Lebanese demand change after government quits over Beirut blast

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Angry Lebanese said the government’s resignation on Monday did not come close to addressing the tragedy of last week’s Beirut explosion and demanded the removal of what they see as a corrupt ruling class to blame for the country’s woes.

The blast at the Beirut port left a crater more than 100 metres across on dock nine, the French ambassador said on Twitter following a visit to the site by French forensic scientists supporting an investigation into the disaster.

A protest with the slogan “Bury the authorities first” was planned near the port, where highly explosive material stored for years detonated on Aug. 4, killing at least 171 people, injuring 6,000 and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab, announcing his cabinet’s resignation, blamed endemic graft for the explosion, the biggest in Beirut’s history and which compounded a deep financial crisis that has collapsed the currency, paralyzed the banking system and sent prices soaring.

“I said before that corruption is rooted in every juncture of the state but I have discovered that corruption is greater than the state,” he said, blaming the political elite for blocking reforms.

Talks with the International Monetary Fund have stalled amid a row between the government, banks and politicians over the scale of vast financial losses.

“It does not end with the government’s resignation,” said the protest flyer circulating on social media. “There is still (President Michel) Aoun, (Parliament Speaker Nabih) Berri and the entire system.”

For many Lebanese, the explosion was the last straw in a protracted crisis over the collapse of the economy, corruption, waste and dysfunctional government.

SECTARIAN SYSTEM

The Beirut port mirrors the sectarian power system in which the same politicians have dominated the country since the 1975-90 civil war. Each faction has its quota of directors at the port, the nation’s main trade artery.

“It’s a good thing that the government resigned. But we need new blood or it won’t work,” silversmith Avedis Anserlian told Reuters in front of his demolished shop.

Diab formed his government in January with the backing of the powerful Iranian-backed Hezbollah group and its allies, more than two months after Saad Hariri, who had enjoyed the backing of the West and Gulf states, quit as premier amid anti-government protests against corruption and mismanagement.

Aoun is required to consult with parliamentary blocs on who should be the next prime minister, and is obliged to designate the candidate with the most support. The presidency has yet to say when official consultations will take place.

Forming a government amid factional rifts has been daunting in the past. Now, with growing public discontent and the crushing financial crisis, it could be difficult to find someone willing to be prime minister.

A week after the blast, residents of Beirut were picking up the pieces as search operations continued for 30 to 40 people still missing.

“Our house is destroyed and we are alone,” said Khalil Haddad. “We are trying to fix it the best we can at the moment. Let’s see, hopefully there will be aid and, the most important thing: hopefully the truth will be revealed.”

World Health Organisation spokesman Tarik Jarasevic said eight emergency international medical teams were on the ground to support overwhelmed health facilities, under strain even before the blast due to the financial crisis and a surge in COVID-19 infections.

Officials have said the blast could have caused losses of $15 billion, a bill Lebanon cannot pay.

Ihsan Mokdad, a contractor, surveyed a gutted building in Gemmayze, a district a few hundreds metres from the port.

“As the prime minister said, the corruption is bigger than the state. They’re all a bunch of crooks. I didn’t see one MP visit this area. MPs should have come here in large numbers to raise morale,” he said.

(Reporting by Beirut bureau; Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Giles Elgood)

Lebanon government resigns amid outrage over Beirut blast

By Michael Georgy

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon’s prime minister announced his government’s resignation on Monday, saying a huge explosion that devastated the capital and stirred public outrage was the result of endemic corruption.

The Aug. 4 detonation at a port warehouse of more than 2,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate killed at least 163 people, injured more than 6,000 and destroyed swathes of the Mediterranean capital, compounding months of political and economic meltdown.

In a televised address, Prime Minister Hassan Diab said he backed calls by ordinary Lebanese for those responsible for “this crime” to be put on trial.

Diab made the announcement after the cabinet, formed in January with the backing of the powerful Iranian-backed Hezbollah group and its allies, met on Monday, with many ministers wanting to resign, according to ministerial and political sources.

Diab said on Saturday he would request early parliamentary elections.

