UN High Commissioner for Human Rights concerned for Palestinian hunger strikers and speaks out against Israeli administrative detention

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Prisoners / Hunger strikers / Court actions

Jailed Palestinian hunger striker faces death
Al Jazeera 13 Feb by Renee Lewis — Family and friends of Samer Issawi, on hunger strike for more than 200 days in Israeli jail, say he may die any moment — Issawi, 33, has been on a hunger strike in an Israeli jail for more than 203 days. Initially released by Israeli authorities in an October 2011 prisoner swap, Issawi was re-arrested in July 2012 and told he would have to serve the remaining 20-years of his original sentence for allegedly violating the conditions of his release. It is not officially known how prison authorities have kept him alive during months of not eating. Some of Issawi’s supporters said he was being force fed through an intravenous tube, but the latest reports from prison indicate that he has begun refusing all nutrients and water and that he faces imminent death. His sister said that Palestinian Prisoner Society lawyer Jawad Boulos, who represents Issawi, recounted that on a recent hospital visit that the hunger-striker told him: “I’m reaching the end of the tunnel. I’m either going to see the light of freedom or the light of martyrdom.”

UN concerned about Palestinian detainees
Al Jazeera 14 Feb — Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has expressed concern about the well-being of Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons, particularly Samer Issawi who has been on hunger strike for more than 200 days and is reportedly on the verge of death. The UN human rights chief on Tuesday called for the immediate release or charge of prisoners held in “administrative detention”. Two other Palestinians - Tarek Qaadan and Jafar Azzidine - have been on hunger strike for 78 days to protest Israel’s policy of administrative detention, under which suspects can be imprisoned without trial by order of a military court. The order can be renewed indefinitely for six months at a time. All three are reportedly near death.

Red Cross says its Ramallah office will remain closed
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 14 Feb — The Ramallah office of International Committee of the Red Cross will remain closed for as long at Palestinian protesters stay inside its building, ICRC spokeswoman Nadia Dibsi Thursday told Voice of Palestine … Khader Adnan, a former prisoner, started Monday a hunger strike inside the Red Cross office in support with Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails on hunger strike to demand their release. He said he was joined in his hunger strike on Thursday by a mother of a prisoner and an activist … Adnan told Voice of Palestine that the Red Cross closed all its offices in the building and that he remains confined to a hall without any facilities.

Prisoner Ezzedine rejects a 3-month administrative detention decision
JENIN (PIC) 12 Feb — Lawyer for the Palestinian Prisoners Society (PPS) said that hunger striking prisoner Jafar Ezzedine asserted today during the court hearing that he will continue his strike and rejected the Israeli prosecution’s suggestion to hold him under administrative detention for three months, after which he will be released. “Captive Jafar Ezzedine attended the Court session in a wheelchair and in an extremely difficult health condition. However, he confirmed that he will continue his hunger strike,” PPS lawyer stated. Palestinian human rights sources reported that the Israeli Supreme Court decided on Wednesday morning to not interfere in the decision of the Court of Military Appeals issued on the 5th of February 2013 and providing the extension of administrative detention of prisoner Jafar Ezzedine, on hunger strike for 79 days, for three months

‘Valentine’s Day vigil’ for prisoners in Gaza
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 14 Feb — Palestinian activists held a Valentine’s Day vigil on Thursday to support prisoners jailed in Israel and the detainees on hunger strike. The group gathered in the city carrying roses and banners of support for Palestinian prisoners. One of the activists, Rihab Kanaan, told Ma‘an: “On this international day of love, we hope that the world will wake up and realize the reality and suffering of prisoners and their families.”

Prisoners strike in solidarity with hunger strikers
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 14 Feb — Some 360 prisoners held in Israeli jails, mainly from the Islamic Jihad, Thursday began a one-day hunger strike in solidarity with the four prisoners who have been on a long hunger strike, said a Prisoners’ Club statement … he prisoners plan a broader hunger strike on Tuesday that will include all Israeli jails in solidarity with the striking prisoners. Samer Issawi has been on hunger strike for 205 days, Jafar Izzeddin and Tariq Qadan have been striking for 79 days and Ayman Sharawneh has been on strike for about 142 days.

4 Border Guards convicted of abusing helpless Palestinian
Ynet 14 Feb — Four Border Guard officers were convicted Thursday on charges of aggravated assault and abuse of a helpless person for their involvement in a 2009 incident in which they abused a Palestinian near a Givat Ze’ev checkpoint.  According to the Jerusalem District Court‘s conviction, the group arrested the man – a mentally disabled Palestinian – and took him into their jeep, where an unleashed dog awaited him. The group then proceeded to beat, curse and pour water on the man … The indictment against the four was filed after a video they shot of themselves during the incident reached the hands of the Police Investigations Unit.  With the aid of the video documentation, B’Tselem investigators successfully managed to locate the victim, who, at the time, was incarcerated after being arrested for illegally working in Israel. Nonetheless, the human rights organization managed to secure a testimony from the victim; during the deposition, B’Tselem lawyers noted that his mental disability was easily discernable.

