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Israel, Palestine (and Beyond) Live Coverage: UN Criticises West Jerusalem's Settlement Expansion

See also Syria Live Coverage: The Humanitarian Crisis
Wednesday's Israel, Palestine (and Beyond) Live Coverage: US Criticises Israeli "Pattern of Provocation" Over Settlements

2123 GMT: Mali. The United Nations Security Council has unanimously authorised an African-led military force to try and oust Islamist insurgents from northern Mali.

The Council gave the force an initial one-year mandate to use "all necessary measures" to help Mali recover the north of the country from "terrorist, extremist. and armed groups". The resolution authorises the European Union and other UN member states to help rebuild Malian security forces.

Insurgents took control of northern Mali after a military coup in March and established Islamic law.

The Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) says it has 3,300 troops ready to deploy, although an operation is not expected to begin before September 2013.

2103 GMT: Bahrain. The US Department of Labor has said that the Bahraini Government has fallen short of commitments to recognize labour rights and prevent employment discrimination under a free trade agreement with Washington.

The agency declined to suspend the trade pact, despite a request from the American trade federation AFL-CIO. Instead, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis called for more diplomatic talks with Bahrain: “We are hopeful that through engagement with our trading partner we will find a solution that is good for workers both in the United States and Bahrain."

In its 50-page report, the Department of Labor found that the Bahraini government “did not take steps to remedy shortcomings in its laws on freedom of association and employment discrimination". It added that Bahrain targeted trade unionists and others for firing and for criminal prosecution because of roles in strikes. The report also found that Shia workers and political critics of the government faced discrimination.

2100 GMT: Bahrain. During a 30-minute visit, detained Said Yousif, the Acting Vice President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, said that he believes "his detention is pure revenge for his job of exposing human rights violations during peaceful protests --- it is a message to him to stop reporting the violations".

1530 GMT: Egypt. Public Prosecutor Tala’at Abdallah, appointed last month, has withdrawn his resignation three days after he announced it.

Abdallah said he had offered his resignation because of the "pressured environment", but realised the e “unacceptable” precedent if he resigned.

1450 GMT: UAE. Authorities have shut the Abu Dhabi office of RAND, the American policy research institute.

RAND staff would not cite the reason for the closure, and no UAE official was available for comment.

In March, the UAE closed two international think-tanks promoting democracy overseas, Germany's Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung and the U.S.-funded National Democratic Institute, citing licensing irregularities.

1400 GMT: Egypt. Cairo's Appeals court has ordered the retrial of two policemen sentenced to seven years in prison in the killing of Khaled Said, whose death was a symbolic catalyst for the uprising against the Mubarak regime.

The court ordered the retrial of the policemen.

Said was allegedly beaten to death after an argument at an Internet cafe in Alexandria in June 2010.

1050 GMT: Bahrain. Police clash with protesters in Ma'ameer on Tuesday night:

0950 GMT: Israel-Palestine. The Israel Defense Forces will further reduce the amount of time that Palestinian minors may be held before they are brought before a judge.

From April 2013, Palestinians aged 12 and 13 suspected of security offenses can be held for 24 hours, and another 48 hours may go by before they are brought before a judge. Minors age 14 to 16 may be held for 48 hours and then a further 96 hours before seeing a judge.

Despite the change --- announced in response to a petition by human rights groups --- the initial incarceration period for Palestinians remains at least twice as long as for Israeli youths.

0945 GMT: Israel-Palestine. Haaretz reports on the division of a Palestinian neighbourhood so Jewish settlers can drive to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv "without stopping at a single traffic light":

The Jerusalem municipality is constructing a highway running through the Arab neighborhood of Beit Safafa, cutting the pastoral area in the south of the city into two.

The road, passing mere meters away from residents’ homes, will not only ruin their quality of life but will cut many of them off from the mosque, bakery, nursery school and other facilities located a few minutes’ walk away. They will now have to travel a long way via roads, underpasses and bridges to get to the other side of the village.

The highway’s construction is based on plans drawn up 22 years ago, although no detailed plan for the road was submitted and no permits for the bridges above it were issued, according to municipal officials.

The village residents will not benefit from the new road, whose main beneficiaries will be West Bank settlers from Gush Etzion who will be able to drive to Jerusalem’s center or Tel Aviv without stopping at a single traffic light.

