Hundreds Arrested during Clash on Temple Mount

1 Corinthians 16:13 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.

Important Takeaways:

  • Over 300 arrested in Temple Mount clashes, Jordan demands Israel remove forces ‘immediately’
  • Israeli security forces entered Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem before dawn as thousands of Palestinians were gathered for prayers during the holy month of Ramadan, setting off clashes that medics said wounded at least 67 Palestinians.
  • Several dozen Palestinians had barricaded themselves in the mosque, and security forces removed them. News sources reported that hundreds of Palestinians have been arrested.
  • Israel said its forces entered to remove rocks and stones that had been gathered in anticipation of violence. The holy site, which is sacred to Jews and Muslims, has often been the epicenter of Israeli-Palestinian unrest, and tensions were already heightened amid a recent wave of violence.
  • Due to intelligence about terrorist plots, with Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria being the main targets, police were at the highest level of alert, and operations to locate and arrest suspected terrorists continued nationwide.

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Uncommon blast of snow in Jerusalem

Luke 21:25,26 “There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

Important Takeaways:

  • Jerusalem blanketed in white after rare snowfall
  • Main highways to Jerusalem and its major arteries were shut, and schools and businesses closed for the day as municipal snowplows worked to clear streets.
  • Israel Police also closed major highways in the mountainous West Bank due to the hazardous road conditions.
  • Snowfall in the hills around Jerusalem is uncommon, occurring perhaps once per winter.

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Language ‘speed dating’ attracts Jewish and Palestinian students in Jerusalem

By Rinat Harash

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – A small group of Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem, a city of political, religious and cultural divisions, is trying to bridge a Hebrew-Arabic language gap through learning modelled on speed dating.

About 20 students meet weekly at a 19th-century villa, and sitting together, Jew facing Arab, they practice each other’s language, guided by cards spelling out simple scenarios that prompt dialogue.

When a whistle sounds every 20 minutes, participants rotate with new partners across tables arranged under colorful murals.

The encounters – quick and cordial, if sometimes awkward – help the Palestinians to improve the Hebrew required for dealing with Israeli authorities, and the Jews to deepen their grasp of Arabic.

Most Palestinians in Jerusalem live in its eastern sector, captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war. Only basic Hebrew is studied in East Jerusalem schools, making it difficult for Palestinians to achieve advanced proficiency.

“And it’s the same for Israelis – if they do study Arabic, it’s an Arabic you can’t use,” said Maya Giz, a Hebrew teacher, referring to the classical, and not commonly spoken, version of the language.

Giz, who initiated the project in 2019 with Sahar Mukhemar, a Palestinian sports instructor and a former student of hers, says the language exercises are a “crossing of a mental border” between the two peoples.

She said Palestinians and Israelis taking part in the program share “the same embarrassment of talking and … (can) break this barrier of fear together”.

Jamila Khouri, a Palestinian, said learning Hebrew could help her and others “merge well in the community and find a job opportunity in a good field”.

Jewish participant Eli Benita said the language learning spoke volumes about coexistence, in a city where tensions in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict sometimes spill over into violence.

“I see that this is the only way to reach some kind of a peaceful routine of life here in this region we live in,” he said.

(Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Ed Osmond)

U.S. made clear its opposition to settlements, Israeli official says

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States during talks this week made clear its opposition to Israel’s building of Jewish settlements on occupied land that the Palestinians want for a future state, a senior Israeli official said on Thursday.

Asked if the U.S. side had raised the issue during the visit of Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, who met U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other top officials in Washington, the Israeli official told reporters: “Yes.”

“They raised it, and not in a ‘Great job, guys, go ahead'” way, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

President Joe Biden’s administration has emphasized it opposes further expansion of Jewish settlements. Most countries consider such settlements illegal. Israel disputes this.

A senior Biden administration official this month said Israel is well aware of the administration’s view of the need to refrain from actions that could be seen as “provocative” and undermine efforts to achieve a long-elusive two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.

(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Will Dunham)

U.S. will move forward with reopening its Palestinian mission in Jerusalem -Blinken

By Humeyra Pamuk, Matt Spetalnick and Daphne Psaledakis

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday the Biden administration intends to press ahead with its plan to reopen the Jerusalem consulate that traditionally engaged with Palestinians, despite Israeli opposition to such a move.

