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Israel telecoms giant warned over UN settlements database

Stella Handler, CEO of Israeli telecommunications Bezeq [Twitter]
Stella Handler, CEO of Israeli telecommunications Bezeq [Twitter]

The CEO of Israeli telecommunications giant Bezeq has shared a letter from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), as the Geneva-based body prepares for the publication of a database of companies complicit in Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt).

Stella Handler published the letter on her Facebook account, along with an attack on the UNHRC and its mandate. The post was subsequently deleted, reportedly at the request of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The letter, dated 22 September, summarises the UNHRC's findings regarding Bezeq's involvement with settlements in the oPt, including "40 real estate properties in the West Bank used for telecommunication infrastructure", as well as various antennas.

Bezeq "provides landline, cellular, internet and cable TV services to residents of settlements in the West Bank", the UN letter continued, and, in addition, "operates sales points in [West Bank settlement] Ma'ale Adumim and two locations in East Jerusalem".

The letter, signed by Mohammad Ali Alnsour, chief of the Middle East and North Africa Section of the UNHRC's Field Operations and Technical Cooperation Division, invites Bezeq's CEO to respond within 60 days of the date of the letter.

Read: New settlement units to be approved after Jewish holiday

On her Facebook page, Handler claimed the UNHRC is bias against Israel, and that the council neglects human rights abuses in "North Korea, Syria, Sudan and Yemen".

She added: "We provide services to all Israeli citizens…and respect their decision to live anywhere in the land, whether in Ra'anana, East Jerusalem, Ariel, Sakhnin, and Ma'ale Adumim", making no distinction between Israeli towns inside the Green Line and settlements in the oPt.

"We are making an effort and investing a great deal of money in order to ensure that our infrastructure reaches every Israeli community and to provide high-quality communications services to every citizen. We also provide services to the Israeli security forces with great pride," she added.

Haaretz notes that Bezeq "has facilities throughout the West Bank and is in many cases the sole provider of landline telephone, internet and multichannel television services to the settlements."

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