Young Israeli conscientious objector sentenced to sixth consecutive prison term
972mag 13 Feb by Haggai Matar — Natan Blanc (19) has been in and out of prison for three months now. On November 19, Blanc informed authorities of his conscientious objection to enlist to the Israeli army due to the ongoing occupation of Palestinian territories and the constant militarization of the Israeli society which it entails. Since his initial refusal to be drafted into the IDF, Natan Blanc has been sentenced six times, the last being this Sunday, each to a period of two to three weeks in jail. In accordance with military regulations, Blanc is being sentenced by medium-level officers in short disciplinary proceedings, sent to prison, then back to the induction base, and then tried again. There are no real limitations to the number of times this process can repeat itself, in what has already been described by Amnesty International and several others human rights NGOs in other cases as arbitrary sentencing.

Militants in PA custody call for Israel amnesty, launch hunger strike
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 14 Feb  — Three Palestinians affiliated to militant groups launched a hunger strike on Thursday, calling on the Palestinian Authority to secure an amnesty deal with Israel so they can leave PA jail. In the years after the second intifada, Israel agreed to pardon hundreds of militants, mainly affiliated to Fatah, who had been held in protective custody by the PA.

Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Danger to non-Jewish history and archaeology

Rising from ruins
SEBASTIA, West Bank (NY Times Latitude blog) 13 Feb by Raja Shehadeh — I spent last Sunday, a gorgeous early spring day, visiting a colonnaded street leading to a Roman theater, the 30 B.C. temple of Augustus and a church built to commemorate the martyrdom of John the Baptist, which supposedly occurred on this hill. These and many more ruins can be seen in Sebastia, an ancient city first settled in the Early Bronze Age less than ten miles northwest of Nablus. Throughout our tour of this impressive archeological site my two companions and I did not see a single label identifying what we were looking at. There were no entrance fees, ushers or brochures. Valuable ruins were scattered over a large area: a Roman bronze column here, a beautifully carved capitol there, all laying in thick green grass among pink cyclamen, red poppies and yellow dandelion. Shards of clay vessels stuck out of the path where we walked. No official, neither Israeli nor Palestinian, manned the entrance to the site, and no guard protected the relics from robbers … The Oslo Accords list Sebastia among the archeological sites of importance to Israel, yet Israel is not taking care of the place, arguably one of the most important set of ruins in the West Bank. Nor is it allowing the Palestinian Authority to do so.

A settlement’s ‘bio-war’ against the ancient city of Sebastiya
ISM 13 Feb — Sabastiya is an ancient city located just 10 km north of Nablus, West Bank. It contains Canaanite, Israelite, Hellenistic, Herodian, Roman and Byzantine ruins as well as the tomb of John the Baptiste. The winding city streets along with its history make Sabastiya an ideal place to visit. Yet, as charming and beautiful as the old city is, the nearby Israeli settlement of Shafi Shamrom is making lives of Sabastiya’s residents very difficult: settlers uprooted olive trees, introduced wild boars into the environment to damage the land, and most recently, sewage has started leaking from the settlement flooding Palestinian fields … The most recent and disturbing action on the part of illegal settlers of Shafi Shamron is pumping their raw, untreated sewage directly onto Palestinian fields. As the sewage is absorbed into the land, olive and apricot trees are rendered diseased and, according to the residents, ‘poisoned’. The flow of human waste begins from a pipe on the perimeter of the settlement, creating a sort of reservoir which then runs through the adjacent Palestinian fields, compelling each subsequent land owner to create a canal in order to drain the sewage water on to his neighbors land and further away. Residents of Sabastiya are currently bringing legal action against Shafi Shamron

Ma’man Allah Cemetery desecrated with racist graffiti
IMEMC 14 Feb — EXCLUSIVE PICTURES In a statement issued on Thursday [14.02] by the al-Aqsa Foundation for Heritage and Endowments, the organisation confirmed that extremist Jews violated the sanctity of the Ma’man Allah [ مأمن الله  also Mamilla] Islamic Cemetery in Jerusalem during the night. The intruders scrawled insults against the Prophet Muhammad [PBUH] and anti-Arab graffiti across the Muslim grave stones. Approximately 30 graves were affected during the attack. Slogans such as ‘death to Arabs’, ‘Muhammad is dead’, ‘Kahane is truth’ and ‘price tag’ were graffitied alongside the Israeli Star of David. A number of wine bottles were also found at the site.

‘No place in Israel for Palestine,’ says Naftali Bennett in maiden Knesset speech
Haaretz 13 Feb by Jonathan Lis — In his first address to the Knesset, Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett on Tuesday rejected any possibility of an agreement that would lead to the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. “There’s no place in our small and stunning piece of God’s country for another state,” he said. “It won’t happen. But friends, before any debate about territory, it must be said: The Land of Israel belongs to the people of Israel. Now let’s argue.”

