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UN renews call for two-state solution

Sporadic clashes already broke out between the Israeli military and Palestinians in the West Bank, days after the truce and may ignite an escalating conflict at any time, reports Asian Lite Newsdesk

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland has described a cease-fire in Gaza and Israel as fragile, and called for talks toward a two-state solution to end the cycles of violence.

The past days witnessed a deeply worrying escalation in the Gaza Strip between Israeli military forces and Palestinian armed groups, primarily the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Wennesland told a Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East.

On Sunday night, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office announced in separate statements that a cease-fire had been agreed, he said, noting that cease-fire remains in place so far.

Citing the crucial role played by Egypt in securing the cease-fire alongside the United Nations, as well as support by related parties, Wennesland said the de-escalation of the situation helped prevent the outbreak of a full-scale war and allowed for the delivery of much-needed humanitarian relief to the people of Gaza starting earlier Monday.

But he pointed out that the most recent escalation had its roots in deeper tensions.

“I want to make the Council aware of the following: the cease-fire is fragile. Any resumption of hostilities will only have devastating consequences for Palestinians and Israelis and make any political progress elusive,” he said in his briefing to the Security Council.

Wennesland reiterated calls to the Israeli and Palestinian leadership, along with the international community, to strengthen diplomatic efforts to return to meaningful negotiations toward a viable two-state solution.

“Ultimately, the underlying drivers of this and previous escalations remain. These cycles of violence will only cease when we achieve a political resolution of the conflict that brings an end to the occupation and the realization of a two-state solution on the basis of the 1967 lines, in line with UN resolutions, international law and previous agreements,” he said.

Rocket fired from Gaza at southern Israel Israeli army

How long will it last?

A ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip appears to be holding since Sunday evening, ending a rare preemptive strike by Israel at the besieged enclave.

Israel’s three-day attacks, which came when the Gaza-based Jihad vowed to retaliate for the arrest of a senior Jihad member in the West Bank, are regarded by analysts as a muscle-flexing by Israel’s ruling Yesh Atid party to win a broader base in the run-up to the parliamentary elections.

It’s feared that a new round of clashes might break the truce any time, given the deep-seated grudge between Israel and Palestinian factions, especially the Gaza-ruling Hamas, and the lack of effective truce monitoring.

Palestine urges US to remove PLO from terror lists

Election interests

Key Jihad military facilities were bombed, and 44 people including two high-ranking commanders, were killed in Gaza during the three-day airstrikes by Israel.

Caretaker Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid claimed that the Israeli operation has achieved all goals and that Jihad’s “entire military high command was killed.”

It was unusual for Israel to make a preemptive strike on the Palestinian territory. Ibrahim Abrash, a political science professor from Gaza, told Xinhua that Lapid and Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz were motivated by their election interests to launch the attacks with an aim to gain reputation and support.

Israel will hold parliamentary elections in November, the 5th in less than four years. Now polls show the centrist Yesh Atid party led by Lapid could win fewer seats than the right-wing Likud bloc led by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Through the latest confrontation, the Israeli government also intended to divert attention from its crackdown on Palestinians in the West Bank, including the endless arrests and land confiscation, and expansion of Jewish settlements, said Abrash, also a former official in the Palestinian Authority.

An easier target

In this round of conflict with Gaza, the Israeli military set their target very clearly: only the Jihad, not the Gaza-ruling Hamas, which is much more influential in the enclave with stronger military prowess.

Israel did not want to play “overtime” in the conflict, considering that prolonged conflict could drive Hamas to join.

“There might be unnecessary failures and losses, no matter in terms of economic or military, and “therefore it sought to end the operations as soon as possible,” Palestinian political commentator Ismat Mansour said.

On the other hand, the Jihad was believed to also want to reach a truce to stop the massive hemorrhage of members, as several commanders were killed and no signal of the release of its senior leader Bassam al-Saadi, whose arrest triggered off the recent conflict.

On Hamas’ inaction on the Israel-Jihad conflict, Palestinian political analyst Nur Oda believed that it was probably because that Hamas has yet fully recovered from the bloody 21-day military conflict with Israel in May 2021.

Experts also hold that this time Israel may further divide the Palestinian armed groups in the coastal enclave and weaken their internal cohesion.

