Violence / Raids / Arrests
Jewish settler runs over 7-year-old Palestinian child near Hebron
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 28 Dec — A seven-year-old Palestinian boy from the village of Zif south of Hebron was hit Sunday morning by a vehicle driven by an Israeli settler, causing him moderate wounds. Locals identified the victim of the incident as Hamada Ali Ayish Qareesh. The boy was struck by the car while trying to cross a main road. He was subsequently evacuated by an Israeli army ambulance to Soroka hospital in the city of Beersheba in southern Israel. Recent months have seen a wave of hit-and-runs against Palestinians by Jewish settlers living in the occupied West Bank, as well as reprisal car attacks in Jerusalem. In October, a settler ran over two Palestinian children as they walked near near Ramallah, killing 5-year-old Einas Khalil.
Settlers’ attacks against Palestinians and their properties continue
JENIN (WAFA) 27 Dec – Israeli settlers Saturday attacked Palestinians and their land in the West Bank districts of Jenin and Hebron, according to security sources and an activist. In Jenin, an Israeli settlement guard assaulted and beat a Palestinian shepherd and his sons while they were grazing their sheep near the settlement of Mapuduttan [Mevo Dotan], built illegally on land belonging to Palestinians in the town of Ya‘bod and Oraba [‘Arraba]. Meanwhile in Hebron [Susya], a number of settlers sprayed chemicals on Palestinian crops belonging to the family of Mohammad Musa Mughannam, destroying vast areas of land planted with barley, said coordinator of the popular committee against wall and settlements Ratib al-Jabour. He condemned the Israeli settlers’ continued targeting of Palestinians and their properties, stressing that much of these attacks are carried out under the protection and direct sight of Israeli soldiers, in an aim to force residents out of their land for the benefit of settlement expansion.
3 Hebron school employees fall ill after opening suspicious package
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 28 Dec — The principal of al-Hussein Ibn Ali school in Hebron as well as the school secretary and janitor have fallen ill after receiving a suspicious package on Sunday, a local official said. Director of the Hebron branch of the Palestinian Ministry of Education Bassam Tahboub told Ma‘an that the three school employees began suffering from nausea and dizziness immediately after opening an envelope that had arrived from Italy. “When the school principal Abd al-Muati Abu Sneina opened it in the presence of secretary Fadi Shehada and janitor Nidal al-Qawasmi, they all started to sneeze in an unusual way and they had nausea and dizziness before they were evacuated to the public hospital of Hebron,” he said. Director of the public hospital Abdullah al-Qawasmi said that the three would remain in the hospital for follow up, though he confirmed that the three are in stable condition.
They are suffering from agitation and continuous sneezing caused by a “gluey material wrapped in cellophane inside the envelope,” he said. The material has been sent to governmental laboratories to be tested and Palestinian security services have launched an investigation into the incident. This case is the third of its kind in Hebron in recent weeks. About two weeks ago, the governor of Hebron Dawood al-Zaatrai received a letter claiming to be from a Jewish organization saying that both al-Zaatari and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had been sentenced to death.
7-month-old evacuated after fainting while waiting at Allenby Bridge
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 27 Dec — A seven-month-old Palestinian baby was evacuated by helicopter Saturday morning after he passed out while his family was waiting to cross the Israeli-controlled Allenby Bridge into the West Bank from Jordan. The incident at the bridge, which is notorious for wait times of between four and 12 hours due to Israeli controls, was only resolved after an helicopter evacuated the child and his family to a Jerusalem hospital … His family was issued special permits to enter Jerusalem in order to be able to escort him, as West Bank Palestinians are not normally allowed to enter the city. Sources at the Israeli liaison said that the child, who is from the city of Tubas in the northern West Bank, had previously been treated by a Palestinian doctor in Jenin for a disorder, and he was returning from Jordan where his family was seeking treatment for him at the time of the incident. The Allenby Bridge, also known as the King Hussein Bridge, is the only link between the West Bank and the outside world. Passengers have to go through three different checks in order to cross, including a Palestinian control, an Israeli control, and a Jordanian control. Passage through the Israeli control generally includes hours of waiting as well as interrogations and extensive searches.
