Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing
Farm land and trees destroyed for expansion of Israeli military checkpoint
MEMO 21 Mar — Israeli occupation forces have started to expand the Dotan military checkpoint near Jenin. The work entails the destruction of Palestinian farm land and olive groves owned by the Abu Bakr family from the town of Ya‘bod. Local sources said that Israeli bulldozers are levelling the land next to the roadblock, which is located at the entrance of the illegal Dotan settlement. Israel has intensified the procedures at Mapudtan checkpoint recently, which is causing local residents a great deal of additional hardship. In fact, the Israelis have taken a number of punitive measures against the people of Ya‘bod, including levelling the road between Ya‘bod and Amriha, and the closure of the area to the east of the town, resulting in a lot of tension between residents and the occupation forces.
IOF bulldozes cultivated land in Salfit to build watchtower
SALFIT (PIC) 21 Mar — Israeli occupation forces (IOF) bulldozed cultivated land lots in Hares village near Salfit city to prepare for building a military watchtower. Omar Samara, the head of the village’s municipal council, told Quds Press that the IOF bulldozers started working on Wednesday in the fields to the east of the village. He said that the soldiers built a fence of barbed wire around the targeted land, adding that they intend to monitor the main highway passing near that land.
Palestinian Bedouin community battles eviction
WADI ABU HINDI, West Bank (Al-Monitor) 12 Mar by Jihan Abdalla — To get to the Palestinian Bedouin village of Wadi Abu Hindi, you would have to drive 4 km through an unnamed dirt road, past a large landfill leachate pool and under a narrow bridge. Living in makeshift tents and raising livestock, Jahalin Bedouins have inhabited the barren hills lining both sides of the road from Jerusalem down to the Dead Sea for decades. But their ancient lifestyle is slowly dying, as Israel increasingly tries to evict them from the land.
Israel’s High Court rejects Arab village’s bid to stop construction of highway
Haaretz 20 Mar by Zafrir Rinat — The High Court of Justice Wednesday rejected a petition by the residents of the Arab village of Beit Safafa to order work stopped on a highway that will cut through the community. Residents of Beit Safafa, which is within Jerusalem’s city limits, say the dust and noise from the work on the six-lane road is damaging their quality of life. The artery will connect the Begin Highway to the road to Gush Etzion. The High Court, however, ordered the Jerusalem District Court to quickly hear an appeal already under way to stop the highway. Justice Edna Arbel ruled that the residents had not proved that the construction work was damaging the village, but that there would be clear damage to the state if construction were delayed. The Jerusalem municipality says the road will improve traffic in the capital and access to its southern neighborhoods.
Israel plans 16,000 more illegal settlement units in West Bank and Jerusalem
MEMO 21 Mar — The leader of Yesh Atid Party and new Finance Minister, Yair Lapid, has launched a major settlement plan for the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem. Ministry staff are working on the scheme in cooperation with the so-called Israel Land Administration (ILA) to build an additional 16,000 illegal settlement housing units. The plan includes extra public facilities to encourage settlers to buy homes in the occupied Palestinian territories. Under Lapid’s proposal, four-room housing units will be available for sale at a price of $230,000 alongside homes for rent at “reasonable” rates for the average Israeli Jew to afford; they will not be available for Israel’s Arab citizens. It is expected that Lapid will submit his plans for the government’s approval once his staff have finished the preparation work. The first phase will see 7,000 new homes in Kiryat Gat settlement, 1,600 in the Tel HaShomer area, as well as 1,000 in the settlement of Modi’in, west of Ramallah.
Infographic: Obama — welcome to occupied Jerusalem
Mondoweiss 20 Mar by Adam Horowitz — In anticipation of President Obama’s arrival today in Jerusalem, the International Campaign to Protect Palestinian Residency in Jerusalem published the following infographic detailing rights violations against Palestinians living in East Jerusalem:
Palestinians tire of Israeli ‘games’ on settlements
Al-Monitor 20 Mar by Daoud Kuttab — One thing is clear before, during and after the visit of President Barack Obama to the region: When it comes to the issue of Jewish settlements in Palestine, it is all a game.A few weeks before the visit of the US president, Israelis were rushing to build as many housing units as possible because they were worried that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will agree to some kind of freeze. Israeli media was full of statements alluding to the ‘demand’ that Netanyahu has made not to be embarrassed during the Obama visit … The media was also welcomed to film the dismantling of six outposts in the Ramallah area. Why the Ramallah area? Is it because the President is planning to visit the Palestinian town? … The de facto freeze for a couple days coupled with the exhibitionist destruction of a few outposts is nothing more than a game. No need to look any further than the biographies of the new cabinet ministers and the deputy head of Knesset to realize that Israel has just voted in one of the most pro-settlement governments in its history. The third biggest party in government, the far-right Jewish Home — whose representatives will run the Ministry of Housing — ran on a platform that calls for the annexation of 60% of the West Bank to Israel.
UN urges Israel to withdraw settlers from West Bank
Press TV 22 Mar — The United Nations Human Rights Council has urged Israel to withdraw all settlers from the occupied West Bank and compensate Palestinians affected by its settlement policy. The top human rights body also called on Israel to end human rights violations associated with settlement construction, DPA reported. It also called on Israel to stop settler violence against Palestinians and prosecute settlers who attack Palestinians. Israel’s arbitrary arrests of Palestinians were also condemned during the debate of the council in Geneva on Friday. The UN’s top human rights body passed five resolutions critical of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. The US was the only member of the 47-nation council to vote against the resolutions.
US shuns UN debate on Israeli settlers ahead of Obama visit
DPA 18 Mar — UN Human Rights Council concludes that Israel’s ‘creeping annexation’ of West Bank violates many rights; U.S. ambassador says Washington is ‘extremely troubled’ by UN council’s ‘biased and disproportionate focus on Israel.’ — The United States refused to take part Monday in a UN Human Rights Council debate on Israeli settlements and their effects on Palestinians. The Geneva-based council, which has been accused of being biased by Washington, was discussing a January report by a panel of UN investigators.
Israel controls renewable water resources, says Statistics Bureau
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 21 Mar – Israel controls the renewable water resources, restricts access to it and imposes obstacles on the drilling of new water wells, Palestinian central bureau of statistics (PCBS) and the Palestinian water authority (PWA) said Thursday. PCBC and PWA, in a press release issued on the occasion of the world water day March 22, 2013 presenting the key indicators related to water in Palestine, said that Israel controls the majority of renewable water resources totaling 750 MCM, while Palestinians receive only about 120 MCM. hey added that Israel is the one to be blamed for the shortage in water in Palestine, whereas 75 MCM of water supplied to the settlements, of which 44 MCM was obtained from wells controlled by Israel in the West Bank.
