Israel takes measures against Palestinian offices in Jerusalem

JERUSALEM, March 29 (JTA) — Israel has ordered a series of measures against what it says are illegal Palestinian activities in eastern Jerusalem. Among the steps taken Monday was a directive to close three organizations allegedly linked to the Palestinian Authority: a Palestinian prisoner’s club, the WAFA Palestinian news agency and a manufacturers’ office. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the measures are intended to reaffirm Israel’s sovereign rule in Jerusalem in the face of what he described as flagrant violation by the Palestinian Authority of prohibitions in the Wye accord preventing the self-rule government from operating in the city. Meanwhile, activities were unaffected at a perennial target of Israeli criticism: Orient House, the Palestinian Authority’s de facto headquarters in eastern Jerusalem. On Monday, a delegation of European officials met there with the top Palestinian official in Jerusalem, Faisal Husseini, to mark a Muslim holiday, the Feast of the Sacrifice. With Israeli elections set for May 17, the Jerusalem issue has come to the forefront of the campaign. The issue was also spotlighted earlier this month, when officials from the European Union reiterated that they view Jerusalem as a separate entity from Israel under the terms of the 1947 partition plan that called for the internationalization of the city. In the wake of the E.U. statement regarding Jerusalem, the Israeli government directed its missions abroad to launch a campaign explaining Israel’s position that a united Jerusalem is the sovereign capital of Israel. In a separate development, Israel was expected to release 20 Palestinian prisoners before the start of the Passover holiday, the Israeli daily Ha’aretz reported this week. The paper quoted a source in the Prime Minister’s Office as saying that none of those freed would be members of Hamas or have blood on their hands. Under the U.S.-brokered Wye agreement signed last October, Israel agreed to release 750 Palestinian prisoners. It has so far freed about a third that number.

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