Violence / Raids / Suppression of protests / Arrests (West Bank / Jerusalem)
Israeli police shoot 5-year-old in the face while exiting school bus
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 24 Dec — Israeli forces on Wednesday afternoon shot a 5-year-old Palestinian child in the face with a rubber-coated steel bullet in East Jerusalem as he was getting out of a school bus on his way home, relatives said. “An Israeli soldier fired a black rubber-coated bullet at the child from a close distance, injuring him under the eye,” the uncle of 5-year-old Muhammad Jamal Ubeid told Ma‘an. The incident reportedly took place in the East Jerusalem village of al-‘Issawiya, where Muhammad’s family lives. The child’s uncle said that Muhammad and his 14-year-old sister stepped out of a school bus and had started to walk home when the Israeli forces shot him. The uncle said there were no confrontations at all in the area between Israeli forces and Palestinians at the time of the shooting … Muhammad was evacuated to the nearby Hadassah Medical Center on Mount Scopus where medical authorities said he had a fracture in the bone below his eye. The boy was later transferred to the Hadassah Medical Center in the Ein Karem neighborhood in West Jerusalem for treatment.
5-year-old boy from East Jerusalem wounded in face by sponge-tipped bullet, residents say
Haaretz 24 Dec by Nir Hassan — Police say no riot-dispersal means used in ‘Isawiyah, where boy lives; locals say he was standing outside his house when he was hit — A 5-year-old boy from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of ‘Isawiyah was wounded in the face by a sponge-tipped bullet while standing outside his home Wednesday, ‘Isawiyah residents said. Mohammed Jamal Obeid, 5, was taken to Jerusalem’s Hadassah University Hospital, Mount Scopus, for treatment of the injury below his eye. Jerusalem police, however, said they were not aware of police officers using riot-dispersal means such as sponge-tipped bullets in ‘Isawiyah on Wednesday. The hospital confirmed that the boy was admitted for treatment to his face after a bullet was fired, though it described the injury as being caused by a rubber bullet. The hospital said Obeid was in moderate condition and was headed for surgery. Haaretz has previously reported that the Israel Police have been using foam-tipped bullets that are harder and more powerful than some other kinds of bullets, and poses a particular danger for children and teenagers. ‘Isawiyah residents said Obeid was standing outside his home while Israeli police officers clashed with children and teenagers throwing stones at vehicles on nearby Ma’aleh Adumim Road. If the ‘Isawiyah accounts are accurate, Obeid is the second child in the neighborhood to be wounded by foam-tipped bullets fired at the upper body, a practice explicitly prohibited by police regulations. In September another East Jerusalem resident, Mohammed Sunuqrut, a 16-year-old boy from the Wadi Joz neighborhood, died of injuries that Israeli and Palestinian sources say could only have been caused by a plastic or sponge-tipped bullet. Other Palestinians, as well as journalists such as Israeli photographer Tali Mayer, WAFA journalist Christine Rinawi and CNN correspondent Ben Wedeman, have also been injured by sponge-tipped bullets.
VIDEO – Israel: 5-year-old boy shot in the face by Israeli police *GRAPHIC*
RT Ruptly TV 26 Dec — A [Palestinian] five-year-old child was shot in the face with a rubber-coated bullet by Israeli police on Wednesday in Ma’ale Adumim on the West Bank after he got off a bus on his way home from school.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luCvW8VwQ44Kavanaugh responds to the group with a frantic note about declining support for Israel:
Israeli forces injure 4 after opening fire on West Bank protests
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 26 Dec — Four Palestinians including an elderly women were injured in the West Bank on Friday after Israeli forces opened fire on protesters in two separate villages with rubber-coated steel bullets. Two Palestinian women were injured in the village of Far‘un just south of Tulkarem in the northern West Bank. Yusra Mohammad Al-Haj al-Abd, 72, and Jumana Ahmad Shayib, 48, were shot by Israeli forces in their upper bodies during clashes in the village and were taken to a hospital for treatment. An Israeli military spokeswoman said that the pair were “hurling rocks at Israeli soldiers” when they were shot in the “lower extremities.” …
Also on Friday, two Palestinian youths were shot with rubber-coated steel bullets in clashes in the area of Safa in the town of Beit Ummar, north of Hebron. A 20-year-old was hit in the head and taken to hospital in a stable condition while a 17-year-old was hit in the right hand and treated on the scene. Spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committee in Beit Ummar Mohammad Ayyad Awad said that dozens also suffered from excessive tear gas inhalation in the clashes, which broke out after Israeli forces raided the area. Awad said that Palestinians threw stones at the Israeli soldiers, who fired rubber-coated steel bullets, stun grenades and tear gas canisters at the crowds.
2 Palestinian teens injured in clashes near Nablus
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 24 Dec — Two Palestinian teenagers were shot with live bullets and injured by Israeli forces in clashes that broke out near the Jewish settlement of Itamar southeast of Nablus. Medical sources said Shihab Nasasra, 16, and Ahmad Mleitat, 15, were shot with live bullets and taken to Rafidia hospital in Nablus with what were described as light to moderate injuries … The villages south of Nablus are frequent sites of settler violence and Palestinian clashes with Israeli forces as they are located beside the notoriously violent Israeli settlements of Yitzhar, Bracha, and Itamar.
Teenager shot, injured by PA security forces in Nablus
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 26 Dec — A teenager was shot and injured by Palestinian Authority security forces during an arrest raid in Nablus overnight Thursday, locals said. PA security forces raided al-Fara‘a refugee camp to arrest a wanted suspect and youths responded by throwing stones and an explosive device at them, locals said. Security forces opened fire and hit Salem Bassam Shawish, 16, in the chest. He was transferred for treatment to a hospital in Nablus and will receive further treatment in Ramallah on Friday. In October, PA forces shot and killed Bilal al-Rajabi, 25, during an arrest raid in Hebron.
Palestinian Authority security forces detain 14 Hamas members: Group
Middle East Monitor 25 Dec — Palestinian faction Hamas has accused the security forces of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority (PA) of detaining 14 group members in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. In a Thursday statement, Hamas said the members had been detained one day earlier in raids carried out in several West Bank cities. But Adnan al-Dameri, a spokesman for the PA’s security apparatus, denied allegations that his forces were detaining Palestinians based on “their political affiliations.” He insisted that PA security forces only detain “those who commit illegal acts.”
Israeli soldiers rob family of 70,000 shekels in Nablus raid
IMEMC/Agencies 25 Dec — Ahrar Center for Prisoner Studies and Human Rights said that Israeli forces seized about 70,000 shekels after breaking into home of 52-year-old Ahmed Shubeiri, in Qarboun village, near occupied Nablus. According to the PNN, Ahmed is father of Ali Shubeiri, who has been imprisoned for over a year now. The family told Ahrar that soldiers brutally broke into and raided their house after midnight, claiming that they were searching for arms. University student Abdullah Shubeiri, age 20, was abducted and taken to an unknown destination. The family said that the soldiers took from them 7,000 Jordanian dinars and 25,000 Israeli shekels, amounting to some 70,000 shekels total. Ahrar’s director, Fuad Al-Khuffash, condemned the action, saying that it was actually theft and not the first incident of its kind among Israeli soldiers.
Settlers raid Salfit village, Israel army locks down area
SALFIT (Ma‘an) 24 Dec — Settlers raided the Salfit village of Kifl Haris overnight Tuesday, shouting anti-Palestinian slogans, villagers said. Israeli soldiers erected checkpoints around the village and prevented Palestinians from moving around the area during the incident, declaring it a closed military zone. The settlers were reportedly performing prayer rituals near the village. [near the ‘tombs of Joshua, Caleb and Nun’?]
