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Welcome to Palestine Today, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, for Thursday 24th May 2012.

A strong statement from UK Foreign Minister Hague on the occasion of his meeting with Foreign Minister Lieberman; the Israeli Government still trying to avoid the High Court direction to demolish the Ulpanah Neighbourhood; and contracts to rebuild Gaza after Operation Cast Lead go to Israeli companies. All this and more stay tuned.

Foreign Minister Hague said that he “made clear the UK’s concern about the current stalemate in the Middle East peace process and [the UK’s] view that there is an urgent need for progress; expressed the UK’s firm view that continued illegal Israeli settlement expansion in East Jerusalem and the West Bank is harming Israel’s international standing and endangering the two-state solution; stressed Britain’s unswerving support for a lasting two-state solution ….. that achieves a secure Israel alongside a sovereign and viable Palestinian State, based on the borders of 1967, with Jerusalem the future capital of both states, and a fair settlement for refugees.”

Haaretz reported today that the Amnesty International Annual Report for 2011, released on Wednesday, examined detailed violations of human rights worldwide. Among other things, the report is highly critical of Israeli policies toward the Palestinians, accusing the Israel Defense Forces of frequent use of excessive, sometimes lethal, force against demonstrators. The Report said that in 2011 the IDF killed 55 Palestinian civilians in the West Bank and Gaza, including 11 children. The Report criticised the continued siege of Gaza: restrictions on movement of Palestinians; the Separation Barrier built largely on Palestinian land; home demolitions; and Israel’s imprisonment policies. Amnesty also lambasted the United Nations Security Council in the Report as ‘tired, out of step and increasingly unfit for purpose’. The failure of world powers to take stronger action on Syria is evidence that a sclerotic security council is hamstrung by vested interests.

Palestinian sources reported that on Wednesday evening dozens of Israeli settlers accompanied by Israeli soldiers and policemen closed the main road near Tiqua’ town, east of the West Bank city of Bethlehem, causing an extended traffic jam This forced hundreds of residents to use an alternative and longer route. The settlers were reported to be chanting slogans against Arabs, Muslims and Palestinians, while raising Israeli flags and anti-Arab signs. No clashes were reported despite the high tension caused.

Despite an Israeli High Court ruling that the Ulpana settlement neighborhood must be vacated and demolished before 1 July because it was built on Palestinian-owned land and is illegal, a Knesset bill that had been proposed to circumvent the court’s ruling has been stopped to allow more time for the government to settle the issue. Meanwhile Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has instructed his own Defence Minister to disobey the High Court and stall any demolitions. This latest development was predicted by the High Court itself, which, when making the ruling, had warned against any government-led efforts to introduce by-laws to get round their decision. .

In Gaza according to the Palestine Press News Agency the Palestinian Contractors Union has stated that two Israeli companies have won bids for reconstructing water distilling stations destroyed by Israel during the war on Gaza (December 2008 – January 2009). The Union said that it is appalled that Israel, despite the fact that it has imposed a deadly siege on Gaza for more than six years and was the cause of this massive destruction in the first place, is now winning bids for reconstructing what it destroyed. Union Secretary, Osama Kahil, stated that UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund “deprived Palestinian companies from winning these bids and granted them to Israeli companies” whom they considered to be “local companies”. Kahil added that the Israeli companies then contacted Gaza-based contractors asking them to carry out these construction projects on their behalf for half of the contract fees. He further stated that two contractors from Gaza have already completed two water-distilling contracts obtained by Israeli companies. The union said that it had contacted all local contractors in Gaza asking them not to do business with Israeli companies in this way.

And that’s all today from IMEMC News. This was the Thursday 24th May daily roundup of news from the Occupied Palestinian Territories. For more news and updates please visit our website at Today’s report has been brought to you by Husam Qassis and William Temple.