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Palestinian protest on Gaza border turns deadly

Hundreds of Palestinians have been injured and at least 12 killed by Israeli security forces facing down land protests on the Gaza-Israel border. The protests are to continue until the new US Embassy is opened. Tens of thousands of Palestinians, including women and children, gathered at five points along the fenced border at the start of six weeks of protests on Friday. The five sites have been set up from near the Erez border crossing in the north to Rafah, where it meets the Egyptian border in the south. At least 12 Palestinians were killed on Friday: two of them by Israeli tank fire, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. The same source said 400 people were wounded by live Israeli gunfire and others were struck by rubber bullets or treated for the effects of tear gas. Organizers had called on demonstrators to stay away from the border area but as the day wore on, hundreds of young people moved closer to the frontier, from where the Israeli military kept watch. Disproportionate force? The Israeli military said Palestinians rolled burning tires and threw stones at the Israeli forces, who responded with live bullets, tear gas and fired at what they called the "main instigators." Witnesses said the Israeli military used a drone to drop tear gas over at least one location. Three sites in particular were targeted with tank fire and an airstrike after the Israelis claimed there had been a shooting attack against their soldiers. No Israeli soldier was injured. Palestinians, and Turkish authorities, accused Israel of using disproportionate force. The protest, which has the backing of Hamas, is expected to last more than six weeks, as US President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital becomes final when the US Embassy moves to Jerusalem. On Friday evening, organizers encouraged demonstrators to withdraw from the border area until Saturday. 'A message to Trump' "The Great March of Return is a message to Trump," Ismail Haniyeh, the chief of the Hamas political bureau, told the crowds. "There is no concession to Jerusalem, no alternative to Palestine, and no solution but to return. This is the Palestinian people taking the initiative and making the event for the sake of Palestine ... for the sake of Jerusalem and the right of return," Haniyeh said. The protests began as Palestinians marked Land Day, commemorating the killing of six unarmed Arab protesters in Israel in 1976. Dubbed "The Great March of Return," organizers said the rallies would continue until May 15 when Palestinians commemorate the Nakba, or "catastrophe," where more than 700,000 Palestinians fled their homes or were expelled during the war that led to the creation of Israel in 1948. The date is one day after the new US Embassy in Jerusalem is expected to be formally opened. According to the United Nations, about 1.3 million of Gaza's 2 million residents are refugees or the descendants of refugees, and the protest is calling for them to be allowed to return to land that has been taken by Israel. Read more: Intifadas: What you need to know jm,law/sms (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

Hundreds of Palestinians have been injured and at least 12 killed by Israeli security forces facing down land protests on the Gaza-Israel border. The protests are to continue until the new US Embassy is opened. Tens of thousands of Palestinians, including women and children, gathered at five points along the fenced border at the start of six weeks of protests ... Read More »

Egypt’s Coptic Pope shuns US VP Mike Pence over Jerusalem

The Coptic Christian Pope has cancelled a meeting with the US vice president in Cairo, protesting against America's move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Palestinian leader Abbas also snubbed Mike Pence. In a statement released on Saturday, the Coptic Church said it "excused itself from hosting Mike Pence" when he visits Egypt, citing US President Donald Trump's decision "at an unsuitable time and without consideration for the feelings of millions of people." Egypt's Coptic Church said it would pray for "wisdom and to address all issues that impact peace for the people of the Middle East." The decision comes a day after Egypt's top Muslim cleric Ahmed al-Tayeb also refused to meet Pence. Egyptian Coptic Christians, the largest religious minority in the region, make up about 10 percent of the country's 93 million people. Solidarity from non-Muslim Arabs The Coptic Pope's refusal to host Pence is largely symbolic but significant because it demonstrates the Arab solidarity for Palestinians irrespective of religious affiliations. Trump's decision to move US embassy to Jerusalem has not only been criticized by Muslim countries; Germany, China and Russia are among scores of nations that have slammed the US president over the policy U-turn. The status of Jerusalem has been a key stumbling block during previous peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, in particular regarding the question of how to divide sovereignty and oversee holy sites. Read more: Jerusalem: Three things to know Intifadas: What you need to know While Israel regards Jerusalem as its capital, a majority of the international community rejects that claim, saying the city's status should be settled in peace talks with the Palestinians. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Saturday it would take several years before the US opens an embassy in Jerusalem. Anger against US Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas will also not participate in a planned meeting with Pence later this month. "There will be no meeting with the vice president of America in Palestine," Majdi al-Khaldi, a Palestinian diplomatic adviser, told AFP news agency. "The United States has crossed all the red lines with the Jerusalem decision," he added. Washington had warned Thursday that cancelling the meeting would be "counter-productive" for peace in the region, but Abbas has been under tremendous pressure to assert over the Jerusalem decision. Jibril Rajoub, a senior member of Abbas' Fatah party, said Pence was "not welcome in Palestine." Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, urged protesters Saturday to remain calm over Trump's recognition of Jerusalem. "The fate of Jerusalem cannot be left to an occupying state that usurped Palestinian lands since 1967 with no regard to law and morality," Erdogan said, adding that reactions to the situation should be within democratic and legal scope. Protests and airstrikes Palestinian protests against Trump's announcement continued on Saturday also. On Friday, at least two people were killed and 760 were injured in clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli forces in Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank. Israeli airstrikes killed at least two people on Saturday after targeting military facilities in the Gaza Strip allegedly linked to the armed wing of the Islamist group Hamas. Militant groups operating in the Gaza Strip launched missiles into Israel on Friday amid mass protests and clashes against US President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital earlier this week. There have been Palestine solidarity rallies in many Muslim countries, including Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan and Turkey. Read more: Palestinian youth fight to defend right to Jerusalem as capital The militant al Qaeda network urged its supporters the world over to target key interests of the US and its allies, in response to Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

