to confront Israel in the people’s bid for independence. They're also demanding new elections for the Palestinian National Council.

Police are staying out of the way and there have been no clashes.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Palestinians Put their Message on Money

Jim Ballard/Getty Images(JERUSALEM) -- A new Facebook group is asking people around the world to write the words "Free Palestine" on their money and on paper currency like dollars, euros and especially Israeli bills. 

The Palestinian organizers say their Facebook campaign is a creative and non-violent way to protest Israel's military occupation and push for Palestinian independence.  They said they hope a marked bill finds its way into the hands of Israel's prime minister.  

A couple thousand people on Facebook have pledged their support and a number of copycat groups have already popped up. Palestinian activists have been increasingly using Facebook ever since protestors in the Arab world showed what a powerful tool it can be for social and political change. Gazans started Facebook groups calling for protests against the authoritarian rule of Hamas, however, those barely got off the ground due to harsh crackdowns by Hamas.  Palestinians have also launched Facebook groups to promote political reconciliation between the two rival Palestinian governments, the Palestinian authority in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza. 

They've held rallies to deliver the message that a unified government would serve the Palestinian people bette, and even the Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad turned to Facebook recently, asking the public who they'd trust in ministerial positions ahead of parliamentary elections.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Palestinians Host their First International Soccer Match

ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/Getty Images(JERUSALEM) -- The Palestinian national soccer team was accepted into the international FIFA soccer league more than 10 years ago, but due to the Mideast conflict it was never able to host a game in the West Bank. Political changes, better security, and a stronger economy has changed that.

They played a historic game at the Faisal al-Husseini stadium in the West Bank on Wednesday -- not just for soccer fans but for many Palestinians. Their national soccer team hosted an international-level match on its home turf for the very first time, taking on Thailand. Nearly 20,000 fans came out, braving the bitter cold and hail.  Many saw this first home game as another hard-won step in the struggle for an independent Palestinian state.  The soccer team lost to Thailand, but for many it was a political win.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Christian Missionary Mistaken for Jewish by Palestinian Killers

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(JERUSALEM) -- Four Palestinian men have been indicted in the stabbing death of American woman Kristine Luken, who the suspects say was killed because they thought she was Jewish.

Luken, 44, was a Christian missionary working in Israel.

Four more Palestinians, all from the West Bank, have been arrested for providing logistical support to the alleged killers, but have yet to be indicted.

Luken was stabbed to death while hiking in a forest outside Jerusalem with a friend, Kaye Susan Wilson, Dec. 17, 2010.

Israeli police tell ABC News they arrested two men who confessed to the murder within 48 hours of the attack, but kept the arrests secret because they realized that more suspects were involved, and that the group was responsible for a wave of violent crimes.

"The cell's activity had an initial criminal orientation," Israeli police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld said. But after the killing of Hamas leader El Mabhouh in Dubai, for which Hamas holds Israel responsible, "the cell decides to kill in revenge for [that]," Rosenfeld said.

El Mabhouh was a senior Hamas military commander. He was assassinated Jan. 10, 2010, shortly after checking into a five-star hotel in Dubai under a fake name. No one has been arrested in the killing.

The indictment states that two suspects, Kifah Ghneimat and Iyad Fatafa, "decided to enter Israel illegally in order to kill Jews."

In a forest inside Israel but adjacent to the West Bank they encountered Luken and Wilson. Wilson "tried to convince them they were not Jewish, in order to convince them not to hurt them," according to the indictment, but one of the suspects grasped at a Star of David necklace around her neck, saying, "What's this?"

The suspects then stabbed both women repeatedly, killing Luken, according to the indictment. Wilson, badly wounded, played dead, eventually reaching another group of hikers before she collapsed and was taken to a hospital with multiple stab wounds in her chest.

The cell is accused in a string of murders, rapes, robberies and shooting attacks against the Israeli military and Jewish civilians dating back to 2009. Some of the attacks took place in the same area where they killed Luken.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Palestinians: No Deal Without Full Construction Freeze

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(CAIRO) -- Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, in Cairo to meet with Egypt's President on Sunday, said there will be no resumption of the stalled middle east peace talks without a full freeze on settlement construction on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.

The two were discussing a U.S. proposal for a 90-day freeze on construction to give breathing room to the process and persuade the Palestinians back to the bargaining table with Israel.  Abbas said he has not received an official proposal from the U.S. but regardless, a partial freeze is not good enough.

The direct peace talks that resumed in September fizzled after a partial settlement construction freeze was allowed to expire.  Abbas said that while the Palestinians hope to resolve the issue, there would be no resumption of talks so long as Israeli reconstruction continues on lands the Palestinians hope will be part of their own state. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking written support for the plan to renew limits on West Bank settlement construction.  But the U.S. is unlikely to put in a clause that does not include East Jerusalem when its official position includes opposition to any Israeli building in that part of the city.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


US Offers Incentives for West Bank Resettlement Ban

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(JERUSALEM) -- Israel's cabinet is reportedly considering a package of incentives offered by the United States in hopes of a construction freeze in West Bank settlements, but not in East Jerusalem.  The BBC reports the incentives include a pledge to fight international resolutions critical of Israel, several security promises and a pledge to not seek to extend the resettlement ban beyond 90 days. 

The resettlement issue could shut down the restarted peace talks with Palestinian officials that resumed in September after a 20 month interruption.  Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly discussed the matter with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton In the U.S. on Thursday.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Palestinian Mosque Burned In Suspected Arson Attack

Photo Courtesy -- Getty Images(PALESTINE) -- A suspected arson attack early Monday caused damage to the walls and carpets of a Palestinian mosque in the West Bank region of Palestine. Palestinians have accused settlers of torching the mosque overnight in Beit Fajjar, near the large settlement block of Gush Etzion.

Israeli military say they are urgently investigating the case.

Graffiti suggesting that this was the latest so-called “price tag” attack by settlers was found on the mosque’s wall.  Extremist settlers have been carrying out similar attacks to set a "price" on Israeli actions against illegal outposts and other curbs on settlement construction.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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