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US restricts staff movement in Palestinian areas

By DIAA HADID

Associated Press

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 09:56 a.m. HST, Feb 19, 2011


JERUSALEM — The U.S. consulate in Jerusalem restricted personal travel for staff members in some areas of the West Bank on Saturday, a day after the Obama administration vetoed a U.N. resolution that would have condemned Israel.

At the same time, Palestinians demonstrated against the U.S. for vetoing the Arab-backed Security Council resolution. Its sponsors sought to condemn Israel for continuing to build Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank.

A U.S. consular official said the travel restrictions were a precaution to avoid attacks against staffers, and that there had been no violence so far. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of consular rules.

The U.S. consular ban prohibits staff from personal travel to the town of Jericho, the use of some West Bank roads and using a border crossing to Jordan frequented by Palestinians for the next three days.

Palestinians — with backing from much of the international community — say Jewish settlements prevent the emergence of a viable state by cutting up the West Bank, one of the chief territories they seek for their future country.

"Oh Obama, hateful one, settlements will not last," chanted hundreds of Palestinians in the West Bank city of Nablus.

In the nearby town of Tulkarem, a few hundred demonstrators marched to the nearby Israeli separation barrier and hurled rocks at Israeli soldiers in olive-green uniforms.

Soldiers grabbed one boy and tried to take him away, but were thwarted by a woman who ran toward them while clutching her handbag. She wrestled with the soldiers and took back the crying child.

More demonstrations are planned for Sunday, Palestinians said.

The militant Islamic group Hamas, which rules Gaza, also condemned the veto. One official described it as "immoral behavior."

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the initiative was successful despite the American veto because the 14 other Security Council members voted in favor of the resolution.

"Palestinian diplomacy achieved a real victory," said Abbas, according to Wafa, the Palestinian official news agency.

Israel thanked the U.S. for issuing the veto. In a statement, the prime minister's office said the decision shows that peace "will come through direct negotiations and not through the decisions of international bodies."






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