Demonstrations broke out again in central Beirut, with some protesters hurling rocks at security forces guarding an entrance leading to the parliament building, who responded with tear gas.

“The entire regime needs to change. It will make no difference if there is a new government,” Joe Haddad, a Beirut engineer, told Reuters. “We need quick elections.”

For many ordinary Lebanese, the explosion was the last straw in a protracted crisis over the collapse of the economy, corruption, waste and dysfunctional governance, and they have taken to the streets demanding root-and-branch change.

The information and environment ministers quit on Sunday as well as several lawmakers, and the justice minister followed them out the door on Monday. Finance Minister Ghazi Wazni, a key negotiator with the IMF over a rescue plan to help Lebanon exit a financial crisis, was set to resign, a source close to him said.

Lebanon’s president had previously said explosive material was stored unsafely for years at the port. He later said the investigation would consider whether the cause was external interference as well as negligence or an accident.

ACCOUNTABILITY

The Lebanese army said on Monday that another five bodies were pulled from the rubble, raising the death toll to 163. Search and rescue operations continued.

The cabinet decided to refer the investigation of the blast to the judicial council, the highest legal authority whose rulings cannot be appealed, a ministerial source and state news agency NNA said. The council usually handles top security cases.

Anti-government protests in the past two days have been the biggest since October, when angry demonstrations spread over an economic crisis rooted in pervasive graft, mismanagement and high-level un-accountability.

An international donor conference on Sunday raised pledges worth nearly 253 million euros ($298 million) for immediate humanitarian relief, but foreign countries are demanding transparency over how the aid is used.

Some Lebanese doubt change is possible in a country where sectarian politicians have dominated since the 1975-90 conflict.

“It won’t work, it’s just the same people. It’s a mafia,” said Antoinette Baaklini, an employee of an electricity company that was demolished in the blast.

(Additional reporting by Laila Bassam and Samia Nakhoul in Beirut, Michelle Nichols in New York; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Mark Heinrich, William Maclean and Angus MacSwan)

Unofficial Hong Kong vote sees new generation take over battle for democracy

By Jessie Pang and Yanni Chow

HONG KONG (Reuters) – A younger, more defiant generation of Hong Kong democrats has secured the most votes in unofficial primary elections in the Chinese-ruled city, setting the stage for a battle with pro-Beijing politicians for control of the city’s legislature.

The success of young contenders in the primaries organized by the pro-democracy camp on the weekend to pick candidates for a Sept. 6 election for a 70-seat city assembly comes amid widespread resentment of a national security law that Beijing imposed last month.

Beijing denounced the vote as illegal and warned it may have violated the new security law, which has raised fears for the freedoms that have underpinned Hong Kong’s open society and success as a financial hub.

Prominent pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong won in his district, but he has been disqualified from previous elections and could face similar hurdles this time.

Wong warned against any sweeping disqualification of candidates when he held a news conference with 15 other young politicians who won in their districts.

“If the government cracks down on us and disqualifies all the candidates who joined the primaries, it will cause more outrage in the international community and encourage more people to vote for the pro-democratic camp in September,” Wong said.

The 16 – all but one under 30 and dressed in black T-shirts – are part of a so-called localist or resistance camp, which outshone the cohort of traditional democrats, which had secured 12 candidate slots as of Wednesday afternoon.

Full results are expected later in the day.

The localists – a term for those who do not see themselves as Chinese and focus on saving the former British colony’s freedoms – tend to be more assertive than traditional democrats.

The localists talk of resistance and saving democracy but they do not all have the same vision for Hong Kong’s future. Some dream of independence – anathema for Beijing – but do not speak of it openly, which would see them fall foul of the new security law and face up to life in prison.

Their performance in the primaries reflects frustration, especially among younger voters, with Hong Kong’s more moderate, traditional pro-democracy politicians.

“Localism has become the mainstream,” said localist candidate Henry Wong. “We will resist against the tyranny.”

The new security law punishes what Beijing broadly defines as secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison and sees Chinese intelligence agents operating officially in the city for the first time.