Blinken reiterated a pledge he originally made months ago on re-establishing the consulate, which had long been a base for diplomatic outreach to the Palestinians before it was closed by President Joe Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, in 2018.

But Blinken, speaking at a Washington news conference with visiting Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and United Arab Emirates Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, stopped short of setting a date for reopening the consulate, which would strain relations with Israel’s new ideologically diverse government.

“We’ll be moving forward with the process of opening a consulate as part of deepening of those ties with the Palestinians,” Blinken said at the State Department.

The Biden administration has sought to repair relations with the Palestinians that were badly damaged under Trump.

The consulate was subsumed into the U.S. Embassy that was moved to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv in 2018 by Trump – a reversal of longtime U.S. policy hailed by Israel and condemned by Palestinians.

The Biden administration says it will reopen the consulate while leaving the embassy in place.

Israel regards all of Jerusalem as its capital. Palestinians want East Jerusalem, captured by Israel in a 1967 war along with the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as capital of the state they seek.

Blinken spoke in response to a reporter’s question after a trilateral meeting that marked the latest sign of the Biden administration’s embrace of the so-called Abraham Accords, which were widely seen as a diplomatic success for Trump.

The UAE was the first of four Arab states that moved late last year to normalize relations with Israel after decades of enmity. Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco soon followed suit.

Palestinian officials said they felt betrayed by their Arab brethren for reaching deals with Israel without first demanding progress toward the creation of a Palestinian state.

Some critics said Trump had promoted Arab rapprochement with Israel while ignoring Palestinian aspirations for statehood.

ABRAHAM ACCORDS

Biden administration officials have said the Abraham Accords are no substitute for a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians, a principle of U.S. policy that the Democratic president has returned to after Trump moved away from it.

But U.S. officials have said the conditions are not right to press for a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which collapsed in 2014. Washington has been reluctant to take any action that could weaken an Israeli government it considers more cooperative than the one led by Benjamin Netanyahu, which was unseated in June.

Reopening the consulate, however, would ignite tensions between Washington and its close Middle East ally.

Israel has said it would oppose the move, asserting its sovereignty over Jerusalem and arguing that far-right Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s government would be destabilized by the reintroduction of a diplomatic foothold for the Palestinians in the city.

Blinken expressed hope that normalization between Israel and Arab states would be a “force for progress” between Israelis and Palestinians, reaffirmed support for a two-state solution and said both sides “equally deserve to live safely and securely.”

Bin Zayed echoed Lapid in praising the ties their countries have forged and said he would visit Israel soon. But he also insisted that there could only be peace in the region if the Israelis and Palestinians are on “talking terms.”

In a nod to the Palestinians, Lapid said they, like all people, were “entitled to a decent way of life” and Israel’s goal was to work with the Palestinian Authority on that issue. But he offered no specifics.

Lapid, a centrist, reached a power-sharing deal with Bennett that ended Netanyahu’s 12-year run as prime minister. Under the coalition deal, Lapid will replace Bennett as prime minister in 2023.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk, Maayan Lubell, Daphne Psaledakis, Matt Spetalnick, Simon Lewis, Dan Williams, Lilian Wagdy; writing by Matt Spetalnick; editing by Mark Heinrich and Jonathan Oatis)

Israeli rightist seeks to outlaw opening of U.S. Palestinian mission in Jerusalem

By Dan Williams

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – An Israeli right-wing opposition legislator is seeking to outlaw the planned reopening of a U.S. mission in Jerusalem that has traditionally been a base for diplomatic outreach to the Palestinians.

Israel’s new cross-partisan government led by nationalist Prime Minister Naftali Bennett also opposes the re-inauguration of the consulate, potentially buoying Likud lawmaker Nir Barkat’s effort to scupper the move, though it would strain relations with Washington.

The consulate was subsumed into the U.S. Embassy that was moved to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv in 2018 by then-U.S. President Donald Trump, steps hailed by Israel and condemned by Palestinians.

With an eye towards repairing U.S. relations with the Palestinians, and rebuilding mutual trust, President Joe Biden’s administration says it will reopen the consulate while leaving the embassy in place.

Barkat’s legislation, filed in parliament last month and with voting as yet unscheduled, would outlaw opening a foreign mission in Jerusalem without Israel’s consent.