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Gaza plunges into darkness

Around 550 megawatts of electricity are needed daily to cover the needs of the approximately 2 million residents. Recently, however, only 180 megawatts were available….reports Asian Lite News

The sole power plant in the Gaza Strip has been knocked offline due to a lack of fuel, electricity officials said.

As a result, the power supply in the Palestinian territory will be reduced from the previous 12 hours to four hours, dpa news agency quoted the officials as saying on Saturday.

Israel closed its border with Gaza to goods and people early in the week, fearing reprisals after the arrest of a Palestinian militant leader in the West Bank.

An electricity company official said the plant’s shutdown was leading to a “catastrophic situation” in Gaza, noting the impoverished territory had already been suffering from insufficient electricity.

Around 550 megawatts of electricity are needed daily to cover the needs of the approximately 2 million residents. Recently, however, only 180 megawatts were available.

Palestinian security sources said that Israel originally intended to reopen the crossing for the import of limited amounts of fuel, but withdrew the decision at the last minute.

This was preceded by mediation attempts, according to the sources.

Tensions soared on Friday after Israeli forces launched a large-scale military operation against the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group in the Gaza Strip.

At least 24 people have been killed in airstrikes, including senior leader Taisir al-Jabari, according to Palestinian health officials.

Palestinian militants responded by firing rockets at Israel, almost all of which either fell in unpopulated areas or were intercepted by the Iron Dome defence system.

ALSO READ: ‘Gaza attack to last a week’

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India lends helping hand to Palestine refugees

India is a dedicated donor to UNRWA, having given USD 20 million in support of core UNRWA services to Palestine refugees across the Middle East since 2018…reports Asian Lite News

India contributed USD 2.5 million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

Director of the West Asia and North Africa Division of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, Sunil Kumar presented the cheque of USD 2.5 million to the UNRWA Director of Partnerships of the Department of External Relations, Karim Amer in a signing ceremony at UNRWA headquarters in East Jerusalem on July 22, an official statement from the UNRWA said.

Karim Amer expressed gratitude and appreciated India for its continuous efforts toward the Palestinian refugees.

“This timely contribution is a strong demonstration of India’s unwavering support to the work of UNRWA and commitment to the wellbeing of Palestine refugees. On behalf of UNRWA, I would like to express our deep appreciation for the Government of India for its continued funding to the Agency and its backing of Palestine refugees across the Middle East,” he said.

During the ceremony, Under-Secretary for West Asia and North Africa, Ministry of External Affairs, Harish Kumar was also present.

India is a dedicated donor to UNRWA, having given USD 20 million in support of core UNRWA services to Palestine refugees across the Middle East since 2018.

The UNRWA, which was established as a humanitarian agency in 1949, is fully funded through voluntary contributions and grants from donor countries.

The agency was mandated to provide assistance and protection for about 5.6 million Palestinian refugees registered in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan.

The UNRWA services for Palestinian refugees involve education, health care, relief, infrastructure, camp improvement, protection and microfinance.

In January, the UNRWA announced that it needs 1.6 billion US dollars from the international community in 2022 to cover expenses and provide services and humanitarian development programs for Palestinian refugees. (ANI)

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At West Bank, Biden stands by two-state solution

President to announce $201 m for the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, plus smaller amounts for other assorted program…reports Asian Lite News

With no clear path to getting peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians back on track, President Joe Biden offered American money Friday as a balm while visiting a local hospital.

“Palestinians and Israelis deserve equal measures of freedom, security, prosperity and dignity,” he said while visiting the East Jerusalem Hospital Network, which serves Palestinians. “And access to health care, when you need it, is essential to living a life of dignity for all of us.”

Although $100 million in proposed health care assistance requires US congressional approval, Biden is also announcing $201 million for the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, plus smaller amounts for other assorted programs.

Israel has also committed to upgrading wireless networks in the West Bank and Gaza, part of a broader effort to improve economic conditions.

After leaving the hospital, Biden was to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and visit the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

His trip to the West Bank is being met with skepticism and bitterness among Palestinians who believe Biden has taken too few steps toward rejuvenating peace talks, especially after President Donald Trump sidelined them while heavily favoring Israel.

When Biden finished speaking at the hospital, a woman who identified herself as a pediatric nurse at another health care facility thanked him for the financial assistance but said “we need more justice, more dignity.”

The last serious round of negotiations aimed at creating an independent Palestinian state broke down more than a decade ago, leaving millions of Palestinians living under Israeli military rule.