Israeli West Bank settlers increase by 4.7 percent in 2012
AFP 13 Feb — The number of Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank grew by 4.7% in 2012, according to figures obtained by AFP Wednesday from a settler organisation. The settler population stood at 360,000 at beginning of January 2013 compared to 343,000 in January 2012, according to the Yesha Council, the largest organisation of West Bank settlers. It said that since Israel pulled its settlers out of the Gaza Strip in 2005, population growth in the West Bank settlements averaged five percent annually, about three times that of the overall Israeli population. The council attributed the growth spurt to the fact that more people are moving to existing settlements and to a high birth rate among religious settlers These figures do not include some 200,000 Israelis in a dozen settlement neighbourhoods of east Jerusalem, annexed by Israel after its conquest in the 1967 Six Day war. Settlers represent 4.4 percent of the total population of Israel, which stands at 7.9 million people.

Israeli government gives convicted murderer 1.3 million for illegal takeover of Palestinian land
IMEMC 14 Feb — An Israeli settler who was released early from a life sentence for killing 3 Palestinians in 1983 has received compensation of 1.3 million NIS (around $250,000) from the Israeli Tax Authority for alleged damage to land that he has cultivated in the Hebron area — land that he illegally confiscated from its Palestinian owners. Menachem Livni is a settler in the ultra-right wing settlement of Kiryat Arba, in the Palestinian city of Hebron, and says that he is entitled to the payments, and will continue to sue the Israeli government for more money. Livni was convicted of the murder of three Palestinian students, and the wounding of 33 others, when he and two other right-wing settlers with the so-called ‘Israeli Underground’ threw hand grenades and fired automatic weapons at the Islamic College of Hebron in 1983. He was sentenced to life in prison along with the other perpetrators of the attack, Shaul Nir and Uzi Sharbav, but he received an early release when he was pardoned by Israeli President Chaim Herzog in 1990. He immediately moved to the Israeli settlement Kiryat Arba, which soon became known for violent attacks against Palestinians and illegal seizure of Palestinian land. Livni himself took over a large swath of Palestinian farmland and began growing fruit. He was provided with his own contingent of Israeli military troops to protect his stolen swath of land from the Palestinian owners, who repeatedly attempted to reclaim it.

Rewarding the lawbreakers: New settlement homes on confiscated lands
972mag 13 Feb by Yesh Din, written by Yossi Gurvitz — Israel approves 90 new settlement homes in Beit El to reward evacuees from the evacuated settlement neighborhood of Givat Ha’Ulpana. The problem? The homes are to be built on lands confiscated for security purposes, a practice the High Court ruled against decades ago … Ynet reported earlier this week that the government intends to reward the evacuees from the illegal settlement of Givat Ha’Ulpana for their blatant violation of the law by building them 90 new apartments in the settlement of Beit El. Unfortunately, no lands are available in Beit El for such purposes. The only land available in Beit El is land that was confiscated by the army in the 1970s, and it can only be used for military purposes.

Lawyer: Israel to evict 100 Palestinians in Jerusalem
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 13 Feb — Around 100 Palestinian Bedouins could be homeless by the end of the week after Israeli authorities issued eviction orders to 20 families in northeast Jerusalem, their lawyer said Wednesday. An Israeli court initially ordered the families, from the al-Arara tribe, to leave their land in Jaba‘ within three days, but the lawyer managed to delay the order for 15 days, which will run out this week, he told a news conference in Jerusalem. Jaba‘ borders Adam, an illegal Jewish settlement, which the families say Israel plans to expand onto their land.

Israel to evacuate 2 families from their land in Bethlehem
BETHLEHEM (WAFA) 13 Feb — The Israeli authorities Wednesday ordered two Palestinian families to evacuate their private-owned agricultural land in the village of Hussan, west of Bethlehem, as well as to remove the olive trees planted there and turn it back to the way it was, according to an official. Member of Hussan village council, Taha Hamamreh, told WAFA that the farmers found notices in their land ordering them to evacuate their land; the first one of his 30 dunums and the second of his two dunums. The notice also warned them of entering the land again and ordered them to bring back the land to its previous state. Israeli forces have been recently targeting the village of Hussan, including the taking over of hundreds of dunums of land, as well as the destruction of trees and the electricity networks.

Settlers raze Palestinian-owned land near Bethlehem
BETHLEHEM (WAFA) 13 Feb — Jewish settlers, under Israeli soldiers protection, Wednesday razed Palestinian-owned agricultural land in an area east of Bethlehem, according to a local activist. Coordinator of the National Committee against the Wall and Settlements in Bethlehem, Hassan Brijiyeh, told WAFA that a large number of settlers, accompanied by a bulldozer and protected by soldiers, razed agricultural land belonging to two families in the area. He stressed that this Israeli measure comes as a prelude to take over the land and give it to settlers to establish a new settlement outpost in the area.

