PALESTINIAN activists along with Israeli and international supporters shut down on Wednesday the recently opened Eastern Ring Road near Jerusalem, which features separate lanes for Palestinians and Israeli settlers, divided by a wall, according to a press release by the Popular Struggle Coordination Committees (PSCC).
A few dozen activists have closed the gates to the newly opened road as they raised banners protesting at what was described as ‘apartheid and Israeli attempts to expand and cement control over the West Bank and Jerusalem’.
Two protesters have been arrested and four others were injured as Israeli forces attempted to reopen the road for traffic, according to the activists. The road, which stretches between Road 437 and Road 1 inside the West Bank, features two separate lanes divided by a concrete wall – one for Israeli settlers and the other for Palestinians. While the Israeli lane allows settlers quick and easy access to the centre of Jerusalem, the Palestinian lane is designed to separate Palestinians off through an underpass, so as not to disturb settler traffic into the city.
Construction of the road is planned to continue to the south, further entrenching the two separate and unequal systems of transport in the West Bank. The Palestinian part is designated to eventually connect Ramallah to Bethlehem in the south of the West Bank. This plan will enable Israeli authorities to block Palestinians commuting from the south of the West Bank to Ramallah from accessing Road 1, which leads to Jerusalem.
By doing so, the Israeli checkpoint between the West Bank and Jerusalem, known as al-Zayyem checkpoint because it is located at the entrance to the Palestinian village east of Jerusalem and which bars Palestinians access to their capital, could be moved several miles to the east, past the illegal settlements of Ma’ale Adumim, Mishor Adumim, and Kfar Adumim, in effect annexing them to Jerusalem.
Palestinians fear this is part of Israel’s Greater Jerusalem plan, which includes the expansion of the Ma’ale Adumim settlement block into the E1 area, and is related to the displacement of Bedouin communities in the area, including Khan al-Ahmar and Jabal al-Baba. Palestinian activist Munther Amira said, ‘Any shame the (Israeli) occupation may have had towards its apartheid policies is now completely gone with this road. ‘We must not and will not allow for their plan of ethnic cleansing in the outskirts of Jerusalem.’
- The killing of a Palestinian as a result of Israeli artillery shelling on the eastern besieged Gaza Strip hit the front page headlines in Palestinian Arabic dailies on Wednesday. The dailies reported that a Palestinian was killed and four others were injured in an Israeli artillery shelling to the east of al-Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip.
The slain Palestinian was identified as Mahmoud al-Nabahin, 24, and one of the injured is in a serious condition. Al-Quds and al-Ayyam added that Israeli military jets carried out several airstrikes, targeting a location north of Beit Lahia town in the northern Gaza Strip. Al-Quds also reported that Palestinian snipers shot an Israeli soldier near the border fence.
According to Israeli media reports, the soldier was moderately injured.
Amid the escalation, al-Quds and al-Ayyam said that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has decided to cancel the transfer of Qatari funds to Gaza. The Qatari donation of $15 million was scheduled to be transferred to Hamas today to pay the salaries of Gaza civil servants.
Furthermore, the dailies reported the Palestinian Finance Ministry announcing that Finance Minister Shukri Bishara would not attend the World Economic Forum (WEF) at Davos due to Israel’s intransigence regarding Palestinian requests to resolve a number of outstanding financial issues.
Highlighting Premier Rami Hamdallah’s participation in the WEF, al-Quds said that Hamdallah met President of WEF Børge Brende. According to al-Quds and al-Hayat al-Jadida, Italy donated 1.5 million euros to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA).
Moreover, al-Quds and al-Hayat al-Jadida reported the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) calling on Israel to cancel the forced eviction of the Palestinian Sabbagh family from the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah and halt settlement construction.
Yet, the dailies said that Palestinians organised sit-ins across various districts in protest at a recent Israeli crackdown on Palestinian prisoners in Ofer prison. Throughout the past two days Israeli forces raided Ofer prison and attacked Palestinian prisoners with dogs and tear gas bombs, resulting in over 100 injuries.
They added that prisoners are scheduled to hold a dialogue session with the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) today. This session was described by al-Hayat al-Jadida as ‘decisive’.
Al-Quds added in this regard that the Palestinian government called on the international community to shoulder its responsibilities regarding the suffering of prisoners in Israeli detention.
According to al-Quds and al-Ayyam, an Israeli court placed a temporary lien on a plot of land partly owned by former President Yasser Arafat in Jerusalem. The land in the Mount of Olives covers an area of 2.7 dunums (0.67 acres), of which Arafat owns 135 square metres.
Besides, al-Quds spotlighted Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov’s briefing to the UN Security Council on the situation in the Middle East. It explained that Mladenov assailed the policies pursued by Israel and its settlers and called for Fatah-Hamas unity.
The dailies also spotlighted Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi’s intervention in the UNSC’s debate on the Middle East. They reported Marsudi stating that Palestine has a ‘natural and legal right’ to become a full member of the United Nations.
According to al-Quds and al-Hayat al-Jadida, Chairman of the PLO’s Refugees Affairs Department Ahmad Abu Holi and Director of UNRWA’s Operations in the Northern Governorates emphasised the continuity of the UN relief agency’s work in Jerusalem.
Regarding the latest spate of demolitions in Jerusalem, al-Quds and al-Hayat al-Jadida said that Israeli occupation authorities forced two Palestinian families to demolish a house and car repair shop in the Issawiya neighbourhood. Al-Ayyam and al-Hayat al-Jadida added that Israeli authorities delivered demolition orders to Palestinian residential buildings and commercial structures in the same neighbourhood.
Al-Ayyam added that Israeli settlers chopped down hundreds of olive trees in Jabaa and Beit Ummar towns, located to the east of Jerusalem and north of Hebron respectively.
Al-Quds and al-Ayyam reported Secretary-General of the PLO’s Executive Committee Saeb Erekat confirming that the Palestinian Authority (PA) has informed the Trump Administration that it will stop taking any form of US government assistance at the end of the month.
The PA has taken this step as a result of the ‘Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act’, known as ATCA, which makes it possible for US citizens to sue foreign entities that receive US assistance for past acts of ‘terrorism’.