Israel’s outgoing government has taken steps to improve economic conditions in the occupied West Bank and Gaza. But Yair Lapid, the caretaker prime minister, does not have a mandate to hold peace negotiations, and Nov. 1 elections could bring to power a right-wing government that is opposed to Palestinian statehood.

Meanwhile, the 86-year-old President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Palestinian Authority administers parts of the occupied West Bank and cooperates with Israel on security, is more representative of the status quo than Palestinian aspirations.

His Fatah party lost an election, and control of Gaza, to the Islamic militant group Hamas more than 15 years ago. He called off the first national elections since then last year — blaming Israel — when Fatah appeared to be heading for another crushing defeat. Polls over the past year have consistently found that nearly 80 percent of Palestinians want him to resign.

Biden acknowledged this week that while he supports a two-state solution, it won’t happen “in the near-term.” The US also appears to have accepted defeat in its more modest push to reopen a Jerusalem consulate serving the Palestinians that was closed when President Donald Trump recognized the contested city as Israel’s capital.

There’s been hardly any mention of the Palestinians over the past two days, as Biden has showered Israel with praise, holding it up as a democracy that shares American values. At a news conference with Biden, Lapid evoked the US civil rights movement to portray Israel as a bastion of freedom.

It all reeked of hypocrisy to Palestinians, who have endured 55 years of military occupation with no end in sight.

Palestinian protesters clash with Israeli soldiers as Palestinians tried to cross a checkpoint to reach the Jordan valley following a protest against the expansion of Jewish settlements, near the West Bank city of Tubas

“The idea of shared values actually makes me sick to my stomach,” said Diana Buttu, a Palestinian lawyer and political analyst. “I don’t think Israeli values are anything that people should be striving toward.”

Both Biden and Lapid said they supported an eventual two-state solution in order to ensure that Israel remains a Jewish-majority state. But Biden is expected to announce little beyond financial assistance, including $201 million for the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees.

Biden proposed $100 million, subject to US congressional approval, for hospitals in east Jerusalem that serve Palestinians. Another $15 million is for humanitarian assistance, plus $7.2 million for programs to promote cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians.

His approach, often referred to as “economic peace,” has limitations.

“You can’t buy a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” said Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and former US State Department official. “It doesn’t work, because that’s not what drives this conflict.”

That sentiment was on display in the West Bank on Thursday, where dozens of Palestinians gathered to protest Biden. More protests were expected Friday.

“Mr. Biden is trying to marginalize the Palestinian issue,” said Mustafa Barghouti, a veteran Palestinian activist. “If he does not allow Palestinians to have their rights, then he is helping Israel kill and end the very last possibility of peace.”

At this point, the Palestinian goal of an independent state in east Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza — territories Israel seized in the 1967 Mideast war — appears more distant than ever.

Nablus (Palestine): A Palestinian protester throws stones at Israeli soldiers during a protest against the expanding of Jewish settlements in Kufr Qadoom village near the West Bank city of Nablus on December 5, 2014.(Xinhua/Ayman Nobani/IANS)

Israel is expanding settlements in annexed east Jerusalem and the West Bank, which are now home to some 700,000 Jewish settlers. The Palestinian view the settlements — many of which resemble sprawling suburbs — as the main obstacle to peace, because they carve up the land on which a Palestinian state would be established. Most of the world considers them illegal.

Military rule in the West Bank has sown widespread despair, contributing to a recent wave of violence. A 15-year blockade of Gaza, which Israel says is needed to contain Hamas, has helped fuel four devastating wars. Jerusalem, home to famed holy sites and the emotional heart of the conflict, is as volatile as ever.

Israel has its own grievances — including Palestinian Authority payments to the families of prisoners and slain attackers, which Israel says incentivize violence. The PA defends the payments as a form of welfare for those it sees as victims of the conflict.

It’s unclear if eliminating the “martyrs’ fund” would advance the goal of statehood. Israel is dominated by nationalist and religious parties that are opposed to a Palestinian state and view the West Bank as the biblical and historical heartland of the Jewish people.

Well-known human rights groups have concluded that Israel’s seemingly permanent control over millions of Palestinians amounts to apartheid. One of those groups, Israel’s own B’Tselem, hung banners in the West Bank ahead of Biden’s visit.

