ISRAEL SPENDING $15.5m ON SETTLEMENT FORTIFICATIONS!

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THE Israeli government is expected to approve the allocation of an additional 60 million shekels (about $15.5 million) to settlements in the occupied West Bank due to the ‘worsening security situation’ in the territory, according to Israeli media.

The 60 million shekels in funds to illegal settlement communities will include 15 million shekels from the Interior Ministry, 10 million shekels from the Agriculture Ministry, 12 million shekels from the Health Ministry, and 6 million shekels from the Welfare and Social Services Ministry. The remainder of the sum will be provided by various other ministries.

According to a resolution that will be brought to the cabinet, the 12 million shekels from the Health Ministry will be spent on creating ‘psychological support centres’ for residents in the settlements, which have been deemed illegal under international law.

‘Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria face a unique security situation on a daily basis because of their geographic location and the fabric of life in the area,’ the statement says, using the Israeli term for the occupied West Bank. ‘From the beginning of October 2015, there was an escalation in the security situation in Judea and Samaria as a result of the wave of terror.’

According to the explanation in the resolution, the worsening security situation has had a negative influence on life in the settlements in a number of areas, particularly the psychological well being of the residents and economic damage to business, which the additional funds are set to deal with.

In response to the resolution, head of the Knesset’s Joint List Ayman Odeh said in a statement ‘this is the face of the extremist far right government of Netanyahu.’ Odeh slammed the resolution, saying the millions of shekels only serve to ‘deepen the occupation and settlements at the expense of the rest of the state’s citizens.’

Claims of increasing insecurity for illegal Israeli settlers comes amidst a wave of unrest that began last autumn, during which at least 200 Palestinians and just under 30 Israelis have been killed, with increased violent attacks by settlers on Palestinian civilians and agricultural lands.

US and Israeli officials have criticised the Palestinian leadership for failing to condemn a number of attacks carried out by Palestinian individuals – the majority of which have been carried out on military targets – while critics say Israel has practiced a policy of extra-judicial executions of Palestinians.

Meanwhile, UN figures released in April showed a four-fold increase from last year in the rate of Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes and structures, that have left a record-high of at least 808 Palestinians displaced since the start of 2016, while Israel has also stepped up land confiscation in the occupied West Bank for the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements and outposts.

Settlement watchdog Peace Now warned in March that Israel has not confiscated such large swathes of land for the purpose of settlement expansion since the pre-Oslo period in the 1980s. At least seven Palestinians were detained by Israeli forces overnight and early Sunday across the occupied West Bank, according to Palestinian and Israeli officials.

They reported that Israeli soldiers stopped a car at the Zaatara checkpoint outside of Nablus in the north, with three young Palestinian men inside. After inspecting the car, soldiers found three disassembled guns hidden in the car and detained the three men.

Two of the men detained were identified as Palestinian security officers and brothers Abdullah and Muhammad Al-Masimi, sons of police deputy Jihad al-Masimi. The brothers along with the third passenger, reported to be a resident of Ramallah, were taken to Huwwara military camp south of Nablus.

Israeli police also detained a Palestinian man at a checkpoint northeast of Bethlehem for the possession of 9.5 kilogrammes of an unspecified drug. Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samari said the man, who is a Hebron resident in his forties, denied during interrogations that he smuggled the drugs from Palestinian to Israeli territories. His detention was extended to continue investigations.

An Israeli army spokesperson confirmed a total of four detentions: two northwest of Ramallah, and two northeast of Bethlehem. Meanwhile, the European Union’s 28 foreign ministers were expected to throw their support behind the French-led Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative on Monday, according to Israeli news outlets.

The EU’s Foreign Affairs Council was set to adopt a resolution that will back the French initiative, calling for an international peace conference including Israeli and Palestinian participation before the end of the year. Earlier this month the foreign ministers met in Paris to establish a framework for the larger summit, just one day after the director general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry equated the proposed peace process to a form of colonialism.

Since the French initiative began gaining more momentum in recent months, the Israeli government has come out in staunch opposition to the proposed multilateral peace talks. Netanyahu first rejected the French initiative in April, saying the ‘best way to resolve the conflict between Israel and Palestinians is through direct, bilateral negotiations,’ and instead voiced his support for Egyptian President Abd al-Fatah al-Sisi’s trilateral initiative aiming to bring Israeli and Palestinian leaders face to face and create steps towards the unification of Palestinian political factions.

The Palestinian Authority, however, has expressed support for the French initiative, something Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reiterated during a phone call with French President Francois Hollande on Saturday. Abbas stressed his commitment to the two-state solution within the 1967 borders, adding that all illegal settlement activity should be halted, and that there should be a timeframe for negotiations under international monitoring.

All past efforts towards peace negotiations have failed to end the decades-long Israeli military occupation or bring Palestinians closer to an independent contiguous state. The most recent spate of negotiations led by the US collapsed in April 2014. Israel claimed the process failed because the Palestinians refused to accept a US framework document outlining the way forward, while Palestinians pointed to Israel’s ongoing settlement building and the government’s refusal to release veteran prisoners.

• Israeli forces deployed at the eastern border of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on Sunday morning, where they reportedly opened fire at a site belonging to the Palestinian political movement ‘Islamic Jihad’ in the Khuza’a town east of Khan Younis, locals said.

Israeli forces shot at a watchtower that belonged to the Al-Quds brigades, the military wing of the Islamic Jihad movement, though no injuries were reported. An Israeli Army spokesperson said she was looking into reports. Just one day prior to to the shootings at the Islamic Jihad building, Khan Younis and its surrounding areas faced more live fire from Israeli troops.

Israeli forces on Saturday opened fire at fishermen and farmers in the southern Gaza Strip, according to witnesses. Witnesses said Israeli forces stationed at a military watchtower on the border between the besieged Strip and Israel opened fire at farmers near the towns of al-Qarar and Khuza east of Khan Younis. Meanwhile, in a separate incident, Israeli navy boats opened fire at fishermen in Rafah and Khan Younis.