‘Here lies my brother’: Short video recalls life of murdered Palestinian teen
EI 24 Dec by Ali Abunimah — In this new video, friends and family remember Muhammad Abu al-Thahir, a sixteen-year-old Palestinian fatally shot by Israeli occupation forces six months ago, and talk about what his loss means to them. It opens with Abu al-Thahir’s nine-year-old brother Omar visiting his big brother’s grave. “Here lies my brother, the Israeli occupation killed him,” Omar says. Muhammad Abu al-Thahir was a brilliant soccer player who used to train his younger brother. “My brain cannot function when I think of him,” Omar says. The short, moving video titled Here Lies my Brother is produced by Defense for Children International–Palestine (DCI-Palestine). His mother speaks of the family’s ongoing agony. “I weep sometimes when I’m alone or at night or when I see Muhammad’s belongings,” she says. She keeps and refuses to wash the trousers he was wearing … Muhammad Abu al-Thahir was shot and killed with live ammunition fired by Israeli occupation forces on 15 May in the West Bank village of Beitunia. About an hour before Abu al-Thahir was killed, another teen, Nadim Nuwara, was fatally shot in almost exactly the same spot. A third boy, Muhammad al-Azzeh, was shot in the chest, but survived … Six months after his death, no one has been charged in the killing of Abu al-Thahir, prompting DCI-Palestine to launch its online campaign “No More Forgotten Lives.”
Otherwise occupied / Israel says beaten activists should blame themselves
Haaretz 29 Dec by Amira Hass — Last Thursday the Jerusalem Magistrates Court held a preliminary and brief deliberation on a damages suit filed by three Ta‘ayush activists against the state, on the grounds that soldiers and officers attacked them, arrested them on false pretenses and lied outright. The state denies the details described in the suit and claims that the activists themselves are to blame for the physical and psychological damage caused to them – or at the very least, share the blame. For nearly 15 years now Ta‘ayush (‘Living together’) activists have been accompanying Palestinian farmers and shepherds whom settlers, mainly in the southern West Bank, are making a concerted effort to expel from their lands. This is not the first time the activists have reported violence on the part of soldiers toward the Palestinians and toward them, and have documented this with their cameras. But the attack on May 30, 2012 on land of the Palestinian village of Teqoa‘ [or Taqu‘] was, in their opinion, especially brutal. Therefore the activists did not content themselves with the closing of the investigation opened against them on the basis of false claims by the soldiers to the effect that they, the activists, had supposedly entered a closed military zone and attacked the soldiers. Nor did they content themselves with the indictment filed by the state in October 2012 against a settler named Shilo Kinarti, from the settlement of Tekoa, on the charge of having beaten up Ali Hajahja from the village of Teqoa, “hitting him hard in the abdomen with his fist.” In February of this year attorney Eitay Mack filed the damages suit on behalf of three Ta‘ayush activists – Guy Butavia, Guy Hirshfeld and Ezra Nawi. The subject of the suit is the soldiers’ violence, prima facie, which can be summarized under six headings: Violence … Turning a blind eye to settler violence … Encouraging settler violence … Lying in order to evict the farmers from their land … Curses and threats … False accusations … Judge Keren Azulay expressed surprise that the defense brief, which was signed by attorney Moshe Willinger of the Jerusalem District Prosecutor’s Office, does not deal with the claims in the activists’ suit – which are backed by documents and photographs – and does not provide any positive version of the incident. She allotted him 60 days to clarify the details again with the various parties and to try to reach agreement with the claimants about the details, or some of them. The next court session is slated for April, 2015.
How New York Times conceals Israeli violence against Palestinians
EI 26 Dec by Ali Abunimah — Two recent stories in The New York Times involve violence against Palestinian and Israeli children. But it is striking how differently the stories are treated based on the identity of the victim. The first, from today, is headlined “Israeli Girl Severely Wounded in Firebomb Attack in West Bank.” The second, from November, is headlined “Palestinian Shot by Israeli Troops at Gaza Border.” Both are by Isabel Kershner. Today’s report begins: “JERUSALEM — An 11-year-old Israeli girl was severely wounded on Thursday when a firebomb was thrown at the car in which she was traveling with her father in the West Bank, the Israeli military said. Troops were searching for the assailants, believed to be Palestinians, in the area of the attack, near the Jewish settlement of El Matan…” Note how Kershner says the assailants are “believed to be” Palestinians – belief, not evidence. She also names the girl’s father and says he suffered light injuries, and quotes her mother. The report then provides this, presumably as context: “There has been an uptick in Palestinian attacks against Israelis in recent weeks, including deadly assaults in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the Israeli-occupied West Bank. The violence has been fanned in part by a dispute over a revered holy site in Jerusalem.” Nowhere does the report state that there has been relentless violence by Israeli occupation forces and settlers against Palestinians. The mention of a “revered holy site” also suggests the violence is religious and irrational in nature. It also erases the fact that Palestinians are subject to systematic Israeli violence, including ongoing home demolitions, forced displacement and land theft.
