‘Few believe in two-state solution’ – says Palestinian leader Saeb Erekat

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SECRETARY-GENERAL of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), Saeb Erekat, said in a statement on the occasion of Palestine’s Independence Day on Sunday, that only very few still believe that a two-state solution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict can be achieved.

He said: ‘28 years after the painful historic compromise made by the PLO, Israel continued to destroy the prospects of a two-state solution to an extent where very few still believe that this goal could be achieved.’

He noted that in the past three decades Israel’s settler population in the West Bank has more than tripled, adding that ‘Israeli policies, including land grab, theft of natural resources, forcible transfer and collective punishments among others continue to derail Palestinian fundamental human rights.’

Erekat said though the PLO took a historical compromise by recognising Israel over 78% of historic Palestine, Israel still refuses to recognise the State of Palestine. He maintained that the international community remains a ‘partner in the killing of hope in the minds of Palestinians by providing the occupying power with the diplomatic cover it needs to continue with its crimes.’

Meanwhile, Erekat expressed solidarity on behalf of Palestine with the Lebanese and French people after the ‘devastating and tragic terror attacks’ in Beirut and Paris. ‘Both constitute crimes against humanity that must be condemned in the strongest terms,’ he said.

‘As a nation that has suffered from decades of state-sponsored terror, we call upon the international community to cooperate in order to ensure that justice is served for all. Our thoughts and prayers are with the peoples and governments of Lebanon and France.’

Israeli settler guards, protected by Israeli army forces, on Sunday attacked and chased Palestinian olive pickers off their land, located near the town of Beit Ummar to the north of Hebron, according to local sources.

Mohammad Awad, spokesman of the Anti-Settlement Commission in the town, said that settler guards, backed by Israeli forces, from the nearby illegal Israeli settlement of Beit Ein, ordered local Hammad Salibi and his family to leave their land at gunpoint. Shortly after the family was ordered to leave the land, soldiers chased and attacked them with teargas and stun grenades to force them out of their private-owned land.

According to al-Haq Human Rights centre, Israel imposes restrictions on Palestinian farmers who want to access the olive groves located in proximity to settlements or behind the Annexation Wall. ‘Palestinian farmers are required to apply for permits in order to be allowed entry into their own land. Palestinians are often denied permits or granted insufficient time adequately to tend their land; these restrictions often become more severe during olive harvest season,’ said the centre.

In addition, during the harvest season, Palestinian farmers are often subjected to harassment and attacks by Israeli settlers, including the destruction, damage, and burning of olive trees. Israel continues to deny Palestinians their fundamental right to self-determination, including the principle of sovereignty over land and natural resources, depriving them from their means of livelihoods, in contradiction to Article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), said al-Haq in a story published in November 2014.

‘Under international humanitarian law and as stated in the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israel has an obligation not to restrict the right to work of Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT),’ added the centre. The Annexation Wall and the permit system amongst other measures and policies applied by Israel prevent Palestinians’ right to movement which seriously impacts their livelihoods,’ said al-Haq.

l Israeli army forces on Saturday blew up the family homes of four Palestinians, whom Israel accuses of carrying out fatal attacks against Israelis in the Nablus area, according to a local source. Army soldiers destroyed the family homes of three Palestinians identified as Karam al-Masri, Yehya Hamad, and Samir Kousa – all of whom are currently incarcerated in Israeli jails, provoking violent clashes with the Palestinian locals. Israel claims the three Palestinians were involved in the fatal shooting attack against an Israeli couple in Nablus’ Beit Furik area early in October.

Forces fired live ammunition, rubber-coated steel bullets, and tear gas canisters, at the provoked locals, shooting and injuring two with live ammunition, whereas seven others were shot and injured with rubber baton rounds. Another local was run over by an Israeli military jeep during the clashes. Dozens of suffocation cases were also reported among locals, including an 80-year-old woman who suffered from excessive suffocation, after inhaling tear gas.

Prior to the destruction of the homes, army forces reportedly forced out locals residing in nearby homes, locking them inside one apartment. A settler couple identified as Eitam and Na’ama Henkin were killed in a drive-by shooting attack in the northern West Bank town of Beit Furik, southeast of Nablus, by suspected Palestinians in early October.

Meanwhile in Ramallah, forces also demolished the family home of Mo’ath Hamed, who was accused by Israel of being affiliated with an armed Hamas cell that carried out a shooting attack against Israeli soldiers on June 29, 2015. An Israeli soldier was killed and three others were injured during the attack.

Around 50 Israeli military jeeps stormed the Ramallah town of Silwad, deployed its troops in its neighbourhoods, surrounded Hamed’s family home, and declared the area a closed military zone, before proceeding to demolish the house. Prior to the demolition, forces reportedly forced locals residing in nearby homes out of their homes, and kept them inside an elementary school in the area.

The demolition of the said home provoked violent clashes; forces used live and rubber-coated bullets, as well as tear gas canisters against locals. However, no injuries were reported. To be noted, Hamed is currently incarcerated in Israeli jails.

Israel resorts to punitively demolish the family homes of any Palestinians – as means of deterrence – accused of being involved in attacks against Israelis, a policy that Israel does not use against Israeli settlers who were involved in fatal attacks against Palestinians.

Al-Haq human rights group slammed the punitive home demolition of Palestinians suspected of being involved in attacks against Israelis, as a collective punishment and that in accordance with humanitarian law and human rights law, it is assessed as a war crime and a crime against humanity.

B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group, says: ‘The people who bear the brunt of the (punitive) demolitions are relatives – including women, the elderly, and children – whom Israel does not suspect of involvement in any offense.

‘In the vast majority of cases, the person whose actions prompted the demolition was not even living in the house at the time of the demolition,’ adds the group. The official objective of the house demolition policy is deterrence… yet the deterrent effect of house demolitions has never been proven.’

It said: ‘Since this constitutes deliberate harm to innocents, it is clear that even if house demolition had the desired deterrent effect, it would, nevertheless, remain unlawful.’ In the meantime, Amnesty International, argued that, The Israeli authorities’ claim that such demolitions are effective in dissuading potential attackers is entirely irrelevant in the eyes of International humanitarian law, which places clear limits on the actions which an occupying power may take in the name of security, and the absolute prohibition on collective punishment is one of the most important of these rules.

‘Collective punishment is never permissible under any circumstances,’ it said. Late in 2014, the US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki contended that such a move amounted to collective punishment and would only heighten tensions in the region. On July 31, suspected Jewish extremists threw Molotov cocktails inside a Palestinian home in the village of Duma, setting it ablaze. The arson attack killed toddler Ali Dawabsha, and fatally wounded his parents.

Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon confirmed that Israeli security forces know who was behind the deadly arson attack in Duma, however, no arrests had been made in order to avoid exposing intelligence sources in court, reported media outlets. ‘We know who is responsible, but we will not expose those findings in order to protect our intelligence sources,’ said Ya’alon during a meeting of the Likud youth branch in early September 2015.

In response, Member of Knesset Aida Toma-Suleiman (Joint Arab List) said: ‘Would it even be possible to think that the defence establishment would act the same way if a Jewish family was murdered. Ya’alon’s remarks confirm the forgiving attitude within the system towards settler terrorism, which allows for the next murder,’ reported the Israeli Ynet News.