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Welcome to Palestine Today, a service of the International Middle East Media Centre,, for Wednesday December 21, 2011.

Nine Security Council Members condemn Israel’s settlement expansion plans, and the Palestinian Authority sign a free-trade deal with a bloc of South American countries, these stories and more coming up; so stay tuned.

In a letter sent yesterday, nine members of the United Nations Security Council condemned the recent announcement by Israel regarding the expansion of their settlement activities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The signatories included permanent members Great Britain and France, along with Germany, Portugal, South Africa, India and Brazil.

They claim that ‘The viability of the Palestinian state that we want to see and the two-state solution that is essential for Israel’s long-term security are threatened by the systematic and deliberate expansion of settlements ‘.

In response, an Israeli spokesperson at the UN stated that the main impediment to peace is the Palestinian claim to the right of return, and its refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish State.

Izzat al-Rishiq, member of the Political Bureau of Hamas, stated that the Palestinian factions met on Tuesday to discus the implementation of the Unity Agreement. They claim that the factions will start forming the central election committee, but stated that it is unlikely an interim government will be formed before December 26.

Al-Rishiq claimed that the important issues affecting Palestinians such as Passports, and the file on Political prisoners within the West Bank and Gaza have not been concluded but are at the top of the agenda.

In international news, the Palestinian Authority has signed a free-trade agreement with the South American Trading bloc Mercosur, the deal was signed by the P.A. foreign minister in Montevideo, the Uruguayan capital. The P.A. thanked Mercosur, Mercosur is composed of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay, they thank them for recognizing Palestine as an independent nation. .

The free-trade agreement, which has been negotiated over the past year, represents the first such trade deal signed by Palestine with a bloc of nations outside of the Middle East.

Back in the West Bank, a curfew was imposed on Yatma village, south of the northern West Bank city of Nablus, after settlers reported that armed men fired at them, near Rechelim settlement on the Nablus-Ramallah road.

A large Israeli force arrived, and declared a curfew via loudspeakers, and erected flying checkpoints to search cars and check I.D.’s, and several checkpoints near Nablus were closed. The Israeli military also raided the refugee camp near the West Bank town of Tulkarem, resulting in clashed between locals and the troops, but no arrests or injuries were reported.

That’s all for today from the IMEMC News, this was the Wednesday December 21 daily roundup of news from the Occupied Palestinian Territories. We hope you will join us again tomorrow. This was brought to you by Husam Qassis, and me, Dorris Norrito.