and other news from Today in Palestine:
Land, property, resources theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Apartheid
Israel approves 900 homes in East Jerusalem settlement
JERUSALEM (AFP) 5 Aug — Israel’s interior ministry has given final approval for the construction of 900 new homes in the east Jerusalem settlement neighborhood of Har Homa, a ministry spokeswoman told AFP on Thursday … The approval marks the final planning stage for a project that has garnered fierce criticism from the Palestinians and the international community. It will significantly expand the hilltop neighborhood, which lies in Jerusalem’s southwest and is defined as being within the municipal boundaries despite lying directly next to the Palestinian West Bank town of Bethlehem. Har Homa is known as Abu Ghnaim to Palestinians and used to be a lush forested area in northern Bethlehem before being destroyed to make space for the illegal settlement. Hagit Ofran, who monitors settlement activity for the Israeli group Peace Now, described the final approval of the project as “a very dramatic development” because of where the new housing will be located. “It adds a new ridge to Har Homa which blocks the territorial contiguity between east Jerusalem and Bethlehem and adds a further barrier to the possibility of east Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital in a two-state solution,” she told AFP.
Jewish settlers set Palestinian fields on fire
NABLUS (PIC) 5 Aug — Fanatic Jewish settlers on Thursday evening set fire to Palestinian agricultural fields in the village of Bourin to the south of the northern West Bank city of Nablus. Ali Eid, head of the Bourin village council, told PIC that a number of Jewish settlers set fields planted with olive trees to the east of the village. He said that it was not easy to estimate the damage, at the time, because settlers stopped villagers and the fire crews from reaching the affected fields to put the fire out. He also said that settlers assaulted the fire crews who reached the scene and that there were altercations between the settlers and IOF troops.
Palestinian man banished for ‘harassing’ usurping settlers
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (PIC) 4 Aug — Israeli authorities have banished a Palestinian native of Beit Safafa for allegedly harassing Jewish settlers who usurped the residence of close relatives. In a bizarre decision by the Israel Magistrates Court, Mohammed Salah, 47, was ordered to pack up from his family of ten and reside in Tarqumiya, south of Al-Khalil, for 90 days after allegedly ‘humiliating’ the settlers … Salah added he was forced to pay fines as well as several bail bonds worth thousands of Israeli shekels. He said the settlers had seized a house that belonged to his father and brother on property owned by his family since the period of Jordanian rule. Before Salah was arrested, the settlers physically assaulted his wife and daughter and demolished a wall on his residence and began digging on his property to extend water and sewage lines, Salah said.
PCHR weekly report: 2 civilians killed, 5 wounded by Israeli forces this week 28 July – 3 Aug
IMEMC 5 Aug — During the reporting period, Israeli forces killed two Palestinian civilians and wounded 4 others, including two children, in the West Bank, and conducted 44 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank … In the Gaza Strip, on 30 July 2011, a Palestinian civilian was wounded when Israeli soldiers stationed at the border between the Gaza Strip and Israeli opened fire at a number of Palestinian civilians who were collecting straw. On 02 August 2011, Israeli warplanes bombarded a tunnel at the Egyptian border in the southern Gaza Strip, and a training site in the north. No casualties were reported. Full report
Israeli police deploy in force for first Ramadan Friday
JERUSALEM (AFP) 5 Aug — Israeli police deployed in force in Jerusalem’s Old City after limiting access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound ahead of the first Friday prayers during Ramadan. “More than 2,000 police and border guards were deployed in Jerusalem,” said a police spokesman, adding access was blocked to the esplanade for Muslim men under the age of 45. “Among those aged 45 to 50 years, only the fathers of families with a permanent entry permit for Israel will be allowed to go on the esplanade,” he said … Israel also closed Qalandiya checkpoint near Ramallah, which provides access to Jerusalem for the northern West Bank, from Thursday evening at 9.00 p.m. until Friday evening at 7.00 p.m.
