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Israel, Palestine (and Beyond) Live Coverage: US Criticises Israeli "Pattern of Provocation" Over Settlements

See also Bahrain Analysis: Does Al Wefaq Still Lead the Opposition to the Regime?
Syria Live Coverage: The Insurgents Close on Hama
Tuesday's Bahrain (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Protests and Arrests for "Martyrs Day" in Manama

2125 GMT: UAE. Authorities have arrested at least four people after a tightening of the Internet law.

The four men, including former diplomat Naji al-Nuaimi, had sympathised with more than 60 Islamists detained since March, had called for reforms, or had criticised the security forces on-line, activists said.

2025 GMT: Yemen. President Abdrabuh Mansour Hadi has abolished two major military units, including one commanded by the son of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.


"The army was restructured into four units, the land forces, the navy, the air force and the border forces," State television reported, as the Republican Guard and the First Armored Division were abolished.

Brigadier General Ahmed Saleh, the commander of the Republican Guard, had refused orders this to hand over long-range missiles to the Defense Ministry.

2020 GMT: Israel. At the end of his press conference, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on West Jerusalem to halt its plans on settlements:

While bombs and rockets have stopped falling in Gaza and Israel, it has become clearer than ever that peace must be more than the absence of war.

I call on Israel to refrain from continuing on this dangerous path, which will undermine the prospects for a resumption of dialogue and a peaceful future for Palestinians and Israelis alike. Let us get the peace process back on track before it is too late.

If implemented, these plans would represent an almost fatal blow to remaining chances of securing a two-State solution. We strongly urge the Israeli Government to heed the wide international calls to rescind these plans.

2015 GMT: Israel-Turkey.The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued a statement condemning Israel for its settlement expansion plans.The official statement reads :

We strongly condemn Israel's attitude, which violated international laws and deliberately destroyed a platform for permanent and fair peace in the region.

Israel, which aims to change the historical, cultural and religious nature of the Palestinian territories, particularly East Jerusalem, with its nonstop settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories and other practices that are contrary to international law, must understand that it won't achieve its goals by unilateral moves.

We call on the international community to take the necessary measures against Israel's one-sided illegal acts which destroy a two-state solution. Turkey will continue to be on the side of the Palestinian people against Israeli implementations that violate international law.

1735 GMT: Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended his Government’s settlement policy:

We are going to build in Jerusalem for all its residents. This is something that has been done by all previous governments and this is something that my Government will continue to do.

Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years. Imagine that you would limit construction in your own capital --- it doesn't make sense.

1730 GMT: Israel. Following an explosion in the southern Lebanese town of Tair Harfa, Air Force Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel said that those who "sleep with rockets and amass large stockpiles of weapons" are "in a very unsafe place" and added:

It's not a secret that Hezbollah is prepared in southern Lebanon, in violation of UN resolutions. Israel has been clear on the "need to dismantle Hezbollah. The international community is not enforcing the UN resolutions.

Lebanese sources claimed that the blast was caused by a rocket that had been fired by Israel into Lebanon during the 2006 war with Hezbollah but did not detonate on impact. In contrast, Eshel's claim backs up the Israeli line that Hezbollah is violating United Nations resolutions by arming the territory.

1705 GMT: Israel. The Central Election Committee has disqualified Haneen Zoabi, a current member of the Knesset, from standing in January's elections (see 0855 GMT).

The decision will automatically be taken to the Supreme Court for consideration.

Ofir Akunis, the legislator who submitted the request to disqualify Zoabi, welcomed the committee's decision, "[She] clearly violated the Basic Law of The Knesset when she took part in the Marmara terror attack [the Freedom Flotilla that challenged the Israeli blockade of Gaza in May 2010], and therefore she has no place in the Knesset. Israeli democracy needs to know when to defend itself from those who are trying to destroy it from within."

The Committee turned down motions for bans on two Arab parties.

1535 GMT: Israel-Palestine. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has called for the Palestinian refugees from the Yarmouk camp near Damascus (see Syria Live Coverage) to be allowed into the West Bank . Any entry is subject to Israel’s consent.

Some Palestinian refugees who left the Yarmouk camp have been fleeing to Lebanon’s Shatila camp .