VIDEO: West Bank plagued by travel troubles
22 Mar — Hundreds of checkpoints, political trouble and stones thrown at Palestinian truck drivers working in the occupied West Bank contribute to many difficult and delayed journeys. The United Nations says Israel has set up 543 obstacles on roads, hindering travel for Palestinians who can never guarantee how long each trip will take.Al Jazeera’s Nicole Johnston reports from the West Bank.
Violence / Raids / Clashes / Suppression of nonviolent protests / Arrests
PCHR Weekly Report on Israeli Human Rights Violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (14-20 March 2013)
21 Mar – A Palestinian civilian from al-Ram village, north of occupied Jerusalem, died from earlier tear gas inhalation. A Palestinian boy was seriously wounded in the west of Tulkarm. The Israeli forces continued to fire at Palestinian civilians in border area in the Gaza Strip; no casualties were reported. The Israeli forces continued to use excessive force against peaceful protests in the West Bank. The Israeli forces conducted 52 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. 67 Palestinian civilians, including 41 children and a woman, were arrested. Israel has continued to impose a total closure on the oPt and has isolated the Gaza Strip from the outside world. The Israeli forces established dozens of checkpoints in the West Bank. A Palestinian child was arrested at checkpoints. Israel continued its efforts to create a Jewish majority in occupied East Jerusalem. 45 dunums of land in Shu‘fat village were confiscated in favor of settlement expansion in Jerusalem. The Israeli forces have continued settlement activities in the West Bank, and Israeli settlers have continued to attack Palestinian civilians and property. Israeli forces continued their arbitrary measures against Palestinian civilians and their property Area C under full Israeli control according to the Oslo Accords. 3 shepherds sustained fractures due to the Israeli settlers’ attack on them in Yasouf village, east of Salfit. 5 dunums of agricultural land and an old house in Bethlehem were seized. [Details of these and other violations follow]
Video: Israeli soldiers round up children in Hebron
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 20 Mar — Israeli rights group B’Tselem on Wednesday said Israel’s mass arrest of children in Hebron was “unacceptable,” and released a video of the detentions. The video shows soldiers forcefully arresting schoolchildren, one of whom is dragged along the ground by a group of soldiers, as the children’s relatives protest. “This type of mass arrest of a group of minors, not on the basis of individual suspicions is unacceptable, even if the minors are formally over the age of criminal responsibility,” B’Tselem said in a statement. Israeli forces on Wednesday detained some 30 students who were on their way to school in the southern area of Hebron, locals said. Locals told Ma‘an that the students were transferred to Kiryat Arba police station, and that Israeli forces were detaining every student passing Tareq Bin Zeyad street.
Palestinian officials secure release of Hebron brothers
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 21 Mar – A security source told Ma‘an on Thursday that the Palestinian district liaison office intervened for the release of two 13-year-old twins arrested a day earlier. The twins, Ahmad and Muhammad Abdul Mo’ti, were arrested by Israeli troops in Hebron’s Old City the night before because they were too close to a military camp.
While the occupier is occupied, Palestinians reclaim a protest village
Mondoweiss 21 Mar by Alison Deger — While Barack Obama is making headlines in his first visit to Israel and the West Bank as president, in the hills of Jerusalem, Palestinian activists have quietly rebuilt a protest encampment that was raided and demolished in January. Bab al-Shams, Gates of the Sun, was built on privately owned Palestinian land in the West Bank targeted for Jewish settlement; and in its first incarnation it ushered in a wave of protest involving the creation of other Palestinian villages on Palestinian land, often ending in demolitions, arrests and even settler violence. Constructed in regions delineated to Israeli security control under the Oslo Accords, these protest villages defied strict planning regulations and sought to allow Palestinians the ability to build and live on their own land, on their own terms. With President Obama poised to be in Ramallah on Thursday, Palestinian activists are banking on the distraction of all the fanfare to give them time in order to make headway on this new form of political dissent.
Israeli forces surround new ‘village’
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 20 Mar — Israeli forces on Wednesday surrounded a new tent village erected by Palestinian activists in Eizariya east of Jerusalem. An Israeli military spokeswoman said hundreds of Palestinians established “an illegal settlement” and that security forces were in the area “to maintain order.” She said soldiers arrested the driver of a truck loaded with equipment including tents. Mohammad Khatib, a spokesman for the activists, said soldiers handed protesters a document declaring the area a closed military zone. “We are staying. We are Palestinians, and we will stay here. They will have to evacuate us. They will have to use their power to do it, but we will not do it by ourselves,” Khatib told Ma‘an. “We are staying here because this is Palestinian land. This is our land, and no one has a right to evacuate us.” As US President Barack Obama arrived in Israel, activists set up 15 tents on a hillside near the site of the Bab al-Shams protest village that Israeli forces tore down in January. They have named the new neighborhood Ahfad Younis, after the main character in the novel Bab al-Shams.
Hebron child hit by settler vehicle
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 20 Mar – A Palestinian child was accidentally struck by an Israeli settler’s vehicle in the Old City of Hebron Wednesday. Medical sources at Hebron’s public hospital told Ma‘an that the child, identified as 4-year-old Muhammad Abdul-Ghani Qafisha, sustained moderate wounds. He is expected to be discharged Wednesday after receiving the needed medical treatment.
Settlers throw stones at car carrying Ramallah governor
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 22 Mar — Settlers threw stones at a car carrying the governor of Ramallah on Friday, Ma‘an’s correspondent said. Laila Ghannam was unharmed in the incident, which took place near Beit El settlement north of Ramallah.
Palestinians clash with Israeli soldiers near Bethlehem
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 19 Mar — Palestinians clashed with Israeli forces on Tuesday at the entrance to a Bethlehem village. Israeli forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets at residents of Tuqu‘, a Ma‘an reporter said. Palestinians frequently clash with Israeli forces in Tuqu‘, often leading to violent confrontations.
Israel arrests Jerusalem governorate official
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 20 Mar — Israeli forces on Wednesday detained the director general of public affairs in the Jerusalem governorate as he drove through the Qalandiya checkpoint north of Jerusalem, an official said. Ahmad Syam, spokesman for the governorate office, told Ma‘an that Hamdi al-Rajabi was detained while he was driving through the Qalandiya checkpoint.
