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Israeli settler opens fire at Palestine primary school

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RAMALLAH: An armed Israeli Jewish settler opened gunfire at a Palestinian girls’ primary school in the village of Tuqu in the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem after Knesset passed a law denying naturalisation to Palestinians from the occupied West Bank and Gaza married to Israeli citizens, forcing thousands of Palestinian families to either emigrate or live apart.

Bassam Jabr, who heads the Education Ministry in Bethlehem, said on Tuesday, an Israeli settler holding a rifle got off a bus loaded with settlers and opened gunfire towards the school, spreading fear among the students.

Jabr said that in the aftermath of the attack, hundreds of students were evacuated and classes were cancelled.

According to media, the settler left the area only to later return accompanied by a number of other settlers. They remained near the school for a while.

Violence and vandalism by Israeli settlers are commonplace in the occupied West Bank, with perpetrators rarely held to account by the Israeli occupation authorities.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Riyad al-Maliki says the Palestinian leadership is considering the United Nations Security Council’s action against Israeli settlement activities in the occupied territories, especially after the Tel Aviv regime announced it is set to build 730 new settler units in East al-Quds.

Maliki told the Arabic-language Voice of Palestine radio station that Palestine is going to urge the world body to assume its responsibilities concerning Israeli policies of land expropriation and settlements expansions, particularly the UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which was adopted on December 23, 2016, and calls on world states to distinguish in their dealings between Israeli communities and Palestinian lands occupied by Israel.

He added that Palestinian diplomats continue to draw the international community’s attention to the Israeli regime’s occupation and violation of Palestinian rights at the UN Security Council, the UN General Assembly, the UN Human Rights Council, and all relevant institutions.

“The rise in settlement construction activities by the Israeli regime is a very dangerous sign. We have discussed the matter with the US administration as well as authorities from various countries,” the Palestinian foreign minister pointed out.

He went on to say that the Palestinian initiatives at the third meeting of the Arab ministerial committee in Jordan regarding the development of an Arab plan to save al-Quds were approved.

Maliki expressed hope that the plan will also be approved at the forthcoming foreign ministerial meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Pakistan to confront Israel’s attempts to Judaize al-Quds.

Moreover, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the decision of Israeli authorities to build 730 new units in the illegal settlement of Pesgat Ze’ev in the occupied East al-Quds.

“The measure is proof that the Israeli regime insists on ignoring international resolutions on the illegality of settlements. Israeli officials are seeking to sabotage all efforts aimed at the establishment of regional and global peace and stability,” Palestinian presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said in a statement.

He urged “the international community to pressure Israel to stop its unilateral measures that will drag the region into more tensions,” stressing that “Al-Quds, with its Islamic and Christian holy sites and neighborhoods, is an untouchable red line.”

Abu Rudeineh warned that Israel is “exploiting the international community’s preoccupation with the Russo-Ukrainian crisis to advance its settlement projects and steal more Palestinian land.”

On Friday. Israel’s parliament has passed a law denying naturalisation to Palestinians from the occupied West Bank and Gaza married to Israeli citizens, forcing thousands of Palestinian families to either emigrate or live apart.

The so-called citizenship law passed just before the Knesset disbanded for a holiday recess by a 45-15 majority vote that crossed coalition-opposition lines.

It replaced a similar temporary order that first passed during the height of a Palestinian uprising in 2003 and was renewed annually until it expired last July, when the Knesset failed to secure a simple majority needed to extend it.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party allied with right-wing factions in the opposition to pass the legislation above protests of more liberal parties inside and outside government.

“The combination of forces between the coalition and the opposition led to an important result for the security of the state and its fortification as a Jewish state,” said interior minister Ayelet Shaked, a member of Bennett’s party.

Dozens of lawmakers in the 120-seat chamber did not cast votes on the highly divisive legislation.

Under the terms of the citizenship law, which will be valid for one year, Palestinian spouses of Israelis can obtain temporary, two-year residence permits, although they can be revoked on security grounds.

Proponents say the law helps ensure Israel’s security and maintains its “Jewish character”.

Some Knesset members said it was intended to prevent a gradual right of return for Palestinian refugees driven from their homes or who fled during the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation all while Israel prepares to take in thousands of Ukrainian refugees.

“The State of Israel is Jewish and so it will remain,” said Simcha Rothman of the far-right Religious Zionist Party, a member of the opposition who brought the law forward with Shaked.

“Today, God willing, Israel’s defensive shield will be significantly strengthened,” he told the Knesset hours before the vote.

Bezalel Smotrich of the Religious Zionist bloc said the law was “a correct and good outline”.

Others blasted the bill. Lawmaker Gaby Lasky of the dovish Meretz party called the law “a black spot on the book of laws in Israel” and wrote on Twitter that, “Meretz as a whole voted against racism.”

Mansour Abbas, the head of the United Arab List (Raam) party, also opposed the legislation.

Critics say the law discriminates against Israel’s 21 percent Palestinian minority, who are Palestinian by heritage and Israeli by citizenship, by barring them from extending citizenship and permanent residency rights to Palestinian spouses.

“It comes off as more xenophobic or racist [than other laws] because it’s not only giving extra rights and privileges to Jewish people, but also preventing certain basic rights only from the Arab population,” said Reut Shaer, a lawyer with the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.

The law also bars the unification of Israeli citizens or residents and spouses from “enemy states” such as Lebanon, Syria, and Iran.

But it mostly affects Palestinian women and children, said Shaer. It is a form of “collective punishment”, she added, because it infringes on the rights of an entire population based on the assumption, they are all prone to “terrorism”.

Several rights groups announced they will challenge the law in Israel’s Supreme Court.

“The justices will now have to decide whether, when faced with the Law’s explicit language, they will continue to allow this racist Law to be protected under the eternal pretext of temporality,” the Adalah advocacy group said in a statement.

Israel had captured East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza by the 1967 Middle East war. It applies different sets of rules for Jews and Palestinians in the parts it now illegally occupies.

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