US envoy smashes wall dug under Palestinian homes in E. Jerusalem with SLEDGEHAMMER

Top US diplomats, one responsible for Middle East peace efforts, were filmed frantically hammering a wall to finish a controversial Israeli tunnel running close to the most divisive holy sites in annexed East Jerusalem.

Ambassador David Friedman and Middle East peace envoy Jason Greenblatt, showed up on Sunday at the unveiling of what the Israelis call an underground “pilgrimage road” located right next to the contested Temple Mount.

The tunnel, excavated beneath the mostly Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan, was officially opened with the ceremonial smashing of a brick wall which served to replace the traditional ribbon-cutting. US ambassador Israel Friedman swung the first hammer.

President Trump's envoys "burst the way" to the historic site in Jerusalem...

 

Digging of the 350-meter “pilgrimage road,” promoted and funded by a local rightwing group, occurred disturbingly close to a highly-sensitive area of East Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, which houses a number of Jewish sites but also the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock.

The dig had also started without the permission of the Silwan residents living overhead. It has been reported that some Palestinian families even had to leave their houses because of cracks and destruction caused by the excavations.

READ MORE: Israel could annex parts of West Bank in coming years – Netanyahu

Naturally, Palestinians have fiercely criticized the symbolism behind a US ambassador swinging a sledgehammer as an endorsement of occupation and colonial practices. That aside, the presence of the American officials at the bizarre ceremony raised suspicions that the US is helping Israel “Judaize” East Jerusalem.

Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Saeb Erekat, called it a “disgrace” to US diplomacy and compared the American delegation to “extremist fanatic Israeli settlers.”

Greenblatt and Friedman are doing everything that would bring prosperity to the apartheid colonial settlement.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry claimed that Friedman and Greenblatt were “faking history” for “colonial purpose.” The American actions are “blatant aggression against international law,” Chief Justice Mahmoud al-Habash said in a separate statement, calling on the international community to preserve the Palestinian heritage of the city.

Meanwhile, Greenblatt hit back at the “ludicrous” accusations, claiming on Twitter that archaeology has proven that Jerusalem belongs to the Jewish people: “We can’t ‘Judaize’ what history/archaeology show.”

Israel invaded and seized East Jerusalem – which was once under Jordanian custodianship – during the 1967 Six-Day War. The subsequent annexation wasn’t recognized by most countries, with the UN referring to East Jerusalem as an “Israeli-occupied territory.”

The status of East Jerusalem has been at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for decades. Recently, the US added more fuel to the frequent flashpoint of violence by moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, triggering a wave of massive Palestinian protests in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

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Israel attacks Syrian targets near occupied Golan Heights

Israel has attacked Syrian military positions in the country's south, killing three soldiers and wounding seven others, Syria's state-run media reported.

The Israeli military confirmed the attack that took place early on Sunday in a series of tweets, saying it was in response to two rockets fired from Syria at Mount Hermon late on Saturday. One of the rockets landed in Israel but no damage or injuries were reported.

State news agency SANA quoted an unnamed military official as saying the Israeli attacks struck military positions in the southern region of Quneitra, near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. They also caused material damage, it said.

The Israeli military said the targets included two artillery batteries, several observation and intelligence posts and an SA2 air defence unit.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition's war monitor, said Israeli warplanes struck positions and an arms depot of Iranian troops and Lebanon's Hezbollah fighters.

Hezbollah is a Lebanese armed and political group that, along with Iran, supports Syria's President Bashar al-Assad.

Israel has acknowledged carrying out dozens of air raids in Syria on Iranian targets and Tehran's allies.

Last week, Israeli aircraft hit a Syrian military post after the army said an anti-aircraft missile was fired at one of its fighter jets. Syrian media said a soldier was killed in that attack.

Israel says it is determined to prevent its arch foe Iran from entrenching itself militarily in Syria, where Tehran backs al-Assad in the country's eight-year-long war which has killed more than 370,000 people.

This second exchange of fire between Syria and Israel in a week comes amid heightened tensions over Iran, after US President Donald Trump last year pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal to curb Iran's nuclear programme.

In recent weeks, the US and some of its Gulf allies have accused Iran of aggression, including attacks on four oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.

Tehran has strongly denied involvement in the incidents.

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Muslim countries back Palestinians ahead of 'deal of the century'

An influential summit of Muslim countries has backed the Palestinians ahead of the United States' unveiling of a peace plan that is expected to dismiss their political aspirations.

Meeting in Mecca, the 57-country Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) denounced on Saturday the controversial US move to transfer its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem and urged its members to "boycott" those countries that have opened embassies in the disputed city, whose eastern part is regarded by Palestinians as the capital of their future state.

The OIC summit also reaffirmed its opposition to illegal Israeli measures aimed at changing facts in occupied Palestinian territories and refused to recognise Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

"The Palestinian people have the right to achieve their inalienable national rights, including their right to self-determination and the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian State," the OIC said in a joint statement.