Occupation confiscates a Jerusalemite citizen’s land
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (PIC) 13 Feb — The Jerusalem Municipality staff, accompanied by Special Forces, raided on Tuesday a land owned by the citizen Khaled al-Zeer in Bir Ayyub in Silwan, and handed to him an eviction order. Khaled al-Zeer told the Information Center in Wadi al-Hilwa that the occupation forces told him that they will demolish the room, in which he lives along with his pregnant wife and five children, claiming that the land “belongs to the State of Israel.” He pointed out that about two weeks ago the Antiquities Authority had raided his land, which has an area of 11 dunums, and claimed the existence of Jewish monuments buried in the land, which was denied by Al-Zeer.

Israeli outpost demolition sparks settler protests
JERUSALEM (AFP) 13 Feb — Israeli authorities on Wednesday demolished several buildings at a wildcat settlement outpost in the southern West Bank but the supreme court later issued a temporary injunction against further such action. It did not publish a reason for the injunction. The demolition of six mobile homes at Maale Rehavam, in the Gush Etzion group of settlements south of Jerusalem, sparked angry protests by settlers and supporters who scuffled with police outside parliament and temporarily blocked Jerusalem streets … Settler website Arutz Sheva said Jewish protesters blocked the road to the West Bank city of Ramallah and it quoted an unnamed source as saying that some of them smashed windows and slashed tyres of Palestinian-owned vehicles.

Violence / Raids / Closures / Clashes / Illegal arrests

Weekly report on Israeli human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territory (7-13 February 2013)
PCHR 14 Feb — The Israeli forces continued to open fire at the Palestinian civilians in the border area of the Gaza Strip. The Israeli forces conducted 77 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. At least 46 Palestinian civilians, including 8 children, were arrested in the West Bank. The Israeli forces continued to attack Palestinian fishermen in the sea. The Israeli forces opened fire at the Palestinian fishing boats, but neither casualties nor material damages were reported. The Israeli forces continued to use excessive force against peaceful protests in the West Bank. 3 Palestinian civilians, including a child and a journalist, were wounded in protests against the annexation wall and settlement activities The Israeli forces established dozens of checkpoints in the West Bank. At least 18 Palestinian civilians, including 11 children and a girl, were arrested at checkpoints. The Israeli forces have continued settlement activities in the West Bank, and Israeli settlers have continued to attack Palestinian civilians and property. 4 houses, 3 tents, a barrack, a water well and a grocery shop were demolished. The Israeli government approved the construction of 436 settlement units in the West Bank’s settlements. The settlers continued their attacks on the Palestinian civilians and their property. [details follow]

‘Undercover Israeli force’ detains Beit Ummar man
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 14 Feb — An Israeli undercover force [‘Arabists’] detained a Palestinian man in the southern West Bank town Beit Ummar early Thursday, locals said. Raed Rasem Aziz Ikhlayel, 25, was staying at a friend’s house in the Al-Turbeiqa neighborhood when the 15 undercover troops broke down the door around 6 a.m., popular committee spokesman Muhammad Awad said. The owner of the house, Muhammad Abu Ayyas, 50, tried to talk to the force, but they hit him and threw him to the ground, Awad said. He added that Ikhlayel was taken away in an white, unmarked vehicle, and that the forces spoke fluent Arabic.

Army kidnaps 14 Palestinians in West Bank
IMEMC 13 Feb — Wednesday at dawn, February 13, Israeli soldiers invaded several areas in the occupied West Bank, mainly in East Jerusalem, broke into and searched several homes and kidnapped at least fifteen Palestinians. The army also detained five children for several hours. Troops invaded Rommana village, west of the northern West Bank city of Jenin, and kidnapped one resident identified as Farid Mahajna, 22. Clashes were reported between the invading army and local residents. Mahajna is an officer with the Palestinian National Security Forces. Soldiers broke into his home and searched it after forcing his family out.
The army also invaded al-‘Arqa village, near Jenin, fired sound grenades and used loud speakers to harass residents. Clashes were reported.
Local sources in Beit Doqqo [or Beit Duqqu], northeast of occupied East Jerusalem, reported that the soldiers kidnapped 10 Palestinians after detonating the main doors of their homes, causing extensive damage and terrifying the residents. The invasion was carried out by more than 100 soldiers.
Furthermore, army invaded Borqa village, near the northern West Bank city of Nablus, kidnapped one youth identified as Mohammad Fuad Hijja, and took him to an unknown destination.
Also on Wednesday at dawn, the army kidnapped one resident identified as Adham Abu Hadeed, 24, after breaking into his home in Abu Sneina neighborhood in Hebron, in the southern part of the West Bank.
Soldiers further invaded several areas, including the Old City of Hebron, and detained five children for several hours.
[and so on and on]

Israeli forces continue closing off Jerusalem neighborhoods
JERUSALEM (WAFA) 13 Feb — Israeli police Wednesday continued the closing off of the northern Jerusalem neighborhoods, which began late last night, paralyzing life in those areas, according to a Fatah member.  He told WAFA that Israeli police closed off the areas, preventing hundreds of students and workers from reaching their schools and their place of work. He said Israeli police set up checkpoints at the neighborhoods entrances, main and subsidiary streets, preventing residents from leaving, excluding women who were allowed to leave the town after being subjected to a humiliating and thorough search. Israeli police was on high alert on northern Jerusalem neighborhoods since Tuesday claiming there were intelligence reports of a possible attack.