Israeli settlers open fire at Palestinian police near Salfit
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 24 Dec — Israeli settlers on Wednesday opened fire at Palestinian customs police near Salfit in the northern West Bank, local Palestinian sources said. The sources said that customs police officers were on duty in the village of Badiya north of Salfit when a car with Israeli license plates opened fire directly at them. No injuries were reported in the incident. The sources said that Palestinian authorities have lodged a complaint at the office of the Israeli military liaison, and a joint Israeli-Palestinian committee to investigate the incident has been formed.
Army: 2 settlers injured by Molotov cocktail near Qalqiliya
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 25 Dec — The Israeli military said on Thursday that two Israeli settlers were injured after a Molotov cocktail was thrown at their car as it drove in the Jewish settlement of Maale Shomeron, in the Qalqiliya region. The military said in a statement that an 11-year-old girl was severely burned and her father lightly injured after the Molotov cocktail hit the vehicle they were driving in. The two were later evacuated to the hospital for treatment, according to the statement, and the military said they were searching the area for suspects. Maale Shomeron is a Jewish-only settlement immediately beside the Palestinian village of ‘Azzun, east of Qalqiliya, and is built on land confiscated from a number of local Palestinian villages. Maale Shomeron is part of a larger settlement bloc home to more than 11,000 Jews that curves deep into the West Bank, surrounding a number of Palestinian villages on at least three sides and preventing Palestinians from freely moving in the area.
11-year-old girl faces ‘long, complicated’ rehabilitation
Ynet 26 Dec by Yaron Kellner — A day after a Molotov cocktail was thrown at Ayala Shapira and her father, she remains in serious condition and will undergo surgery; doctors say they will have to eventually reconstruct her face — The condition of Ayala Shapira, the 11-year-old Jewish-Israeli girl who was seriously wounded after a Molotov cocktail was thrown at her and her father while they were driving home on Thursday afternoon in Nablus, continues to be serious. A slight improvement in Ayala’s breathing and heart functioning was noted overnight, however she is still sedated and on a respirator … Ayala is expected to enter surgery on Friday afternoon. “The first steps will be to clean the deep burns, especially in the neck. She also has swelling in her throat, so in order to prevent choking we will enable her to breathe from a different area,” said Professor Eyal Winkler, the Director of the Plastic Surgery Department at Sheba Medical Center. “I told her parents the struggle will be long, and the beginning consists of stabilizing her, reviving her, and getting her to a state where we can begin to reconstruct her face. In this kind of situation, hospitalization last two to three months, and facial reconstruction can lost even longer. But we are full of desire to succeed and are optimistic. Ayala and Avner Shapira were wounded Thursday after the car in which they were traveling in the West Bank was hit by a firebomb, only a month after her mother escaped a similar attack in the same area.
Israeli forces detain 14 in village near Qalqiliya
QALQILIYA (Ma‘an) 26 Dec — Israeli forces on Thursday evening detained 14 Palestinians in the village of ‘Azzun near Qalqiliya, in the wake of a Molotov cocktail attack on a settler vehicle nearby that left two injured, including an 11-year-old girl. The arrest raids came after Israeli forces closed all entrances to the village of ‘Azzun after the incident, which occurred in the Jewish settlement of Maale Shomeron just north of the village. Locals identified those detained as Fahmi Nael Fahmi Tabib, Alaa Samir Othman Shello, Imad Muhammad Abd al-Latif Alami, Muhammad Ali Abd al-Rahman Badwan, Akrama Muhammad Nassar Dahbour, Youssef Zahran Sweidan, Muath Bilal Sweidan, Mutasem Muhammad Radwan, Murad Saqer Salim, Walid Moussa Labda, Muwayia Abd al-Latif Radwan, Omar Amjad Shbeitak, Amir Jawdat Radwan, and Ashraf Ahmad Radwan. An Israeli military spokeswoman, however, confirmed only 12 of the detentions, and declined to tell Ma‘an why the individuals in question were arrested. Hebrew-language news website Walla quoted Israeli military sources as saying that the detainees including two individuals suspected of involvement in the attack. The website reported that one of the individuals threw the Molotov cocktail that hit the settler vehicle, while the other assisted him. The incident caused widespread public consternation in Israel, and defense minister Moshe Yaalon visited the 11-year-old girl in the hospital on Friday. During his visit, he called the incident a “terrorist attack” and said the army and secret services were capable of putting an end to such incidents.
Two Palestinians kidnapped in Jenin; many injured
IMEMC/Agencies 24 Dec — Several armored Israeli military vehicles invaded, on Wednesday at dawn, Qabatia town, south of the northern West Bank city of Jenin, and kidnapped two Palestinians, while many suffered the effects of tear gas inhalation. Palestinian security sources in Jenin said the soldiers invaded Qabatia town, stormed and violently searched several homes, and kidnapped two Palestinians before taking them to an unknown destination … Many Israeli military vehicles also invaded Jenin city, before the soldiers stormed a residential apartment building in Jabal Abu Thoheir area, violently searched the home of Riyadh Hasan ‘Arqawi, and handed his nephew Mohammad ‘Arqawi a warrant for interrogation in the Salem military base. The soldiers also invaded the home of Ashraf Jamal ‘Azamta, 30, and handed an interrogation order to his family as he was not home during the invasion. Local sources said the soldiers also broke into, and violently searched, the homes of the late Mohammad Hasan ‘Arqawi (who had been killed by the army), the homes of his sons Ghaleb, Fares, Borhan, and Jihad, and handed Mohammad and Borhan Ghaleb ‘Arqawi military warrants for interrogation. In addition, soldiers invaded the al-Yamoun nearby town, searched and ransacked several homes, and installed a roadblock near Ya‘bad town, south of Jenin. Local sources said the soldiers stopped dozens of vehicles, in both directions, for more than an hour, preventing the residents from entering or leaving the town. Furthermore, several schoolchildren, and adults, suffered the effects of tear gas inhalation after the soldiers fired gas bombs at them, near the Abu ar-Reesh roadblock, in the Old City of Hebron.
Also in Hebron, Israeli military bulldozers demolished a 500 square meter chicken farm belonging to resident Yousef Rashed al-Batran, in Khallet Ibrahim area in Ethna town, west of Hebron. The army said the farm is close to the Annexation Wall, illegally built by Israel in the occupied West Bank turning many communities into isolated cantons, and leading to the isolation of thousands of dunams of orchards and farmlands.
Video: Palestinian stabs 2 Israeli policemen in Jerusalem
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 26 Dec — A Palestinian suspect on Friday stabbed two Israeli border policemen in East Jerusalem’s Old City, police said. One officer, 19, was stabbed in the neck and the other, 35, in the hand near the Lions Gate. The suspect fled the area and police are currently investigating the incident. Checkpoints were set up in the Old City and nearby areas following the attack. The suspect allegedly attacked the officers after leaving morning prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque … Ramallah-based web site Paldf released a video of the incident.
Israeli forces detain 2 Palestinians in East Jerusalem
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 24 Dec — Israeli forces raided the East Jerusalem neighborhood of al-Tur at dawn and detained two Palestinians, locals said. Akram al-Shurafa, 39, and Faris Abu Ghannam, 37, were identified as those arrested. Both men were part of five Palestinians recently banned from Israel’s Jerusalem municipal borders for five months until April 2015. No reason was given for their exile.
Israeli forces detain 5 teenagers in East Jerusalem
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 25 Dec — Israeli forces raided East Jerusalem early Thursday and detained five teenagers, a local committee member said. Israeli forces detained Hasan Jamjum, Ali Ahmad Darwish, Ahmad Uweisa and Khalid Jadallah in al-‘Isawiya and Muhsin Attun from Sur Bahir, after ransacking their homes.
