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(en) Palestain, MEDIA: Israel Wrecks Gaza Houses, Plans Settlement Homes

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Wed, 21 Nov 2001 06:16:06 -0500 (EST)
http //www.indymedia.org.il/imc/israel/webcast/index.php?language=en


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Israel demolished Palestinian houses in Gaza Tuesday and 
said it would build new homes for Jewish settlers in the West 
Bank city of Hebron, a day after the United States announced 
a new Middle East peace drive. 
print article
Tuesday November 20 8:29 AM ET 

Israel Wrecks Gaza Houses, Plans Settlement Homes 
By Nidal al-Mughrabi 

GAZA (Reuters) - Israel demolished Palestinian houses in 
Gaza Tuesday and said it would build new homes for Jewish 
settlers in the West Bank city of Hebron, a day after the United 
States announced a new Middle East peace drive. 

Three Palestinians were wounded in the fresh violence in 
Gaza, hospital officials said, underlining the difficulties U.S. 
envoys will face when they arrive in the coming days to prod 
peace moves forward. 

Israel also said it would replace mobile homes in the Jewish 
settlement in divided Hebron with concrete houses, despite 
Secretary of State Colin Powell's call to halt settlement 
construction amid nearly 14 months of violence. 

Palestinians condemned the Israeli decision as ''irresponsible'' 
and a ``flagrant challenge to the American administration.'' 

Powell set out U.S. Middle East policy in a speech Monday at 
the University of Louisville in Kentucky. He said two mediators 
would be sent to the region and repeated calls for a two-state 
solution and for Palestinians to end violence. 

The speech marked the first time President Bush's 
administration has outlined ideas for ending the 53-year-old 
Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

The move coincided with U.S. efforts to bolster Arab backing 
for the anti-terror war in Afghanistan. 

BULLDOZERS CAME AT NIGHT 

In the Rafah refugee camp in Gaza, Palestinian witnesses 
said tanks and bulldozers rumbled into a Palestinian-ruled 
area under cover of darkness and wrecked 18 houses, 
leaving families homeless during the Muslim holy month of 
Ramadan. 

The army said it destroyed two uninhabited homes and denied 
the area is under Palestinian control. Reuters television 
footage showed Palestinians sifting through the rubble to pick 
out their belongings. 

The military said the raid came after Palestinian gunmen 
continuously fired on soldiers in the area and threw grenades 
at nearby outposts. 

Omar Abu Shaweesh, a father of six who lives in Rafah, said 
the Israeli bulldozers moved in without warning giving him no 
time to remove valuables. 

``We were asleep when they came. We started to run, taking 
the children out. We were confused. We didn't know what to 
do but to run,'' Abu Shaweesh told Reuters. 

``If the world is looking for an identification for terrorism it's 
(Israeli Prime Minister) Ariel Sharon and if they are looking for 
a manifestation for destruction they should come here,'' he 
said. 

At least 710 Palestinians and 188 Israelis have been killed 
since a Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation erupted 
in September 2000 after peace talks stalled. 

SETTLEMENT CONSTRUCTION 

Yarden Vatikay, a spokesman for Defense Minister Binyamin 
Ben-Eliezer, said the mobile homes in Hebron were being 
replaced because they had become unsafe since the 
Palestinian uprising flared. 

Israeli troops guarding the settlement in the divided West 
Bank city and Palestinian gunmen often exchange fire and 
people on both sides have been killed or wounded in the 
fighting. 

``There is no political issue here, it is a security issue,'' Vatikay 
told Reuters. 

He did not know how many mobile homes would be replaced 
or if the construction had begun. But the liberal Ha'aretz 
newspaper reported 12 caravans were being replaced with 
permanent homes in the Tel Rumeida settlement. 

Under international law Jewish settlements, built on land Israel 
occupied in the 1967 Middle East war that Palestinians want 
for an independent state, are illegal. 

``Security, stability and cease-fire cannot be sustained while 
this creeping cancerous settlement is continuing,'' Ahmed 
Abdel-Rahman, a senior aide to Palestinian President Yasser 
Arafat, told Reuters. 

Vatikay said Israel was taking similar steps in the Gaza Strip, 
where it was replacing metal classrooms and homes with 
concrete ones that can better withstand gunfire and mortar 
bomb attack. 

PEACE, PROSPERITY, TOLERANCE 

In his much-awaited policy statement, Powell set out a vision 
of peace, prosperity and tolerance in the Middle East and 
asked Israelis and Palestinians to help make it a reality. 

Answering criticism that the Bush administration has kept its 
distance from Middle East diplomacy, Powell said the United 
States was ready to take the lead in helping Israelis and 
Palestinians reach a lasting peace. 

Powell said Bush had asked Assistant Secretary of State for 
Near Eastern Affairs William Burns to return to the Middle East 
later this week for consultations. 

Retired Marine Corps General Anthony Zinni, former 
commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, will also go to 
the region and stay ``as long as it takes'' to push the sides 
toward a cease-fire and on to the road to resuming peace 
talks, he said. 

Both sides welcomed the U.S. diplomatic effort, based on a 
truce-to-talks plan drawn up by an international panel.



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