Critics fear it will crush wide-ranging freedoms promised to Hong Kong when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997, while supporters say it will bring stability after a year of often violent anti-government protests.

‘DIFFICULT TO UNDERSTAND’

The law has already had a chilling effect on many aspects of life.

Earlier on Wednesday, former democracy lawmaker Au Nok-hin said he was pulling out as an organizer of the weekend vote amid accusations from Beijing that it was illegal.

“Withdrawal is the only choice … (to) protect myself and others,” Au said in a Facebook post.

A spokesman for Beijing’s top office in the city, the Hong Kong Liaison Office, said the pro-democracy camp’s bid for a legislative majority was an attempt to carry out a “color revolution,” referring to uprisings in other parts of the world.

In comments that critics said were aimed at instilling fear, the Liaison Office as well as Chinese government’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office and the city’s leader, Carrie Lam, have all said the primaries could violate the national security law.

Benny Tai, another organizer of the pro-democracy polls, was defiant.

“For those who do not recognize democracy, or do not agree with democratic values, it is difficult to understand the meaning of the primary election,” Tai said.

Hong Kong police on Wednesday arrested the vice chairman of the city’s Democratic Party, Lo Kin-hei, on charges of unlawful assembly related to a protest in November.

The political tension in Hong Kong has alarmed the business community while the new law has raised concern in countries that support the “one country, two systems” formula of government meant to safeguard its freedoms.

On Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump ordered an end to Hong Kong’s special status under U.S. law to punish China for what he called “oppressive actions” against the city.

China said it would impose retaliatory sanctions on U.S. individuals and entities after Trump signed a law penalizing banks doing business with Chinese officials who implement the new law.

In an interview with state agency Xinhua, Chief Executive Lam said U.S. sanctions won’t hurt Hong Kong and in time, concern about the security law would prove unfounded.

In another blow to the city’s standing, the New York Times said it would shift part of its Hong Kong office to Seoul, as worries grow that the security law will curb media and other freedoms.

(Additional reporting by Aleksander Solum; Writing by Farah Master, Anne Marie Roantree and Marius Zaharia; Editing by Michael Perry, Robert Birsel)

Mexican president to hold bilateral talks with Trump on July 8

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador will hold bilateral talks with his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump on July 8 in Washington, where he will underline his commitment to trade and investment, Mexico’s foreign minister said on Wednesday.

The leftist Lopez Obrador has not left his country since taking office in December 2018, and paying his first foreign visit to Trump is politically risky because the U.S. Republican president is widely disliked in Mexico.

The Mexican president has described the planned visit, which is intended to celebrate the start of a new North American trade deal on July 1, as a matter of economic necessity.

Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said Lopez Obrador would hold bilateral talks with Trump on the afternoon of July 8. Trilateral matters that include Canada will be on the agenda on the morning of July 9, he added.

Mexico wanted to stress its commitment to trade, investment and social welfare at the Washington summit, Ebrard told a news conference, standing alongside Lopez Obrador.

Lopez Obrador floated the idea of talks in Washington to mark the July 1 start of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which is replacing the 26-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Mexico has urged Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to take part in the meeting, and Ebrard said he expected Canada’s government to detail its plans soon.

So far, Canada had not responded to the invitation to participate in Washington, Lopez Obrador said.

Many Mexicans have held Trump in low regard since he described Mexican migrants as rapists and drug runners in his 2015-16 election campaign and vowed to make Mexico pay for his planned border wall.

He has also made repeated threats against Mexico’s economy to pressure its government to stem illegal immigration.

(Reporting by Dave Graham and Anthony Esposito; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

Major West Bank annexation move not imminent, Israeli minister signals

By Jeffrey Heller

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – An Israeli minister played down on Tuesday the likelihood of major moves to annex Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank on July 1, the planned start date for cabinet debate on the issue.

Zeev Elkin, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, said Israel still did not have the green light it seeks from Washington to begin extending its sovereignty to parts of the West Bank, territory Palestinians seek for a state.