Israeli forces detain 6 in West Bank raids
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 25 Dec — Israeli forces detained six Palestinians in overnight raids in the occupied West Bank, security officials said Thursday. In Nablus, four men were detained at dawn from the Old City, Kafr Qallil, Ein Beit al-Mai refugee camp, and Rafidia. They were identified as Alaa Mansour, a PA police officer, Muhammad Qaddumi, Murad Makhloog, 25, and Muhammad Mashaal, 25. Clashes broke out in the city following the arrests, with Israeli forces firing tear gas canisters and stun grenades at youths…
In Hebron, Israeli forces detained Mustafa Maharma, 23, and Muhammad Jamil Issa Arara, 36. Maharma was traveling in a car near Surif village when Israeli forces stopped the vehicle and used a taser gun before detaining him. Awad was detained at a military checkpoint near Beit Ummar. He had previously spent seven years in an Israeli jail.
Israel detains DFLP leader east of Jerusalem
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 26 Dec — Israeli forces on Friday detained a leader in the leftist Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine at a checkpoint east of Jerusalem. Nader Jaffal, 42, was taken from a flying checkpoint set up near the Maale Adumim Jewish settlement, which occupies a strategic position on the main road between Jerusalem and Jericho. At the checkpoint, Israeli forces stopped and searched cars as they passed, and Jaffal’s wife Abeer said that when the soldiers asked him to get out of the car, they took him into custody. According to Abeer, the soldiers told him that there was an order for administrative detention against him, meaning he will be held without charge or trial for a potentially unlimited amount of time. She said that the soldiers then subjected both her and the car to a search, before taking him to the settlement. Nader Jaffal previously spent around 15 years in Israeli jails in a number of stints.
Israel returns bodies of Jerusalem synagogue attackers
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 25 Dec — Israeli authorities on Wednesday evening returned the bodies of two Palestinian attackers who killed five Israelis at a Jerusalem synagogue in November. Israel notified the families of Uday and Ghassan Abu Jamal that their bodies must be buried within 90 minutes of being returned at the cemetery of al-Sawahira al-Sharqiyya, lawyer Muhammad Mahmoud told Ma‘an. Only 40 relatives were to be allowed at the funeral, he added. The family was forced to deposit 20,000 shekels ($5,000) to guarantee they would adhere to the stipulations. “After they have been laid to rest, we will feel some relief after some very hard days following the martyrdom of Ghassan and Uday,” a relative said. Israel has imposed punitive measures on the whole family since the killings, refusing to return the bodies of both men and detaining most of their close relatives, the family said.
Their home has received a demolition order and Ghassan’s widow lost her permanent residency rights. Around 300 mourners joined the funeral procession, raising Palestinian flags and chanting patriotic slogans.
False arrests won’t stop us covering Israel’s occupation
Haaretz 25 Dec by Gideon Levy — The allegations against us: violating an emergency order and insulting a soldier. The law books contain no statutes about insulting a journalist — On Monday of this week we drove to the village of Artah [or Irtah], south of Tul Karm, to report yet another story of the evil of the occupation, this one particularly infuriating and sad. The photographer Alex Levac and I were in Artah, intending to return home to Tel Aviv. The soldiers at Checkpoint 407 were surprised to see Israeli Jews leaving from the direction of Tul Karm. We showed our press cards and told them that we had been accustomed to going everywhere in the West Bank for more than 25 years. Thus began an episode in the theater of the absurd that lasted until evening. The Israeli army and the Israel Police kept us in custody for about the next nine hours. The soldiers confiscated our car keys and identity documents lest we run for our lives. We were not allowed to get out of the car, even for a moment. One insolent soldier was insulted on account of nothing and the police were summoned on account of nothing. The police did not even ask us what had happened – and just like that, we were “detained.” We were put inside a “Caracal” – an armored, reinforced metal monster with barred windows – and we drove for about an hour to the Ariel police station. There we were questioned and fingerprinted. Mug shots were taken of us for the criminals’ photo album, and we were subjected to humiliation. On the way there, I thought about the Palestinian children whom these police arrest and place in this same metal monster and what they endure. The police officers said we were being “detained” – a euphemism for arrest. When we asked to go to the bathroom, the duty officer barked: Not without an escort. The detective said we were endangering national security … Even as we were on our way to Ariel, we heard the false accusation that came from the army, and then the official statement of the Judea and Samaria District Police: We had spat at the soldiers. First the “murdering” pilots (which I never wrote), and now the “spitting libel” (I never spat on them). If we were suspected of having spat at soldiers, it is easy to imagine the intolerable ease with which the soldiers could say, falsely, that a Palestinian had pulled a knife at a checkpoint or threatened them a moment before they shot him dead.
Terror attack thwarted: 4 Palestinians carrying pipe bombs arrested
Ynet 24 Dec by Omri Efraim — Israeli security forces stopped four Palestinians carrying pipe bombs on Wednesday at a checkpoint near Jenin. Additional forces were deployed to the scene, including a sapper to neutralize the explosive devices. At approximately 3 pm, soldiers heard an explosion near the security checkpoint and identified four suspects upon arriving at the location. They performed the procedure for arresting suspects – discovering pipe bombs hidden under their clothes. During the initial investigation on the ground, the suspects confessed to intending to commit an attack against security personnel. The four Jenin residents were transferred for additional investigation by the Shin Bet.
IDF troops find arms cache in northern West Bank
Times of Israel 25 Dec — IDF soldiers arrested seven suspected terror operatives and uncovered a major arms cache in the northern West Bank early Thursday. In a joint operation by the Paratroopers and Kfir brigades, joined by special forces, in the Nablus area, soldiers found two handguns, an M-16 assault rifle, an Uzi submachine gun, a Kalashnikov rifle, an improvised firearm and eight pipe bombs. A significant amount of cash belonging to terror organizations was also confiscated in the operation, the army said. Three other Palestinian suspects were arrested elsewhere in the West Bank overnight Wednesday. Two were arrested in Jilazoun, a village north of Ramallah, while the third, a reported Hamas operative, was arrested in Hebron.
Israeli forces detonate car they say was filled with explosives
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 25 Dec — Israeli forces on Thursday evening detonated a car they claimed was filled with explosives on the main road linking Ramallah and the villages west of it. The road, which leads to the villages of Beit Ur At-Tahta, Beit Ur al-Fouqa, and Safa, was closed in both directions, leading to major traffic jams for Palestinian commuters. Witnesses said that Israeli forces were heavily deployed in the area Thursday evening, firing flares and looking for the individuals who owned the vehicle, which was empty at the time of the explosion.
Palestinian boy, 15, dies from Gaza war injuries
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 26 Dec — A 15-year-old Palestinian boy from Gaza died in an Israeli hospital in Tel Aviv on Friday from injuries sustained during Israel’s devastating war on the coastal territory this summer. Ihab Muhammad Suhweil, from Beit Hanoun, died in the Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv, after doctors decided to turn off his life support system. The teenager was being treated in the al-Maqasid hospital in Jerusalem and his condition deteriorated rapidly after a delay in moving him to the Tel Aviv medical center. Suhweil died an hour after his father visited him, having managed to obtain a permit to leave Gaza and see his son, who has been hospitalized for three months. He was injured on the 2nd day of the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday during Israeli bombardments on the coastal territory, which also killed his brother. Suhweil’s body will be taken to be buried in Beit Hanoun on Friday. Since a ceasefire agreement in late August, dozens of Palestinians have died from injuries or as a result of Israeli ordnance left behind from the 50-day bombardment of the territory, which killed over 2,000 Palestinians.
Palestinian killed, Israel soldier injured in Gaza gunfight
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 24 Dec — A Palestinian man was killed and an Israeli soldier seriously injured during a gun battle in the southern Gaza Strip on Wednesday. Witnesses told Ma‘an that Israeli forces fired heavily in border areas in Khuza‘a and al-Qarara east of Khan Younis, killing Taysir al-Smeiri, 33, and injuring two others. Hamas said al-Smeiri was the head of its reconnaissance unit in southern Gaza. “In response to the firing at our forces who were east of the fence in the southern Gaza Strip, we carried out immediate attacks against the relevant targets. There was an air strike and one by a tank,” an Israeli army statement said. Israel’s army confirmed that an Israeli soldier suffered a severe chest injury and was evacuated to hospital.
