Olmert condemns Jewish violence in Hebron as 'pogrom'
Posted : Sun, 07 Dec 2008 14:33:08 GMT
Jerusalem - Saying he felt "ashamed," acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday said violence by Israeli settlers in Hebron against local Palestinians last week and over the weekend was a "pogrom" and had to be stopped. "I say this after much thought. I formulate these words with the greatest care that I can. We are the children of a people whose historic ethos is built on the memory of pogroms.
"The sight of Jews firing at innocent Palestinians has no other name than pogrom. Even when Jews do this, it is a pogrom," he said.
"As a Jew, I am ashamed that Jews could do such a thing," he said, according to a transcript of his remarks at the start of Sunday's cabinet meeting.
"Defense Minister Barak and I have turned to the appropriate elements in order to assure that law enforcement authorities will take aggressive and sharp action to bring those responsible to justice and that law enforcement authorities' intolerable forgiveness toward lawbreakers from among the settler community will completely stop," he continued.
Hardline Jews in Hebron began rioting Thursday afternoon, violently attacking Palestinians and their property, after police forcibly evacuated scores of settlers from a house they continued to occupy in defiance of a court order.
The settlers had occupied the house in the divided southern West Bank city in early 2007, saying they were the tenants of an American Jew who purchased it and that they have documents proving it. Its Palestinian owner however denies this.
The Israeli supreme court on November 16 ordered the house to be handed over to the state until a lower court rules on its rightful ownership.
But the settlers refused to move, and their numbers were bolstered by right-wing radicals, mostly youth, who flocked to the house in an attempt to prevent its evacuation.
Police cleared the house in an hour on Thursday afternoon.
At the cabinet meeting, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said a faltering truce between Israel and the Gaza Strip radical militias was an illusion.
"There is no cease-fire in Gaza," she said. "Anyone who calls this ... 'calm' does not know what is happening there."
The truce between Israel and the Gaza militants, which came into being on June 19, began unraveling early last month after Israel killed five militants in a raid to destroy a tunnel it said was being dug under the border to facilitate the kidnapping of soldiers.
Militants, who during the truce had sporadically fired rockets at southern Israel, renewed the barrages in earnest - according to the Israeli military, over 200 missiles and mortars have been launched since the Israeli raid on the night of November 4-5 - and Israel retaliated by renewing its policy of targeting rocket launching cells.
The renewed rockets on southern Israel has led Defence Minister Ehud Barak to order the Gaza crossings closed after each barrage, preventing the passage into the salient of humanitarian aid.
On Sunday Gaza's sole power plant shut down.
"The limited amounts of diesel to re-operate Gaza power plant, which Israel allowed last week, for one day only, has ran out and the power plant had completely stopped," Kan'an Obaid, deputy director of Palestinian Energy Authority, said.
Also Sunday, an Israeli ministerial committee approved Sunday the release of 230 Palestinian prisoners as a goodwill gesture to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, the Festival of Sacrifice.
All the prisoners to be freed are identified with President Mahmoud Abbas' secular Fatah movement, an Israeli government statement said, and none were jailed for action in which people were killed.
The full Israeli cabinet decided on the prisoner release on November 30.
The Israeli army, meanwhile, announced it was relaxing some of its procedures in the West Bank to mark the Eid al-Adha holiday, including allowing Palestinian families from the West Bank to enter Israel to visit families, and allowing Israeli Arabs to enter Palestinian-run territory in the West Bank.
In addition, four West Bank crossing points would have their hours of operation extended, and the Alleny Bridge and Mussa Alawi crossings into Jordan would be open 24 hours a day, the Israeli military said in a statement.
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