Israeli forces detain PA security officer
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 19 Mar– Israeli forces on Tuesday detained a Palestinian Authority security officer near a refugee camp south of Hebron. Odai al-Khatib, who works for the PA national security, was detained while farming his land near al-Fawwar camp, a Ma’an reporter said.
Israeli forces detain Palestinian in Hebron
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 22 Mar — Israeli forces on Thursday detained a Palestinian and assaulted two others in Hebron, a Ma‘an reporter said. Israeli forces assaulted Karam Maswadeh and detained his brother Anwar Maswadeh, 24, near the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron. Israeli forces also assaulted Muhannad Hussien al-Natsheh, 11.
Prisoners / Hunger strikers
Lawyer: Issawi too sick to attend hearing
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 21 Mar — Samer Issawi is too sick to attend a hearing at Israel’s Ofer military detention center after 232 days on hunger strike, his lawyer said Thursday. Jawad Boulus said in a statement that Issawi’s doctors informed the court that Issawi’s medical condition was too serious for him to attend the hearing. Issawi was hospitalized in late February and stopped drinking water earlier in March. He has serious heart problems and is using a respirator, Boulus said. The hearing will go ahead without Issawi, the lawyer said.
Sharawna’s mother, brothers arrive in Gaza via Egypt
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 21 Mar — … Sharawna’s mother and two brothers, Salameh and Zuheir arrived Wednesday afternoon in Gaza City via Rafah crossing to meet Ayman who was released from Israel’s custody Sunday and deported to the Gaza Strip after a long hunger strike. Speaking to a Ma‘an reporter in Gaza City, Salameh Sharawna said the family’s happiness was incomplete because Israeli forces detained his brother Jihad and his nephew Ismail. “The Israeli occupation wouldn’t allow us to travel to the Gaza Strip via Erez crossing, so we traveled to Jordan, then to Egypt then to Gaza via Rafah crossing,” he added.
Prisoner Saidi refuses to apologize to Israeli officer
GAZA (PIC) 21 Mar — Israeli court has offered the isolated prisoner Awad Saidi to reduce his sentence that would be issued in the coming weeks if he apologizes to an Israeli officer, who has attacked him earlier, human rights sources revealed. Tadamun Foundation for Human Rights’ lawyer, Muhammad Abid, said, in a press statement on Wednesday following his visit to the isolated prisoner Saidi in Beersheba prison, that the Israeli court has suggested to him about two weeks ago to apologize to the Israeli officer who has attacked him nearly a year ago in return of reducing his sentence. Saidi has rejected the court’s offer, saying that “if the Nahacon forces apologize to the prisoner Abbas Al-sayed for their assault on him, I’m ready to apologize to the officer in return.”
Obama refuses to meet delegation of prisoners’ families
RAMALLAH (PIC) 21 Mar — Director of Palestinian Prisoners Society Qaddoura Fares confirmed that U.S. President Barack Obama has refused to meet a delegation from families of prisoners in Israeli jails. Fares pointed out in a press statement that there is a talk about the release of a number of prisoners at Obama’s visit to the region, but he denied that the PA has received any formal promises for that.
Israel to limit Gaza fishing zone after rocket fire
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 21 Mar — Israel will reduce the Gaza fishing zone as punishment for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip following a rocket attack, the Israeli military announced Thursday. “In response to the rocket fire earlier this morning … the Prime Minister of the State of Israel, Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Minister of Defense, Mr. Moshe (Bogie) Yaalon, have instructed the IDF to narrow the permitted fishing zone for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip from six to three miles,” the army said. “Additionally, Kerem Shalom crossing will be closed. These changes will continue until the IDF is otherwise instructed by the political echelon. “The IDF considers this incident with great severity and holds the Hamas terror organization responsible for any hostile activity emanating from the Gaza Strip.” The Palestinian minister of civil affairs Hussein al-Sheikh confirmed the measure. [as if the Israelis didn’t attack boats inside the 6-mile limit anyway]
Hamas appeals to Egypt after Israel halves fishing zone
GAZA (Reuters) 22 Mar — Hamas complained to Egypt on Friday after Israel suspended part of a Cairo-brokered truce agreement by halving Palestinian access to fishing waters in response to a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip. Thursday’s salvo at the Israeli border town of Sderot, which caused no casualties, coincided with a visit to Israel and the Israeli-occupied West Bank by U.S. President Barack Obama. It was claimed by a small al Qaeda-linked faction that has challenged the Islamist Hamas group’s rule in the Gaza Strip … The zone had been extended to 11 km (6 miles) as part of an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire that ended an eight-day conflict between Israel and Hamas in November, in which 166 Palestinians and six Israelis were killed. “We have informed Cairo of this violation and we are waiting to hear a clear position from Egyptian mediators on this,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said, giving no indication that Hamas wanted to abandon the ceasefire arrangement. An Egyptian official confirmed that the Hamas complaint had been received, saying Israel had complained separately about the rocket attack – the second of its kind since November. The official said Cairo would contact both sides to “restore their commitment to the truce”. Israel said on Thursday its new Gaza restrictions would be in place until further notice.
Video: The prolonged Israeli naval blockade has destroyed Gaza’s fishing industry and marine sports
[with transcript] RealNews 22 Mar with Michael Coleman — The number of Gaza fishermen has dropped from about 10,000 in the year 2000 to about 3500 today due to Israeli imposed restrictions on fishing limit — Under years of Israeli blockade, the Gaza fishing industry has become the hardest hit sector, leaving thousands of fishermen struggling to make ends meet, especially in light of the restrictions imposed by the Israeli navy on fishing maritime areas and frequent harassments, that prevent Palestinian fishermen from practicing their right to fish freely along Gaza’s 40km coastline in the Mediterranean Sea. The naval blockade was imposed following the second Palestinian uprising which broke out in September 2000 and was tightened in mid 2006, since then fishermen have been forced to fish in shallow waters.