Israeli warplanes hit southern Gaza after sniper fire
Al-Arabiya/AFP 24 Dec — Israeli fighter jets carried out an air strike in southern Gaza on Wednesday and killed a Hamas militant after a sniper attack on a patrol seriously wounded a soldier, the army and medics said. The Israeli military said on a twitter statement that “sniper fire was opened on an #IDF routine patrol near the southern #Gaza Strip.” “Following the sniper attack on the #Gaza border, #IDF air & ground forces responded immediately to the threat. More details to come,” the statement added. It was only the second time Israel had struck Gaza since a 50-day war ended with a truce on August 26, after witnesses reported a first strike early on Saturday.
On-the-scene operation on wounded soldier saved his life
Ynet 25 Dec by Yoav Zitun — IDF doctor decided to drain blood out of Bedouin reconnaissance soldier’s lungs while under fire knowing that if he didn’t, the soldier would surely die — IDF doctors and medics’ resourcefulness and courage saved the life of a soldier who was seriously wounded in Wednesday morning’s fire exchange at the Gaza border. According to an initial investigation of the incident, at around 11am, a ground force from the Bedouin reconnaissance battalion, responsible for the Kissufim sector in the southern Gaza border, and an Armed Corps force were securing routine repair work for the fence when one of the soldiers suddenly collapsed. The soldier was hit from a single yet accurate bullet from a Palestinian sniper who was taking advantage of the cover provided by the close proximity of the buildings in Khirbet Khizeh, several dozens of meters from the border fence and Israeli territory … The surgery was done while IDF tanks and Air Force aircraft were returning fire at the source of the sniper fire, while the wounded soldier’s friends provided cover for the operating doctors who were working not far from the Palestinian homes.
Gaza forces deployed at border to prevent illegal crossing
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 24 Dec — The Ministry of the Interior in the Gaza Strip is deploying security forces on the border with Israel and intensifying its presence in the area in order to prevent Palestinians from crossing into Israel from Gaza without documents. The statement from the interior ministry comes just hours after a gunfight erupted on the border with Israeli soldiers, after the Israeli military said a soldier was wounded by sniper fire from inside Gaza. Ministry spokesman Iyad al-Buzm, however, did not directly mention the incident, instead stressing that the deployment was about preventing Palestinians from crossing into Israel. “There are a few cases where young people try to sneak into the ’48 lands (i.e. Israel), but Palestinian security forces have arrested some this year and Israeli forces arrested those who successfully entered,” al-Buzm said. “We are looking carefully at the issue in order to stop the Israeli side from recruiting collaborators,” he added … According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, 94 Palestinians have crossed into Israel without documents since the beginning of the Gaza offensive in July, including 10 during the conflict and 66 since September alone. Al-Buzm said that part of the problem was the fact that there are border areas where Palestinian security forces cannot operate, allowing individuals — who he said were primarily youths — to cross over. “We still have some procedures to carry out in order to completely stop infiltration. Those who are caught will be punished appropriately,” he added. Israel also maintains a security “buffer zone” that extends between 500 and 1500 meters into the Strip, effectively extending control over 17 percent of Gaza’s total land area and 35 percent of its agricultural land. This control, which directly affects the livelihoods of more than 100,000 Gazans, also prevents security forces from operating near the border, as they are similarly forbidden from entering the area.
Israeli soldiers shoot Palestinian trying to cross Gaza border
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 26 Dec — Israeli forces on Friday shot a Palestinian man as he tried to cross into Israel from northern Gaza, Israel’s army said. An Israeli army spokeswoman told Ma‘an that two Palestinians approached the “security fence in the northern Gaza Strip” with the intention of crossing into Israel. Israeli soldiers ordered them to stop and fired in the air and then at their legs when they failed to comply. One man was hit, while both were detained at the scene and taken for questioning.
Israeli boats open fire at Gaza fishermen
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 26 Dec — Israeli naval boats opened fire at fishermen off the coast of northern Gaza on Friday, witnesses said. Locals said gunfire was heard from the shore of Gaza City as fishermen were at sea. An Israeli army spokeswoman said “a few vessels deviated from the designated fishing zone” and naval forces fired warning shots in the air. The boats then turned back, she added. The Aug. 26 ceasefire agreement between Israel and Palestinian militant groups stipulated that Israel would immediately expand the fishing zone off Gaza’s coast, allowing fishermen to sail as far as six nautical miles from shore, and would continue to expand the area gradually. Since then, there have been widespread reports that Israeli forces have at times opened fire at fishermen within those new limits, and the zone has not been expanded.
VIDEO: What Egypt puts people through at the Rafah crossing
Shehab News Agency 23 December
Gaza women protest against Gaza crossing closure
World Bulletin 26 Dec — Scores of Palestinian women on Thursday staged a protest on the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing on the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip to demand the reopening of the crossing. The women said the crossing needed to be reopened so that thousands of Palestinian medical patients could seek medical treatment outside the Gaza Strip, which has been suffering an all-out Israeli blockade since 2007. The protesters carried placards on which they called for reopening the crossing and complained against the inability of Gaza’s patients to travel to seek medical treatment abroad. “Palestinians have the right to freely move through the crossing,” Esraa al-Areer, the spokeswoman of “Women against the Blockade”, the Palestinian movement that organized the protest, told The Anadolu Agency.
First phase of Egypt-Gaza buffer zone to cost $70 million
Jerusalem Post 26 Dec by Ariel Ben Solomon — Egypt is completing the first phase of a buffer zone along its border with Gaza and is going to start the second phase soon, the governor of North Sinai said this week. Gen. Sayed Harhour, governor of the region, told Ahram Online on Wednesday that the cost of finishing the first phase of the buffer zone would reach as much as $70 million (500m. Egyptian pounds), after they pay compensation to the residents of the remaining 837 homes. “The second phase that will begin soon along 500 more meters includes even more homes,” he said. The government is paying property owners around $14 a meter for open land and between $98 to $168 for homes, said the report. In addition, $126 in emergency aid was being given to each evacuated family. Egypt decided in November to double to 1 kilometer the depth of a security buffer zone it is clearing on its border with the Gaza Strip after an outbreak of some of the worst anti-state violence since president Mohamed Morsi was overthrown last year. Egypt declared a state of emergency in the border area after at least 33 security personnel were killed in two attacks in October.
Hamas knows that the people of Gaza do not want another war
Haaretz 25 Dec by Amira Hass — The Palestinians’ response to Wednesday’s IDF raid in the Strip is not escalation but a matter of routine — Although the residents of the Gaza Strip are afraid of another war, they believe that only Israel, not Hamas, is interested in a military escalation. That is the impression gained from telephone conversations with several Gaza residents. People in the Gaza Strip believe the Hamas report that Israeli troops went into the Gaza Strip as a “violation of sovereignty” – so members of Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, Hamas’s military wing, fired at them. According to the report, a unit from the Israel Defense Forces’ Engineering Corps invaded the Gaza Strip east of the town of Qarara. Armed Palestinians fired at the troops. In response, the army shelled not only Izz ad-Din al-Qassam’s lookout point, killing one of its members, but also – according to Palestinian reports – opened intensive fire at the homes of civilians who had nothing to do with the incident. According to the daily documentation of the PLO’s negotiating department, the IDF attacked various areas in the Strip 35 times in November. One person was killed and 10, including farmers and fishermen, were wounded in these incidents. The difference on Wednesday, then, is that the Palestinians responded to the army’s aggression and an Israeli soldier was wounded … Despite the occasional despairing statements to the media that war is preferable to the current stalemate, the inhabitants of Gaza cannot bear the thought of another round of warfare in which Israel attacks them in their homes with its advanced, never-ending weaponry. The Hamas authorities are well aware of this, so they have no current political or tactical interest in war.