Netanyahu said in a speech he had met U.S. Ambassador David Friedman and White House adviser Avi Berkowitz to discuss “the sovereignty question,” adding: “We are working on it in these very days and will continue working on it in the coming days.”

Palestinian leaders, the United Nations, European powers and Arab countries have all denounced any annexation of land that Israeli forces captured in a 1967 war.

“Whoever painted a picture of everything happening in one day on July 1, did so at their own risk,” Elkin, minister of higher education, told Army Radio when asked what would happen on Wednesday. “From tomorrow, the clock will start ticking.”

No cabinet session for Wednesday has been announced.

Friedman and Berkowitz are in Israel as part of the White House’s efforts to win consensus within its government for annexation as envisioned in an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan announced by U.S. President Donald Trump in January.

The proposal calls for Israeli sovereignty over about 30% of the West Bank – land on which Israel has built settlements for decades – as well as creation of a Palestinian state under strict conditions.

Palestinians say the blueprint would make the state they seek in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem unviable. Most world powers view Israel’s settlements as illegal. Netanyahu says the Jewish people have a legal, historic and moral claim to the West Bank, the biblical Judea and Samaria.

Netanyahu and his main coalition government partner, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, are at odds over annexation, which the right-wing prime minister has promoted.

(Editing by Maayan Lubell and Timothy Heritage)

China passes national security law in turning point for Hong Kong

By Clare Jim and Yew Lun Tian

HONG KONG/BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s parliament passed national security legislation for Hong Kong on Tuesday, setting the stage for the most radical changes to the former British colony’s way of life since it returned to Chinese rule 23 years ago.

Details of the law – which comes in response to last year’s often-violent pro-democracy protests in the city and aims to tackle subversion, terrorism, separatism and collusion with foreign forces – were yet to be released.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam nevertheless welcomed the law’s passage and said it would come into effect later on Tuesday, giving the city’s 7.5 million people little time to digest what is expected to be highly complex legislation.

Amid fears the law will crush the global financial hub’s freedoms, and reports that the heaviest penalty under it would be life imprisonment, pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong’s Demosisto group said it would dissolve.

“It marks the end of Hong Kong that the world knew before,” Wong said on Twitter.

The legislation pushes Beijing further along a collision course with the United States, Britain and other Western governments, which have said it erodes the high degree of autonomy the city was granted at its July 1, 1997, handover.

The United States, already in dispute with China over trade, the South China Sea and the coronavirus, began eliminating Hong Kong’s special status under U.S. law on Monday, halting defense exports and restricting technology access.

China said it would retaliate.

Lam, in a video message to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, urged the international community to “respect our country’s right to safeguard national security”.

She said the law would not undermine the city’s autonomy or its independent judiciary.

Authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong have repeatedly said the legislation is aimed at a few “troublemakers” and will not affect rights and freedoms, nor investor interests.

The editor-in-chief of the Global Times, a tabloid published by the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party, said on Twitter the heaviest penalty under the law was life imprisonment.

As the law was passed in Beijing, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army garrison in Hong Kong held a drill which included exercises to stop suspicious vessels and arrest fugitives, according to the Weibo social media account of state-run CCTV’s military channel.

‘OVERPOWERING’

The legislation may get an early test with activists and pro-democracy politicians saying they would defy a police ban, amid coronavirus restrictions, on a rally on the anniversary of the July 1 handover.

At last year’s demonstration, which came amid a series of pro-democracy protests, a crowd stormed and vandalized the city’s legislature.

“We will never accept the passing of the law, even though it is so overpowering,” said Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai.

It is unclear if attending the unauthorized rally would constitute a national security crime.

A majority in Hong Kong opposes the legislation, a poll conducted for Reuters this month showed, but support for the protests has fallen to only a slim majority.

Police dispersed a handful of activists protesting against the law at a shopping mall.

Dozens of supporters of Beijing popped champagne corks and waved Chinese flags in celebration in front of government headquarters.

“I’m very happy,” said one elderly man, surnamed Lee.

