Clashes as settlers march in Israel
|The Silwan march comes as the US envoy to the
region moves to restart stalled peace talks [AFP]
The rightwing settlers, who staged the march on Sunday, want Palestians removed from the area and their homes pulled down.
Al Jazeera’s Jacky Rowland in Silwan said the demonstration was “extremely small” and that it was “difficult to measure the size of the impact”.
“The fact that this march took place has been seen as extremely provocative; a highly aggressive gesture on the part of the settlers – people really hell-bent on driving Palestinians from their land,” she said.
The settlers were hoping to walk for several hundred metres but police “seems to have circumscribed their march fairly tightly”, our correspondent said.
“They were only able to walk 200 metres down the hill.”
Indirect peace talks
The march, led by Baruch Marzel and Itamar-Gvir, comes as Israel prepares to declare the beginning of US-mediated indirect talks with the Palestians.
It was originally scheduled for March but was delayed by the police until after the Jewish Passover.
Israel officials involved in efforts to renew the peace process have been quoted by Israel’s Haaretz daily as saying that proximity talks between Israel and Palestinians will start no later than mid-May.
The newspaper did not mention a cabinet meeting scheduled for Sunday, at which the announcement is expected to be made.
However, it said Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, had received an invitation to the talks from Barack Obama, the US president.
But Obama acknowledged he was unable to extract a commitment from Binyamin Netantahu, the Israeli prime minister, to freeze construction of housing units in East Jerusalem, Haaretz said.
George Mitchell, the US envoy to the Middle East, told Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Friday that Washington was committed to Israel’s security and wanted a peace settlement that would give the Palestinians a state.
“That has been American policy. That is American policy. That will be American policy,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell is due to meet Netanyahu again on Sunday.
The Palestinians have demanded a halt to housing projects on land they want for their state if the talks, suspended in December 2008, are to resume.
Last March, Israel announced it would construct 1,600 housing units in the Ramat Shlomo neighbourhood of East Jerusalem, sparking outrage and embarrassing Joe Biden, the US vice-president, who was on a visit to try to kickstart indirect talks.
Abbas said on Saturday that Obama should impose a peace deal but rejected the idea of establishing a state within temporary borders.
“Since you, Mr President and you, the members of the American administration, believe in this, it is your duty to call for the steps in order to reach the solution and impose the solution – impose it,” he said.
“But don’t tell me it’s a vital national strategic American interest … and then not do anything.”
From Ma’an News Agency….
5 reported injured in Silwan clashes
Jerusalem – Ma’an – At least five Palestinians were reportedly injured by rubber bullets, including a paramedic, as Israel riot forces attempted to disperse demonstrators in Silwan in East Jerusalem on Sunday.
Dozens of Palestinian protesters closed off the entrance to the Al-Bustan neighborhood, the site of discord, hurling stones and setting fire to tires as Israeli police attempted to disperse the gathering, Ma’an’s correspondent reported.
Israeli police, Ma’an’s reporter said, removed a number of far-right Israeli protesters from the center of the Silwan neighborhood to the main entrances as they were confronted by Palestinian protesters who raised flags, banging metal pans and objects together.
Some 50 activists, headed by extreme rightists Itamar Ben Gvir and Baruch Marzel, marched from the Old City to the center of Silwan, protesting what they termed “illegal construction” in the area, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported. The construction they referred to is the building of Palestinian homes without city permits.
“We’ve proven to Netanyahu, Obama and Mitchell that we’re the bosses in Jerusalem,” said Ben Gvir during the march, the daily said.
Discord broke out in the Al-Bustan neighborhood in Silwan early on Sunday between Palestinian residents and Israeli police near a protest tent erected ahead of a far-right Israeli rally in the area.
Ma’an’s correspondent said Palestinian men pelted Israeli forces with stones, who responded by deploying riot dispersal means, which often includes rubber bullets, tear-gas and stun grenades. Palestinians were said to have called on residents in Silwan to gather near the tent in order to block a “provocative” rally by Israeli religious extremists due on Sunday.
Mickey Rosenfeld, spokesman for the Israeli police, said “a number of stones” were thrown in the Al-Bustan but that the area “is relatively quiet.”
Fatah’s Jerusalem official Hatem Abdul Qader was reportedly detained at the entrance to Wadi Hilwa en route to Silwan by Israeli police. Rosenfeld said he would look into the report.
Meanwhile, residents in Silwan said hundreds of border guards, officers and riot police, as well as intelligence agents deployed at the neighborhood’s entrance, ahead of the march.
Israel’s attorney general rejected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request to delay the Silwan rally.
Early Sunday, locals said five Silwan residents were detained after homes were searched, one of whom was identified as Mousa Baydoun.