After the war, a bittersweet Christmas in Gaza
GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories (AFP) 23 Dec by Adel Zaanoun — A garland in hand, 11-year-old Sara decorates the family Christmas tree with her parents. But this year, the young Gazan will be spending the rest of the holiday alone. Her family applied for Israeli permits to leave the Gaza Strip and travel to Bethlehem to celebrate Christmas in the not-so-little town in the West Bank where Jesus was born. Although her parents received them, she and her older brother and sister did not. This year, Israel granted around 500 permits to Palestinian Christians, allowing them to travel from Gaza to the West Bank so they can visit Bethlehem’s Nativity church and attend the traditional midnight mass. “Christmas is a happy time but it’s also a bit sad because I didn’t get the permit to go with my parents,” Sara admits. Her mother, Abeer Mussad, spoke of a “joy tinged with sadness” as she and her husband celebrate Christmas Day in Bethlehem without their children who will on Thursday be “meeting Santa at church in Gaza”. “He will give us our presents,” says Sara who will stay with her older sister and celebrate Christmas at St Porphyrius Greek Orthodox church in Gaza City. In Gaza, the adults have done everything they can to ensure the holiday is not spoilt, but nobody can forget the deadly 50-day summer war which killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians and left the densely populated territory in ruins.
Saudi Arabia donates $12 million to repair UNRWA schools in Gaza
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 25 Dec — The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has donated $12 million to the UN’s Palestine refugee agency UNRWA to support the repair of Gaza schools damaged in Israel’s latest offensive. UNRWA said in a statement that nearly $9.8 million will be dedicated to reconstruction, while just over $2.2 million be allocated for furniture and equipment. Eight UNRWA-run schools in the Gaza Strip will benefit from the Saudi donation, according to the statement … Ministry of education officials said in September that 70 UNRWA schools were damaged in the nearly two-month long Israeli offensive, which also completely destroyed or damaged 144 public schools.
To beat unemployment, young Gazans turn to birds
GAZA CITY (Al-Monitor) 26 Dec by Rasha Abou Jalal — Ehab Adas, 28, spends most of his time listening to the chirps of his canaries on the roof of his house. The birds are his only source of support for his family of four. One bird can fetch 300 shekels ($80), enough to meet his family’s needs for a week. Raising birds is part of a new trend among Palestinians suffering from unemployment and desperate to make ends meet. “I graduated from university in 2012, and I worked in a cement factory. But the Israeli war destroyed my workplace, and I was left without a job. This forced me to search for another source of income to support my family,” Adas told Al-Monitor. He explained that breeding birds is cost effective and does not require a lot of effort. “I only have to provide a warm place and food for the birds. I also have to have experience in identifying mating seasons, egg hatching and treatment of diseases,” he said. According to statistics issued by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics for the second quarter of 2014, Gaza’s unemployment rate stood at 44.5%.
Gaza: A crossroad of civilisations
Middle East Monitor 24 Dec by Jessica Purkiss — In 201 BC King Antiochus captured Gaza. Polybius, a Greek Historian of the Hellenistic Period (period of ancient Greek and eastern Mediterranean history) recounted the incident in his work The Histories, which covered the period of 264-146 BC in detail. He wrote: “It seems to me both just and proper here to testify to the character of the people of Gaza. Although in war they display no more valour than the people of Coele-Syria in general, they are far superior as regards acting in unison and keeping their faith; and to put it shortly show a courage which is irresistible.” He continues to give an outline of Gaza’s history as evidence of the above: “For instance in the Persian invasion, when all other towns were terrified by the vast power of the invaders and surrendered themselves and their homes to the Medes, they alone faced the danger as one man and submitted to a siege. Again on the arrival of Alexander, when not only had other cities surrendered, but when Tyre had been stormed and her population enslaved; when there seemed to be scarcely any hope of safety for those who opposed the impetuous force of Alexander’s attack, they were the only people in Syria who dared to withstand him and exhausted every resource in doing so….they left no possible means of resistance untried…..”
Haaretz editorial: End the blockade of the Gaza Strip
26 Dec — The time has come to end Israel’s failed policy of closure and give hope to despairing Gazans — Since the end of the war in the last summer, the number of Gazans who attempted to sneak into Israel in order to look for work increased. Their willingness to risk arrest, injury or even death attests to their despair. Israel cannot ignore this despair and treat it as merely a security issue requiring some technical solution. Although only a few dozen people have attempted to cross the fence since the end of the summer they reflect the distress and despair felt by most of the inhabitants of the Palestinian enclave. Almost half of Gazans are unemployed, 70 percent of families receive humanitarian aid and around 120,000 people are waiting for their ruined homes to be rebuilt. The tap water in the Gaza Strip is not fit to drink, and the supply of electricity is limited to only a few hours a day. At the rate at which building supplies are currently entering the Strip it will take a decade to rebuild buildings that were destroyed last summer. Even if the pace picks up, the key problem will remain: Some: 1.8 million people are crammed into a 365-square-kilometer enclave, cut off from the rest of the world and above all from their fellow Palestinians in the West Bank. Denying Gaza’s residents freedom of movement directly accounts for their collective sense of humiliation, purposelessness and loss of interest in living. The Gaza Strip is not a sovereign entity. Its inhabitants are listed in a population registry that is controlled by Israel. By restricting movement and by controlling the land, sea and air space surrounding and above Gaza, Israel controls its economy and dictates its poverty. Israel embarked on its policy of cutting off the Strip in the 1990s, before the wave of suicide bombings and much before Hamas’ rise to power. If the objective was to guarantee more security for Israelis, this policy was an abysmal failure. It only added an additional element of instability and uncertainty for both Palestinians and Israelis.
Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Restriction of movement / Racism
Negev Bedouins are now demolishing their own homes out of despair
+972blog 26 Dec by Michal Rotem — After losing a lengthy legal battle against the state, residents of the unrecognized Bedouin village Sawa decided that demolishing their own homes is preferable to seeing the authorities do it — On Tuesday of last week, the residents of Sawa, an unrecognized Bedouin village in the Negev Desert, used their own money to rent a bulldozer that would destroy seven of their own homes. For hours, one could hear the sounds of pounding hammers and a bulldozer driving back and forth, its blade full of pieces of what moments ago was someone’s home. The residents of Sawa decided to destroy their own homes after a long legal process that began in 2007, when the authorities served three of their homes with demolition orders. The legal struggle failed, and after a number of delays in the demolition, the Be’er Sheva District Court ruled that the orders will not be rescinded … Those whose homes were destroyed have no alternative housing, and will be resigned to living in close quarters with their neighbors until a decent solution is found. According to the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality’s report on home demolitions in the Negev, 78 percent of home demolitions in the Negev are carried out by homeowners, rather than the state. The report shows how the authorities invest resources and put immense pressure in order to increase the number of self-demolitions. “They forced me to destroy it,” Sawa resident Salama al-Qasisi told +972. “Who wants to destroy their own home and leave their children outside? This is not a democratic country. They see this as an act of weakness, but it is not weakness. The state has already destroyed three of my homes.” “We demolished it ourselves now because it is morning,” said another resident. “Our children are at school, so they won’t see the destruction. It is difficult to demolish our own home, but we don’t want our children to be frightened.” The residents’ fear of state demolitions stems from the way in which they are carried out. They typically take place in blocks of several days, and the residents are not given prior notice. In fact, residents only find out that their homes are about to be demolished when they see long rows of police forces, bulldozers and inspectors arriving. Usually only women and children are in the village, and there isn’t enough time to remove items from the homes, which are then buried under the rubble.