“This will leave anti-China spies and people who brought chaos to Hong Kong with nowhere to go.”

This month, China’s official Xinhua news agency unveiled some of the law’s provisions, including that it would supersede existing Hong Kong legislation and that interpretation powers belong to China’s parliament top committee.

Beijing is expected to set up a national security office in Hong Kong for the first time and could also exercise jurisdiction on certain cases.

Judges for security cases are expected to be appointed by the city’s chief executive. Senior judges now allocate rosters up through Hong Kong’s independent judicial system.

It is not known which specific activities are to be made illegal, how precisely they are defined or what punishment they carry.

Britain, the European Union, Japan, Taiwan and others have also criticized the legislation.

China has hit back at the outcry, denouncing “interference” in its internal affairs.

(Additional reporting by Yanni Chow, Carol Mang, Joyce Zhou, Tyrone Siu, Jessie Pang and James Pomfret in Hong Kong; Writing by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Michael Perry, Robert Birsel)

Israeli campaigners want Jewish ruins included in West Bank annexations

By Rinat Harash

NEAR JERICHO, West Bank (Reuters) – The Israeli government faces calls from campaigners to declare sovereignty over ancient Jewish ruins on land in the occupied West Bank that Israel does not plan to annex under U.S. President Donald Trump’s peace blueprint.

The annexation plan, which the government is due to start discussing as of Wednesday, envisages Israel annexing Jewish settlements and the Jordan Valley – some 30% of the West Bank. Under Trump’s plan, a Palestinian state would be created in the rest of the West Bank, occupied by Israel since a 1967 war.

An Israeli advocacy group called “Safeguarding Eternity” is worried about what will happen to Jewish archaeological sites on parts of the West Bank not included in Trump’s annexation map.

It wants Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to guarantee Israeli control over sites such as the remnants of hilltop Hasmonean and Herodian forts dating back two millennia, and hundreds of ruins from earlier Jewish rule.

“This entire plan – its right, its essence – is the connection of the Jewish people to their land and our heritage,” Eitan Melet, a director of Safeguarding Eternity, said as he stood among a jumble of limestones that were the foundation of the desert fortress of Cypros, overlooking the Palestinian city of Jericho.

“If we don’t take our heritage sites into account, this plan has no right to exist at all.”

The Israeli government has not commented on the campaigners’ demands. The Palestinians reject Trump’s blueprint and Israel’s plan to annex territory they seek for a future state.

PALESTINIAN MINISTRY: SITES ARE PROTECTED

Assaf Avraham, an archaeologist at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University, said he too was worried about the fate of archaeological sites in the West Bank.

“If these areas are not in the hands or under the sovereignty of (authorities) that know how to take care of and maintain archaeological sites, and which have the motivation to do so, we really fear for these places,” he said.

The Palestinian Tourism and Antiquities Ministry dismissed such concerns.

It said in a statement that it is “able to protect and preserve the cultural heritage sites under Palestinian control, as maintenance and restoration work is carried out continuously”.

The Palestinians say Trump’s plan is biased, and most world powers view Israel’s settlements in the West Bank as illegal.

Interim 1993 peace accords granted the Palestinians limited self-rule in West Bank areas, where they agreed to secure Jewish heritage sites for Israeli visits.

(Additional reporting by Mustafa Abu Ganeyeh; Writing by Dan Williams, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

U.S. to ship remdesivir to states including California and Texas with rising COVID-19 cases

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The U.S. government will ship more of Gilead Sciences Inc’s <GILD.O> antiviral treatment remdesivir to states experiencing an increase in COVID-19 cases including California, Texas, Florida and Arizona, according to the Department of Health and Human Services’ website.

The government reallocated remdesivir to states with increasing cases, White House task force coordinator Deborah Birx said during a briefing on Friday.

HHS said on its website that the doses will ship starting Monday and extinguish the full amount of Gilead’s donation of 120,647 treatment courses. It said it would continue to work with Gilead to determine how the company’s anticipated inventory of 2 million doses by year’s end will be allocated.

