The Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, has accused Israel of a campaign of “ethnic cleansing” of the Arab presence from Jerusalem, as criticism mounts of Israeli expansion.
“Our people in the city [Jerusalem] are facing an ethnic cleansing campaign through a set of Israeli decisions such as imposing heavy taxes, banning construction and closing Palestinian institutions in addition to separating the city from the West Bank by the racist separation wall,” Mr Abbas said at the Organisation of the Islamic Conference in Dakar, Senegal.
“What is taking place on the ground today is in total violation of [the peace process].”
Israel annexed east Jerusalem after its capture in the 1967 war and regards the entire city as its united capital, a claim not recognised by the rest of the world.
Jewish neighbourhoods in east Jerusalem are expanding while Palestinian residents complain that building permits are nearly impossible to obtain.
Mr Abbas’s statement also reflects international condemnation this week of news that hundreds of homes are to be built in a settlement just outside the city as well as a Jewish neighbourhood inside east Jerusalem.
The fragile week-long ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians also came to a crashing end yesterday, after an Israeli raid on the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem late on Wednesday killed four militants including an Islamic Jihad commander, and a subsequent volley of about 20 rockets from Gaza.
Amid the rise in violence, the US-appointed monitor for road-map compliance, General William Fraser, will today meet Israeli and Palestinian officials for the first time.
But while the Palestinians are sending their prime minister, Salam Fayyad, the Israelis are sending only an adviser to the defence minister Ehud Barak.
His meeting is expected to focus in part on the removal of checkpoints to ease Palestinians’ ability to move and trade inside the West Bank, as called for by US officials and the Middle East envoy Tony Blair.
Sources close to the talks have said that US officials’ patience with Israel’s actions in the West Bank is waning.