Israel approves 380 new East Jerusalem settler homes
JERUSALEM (AFP) 24 Dec — Israeli authorities gave final approval on Wednesday to the construction of 380 new settler homes in two areas of annexed east Jerusalem, a local official said. “The municipal commission has given construction permits for 307 homes in Ramot and 73 in Har Homa,” Yosef Pepe Alalu, a Jerusalem city councillor with the opposition Meretz party, told AFP. He said local officials were taking advantage of attention focusing on Israeli elections due in March to expand settlements. “This kind of decision distances us from any chance of reaching an agreement with the Palestinians,” he said. Despite repeated warnings from Washington that it is fueling tensions, Israel has approved a series of plans for new settler homes in east Jerusalem in recent months. Israel seized east Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community. It refers to the entire city as its “united, undivided capital”, and does not view construction there as settlement activity.
Israel sets new date for West Bank outpost demolition
JERUSALEM (AFP) 25 Dec — An Israeli court ordered the destruction of a settlement in the West Bank in a decision on Thursday that comes a decade after the first ruling to demolish the outpost. The Supreme Court ruling is the latest in the long series of demolition deadlines and postponements for the Amona wildcat settlement, which is home to some 50 families. The state “must act to carry out the demolition orders to all the structures in the locale, as they had committed to,” the ruling read, noting a grace period of two years to enable the families to resettle. The decision noted that there were still ongoing cases regarding the ownership of plots in the Amona settlement in other courts. Amona is the largest outpost in the West Bank, and was built on lands near Ramallah privately owned by Palestinians, who were behind the court petition. Israel considers settlement outposts built without government approval to be illegal and often sends security personnel to demolish them. In June, Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court ordered that the state pay six Palestinian landowners 300,000 shekels ($85,700) in compensation for their losses from the presence of settlers on their land in Amona … In 2006 the state dismantled nine houses that made up the outpost at the time, with some 250 people wounded in clashes that erupted between law enforcement officials, the settlers and their supporters.
Israel demolishes EU-funded irrigation pools in Jordan Valley
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 25 Dec — Israeli forces demolished EU-funded irrigation pools in the northern Jordan Valley on Thursday, locals told Ma‘an. Israeli military vehicles arrived in the area of al-Jiftlik accompanied by bulldozers and demolished six irrigation pools used by Palestinian farmers. The construction of the pools was funded by grants from European donor countries. The pretext for the demolition was based on a “military order,” locals said. The Jordan Valley covers around 30 percent of the occupied West Bank.
Israeli forces demolish structures in East Jerusalem
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 24 Dec — Israeli forces on Wednesday demolished steel structures and a cave on private Palestinian land in the al-Tur neighborhood of East Jerusalem, the owner said. Ramadan Shabana told Ma‘an that Israeli forces raided his land and a bulldozer destroyed a wire fence surrounding the land. A residential steel structure and a cave located next to it were then demolished. Shabana said the demolition was carried out without any prior notice. An Israeli court had suspended a previous demolition order in October, he added. It was the third time the structures have been destroyed. Shabana said he would rebuild them in order to protect his land.
Israeli forces demolish dairy factory in Hebron
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 25 Dec — Israeli forces on Thursday destroyed a dairy factory in the Hebron village of al-Burj, the owner told Ma‘an. Yasser Muhammad Salim Masharqa said that Israeli forces and civil administration officers escorted two bulldozers to the village and demolished the steel structure, which measures 2000 square meters. Cement rooms measuring 400 square meters were also destroyed. The factory is located near the separation wall in the southwest of the Hebron district. The owner was not allowed to remove machinery from the factory before the demolition. Israel has demolished at least 359 Palestinian structures in the West Bank so far in 2014, according to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.
Israeli forces destroy stone walls in Nablus village
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 24 Dec — Israeli forces demolished traditional stone walls in the Nablus village of Qusra on Wednesday, a Palestinian official said. Ghassan Daghlas, a PA official who monitors settlement activity in the northern West Bank, told Ma‘an that Israeli forces raided the village and destroyed over 400 square meters of traditional Palestinian stone walls. The walls are located near the illegal Israeli settlement of Migdalim. [Does this mean the walls forming the terraces for olive trees, or something else?]
Twilight Zone — Parted by life, parted by death: Palestinian loses child without ever meeting him
Haaretz 25 Dec by Gideon Levy & Alex Levac — Bakr Hafi is in Gaza and his wife and children are in the West Bank. Last week his infant son died, but Hafi has also been barred from attending the funeral — What measure of cruelty and hardheartedness is needed to deny a father’s request to see his critically ill infant son once in his life, and then bar him from attending the child’s funeral? That’s what the High Court of Justice – Supreme Court President Asher Grunis and Justices Zvi Zylbertal and Elyakim Rubinstein – decided with respect to a petition filed by Hamoked: The Center for the Defense of the Individual, a human rights organization, against Israel’s security authorities (“High Court rules Gazan can’t attend son’s West Bank funeral,” by Amira Hass, Dec. 17). The baby, Emir Hafi, died on December 14 from a hereditary disease in the home of his mother and grandfather, in the West Bank village of Artah [or Irtah], south of Tul Karm. A mere two-hour drive separates the home of the baby’s father, Bakr Hafi, in the Gaza Strip, and the home of his mother, Waad. Emir, who was 18 months old when he died, came into the world not only with his illness but also with parents who were forcibly separated by Israel. His father, expelled to Gaza, never got to [see his] son even once during the infant’s truncated life.
Israeli court allows oil drilling in occupied Golan Heights
IMEMC/Agencies 24 Dec — The Israeli Supreme Court ruled, Tuesday, in favor of allowing the Afek Oil Company headed by hardliner and former Minister of National Infrastructure, Effie Eitam, to dig for oil in the Israeli-occupied Syrian Golan Heights. The Court turned down an appeal by green groups demanding halting the drilling, and overturned an older ruling that stopped it. The court said “the drilling will not cause harm to nature,” while dozens of environment activists protested in front of the court building, demanding the drilling to stop, the Arabs48 News Website has reported. Israeli sources said the dispute over the drilling in the Golan Heights wasn’t about the legitimacy of digging for oil in an occupied territory, but about a struggle led by environmental activists.
Israel razes Arab land in Jaffa, evicts residents
Middle East Monitor 24 Dec — Israeli police yesterday broke into an Arab house belonging to the Qubran family in the Al-Ajami neighbourhood of Jaffa, Arabs48.com reported. The Israeli police razed trees and the garden, and handed over an eviction notice to the family ordering them to leave in order for the house to be destroyed. Israel has been putting pressure on the Arab population in Jaffa and the other cities in order to push them to leave their houses and land. Properties belonging to Arabs in the diaspora are sold to Jewish investors at auction. The Israeli Planning and Construction Committee escalated its activities against Arabs and their properties. Since the start of December, it has issued six demolition orders. Authorities also gave families in the Al-Nozha neighbourhood in Jaffa 30 days to evacuate their stores, claiming the Arabs have been using these stores illegally. The families will be forced to pay for the cost of demolition, Arabs48 said. A member of one of the families which were ordered to evacuate said the Israel Land Council refused to give them any documents leaving them unable to appeal against the eviction at the Supreme Court.