Israeli soldiers raid Hebron school in search of two students
BETHLEHEM (WAFA) 28 Dec – Israeli soldiers Sunday raided a boys’ school in the town of al-Khader to the south of Bethlehem in search of two students, according to witnesses. They told WAFA that a number of soldiers raided the school yard and the principal’s office in a brutal manner in search of the two students, spreading panic and fear among other students. The teaching staff prevented the soldiers from coming near the students and forced them out of the school. Israeli forces often target schools and other educational facilities; Israel tends to use force against students and teaching staff in violation of international law. “Fifty-eight education-related incidents affecting 11,935 children were reported in the West Bank in 2013, resulting in damage to school facilities, interruption of classes and injury to children,” according to the United Nations Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict website. It reported that “Forty-one incidents involved Israeli security forces operations near or inside schools, forced entry without forewarning, the firing of tear gas canisters and sound bombs into school yards and, in some cases, structural damage to schools.”
Israel summons seven for interrogation. blocks off entry to Jerusalem village
BETHLEHEM (WAFA) 27 Dec – Israeli forces Saturday summoned seven Palestinians ranging between the ages of 14 and 21 to appear before the Israeli intelligence for interrogation, as well as closed off the entrance of the village of Beit Ikksa, northwest of Jerusalem, according to local and security sources. Sources told WAFA that Israeli forces handed seven Palestinians notices to appear for interrogation after detaining them at the Israeli military checkpoint located at the northern entrance of the town of al-Taqou‘, east of Bethlehem; six of whom are from al-Amour family. They six were identified as Mohammad, 14, Hamza, 16, Loay, 18, Mousa, 20, Ahmad, 21, and Alaa, 19. Forces also handed Khalil Tanooh a similar notice.
Meanwhile, Israeli soldiers closed off the military checkpoint placed at the entrance of the village of Beit Iksa to the northwest of Jerusalem, preventing Palestinians from crossing to enter the village, thus isolating it from surrounding villages. Forces only allowed the village’s residents to enter, while prevented the rest from crossing, noting that this military checkpoint is considered the only way to get to Ramallah and al-Bireh.
Shin Bet confirms arrest of 2 for Molotov cocktail attack near ‘Azzun
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 28 Dec — Two Palestinians suspected of throwing a Molotov cocktail that wounded an Israeli settler and his 11-year-old daughter were arrested in the West Bank overnight Friday, the Shin Bet security service said Saturday. The two, including a 16-year-old, were detained hours after the incident at ‘Azzun village in the northern West Bank, a Shin Bet statement said. Another 12 Palestinians were also arrested in army sweeps in the area in pursuit of the two suspects. The Shin Bet said the two Palestinians hid in ambush above the road separating the Maale Shomeron settlement from ‘Azzun before throwing the petrol bomb at a car belonging to the Israeli settler and his daughter. The vehicle caught fire and the girl was gravely injured. She was still being treated in hospital late on Saturday, Israeli media reported. Her father suffered light injuries in the attack. 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.
Israeli forces detain 2 Palestinians in Jerusalem
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 27 Dec — Two Palestinian teens were detained in clashes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Wadi al-Joz Friday evening. Witnesses told Ma’an that Israeli undercover forces raided the area and arrested a Palestinian after beating him. Palestinian youths burnt tires and threw firecrackers at Israeli police cars stationed at the entrance to the neighborhood. Elsewhere, Israeli police detained Hamada Dauwod Naser, 13, as he was walking near Damascus Gate in the Old City towards his home. Naser’s brother Mohammad had been detained on Thursday evening but released on bail with a sentence for two days under under house arrest on Friday. Israeli police also released Palestinian child Muslim Odeh and youth Mohammad Sharawneh after detaining them for hours at the Russian Compound (al-Moskobiya) detention center.