Islamist group says it fired rockets at Israel from Gaza
DUBAI (Reuters) 21 Mar — A small Islamist group claimed responsibility for firing rockets from the Gaza Strip at an Israeli border town during U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to the region. The small Salafi group called Magles Shoura al-Mujahddin said in an internet statement that it fired the rockets to show that Israeli air defenses could not stop attacks during Obama’s visit. [from an earlier Reuters report: Two rockets fired from the Gaza Strip landed on Thursday in a southern Israeli border town that US President Barack Obama mentioned in a speech on his arrival in Israel a day earlier. Police said there were no casualties but some damage in the attack on Sderot near the Gaza frontier … The president was in Jerusalem, some 80 km from Sderot, when the rockets struck several hours before his visit to the West Bank city of Ramallah for talks with Hamas’s rival, Western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas.
IOF soldiers open gunfire at citizens in southern Gaza
KHAN YOUNIS (PIC) 20 Mar — Israeli occupation forces (IOF) opened machine gunfire at Palestinian homes and property east of Khan Younis, south of the Gaza Strip, on Wednesday morning. Eyewitnesses told the PIC reporter that IOF soldiers in army jeeps and in military watchtowers opened random fire at Fakhari suburb east of Khan Younis city. No casualties were reported. The witnesses said that IOF armored vehicles and bulldozers were seen roaming near to the area, which point to plans to damage land lots.
Israel closes Karem Shalom crossing
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 21 Mar — Israeli authorities on Thursday decided to close the Karem Shalom crossing a few hours after opening it on Thursday morning, officials said. Nathmi Muhana, the director general of crossings, told Ma‘an that Israel informed the Palestinian side that the crossing would be closed. He noted that dozens of trucks were supposed to enter the Gaza Strip. Muhana said the Palestinian side received no official explanation but it was likely that the decision was related to rockets fired into southern Israel early Thursday.
Heavy construction equipment enters Gaza for the first time
GAZA (PIC) 22 Mar — Minister of Public Works and Housing Yousef Subhi al-Ghareez declared the entry of heavy construction equipment to Gaza through Rafah crossing for the first time, pointing out that this equipment came within the Qatar-fund reconstruction operations in the strip. The Minister thanked both Qatar and Egypt for their efforts in getting the construction machinery and equipment into the Gaza Strip via the Rafah crossing.
Mother’s Day in Gaza: A time for sorrow
Al-Monitor 21 Mar by Asmaa al-Ghoul — On Mother’s Day last year, 5-year-old Ronan Arafat picked a rose on her way back from the nursery and offered it to her mother. This year, however, Ronan will not offer her mother a rose. She will not grow another year; she was killed by Israeli warplanes as they bombed their house in the south of the Zeitun neighborhood in Gaza City on Nov. 14, 2012. Her mother, Nisreen, says, “My daughter was martyred on the first day of the war. Our house is located in a big agricultural area. I remember hearing that day news about the assassination of Ahmed Jabari, so I brought my children together and got ready to go to the house of my family. And the moment my son Jalal and two daughters Maria and Ronan came to me to help them get dressed, the house disintegrated under heavy shelling.” … As they talked about Ronan’s mischievousness and other memories, both her parents burst into tears … Najat Naeem is another mother who feels sorrow instead of happiness on Mother’s Day. Despite having five other children, she cannot forget her youngest, Abboud. He was 2½ when he was killed by shrapnel from an Israeli missile that struck a building next to them in the Rimal neighborhood in Gaza City. Naeem told Al-Monitor, “Throughout the war I would put my son in my lap. I could feel that something was about to happen to him and I told the people around me that I was afraid for Abboud.
Egyptian bride smuggled into Gaza through underground ‘tunnel of love’
[with photos] NYDailyNews 22 Mar by Carol Kuruvilla with Reuters — This love knows no boundaries. An Egyptian bride had to pass through an underground tunnel in her billowing white wedding dress on Thursday to tie the knot with her Palestinian fiancé in Gaza. 17-year-old Manal Abu Shanar had been living in the Egyptian city of Rafah, located right next to Egypt’s border with Palestine. Her fiancé Emad al-Malalha, 21, lived in Gaza. The couple got engaged six months ago. They were using a telephone to communicate throughout that time. But when it came time to say their vows, the Egyptian administration wouldn’t let Abu Shanar enter Gaza through the border gate.
Racism / Discrimination
The main findings of the 2013 Racism in Israel report
Coalition against Racism in Israel 21 Mar — The annual Racism in Israel report … collects, reviews, and documents racist incidents that occur in Israel during a defined 12 month period from March to February … The report presents the various events that reach and are published by the media, as well as events that never reach the media that are documented by organizations who are members of the Coalition and others … Principal findings: 20 Cases of Discriminatory Legislation The 18th Knesset was noted as the most racist in the history of the State, inter alia, due to dozens of racist and anti-democratic draft bills mainly directed at the persecution of the Arab minority in Israel…. 107 Cases of Incitement by Elected Representatives and Public Leaders A significant increase in racist statements made by elected persons is documented in the report, which recorded 107 incidents of incitement this year compared with 59 recorded last year…. 22 Cases of Infringement on the Basic Freedoms of Arab Political Leadership This year’s report happily records a decline in incidents of infringement of basic freedoms of Arab political leadership, 22 incidents this year compared with 37 in the previous year…. 24 Cases of Harmful Religious Sentiments In this area the number of cases this year is almost double that of last year – 24 incidents were recorded compared with 13 in the previous report, including vandalism in Muslim, Christian and Jewish cemeteries and sacred places.… 213 Cases of Racism in Government Institutions, Private Businesses, and Public and Private Organizations Institutional racism is on the rise, including by businesses and service providers in the private sector – 213 incidents compared with 155 last year…. 114 Cases of Racism among Citizens 114 incidents were recorded in this year’s report compared with 54 in the previous year, with a tripling of events on the part of Jewish citizens against Arab citizens (63 cases compared with 20 in the preceding year) [as well as other categories]
More than 60 Israeli laws discriminate against Palestinians
MEMO 2 Mar — The Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel (Adalah) has revealed that the Israeli authorities have drafted more than 60 laws which discriminate against their Palestinian citizens. The laws cover areas such as education, the national budget, public services, civil rights and even prisons and prisoners. “Some of these laws also violate the rights of Palestinians in the occupied territories and Palestinian refugees,” said the Adala website. To mark the International Day against Racism and the swearing in of the new Israeli government on Friday, Adala said that it is going to launch a computerised database of all discriminatory laws in Israel. As well as analytical studies and petitions filed to the Israeli Supreme Court against such laws, the database is going to include briefs in Arabic, Hebrew and English. Draft bills waiting to be proposed in the Knesset will also be included.