Israeli bus driver verbally abuses Muslim female students in Tel Aviv
NAZARETH (WAFA) 25 Dec – An Israeli bus driver made racist remarks on Wednesday against a group of Palestinian female students studying at the Tel Aviv University when they got on the bus, because they were wearing the Islamic attire and headscarf. In a phone call with the bus company Dan, CEO Shmuel Refaeli, Palestinian Member of the Israeli Knesset Ahmed al-Tibi Thursday condemned the incident. He demanded immediate intervention and taking the necessary measures against the driver who insulted the students. Al-Tibi reported the incident to Refaeli; he said the students who took the bus from the area near Tel Aviv University were greeted with racist comments from the driver. The latter commented on the girls’ “disgusting” look and compared them to ISIS. The incident comes nearly a month after the Palestinian bus driver, Youssef al-Ramouni, 32, was found hanged in his bus in East Jerusalem. Tensions in the city of Jerusalem and in places where Palestinians and Israeli reside are mounting following a series of killings and retaliatory actions over the course of six months. Al-Tibi demanded that the bus driver be punished for his racist comments. He informed Refaeli that someone like the driver shouldn’t be working in a public company and that bus drivers shouldn’t insult anyone on the bases of religion or nationality. According to al-Tibi’s office, Refaeli promised to resolve the situation and take strict measures against the driver.
On the other hand, you don’t have to be a Palestinian to be abused by an Israeli bus driver:
Israel woman thrown off bus by driver for having dyed blue hair
Jerusalem Post 24 Dec — Israeli Facebook users were shocked on Wednesday after a Petah Tikva woman posted a status on her account detailing how a bus driver evicted her from his vehicle because of her dyed blue hair. The woman, Nati Ni, wrote on her Facebook page that after boarding a Line 53 bus early Wednesday morning, the driver angrily returned her fare and screamed at her: “What a disgrace to the State of Israel! How do you take the color of the flag and put it on your head? You despicable person! You vile human being! Don’t you have any parents that educated you? Did you grow up with gentiles?”
Thousands gather in Bethlehem for Christmas Eve celebrations
[with photos] BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 24 Dec — Tens of thousands of Palestinian and international pilgrims crowded the streets of Bethlehem on Wednesday to mark Christmas according to the Western Christian calendar. The celebrations mark the beginning of Bethlehem’s Christmas season and were attended by visitors from around the world as well as from historic Palestine’s 200,000-strong Christian community. Worshipers gathered in Manger Square beginning before 9 a.m. but celebrations did not officially begin until the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fuad Twal, who is responsible for Palestine, Jordan, and Cyprus, arrived in Bethlehem around noon to announce the start of the Christmas celebrations. He came accompanied by thousands of local scout groups, who played music as they marched from the Israeli military checkpoint north of Bethlehem along the traditional pilgrimage route taken by Mary and Joseph en route to the Church of the Nativity, where Jesus Christ is believed to have been born. The patriarch was greeted by Palestinian officials including tourism minister Rula Maayeh and Bethlehem mayor Vera Baboun. Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch John X Yazigi later addressed the crowds assembled in Manger Square with a call for peace for people in Palestine and throughout the region … The tens of thousands assembled in the square included large numbers of Palestinian Christians from inside Israel, where around 150,000 Palestinian Christians live in addition to the 50,000 in the West Bank. Around 500 Christians from Gaza were also allowed by Israel to come to Bethlehem to attend services, a brief respite for only a small number of the approximately 1,500 Gazan Christians living under the Israeli siege … Tourism minister Rula Maayeh told Ma‘an earlier on Wednesday that despite the major setbacks faced by the local tourism industry, about 100,000 visitors were expected for this year’s Christmas season. The season includes Orthodox Christmas, which is observed by Christians of the Eastern Orthodox rite, including a majority of Palestinians, in early January.
Video: Christmas in Bethlehem gets more fascinating every year
BETHLEHEM (PNN) 24 Dec — At this time of every year, the whole world celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ with shining lights, Christmas carols, colors and winter coziness. And with the Christ being born in the little town of Bethlehem, this town has a unique essence of celebration and spirit. The Palestinian Christmas season this year aimed to deliver the message of Jesus Christ: Love and Justice, under the slogan “All I want For Christmas Is Justice”. The theme is a perfect fit for the situation , since Palestinians can barely breathe under the Israeli occupation. Still, every single shop, house and corner in Bethlehem was decorated and elegantly lighted by Christmas lights. Christmas shops thrived all over the city; selling traditional embroidery, wine, coffee, barbecues, garments and more, starting from the ‘starry’ star street, to the little neighborhoods of the old city, and ending in Manger Square where a huge tree was set, and people gathered … Mayor of Bethlehem, Vera Baboon extended warm wishes of a Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year to all people. “We wish everyone a happy new year from the city of peace. “We call again that the city of peace does not live peace, and is threatened by the construction of the new wall,” Baboon said. “In Bethlehem, Jesus Christ was born, And he said: I’m the gate for salvation.[John 10:9], but unfortunately on the northern borders there is another gate, another world. There is a world of discrimination and a wall of oppression.” “What an irony!” she added, “Till when will we as a humanity accept this irony to take place in Bethlehem?” … As a form of activity to deliver hope for Palestinians in this occasion, and to achieve the message of justice for the Holy Land, OneVoice Palestine launched a campaign called “The Land is Ours”; a campaign to support popular resistance and Palestinian statehood recognition.
‘Hear the Palestinian narrative’ in Bethlehem
JERUSALEM (Al Jazeera) 25 Dec by Creede Newton — Israeli restrictions on tourism in holy land forced Palestinian tour guides to seek other alternatives — This December, like countless before it, thousands of visitors will descend upon two of the holiest cities in the world; Bethlehem, the birthplace of Christ, and Jerusalem, the site of his execution. According to Lydia Weitzman, spokesperson for the Israeli tourism ministry, in 2013 the number of tourists reached 3.54 million, 54 percent of which was Christian tourism. About 75,000 religious pilgrims come in December alone. Palestinians say, however, that Israel has taken great lengths to hide the effects of its dominion over the Palestinian people. “The millions of tourists who come to [Israeli and the occupied Palestinian territories] every year learn nothing about the situation of Palestinians,” Hazem Bannoura, a 29-year-old native of Bethlehem and alternative tour guide, told Al Jazeera. “They have to come through Ben Gurion airport. If they have a tourist package, it’s an Israeli tour package,” he continued. “The Israelis control every aspect of tourism.” The exercise of control begins when Israeli tour buses embark from present-day Israel, crossing the Israeli separation wall that snakes across the green line … As the buses enter Palestinian territory, Israeli tour guides often get off the bus so Palestinian counterparts, contracted by Israeli tourism companies, can lead visitors through their homeland … This, however, comes at a price. Palestinians are not free to speak on certain aspects of their daily existence. “If you start talking about the wall, or politics, or refugee camps, anything related to the conflict, you will be blacklisted,” Bannoura said. “I myself am blacklisted.” The alternative tour guide said he was unaware of the reason why Israeli tour companies would no longer work with him after years of cooperation, but this snub led to his involvement with Discover Palestine, a group of local tour guides specialising in activities such as hiking, camping, biking and olive harvests throughout the occupied West Bank. … Bannoura said that restrictions on tourism in the occupied territories place a notable limit on the quality of information provided to tourists. “I am a Palestinian Christian tour guide from Bethlehem, and I cannot tell people about the Church of the Nativity,” he said, referring to the site Christians consider to be the birthplace of their saviour.