Israeli undercover unit threatens driver near Nablus
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 4 Aug — An undercover unit of the Israeli army reportedly threatened a Palestinian driver on Thursday near the northern West Bank city of Nablus. Eyewitness Munir Al-Jagub told Ma‘an that Israeli soldiers traveling in a car and wearing civilian clothes pointed their guns at a driver along the Huwwara road leading in and out of Nablus. The motives behind the aggression were unclear, Al-Jagub added.
2 Palestinians arrested at Tulkarem checkpoint
TULKAREM (Ma‘an) 4 Aug — Israeli forces arrested two Palestinians on Thursday at the military checkpoint of Enav, near Tulkarem, local witnesses told Ma‘an. Soldiers tightened security procedures at the checkpoint while checking cars and the identity cards of local residents, closing the checkpoint for over two hours and preventing residents from passing through. The identity of the two men arrested is unknown. Israeli forces also installed a temporary checkpoint at the junction of Beit Lid, south east of Tulkarem and carried out searches on cars, witnesses said.
Reporter of West Bank protest files complaint against Israeli military
IMEMC Mati Milstein filed a complaint against the Israeli Foreign Press Association on Thursday, August 5, 2011. The photojournalist was covering a Palestinian protest in Nabi Salih, when tear gas canisters were fired directly at the reporters covering the protest. [See article by Milstein here]
Israeli air strikes injure 5 in Gaza
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 5 Aug — Israeli military air strikes injured five people across the Gaza Strip overnight on Thursday. Medics told Ma‘an that three people were seriously injured in an air strike on the northern city of Beit Lahiya. An Israeli army spokeswoman said the military targeted the launch site of a rocket in northern Gaza around 10.00 p.m. Thursday. Shortly after, air strikes hit central and southern Gaza, and witnesses told Ma‘an that two Palestinians from the Al-Tuffah neighborhood of Gaza City had been injured. … The latest air strike is the second to target the Gaza Strip on Thursday after Israeli warplanes launched two attacks Thursday morning on the bases of the Al-Qassam Brigades, the military branch of Hamas, to the east and west of Gaza City. The airstrikes on Thursday come amid recent escalations along the border as Israeli warplanes struck two targets Tuesday in the northern and southern parts of the coastal enclave. No injuries were reported.
Iron Dome returns to Ashkelon
Ynet 5 Aug — The Defense Ministry informed the Ashkelon Municipality on Friday that the Iron Dome rocket interception system would be re-stationed in the southern city soon, following the ongoing rocket fire in recent days. Ashkelon Mayor Benny Vaknin and some of the city’s residents turned to Defense Minister Ehud Barak earlier this week, demanding that the system be returned to the area. The demand was made after a Grad rocket landed near the city on Wednesday night, slightly damaging a road.
‘Armed group’ claims Gaza rocket attacks
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 4 Aug — A claim of responsibility has been issued for an attack Wednesday in which two rockets struck Israeli territory and prompted air raids early the next day. The “Abdulla Azzam Brigades” said it fired Grad rockets toward Asheklon and Kiryat Gat. In a statement, a spokesman explained that the attack was “a normal reaction to the occupation’s crimes. Firing rockets will end when the occupation ends its attacks against the Gaza Strip.” Ma‘an could not independently verify the group’s claims. Israeli aircraft fired on Gaza City early Thursday “in response to the rockets fired from Gaza at Israel’s southern communities over the past few days,” an army statement said. Two air raids targeted military sites including one belonging to Hamas’ Al-Qassam Brigades, a Ma‘an correspondent said. There were no reports of injury or damage following the attacks.
Video: Hamas delivers free meals to Gaza’s poor
AJ 4 Aug – The social welfare arm of the Hamas government in Gaza is delivering thousands of free meals to families during the Muslim month of Ramadan. Hamas sees the charity work as an opportunity to strengthen support and expand its network. [and at any rate it is an Islamic obligation] Al Jazeera’s Nicole Johnston reports from Gaza on whether the efforts are working.