Suspected: 2 youths hurl stones at Arab youth in Jerusalem
Ynet 20 Mar — Two youths were arrested in Jerusalem’s Old City, the two are suspected of hurling stones at an Arab youth, lightly injuring him in his head.
Political and economic news
Report: Abbas willing to accept secret settlement freeze
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 21 Mar — President Mahmoud Abbas is willing to accept an unannounced settlement freeze in order to renew peace talks with Israel, The New York Times reported Thursday. Citing the talking points of an internal PLO document ahead of Abbas’ meeting with US President Barack Obama on Thursday, the report quoted Abbas as saying he wished to return to peace talks but only on the condition that Israel froze settlements, publicly or not. “He can pledge to you secretly that he will stop settlement activities during the period of negotiations,” one line of the document said, apparently referring to the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. “(He does not have to announce it.)” The Times said it obtained an electronic copy of the document, whose author was listed as an aide to PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat in the negotiations affairs department. Other items in the document urge Obama to encourage Netanyahu to say he is willing to accept a two-state solution on the 1967 borders: “He never said it … I hope one day he will put his Map on the table as I did.” Another talking point is a warning that Abbas is prepared to begin scaling back the Palestinian Authority’s control of certain areas in the event Israel’s occupation fails to come to an end. “I am not threatening, I am sharing a fact with you,” Abbas was expected to say. “If this situation continues I will be forced to ask Prime Minister (Netanyahu) to resume his responsibilities.”
US Senate warns Palestine against prosecuting Israel
MEMO 20 Mar — A letter signed by three quarters of the members of the US Senate has warned the Palestinian Authority against filing a complaint against Israel at the International Criminal Court, and threatened that such a step would impact on relations between the PA and the US.
US unblocks $481 million for Palestinians
Australian 23 Mar — THE United States has quietly unblocked almost $US500 million ($A481.46 million) in aid to the Palestinian Authority which had been frozen by Congress for months. The news that the funds had finally been freed up came after US President Barack Obama met top Israeli and Palestinian leaders in a landmark visit to Israel and the West Bank this week.”To date, we have moved $US295.7 million in fiscal year 2012 money … and $US200 million in fiscal year 2013 assistance,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said on Friday. The Obama administration also notified Congress in late February that it was seeking a further $US200 million to fund US Agency for International Development (USAID) programs for the Palestinians, she said.
Israel PM apologizes for flotilla deaths
Al Jazeera 22 Mar — Israel Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has said he “expressed apology” to Turkey for any error that led to the death of nine Turkish nationals in 2010 in the Gaza flotilla incident. Netanyahu also said on Friday that Israel has also agreed to compensate the families of the victims. In a phone call between Netanyahu and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the “two men agreed to restore normalisation between Israel and Turkey, including the dispatch of ambassadors and the cancellation of legal steps against IDF soldiers,” the statement said. “In light of Israel’s investigation into the incident which pointed to a number of operational mistakes, the Prime Minister expressed Israel’s apology to the Turkish people for any mistakes that might have led to the loss of life or injury and agreed to conclude an agreement on compensation/nonliability.”… At a joint press conference with Jordan’s King Abdullah II, President Barack Obama said his administration has worked for months to reach the deal. Obama said that the “moment was right” for Israel and Turkey to resume diplomatic relations … Meanwhile, Al Jazeera’s Elif Ural, reporting from Istanbul, said that Hamas has sent a message expressing disappointment that Turkey has accepted the apology.
Obama’s grand bargain? Israel apologizes to Turkey, promises Mavi Marmara compensation
22 Mar by Richard Silverstein — In a remarkable about-face after three years of adamant refusal, Bibi Netanyahu has apologized to Turkey’s premier for Israel’s 2010 massacre on the Mavi Marmara. He’s also promised financial compensation to the families of the nine Turkish citizens murdered during the attack. Reports also indicate an Israeli agreement to ease the Gaza blockade, though the provisions are uncertain. This is such a strange and sudden development that it begs speculation about what caused it. First, earlier refusals were grounded in Avigdor Lieberman’s rejection of an apology. Given that Lieberman immediately attacked the apology, it seems he hasn’t changed his mind. Contrition lies with Bibi. Given that Pres. Obama left Israel today one can’t deny the critical role that he played in brokering the deal. But given that Obama had tried and failed before, something more must’ve been offered to Bibi. This is where I fear what transpired during this visit. What could Obama offer Bibi that would move the latter from rejection to acceptance of a development that surely rankles the pride the any red-blooded Israeli nationalist … Given that Iran was at the top of the mutual Israeli-U.S. agenda on this trip. And given that Bibi didn’t object when Obama told the world that Iran was at least a year away from the nuclear threshold, despite the fact that Bibi placed that date right around now when he broached the subject in his fall UN speech; this leads to the sneaking suspicion that there was a Grand Bargain made that involved an American commitment to attack Iran with or without Israel in the coming year.
A few articles about the Obama visit
Palestinians greet Obama with popular resistance; army arrests dozens
[photos and video] 972mag 20 Mar by Haggai Matar — After several days of small-scale demonstrations ahead of Obama’s visit, Palestinians organized two larger events Wednesday morning as the American president landed at Ben-Gurion Airport — About 500 people rebuilt 15 tents on privately owned lands in the new village-outpost of “Bab Al-Shams,” located at the heart of the much controversial E-1 area, where Israel intends to build thousands of new settler houses, isolating Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank and cutting it in two. Bab Al-Shams was originally set up a few months ago, and dismantled by Israeli police several days later. Activists in the new Bab Al-Shams held signs saying “you promised hope and change – you gave us colonies and apartheid.” Meanwhile in Hebron, Israeli army forces arrested about 30 schoolchildren, at least five of whom were between the ages of 8 and 10 and thus under the age of criminal responsibility, according to B’Tselem. The children were accused of having participated in acts of stone throwing. Later in the afternoon a group of some 25 Palestinians, internationals and Israelis marched on Shuhada Street in Hebron, where freedom of movement has been restricted for Palestinians, and the street has been open only to Israelis for the past 12 years. The activists, who were following up on a Saturday workshop on civil rights in the U.S., wore “I have a dream” T-shirts and masks with the faces of Obama and Martin Luther King Jr., and carried signs connecting the fight for civil rights in the American South to that of Palestinians against apartheid. Activists sang “Woke up this morning with my mind set on freedom,” when a group of settlers started to attack them.