The Coptic Christian Pope has cancelled a meeting with the US vice president in Cairo, protesting against America’s move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Palestinian leader Abbas also snubbed Mike Pence. In a statement released on Saturday, the Coptic Church said it “excused itself from hosting Mike Pence” when he visits Egypt, citing US President Donald Trump’s decision “at ... Read More »

US Embassy move to Jerusalem could spark ‘third intifada’ Germany’s former ambassador says

Both Israelis and Palestinians claim the holy city as a capital. Former German Ambassador to Israel Rudolf Dreßler told DW that the United States would seriously harm the Middle East peace process with an embassy move. DW: Mr. Dreßler, The United States Congress voted to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to move its embassy there when it passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act in 1995. Why was that decision never acted upon? Rudolf Dreßler: The proposal has been regularly suspended by every American president regardless of political party every six months since 1995 because the Arab world and the European Union have clearly stated that it would be unacceptable for the United States to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. We have always maintained that such a move would be an escalation akin to riding the edge of a razor. Yet that is exactly what Trump has done in all of his ignorance and disdain for international opinion — something we have seen again and again. He has said that he will do whatever he wants, just like he did he was running his companies. For 70 years the international consensus has been that Jerusalem was tabu until a solution to the Middle East conflict could be found. What is Donald Trump's withdrawal from this international consensus supposed to bring about? I suppose that it is just part of his nature. It isn't the first decision he has made on the issue. But the worst effect of the administration's decision to move the embassy is that it has effectively forfeited the United States' role as a stabilizing force and also as an international partner in future peace negotiations. That is really the worst aspect of the decision. Now Russia, China and the EU will take over this role. You spent five years in Israel as the German ambassador. Did you ever think you would see the day when the United States would act on its 1995 resolution? No, I didn't think it possible because as anyone who has ever analyzed the situation knows, the implementation of such an idea could never provide a sustainable groundwork for a new round of peace talks. And also because the conflicts surrounding the situation would grow so large that the threat of a third intifada could not be ruled out. If we think about the fact that the second intifada was sparked by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount in 2000, then it becomes clear that there are certainly similarities. The ideology and transmission of signals, the fact that one is choosing sides, also in terms of religious conflict, is all extremely dangerous. Read more: The Temple Mount: A clash of cultures Germany is a close ally of the United States. The German Embassy, like every other country's diplomatic representation, is based in Tel Aviv and not Jerusalem. What is the German position on this issue? It is that we would only look favorably upon moving the embassy when we have a peace treaty in place that resolves the issue of Jerusalem as capital for both sides — East Jerusalem and West Jerusalem — and when that treaty is accepted by both Israelis and Palestinians. That is not only not the case right now, we are actually further away than ever. Was there ever a different German position on the issue of Jerusalem? Not that I am aware of. Washington's announcement has been greeted with great outrage in the Arab and Muslim world and beyond. What will the United States' symbolic and one-sided partisanship towards Israel mean for the peace process throughout the region? It will mean that the US will sacrifice its role as a reliable guarantor of Western-style multilateralism. That is the political message, and that is also how German Foreign Minister [Sigmar Gabriel] summed it up. And that, in turn, means that we will no longer be looking for new ways to restart peace negotiations but rather will be forced to seek ways to hinder new outbreaks of violence. Read more: Palestinians protest against US recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital What will now be required of German foreign policy? No one even knows at this point, but if renewed violence should become a reality — for instance, with a third intifada — then Germany and all of its EU partners will have a lot to deal with. We will have to determine how to reformulate the EU's role against the backdrop of Trump and Netanyahu's policies in Israel. The possibility for renewed peace talks is slim at this point. They simply are not likely to take place. We have to figure out how we can get Israel back to the negotiating table. Rudolf Dreßler (77) is Social Democratic Party (SPD) politican. He represented the Federal Republic of Germany as its ambassador to Israel in Tel Aviv from 2000 until 2005.