It came as Jared Kushner,  Donald Trump's son-in-law, readies a long-awaited Middle East peace plan whose economic aspects are set to be rolled out at a conference in Bahrain later this month.

Dubbed the "deal of the century," the plan has already been rejected by the Palestinians, who expect it to be skewed in Israel's favour.

Speaking to the Reuters news agency on Friday, a senior Palestinian official said that "the plan doesn't give justice to the Palestinians".

"The Palestinian cause is being liquidated - no Jerusalem [as capital], no right of return for refugees, no sovereign state. That is why this American project is dangerous," the official said.

The plan has reportedly been thrown into disarray by the uncertainty over the future of key-US ally Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was forced on Wednesday to call fresh elections after failing to form a government after April elections.

Kushner, who was in Jerusalem on Friday on the last leg of a regional tour aimed at selling the plan, had looked to an alliance with Saudi Arabia against Iran as a way to gain Arab support.

But Saudi King Salman told leaders of the OIC countries gathered at the summit: "The Palestinian cause is the cornerstone of the works of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and is the focus of our attention until the brotherly Palestinian people get all their legitimate rights.

"We reaffirm our unequivocal rejection of any measures that would prejudice the historical and legal status of Quds [Jerusalem]."

Saudi Arabia last month said it would attend an economic conference in Bahrain that the US intends to be the jumping-off point for the "deal of the century".

The gulf kingdom also received backing amid escalating tensions with Iran, as King Salman warned against "terrorist" attacks in the region following alleged sabotage attacks on two Saudi oil tankers.

"We confirm that terrorist actions not only target the kingdom and the Gulf region, but also target the safety of navigation and world oil supplies," the king told Muslim leaders.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani was not present at the conference, nor was Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The OIC comprises Muslim-majority countries and those with a sizeable Muslim population, such as Uganda and Guyana, and has a collective population of 1.9bn.

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End of Bibi’s era? ‘Bleak’ prospects for Netanyahu as Israel’s embattled PM faces snap elections

Benjamin Netanyahu will struggle to secure a majority in September’s snap elections, analysts told RT, predicting that the Israeli prime minister faces formidable political and legal hurdles if he hopes to keep his job.

Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, voted to dissolve late Wednesday night after Netanyahu failed to form a coalition before the midnight deadline. The sizable political hiccup marks the first time in Israel’s history that the presumed prime minister has failed to form a government. Less than two months after Netanyahu declared victory in April’s elections, Israeli voters will return to the polls on September 17.

Also on rt.com Will Netanyahu form a government by midnight – or force new elections?...

While Netanyahu has proven himself to be a resilient politician, the veteran politician will have to overcome a looming indictment, as well as a crumbling alliance with right-wing and religious parties, if he hopes to remain in power.

A shattered alliance

Netanyahu’s problems began immediately after April’s elections. Despite claiming victory, his Likud party was only able to secure 35 seats in the Knesset, requiring him to form a coalition to secure a majority in the 120-seat legislature. The fate of the new government depended on the support of the small, ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, but the group’s leader, former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, broke ranks with Netanyahu over military draft exemptions for Orthodox Jews. Lieberman resigned as defense minister in November after Netanyahu’s cabinet agreed to a ceasefire that ended two days of fighting with Palestinian militants in Gaza.

Whether Lieberman’s political gambit will pay off in September is an open question, however.

“It remains to be seen whether Netanyahu or Lieberman will be strengthened by this development,” Steve Linde, editor of The Jerusalem Report magazine, told RT. He added that, while Netanyahu still enjoys support in Israel, forming a new coalition will be no easy task.

I think this time he’s going to seek other partners. There’s already talk of him making alliances with other, smaller parties. He even invited the Labor opposition into the government, but they refused.

If Netanyahu does triumph in September’s elections, it’s unlikely that Lieberman will be part of the government, predicted Linde, who said that the two men “won’t budge” on their clashing policy positions.

A ‘doubtful’ political future

There’s no reason to believe that, after failing to form a coalition, Netanyahu’s fortunes will improve in the snap elections, Amir Oren, a defense and political commenter, argued.

Also on rt.com ‘We will win!’ Netanyahu vows better result in snap elections after historic coalition failure....

It’s not certain that even if his party, Likud, gets the biggest number of seats in the Knesset, that he will be able to form a coalition. This is exactly what he failed at last night. His chances now look worse than in the previous elections. So it is doubtful, politically, that he can survive.

Netanyahu’s political troubles are only compounded by a looming indictment on charges of corruption. If Israel’s attorney general decides to press forward with the case – a decision that will be made in September – it would be “more than doubtful that people will join [Netanyahu] in a coalition,” Oren remarked.

“All in all, the situation is quite bleak” for Netanyahu, he summarized.

While Oren was less than optimistic about Netanyahu’s chances, he acknowledged that anything is possible. After all, Lieberman’s party, which controlled only five seats in the Knesset, was able to bring down Netanyahu’s budding coalition.

“Every vote counts,” noted Oren. “Any member of the Knesset could change the situation.”

