The Daily Star/U.S. raps Israeli settler plans as tensions soar

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SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – The United States Wednesday sharply condemned Israeli plans to build 200 new settler homes in Arab East Jerusalem warning such moves would only “exacerbate” spiraling tensions in the city.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki also denounced the torching of a West Bank mosque blamed on suspected Jewish extremists, calling it a “hateful and provocative” act and urging officials to investigate.

An Israeli committee approved plans to build 200 homes in Ramo, a neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem, in the latest in a slew of announcements of new settler homes.

“We are deeply concerned by this decision, particularly given the tense situation in Jerusalem, as well as the unequivocal and unanimous position of the United States and others in the international community opposing such construction in east Jerusalem,” Psaki told reporters.

“These decisions to expand construction have the potential to exacerbate this difficult situation on the ground, and they will not contribute to efforts to reduce the tension.”

King Abdullah II of Jordan expressed his “total rejection of Israel’s repeated aggressions and provocations in Jerusalem,” a palace statement said.

Abdullah raised particular concern about tensions at Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the third holiest site in Islam where Jordan has custodial rights. Abdullah urged global powers to step up peace efforts, warning against “the continuation of Israel’s settlement policies.”

He spoke before a private dinner with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss the flare-up in tensions. Kerry is due to meet Mahmoud Abbas in Amman Tuesday, the Palestinian president’s spokesperson said.

Settlement announcements “fly in the face of the stated goal of achieving a two-state solution because it predetermines or pre-decides where construction should be,” Psaki said.

She also blasted an arson attack on mosque in the Palestinian village of Mughayer on the West Bank which Palestinian security officials blamed on extremists Jewish settlers.

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon demanded that both sides do everything possible “to avoid further exacerbating an already tense environment.”

The mosque torching came two days after Palestinian knife attacks killed a settler in the southern West Bank and an Israeli soldier in Tel Aviv, and came as Palestinian anger was already running high after Israeli troops shot dead a 22-year-old protester in the southern West Bank Tuesday.

Since the current round of violence began five months ago with the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers by militants, at least 17 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank, according to an AFP count.

Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid said the situation was “a real test of leadership” for both Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“We must throw a bucket of cold water over the explosive situation … of the last few weeks, and not add fuel to the furnace.”

Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said it was too early to describe the wave of violence as a new Palestinian uprising, but warned the public to be alert for a possible further escalation of unrest.

Also Wednesday, Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian leader serving a life sentence in Israel, was sentenced to a week in solitary for calling for more violence and for the Palestinian Authority to stop its security cooperation with Israel. Israeli media interpreted that as a call for a third intifada.

Meanwhile French lawmakers are to vote on Nov. 28 on a proposal urging the government to recognize Palestine, a parliamentary source said.

www.shafaqna.com/english

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