1435 GMT: Israel-Palestine. Israeli authorities have approved the visit of the Emir of Qatar to the West Bank at the end of December.

Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani is expected to offer financial aid to the Palestinian Authority to ease its financial crisis, caused in part by Israel's withholding of tax revenues (see 1048 GMT).

There are also politics in play. This autumn, the Emir was the first Arab leader to visit Gaza since Hamas took power in 2007, and both the Palestinian Authority's Mahmoud Abbas and Israel are looking for a trip to the West Bank to balance the victory of the Gazan organisation.

The Palestinian Authority lodged its request at the beginning of the week. Israel hesitated at first to green-light the visit, but Major General Eitan Dangot, the coordinator of government activities in the territories, eventually granted his approval.

1435 GMT: Iraq. A flash update from Reuters:


Other outlets are now carrying the story. "The president's condition is improving, and he will be transferred to a hospital in Germany tomorrow," Najm al-Din Karim, one of Talabani's doctors, said.

1350 GMT: Israel. Despite reports that the Interior Ministry rejected major part of Givat Hamatos neighborhood of East Jerusalem, the Jerusalem Zoning Committee has just approved a bid for 2612 new housing units in the settlement.

1301 GMT: Israel. Minister of Construction and Housing Ariel Attias says that recently approved plans for settlement expansion are “neither intended to harm [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas nor the product of electoral considerations”.

1300 GMT: Israel. Opposition leader Tzipi Livni has accused the Netanyahu Government of risking Israeli security by putting it at the forefront of international attention while trying to get votes in January's elections.

Livni did not call on the Government to stop settlement expansion plans. Instead, she complained about the timing and the approach, "I myself built in Jerusalem. When we built, there was international silence. Because we were building alongside a diplomatic effort to reach a solution."

Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom dismissed claims that the Government was expanding settlements as a pre-election policy, "Construction is not part of our [election] campaign. Building in Jerusalem is not an poke in the eye to anyone, but rather is an entrance to the heart of all."

1255 GMT: Lebanon. Daniel Benjamin, the State Department’s coordinator for counterterrorism, says the European Union will list Hezbollah as a “terrorist” organisation following an intensive US lobbying campaign.

A Jewish Settlement in the West Bank

1240 GMT: Iraq. President Jalal Talabani has reportedly responded to treatment after suffering a stroke on Tuesday.

"He is showing clear signs of improvement," Najmaldin Karim, the governor of Kirkuk city and a doctor, said.The 79-year-old Talabani is in intensive care with a specialist team including doctors from Germany, where he received treatment in the past.

1230 GMT: Egypt. Ahmed El-Borai, the secretary of the opposition National Salvation Front, has rejected the Constituent Assembly's invitation for dialogue on the proposed Constitution.

El-Borai questioned the authority of the Assembly to call for the meeting because it was "dissolved the moment the constitution draft was finalised".

On Tuesday, the High Authority of the Constituent Assembly invited Front leaders for a meeting on Friday to discuss their objections and steps to reach a national consensus.

"If the assembly was aware of our objections from the beginning why did it delay the invitation until the referendum was already being held?" asked El-Borai. He questioned what the outcome of the dialogue would be when the referendum is already underway.

El-Borani said the Front had urged President to postpone the referendum for two weeks. He said the opposition would not agree to anything except a new draft Constitution written by a more representative Assembly.

1048 GMT: Palestine. About 50,000 Government employees in the West Bank have begun a two-day general strike, protesting against a delay in the payment of their wages amid Israeli economic sanctions.

Israel announced at the start of December that it was withholding about $100 million in tax revenues, after Palestine obtained Observer State recognition at the United Nations General Assembly.

The Palestinian Authority, which oversees the West Bank, was in financial difficulties before the latest Israeli step, with salaries issued late for 153,000 public sector workers.

1033 GMT: Yemen. United Nations envoy Jamal Benomar has warned that UN could "impose individual or group sanctions against whoever creates an obstacle or attempts to delay the track of the (political) settlement".

In a meeting with President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, Benomar said a UN committee could be formedor sanctions could be levied directly "when needed".