Israeli forces detain 2 Palestinians in dawn raid on Halhul
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 28 Dec — Israeli troops carried out a dawn raid Sunday in the southern West Bank city of Halhul and detained two Palestinian men after ransacking their homes. Locals told Ma‘an that Israeli intelligence officers and soldiers detained Islam Iyad al-Saada and Thaer Jamal Zamaarah from Halhul, north of Hebron.
Israeli forces detain 4 Palestinians in East Jerusalem
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 28 Dec — Israeli forces detained four Palestinian men after storming several neighborhoods in East Jerusalem early on Sunday morning, a local official told Ma’an. Amjad Abu Asab of the East Jerusalem Committee of Prisoners’ Families identified the detainees as 50-year-old man Sari al-Abbasi as well as Hamza al-Abbasi, Muhammad Yasser abu al-Hawa, and Fahd Shalabi.
Detainees’ committee: Israel arrested 6,059 Palestinians in 2014
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 28 Dec — The Detainees and ex-Detainees Affairs Committee said that Israeli occupation forces have arrested 6,059 Palestinians, including children, since the beginning of 2014 from various West Bank districts, with two arrest cases reported on Sunday. Head of the Committee’s statistics department Abd al-Nasir Farawneh said since the beginning of 2014 Israeli forces conducted daily arrest campaigns against all age groups; children were no exception. He explained that the scale of arrests increased significantly following the alleged kidnapping of three settlers on June 12; an average of 505 arrest cases were reported each month, almost 17 arrest cases daily. Farawneh revealed statistics which show that the rate of arrests in 2014 is higher by 56% from rate documented in 2013, higher than that in 2012 by 57.5%, and higher by 83% than in 2011; which indicates a significant rise in arrest numbers recorded annually during the past four years.
‘Gush Etzion’ stabbing suspect’s medical condition remains critical
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 28 Dec — Palestinian Prisoner’s Club (PPC) lawyer reported that the medical condition of female detainee, 21-year-old Amal Takatka from Beit Fajjar southeast of Bethlehem and currently admitted at Hadassah University Hospital, remains critical. Takatka was arrested a month ago under the pretext of attempting to stab an Israeli settler at the Gush Etzion junction. She was shot multiple times and underwent few surgeries in the chest, waist and left leg. Upon her arrest, media sources said that Takatka’s condition is serious. PPC’s lawyer said that she is expected to undergo another surgery on her hand soon. Takatka was on her way to the city of Hebron to buy accessories and supplies in preparation for her wedding in few weeks, said Palestinian media sources. Her mother said, quoting eyewitnesses present at the scene, that when her daughter got off the taxi, an Israeli settler started yelling ‘shoot her, shoot her’. An Israeli soldier shot three bullets; the first in her leg and the next two in her chest and waist. Her father said in an interview with Wattan TV, ‘They prosecuted my daughter who just wanted to live.’ Takatka’s family home was raided and vandalized by Israeli soldiers, who also assaulted her father and fiancé, who is also her cousin. Her fiancé’s mother said that Takatka was just a bride who was happy that she is getting married. The settler who claimed that Takatka attempted to kill him suffered very minor injuries and refused any immediate medical treatment.
Israel bans jailed leader from receiving visits for another 3 months
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 28 Dec — Israeli Prison Services on Saturday banned Ahmad Saadat, the secretary-general of the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine party currently being held in detention, from receiving visitors for three months. Saadat has been banned from receiving visitors since September, meaning that at the end of the new ban he will have been kept from receiving visitors a total of six months. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine said in response that the decision is part of ongoing Israeli policies that target prisoners generally and the leaders of prisoners specifically. Saadat has been held by Israel since 2006, when it raided a Palestinian prison in Jericho where he was being held and captured him to widespread criticism, Saadat was being held in the prison as part of an agreement by Palestinian authorities with Israel, who claimed he was involved in the killing of the Israeli tourism minister in 2001 that took place in response to the assassination of the previous secretary-general of the PFLP. In 2008, Israel re-sentenced Saadat to 30 years in prison in a military trial for involvement in an “illegal terrorist organization” after holding him for two years without trial. Since then, he has been repeatedly placed in solitary confinement and restricted from receiving any visitors, including family.
Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing
Activists attempt to construct protest village on confiscated lands
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 27 Dec — Palestinian popular resistance activists in the southern West Bank on Saturday attempted to build a tent village near the Jewish settlement of Gush Etzion in protest against Israeli confiscation of Palestinian lands. Dozens of Palestinians and foreign activists took part in a march near the town of Beit Fajjar to mark the beginning of the protest village, which was erected on lands Israel has declared its intention to confiscate. During the protest, however, Israeli forces arrived in the area and prevented the marchers from reaching the confiscated lands. Coordinator of the Popular Resistance Committees in the southern West Bank, Muhammad Mheisen, said that the village would be named after slain Palestinian official Minister Ziad Abu Ein, who died after being assaulted by Israeli soldiers during a demonstration in the village of Turmusayya near Ramallah in early December. Mheisen added that the village is being constructed in protest against Israeli land confiscation, which has accelerated markedly in the second half of this year. Since the beginning of the 1967 occupation of the West Bank, Israel has confiscated hundreds of thousands of dunums by declaring it state land.
Israeli bulldozers raze wheat crops near Nablus
NABLUS (WAFA) 28 Dec – Israeli bulldozers Sunday razed agricultural land belonging to Palestinians in Khirbet al-Taweel, a locale to the south of Nablus, according to a local activist. Member of the anti-settlement committee in Aqraba, Yousif Dirieh, told WAFA Israeli bulldozers razed dunums of land planted with wheat crops in the locale, destroying the harvest. They also set up earth mounds in the area as a prelude to conduct military training exercises there. Israeli forces follow a systematic policy of targeting agricultural land, which is considered the main livelihood of Palestinians, as an attempt to tighten the nooze on residents to force them to leave their land as a prelude to seizing it for the benefit of settlement expansion.
3 Palestinians injured after Israeli forces fire at protesters in Gaza
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 28 Dec — Three Palestinians were injured on Sunday afternoon after Israeli forces opened fire on protesters close to the Erez crossing on the border with Israel in the northern Gaza Strip. Witnesses told Ma‘an that Israeli troops fired gunshots at dozens of young protestors who approached the border fence after they partook in a rally in the area protesting the ongoing siege and demanding reconstruction of the Gaza Strip. As a result, three young men sustained gunshot injuries, one of whom was hit in the thigh. He was evacuated to a hospital in nearby Beit Hanoun … The attack came as hundreds rallied across the Gaza Strip demanding reconstruction in the war-torn coastal enclave and protesting against Israel’s crippling siege, which has been in place for the last seven years. The largest rally took place at the entrance to the Shujaiyya neighborhood of Gaza City, which was devastated by Israel’s 51-day-long summer assault that destroyed tens of thousands of homes and left nearly 110,000 Palestinians homeless. Other rallies took place in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, Bani Suheila and Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip, as well as near the Erez crossing close to Beit Hanoun, where Israeli soldiers opened fire on marchers. Witnesses said that protesters called upon Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to come to Gaza to supervise the reconstruction process, and called upon the international community to ensure progress is made. Protesters are angry that despite Israeli promises made when the ceasefire was signed in August, the siege of Gaza continues….
