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Paris conference ends with call for both sides to affirm commitment to two states



France: ‘Serious consequences’ if US moves embassy to Jerusalem

French foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault says at the Paris peace conference that there would be “extremely serious consequences” if the US Embassy to Israel moves to Jerusalem.

French diplomats fear Trump will unleash new tensions in the region by condoning settlements on land claimed by the Palestinians and potentially moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to contested Jerusalem, AP reports.

— AFP contributed

14:04

German police arrest 2 in neo-Nazi bomb plot

Two alleged neo-Nazis were arrested in Germany after police found 155 kilograms (340 pounds) of explosives in a house in Luterecken, the Independent reports.

One of the suspects built a homemade bomb bearing a swastika and Nazi SS symbol.

14:35

Hundreds demonstrate against Paris peace conference

Around a thousand people are protesting against the peace conference in Paris in a demonstration organized by French Jewish groups.

Israeli Ambassador to France Aliza Ben Nun is reportedly among the crowd rallying in support of Israel, along with leaders of the Jewish community, Israel Radio reports. Jewish leaders Joël Mergui and Francis Kalifat emphasized the need for supporting Israel during the peace conference.

Syrian government shelling kills 7 near Damascus

Regime bombardment of a flashpoint region near Syria’s capital on Sunday killed seven civilians, a monitor said, in the deadliest attack there since a nationwide truce came into force.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said government forces shelled Deir Qanun, a village in the Wadi Barada region, which is the main source of water for Damascus.

“This is the highest toll there since the beginning of the truce” on December 30, Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

— AFP

15:23

Qatar agrees to buy $12m. in fuel for Gaza power plant

Qatar has agreed to pay $12 million for fuel for the Gaza Strip’s power plant, a move that seeks to end the power crisis gripping the Palestinian enclave, local media reports.

The deal was struck following a meeting between Hamas leader Ismail Haniyah and leaders in Doha.

15:35

Kerry arrives in Paris as Hollande set to speak

French President Francois Hollande is set to speak at the Paris peace conference. US Secretary of State John Kerry has arrived at the conference.

15:47

Settlements, terrorism threaten 2-state solution: Hollande

French President Francois Hollande, addressing the conference, and says that settlements and terrorism threaten the two-state solution, and asks how the international community can expect stability in the Middle East when one of its oldest conflicts remains unresolved.

15:48

Hollande responds to Netanyahu’s rejection of peace conference

In an apparent reference to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rejection of the Paris conference, Hollande says that the peace initiative “doesn’t want to impose any solutions on the parties, as some argued to dismiss our effort. That can only come after direct negotiations.”

“We want to give guarantees and assurances,” he says. “This initiative should help, not complicate; unite, not divide.”

16:06

Nisman memorial to be erected in Nahariya

A monument to assassinated Argentinian-Jewish prosecutor Alberto Nisman is set to be erected in the northern town of Nahariya on Wednesday, the second anniversary of his murder.

17:10

Damascus airstrike ‘targeted S-300 missiles’ — Kuwaiti newspaper

An Israeli airstrike on a Syrian military airport outside Damascus early Friday morning targeted Russian-made S-300 surface-to-air missiles, Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida cites unnamed sources saying.

There was no confirmation that Israel was behind the alleged airstrike.

17:15

Kerry calls PM from Paris, says he’s working to soften statement

US Secretary of State John Kerry called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from the Paris peace conference and promised him he’d work to soften the conference’s final text and to prevent further action against Israel at the UN. He promises to prevent any followup action, either at the confab itself or at the UN Security Council.

Kerry updated Netanyahu about the steps he was taking to “soften” the text of the final communique, which is expected to be issued by the conference participants later today.

The prime minister tells Kerry that the outgoing administration has already caused Israel damage by not vetoing UN Security Council Resolution 2334 last month, which criticized the settlements. No other resolution should be passed, Netanyahu says, neither in New York nor in Paris. Kerry promises Netanyahu that there will not be any followup action to the Paris conference and that Washington will oppose any further initiative at the Security Council.

— Raphael Ahren

17:37

UK snubs Paris peace confab

The British snubbed the French at the Paris peace conference by not sending any senior officials to the gathering, the Guardian reports.

The paper speculates that the UK is trying to keep on President-elect Donald Trump’s good side and not “alienate” him.

17:55

Danon: Paris conference ‘detached from reality’

Israel’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon says the Paris peace conference “is so detached from reality that it has extended a hand toward Palestinian obstructionism instead of towards peace.”

“Rather than advancing a joint effort to battle global terrorism, the conference focused obsessively on Israel as part of an attempt to push forward a last minute initiative just days before the new US administration takes office,” Danon says.

17:58

Ex-IDF commanders: Annexing West Bank means end of Jewish state

A group of former high-ranking security officials says Israel is on course to lose its Jewish and democratic character if it goes through with Education Minister Naftali Bennett’s plan to annex portions of the West Bank.

“We shouldn’t annex the West Bank and its 2.5 million Palestinians. We must preserve Israel as a democracy and a state for the Jewish people,” the group’s chairman Maj. Gen. (res.) Amnon Reshef tells reporters at a press conference in Tel Aviv.

Reshef’s group, Commanders for the Security of Israel, is made up of hundreds of former high-ranking officers from Israel’s security services. It made waves on Sunday after it put up billboards across the country that warned of a Palestinian takeover of Israel.

The group is apolitical but committed to a two-state solution with the Palestinians, which it sees as the only way to protect the country and its citzens.

“I don’t want trucks to come from [the East Jerusalem neighborhood of ]Jabel Mukaber into Jerusalem and run over soldiers. I don’t want them,” former head of the IDF Central Command Maj. Gen. (res.) Gadi Shamni says.

Shamni was referring to a terror attack last week in which a truck driver from Jabel Mukaber rammed his vehicle into a group of IDF soldiers, killing four of them and injuring more than a dozen others.

According to Shabtai Shavit, a former director of the Mossad, the country’s leadership has no plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Does anyone know what Israel wants today? When I say Israel, I mean the government. Does anyone know where the hell we’re going? Or, more accurately, does anyone know where they’re taking us?” Shavit asks.

— Judah Ari Gross

18:51

French FM wraps up peace conference

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault wraps up the Paris peace conference, telling reporters that the purpose of the conference was to convey a sense of urgency about the threat to the two-state solution.

He urges all sides to refrain from unilateral actions that could inflame the situation: “Running the risk of making this conflict worse would be giving a gift to extremists.”

He adds that December’s UN Security Council Resolution 2334 was an expression of the world’s voice on the issue.

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