Long-time President Ali Abdullah Saleh left office earlier this year in a UN-brokered transition. Howver, the national dialogue conference, originally scheduled for mid-November, has been delayed after factions in the Southern Movement --- which has campaigned for autonomy or independence for southern Yemen --- refused to join the talks.

Last week, the commander of the Republican Guards, who happens to be the son of ex-President Saleh, refused to hand over weapons to the Ministry of Defense.

1023 GMT: Israel and Palestine. The Israel Defense Forces have said they will issue permits to about 500 Palestinian Christians in Gaza, allowing them to travel to the West Bank and Bethlehem for Christmas.

0947 GMT: Israel and Palestine. The Ministry of Housing and Construction has announced that it will publish tenders for the construction of thousands of new apartment units in West Bank settlements, a day after approval by the Ministry of Interior and planning committees.

0945 GMT: Egypt. The Washington Post summarised the disappointment for the opposition of a lack of response to calls for protests on Tuesday against President Morsi and the draft Constitution.

“We confused our people today,” said Hussein Abdel Ghany of the National Salvation Front. “This was a mistake. We have to admit it.”

0855 GMT: Israel. The Central Elections Committee will consider motions to disqualify two Arab parties and a current MP from January's elections.

The motions to ban the Arab parties Balad and Ra'am-Ta'al, are based on a provision in the Basic Law, which says a party or an individual candidate can be disqualified if their actions deny Israel to be a Jewish and democratic state, incite racism, or support armed struggle, an enemy state, or a terrorist organisation.

A motion has also been filed against MP Haneen Zoabi, accusing her of undermining the state of Israel and "inciting against its government, its institutions," and the military.

Zoabi, one of 11 MPs representing Arab parties, has been challenged since she took part in the Freedom Flotilla trying to break Israel's blockade of Gaza in May 2010. Nine Turkish activists were killed when Israeli commandos stormed the lead ship, the Mavi Marmara, on which Zoabi was a passenger.

The Elections Committee reflects the political composition of the Knesset, giving it a right-wing majority, but candidates and parties may appeal to the Supreme Court against its decisions. In 2003, 2006, and 2009, the Court overturned the Committee's disqualification of Arab parties.

0850 GMT: Kuwait. Geoff Martin posts an overview of the continuing challenge to the regime and recent election, boycotted by the opposition:

Protests have continued since the elections. The opposition, especially youth activists, have gained even greater legitimacy; yet the plan for what they do next is still in question. Political solidarity in Kuwait is always on tenuous ground and can never be underestimated. On the other hand, the government attempts to pretend like everything is fine and its business as usual. And the Parliament is a bystander in these events. Elections or no elections, the situation in Kuwait is coming to a head.

0740 GMT: Morocco. A Moroccan appeals court has jailed eight unemployed youth activists from the February 20 protest movement for up to six months for taking part in an unauthorised demonstration.

Four of the activists were sentenced to six months and the others were given four to three months by the court in the coastal city of Agadir, the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH) said.

The activists were arrested on 29 September, a day after protesting in the impoverished town of Sidi Ifni, 700 kilometres (about 430 miles) south of Rabat.

“They were simply demanding the right to work,” , said Abdallah Idrissi, who heads the local branch of the AMDH. He added hat some activists from Sidi Ifni had been in prison since 2008, when clashes erupted between unemployed youths and policemen that left scores wounded.

0720 GMT: Israel and Palestine. The US State Department has criticised Israel's plans to expand settlements on Palestinian land, accusing West Jerusalem of actions that contradict statements from Israeli leaders that they are committed to peace.

Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said:

We are deeply disappointed that Israel insists on continuing this pattern of provocative action. These repeated announcements and plans of new construction run counter to the cause of peace. Israel’s leaders continually say that they support a path towards a two-state solution, yet these actions only put that goal further at risk.

On Tuesday, the Ministry of Interior and Israeli planning committee endorsed the construction of 6500 more apartments in and near east Jerusalem.

The European Union members of the United Nations Security Council –-- Britain, France, Germany and Portugal --- are expected to issue a joint statement condemning the decision to construct homes in the Ramat Shlomo neighbourhood of Jerusalem, located beyond the Green Line on Palestinian territory.

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