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ISRAEL

Copenhagen bus fire may be tied to Israel ads

UPDATED: Four public buses were burned in the early morning hours of Friday in what may have been a reaction to a controversy surrounding an advertising campaing urging people to boycott products from Israeli settlements.

Copenhagen bus fire may be tied to Israel ads
At least one of the buses had anti-Israel graffiti. Photo: Erik Refner/Scanpix
Copenhagen Police suspect that there is a political motive behind the burning of four Copenhagen city buses early on Friday. 
 
“In paint was written ‘Boycott Israel – Free Gaza’ on at least one of the buses,” police spokesman Las Vestervig told tabloid BT. 
 
No one was injured in the fire, which was set in the bus company Arriva’s parking garage in the Copenhagen district of Østerbro. 
 
The fire came amidst a controversy over the bus company Movia's decision to remove advertisements from 35 buses in the capital region that urged people to boycott products from Israeli settlements . 
 
 
The ads pictured two women beside the quote: “Our conscience is clean! We neither buy products from the Israeli settlements nor invest in the settlement industry.”
 
The ads were dropped by Movia within just four days after the company “received a significant number of inquiries regarding the Danish Palestinian Friendship Association's campaign against Israeli settlements,” Movia told AFP. 
 
It has since been revealed that the majority of complaints about the advertisements were written in English, leading many to conclude that it was the organized work of a foreign lobby campaign. 
 
The Danish Palestinian Friendship Association told AFP that the removal of the ads was “a clear attempt to deny us our freedom of speech”. 
 
“There is nothing whatsoever about this campaign that is harmful, discriminatory or hateful in any way,” Fathi El-Abed added. 
 
As of early Friday, police had not made any arrests but where working on the assumption that the fire was set deliberately. 
 
“Parked buses don't catch fire on their own too often. Therefore we have reason to assume that the fires were set,” police spokesman Kristian Aaskov told Politiken. 
 

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ISRAEL

FM threatens sanctions against Israel

If peace talks don't result in serious concessions from the Israelis, Martin Lidegaard says it's time to reconsider Denmark's and the EU's trade agreements with Israel.

FM threatens sanctions against Israel
Martin Lidegaard's get-tough approach may not fly with his colleagues. Photo: Simon Læssøe/Scanpix
Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard has threatened sanctions against Israel if the country doesn’t go along with the proposed terms in the peace talks taking place in Egypt this week. 
 
In the talks, which will get underway in Cairo on Tuesday, Lidegaard wants to see Israel commit to ending its eight-year blockade of Gaza and stop its “illegal settlements”. The foreign minister is also calling on Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza to lay down their weapons. 
 
If the talks fail to reach any long-term concessions from both sides, Lidegaard said that Denmark and the EU should adopt a tougher approach to Israel. 
 
“If nothing happens in the peace talks this time, and if we don’t see a new pattern of response from Israel’s side, then we will need to discuss the possibility of taking new steps including changes to our trade relations with Israel,” Lidegaard told Jyllands-Posten. 
 
“I hope that it doesn’t come to that, but I think that the EU’s policies are moving in that direction,” he added. 
 
Lidegaard’s comments failed to gain traction amongst his colleagues. Opposition parties the Conservatives and the Danish People's Party immediately spoke out against the threat of sanctions, while the trade minister, Mogens Jensen, told Jyllands-Posten that sanctions should only be considered with a broad international backing. 
 
“Only when a broad international coalition can agree on sanctions do I think it is reasonable to consider that action. I’m not at a point where I can say that there is a need for sanctions,” Jensen said. 
 
The 50-day war between Israel and Hamas that concluded last month resulted in more than 2,100 casualties on the Palestinian side and 70 on the Israeli side. 
 
 
“I see both myself and Denmark as friends of Israel, but Israel doesn’t always make it easy for its friends to defend the country’s actions when so many innocent men, women and children are killed,” Lidegaard wrote on Facebook in July.  
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