Thursday, September 11, 2014

Growing Violence In Jerusalem, Russia Reduces Gas Supplies As EU Imposes Sanctions

Gaza War Is Over But Jerusalem Violence Remains

While the world’s attention was focused on the airstrikes and rockets over Gaza and Israel this summer, a wave of violence hit the streets of Jerusalem — and is still roiling parts of this divided city at the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teens by Palestinians in the West Bank, and the apparent revenge killing of a Palestinian youth by Israelis in Jerusalem, sparked a chain of events that led to the 50-day war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

The same events also stoked violence in the streets of Jerusalem, and the Gaza war fed the turmoil.

Israel’s Shin Bet security service said there were seven times more violent Palestinian attacks on Israeli security forces and civilians in Jerusalem in July and August than in the previous two months, documenting about 150 cases, and the Israeli rights group Ir Amim reported a spike in Israeli attacks on Palestinians, with about two dozen such cases.

In the most recent violence, masked Palestinians ransacked a gas station and set fire to a gas pump Sunday to avenge the death of a 16-year-old Palestinian who died from wounds he sustained in a clash with Israeli troops the previous week.

Officials in Jerusalem say Palestinians have attacked other contentious Jewish areas of the city in recent weeks, launching fireworks and firebombs at Jewish enclaves in Arab neighborhoods, and firing bullets at Israeli homes in Pisgat Zeev, a sprawling Jewish area Israel considers an integral part of Jerusalem but the international community considers an illegitimate settlement.
Palestinians hurled rocks, firebombs and paint at the city’s tram dozens of times this summer as it passed through the Shuafat neighborhood where the Palestinian teen was kidnapped, said Ozel Vatik, spokesman for Citypass, the tram operator.
Although the tram is fortified against rocks, ridership was down 20 percent in Jewish neighborhoods near Shuafat during those months, according to Citypass.

Palestinian demonstrators this summer have thrown rocks and firebombs at Israeli troops at numerous flashpoints in the city’s eastern sector, and troops have responded with rubber bullets and tear gas.
An Israeli security official said the uptick in Palestinian rioting was a spontaneous response to the high Palestinian death toll in Gaza during the war and the deaths of two Palestinian teens in Jerusalem, and was not directed by any militant group. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to discuss the matter publicly.
Israeli police have detained some 600 Arab residents on suspicion of attacking police and participating in the riots, said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld. About 150 of them have been charged, he said. Israelis were also arrested this summer for attacks against Arabs, Rosenfeld said, though he did not provide figures.
Antebi, the Jerusalem councilwoman, said the violence stems not only from recent tensions but from lack of law enforcement in Palestinian areas of the city.
“The country isn’t doing what it should to safeguard the security of the residents,” she said.

Poland and Slovakia have said gas supplies from Russia are down, as the EU prepares to impose new sanctions.
A Polish diplomat told EUobserver on Thursday (11 September) that volumes fell by 20 percent on Monday and were down by 45 percent by Thursday.
The same day Slovak PM Robert Fico said supplies to his country had dipped by eight to 11 percent.
Both countries are trying to find out what is going on amid denials by Russian supplier Gazprom that its shipments are any lower than normal.

The Polish diplomat said the enquiries are being made by Polish gas distribution firms. But Fico told press he has tasked officials to contact Moscow.
Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary are involved in shipping “reverse-flow” gas to Ukraine after Russia cut off Ukraine gas in a price dispute.

Gazprom's reductions come the same week the EU adopted a new round of economic sanctions against Russia following its invasion of east Ukraine.
Some EU states had wanted to wait and see if a ceasefire deal with Russia holds before implementing the new measures.
But EU Council chief Herman Van Rompuy announced on Thursday that they will enter into life the following morning.
The measures are to restrict EU capital for five Russian banks, three defence firms, and three energy firms. They will also extend an export ban on dual-use goods and oil-drilling technology and blacklist 24 names.
The Van Rompuy announcement saw the ruble fall to a historic low against the dollar.
Russia reacted to an earlier round of economic measures with a ban on EU food exports.
It has threatened to block EU airlines from flying over Siberia to Asia if the EU goes further. On Thursday, it also threatened to curb import of used cars, light industry materials, and some textiles.

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