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Sunday, March 14, 2010 11:47:44 AM, Agencies
STANDING FOR ARAB RIGHTS Israeli policemen scuffle with a Palestinian woman at Qalandiya checkpoint near the West Bank city of Ramallah during a demonstration on Saturday
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Jerusalem: International outrage over Israel’s policy of continued settlement building in occupied territories grew on Saturday with Palestinian women and children clashing with Israeli police and the European Union urging Tel Aviv to resume peace talks urgently.
Several dozen Palestinian women clashed with Israeli troops at the Qalandiya crossing between the West Bank and Jerusalem. The women chanted “Jerusalem is Arab, our eternal capital,” briefly planted a Palestinian flag on one of the crossing's metal gates and tried to push through it.
Israeli troops scuffled with the women and then fired tear gas at them. At one point, a firebomb hit a military jeep and soldiers rushed to extinguish the fire.
As the women withdrew, Palestinian teens briefly clashed with the soldiers. The Israeli military said four protesters were detained but no one was hurt.
Saturday's protest came at a time of growing friction in Jerusalem. The Palestinians want to establish a capital in the eastern sector of the city, captured and annexed by Israel in the 1967 Mideast War.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refuses to consider partition, insisting he will never relinquish control over any part of Jerusalem.
Earlier this week, Israel announced plans to build 1,600 more homes for Jews in East Jerusalem, setting off a bitter diplomatic row with the United States, Israel's closest ally. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Israel's behavior "insulting" after it approved the new homes on the very day Vice President Joe Biden was there to set a seal on relaunched negotiations.
On Saturday, the European Union urged Israel to resume peace talks with the Palestinians on the eve of foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton's first visit to the region.
Ashton, who is leaving for a tour of the Middle East on Sunday, warned that reconciliation efforts could fail for good and slammed this week's announcement of plans to build new settler homes.
"I'm very concerned, I'm concerned that Israel announced this just as the proximity talks were beginning" between Israelis and the Palestinians, she said.
Spain, which holds the rotating presidency of the EU, shared her concern. "Until now, it's not too late, but if we wait for more than two years it will be too late," Spain's Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said, warning that there would be no more land left to negotiate and that it would be extremely difficult to fix borders between Israel and a Palestinian state.
He also warned that "the Palestinian moderate leadership would not be able to maintain themselves as a peaceful partner, so the time is for urgency, for moving forward."
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt decried the announcement saying the Israeli "government says that they are interested in restarting the peace negotiations but the signal that was sent the other day with the expansion in East Jerusalem" was not good.
Norway's Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store said: "Norway deeply deplores Israel's expansion of its settlement in East Jerusalem. The peace process is in a critical phase, and Israel's decision is jeopardizing the process."
Aides to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he was waiting to meet US President Barack Obama's peace envoy George Mitchell in the coming days before deciding whether to maintain his week-old commitment to starting "proximity talks".
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