HALT ALL SETTLEMENTS – demands Abbas

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The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) government in the West Bank on Monday called on Israel to end all expansion of settlements as a necessary step toward renewing peace negotiations.

The PNA cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said in a declaration: ‘Halting settlement activities completely in the Palestinian territories including Jerusalem is the basis for a serious political process which will end occupation and guarantee the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.’

The ministers also stressed the right of return of Palestinian refugees, the right of self-determination, and the right to establish an independent state on the territories occupied in 1967 with East Jerusalem as its capital.

The PNA cabinet rejected any conditional settlement freeze which they said could harm the Palestinian people’s rights, which are recognised internationally.

PNA President Mahmud Abbas had announced on Sunday he would not return to the negotiating table with Israel without a settlement freeze that included occupied East Jerusalem.

In talks last week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton put together a package of incentives, including billions in military aid, to get Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to accept a new, partial 90-day moratorium on new settlement building in a bid to restart negotiations with Abbas.

Monday’s PNA cabinet meeting welcomed the draft resolution taken up by the UN General Assembly which backs ‘Permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources.’

Furthermore, the cabinet welcomed the decision by the Euro-Mediterranean Neighbourhood Council’s package to facilitate trade with the PNA, which included measures to support the PNA’s plan for state building.

The cabinet condemned an Israeli court decision to keep non-violent activist Abdullah Abu Rahmah in custody beyond the completion of his sentence.

That decision, along with other procedures against activists who resist Israel’s separation wall and settlement construction, were described as serious violations of international law.

The latest Israeli ‘acts of aggression’ against the Palestinian people were also denounced during the PNA cabinet meeting, including the Israeli air strikes last Friday in Deir Al-Balah and Khan Younis which left six Palestinians injured.

The most intense Israeli air strikes in months disrupted what had been a quiet holiday for one Gaza family.

Sulaiman Abu Mustafa, an olive and aubergine grower with a small farm near the border with Israel outside of Deir Al-Balah, was celebrating the Eid Al-Adha holiday with his family in his yard when the strike took place.

Abu Mustafa’s uncle and aunt were visiting, there were around 20 people outside the house.

At 3pm an Israeli F-16 fired a missile at an empty house across the street, blasting chunks of concrete into the air, which then hurtled down on Abu Mustafa’s house.

He said the family scrambled to take shelter behind their house, but had no time to react.

The concrete chunks injured four people, including Abu Mustafa’s mother, who was wounded in the abdomen, and his brother who was struck in the head.

His two-year-old son was also hurt, he said.

Abu Mustafa’s home and yard were strewn with debris that came crashing through his roof, leaving perforations in the ceiling. One of the walls was also cracked by the force of the explosion.

Abu Mustafa said he called an ambulance, but the family was forced to wait half an hour for help to arrive.

Because their house is only 400 metres from the Green Line, emergency responders have to request permission from the Israeli army, via the Red Cross, to enter the area.

The Israeli military confirmed it launched four separate airstrikes on Gaza last Friday, three in the afternoon and one late at night, allegedly in response to a series of rockets fired into Israel from Gaza.

According to Israeli news reports, the shelling included homemade projectiles, mortars, and one Grad missile, and caused no injuries.

This barrage in turn, was in response to an Israeli air strike that killed a member of the Army of Islam militia, and his brother, in the middle of Gaza City at sundown last Wednesday.

In a statement announcing the air strikes on Friday, the Israeli military said it was bombing ‘terror-linked sites’ in Deir Al-Balah and Khan Younis.

Abu Mustafa emphatically denied that there was any activity by Palestinian armed groups in the area.

‘This area is very calm, the people here are peace-loving. This land is farmland, and the people here subsist off what they grow on their farms, like olives.’

He added that, unlike many other areas directly along Gaza’s border with Israel, there have been very few incidents of soldiers firing on farmers.

Abu Mustafa’s farm lies adjacent to an Israeli military position, including a remotely-operated gun turret, and a gate in the border fence used by military forces to enter the Strip.

Abu Mustafa said that the house that was the target of the missile was owned by the Sharufa family, who live primarily in Gaza City, and only visit the farmhouse once or twice a month.

All that remained of the two-story house was a crater.

Those injured in the Deir Al-Balah bombing were: Roqaya Abu Mustafa, 53, Wijdan Abu Mustafa, 29, Abdel Aziz Abu Mustafa, 20, and Ibrahim Abu Mustafa, two years old.

• Israeli government bulldozers razed the Bedouin village of Al-Arakib, in the Negev desert, for the seventh time in three months on Monday.

Local witnesses said Israeli police raided houses emptying them of residents’ possessions, before demolishing them.

The Israeli news site Ynet reported that Israel Land Administration representatives and the security forces participated in the demolition.

Al-Arakib is one of 45 so-called unrecognised Bedouin villages in southern Israel, which have a combined population of 76,000.

These communities, some of which have existed since before the establishment of the Israeli state in 1948, receive no water, electricity, or other government services.

Israeli authorities first razed Al-Arakib in late June, returning six more times to destroy the village after residents rebuilt their homes.