France condemns 'provocative' Israeli settlement plans
France on Thursday dubbed “provocative” Israeli plans to build new settlements in east Jerusalem and the West Bank. Earlier six settlers were arrested for their alleged part in an attack on an Israeli army base.
Jerusalem city council on Thursday approved plans to build a large tourism complex and another 130 homes for Jews in Arab east Jerusalem.
The multi-storey tourist centre, which will include 250 parking spaces, an archaeological park, an events hall and a library covering 8,400 square metres, will be built in the flashpoint area of Silwan, south of the old city and would be managed by a hardline settler organisation, Elad.
The 130 apartments, in three 12-storey tower blocks, are to be built in the Gilo settlement, which is near to Bethlehem.
“France is greatly worried by the increase in announcements of provocative decisions relating to the colonisation of east Jerusalem and the West Bank,” declared foreign ministry spokesperson Bernard Valero.
He also condemned the Israeli government’s decision to retrospectively declare the construction of a wildcat settlement in Ramat Gilad in the north of the West Bank, rather than enact a Supreme Court order that settlements on private Palestinian land be demolished.
“All wildcat settlements must be demolished, as Israel promised in the 2003 roadmap,” Valero said.
On 1 November Israel’s inner cabinet decided to speed up construction of homes for Jews in Arab east Jerusalem and nearby as a reprisal for the Palestinians winning membership for the Paris-based UN cultural agency, Unesco.
Since then Israel has announced plans for 2,057 homes in east Jerusalem and 1,241 in the West Bank.
At least 200,000 Israelis live in a dozen settlements in east Jerusalem, which Israel annexed in 1967. The area is home to 270,000 Palestinians.
More than 310,000 Israelis live in settlements on the West Bank, whose Palestinian population is over 2,345,000.
Israeli police on Thursday arrested six settlers on suspicion of attacking the Ephraim army base in the northern West Bank this month. One of them is a minor.
On the night of 12 December about 50 far-right activists forced their way onto the base, setting fire to tyres and damaging vehicles with stones, paint and nails.
It was one of the so-called "price tag" attacks by settlers and right-wing activists against Palestinians and the Israeli army in response to expulsions of settlers.