Video: Gaza in grip of abject poverty
PressTV 3 Aug — People in Gaza especially those whose homes were destroyed during Israel’s 22-day offensive on Gaza at the turn of 2009, are frustrated by the international communities’ assumption that the siege has been lifted.
Gaza: Dying to break the blockade
Scoop 5 Aug — Gazans are dying to break the Israeli blockade — literally. More than 500 of them have already died from lack of access to life-saving medications and medical supplies directly attributable to the illegal Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip. Lest you think it is just Gaza crying wolf, here is what the International Red Cross had to say about the situation in its Operational Update of 28 July 2011, “The lack of a reliable system for delivering drugs and disposables to Gaza has a direct impact on patient care. Drugs used in the treatment of cancer, kidney-transplant and haemodialysis patients have been out of stock for the past three months.” And that is only the tip of the iceberg.
UNRWA announces building plans in the Gaza Strip
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 5 Aug — An UNRWA spokesman in Gaza said Friday that the Palestinian refugee agency plans to build 10,000 homes and 100 schools in the coastal strip over the next three years. Adnan Abu Hasneh said 51 UNRWA schools in Gaza would be completed by the end of the school year 2012-2013. The statement said 222,000 students had registered for the upcoming academic year in UNRWA’s Gaza schools.
Rafah open Saturday for late July applicants
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 5 Aug — Palestinian head of the Rafah crossing Ayoub Abu Shaar said Friday that travel via the terminal on Saturday would only be for passengers who had registered for July 28 and 30. Recent delays at the crossing have prevented registered passengers from traveling on their scheduled journeys.
NGO: Gaza court overturns closure order
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 5 Aug — Gaza’s High Court of Justice on Thursday overturned a government decision to shut down Sharek Youth Forum’s Gaza offices, the NGO said. The court ruled in favor of the forum’s appeal against the July 12 closure by the interior ministry and national security department, a move that had been criticized by local civil society and the United Nations. Judges called on the general attorney and the ministry of interior officials to explain their reason for shutting the children and youth NGO
Activism / Solidarity
Non-violent protests across the West Bank face tear gas
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 5 Aug — Israeli forces targeted three separate rallies across the West Bank on Friday, firing tear gas at participants and lightly injuring dozens. Soldiers fired tear gas at weekly Friday demonstrations in the Palestinian village of Bil‘in, west of Ramallah, the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee said. Despite the heat and fasting of Ramadan, dozens of Palestinian, international and Israeli activists took part in the protests, which began after Friday prayers in an area of land recently returned to the village by Israeli authorities … A peaceful rally held after Friday prayers in the village of Nabi Saleh, near Ramallah was also targeted by Israeli soldiers who fired tear gas, stun grenades and rubber coated steel bullets at protesters, a Ma‘an correspondent reported. The army blocked streets in the village, declaring it a closed military zone while settlers under the protection of the soldiers accessed a nearby spring … In a separate non-violent rally on Friday, residents of Kafr Qaddum east of Qalqiliya marched to demand that the main road to the village be opened after nine years of being blocked by Israeli authorities. The village is overlooked by the illegal Israeli settlement Qedumim. “The Friday rally is the sixth consecutive one and dozens of cars and hundreds of residents participated in addition to international peace activists.
‘When you’ve sold the camel, don’t fret about the reins’
WAC — Interview with Salit Striker Muhammad Fukara by Assaf Adiv — Haj Muhammad Fukara is the living spirit of the ongoing strike at the Salit quarry. For 27 of his 52 years he has worked here, almost from the day it was opened beside his family’s shacks. These are in a wadi near Mishor Adumim, a few miles east of Jerusalem. Fukara has always known the place as Khan al-Akhmar, the Red Caravanserai. Under an improvised tent at the quarry entrance, after more than a month on strike, Fukara radiates confidence in the power of the workers and in the struggle they have chosen. “Whatever may be the results of the strike, I feel that we’re restoring to ourselves the power that’s been drained from us through the years. We are making the management realize that we’ll no longer put up with humiliation and belittlement.”