Both Israelis and Palestinians claim the holy city as a capital. Former German Ambassador to Israel Rudolf Dreßler told DW that the United States would seriously harm the Middle East peace process with an embassy move. DW: Mr. Dreßler, The United States Congress voted to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to move its embassy there when it ... Read More »

EU ministers reinforce decision to clearly label products made in Israeli settlements

EU foreign ministers confirmed the bloc's position that goods coming from occupied territories can not be labeled 'Made in Israel.' Israel has accused the EU of discrimination. EU Ministers have reiterated the bloc's position that the lands Israel has occupied since the 1967 Middle East war - including the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights - are not part of the internationally recognized borders of Israel. Therefore, goods coming from those locations can not be labeled "Made in Israel." EU foreign ministers unanimously reinforced their decision to specially label all goods produced in Israeli settlements on Monday. "We unanimously approved (the statement), it is a good and common basis for our common position and our engagement in the region," said EU external affairs head Federica Mogherini said after a foreign ministers meeting in Brussels. The foreign ministers stressed, however, that the measures "do not constitute a boycott of Israel." The statement also voiced the EU's concerns over the recent surge of violence, saying both sides would be held accountable for the bloodshed. "The EU firmly condemns the terror attacks and violence from all sides and in any circumstances, including the deaths of children," the ministers' stated. "The EU is convinced that only the reestablishment of a political horizon and the resumption of dialogue can stop the violence." Stalled peace process The EU statement was positively received by Palestine, with chief negotiator Saeb Erekat calling it "a step forward towards accountability." He called on the EU to "take immediate steps, such as banning settlement products". But Israel responded that the statement was discriminatory and downplayed the role of Palestine in the stalled Middle East peace talks. "Out of about 200 border conflicts in the world, the European Union is choosing to discriminate only against Israel. This stance prevents the (European) Union from being a fair player in resolving the conflict," the Israeli Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Following the EU's publication of the labeling guidelines, Israel suspended contact with EU bodies working on peace efforts with Palestine - bringing the Middle East peace process to a halt. The foreign ministers repeated their stance that the Israeli settlements on occupied land were "illegal under international law, constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make a two state solution impossible."

EU foreign ministers confirmed the bloc’s position that goods coming from occupied territories can not be labeled ‘Made in Israel.’ Israel has accused the EU of discrimination. EU Ministers have reiterated the bloc’s position that the lands Israel has occupied since the 1967 Middle East war – including the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights – are not ... Read More »

Obama: Netanyahu has lost credibility

Barack Obama has criticized Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's approach to making peace with Palestine. Obama said in a TV interview that the US may review its continued diplomatic support of Israel over the issue. US President Barack Obama shared his bleak outlook on the possibility for Palestinian statehood in an interview with Israeli TV on Tuesday, saying that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had lost international credibility as a potential peacemaker. Obama further suggested that the continuation of America's diplomatic defense for Israel at the United Nations could be reviewed, though he made it clear that US support for Israeli security was not in question. "Already, the international community does not believe that Israel is serious about a two-state solution. The statement the prime minister made compounded the belief that there's not a commitment there," Obama told Channel 2 TV, referring to comments made by Netanyahu ahead of Israel's general election in March. In a last ditch attempt to rally voters, Netanyahu backtracked on previous statements that he supported an eventual brokering of peace by allowing Palestine to form its own state. He has since apologized, but that has done little to thaw his icy relationship with Obama. The two have also long been divided over how to handle curbing Iran's nuclear program. "I think that Prime Minister Netanyahu is somebody who's predisposed to think of security first; to think perhaps that peace is naïve; to see the worst possibilities as opposed to the best possibilities in Arab partners or Palestinian partners," Obama continued. Obama called on Israelis to support only diplomatic, non-military options for ensuring that Iran does not achieve the capability to produce nuclear weapons. Skepticism over framework agreement Obama also voiced his skepticism that negotiations on Palestinian statehood could move forward in his remaining year-and-a-half in office, saying "I don't see the likelihood of a framework agreement." His reasoning was that "if nobody believes there is a peace process," it becomes increasingly difficult to get those who are upset to rein in the anger for the sake of negotiating with the other side. Washington has long blocked pro-Palestinian resolutions at the UN in hopes of encouraging direct diplomacy between the two sides, Obama said. But he told the interviewer that now was the time to re-evaluate "how we approach defending Israel on the international stage around the Palestinian issue."

Barack Obama has criticized Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s approach to making peace with Palestine. Obama said in a TV interview that the US may review its continued diplomatic support of Israel over the issue. US President Barack Obama shared his bleak outlook on the possibility for Palestinian statehood in an interview with Israeli TV on Tuesday, saying that Prime Minister ... Read More »

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