News / Middle East

    UN Chief Criticizes Israeli Occupation in West Bank

    Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, speaks during the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Jan. 31, 2016.
    Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, speaks during the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Jan. 31, 2016.
    VOA News

    U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a strong call for a change in the status quo between Israelis and Palestinians, saying he is concerned they are reaching a point of no return for a two-state solution.

    In an opinion article posted late Sunday on the website of The New York Times, Ban criticized Israeli occupation in the West Bank and what he called discriminatory policies that lead to the demolition of Palestinian homes.

    "Keeping another people under indefinite occupation undermines the security and future of both Israelis and Palestinians," Ban wrote.

    He said people "will always resist occupation," and that ignoring the frustrations of Palestinians will not make them disappear.

    FILE - In this July 25, 2014, photo, an Israeli army officer gives journalists a tour of a tunnel allegedly used by Palestinian militants for cross-border attacks, at the Israel-Gaza Border.
    FILE - In this July 25, 2014, photo, an Israeli army officer gives journalists a tour of a tunnel allegedly used by Palestinian militants for cross-border attacks, at the Israel-Gaza Border.

    The U.N. chief condemned all terrorism and incitement of violence against Israeli civilians, but said security measures on their own will not stop future attacks.

    "We continue to work with Israel and the Palestinian Authority to rebuild Gaza and prevent another devastating conflict, and to press Palestinians for genuine national reconciliation," Ban said. "Of course, a lasting agreement between Israel and Palestine will require difficult compromises by leaders and peoples on both sides."

    He also called on Palestinians to immediately halt construction of tunnels in the Gaza Strip, which Hamas militants have used to smuggle in goods and stage attacks against Israelis.

    Warns of attacks

    Earlier Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said if Hamas carries out more tunnel attacks, Israel will retaliate with greater force than during the 50-day war in 2014 that killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, mostly civilians.

    "I think that is understood in the region. It's understood in the world. I hope we won't need to do it but our abilities, both defensive and offensive, are developing rapidly and I wouldn't recommend anyone to try us," Netanyahu told a group of diplomats.

    A top Hamas official boasted Friday that the group has built "twice the number of resistance tunnels" that were built during the war in Vietnam in the 1960s and '70s.

    He said hundreds of Hamas members are working to build tunnels to free what he described as holy places, including the al-Aqsa mosque in East Jerusalem - a site Jews revere as the Temple Mount.

    Israelis living near the border with the Gaza Strip have been complaining of underground drilling and construction noises near their homes.

    Access to Ramallah Restricted

    Meanwhile, Israel restricted access to the main Palestinian city of Ramallah on the West Bank Monday after another attack that wounded three Israeli soldiers.

    Only residents of the city were allowed past checkpoints going in to the city while only foreigners, diplomats, and humanitarian cases were allowed out.

    There were long lines at the checkpoints, where people complained of missing appointments, meetings, and other dates.

    This was the first time in a long while that Israel partially sealed off a Palestinian city in reaction to violence.

    A former bodyguard for the Palestinian attorney general opened fire on Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint near Ramallah Sunday, wounding three before he was shot dead.

    A Palestinian police spokesman criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for punishing thousands over the act of one man.

    But Netanyahu said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has failed to speak out against an act of violence carried out by someone who worked for his own government.

    Five months of Palestinian violence against Israelis has killed at least 25 Israelis while police and soldiers killed more than 150 Palestinians - most of whom were carrying out attacks or trying to.

    Israel accuses Palestinian leaders of inciting the violence while Palestinians say they are sick of poverty, weak leadership, and a poor outlook for peace.

    2014 conflict

    Israeli forces bombarded Hamas and militant Palestinians in Gaza in the middle of 2014 in response to Palestinian rocket fire. About 70 Israeli soldiers and a handful of civilians were killed in the conflict.

    Also, in a historic decision Sunday, the Israeli Cabinet approved a so-called egalitarian Jewish prayer space near the Western Wall, where Jews from all over the world of both sexes and varied religious beliefs can pray together.

    A group of Israeli and Diaspora Jews called "Women of the Wall" had been demanding the prayer space for nearly 30 years, unhappy with Orthodox control over who was allowed to pray at the site.

    The Western Wall is Judaism's holiest site. It is the last scrap of the wall that surrounded the ancient temple. Under Orthodox tradition, men and women are segregated when they pray.