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Israeli PM Netanyahu says he’ll name Golan settlement after Trump (VIDEO)

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he will name a settlement in the Golan Heights after Donald Trump, in a show of gratitude for the US president's decision to recognize the region as Israeli territory.

“In honor of President Trump, who recognized Israel's sovereignty over the Golan, [Israel] will soon call for a settlement in the Golan Heights in his name. Happy holiday!” a message posted from Netanyahu’s Twitter account said on Tuesday.

PM Netanyahu will present to the government a resolution calling for naming a new community in the Golan Heights after Donald Trump, as a token of appreciation for his recognition of Israel's eternal sovereignty over the Golan.

Trump announced he was recognizing the Golan Heights as being part of Israel late last month, in the run up to Israel’s election in April.

Israel occupied the Syrian region in the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed it in 1981 in a move that was not recognized by the international community or the UN Security Council. About 40,000 people live in the Golan, half are Druze and Alawites, and half are Jewish settlers.

Also on rt.com 'Unlawful & unrecognized': Twitter heaps criticism as US maps show Golan Heights as part of Israel...

The PM’s decision to name a settlement after Trump is just the latest gesture of admiration the Israeli leader has displayed for his US counterpart. Netanyahu’s Likud party shared posters of Trump and Netanyahu around Israel before the election, while Trump told American Jews that Netanyahu was “your prime minister” as he celebrated his recognition of the Golan as Israeli territory at the Republican Jewish Coalition convention earlier this month.

Trump has also recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the US embassy there, and pulled funding to Palestinian aid organizations.

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Israeli soldiers shoot blindfolded, handcuffed Palestinian teen fleeing arrest for stone-throwing

Israeli soldiers shot a handcuffed and blindfolded Palestinian teenager who was attempting to flee after being detained for suspected stone-throwing in the West Bank on Thursday.

The minor was detained by the Israeli forces after he had been shot, but was later evacuated by Palestinians to receive medical treatment at Beit Jala near Bethlehem. He appears to have been shot in the groin area.

A witness told Haaretz news agency that the boy is 15 years old.

Video taken at the scene shows Israeli soldiers clashing with a group of Palestinians as they attempted to help the wounded teen.

Israeli soldiers shoot bound, blindfolded Palestinian teen trying to flee

A spokesperson for the Israeli military said in a statement there had been "massive stone-throwing" near military forces and civilians and confirmed the incident with the teen "who tried to flee after his arrest" and who was "shot in the lower body." The statement said the incident will be investigated.

Also on rt.com ‘That will teach them’: Israeli soldiers gloat & cheer as they shoot Palestinian protesters (VIDEO)

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Trump's 'Deal of the Century' to Not Include Palestinian State

“We believe we have a plan that is fair, realistic and implementable that will enable people to live better lives," a Trump administration official said on Sunday.

U.S. President Donald Trump's "Deal of the Century" to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict will be absent of a Palestinian state, the Washington Post reported on Sunday.

RELATED: Bolivian Lawmakers Ask for US Intervention in a Letter to Trump

The Washington Post article said Trump's deal promises to improve the lives of Palestinians, but will not recognize a fully sovereign Palestinian state.

This peace deal is expected to be rolled out some time in late Spring or early Summer, which is two years after Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner announced that they had established a plan to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict. 

The Washington Post article contends that the Trump peace deal will focus primarily on Israel's security interests and less on Arab territorial concerns. 

“We believe we have a plan that is fair, realistic and implementable that will enable people to live better lives,” a senior White House official said on Friday, as quoted by Israel's Arutz Sheva. “We looked at past efforts and solicited ideas from both sides and partners in the region with the recognition that what has been tried in the past has not worked. Thus, we have taken an unconventional approach founded on not hiding from reality, but instead speaking truth.”

The reason for the delay in releasing this peace plan is due to Trump's desire to wait for Israeli Prime Benjamin Netanyahu to form a new coalition in his govenrment, the Washington Post added.

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Israeli Air Force Strikes Syrian City Masyaf

SANA said rockets were launched by Israeli warplanes from Lebanese airspace at about 2:30 a.m. Saturday.

According to multiple media reports, several explosions were heard throughout the Syrian city of Masyaf, which is located in the countryside of Hama, as Israel targeted Syrian military positions with airstrikes.

RELATED: Syria: 5 Civilians Killed in Rockets Bombings against Masyaf

The Syrian military disclosed that the country was bombarded with several Israeli missiles, some of which had been successfully intercepted by air defenses; others were able to hit multiple buildings, including a military post in the city nearby a hospital. 

At least three soldiers were injured in the attack on the northwestern region of the country and were transferred for treatment at a hospital, RT reported. 

SANA said the rockets were launched by Israeli warplanes from Lebanese airspace at about 2:30 a.m. Saturday.

At least 3 soldiers were injured in the attack on Syria's northwestern region.

On April 7, Syrian Arab News Agency reported that five people had died and over 15 others injured as result of this attack on the outskirts of Masyaf.

 

 

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