Israeli court places Palestinian minor under house arrest
JERUSALEM (WAFA) 13 Feb — The Israeli Magistrate Court Wednesday ruled that 13-year-old Muslim Odeh, from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan arrested last week for 14th time since he was nine, will be released from prison and placed under house arrest for one month, according to his father Mousa Odeh. Muslim was arrested last week for allegedly throwing rocks at Israeli police in Silwan. The court set a bail of $280 for his release. According to Mousa Odeh, the Israeli prosecutor wanted his son to be expelled from his home in Silwan for one month and to pay a bail of around $1500 dollars. He said the Israeli police have 32 claims against his son, including throwing stones, bottles and fireworks at Israeli soldiers and at a settlement outpost in Silwan.

Palestinians ‘run roadblock’, injured by Israeli police fire
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 14 Feb — Two Palestinians were hurt by Israeli police fire after they drove through a roadblock in the northern West Bank on Sunday, Israeli police said. Locals identified one of the wounded as Yasser Mohammed Nimer Abu Hamed, who was shot in the back while driving the car by the Israeli settlement Qarne Shomron, near Qalqiliya.

Israeli soldiers wound man near Syrian Golan fence
JERUSALEM (Reuters) 13 Feb — Israeli soldiers shot across the ceasefire line with Syria on the occupied Golan Heights on Wednesday, wounding a man who approached the boundary fence despite their orders to turn away, military sources said. The Golan, which Israel seized from Syria in a 1967 war and later annexed, has been largely untouched by the 24-month-old revolt rocking Damascus. But Israel has been on guard for violent spillovers or refugee influxes on the strategic plateau. The man shot on Wednesday was hit in the legs after he failed to heed warning shots and orders to back away, an Israeli military source said, adding that he was later evacuated in the direction of Syria by UN peacekeepers on the Golan.

Israeli forces set up temporary checkpoints in Qalqiliya
QALQILIYA (Ma‘an) 13 Feb — Israeli forces set up temporary checkpoints around Azzun village in Qalqiliya late Tuesday, locals said. Villagers were prevented from entering or leaving the area as Israeli forces closed the main entrance to the village and searched people’s vehicles, witnesses told Ma‘an. Settlers claimed that Palestinians had thrown rocks at their car near the village, locals said.

Witnesses: Settlers throw rocks at Palestinian cars in Nablus
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 13 Feb — A group of settlers threw rocks at Palestinian cars in Nablus on Wednesday, locals said. Settlers from Yizhar settlement damaged several vehicles after hurling rocks near the village of Burin, witnesses told Ma‘an.


2 injured by Israeli fire in north Gaza
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 14 Feb — Two young Palestinian men were injured by Israeli fire in the northern Gaza Strip on Thursday, medics said. A 20-year-old man was hit in the chest by gunfire east of Beit Hanoun, and is a moderate to serious condition, Gaza health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra said. Another man, aged 22, was shot in the hand in the same incident and has moderate injuries, al-Qidra said. The pair are being treated in Beit Hanoun hospital …
Earlier Thursday, Israeli military vehicles crossed into northern Gaza near Beit Lahiya to level lands, witnesses told Ma‘an. Israeli forces opened fire in the direction of Palestinian farmers, to force them leave their lands during the operation, they said.

Gaza: Palestinian boy dies; three more injured due to Israeli ordnance
IMEMC 14 Fev — Palestinian sources in the Gaza Strip reported on Thursday that one boy was pronounced dead and three others injured in two separate incidents of Israeli army unexploded ordnance detonated near them in the northern part of the coastal enclave. Emad Abu Qadous, five years old, sustained head injuries over the weekend when an unexploded bomb left by the Israeli army exploded near him in the town of Beit Hanoun. Doctors pronounced abu Qadous dead today, local sources in Gaza reported.
Meanwhile also on Thursday, three Palestinian children, between the ages of three and five, were injured when an explosive device left by the Israeli army detonated near them in the town of Beit Hanoun as well.  According to the Palestinian ministry of health in Gaza the three children suffered critical wounds.
The health ministry warned families to keep children away from all unidentified objects especially in areas where it faces constant Israeli army shelling and invasions.

Egypt floods Gaza tunnels to cut Palestinian lifeline
GAZA CITY (Reuters) 13 Feb — Egyptian forces have flooded smuggling tunnels under the border with the Gaza Strip in a campaign to shut them down, Egyptian and Palestinian officials said. The network of tunnels is a vital lifeline for Gaza, bringing in an estimated 30 percent of all goods that reach the enclave and circumventing a blockade imposed by Israel for more than seven years. Reporters saw one tunnel being used to bring in cement and gravel suddenly fill with water on Sunday, sending workers rushing for safety. Locals said two other tunnels were likewise flooded, with Egyptians deliberately pumping in water. “The Egyptians have opened the water to drown the tunnels,” said Abu Ghassan, who supervises the work of 30 men at one tunnel some 200 yards from the border fence. An Egyptian security official in the Sinai told Reuters the campaign started five days ago. “We are using water to close the tunnels by raising water from one of the wells,” he said, declining to be named … A Hamas official confirmed Egypt was again targeting the tunnels. He gave no further details and declined to speculate on the timing of the move, which started while Palestinian faction leaders met in Cairo to try to overcome deep divisions.