Mustafa Barghouti receives American Palestinian student delegation
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 4 Aug — Palestinian MP Mustafa Al-Barghouti received several student delegations on Thursday, including a group of American Palestinians. “Our victory depends on our self confidence and confrontation of the occupation’s procedures which are represented in practicing of frustration against the Palestinians,” he said, emphasizing that young Palestinians abroad should do their utmost to support the Palestinian national struggle … The role of peaceful popular resistance is vital to the Palestinian cause, he added.
IOF troops arrest 310 citizens in July including 32 minors
GAZA (PIC) 4 Aug — Israeli occupation forces (IOF) arrested 310 citizens in the past month of July in 500 raids on various West Bank cities, villages, and refugee camps, the Palestinian ministry of prisoners in Gaza reported on Wednesday. It noted that 50 citizens were detained in Al-Khalil, and 47 in Nablus, adding that they included an MP, 32 children, seven women, and 18 foreign solidarity activists.
The ministry pointed to the increasing arrest of women and children, adding that among the captured minors were 11 from occupied Jerusalem who were detained for throwing stones at settlers. The youngest was only 12 years old.
Hamas leader freed in mass prisoner release
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 4 Aug — Israel moved Thursday to free 770 Israeli and Palestinian detainees, including a senior leader of Hamas, prison and Palestinian Authority officials said. Israel prisons spokeswoman Sivan Weizman said the prisoners, among them 200 Palestinians, had almost completed their terms and were released due to overcrowding. Hassan Yousef, a West Bank leader of the Hamas movement, was released despite having six weeks remaining of a six-year term for “membership of a terrorist organization.” … The Head of Gaza’s Prison Ministry Riyad Al-Ashqar said a large number of prisoners were released Thursday because Israel was delaying the release of dozens of detainees who had completed their sentences. Among them are more than 70 prisoners from the Negev jail alone, including 16 prisoners from Gaza. Mahmoud Al-Sherif was detained in April and scheduled for release in June, for example. The ministry noted that all the prisoners had completed their sentences, so the mass release should not be interpreted as a sign that Hamas and Israel reached a deal to exchange a soldier captured in 2006 … According to figures released by Israeli rights group B’Tselem in April, there are 5,380 Palestinians being held in Israeli jails, 217 of whom were under 18.
Israeli soldiers arrest Palestinian after assaulting him in Beit Ummar
HEBRON (WAFA) 4 Aug — Israeli soldiers arrested Thursday evening a Palestinian after beating him at the entrance of the town of Beit Ummar, north of Hebron, according to witnesses. Witnesses told WAFA that “the soldiers stationed at the entrance of the town of Beit Ummar beat Mohammed Abu Ayash, 25, before arresting him.”
School bans Arabic, Russian in hallways
Ynet 5 Aug — Sign prohibiting conversations in foreign languages stirs storm among nursing students at Barzilai Medical Center. ‘How can someone forbid me from speaking in my mother tongue?’ asks angry student … “Everybody knows it is specifically targeting Russian and Arab nurses,” one student told Ynet. … “I arrived to Israel when I was 30 and spoke Russian most of my life. My little daughter comes home from school telling me they called her a ‘stinky Russian’ in class. It’s almost the same thing.” Another student noted that out of the 39 students in class, only six are Israeli, and the rest are Russian and Arab.
