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U.S Strongly Condemns 'Accelerated, Systematic' Settlement Activity by Israel

State Department says recent construction announcements by Israel 'continued a pattern of provocative and counterproductive actions.'
The U.S. State Department published Thursday an exceptionally strong condemnation of a string of decisions by the Israeli government in recent weeks to expand construction in the West Bank settlements and East Jerusalem.
State Department spokesman John Kirby claimed that the U.S. has identified an "acceleration" of construction in the settlements and accused Israel of "a pattern of provocative and counterproductive action ... that systematically undermines the prospects for a two-state solution."
The statement come in the wake of a number of recent Israeli announcements of plans to advance construction projects in the West Bank. On Wednesday, a tender for 320 new housing units in a Jewish neighborhood in East Jerusalem was published; on Monday, a plan to build 770 housing units in the Gilo neighborhood, also past the Green Line, was announced, as well as plans to build more than 500 new units in Ma'ale Adumim and 42 in Kiryat Arba.
The string of announcements has sparked American anger, especially due to the fact the first were made only two days after the Quartet report on the stalemate in the peace process. The report severally criticized Israeli settlement construction, however the Americans exerted pressure on the Quartet to balance the report and make sure it also condemns the Palestinians for incitement and violence against Israelis. The U.S. joins a number of other nations and organizations who denounced Israel's construction, like the EU, the UN, the U.K., Germany, France, Turkey and Japan.
"We are deeply concerned," Kirby said in a statement. "We strongly oppose settlement activity, which is corrosive to the cause of peace. These steps by Israeli authorities are the latest examples of what appears to be a steady acceleration of settlement activity that is systematically undermining the prospects for a two- state solution."
He also voiced concern regarding the recent demolition of Palestinian homes in Area C of the West Bank, which is under Israeli civilian and military control. He stressed that the number of Palestinian homes destroyed by Israel since the beginning of 2016 was larger than all those razed in 2015.
"As the recent Quartet Report highlighted, this is part of an ongoing process of land seizures, settlement expansion, legalizations of outposts, and denial of Palestinian development that risk entrenching a one-state reality of perpetual occupation and conflict," he said.
"We remain troubled that Israel continues this pattern of provocative and counterproductive action, which raises serious questions about Israel's ultimate commitment to a peaceful, negotiated settlement with the Palestinians," the statement concluded.

Barak Ravid
Haaretz Correspondent

read more: http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.733981


Schermata 2011 28 alle 21.38.03

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Video of the Week New Clashes Erupt Between Israeli Security Forces, Muslim Worshippers

Temple Mount temporarily closed to Jewish visitors after clashes with police

The Temple Mount was temporarily closed to Jewish visitors on Wednesday at the order of Jerusalem District Commander Yoram Halevy after Jews broke visitation rules at the holy site, police said. The Jewish visitors were expelled from the compound for bringing sacred books to the Mount and trying to pray there. After one of the individuals was cautioned, another took out a holy book, and the group was expelled. Meanwhile, renewed clashes erupted between protesters and Israeli security forces near the Lion's Gate in the Old City, where police used stun grenades against the demonstrators. A regular dynamic has developed involving clashes between Palestinians and Israel Police over the past several days near the Lion's Gate. Dozens of Palestinians are present at the site on a regular basis, urging devotion to the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount and condemning Israel. During Muslim prayer times, particularly the midday and nighttime prayers, hundreds and sometimes even thousands have been gathering there.

There have been outbreaks of violence during these periods, including stone-throwing or physical confrontations with the police. In most of these incidents, the police have been using stun grenades and sponge-tipped bullets to disperse the crowds. In a number of cases, journalists in the area have also suffered violence at the hands of the police. On Tuesday, Hassan Shaalan, a reporter for the Ynet news website, was struck by a policeman even after he identified himself as a member of the press. A group of Jerusalem-based journalists released a statement of condemnation over the incident and called on the police to permit reporters to do their jobs. The Jerusalem Police responded: "This involved an incident that took place in the course of violent disturbances of the peace that occurred in Jerusalem while the police were acting to remove the demonstrators from the street after some of them refused to vacate. The forces working on the scene are under constant threat to their lives. http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.802141

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