‘My family has been separated’
PCHR 13 Feb — The Gaza Strip has often been called an “open air prison” in light of the illegal closure imposed on it by the Israeli authorities.  However, the territory became a prison for many Palestinians long before the closure came into effect. In the early stages of the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which has been ongoing since 1967, Israeli authorities conducted a census in the occupied Palestinian territory, and counted 954,898 Palestinians. This census excluded all Palestinians who were not present during the process, either because they had been displaced due to the 1967 war or because they were abroad for studies, work, or other reasons.  These Palestinians were not included in the population registry. Thousands more Palestinians, who spent any considerable length of time abroad between 1967 and 1994, were also struck from the registry. Israel requires Palestinians to be included in this population registry in order for them or their children to be considered lawful residents and obtain Israeli-approved identification cards and passports. Israel, being the occupying power of the Gaza Strip, decides which Palestinian citizens should receive identification and travel document. Mona Khrais, 27, and her family have borne the brunt of these harsh policies for many years…..

Israeli warplanes block unidentified civilian aircraft over the Gaza Strip
MEMO 14 Feb — Palestinian security sources have said that on Wednesday evening [13.02] Israeli warplanes unexpectedly breached the airspace over central Gaza and blocked a medium sized civilian aircraft which had suddenly flown into the airspace above south western area of the Sector. Sources added that the unidentified aircraft was over southern and central Gazan airspace for quite a while flying at medium altitude before it encountered the Israeli warplanes which accompanied it until it left Palestinian airspace in the direction of Egypt … Palestinian sources speculate that the plane most likely belonged to a private Egyptian airline and had veered off course during a domestic flight.

Hebrew lessons prove popular in Gaza
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 13 Feb — Students in Gaza have reacted positively to a pilot project to offer Hebrew as an elective subject to ninth-graders in the enclave. Around 70 percent of schoolchildren in Gaza have chosen Hebrew over French or healthcare since it was introduced to the curriculum in 16 schools this academic year, a Ma‘an reporter said. “Teaching Hebrew as an elective course started this school year in 16 schools, and it will be taught in all schools across the Gaza Strip if it is successful,” Ministry of Education official Mustafa Marzouq told Ma‘an. Ninth-grader Ahmad al-Harazin told Ma’an he chose to learn Hebrew because of its similarities to Arabic and because it is spoken by Gaza’s neighbors.

Militant succumbs to wounds after training explosion
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 14 Feb — A militant in the Gaza Strip died on Thursday after he was wounded in an explosion during training last week, medics said. Rani Othman Al-Abed, 25, died in al-Shifa hospital after the training accident in Khan Younis, south Gaza last Friday, according to health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra.

Rights group: Israel violated rules of war in Gaza
AP 14 Feb –  A US-based rights group said Israel violated laws of war in a series of airstrikes it conducted during Operation Pillar of Defense last November in the Gaza Strip against Hamas militants. Human Rights Watch (HWR) said it counted 14 airstrikes in which there didn’t appear to be a valid military target, and four others targeting militants, but which used disproportionate force.


UN agency requests $300 million for Gaza and West Bank refugees
Examiner 14 Feb by Raymond Gellner — In a report released on Thursday the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) said that it needs over $300 million from the international community in order to continue aiding the more than two million Palestinian refugees living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. In the “Emergency Appeal 2013″ UNRWA Commissioner-General Filippo Grandi stated, “The strategic priorities for the 2013 Emergency Appeal are to provide the most vulnerable and food-insecure refugees facing acute shocks with emergency food and livelihood support.

Syria refugee camps neutral in conflict, PLO official says
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 13 Feb — Palestinian refugee camps in Syria have always refused to shelter armed groups and are neutral in the internal conflict, the chairman of the PLO’s Refugee Affairs Department said Wednesday. Zakaria al-Agha, who is heading a high-level PLO delegation currently in Syria, made the comments during a meeting with the Syrian minister of information in Damascus. PLO and Syrian officials discussed the situation of Palestinians caught up in the internal conflict and proposed measures to protect refugees, such as increased security at the entrances and exits of camps.

Becoming refugees once more: Palestinians from Syria return to Gaza
GAZA CITY (IRIN) 14 Feb — Ahmed Dweik’s family knows a thing or two about the refugee experience. Theirs started in 1948, when his father fled his Palestinian home town as Israeli forces captured the village of West Batani near Ashdod in present-day Israel. From there, he settled in a refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, further south, until the 1967 Arab-Israeli war pushed him to search for an easier life abroad. He went first to Egypt to study, then to Yemen to find work. That is where Dweik was born. But like his father, he too sought better opportunities, migrating to Syria to look for a better paying job and settling close to Yarmouk, the largest camp for Palestinian refugees in Syria. “But what happened to my father after the 1967 war happened to me in 2012,” Dweik told IRIN. In mid-2011, Dweik was in Yarmouk when the authorities opened fire on demonstrations and he was forced to take shelter for a few hours until it was safe to be on the street. “I knew it was time for me to leave, but where to?”