Political / Diplomatic / International news
Report: President Abbas to visit Lebanon in mid-August
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 5 Aug — President Abbas is set to visit Lebanon in mid-August after receiving an official invitation from Lebanese President Michel Suleiman, PA officials said Friday. The visit will focus on securing Lebanese support for the Palestinian UN bid for statehood in September. Lebanon is currently the only Arab country not to have officially recognized Palestine, after Syria gave its support to a Palestinian state in July 2011. President Abbas and President Suleiman will also talk about developments between the two countries, as well as discussing the situation of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. There are currently over 400,000 Palestinian refugees registered with UNRWA in Lebanon and the fragile sectarian composition of Lebanese society makes their presence a sensitive issue. Palestinian refugees in the country have long suffered discrimination and are deprived of basic rights.
Report: Honduras announces support for Palestinian statehood
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 4 Aug — Honduras announced Thursday that it intends to support the Palestinian UN bid for statehood in September, prompting the Israeli Foreign Ministry to withdraw its ambassador from the country for consultation, Israeli news site Walla reported
Report: Qatar backs UN recognition bid
DOHA, Qatar (Ma‘an) 4 Aug — The minister of state for international cooperation in Qatar said Wednesday that the Gulf emirate would support a Palestinian bid for recognition of statehood at the UN in September.
PLO factions in Lebanon support PA’s decision to go to UN
BEIRUT (WAFA) 4 Aug –The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO’s) factions in Lebanon, Thursday confirmed their commitment and support for the Palestinian leadership’s decision to go to the United Nations (UN) in September to seek recognition of a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital. The factions decided, in a statement, after their periodic meeting, to carry out wide public activities in all Palestinian refugee camps in support of the Palestinian leadership’s stance, headed by President Mahmoud Abbas. They considered the Palestinian leadership’s decision to go to the UN to seek full admission and recognition a step towards achieving the Palestinian people’s right to return according to the international resolution 194
Baraka: Right of return precedes statehood recognition
BEIRUT (PIC) 4 Aug — Lebanese foreign minister Mansour Adnan has met with a Hamas delegation to discuss developments in Palestinian affairs. The delegation was headed by Hamas’s representative in Lebanon Ali Baraka and also included members Mahmoud al-Sadiq and Raafat Murra. The talks saw agreement on the need to pursue with the international courts the right of the Palestinian refugees to return, an official Lebanese media official said, quoting Baraka. “’We emphasized to Minister Mansour that the right of return is more important than establishing a state, as we are concerned that the price for establishing it is relinquishing the cause of the Palestinian refugees,”’ Baraka said.
Palestinian Authority orders forces to prevent violence after September UN vote
Haaretz 5 Aug — Palestinians inform Israel of their intention to keep the peace and avoid confrontation. Polls show Palestinians oppose outbreak of third intifada, following push for statehood — The Palestinian Authority has ordered its security forces to prevent demonstrations planned for September from escalating into violent confrontations with Israel, especially in potential friction points like the roadblocks and settlements.
Housing activists add Israeli Arab concerns to list of demands
Haaretz 4 Aug — The organizers of the tent protest yesterday added two demands of the Arab community to the list of demands they are drafting for the committee appointed by the prime minister to deal with their grievances. Arabs are demanding state recognition of the unrecognized villages throughout the country, especially the Bedouin communities in the Negev, and the approval of master plans that would expand local authorities’ jurisdiction, to enable construction. “These are two fundamental issues and I hope the protest organizers, who support them, will insist on them. The Arab community’s main problem is the terrible housing shortage due to the absence of territory to build on,” Hadash secretary general Ayman Odeh said.
Kadima lawmakers retract support for bill scrapping Arabic as official language in Israel
Haaretz 5 Aug — The bill would have made democratic rule subservient to the state’s definition as “the national home for the Jewish people.” — A number of Kadima lawmakers say they are reconsidering the bill they submitted on Wednesday calling for a new Basic Law that changes Israel’s definition as a “Jewish and democratic state” to “the national home for the Jewish people.” The bill also proposes that Hebrew be the country’s only official language, removing Arabic from the list … MK Avi Dichter (Kadima ), who helped draft the bill, said that “with the Basic Law we can finally denote Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people and not need the Palestinians’ favors and recognition of us as a Jewish state.” According to Dichter, the law “will enable us to deal with the aspirations of radicals from both sides of the political spectrum to establish a binational state here.”
