Israeli protesters support Palestinian state, urge end to occupation

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Jerusalem:  Thousands of Israelis have staged a protest rally in Tel Aviv to express their support for an independent Palestinian state, condemning 50 years of Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.

Israeli NGO Peace Now, one of the organizers of the demonstration, said the event was meant to denounce the lack of hope being offered by a regime “perpetuating occupation, violence and racism”.

“The time has come to prove to the Israelis, the Palestinians and the entire world that an important segment of the Israeli population is opposed to occupation,” said Peace Now head Avi Buskila.

The demonstrators also waved Palestinian flags while Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas sent a message of support which was read out at the protest.

“There isn’t a voice stronger than the voice of just and inclusive peace, just like there isn’t a voice stronger than the right of people for self-determination and freedom from the burden of occupation,” the message read.

Israeli opposition Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog also addressed the event and backed the idea of an independent Palestinian state as a solution to the decades-long conflict.

Herzog accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of having missed the opportunity to move forward with a “peace” process.

“The leadership in Israel today is driven first and foremost by fear. Fear of change; fear of daring; fear of initiative and fear of hope. Israel’s prime minister is the chief fear-monger,” he said.

Israel occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds during the 1967 war. It later annexed East Jerusalem al-Quds in a move not recognized by the international community.

Over half a million Israelis live in over 230 settlements built illegally since the 1967 occupation of the Palestinian lands.

The continued expansion of Israeli settlements is a major obstacle to the establishment of peace in the Middle East and violates anti-settlement United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334.

Earlier this week, US President Donald Trump traveled to the occupied territories and met with Netanyahu after dropping decades-old US commitment to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Israel’s expansion of settlements in occupied territories has dealt a serious blow to Palestinian hopes to establish an independent state. Heartened by Trump’s election, Israel unveiled plans in April to build 25,000 settler units in Jerusalem al-Quds.  

Palestine slams Israeli cabinet meeting held under al-Aqsa

A senior Palestinian official has said Israel’s convening a cabinet meeting in the tunnels under the al-Aqsa compound is a “provocation.”

“We condemn in the strongest terms the latest provocation by Israel, holding its weekly [cabinet meeting] in the tunnels beneath al-Aqsa Mosque Compound in occupied East Jerusalem al-Quds,” said Saeb Erekat on Sunday.   

Al-Aqsa Mosque is the third holiest site for Muslims after Masjid al-Haram in Mecca and Masjid al-Nabawi in Medina.

The Tel Aviv regime held its cabinet meeting at the Western Wall tunnels to mark the 50th anniversary of Israel’s occupation of East al-Quds.

In a war in 1967, Israel captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds, where the al-Aqsa Mosque compound is located. Since then, Tel Aviv has continued to expand its illegal settlements and other projects in the area.

Erekat added that by deciding “to mark 50 years of occupation, and the beginning of the Holy Month of Ramadan” in the tunnels, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was “sending a clear message to the Palestinian people that the systematic violations of their inalienable rights are going to continue.”

“Today’s meeting in occupied East Jerusalem is an attempt by Israel to normalize occupation, oppression and colonization over the land and people of Palestine,” he stressed.

The occupied Palestinian territories have witnessed tensions ever since Israel imposed restrictions on the entry of Palestinian worshipers into the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East Jerusalem al-Quds in August 2015. Around 300 Palestinians have lost their lives at the hands of Israeli forces since October that year. 

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