Political and economic news

Global push for Palestinian unity through PNC vote
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 13 Feb by Akram Salhab — Palestinian communities from four continents have increased their demands for elections to the PLO’s Palestinian National Council as factions meet in Cairo to discuss the steps to implement national reconciliation. In the week leading up to the meeting, statements have emerged from Palestinian communities in France, Chile, the United States, and Canada, while the Right of Return Coalition, and its more than 20 constituent organizations throughout the Arab World and Europe, called for preserving the Palestinian National Council and the Legislative Council united in one body in order to safeguard the political unity of all the Palestinian people, inside and outside of Palestine … This latest mobilization is part of the long-standing demand for inclusion of Palestinian refugee and exiled communities in Palestinian elections, and came in response to comments from some Palestinian leaders suggesting that elections in certain Arab countries, where millions of Palestinian refugees live, would be ruled out.  Palestinians residing outside the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip have never been able to participate in national Palestinian elections.

High voter registration turnout in first two days, says commission
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 13 Feb – At least 70,000 people registered to vote in the first two days of registration in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the Central Elections Commission (CEC) said on Wednesday. The CEC opened more than 600 registration centers throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip on Monday to allow almost 700,000 people who have not yet registered to vote to do so. The registration will continue through Tuesday.

Minister: PA can’t afford road repairs
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 14 Feb — The Palestinian Authority cannot afford to repair unusable roads in the West Bank, the minister of public works said Wednesday. The ministry has only $10 million of the $100 million needed annually to maintain the West Bank road network, Maher Ghneim told Ma‘an. The US government had previously financed road development in Palestine, but stopped financing the PA as punishment for the UN’s admission of Palestine as a non-member state in November, Ghneim noted. The sanctions put an end to a project to widen Qalandiya road, which connects Ramallah to the southern districts, he said, noting that all development plans must be approved by Israel.

Israel links release of PA tax revenues to ruling Hamas out
MEMO 13 Feb — Chief Palestinian negotiator and member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), Saeb Erekat, on Monday denounced the connection Israel has made between releasing tax revenues and halting reconciliation talks with Hamas … Israeli media reported that the Israeli finance minister, Yuval Steinitz, threatened Fateh leaders with cutting Palestinian tax revenues should they enter a Palestinian national unity government with Hamas. Erekat said that “Such remarks reflect the real face of the Israeli occupation which practices piracy with the Palestinians.” He affirmed that “Israel does not want to see a Palestinian reconciliation” and called for the Arab nations to “recognise this fact.”

Erekat blasts Israel finance minister for seizing taxes
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 13 Feb — PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat on Thursday condemned Israel’s finance minister for remarks confirming he was withholding money to punish internal Palestinian political decisions …  Yuval Steinitz said Wednesday that “Following the PA’s unilateral move in the UN General Assembly last November, the Israeli government has decided to freeze the transfer of tax money to the Palestinian Authority until further notice,” in a statement quoted by Israeli media … Steinitz told Channel 1 TV Monday that the motives behind Israel’s decision to withhold tax money still remained. The main reasons for withholding tax money, he explained, were the PA attempts to establish partnership with Hamas, and the declarations by Palestinian leaders about their intentions to sue Israeli officials in the International Criminal Court.

Thailand endorses first Palestinian ambassador to Thailand
BANGKOK (MCOT) 12 Feb — The Thai Cabinet on Tuesday endorsed the appointment of the first Palestinian ambassador to Thailand, Government spokesperson Tossaporn Serirak said. Palestinian ambassador Abdulaziz Abuqhoush resides in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur as proposed by Thailand’s foreign ministry.

Hamas delegation ‘arrives in Bulgaria on first EU visit’
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 13 Feb — A delegation from Hamas arrived in Bulgaria on Wednesday to meet with political officials from the European country, a statement from the Islamist group said. Hamas officials Ismail al-Ashqar, Salah al-Bardawil and Mushir al-Masri were part of the delegation, the first of its kind to visit a country in the European Union.

Hamas officials reportedly visiting, Bulgaria denies
Sofia News Agency 13 Feb –Representatives of Palestine group Hamas were paying a visit to Bulgaria Wednesday, according to reports of Palestinian media … The news about the alleged visit of Hamas officials, however, has been formally denied by the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry. No such visit has been planned, and no Bulgarian politicians and diplomats have been scheduled to meet Hamas officials, Bulgarian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Vesela Cherneva told Darik Radio Wednesday afternoon. She said it was unclear where Palestinian news agency Maan got its information about the alleged visit by Hamas officials.