Palestinian refugees in Syria
Embassy: Around 2,500 Palestinians dead or missing in Syria war
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 25 Dec — The number of Palestinians confirmed killed in Syria during the ongoing civil conflict has reached around 1,200-1,300, while an equal number are considered missing, the Palestinian Embassy in Syria announced Thursday. The statistics reveal the devastating impact the war has had on Palestinian life in Syria, which previously was considered one of the most integrated and receptive host countries for those expelled from their homes in what became Israel in 1948. The Palestinian Embassy in Syria said that 2,200 Palestinians, meanwhile, are being held as prisoners in Syrian regime jails, though only a small percentage of those were jailed for involvement in the uprising and conflict … [PLO delegation to Syria head] Ahmad Majdalani pointed out that during the initial stages of the “crisis,” Palestinians in Syria remain relatively uninvolved. However, the turning point was when armed groups moved into Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus, directly involving the camp in the war. Their appearance in the camp, in turn, led to a siege by pro-regime forces and armed conflict, he added, which continues to consume the camp and has led to hundreds of deaths, many from starvation. After months of siege and blockade, the camp eventually stopped being a major theater of war in the conflict and deaths have fallen sharply there since the beginning of the year. But the decline in deaths also reflects the mass flight of Palestinians from Syria, and the fact that they have found themselves refugees yet again. Majdalani said that the PLO had managed to transfer thousands of Palestinian to three main camps in the wake of the destruction of several refugee camps. The more dire reality, he warned, is that many people have began fleeing the region by boat, leading to many drownings .Palestinians from Syria have represented a high proportion of the thousands of people who have died trying to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe so far this year … Prior to the conflict, up to 600,000 Palestinian refugees lived in Syria, though the UN’s Palestine refugee agency UNRWA estimates that more than half have been forced to leave their homes in Syria due to violence in the country. Between 7-800,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes inside Israel during the 1948 conflict that led to the creation of the State of Israel, and today their descendants number around five million, spread across the world. About 100,000 of the Palestinian refugees in Syria, meanwhile, are descendants of Palestinians who fled in 1948 but were forced out of their homes again in the ethnic cleansing of the Golan Heights by Israel in 1967. A smaller number fled the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and took up residence in Syria.
Palestinians recall another wall that fell
ARKADELPHIA (CounterPunch) 25 Dec by Raouf J. Halaby — December 1989, 25 years ago: As I watched the television coverage of the tearing down of the Berlin Wall [on November 9, 1989] and noted the joyous looks on the children’s faces, I celebrated with the East Germans. As a Palestinian child, I, too, lived behind a wall. In the aftermath of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war the armistice line divided the city of Jerusalem into two sectors. East Jerusalem fell to Jordan, and West Jerusalem fell to Israel. The only point of access between Jordan and Israel was through what was then known as the Mendelbum [Mandelbaum?]Gate. Unlike the classical Greek-styled Doric Columns of Brandenburg Gate, Mendelbum Gate was merely a former family residence that was located on the armistice line. The back of the house was the official checkpoint for the Israeli side; what used to be the front yard was a paved no man’s land area that led to the Jordanian checkpoint some 40 yards away. The first memory I have of Mendelbum Gate dates back to Christmas of 1949, one of the coldest Christmases Jerusalem had experienced. [Stranded in Mendelbum Gate’s no man’s land for several hours, the gate would become a symbol of oppression and apartheid for me and for millions of Palestinians.] Since Mendelbum gate was the only corridor between Israel and Jordan, it served as an access point for the United Nations forces and the international diplomatic missions and their dependents. Once a year, however, the small number of Christian Palestinian families throughout Israel, were allowed to cross through Mendelbum Gate to spend either 24 or 36 hours (depending on the military governor’s whim) with their relatives in East Jerusalem.
PA to resubmit oil drilling tender in West Bank
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 24 Dec – Minister of National Economy Mohammad Mustafa Wednesday said the government intends to resubmit an international tender for oil drilling in the West Bank’s oil fields located along the borders of 1967. The government submitted the tender last March, but the project came to a halt when Israel waged its 51-day war against the besieged Gaza Strip. The tender was put on hold and local and international companies were unable to compete. The area in question is estimated at 432 square kilometers, stretching along the western parts of the northern and central West Bank from the north of Qalqilia to the West of Ramallah. Mustafa said, “The energy bill accounts for about a quarter of the size of the Palestinian economy, which reflects the importance of the existence and implementation of energy projects in Palestine.”
The 25 most-read posts of 2014
The readers decide — +972 Magazine’s most popular posts of 2014: The largest Palestinian protest in years, a journey to Jordan’s squalid refugee camps, Israel’s very own tunnels of dread in Jerusalem, a sixth grader draws the war in Gaza, why Palestinians support Hamas during wartime and more of the year’s most-read stories and features.
ISM employee caught on a tape refusing to service West Bank settlements
Jerusalem Post 24 Dec by Tovah Lazaroff — Company spokeswoman responds to incident: “It was an error.”– Nati Ron was surprised when IBM in Israel refused to come to his home in the Shiloh settlement to fix his Lenovo computer, even though such service is part of his warranty agreement with the company and turned to the Samaria Citizens Committee, which tracks such complaints. Its director Sagi Kaizler said the committee already received a few complaints about the computer giant … “We don’t go over the Green Line,” a service representative from IBM named Shalom told him on one of the recordings … “I don’t understand this. You have a customer, who is a citizen of this country. He has the right to service,” Ron said, asking Shalom how he knew which Israeli communities could be serviced and which could not. Shalom answered that he looked up Shiloh and saw on Wikipedia that it was a settlement. Ron answered: “Are you telling me that you determine who to service based on Wikipedia?” Shalom responded: “No, based on the borders of Israel.” When Ron insisted that he lived within Israel’s borders, Shalom said he would double check the matter. He called back and said he had checked and determined that IBM did not service Shiloh.
WATCH: Rightists campaign on hate, incitement, and arrogance
+972mag 25 Dec by Mairav Zonszein — In a highly incendiary video, Likud Knesset member Danny Danon, who was fired from his position as deputy defense minister for publicly slamming Netanyahu’s “restraint” during this past summer’s assault on Gaza, has released a campaign video in which he brands himself as “the real Likud.” In the video Danon fashions himself as a no-nonsense sheriff in the Wild Wild West (Bank), whose first order of duty is to kick Haneen Zoabi out of the Knesset (which he has been gunning for since she took part in the Gaza flotilla in 2010). Zoabi is demonized as an Arab terrorist and murderer, seen in a room with posters of Hamas’ Ismail Haniyeh and former Balad leader Azmi Bishara (Bishara fled Israel after being accused of providing aid to Hezbollah in the 2006 Lebanon War). Even the song, a take on the American classic “Oh! Susanna,” is replaced by the words “Oh! Zoabi.” His entire video is based on his vendetta against a fellow Knesset member, which he manages to liken to the entire Palestinian people – who are all enemy terrorists. His message is one of hate, vengeance and intolerance … Naftali Bennett, the chairman of the Jewish Home party, also released a video this week. In it he is mockingly dressed as a hipster in central Tel Aviv, seen profusely apologizing to everyone around him even though he is the one being wronged. He apologizes to the waitress who spills his coffee, to the aggressive driver (who looks Arab – whether Jewish or not) who hits his car, and then reads an article in Haaretz, which is in fact a New York Times editorial translated into Hebrew, calling on Israel to apologize (managing to knock two liberal media outlets in one go). The moral of the story is: Israel should never apologize for anything it does – not for the hundreds of kids it killed in Gaza, not for the Palestinian demonstrators it shoots and kills at unarmed protests in the West Bank and Jerusalem, not for the countless other human rights violations it commits for which it is occasionally reprimanded by the international community, not for the settlements it builds on occupied land. And apparently not for the lost lives of Israeli soldiers and civilians. There is no vision or platform presented in the video except for a smug attitude that tells Israelis to never second guess themselves.
Hebrew University gives students day off for Christmas
JTA 25 Dec — In a first, the university also declares a vacation day for the Muslim holiday of ‘Id al-Adha — In a first, Hebrew University will give its students the day off on Christmas. There will be no classes on Thursday, December 25, a new vacation day on the university calendar. The students also had off on Sunday for Hanukkah. In addition, the university has declared a vacation day for and placed on its institutional calendar the Muslim holiday of ‘Id al-Adha, or Feast of the Sacrifice, which will next take place on September 9, 2015. “This in order to accommodate students of all religions studying at the university and to respect their holidays,” Dov Smith, the university spokesman, said in a statement. The majority of the university’s students and staff are Jewish and Muslim.