Biden will also likely see banners calling for justice for Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed during an Israeli military raid in the West Bank in May. Israel says she might have been struck by Palestinian gunfire, while investigations by The Associated Press and other media outlets support Palestinian witnesses who say she was shot by Israeli forces.

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Arab News

Palestinians disappointed with US policy ahead of Biden’s visit

Ahead of US President Joe Biden’s first visit to the Middle East, the Palestinians are disappointed with the US’ failure to present any new peace initiative and fulfill its promises on the Palestinian cause…reports Asian Lite News

Biden is scheduled to visit Israel, Palestine and Saudi Arabia during his first trip to the region which starts on Wednesday, Xinhua news agency reported.

In the past weeks, the Palestinians ramped up their voices calling on the Biden administration to deliver its promises by reopening the US consulate in East Jerusalem and the office of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) in Washington, and removing the PLO from the US terrorism list.

Meanwhile, the Palestinians criticized the US for its silence over the escalation of Israeli unilateral practices in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Ramzi Rabah, a PLO executive committee member, said that within the PLO executive committee, there is widespread criticism of the US policy as its members urged the Palestinian Authority “not to bet on any actual US role in the region”.

The Palestinian leadership “must go to alternative options in dealing with Washington,” Rabah told Xinhua in an interview.

He said that as the US refuses to take any serious steps to stop Israel from escalating its practices against the Palestinians, “there is a need to go to the UN and the UN Security Council to create an international political initiative.”

“I think that the essence of Biden’s visit to the region is to arrange a regional alliance, to secure the American interests and confront Iran,” Rabah noted, expressing the Palestinians’ disappointment at the US inaction to break the protracted stalemate in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Wassel Abu Yousef, another member of the PLO executive committee, ruled out major positive results from Biden’s visit on advancing the Palestinian cause, citing that the US has increased support for Israel and its practices against the Palestinians, including confiscating land, demolishing homes and expanding settlements.

The Palestinians “do not expect anything new from Biden’s visit to the region regarding the implementation of the US promises, except that it will result in more support for Israel,” he told Xinhua in an interview.

Frustration and despair are prevailing among the Palestinians as nearly 29 years have passed since the Palestinians signed the Oslo peace agreement with Israel, under the US sponsorship, to end the conflict between them.

The Israeli-Palestinian peace process has been deadlocked since 2014 mainly due to Washington’s refusal to change its biased pro-Israeli policy that ignores the political rights of the Palestinian people, who hope to establish an independent state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.

ALSO READ:Palestine Prez meets Israeli Defence Minister

Abdulmajid Sweilem, a Palestinian analyst from the West Bank city of Ramallah, said that Biden’s visit to the Palestinian territories is just “a political courtesy”.

Biden is expected to “repeat Washington’s old slogans of adhering to the two-state solution and protecting the Palestinian people’s right to dignity and security, among other cliches,” he told Xinhua in an interview.

“Ultimately, these cliches mean improving the lives of the Palestinians under the framework of Israeli domination and limited Palestinian self-rule,” Sweilem added.

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Arab News

Palestine Prez meets Israeli Defence Minister

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met Israeli Minister of Defence Benny Gantz in the West Bank city of Ramallah…reports Asian Lite News

During the meeting at the presidential headquarters on Thursday , Gantz extended congratulations to Abbas and the Palestinian people on the occasion of Eid al-Adha, Xinhua news agency quoted state media as saying in a report.

Abbas explained to Gantz the importance of creating a political horizon and respecting the peace agreements signed between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The Palestinian President urged Israel to stop all unilateral measures in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, “which would lead to an escalation of tension between the two sides”, said the state media report

Abbas added that US President Joe Biden’s upcoming visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories on July 13 is “warmly welcomed by the Palestinian leadership”.

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Gantz said Israel is working on finalizing a prisoners’ swap deal with the Hamas to exchange four Israeli captives for the release of certain Palestinians from Israeli jails.

In 2017, Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip since 2007, announced that it had been holding four Israelis, including two soldiers.

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Arab News

UN peacekeeping forces in Lebanon adopt strict measures to protect data

An official of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has said the UN peacekeeping forces have adopted strict measures to protect its data…reports Asian Lite News

“UNIFIL and the United Nations take cybersecurity very seriously and they adopt strict measures to protect their data,” said Candice Ardell, Deputy Director of UNIFIL Media Office, according to the Lebanese National News Agency.