    Under the new rules, men and women – Orthodox and reform Jews – can pray together at a special site known as Robinson's Arch.

    Women of the Wall says the Israeli government acknowledges full equality and autonomy. Netanyahu said it is a "fair and creative solution" that will unite the Jewish people.

    Many Orthodox Jews, including Cabinet members who voted against the move, condemn it as an affront to tradition.

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    Comment Sorting
    by: Godwin from: Nigeria
    February 02, 2016 8:43 AM
    Ban Ki Moon and every other concerned person should point out that the Palestinians rather than use their resources to build houses and economic structures to engage its youth and working class population, diverts those resources to construction of tunnels. This means they prefer war to peace and employment. It also shows that while the world tries to ensure that Palestinians have food, medical services, go to school, other amenities, the Palestinians themselves engage in frivolities and spend their resources on war preparation.

    This proves that the world encourages trouble in the region, bankrolling Palestinian war machine. It can be blamable on Israel too for allowing in more construction materials than required. Is Amnesty International watching? What of the UN agency for refugees? And the Human Rights groups?

    Are they aware that Hamas has been preparing for war rather than provide amenities to its people, or is it when they reach a point and ignite another conflict that they swing into action to show the world pictures of destruction? Is prevention no longer better than cure? As for Moon who prefers conflict resolution to peacemaking, how does he intend to control Hamas once it gets lethal weapons-of-mass-destruction without denouncing violence?

    by: Sara from: France
    February 01, 2016 6:37 AM
    The main question is that if west bank and Gaza strip reach an independent country, does the world see peaceful area there?? or maybe there are a great probability, that these both areas including west bank and Gaza strip, would convert to a safe place for several Terrorist teams and ruthless groups(which are supported by some governments in the middle east) and we would see more and more Terrorist activities which were done by Palestinian groups in an endless way???
    In Response

    by: andranic from: armenia
    February 01, 2016 12:27 PM
    Meanbill said that Israel occupied promised land ! (the land that someday in the past was belong to jewish, but the early arab muslims came and killed and expelled them). Then what about the Turkish people who came from midlands of Asia to Anatolia without any history and then killed and raped to christian people and converted churches to mosques. Meanbill, is this right?

    West turkey belongs to Greek and the east turkey belongs to Armenian but the Turks eliminated all of them and destroyed churches. Are you ever worried about the destiny of these people? and now you come and say that Jewish do not have right in their promised land, the land that someday the Arabs or Romans or other groups forced them to leave their father land!
    In Response

    by: meanbill from: USA
    February 01, 2016 8:09 AM
    Hey Sara _ The main question, isn't what the world thinks, but what the Israelis and Palestinians can agree on and accept as a fair political two-state solution? .. It's been done before throughout history, [you just draw a line in the sand], and agree that one side of the line in the sand is their side, and the other side of the line is your side? .. That's how countries identify their land and sea borders throughout history, by lines drawn in the sand or seas? .. That's not what's difficult? .. The difficult part of reaching any agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians has always been how much Palestinian lands the Israelis want to keep for their own?

    Remember? .. Every single inch of Holy Land an Israeli stands on today, is Palestinian land, that was taken by force of arms by the Israelis with weapons provided by the US and western European countries, [and now], the Palestinian youths of today want their rightful lands of their fathers back, and they are willing to fight and die (with whatever weapons they can get) to achieve that goal? .. It'll be a very long war, that'll last until the Israelis finally agree on how much Palestinian land they really need, and how much Palestinian land the Palestinian youths of today are willing to part with? .. Forget all the propaganda? .. Peace can be achieved just by agreeing on where to draw the line? .. Think about it?

    by: Sensi
    February 01, 2016 5:49 AM
    "Israel will retaliate" This misleading fairy tale about defending/retaliating again? "Israel was the first, on 13 June, to break the ceasefire agreement with Hamas that had been in place since November 2012. (...)" "Between 2,127 and 2,192 Gazans were killed (including 513 children) and between 10,895 and 11,100 were wounded. 66 Israeli soldiers, 5 Israeli civilians (including one child) and one Thai civilian were killed and 469 IDF soldiers and 261 Israeli civilians were injured. The Gaza Health Ministry, UN and some human rights groups reported that 69–75% of the Palestinian casualties were civilians; (wikipedia, 2014_Israel–Gaza_conflict)

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