Turkey not present for annual naval exercises with Israel and US
IMEMC 4 Aug — For the second year in a row, Turkey is not participating in the naval drill, Reliant Mermaid, with Israel and the US. This action taken by Turkey is a result of the killing of nine Turkish activists from the 2010 Gaza Flotilla Raid.
Israel: Social protests turn political
JERUSALEM (AP) 4 Aug — For three weeks, the leaders of a mass movement protesting Israel’s soaring cost of living have sought to stay above the country’s usual political fray. But the focus is growing on the staggering sums spent on West Bank settlers and ultra-religious Jews to explain why there’s not enough for ordinary Israelis.
Video: Palestinian converge on Jerusalem al-Quds on Ramadan
PressTV 5 Aug — For Muslims in Palestine, Ramadan has a high religious significance. But the holy month brings also a rare chance for Muslims to visit Jerusalem Al-Quds. A city that they have no access to for the rest of the year. Observers say over 150,000 Palestinians [of the permitted age groups] held the noon prayers at the Al Aqsa Mosque despite heavy Israeli police presence around the city and numerous checkpoints.
Wikipedia founder: Israel-Palestine is heavily debated, but we’re vigilant on neutrality
Haaretz 5 Aug — …The Wikipedia community may often argue amongst itself about controversial topics, but one thing is for certain: It is intent on maintaining a policy of Neutral Point of View, or NPOV, as Wales calls it … the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the many controversial topics which the Wikipedia community struggles to keep as neutral as possible within its pages. “Topics relating to Israel and Palestine are in the group – they’re not the only, there are many controversies in the world – they’re in the group of articles that are always heavily edited, heavily discussed, heavily debated,” says Wales. “They get a lot of attention from a lot of different people, and of course it will happen every day that someone will come in with an agenda, in any direction, trying to push that agenda, but the community is quite vigilant about trying to be neutral, trying to follow reliable sources, and I think in general we succeed,” he says
Christians nearly absent in Holy Land
Natl’ Catholic Register — LONDON 4 Aug — By now, the threat facing Christianity in its birthplace is depressingly clear. Christians represented 30 percent of British Mandate Palestine in 1948, while today in Israel and the Palestinian Territories they’re 1.25 percent. The Catholic patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, warns that the Holy Land risks becoming a “spiritual Disneyland” — full of glittering rides and attractions, but empty of its indigenous Christian population. That decline is part of a Christian exodus all across the Middle East, the reasons for which are well-known: *Israeli/Palestinian conflict, which affects Arab Christians as much as Arab Muslims; *Lack of economic opportunity; *Rising Islamic fundamentalism; *Christians in the area tend to be better-educated and more affluent, and thus stand a better chance of getting out. As one observer says, in the Middle East frustrated Christians emigrate physically, while frustrated Muslims emigrate ideologically.
Jordan: Mixed marriages, geopolitics, and a gender double standard
AMMAN (LeMonde/WC) The husband and children of a Jordanian woman can never become citizens, and enjoy no basic rights in the country. Many of those shut out are Palestinian, which makes the law even more difficult to undo — “Everyone has the right to a nationality,” says the 15th article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Nima Habashney, who lives in Jordan, does not believe in this right anymore. In Jordan’s Hashemite Kingdom, women married to foreigners cannot pass on Jordanian nationality to their husbands and children. Legally speaking, their children and husbands do not exist — even if they’ve been living in Jordan all their life. They are tolerated, but they don’t have any papers or social rights, making them more vulnerable than the nearly one million Palestinian refugees who live in Jordan with the United Nation’s help. It works differently for Jordanian men. The foreign wives and children of Jordanian men automatically receive citizenship. The law also stipulates that the children of a male Jordanian inherit their father’s nationality no matter where they were born, even if they’ve never set foot in Jordan.