0925 GMT: Israel-Palestine. The Jerusalem Post declares, "Dreams of building the fifth West Bank Jewish city moved one step closer to reality on Wednesday", as the Ministry of Defense put forth plans to build 523 homes in Gevaot in Gush Etzion.

"Security sources" cautioned that a final signature was needed before construction could begin.

The sources said, "Plans for Gevaot had long been in the works, and that their advancement had nothing to do with building projects over the pre-1967 lines [on Palestinian territory] that had been announced in recent weeks as part of the diplomatic battle with the Palestinians", following the UN General Assembly's recognition of Palestine as an Observer State.

The sources added, "On any final-status agreement with the Palestinians, Gush Etzion would remain part of Israel."

0915 GMT: Iraq. President Jalal Talabani has been flown to Germany for further medical treatment early this morning, three days after suffering a stroke.

Doctors and officials said Talabani appeared to be responding to treatment and was showing signs of improvement by Wednesday.

Firyad Rawndouzi, a senior member of Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, said, "His health condition is stable and much better."

0908 GMT: Yemen. Al Jazeera English posts details of President Hadi's restructuring of the army and Ministry of Defence, in a bid to curb or remove allies of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Among the decisions were the abolition of the elite Republican Guard, which was under the command of Saleh's oldest son Ahmed.

0851 GMT: Egypt. The Secretary General of the Election Committee, Zaghloul el-Balshi, has resigned, citing health problems.

El-Balshi attributed his resignation to "a sudden health crisis". Relatives said he had undergone eye surgery.

Critics claim El-Balshi is stepping down because of irregularities in last Saturday's first stage of the referendum on the Constitution.

0845 GMT: UAE. Eight online activists have now been detained in this week's crackdown on Internet activism.

Five people were detained on Monday. including one held in Saudi Arabia and then handed over to the UAE, and three others were arrested in connection with a Twitter account critical of the Government.

The regime, which has imprisoned more than 60 activists since March, tightened the law on Internet use last month. It set out the possibility of criminal charges against those who "derided or damaged the state or its institutions" or organised unauthorised demonstrations.

The latest wave of arrests started when the authorities sought a critic of the government --- the Twitter account, @weldbudhabi, with more than 11,000 followers --- who appeared to have received leaked documents from the Ministry of Interior.

0820 GMT: Palestine. Three Palestinian prisoners --- Jafar Azzadine, Tarek Qa’adan and Yousef Yassin -- have issued a statement on the 22nd day of their hunger strikes, criticising the Israeli policy of "administrative detention" which permits unlimited imprisonment without charge:

Our open hunger strike is to protest the Intelligence and their policies, our goal is not just to gain our individual freedom but to end the practice of administrative detention, the pointed sword on the neck of the Palestinians. This is a battle in the fight for freedom and dignity despite all the continuing pain and torments that impair us, and despite all the pressure that we endure and is practiced against us by the Israeli Prison Service and Shabak to break our will from our steadfastness.

However, the cowardly enemy will never undermine our steadfastness and our determination to achieve justice and freedom for all our imprisoned and hunger striking brothers, and the oppressed and those who were tortured by the fiery tormentors for decades. We call on the sons of our people to stand by us and to show responsibility for our fellow prisoners, especially Samer Issawi and Ayman Sharawna who are nearing death. We also call on all local and international institutions and those that are specifically for human rights to intensify their efforts and to raise our voices high in international forums to expose the barbaric occupation and its practices.

0800 GMT: Israel-Palestine. All 15 members of the United Nations Security Council, except the US, have criticised Israel for its plan to construct thousands of apartments and houses in new settlements on Palestinian territory in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. 

Representatives called for an immediate halt to the plan, arguing it threatened the possibility of a two-state solution. The 14 countries made the statements individually because efforts for unanimous agreement on a resolution failed.

Thr US has veto power to block any resolution, even if it is supported by all other Council members.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon also expressed his opinion on Wednesday, telling reporters that Israel's heightened settlement activity "gravely threatens efforts to establish a viable Palestinian state": 

I call on Israel to refrain from continuing on this dangerous path. 

The Middle East peace process is in a deep freeze. The two sides seem more polarised than ever, and a two-state solution is farther away than at any time since the Oslo process  began [in the 1990s].

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remained defiant yesterday: "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."


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