Full text: Obama, Abbas remarks in Ramallah
21 Mar — The following is a White House transcript of remarks by President Mahmoud Abbas and President Barack Obama at a news conference at the presidential compound in Ramallah.
Forcible curfew in Ramallah during Obama’s visit
RAMALLAH (PIC) 22 Mar — Ramallah and Al-Bireh city have witnessed a state of tension during Obama’s visit to the PA headquarters Thursday afternoon, where PA security services imposed a complete ban on individuals and vehicles’ movement in large parts of the city. The PA ministries and more than 30 schools in Al-Bireh were closed and many streets were blocked, leading to disabling public and private facilities. The U.S. president arrived in Ramallah on Thursday afternoon by presidential helicopter coming from occupied Jerusalem, and met with PA president Mahmoud Abbas before meeting a number of children in the city of Al-Bireh. U.S. intelligence agents were deployed in the city to secure the president Obama’s visit, where a number of helicopters flew over Ramallah at the time of the visit. A large number of workers in the Presidential Guards were given two days off, where the selected guards were approved by the CIA, sources to the PIC confirmed. The sources added that U.S. guards brought police dogs and screening machines to scan everyone in the PA headquarters before Obama’s arrival. More than 20 Palestinian journalists were prevented from covering Obama’s visit under the pretext of a technical reasons, while all Israeli journalists were allowed to enter to the PA headquarters. The journalists expressed their surprise and anger over the PA decision to deny them access to the headquarters, stressing that they provided the concerned authorities with the required papers for their permits a few days before the visit. [to be fair, about the same thing happens when a US president visits an American town.]
Obama urges Israeli-Palestinian peace talks
Ramallah (Al Jazeera) 22 Mar — Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians finally topped the agenda on the second day of US president Barack Obama’s visit to the region, as he urged both sides to resume negotiations but also pushed the Palestinians to drop a longstanding demand that Israel halt illegal settlement construction in the occupied West Bank. Obama delivered two different messages, in tone and substance, to his two audiences on Thursday. Speaking in Ramallah with Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas, he urged the PA to drop its focus on settlements and return to talks without preconditions. He criticised the settlement drive, calling it not “constructive” or “appropriate,” though he stopped short of calling it illegal. But he also said that the settlement issue should be resolved as part of negotiations - not beforehand.
Bardawil: Obama has turned his back to all Arabs
GAZA (PIC) 22 Mar — Hamas leader Dr. Salah Bardawil called on Palestinian political leaders in the Authority and the factions to review the Palestinian political program to face the repercussions of the remarks made by Obama on Thursday during his visit to Jerusalem and West Bank. Bardawil described in a press statement to Quds Press the U.S. President statements calling for recognizing Israel as a Jewish state as “the most dangerous statement by an American president regarding the Palestinian issue.” He added that the recognition of the State of Israel means practically abolishing the right of refugees to return and tampering with the fate of the Palestinians from the 1948-occupied territories. “This shows that Obama has turned his back to all Arabs…
Holy Land: Storm forces Obama to see Separation Wall up close
ICN 22 Mar by Dan Bergin — Barack Obama ended his first visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories today with a desert storm disrupting his schedule. Instead of flying to Bethlehem by helicopter, he had to travel by road, passing close by the massive eight-metre-high concrete wall that separates the West Bank from Jerusalem. Obama had to wait two hours while Israeli police blocked roads to allow the presidential convoy to pass through. Palestinians regularly have to wait up to eight hours to get through the wall to go to work, see family or attend church services. The President spent 30 minutes in the Church of the Nativity, on the site where Jesus was born. He was greeted by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch, Theophilos III, who said: “We welcome you as a messenger of peace and reconciliation.” Vera Baboun, the first female mayor of Bethlehem, said Obama’s visit was an opportunity to learn of the obstacles facing her city. “It’s important that President Obama comes and sees, as a president, and listens, because we need acts,” she said. “Enough is enough, I think. We waited a long time.”
Obama’s speech: What young Israelis not only needed but wanted to hear / Bradley Burston
Haaretz 21 Mar — The U.S. president’s speech in Jerusalem redefines what it means to be a centrist in Israel. We deserve a leader like him — For Barack Obama to come to Jerusalem, and speak to Israeli students and talk persuasively of the possibility of a secure and peaceful future, for him to do that and garner a roaring ovation of approval, he would have to have given one hell of a speech. He did. This was the speech that these young Israelis not only needed but wanted to hear. A speech that radically redefined centrism in Israel, bringing it down to extraordinary common denominators in directions Israelis have learned to think of as diametrically opposed. He spoke of security and peace as inextricably and necessarily linked, not a narrow choice between options, but a conscious choice for both. They roared. This was not the student crowd that Obama is used to. These students are Israelis. This is a crowd that is world-weary, hair-trigger volatile. They have come by it honestly. In comparison to their American counterparts, they are, by and large, older by several years – some would say, several lifetimes. They know a snow job when they hear it. And the rare times when someone makes a sincere and enormous effort to understand them, to see things from their point of view, and to bring them a message that no leader in Israel has managed to bring them, they know that too.
Video: Dheisheh Camp refugees protest against Obama’s visit to Bethlehem 22-3-13h
Protesters from the Dheisheh Refugee Camp near Bethlehem chanted slogans against US foreign policy and Barak Obama, raising pictures of late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez and Abu Ali Mustafa, who was the Secretary General of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine until he was assassinated by Israel in 2001.
Hezbollah condemns Obama’s call for terrorist designation
BEIRUT (Reuters) 22 Mar — Lebanon’s Hezbollah condemned on Friday a call by US President Barack Obama for the militant Shi’ite group to be designated a terrorist organisation following a bomb attack on Israeli tourists in Bulgaria last year. The European Union has so far resisted US and Israeli pressure to blacklist Hezbollah, but those demands are likely to increase after a court in Cyprus convicted a Hezbollah member on Thursday of plotting against Israeli interests on the island. Obama said the killing of five Israeli tourists in July, which Bulgaria’s government blamed on Hezbollah, as well as its weapons stockpile and support for Syrian President Bashar Assad, were all grounds to take a stand against the group.
