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Saudi condemns Israel decision to build 800 new illegal settlement units

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Saudi Arabia has condemned Israel’s approval of the construction of 800 new illegal settlement units in the occupied West Bank, calling it a threat to a peaceful political solution.

A statement by the kingdom’s Foreign Ministry said today: “We strongly condemn Israel’s decision to approve the establishment of 800 new settlement units in the West Bank, and we reiterate our categorical rejection of this step as a new violation of international legitimacy decisions, a threat to peace, and an undermining of efforts for the two-state solution.”

The condemnation comes after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday ordered for the proceeding of plans to construct 800 new homes for Jewish settlers in the settlements of Beit El, Tal Menashe, Rehelim, Shavei Shomron, Barkan, Karnei Shomron and Givat Zeev. A date for the beginning of the construction has not yet been given, however.

Despite repeated warnings from Israel’s allies against the building of settlements in the West Bank – deemed illegal under international law – Tel Aviv has persisted with its construction efforts in order to further spread throughout the occupied Palestinian territories and gain control of strategic areas.

France has also condemned Israel’s decision.

READ: Netanyahu’s visit to Saudi Arabia has serious implications for the region

Saudi Arabia’s own condemnation comes amid speculation that it could normalise relations with Israel in the near future, following in the steps of the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco last year.

The kingdom has not ruled out that possibility, but has insisted that the Palestinians must first be guaranteed their rights and equal representation before any move for normalisation. As Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal Bin Farhan stated in October last year: “We have always envisioned that normalisation would happen, but we also need to have a Palestinian state and a Palestinian-Israeli peace plan.”

There has been some pushback in the warming relations between Riyadh and Tel Aviv, with Saudi prince and former senior official Turki Al-Faisal last month calling out Israel for building an “apartheid wall”, putting Palestinians in concentration camps, and denying equal rights to its non-Jewish citizens.

READ: Israel to allow Saudi to run charities in East Jerusalem to curb Turkey’s influence

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Israel

Israel floods farmlands with rainwater in eastern Gaza

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The Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture announced on Thursday that Israel had vented its dams for rainwater harvesting, leading to the flooding of farmlands near the Gaza Strip’s eastern borders and the destruction of vast agricultural areas.

Israel has built several dams to collect and use rainwater and vents it without warning when large quantities of water accumulate during the winter, causing damage to the Gaza Strip’s farm and agricultural lands.

Ahmed Fatayer, director of the ministry’s branch in Gaza, disclosed that Israel: “Has opened the rainwater dams east of the Shuja’iyya neighbourhood in the east of the Gaza Strip, which led to flooding hundreds of dunams of agricultural land.”

In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency, Fatayer indicated that Palestinian farmers have suffered “great losses and direct and indirect damage” due to the sudden venting of dams.

He pointed out that Israel has been venting the dams and flooding agricultural land belonging to Palestinian citizens in recent years.

READ: Israeli forces demolish Al-Araqib village for 182nd time

Salem Quta, one of the affected farmers, conveyed that the Palestinian landowners have suffered significant losses due to the flooding of their agricultural areas.

“About 400 dunams (one dunam equals 1,000 metres) were directly flooded with water, while 150 dunams were indirectly damaged by the flow of rainwater,” Quta told Anadolu Agency.

The farmer explained that the flooding of agricultural lands occurred when the crops he was growing during recent months were about to ripen.

Quta confirmed that in addition to flooding agricultural areas, Israel also: “Sprays chemical pesticides on the crops, which ends up destroying them, in addition to clearing the land.”

He called on human rights organisations and institutions to stand with the Palestinian farmers and support them to resist these violations.

READ: MEMO in conversation with Professor Rashid Khalidi

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Palestinian inmate dies after receiving Israel vaccine

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Palestinian inmate Maher Saasaa has died after recently receiving the coronavirus vaccine, according to the Palestinian Commission of Detainees’ and ex-Detainees’ Affairs.

The Israel Prisons Service announced late Wednesday the death of Saasaa, 45, from Qalqilah, in northern West Bank, who suffered from several chronic diseases.

The cause of death was unclear, according to an official statement.

Israeli authorities told his family that an autopsy would be performed Thursday.

The family said he was exposed to medical negligence during his detention for more than 15 years.

Saasaa was the father of six children.

READ: Israel will be responsible for more Palestinian deaths if it withholds the Covid-19 vaccine

“We prepared a detailed report about the health situation for the detainees in Israeli jails, and we will send it via Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the human rights organizations to make an effort to protect the Palestinian inmates,” said Qadri Abu-Baker, head of the detainee commission.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said delegates are still visiting jails and facilizing the transmission of messages between detainees and families since visits were stopped at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in March.

It said it has visited more than 95% of jails and detention centers, ICRC spokesman in Palestine, Yahya Maswadeh, told Anadolu Agency.

“We are in intensive contact with the Israeli jails services about the plan for vaccination of Palestinian inmates, and we give our recommendations for giving priority for vulnerable groups inside the jails,” Maswadeh added.

The Israeli government decided to start vaccinating prisoners in different jails but risks remain and the numbers of infected detainees have been increasing recently, Abu-Baker told Anadolu Agency.

READ: Israel sharing COVID-19 data with Pfizer to fine-tune vaccine rollout

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