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US closes de facto Palestinian embassy in Washington

PALESTINIANS vowed not to succumb to US threats yesterday after the Trump administration announced closure of the de facto Palestinian embassy in Washington as punishment for suing Israel in the International Criminal Court.

Palestine Liberation Organisation secretary-general Saeb Erekat blasted the latest move by the US as an attempt to “protect Israeli crimes” in the occupied territories and warned that they would not be deterred  from taking action against Tel Aviv in The Hague for war crimes.

“We reiterate that the rights of the Palestinian people are not for sale, that we will not succumb to US threats and bullying,” he said.

The US State Department announced the closure of the PLO office on Monday saying in a statement it had “not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel.

“We have permitted the PLO office to conduct operations that support the objective of achieving a lasting, comprehensive peace between Israelis and the Palestinians since the expiration of a previous waver in November 2017.”

The PLO warned that the closure was a “dangerous escalation” in the region, following last week’s announcement that $20 million (£17m) of aid to hospitals for treating Palestinians was to be cut and redirected to other areas.

US national security adviser John Bolton confirmed the closure was due to an attempt by Palestine to sue Israel in the ICC . He said Washington was also considering sanctions against the international body if it pursued investigations over alleged US war crimes in Afghanistan.

“The United States will use any means necessary to protect our citizens and those of our allies from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court. The United States will always stand with our friend and ally Israel,” he said.

The US is increasing pressure on the Palestinians and recently cut aid to the UN refugee agency which provides support for the five million displaced people. 

Mr Erekat warned the closure is “yet another affirmation of the Trump administrations policy to collectively punish the Palestinian people, including by cutting financial support for humanitarian services, including health and education.”

And he warned that the threat of sanctions against the ICC “was a dangerous escalation that shows the US is willing to disband the international system in order to protect Israeli crimes and attacks against the land and people of Palestine, as well as against peace and security in the rest of our region.”

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