Mubarak, Netanyahu consider atmosphere for indirect negotiations

Fayyad: Palestinians ready to make Jerusalem open city after getting it

Arab foreign ministers agree to launch indirect talks with Israel

New Israeli plan to build 200,000 houses in East Jerusalem

International report: Israel killed 29 Palestinians in just one week

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak Monday to discuss Palestinian-Israeli indirect peace talks.

Netanyahu met with Mubarak in the Red Sea resort city of Sharm el- Sheikh, Egypt's state TV website reported.

The meeting comes two days after the Arab League backed "proximity" talks, which Washington said will begin this week with the end goal of having direct negotiations between the sides.

However, Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa said that indirect talks would not immediately lead to direct negotiations.

Netanyahu's visit also comes ahead of US Middle East envoy George Mitchell’s expected visit to the region this week.

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks were suspended in late 2008, as Israel headed for elections. They have not been renewed since, despite the efforts of the Obama administration to get them going again.

In March, Arab states said they would allow the US four months for so-called proximity talks between the Israelis and Palestinians. However, the decision was rescinded shortly afterwards over an Israeli plan to build housing in contested East Jerusalem and then agreed upon again this past weekend.

The two leaders were also expected to touch on the situation in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, weapons smuggling from the Sinai Peninsula into the blockaded salient, and on Cairo's demands that Israel's nuclear facilities be opened to inspection, Israel Army Radio reported.

Meanwhile, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad announced on Wednesday that the renovation of the Al-Laban mosque, which was burnt in a village near the West Bank city of Nablus on Tuesday, will finish by the end of May, reports China's Xinhua news agency.

Fayyad, who visited the mosque in the village of Al-Laban on Wednesday, accused the Jewish settlers of vandalizing the mosque by setting the mosque on fire, adding that the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) condemns the attack "as well as all the destruction and horror that the settlers cause to our people."

However, Israel denied earlier on Tuesday that the Jewish settlers had burnt the mosque, the Israeli army spokesman said the mosque was burnt due to electrical accident.

On Tuesday, a Palestinian official accused Jewish settlers of torching a mosque near the West Bank city of Nablus, a civil defense officer told reporters that they got a notification about the burning of a mosque in the Al-Laban village to the south of Nablus early in the morning.

The officer added that the fire took over the entire mosque, including holy Quran books. Ghassan Daghlas, who holds the settlements' file in the PNA, said Israeli settlers burnt the mosque, adding "they (the settlers) are known for committing this kind of crimes."

Palestinian residents said the Israeli army destroyed a mosque to the east of Rafah city in southern Gaza Strip during a limited ground military incursion.

They said six tanks and four bulldozers rolled for 500 meters in the Palestinian-controlled area in Rafah and leveled a mosque which had been abandoned for years due to the frequent Israeli army incursions in the area.

Settlers had earlier vandalized a mosque in Hwara neighborhood also near Nablus.

Fayyad's decision to renovate the mosque was made amid Palestinian warnings that some anonymous Jewish Israeli parties are seeking ways to ignite a "religious war" between Israel and the Palestinians by targeting mosques in the Palestinian territories.

Fayyad told reporters that vandalizing the mosques "is a kind of terror practiced by Jewish settlers against the Palestinians."

He called on the international community "to prevent such provocative actions."

Sheikh Tayseer Tamimi, chairman of the supreme council of the Islamic courts and the president of the Islamic-Christian society to support Jerusalem and the holy sites, said in a press statement that "a misguided and deviant group of settlers is growing in Israel."

"These settlers are trying to influence the political and military establishments in Israel," Tamimi said, adding “unfortunately, the Israeli government yields to their desires to achieve political and factional goals on the expense of the Islamic holy sites."

Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party accused Israel on Wednesday of "seeking to ignite a religious war in the region as a preemptive action to torch the general situation and blow up the entire negotiation process that the international community wants to succeed."

Islamic Hamas movement and the more radical Islamic Jihad (Holy War) movement said in two separate press statements that the attacks on the mosques "are the initial outcomes of the absurd so- called peace negotiations between the PNA and Israel."

"The two attacks on the mosques, burning the mosque in Al-Laban in Nablus and demolishing the mosque in Rafah are a real interpretation of Israel's understanding of the Arab League (AL) Foreign Ministers Committee which okayed the proximity talks with Israel," said Islamic Jihad leader Khaled al-Batsh.

Hamas and the Islamic Jihad called on the PNA in the West Bank "to set the hand of resistance free." They also called on the Palestinian people "to move and protect the mosques by all means and prevent the Jewish settlers from reaching and desecrating it."

Salim Za'noon, speaker of the Palestinian National Council (PNC) , or the parliament in exile, called for "punishing all those who are standing behind carrying out such crimes against the Islamic holy sites by taking them to international courts of war crimes."

Meanwhile, Arab League foreign ministers have backed the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian so-called proximity talks. They said the indirect negotiations would last four months with the outcome to be reviewed before any direct talks. Israel has welcomed the endorsement.

The US has said the talks will begin next week.

Plans to launch the indirect talks failed last month over a row about Israeli plans to build 1,600 homes in occupied East Jerusalem.

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have been stalled since 2008.

The US has been struggling to get the proximity talks under way.

These were knocked off course by an announcement in March that Israel had approved plans for the new homes in the East Jerusalem settlement of Ramat Shlomo during a visit to Israel by US Vice-President Joe Biden.

The Palestinians - who want East Jerusalem to be the capital of their future state - then pulled out of the scheduled indirect talks in protest.

But last week, a committee of foreign minister of the Arab League issued a statement to support the resumption.

"Despite the lack of conviction of the Israeli side in achieving peace, the committee affirms what was agreed on 2 March 2010 in regards to the time period for the indirect negotiations," the statement said.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said any Israeli construction in occupied East Jerusalem would end the talks.