Obama’s real reason for visiting Israel / Akiva Eldar
Al-Monitor 20 Mar — …when the US president wants to discuss some issue with the head of a foreign nation, he does not order Air Force One to be fueled and drag himself to the other end of the world. He has bigger worries at home than being liked by the Israeli public. He could have conducted the discussion on Iran with Netanyahu at the White House. Bibi has never turned down an invitation to pose for a photo in the Oval Office. So why is Obama bothering to come to Jerusalem, Ramallah and Amman, at a time when the American and international economies need his attention so badly? No, it’s not Middle Eastern oil, which for many generations has been flowing through the arteries of American leaders; the dependence of US industry on the oil wells of the Gulf States is declining with each passing year. The answer is simple: Obama is coming here to try and salvage what’s left of US standing in the region. An America that abandons the Israeli-Arab conflict to its fate is not worthy of the title “world power.” Giving up the leading role in the play entitled “The Peace Process” is a declaration of bankruptcy by US foreign policy. One can assume that Obama knows the status quo between the occupier and occupied cannot go on forever. As an American diplomat once told me, “Your conflict is like a car with a transmission which has only two gears — drive and reverse — and the driver has to choose one. Either forward or back. Park is not an option.” The 2009 Nobel Peace Prize laureate does obviously not want the third intifada, signs of which are emerging on the ground, to be named after him.
Just a few routine security questions, sir
Haaretz 19 Mar by Nicholas Pelham — Israel wouldn’t mess up and let its airport security people welcome President Obama to the country, would it? — Israeli officials are more than a little nervous ahead of Barack Obama’s first visit as a sitting president. His previous encounters with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu turned into sparring matches. But salvation might be at hand from Israel’s ever-vigilant immigration authorities. The president enters the terminal. A smiling young woman approaches, security tag hanging from her neck like a second necklace. Sir, we need to ask you routine security questions. PBO: Sure. It’s good to be here. Shalom. (She opens his passport.) What is your name? PBO: Barack Obama. Barack Obama. What kind of a name is that? PBO: My parents shared an abiding faith that in a tolerant world your name is no barrier to success. Barack means blessed… (Interrupting) I see. Do you have any middle names? PBO: Um… The security officer waits. PBO: That’s my name. And what are the names of your grandparents? PBO: Hussein and Habiba Obama. What community did they belong to? PBO: They were Kenyan Muslims… Step aside please. (PBO is directed to an isolated corner of the arrivals hall. After some time, another security agent appears.)….
[See these two messages from the New Profile Google group for links to many more Obama articles:
Hamas vs. Fatah
Fatah: Hamas summoning members in Gaza
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 20 Mar — Hamas security services summoned seven Fatah members for interrogation on Tuesday in the Gaza Strip, Fatah said. Hamas’ Internal Security Service summoned Nasser Badawi, a member of Fatah’s advisory board, and Ayman Eshteiwi, a local council member, Fatah said in a statement. Fatah leaders Ahmad al-Najar, Iyad al-Maghazi, Alaa al-Khatib and Hazim Abu Zakri were also summoned, Fatah said, adding that Abu Zakri had been summoned five times in March. Ahmad Abu Jarad, head of the student senate at Al-Quds University was also called in for questioning, Fatah said. They were ordered to appear at one of Hamas’ new investigation centers in Gaza.
Fatah said the summons were part of the Hamas-led government’s “insulting” policy toward Fatah that aimed to prevent the party’s activities in the Gaza Strip. Hamas frequently complains that its members are detained by security forces of the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.
Political detainee transferred to hospital, one hour after his arrest
AL-KHALIL (PIC) 21 Mar — PA security apparatuses in al-Khalil have transferred on Wednesday evening the political detainee Sajid Msalma to the hospital, less than one hour after his arrest. Msalma was kidnapped from the center of the town of Beit Awa, west of al-Khalil in the occupied West Bank. Local sources from the town told PIC’s correspondent that the man was taken to the hospital in serious condition after he was severely attacked by elements of the preventive apparatus. Sajid Msalma is a liberated prisoner from Israeli jails and an ex-political detainee in the PA jails in the West Bank.
Report: PA seizes explosives near Hebron
TEL AVIV (Ma‘an) 20 Mar — Palestinian Authority security forces seized explosives at the home of a Hamas member in Surif near Hebron, Israeli media reported Wednesday. The Hamas member made the explosives in a workshop in Surif and stored them in his home, the Israeli news site Walla! reported.
Refugees outside Palestine
Hamas delegation visits the protesters outside UNRWA HQ in Beirut
BEIRUT (PIC) 21 Mar — A Hamas movement’s delegation headed by Raafat Morra, the movement’s political official, visited on Wednesday the displaced Palestinian refugees from Syria who are protesting since 8 days ago permanently outside UNRWA headquarters in Beirut. The delegation’s visit came in solidarity with the protesters, and in support of their demands of providing shelters, health care, education, and urgent financial aid, Morra explained.
President’s visit shouldn’t ignore refugees in peril
Salon 22 Mar by Bill Frelick and Meera Shah — Jordan’s treatment of Palestinian refugees from Syria is a disgrace. Here’s why Obama should say so during his trip — During his visit Friday to Jordan, there’s little doubt President Obama will praise it for its hospitality toward some 350,000 Syrian refugees. While praise and support for Jordan’s reception of many Syrian refugees is deserved, the president should not give Jordan a free pass when it comes to its forcible returns of Palestinian refugees to Syria. During interviews we conducted in Jordan in January and February, a Syrian refugee told us what the Jordanian authorities said to him as he approached the border with his Palestinian wife: ‘You can come, but she is not allowed because she’s Palestinian.” I told them our house is burned down and that we have no house to go back to. The Border Patrol officer said, ‘That is not our problem.” Jordan has made no secret of its policy. In October, Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour publicly announced Jordan’s policy to reject Palestinian refugees from Syria
14 Palestinian refugees killed in Syria’s camps within 24 hours
DAMASCUS (PIC) 20 Mar — Fourteen Palestinian refugees died in the bombing that targeted the Palestinian refugee camps in Syria, near the capital Damascus, within the past twenty-four hours. The Working group for Palestinians in Syria reported in a press release on Wednesday that two Palestinians and a Syrian citizen were killed during the shelling of Orouba neighborhood in the Yarmouk refugee camp, in southern Damascus, while another refugee died in shelling of the entrance to the camp on Wednesday morning. The Working Group added that another young man died from wounds he sustained few days ago and that seven Palestinians were killed by the bombing of the town of al-Dhobabiya and the Husseiniya camp on the fringes of Damascus…
US aid to Israel totals $234 billion since 1948
MEMO 22 Mar — …The figures are revealed in a report by Israeli economic magazine The Marker this week and show the actual amount of $113 billion adjusted to take inflation into account … US aid accounts for about 4 per cent of Israel’s GDP, claims the Haaretz-owned magazine. An additional $19 billion of financial guarantees have also been forthcoming from the US to help Israel to get loans from around the world. Such aid to Israel from the US dates back to 1949-1958, when it was used mainly to buy food and to provide for Jewish immigrants to settle in the the state built in occupied Palestine. In 1959 the scope of US aid was expanded to military support. This grew steadily, with a boost in the seventies in the wake of the October 1973 War. Since the Camp David peace agreement with Egypt in 1978, Israel has received around $3 billion a year from the US, mainly for military purposes with just $800m for economic support.