California will receive 464 cases of 40 vials each, Texas will receive 448 cases of 40 vials, Florida will receive 360 cases of 40 vials and Arizona will receive 356 cases of 40 vials, according to the website.

Gilead donated the courses after the treatment received emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last month.

New York, which was one of the hardest hit states initially, was allocated 2,714 cases in total.

(Reporting by Caroline Humer; Editing by Tom Brown)

IMF’s Georgieva says virus crisis could ultimately test $1 trillion war chest

By David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said on Friday that the global economic crisis spurred by the coronavirus could ultimately test the Fund’s $1 trillion in total resources, “but we’re not there yet.”

Georgieva told a Reuters Newsmaker webcast event that it was now clear that an economic recovery would have to get underway without a medical breakthrough and the virus’ presence still widespread throughout the world. IMF member countries were standing by to provide more support to the Fund if necessary, she said.

The IMF on Tuesday forecast a deeper global recession than initially anticipated, as business closures, travel restrictions and social distancing measures persist in most countries. It now anticipates a global GDP contraction of 4.9% this year and a total output loss of $12 trillion through the end of 2021.

“We still have about three quarters of our lending capacity available,” Georgieva said. “I wouldn’t put it beyond us that we might be in a place where the IMF resources are being tested, but we’re not there yet.”

Regarding the possibility of additional resources, she said: “Our members are telling us, ‘Everything is on the table. You come to us if you need to do more of something, we are there for you.'”

The IMF has been rapidly deploying some $100 billion in emergency financing and has now provided loans and grants to 72 countries in just over seven weeks, Georgieva said.

(Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)

In West Bank, Israeli settler leaders complicate annexation plan

By Dan Williams

ITAMAR, West Bank (Reuters) – Jewish settler leaders who resist the creation of a Palestinian state are complicating Israel’s plans to annex scores of settlements in the occupied West Bank under U.S. President Donald Trump’s peace blueprint.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet is due next month to discuss the annexation plan, under which Israel would apply sovereignty over 30% of the West Bank – in areas where most of its about 130 settlements are located.

The plan is opposed by the Palestinians, who seek a state in all of the West Bank, as well as in the Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as a capital. Most world powers agree.

The plan also faces resistance from settler leaders who oppose Trump’s calls for a future Palestinian state that would envelop at least 15 Jewish settlements – despite U.S. guarantees of protection for, and access to, the future “enclaves”.

“We’re talking about strangling a community,” said Hananel Elkayam, mayor of Itamar settlement, one of the 15 named in the plan.

In misgivings echoed in the other 14, Elkayam predicted residents would be unable to commute to jobs through territory that would be in a new Palestinian state, would by denied construction and would be at greater risk of attack than now.

“I would tell (Trump): Thanks very much for the plan, thanks very much for the great affection for the Jewish people (but) we’ll set our own destiny,” Elkayam said.

KEEPING DOOR TO DIPLOMACY OPEN

U.S. officials will this week discuss whether to give Israel the green light for annexation moves seen by the Palestinians and many other countries as illegal land-grabs.

Israel’s West Bank settlements were built by successive governments on land captured in a 1967 war. More than 400,000 Israelis now live there, with another 200,000 in East Jerusalem, which was also taken in 1967.

A Direct Poll survey last week found 56.8% of settlers support the Trump plan, more than the Israeli average.

Elkayam and other settler leaders say that backing is for annexation – on condition that plans for Palestinian statehood are scrapped.

Israeli and U.S. officials want to be seen as keeping a door open to diplomacy. Where that door might lead worries Yochai Damri, head of a regional council that includes four of the 15 listed settlements.

Damri sees Palestinian statehood becoming more likely if the Republican president is defeated by Democrat Joe Biden in November’s U.S. election, and if, or when, Netanyahu is succeeded by centrist Benny Gantz, the Israeli premier’s partner in a fragile unity government.

The Trump plan says residents of the future enclaves can stay put “unless they choose otherwise”. Damri and other settlers hear in that a hint that they should quit to make way for Palestinian territorial contiguity.

(Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Timothy Heritage)