The UN official’s remarks came after Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz said Iran and the Lebanese-based Hezbollah group recently launched a cyberattack against UNIFIL, trying to get information about its activities in the area, Xinhua news agency reported.

Ardell added that the mission “is aware of the media reports that conveyed statements of the Israeli Defence Minister today, but we did not receive any direct information about the alleged incident”.

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Gantz on Wednesday said that “Iranian security institutions in cooperation with Hezbollah” have attempted to “disrupt UNIFIL operations”.

“They launched a cyber operation with the aim of stealing materials about UNIFIL activities and deployment in the area, for Hezbollah’s use,” he added.

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Arab News

Palestinian killed in clashes with Israeli soldiers in northern West Bank

A Palestinian was killed on Wednesday during clashes with Israeli soldiers in the northern West Bank city of Jenin, Palestinian medics and eyewitnesses said…reports Asian Lite News

Wessam Abu Bakker, director of Jenin Hospital, told Xinhua news agency that Mohammad Mer’ei, 25, was killed after being shot in the chest by Israeli soldiers who had stormed the city.

He said that Mer’ei later succumbed to his wounds in hospital.

Meanwhile, Palestinian eyewitnesses in Jenin said that an Israeli army force stormed the city early in the morning to arrest Palestinian activists who were wanted by the Israeli security intelligence.

They added that fierce clashes broke out in the city between the Israeli army and dozens of Palestinians.

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There was no immediate Israeli army response to Mer’ei’s killing.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry condemned the young man’s killing, saying in a press statement that Mer’ei’s death is the result of “Israeli politicians who give instructions to the soldiers to kill.”

The ministry said it holds the Israeli government directly responsible.

“We call on the International Criminal Court to immediately start investigating the crimes of the Israeli occupation and the Israeli settlers,” the statement said, adding that Mer’ei is “a direct victim of Israel’s continued impunity.”

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Arab News

Israeli settler kills Palestinian man: Health Ministry

A Palestinian young man died after an Israeli settler had stabbed him near the northern West Bank city of Salfit, the Palestinian Ministry of Health said in a statement…reports Asian Lite News

The Israeli directly “stabbed” Hassan Harb in the heart during confrontations with Israeli settlers who stormed the city’s suburb, the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) was quoted as saying by Xinhua news agency.

Israeli Police’s West Bank division said it had launched an investigation following a confrontation between Israelis and Palestinians. The police confirmed a Palestinian man had been stabbed, though the identity of the stabber remains unknown, Israeli media reported on Tuesday.

ALSO READ:Israel begins building wall in northern West Bank

According to Mo’ayad Sha’ban, chairman of the Corporation to Resist the Wall and Israeli Settlement in the West Bank, a group of young Palestinian men tried to confront the Israeli settlers who had established a settlement outpost.

A group of settlers and an Israeli army force attacked the youths, he said. “This situation is very dangerous, and it is an open war against the Palestinians.”

“If the situation continues as it is now, we will be in ghettos and cantons separated from each other, and we will not be able to move without a permit from the settlements council, which receives the Israeli government’s full support.”

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Arab News

Italy Leader Lauds Palestine Ties

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Ishtaye on Tuesday discussed with his visiting Italian counterpart Mario Draghi the unilateral Israeli actions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem…reports Asian Lite News

“We discussed the daily Israeli violations at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, the expansion of Israeli settlements, the Israeli settlers’ assaults on Palestinians,” Ishtaye told a joint news conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

He noted that the Venice Declaration called for the acknowledgment of the Palestinians’ right of self-determination.

The Venice Declaration was an agreement issued by the European Economic Community, seen as the predecessor of the European Union, after its meeting with the Palestinian Liberation Organization in June 1980.

The Palestinian prime minister also called on Italy “to protect the two-state solution and save it from destruction by unilateral Israeli measures.”

For his part, Draghi said his visit to Palestine shows “Italy is committed to the peace process” between Israelis and Palestinians.

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“Peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis must be resumed to restore confidence. There is a need to work to reduce tension at all levels,” he noted.

The last round of peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, brokered by the United States, collapsed in April 2014 because of continuing Israeli expansion of settlements in the Palestinian territories in the West Bank occupied by Israel in 1967.

Palestine and Italy also signed six development cooperation agreements worth 16.6 million euros to support health, tourism, employment, statistics, and the private sector in Palestine.