Shorts: Mideast

Report: Settlement construction doubles

A new report says that Jewish West Bank construction has nearly doubled in the last year.

A Peace Now report released Aug. 26 claims that Israel is eliminating the Green Line and continuing to build in isolated settlements. The report was released on the same day that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with Israeli and Palestinian peace negotiators in order to advance the peace process.

The report says that according to aerial photographs and field visits, more than 1,000 buildings are being constructed in communities over the Green Line, which demarcates the country’s 1949 borders. About 55 percent of the new structures are east of the security barrier.

During her visit, Rice condemned settlement construction: “I think that is no secret … that I don’t think the settlement activity is helpful to the process, that in fact what we need now are steps that enhance confidence between the parties and that anything that undermines confidence between the parties ought to be avoided,” she said. — jta

Protesters sail to Gaza Strip

Two boats carrying mostly Western protesters arrived in the Gaza Strip on Aug. 23 from Cyprus, despite Israel’s two-year blockade of Gaza.

The boat trip was organized to protest Israel’s blockade, and the activists brought with them hearing aids and balloons for Palestinian children.

The boats plan to leave with two Palestinian Fulbright scholars denied U.S. visas to pursue their studies. Israel had barred them from leaving Gaza but had permitted five other Palestinian Fulbright scholars to leave.

Israel reportedly said it will not stop the boats with the two students aboard because such a move would generate negative media attention. — jta