“I think that the current Israeli government is weak. It depends on the left, it depends on radicals on our side,” he told Reuters. “We must do everything we can to maintain the unity of the city of Jerusalem.”

Israel regards all of Jerusalem as its capital. Palestinians want East Jerusalem, captured by Israel in a 1967 war along with the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as capital of the state they seek.

Ahmed Al-Deek, adviser to the Palestinian foreign ministry, said Barkat “represents the position of far-right parties in Israel which seek to block any chance of reaching a two-state solution”.

Barkat said polling showed some 70% public support for the bill – enough to garner votes from within the coalition. Asked for Bennett’s position, his spokesman cast the bill as a PR stunt, saying: “We don’t comment on trolling.”

U.S. officials have been largely reticent on the issue, saying only that the reopening process remains in effect.

Asked whether precedent existed in U.S. diplomacy for opening a mission over objections of a host country, the State Department’s Office of the Historian declined comment.

Barkat’s bill recognizes that there are a handful of countries with Jerusalem missions, like the former consulate, that predate Israel’s founding in 1948.

In what may signal a bid to persuade Israel to reconsider the former mission as a candidate to rejoin that group, Thomas Nides, Biden’s pick for ambassador, noted in his Sept. 22 confirmation hearing: “That consulate has existed, in one form or another, for almost 130 years.”

Barkat was unmoved, saying: “We respect what happened before 1948 (but) never did we give anybody consent to open up a diplomatic mission for Palestinians in the city of Jerusalem.”

(Additional by Ali Sawafta; Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Mark Heinrich)

Israel opposes Biden plan to reopen U.S. Palestinian mission in Jerusalem

By Dan Williams

JERUSALEM (Reuters) -Israel said on Wednesday that a U.S. plan to reopen its consulate in Jerusalem that has traditionally been a base for diplomatic outreach to Palestinians is a “bad idea” and could destabilize Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s new government.

The prior administration of President Donald Trump signaled support for Israel’s claim on Jerusalem as its capital by moving the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv. It later subsumed the consulate, in west Jerusalem, in that mission.

It was among several moves that incensed the Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem as capital of a hoped-for, future state.

President Joe Biden has pledged to restore ties with the Palestinians, back a two-state solution and move forward with reopening the consulate. It has been closed since 2019, with Palestinian affairs handled by the embassy.

“We think it’s a bad idea,” Foreign Minister Yair Lapid told a news conference when asked about the reopening. “Jerusalem is the sovereign capital of Israel and Israel alone, and therefore we don’t think it’s a good idea.

“We know that the (Biden) administration has a different way of looking at this, but since it is happening in Israel, we are sure they are listening to us very carefully.”

Wasel Abu Youssef, a senior Palestine Liberation Organization official, told Reuters that the Israeli rejection of the consulate’s opening was expected, adding: “They are trying to maintain the status quo and block any political solution”.

Asked about Lapid’s remarks, a U.S. Embassy spokesperson said: “As Secretary Blinken announced in May, the United States will be moving forward with the process to reopen our consulate in Jerusalem. We do not have additional information to share at this time.”

The spokesperson said the United States was not reversing its decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem nor its recognition of the city as Israel’s capital.

Israel captured the city’s east, along with the occupied West Bank and Gaza, in the 1967 Middle East war.

It deems all of Jerusalem as its undivided capital – a status not recognized internationally. In recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017, Trump said he was not taking a position on “any final-status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem”.

Bennett, a nationalist atop a cross-partisan coalition, opposes Palestinian statehood. Reopening the consulate could unsettle Bennett’s government, which ended long-term premier Benjamin Netanyahu’s tenure in June, Lapid said.

“We have an interesting and yet delicate structure of our government and we think this might destabilize this government and I don’t think the American administration wants this to happen,” he said.

Divisions among Palestinians also cast doubt about the prospects for diplomacy, Lapid said. “I am a devoted believer in the two-state solution … but we’ll have to admit the fact this is not feasible in the current situation.”

(Writing by Rami Ayyub;Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Jonathan Oatis)

Wildfires outside Jerusalem contained, Israeli fire brigade says

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Wildfires in wooded hills near Jerusalem were contained on Tuesday, the Israeli fire brigade said, after crews waged a three-day battle joined by Palestinian firefighters and the Israeli Air Force.

