President Abbas congratulates Bashar al-Assad on the anniversary of Evacuation Day, April 17 1946

Destruction caused by the French shelling of Damascus on October 1st 1925

PALESTINIAN president Mahmoud Abbas has offered his congratulations to his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad on the annual anniversary of Evacuation Day, the day when the last French soldier left Syria at the end of the French mandate on April 17, 1946.

In a telegram, the President expressed his heartfelt wishes on behalf of the people and leadership of Palestine to the brotherly people of Syria.

He also recalled the sacrifices of the Syrian people that led to the independence of the Syrian nation.

President Abbas further extended his wishes for prosperity and growth for the entire people of Syria, and for bilateral Palestinian-Syrian relations to further grow.

The Central Elections Commission (CEC) said on Monday that 150,000 eligible Palestinian voters from East Jerusalem who live in the suburbs, out of a total of over 300,000 Palestinian residents of the occupied city, can vote in the upcoming Palestinian legislative elections without Israeli obstructions since they do not require Israeli approval.

These Palestinians live in neighbourhoods such as Kufr Aqab, to the north of Jerusalem, and Shufat refugee camp, to the east, which have been separated from the holy city since 2004 by an eight-metre high concrete barrier and Israeli army-controlled crossings but remain as part of the Jerusalem municipal lines.

The CEC has provided 11 polling stations in these suburbs to enable the 150,000 residents to vote without prior registration and has trained the technical teams needed to carry out this task.

Approximately 60 Palestinians from East Jerusalem were nominated within the various electoral lists.

The Palestinian leadership, in a letter to the Israeli authorities, reaffirmed its intentions to conduct elections in the West Bank, Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip on May 22 in accordance with existing protocols applied in the previous two legislative elections in 1996 and 2006 in which Palestinians in East Jerusalem were able to vote at six Post Offices in the city, which hold a maximum capacity of 6,300 voters.

This requires Israeli approval as the Post Offices are under Israeli control.

The CEC said that in the event of the Palestinian leadership not receiving a response from the Israeli authorities before the commencement of the election campaigning period on April 30, which is set to include Jerusalem, or within a reasonable timeframe, it, serving as an executive authority, is prepared to take additional measures.

These measures will be based on the direction of the political leadership and consultations with both the Islamic and national political factions who have made great strides in forming their electoral lists, it said.

The CEC also denounced the Israeli arrests of Legislative Council candidates, particularly those running in occupied Jerusalem.

The three Palestinian Arabic dailies highlighted Sunday night’s meeting of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), which focused on the upcoming legislative elections planned for May 22.

The main front-page headline on this topic in al-Hayat al-Jadida, which dedicated the top half of its page to this meeting, quoted President Mahmoud Abbas, who chaired the meeting, saying: ‘We are determined to hold the elections as scheduled in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.’

Al-Quds daily also had the same headline, while al-Ayyam daily said the Executive Committee called on the international community to urge Israel not to obstruct the elections.

Al-Ayyam quoted the Central Elections Commission saying that 150,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem should be able to vote without Israeli obstructions.

It also said that Israel is ignoring a request to allow European observers to monitor the Palestinian elections.

Al-Hayat al-Jadida said Foreign Minister Riyad Malki is going to start a European tour on the instructions of President Abbas to win support for the elections.

In other news, Al-Quds said the Israeli occupation removed a cemetery east of Yatta, raided Humsa community, seized a tractor, and summoned the director of Al-Aqsa Mosque for interrogation. Al-Ayyam added that settlers set fire to the electricity box for the water tank in Asira al-Qibliya.

Al-Quds warned a bill has been placed with the Israeli parliament calling for legalising and organising the settlement outposts.

The dailies also highlighted the latest with coronavirus at home and the world and said that 34 people died of the disease in Palestine on Sunday, including 23 in the Gaza Strip, and 988 new cases were recorded.

Meanwhile, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh denounced Israeli settlement expansion in the occupied Palestinian territories, Israeli government-backed intrusions by Jewish fanatics into Al-Aqsa Mosque, and Israeli obstruction of the Palestinian elections in occupied East Jerusalem.

Speaking at the opening of the weekly Palestinian cabinet meeting held in Ramallah, Shtayyeh demanded that the US administration act quickly and forcefully to curb the Israeli settlement expansion, which includes plans to establish more than 12,000 settlement units in the West Bank, including 540 units in Jabal Abu Ghneim, south of Jerusalem.

Colonial settlement expansion in the occupied territories is very dangerous and will undermine international efforts to establish the Palestinian state on the June 4th lines with Jerusalem as its capital, he said, adding that the settlement expansion, and the discussion in the Israeli parliament (the Knesset) of a bill to legitimise the settlement outposts, contradict United Nations Security Council resolutions related to settlement activity, particularly UN Resolution 2334.

Shtayyeh also condemned the ongoing Israeli violations of the sanctity of Al-Aqsa Mosque as a purely Muslim holy place, and the daily attacks by police on worshippers in Jerusalem during the holy fast month of Ramadan, noting that the intrusions and attacks are part of a bigger plan that aims to divide the Muslim holy place, and vowed to continue to confront these Israeli plans.

He also condemned the Israeli police arrests of a number of candidates for the Palestinian legislative elections in occupied Jerusalem scheduled for May 22 and banning a candidates’ press conference. He said his government will continue to work with international parties to stop Israel obstructing the elections.

He added that Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Malki will visit Brussels in order to recruit international community support for the elections in Jerusalem.

‘We are confident that our international partners will help us overcome the obstacles facing conducting this constitutional entitlement on time and without obstacles that would hinder its conduct in Jerusalem according to the same mechanisms in which the elections were held in 1996, 2005, and 2006.

‘And here I confirm that the government has done everything that is required to make the democratic process and elections a success,’ said the Prime Minister.

His remarks came as Israeli settlers that day razed Palestinian-owned lands in the area of Khirbet al-Hamma Bedouin community in the northern Jordan Valley raising concern of the local Palestinian residents, according to local sources.

They said that settlers from an illegal outpost located near the Palestinian community used a bulldozer to raze the lands belonging to a Palestinian resident, as more land is expected to be razed to open roads for the settlers.

Residents are worried that the settlement outposts and the settlers are going to take control of most of the pastures they use to herd their livestock, which is their main source of income.