Jerusalem (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian students took place this morning in Silwan, one of the hot spots of the West Bank when Israeli soldiers erected roadblocks at the entrance east of the town, preventing students from reaching their schools. Palestinian sources say that when the students tried to pass the checkpoints, police and Israeli border guards chased them away. The boys started throwing stones, and police charged them to disperse them. Tensions reached boiling point in Silwan, when agents in civilian clothes entered the area and arrested five men for throwing rocks, while four others were bruised as they tried to fight off the pain clothes officers.
The clashes followed three days of what residents describe as "provocative checkpoints," when the Israeli city police stop all Palestinian cars to checks fining those that do not meet the requirements, and creating long waits and delays.
Silwan is a suburb of Jerusalem, noted as one of the next places for settlement building. Clashes broke out after the Netanyahu government announced the construction of 1300 new homes for Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem.
At the same time another 800 houses have been approved for construction in the Ariel settlement in the West Bank. The construction of Ariel was at the center of a dispute between the U.S. and Israel. The United States considers this settlement a bridgehead in the West Bank aimed at preventing the formation of a future Palestinian state. Today Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed his concern to the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the announcement of 1330 construction of new Jewish homes in occupied East Jerusalem.
A UN spokesman said that "The Secretary-General stressed that it was vital to stop the current diplomatic stalemate, and resume talks to produce results." Ban the spokesman also said, "has expressed concern over the resumption of the settlements and the recent announcement of further settlements in East Jerusalem." The Secretary-General has "expressed the hope of further measures by the Government of Israel to facilitate the movement of persons and goods to and from Gaza."
Israel has announced two major settlement projects, the approved construction of more than a thousand homes over the "Green Line" in Jerusalem, along with a second round of 800 new homes in Ariel. The U.S. administration has tried to persuade Netanyahu to declare a second "freeze" of settlements in the territories. "We were deeply disappointed by the announcement of new housing units in the 'sensitive' area in East Jerusalem," said State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley. “It is counterproductive to our efforts to resume direct negotiations between the two parties." We thought that Netanyahu travelled to the U.S. to halt settlement activity and restart the negotiations, but it is clear to us that he is determined to destroy the talks", said the head of the Palestinian delegation Saeb Erekat.