"If they build one unit out of the 1,600, we will not go to the talks," Erekat said.

US envoy George Mitchell's team has been actively trying to extract guarantees from the Israelis to bring the Palestinians back to the proposed talks.

A report in the Wall Street Journal last week quoted unnamed US officials as saying Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had offered measures including easing the blockade on Gaza, releasing prisoners, freezing the controversial 1,600 homes for two years, and agreeing to discuss borders and the status of Jerusalem.

In an interview given to Palestinian newspaper al-Ayyam on Sunday, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said US President Barack Obama had given a commitment he would not allow "any provocative measures by either side". He also said Obama had invited him to Washington this month.

Israel has occupied the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, since 1967. It insists Jerusalem will remain its undivided capital.

Nearly half a million Jews live in more than 100 settlements in the West Bank, among a Palestinian population of about 2.5 million.

The settlements are illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.

Despite immense international pressure to halt Jewish construction in east Jerusalem and in all areas over 1967 borders, Israel Land Fund founder Aryeh King on Sunday presented a plan that would see nearly 200,000 new housing units created there, the Jerusalem post reported.

Speaking at a conference at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center to discuss future development initiatives in the capital, King described a plan that would use privately owned land and property belonging to the Jewish National Fund to provide roughly 187,000 new homes in east Jerusalem, E-1 (between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim) and a chain of territory extending from Ramallah to Bethlehem.

“If Jerusalem doesn’t expand, and expand eastward, it will become the Gaza Strip,” King said.

Using a blown-up map of the city and its surrounding areas, King showed the audience where hundreds of dunams of land outside the northern Pisgat Ze’ev neighborhood could contain roughly 12,000 new housing units.

Around the southern Gilo neighborhood, King said, 'there is enough similar land to build 60,000 units.'

“There are 800 dunams [80 hectares] in E-1, owned by a wealthy, Jewish philanthropist, that could prove room enough for 100,000 housing units,” King said. “The potential is enormous.”

King’s vision faces a number of obstacles, among them the area’s large Palestinian population, who is part of a future Palestinian state.

Israeli forces killed one Palestinian and injured at least 49 others during the reporting period. This is a significant increase compared to last week, during which six Palestinians were wounded. Two members of the Israeli security forces were also wounded this week. Since the beginning of the year, six Palestinians and one Israeli soldier have been killed and 587 Palestinians and 72 Israelis injured in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, OCHA weekly Protection of Civilians report said.

In the period between April 21, 2010 and April 27, 2010 OCHA said that tensions ran high in the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem, after a group of Israeli settlers conducted a march in the neighborhood on 25 April to protest what they consider to be the “illegal” construction of Palestinian homes. The event, which was authorized by the Israeli authorities, sparked clashes between Palestinian residents and Israeli forces, were deployed ahead of the settlers’ march. During the confrontations, the police fired rubber-coated metal bullets and tear gas grenades at Palestinian stone throwers.

Palestinian and Israeli sources indicate that at least 29 Palestinians, the majority of whom were children, along with two Israeli policemen, were injured. During the day, the Israeli police closed the two main entrances leading to Silwan, leaving many students unable to attend schools. Tension remains high in the area, due to continued Israeli settlement activity and the threat of demolition to some 90 Palestinian houses in the Bustan area of Silwan.

Eleven of this week’s injuries occurred in demonstrations protesting the expansion of Hallamish settlement (Ramallah), against access restrictions to farming land in Beit Ummar (Hebron) and during anti-Barrier demonstrations in Al Walajah (Bethlehem), Ni’lin and Bil’in villages (Ramallah).

Two international and one Israeli activist were injured in the latter demonstration. Another three Palestinians, including reportedly a 5-year-old mentally challenged boy, were injured in incidents at a checkpoint and during a search operation, OCHA added.

OCHA continued on saying: While the week was characterized by relative calm, with no Israeli air strikes recorded, Israeli restrictions on Palestinian access to land and sea resulted in the injury of four Palestinian civilians. Since the beginning of 2010, 16 Palestinians (including five civilians), three Israeli soldiers and one foreign national have been killed and another 71 Palestinians (including 59 civilians), and four Israeli soldiers have been injured in the context of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in the Gaza Strip and southern Israel.

The Israeli authorities continue to enforce restrictions on Palestinian access to the so-called “buffer” zone along the Gaza-Israel border, mainly affecting access to agricultural land. These ongoing restrictions triggered a demonstration on 24 April, during which, Israeli forces opened fire towards Palestinian protesters after they attempted to approach the border fence, wounding three of them; an international activist was also injured.

These demonstrations are organized on a daily basis by a group representing farmers and other people living near the border in different locations throughout the Gaza Strip. Also this week, Israeli tanks and bulldozers launched two incursions a few hundred meters inside Gaza and withdrew after conducting land leveling operations. One of these incursions evolved into an armed clash between Israeli forces and armed Palestinians; no injuries were reported, OCHA went on.

The Israeli authorities deported to the Gaza Strip this week a Palestinian man that had finished serving a nine year prison sentence. Prior to his imprisonment, the man, who holds an ID card issued in Gaza, had been living for several years in the West Bank with his wife and two children, who remain there.

He is currently staying in a protest tent next to Erez Crossing.

Also this week, the Israeli authorities deported to the Gaza Strip another Palestinian man, who is originally from Gaza and is married to a Palestinian woman from Beer Sheva in southern Israel.

According to Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, he was given a residency permit to stay in Israel, but it has not been renewed for three years. While relying on older legislation, these deportations occurred a week after a new military order entered into force, which defines any person present in the West Bank without a permit as “an infiltrator”, who can be deported within 72 hours without judicial review.