Fatah official Nabil Amr visits Gaza
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 14 Feb — Fatah official and former ambassador to Cairo Nabil Amr visited Gaza on Thursday for the first time since Hamas took over the enclave. Amr, who resigned as ambassador to Egypt in 2009, arrived via Israel through the Erez crossing. He told Ma‘an the visit was not political.

Israeli racism

Settler security official: Palestinians are not supposed to stand next to Jews
972mag 13 Feb by Mairav Zonszein — The settler media outlet Arutz Sheva reported (Hebrew) a highly ‘irregular’ occurrence on Wednesday morning, in which a Palestinian stood next to Jewish Israelis at a hitchhiking stop near the West Bank settlement of Beit El. Avigdor Shatz, the Binyamin Regional Council’s chief security officer in the area, was quoted as saying: “Palestinians are not supposed to stand next to Jews at the same hitchhiking stop, certainly not in Beit El. Shatz admitted that the law does not actually bar Palestinians from standing at the Givat Asaf hitchhiking stop, named after the illegal outpost nearby. “It is not defined as Israeli territory since it is outside the settlement.”

Other news

From prisoner releases to Gaza beaches: A week in photos — Feb 7-13
Activestills 14 Feb — Some Palestinian prisoners are released while solidarity continues for those on hunger strike, demonstrations target the separation wall, settlements, and school closures, and life goes on amid Gaza’s rubble.

Jerusalem patriarch lays cornerstone of Rawabi church
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 14 Feb — Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III blessed the cornerstone of Rawabi’s first Greek Orthodox Church in the new Palestinian development town Rawabi near Ramallah on Tuesday. Completion of the church will coincide with the occupancy of the city’s first residents later this year, Rawabi’s developers said in a statement. The master plan for Rawabi’s construction phases ensures that new homeowners will find essential components of daily life, such as Muslim and Christian houses of worship, ready upon arrival, it said.

‘Herod the Great’ show causes row over artifacts
JERUSALEM (Reuters) 13 Feb — The first major museum exhibition on the divisive biblical figure of Herod the Great has provoked a modern-day row between Israel and the Palestinians over who has the right to dig up his artifacts. The Israel Museum in Jerusalem on Tuesday unveiled a display dedicated to Herod — branded a baby-killer in the Christian tradition but remembered by many in Israel for rebuilding a Jewish Temple two millennia ago. Palestinian Authority officials have complained many of the exhibits were taken from the West Bank, under Israeli military occupation since 1967.

What do Palestinian teenagers want in 2013?
972mag 14 Feb by Mya Guarnieri — A colleague of mine, a fellow journalist and writer, teaches English to Palestinian children in Hebron. I visited her recently in the West Bank and she generously shared her teenage students’ New Year’s resolutions. They are published here, sans names, with the students’ permission. From a teenage boy: *Study hard *Be lovely *Don’t hurt others *Work better *Keep your mouth closed *Imagine well *Never give up *Eat healthy food *Hate injustice *Like to help others *Smile *Fight bad insects  The next one list was written by a girl who seems unusually self aware for a teenager. The most heartbreaking entry in her list was number 11, which she’d drawn a line through. It shows how hard it is for her to trust the world around her and alludes to the severe impact it makes on her personal relationships: 11) Stop believing every body lies … That these lists do not mention the occupation does not mean that living under Israeli military rule makes no impact on the children’s lives. Rather, that the students don’t talk about freedom of movement or seeing their brothers, uncles, and cousins released from Israeli prisons suggests that it doesn’t seem like a realistic hope.

Famed conductor, Gustavo Dudamel, considers boycotting future Israeli appearances after abusive Shin Bet airport screening
12 Feb by Richard Silverstein — I’ve written many posts about the abusive treatment Israel’s security police mete out to distinguished foreign visitors to Israel. They’ve included professors invited to address conferences in the country, an Israeli law professor, the daughter of a Supreme Court justice, American ballet dancers. Among other degradations, women have been forced to disrobe in front of male security agents and treated with profound indignity. Now, the Shin Bet has outdone itself (Hebrew). Perhaps the most exciting musical conductor in the world, Gustavo Dudamel, traveled to conduct the Israeli Philharmonic several weeks ago. His treatment at Ben Gurion was so demeaning he’s now considering refusing to appear in the country again. On both his entry and departure from Israel he endured a prolonged, harassing inspection regimen.

Israel and Jordan hold secret talks over gas deal
Al-Akhbar 14 Feb — The US-Israeli consortium developing the Tamar natural gas field off Israel’s Mediterranean coast is in talks to sell gas to Jordanian companies, financial news site The Marker reported on Thursday. The Tamar prospect, whose estimated reserves of 274 bcm made it one of the largest discoveries of the past decades, is expected to begin production in the next few months … It noted that Jordan imports 97 percent of the fuel it needs, while the Jordanian energy sector relies 88 percent on natural gas.


Status quo of Israel’s West Bank occupation is catastrophic illusion / Carlo Strenger
Haaretz Strenger than Fiction blog 13 Feb — Israel’s political discourse is largely based on the mistaken assumption that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is unlikely to change.

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About Kate

American; political science major, M.A.; former ISM volunteer in the West Bank

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