No serious injuries were reported in the worst fires in the Jerusalem area for years.

Evacuated residents of several outlying small communities were able to return home on Monday, and Israel withdrew on Tuesday a request for international air support to fight the fires, which burned more than 4,200 acres (17,000 hectares).

National Fire and Rescue chief Dedi Simchi said in broadcast remarks after nightfall on Tuesday that the flames had been “fully contained.”

Several fire trucks from the Palestinian Authority (PA) took part in operations on Tuesday. Israeli media and leaders highlighted the assistance, but official Palestinian news outlets made no immediate mention of the aid.

“I would like to thank PA Chairman (Mahmoud) Abbas for his initiative to send the firefighters who came to assist Israel today. Mutual care and saving human lives are common interests to us all,” Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said in a statement.

The PA exercises limited self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank under 1990s interim peace deals with Israel. U.S.-brokered talks on a final agreement collapsed seven years ago.

A U.S.-made, Israeli Air Force C-130J “Super Hercules” transport plane joined smaller aircraft on Tuesday in dumping chemical retardant on the wildfires.

(Reporting by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Firefighters evacuate towns outside Jerusalem as wildfire blazes

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Firefighters battling a wildfire in wooded hills outside Jerusalem evacuated more small communities on Monday as planes and crews fought flames for a second day.

The blaze some 10 km (six miles) west of Jerusalem sent clouds of smoke billowing east but there appeared to be little danger the fire would reach the city. No serious injuries have been reported.

Israel’s Fire and Rescue Authority said 45 crews and eight planes were battling the blaze, which the country’s internal security minister said burned around 4,200 acres (17,000 hectares) on Sunday, forcing hundreds to evacuate.

Several more communities were evacuated on Monday afternoon, the Fire and Rescue Authority wrote on Twitter, while others were given evacuation orders. The authority’s commissioner announced a general mobilization for personnel to help stop the blaze.

In a meeting with fire and rescue officials late on Sunday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said he was concerned the blaze could reach Jerusalem’s western localities, including the area of Ein Kerem, home to Israel’s Hadassah Medical Center.

“Fire brigades are preparing a defensive position there,” Bennett said, warning that while he was hopeful crews would bring the blaze under control, “fires and winds have a capricious dynamic.”

An investigation has been launched into the cause of the fires, the Fire and Rescue Authority said.

(Reporting by Rami Ayyub; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Israeli settlements amount to war crime – U.N. rights expert

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) -Israeli settlements in east Jerusalem and the West Bank amount to a war crime, a U.N. human rights investigator said on Friday, calling on countries to inflict a cost on Israel for its “illegal occupation.”

Michael Lynk, U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, was addressing a session of the U.N. Human Rights Council, boycotted by Israel which does not recognize his mandate or cooperate with him.

“I conclude that the Israeli settlements do amount to a war crime,” Lynk said.

He said the settlements violate an absolute ban on an occupying power transferring part of its civilian population into an occupied territory, thereby meeting the definition of a war crime under the Rome Statute founding the International Criminal Court (ICC).

“I submit to you that this finding compels the international community … to make it clear to Israel that its illegal occupation, and its defiance of international law and international opinion, can and will no longer be cost-free,” Lynk told the Geneva rights forum.

Many countries consider the settlements a breach of international law. Israel disputes this and cites Biblical and historical connections to the land, as well as security needs.

In a separate statement, Lynk said Israeli settlements were “the engine of Israel’s 54-year-old occupation.” There are now close to 300 settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, with more than 680,000 Israeli settlers, he said.

The United States, Israel’s closest ally which has observer status at the council, was not on the speakers’ list for the debate.

Lotte Knudsen, the European Union’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, said the settlements were illegal under international law, echoing the position of most countries.

“Such actions as forced transfers, evictions, demolitions, and confiscation of homes will only escalate an already tense environment.”

Palestinian Ambassador Ibrahim Khraishi said Israel detained 5,000 Palestinians, some of them for more than 20 years.

Palestinians want to establish an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza with East Jerusalem as its capital, but the issue of Jewish settlements on land captured by Israel in a 1967 war has long been a stumbling block in the peace process. The last round of peace talks collapsed in 2014.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; editing by Mark Heinrich and Giles Elgood)