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Palestinian PM, Israeli finance minister agree to expand PA authority in Area C

June 1, 2017 5:00 P.M. (Updated: June 6, 2017 6:35 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah met with the Israeli Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon on Wednesday night in the central occupied West Bank city of Ramallah, where the two reportedly agreed on expanding the authority of the PA in certain Israeli-controlled areas of the West Bank.

Palestinian Authority (PA) Spokesperson Yousif al-Mahmoud said that during the meeting, the officials agreed on “expanding the authority” of the PA in Area C -- the more than 60 percent of the occupied West bank under full Israeli military control, and where Palestinians are prohibited from building or developing.

According to al-Mahmoud, the officials agreed upon the “cessation of home demolitions under the pretext of not being licensed.”

Nearly all Palestinian applications for building permits in Area C are denied by the Israeli authorities, forcing communities to build illegally, and placing them under the constant risk of demolition.

The estimated 550,000 Jewish Israeli settlers in the occupied Palestinian territory are however more easily given building permits and allowed to expand their homes and properties.

It was also agreed that the Israeli-controlled Allenby Bridge border crossing between Jordan and the occupied West Bank would start working for 24 hours a day, every day of the week except Friday and Saturday, starting from June 20 until October.

Hamdallah and Kahlon also agreed on establishing an industrial area in the town of Tarqumiya southeast of Hebron in the southern west Bank, that will include petrol and gas wells.

S
eparately, al-Mahmoud added that Hamdallah confirmed the “importance of focusing on a political solution rather than an economical solution,” while stressing on the importance of Palestinian self-determination, and the two-state solution.

Al-Mahmoud added that “many other issues were discussed that would benefit the Palestinian interest if Israel committed to the agreement.”

COGAT, the Israeli agency responsible for implementing Israeli policies in the occupied Palestinian territory, released a statement later on Thursday confirming that a meeting was held between PA and Israeli leaders, in a "continuation to the President of the United States visit in Israel," where the two sides agreed on a number of "steps" to ease the economic situation for the Palestinian territory.

The statement confirmed the opening of Allenby crossing to 24-hours per day, five times a week, the "expansion of the crossing work hours in Judea and Samaria (West Bank) and upgrading them," and confirmed that an industrial zone would be established near the Tarqumiya crossing in Hebron.

Meanwhile, concerning reforms in Area C of the West Bank, the statement said that "Israeli enforcement policies in specific defined areas" of Area C would be "adjusted," without providing additional details.

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