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General strike on West Bank

MaanImages/Eleonora Vio, Wajdi Jafari, Stringer

Palestinian Authority employees will strike again this week after receiving only part of their November salaries, union leaders announced Dec. 23. Palestinian government employees in the West Bank began a two-day general strike on Dec. 19 to protest against a delay in the payment of their wages because of Israeli economic sanctions. Israel is withholding some $100 million in monthly customs revenues it collects on the Palestinians' behalf as punishment for their successful bid at the UN General Assembly last month to gain de facto statehood recognition. Some 50,000 workers took part in the stoppage. West Bank security forces—a pillar of security and cooperation with Israel—did not participate, but most public services were shut down. Public schools were closed as teachers went on strike in protest of non-payment of their wages earlier in the week. "This strike is against Israel's piracy," said Bassam Zakarneh, head of the Union of Public Employees. (Maan News Agency, Dec. 23; Maan News Agency, Dec. 21; WAFA, Dec. 17)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meanwhile said his government will press ahead with expanding Jewish settlements around Jerusalem despite Western criticism of its plan to build 6,000 more homes on Palestinian land. In addition to several thousand housing units approved earlier this month, Israeli media said initial approval was granted Dec. 19 for construction of another 3,400 units in Jerusalem and in the West Bank.

"We are going to build in Jerusalem for all its residents, this is something that has been done by all previous governments and this is something that my government will continue to do," Netanyahu said in a meeting with foreign ambassadors. "Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years. Imagine that you would limit construction in your own capital, it doesn't make sense." (Maan News Agency, Dec. 20)

Also Dec. 19, Israeli forces confiscated a protest tent that had been erected in East Jerusalem to support Palestinian hunger-striker Samer Issawi, who has refused food in Israeli prisons for 141 days.  Issawi's sister Shireen was detained at the family's home in Isawiya neighborhood the previous day, after she tried to access her brother's court hearing. The family were blocked by Israeli forces at the court when they tried to greet Samer, and later denied access to the court, prisoners groups said. (Maan News Agency, Dec. 19)


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