Growing numbers of Druze refuse to serve in Israel’s army
Ramallah (EI) 20 Mar by Patrick O. Strickland — The number of refuseniks is growing within the Druze religious minority in Israel, according to Samer al-Sakleh, a 20-year-old who has refused to serve in the Israeli army. “Around 70 percent of the Druze men in my village go to the army,” said al-Sakleh, who hails from Meghar, a village in the Galilee. Yet he is hoping that his protest and that of other Druze will encourage more young people to become conscientious objectors. Meghar is also home to Omar Saad, a Druze musician who received international attention last year for his decision not to undertake military service.
Gaza woman delivers 5 babies at East Jerusalem hospital
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 21 Mar – A Palestinian woman from the Gaza Strip on Wednesday gave birth to five healthy babies at a Jerusalem hospital. The woman delivered the quintuplets through a cesarean operation at al-Makassed Islamic Charitable Society Hospital in East Jerusalem. The babies’ grandfather told Ma‘an that his daughter-in-law delivered three boys and two girls.
Analysis / Opinion
Palestinian-American: A new strategy is needed for Palestinian advocacy
Haaretz 21 Mar by Amira Hass – Sam Bahour, who voted for Obama, explains why he has no expectations for the president’s visit and why the Palestinian strategy in the United States has it all wrong … As we learn from AIPAC [America’s pro-Israel lobby], to influence Washington we have to do hard work on the ground in all 50 states.” This approach is particularly necessary on the Palestinian issue, says Bahour, because instead of being a foreign policy issue, it is hijacked by Congress. “Any administration, Republican or Democratic, any president, doesn’t have the leverage or leeway that they should have on a foreign relations issue. This issue in the United States is a domestic issue. I think it only applies to us — any other foreign affairs issue is a foreign affairs issue, where the administration has its leeway. The arms industry is probably the body behind hijacking the Congress more than anybody else. Maybe equal to AIPAC.
Demonisation of Palestinians continues in Egypt thanks to the old regime / Fahmi Huwaidi
MEMO 21 Mar — The past week has seen a lot of media speculation about seven Palestinians who were taken into custody as they tried to enter Egypt and their subsequent release. Was their treatment merely coincidental or the last shout of a phase of Egyptian history that the nation rejected and revolted against? One newspaper suggested that the group were a “cell”, with all of the negativity and threat which that word implies. Arriving with passports showing that they had entered Syria without a visa, they were detained and, during a search of their bags, incriminating documents and pictures were discovered. When questioned, they allegedly confessed to plotting terrorist activities in Egypt. Another newspaper then claimed that despite this evidence, the seven were released following pressure from the presidency. The same article claimed that they had been trained not only by the Qassem Brigades, Hamas’s military wing, but also the Revolutionary Guards in Iran, and they had pictures of very sensitive state institutions, such as the Ministry of Defence and media establishments. This made their release even more mysterious. Did President Morsi order their release and deportation to Gaza through the Rafah crossing? If so, why?…
In the middle of all of this, Al-Ahram Al-Arabi magazine published what it considered an exciting scoop by revealing the names of three Palestinian officials from Hamas and Gaza, accusing them of being responsible for the infamous Rafah massacre that killed 16 officers and soldiers during Ramadan 2012.
It would seem that long-standing “Sadatian” and “Mubarakian” attitudes towards the Palestinians still prevail in some quarters in Egypt. Palestinians are the smallest Arab minority in Egypt, numbering around 100,000 people (the Sudanese number around 5 million). They face daily discrimination and are not allowed to own property or trade unless they have been married to an Egyptian for 5 years.
Egyptian opposition leader defends Hamas in media war
MEMO 22 Mar — The prominent Egyptian opposition leader, Hamdeen Sabbahi, has come out in defense of Hamas against accusations of posing a security threat to Egypt. Sabbahi, leader of the Popular Current and the Salvation Front, criticized a defamation campaign by the Egyptian media against Hamas. Answering a question about accusations of Hamas involvement in the killing of 16 Egyptian soldiers last July, Sabbahi said: “They are just false rumors.” Such accusations, he added, “stabs the Palestinian resistance in the back” and serves only the Israeli occupation. “Egyptian national security is not achieved by punishing Hamas,” he said. “I will fight these rumors and Egyptians are going to continue their support for Gaza and Palestine forever.”
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has reneged on promises to Palestine
Cairo (EI) 21 Mar by Amira Howeidy — The euphoria that erupted in Gaza minutes after Hosni Mubarak stepped down on 11 February 2011 probably came second only to Egypt’s. The ousted dictator was Israel’s “strategic asset” for good reason. He secured the blockade of the Gaza Strip from the Egyptian side, sided against Hamas and proved a reliable ally. Even during the 22-day Israeli war on Gaza at the end of 2008, Mubarak kept the Rafah border crossing firmly shut, in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention which binds Egypt, as a signatory, to protect civilians during times of war and foreign occupation. Egypt’s dictator was removed but his legacy continues to influence realities on the ground in Gaza and around the Palestinian question in general. It does not help that his successor, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Muhammad Morsi, has done little to prove — thus far — that his policies will change course
Video: Arid Middle East becoming rapidly drier
22 Mar — A pioneering new study by University of California scientists says the arid Middle East is rapidly getting drier. They say groundwater depletion in the Tigris-Euphrates-Western Iran region is happening much faster than people expected. Depletion is quickened by farmers who pump water from limited underground aquifers to feed crops. These aquifers will not be replenished, and groundwater depletion is worsening all over the world – especially in the arid and semi-arid parts of the globe. Unsustainable loss of a vital resource like water could lead to disputes between countries in the region without an international plan for water policy and sharing. Al Jazeera’s Rob Reynolds reports from Los Angeles.