Israeli border guards fire at farmers near Khan Younes
KHAN YOUNES (WAFA) 28 Dec – Israeli border guards stationed at the Khan Younes eastern borders Sunday fired at Palestinian farmers who were farming their land, said WAFA correspondent. Israeli soldiers fired live ammunition at the farmers who were working in their land which is close to the buffer zone. According to ReliefWeb, the Israeli military has issued orders prohibiting any Palestinian presence on the land within Gaza abutting the territory’s perimeter fence, currently up to 300 meters from the fence, but Israeli forces have frequently shot at Palestinians beyond that distance. United Nations’ figures indicate that Israeli military forces have killed four and wounded more than 60 civilians near the perimeter fence with Gaza since the beginning of 2014. Israeli forces target farmers along the borders almost on daily basis, breaching the ceasefire agreement reached in Cairo on August 26th.According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the buffer zone eats up about 44% of Gaza’s territory. The Gaza Strip has a population of 1,760,037 in an area amounting to 365 sq. km, according to the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics. The Palestinian daily al-Quds published news on 162 breaches of the ceasefire agreement with Hamas, which was signed four months ago to end a 51-day war on the Gaza Strip. The violations documented by the International Federation included eight incidents of land razing and illegal entry in Khan Younes and 29 incidents of firing live ammunition at farmers, especially north of the Gaza Strip. The report also documented seven injuries and two deaths among civilians. http://english.wafa.ps/index.php?action=detail&id=27412
Hamas prevents Gaza children from going on ‘normalizing’ Israel tour
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 28 Dec — Hamas security forces in the Gaza Strip on Sunday prevented 37 children of Palestinians killed in Israel’s latest offensive from entering Israel for a visit coordinated by an Israeli group. Sources on the Palestinian side of the Erez crossing, where the children were supposed to cross into Israel from, said that the children had obtained permits from Israel to leave the besieged coastal enclave for a week to visit Israel and the West Bank for one week. When the children arrived at the crossing on Sunday morning, however, Hamas-affiliated security services ordered them to go back home. Israeli media reported that the 37 children in the group had lost their fathers during Israel’s summer assault on Gaza that left nearly 2,200 dead, and that some of the fathers were affiliated with Hamas. Israeli news site Yediot Ahronoth quoted Hamas spokesman Iyad al-Buzm as saying the children were prevented from traveling in order to stop an attempt at “normalizing relations with Israel.” The site also quoted an Israeli affiliated with the Kibbutz movement as saying that during the trip the children were going to be brought to Israeli cities near the border with Gaza to meet Israeli counterparts, in addition to a visit to Ramallah to see President Mahmoud Abbas. The Kibbutz movement refers to the collective Jewish-only settlements first founded during the British Mandate period in Palestine to begin the Jewish colonization of the land and the gradual displacement of Palestinians. Normalization refers to the act of engaging with Israel or Israelis in a way that suggests an equivalence between the two sides or any recognition of Israel’s existence as a “normal” state. Advocates of anti-normalization instead consider Israel as an occupying colonial power and believe it a duty to resist, as they say attempts at dialogue with Israel have widely failed and have merely been used as a cover by Israel to entrench its control of Palestine and Palestinians. Normalization is widely frowned upon by Palestinians, especially the Hamas movement, but is selectively promoted by the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority government in Ramallah.
Explosion hits beauty salon in northern Gaza Strip
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 27 Dec — An explosion rocked a women’s beauty salon in the town of Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip early Saturday morning. Witnesses said that the explosion, the result of an explosive device placed at the salon, was heard widely in the town. No injuries were reported in the explosion. It was not immediately clear whether the explosion was the result of an accident or whether the salon was targeted.
Egypt prepares to destroy 1,200 homes for Rafah border zone
CAIRO (Ma‘an) 27 Dec — An Egyptian committee has finished surveying the homes of individuals living between 500-1,000 meters of the Gaza border in preparation for the extension of a buffer zone on the border to a width of 1,000 meters, Egyptian military sources said Friday. The move comes after the destruction of hundreds of homes inside the 500-meter area previously, as part of a wider effort to ensure that the joint Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the Gaza Strip be fully carried out. The technical engineering committee that carried out the survey examined around 1,200 homes in the area in preparation for their demolition in the 13-kilometer long stretch of border territory. Work on the buffer zone on the Egyptian side began in Feb. 2014, but was at the time slated to extend only about 300 meters in urban areas and 500 in rural areas. After a bombing killed more than 30 Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai in October, however, the military stepped up the campaign to build the buffer zone amid accusations of Hamas support for the group that carried out the attack, which Hamas has strenuously denied.
Political, other news
Palestine marks 6th anniversary of 2008-9 Israeli assault on Gaza
[See VIDEO in this IMEMC article – warning, very graphic] GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 27 Dec — Palestinians around the world on Saturday commemorated the sixth anniversary of the beginning of Israel’s 22-day offensive on the Gaza Strip in 2008-9 that left more than 1,400 dead. This year’s commemorations take place in the shadow of another Israeli offensive over summer — the third major assault in six years — that left nearly 2,200 Palestinians dead and 110,000 homeless. Until this year, the 2008-9 assault was the bloodiest sustained Israeli assault on Palestinians since 1967, with more than 80 percent of victims thought to have been civilians. The offensive, known by its Israeli moniker ‘Cast Lead’, began on Dec. 27, 2008 around 11:30 a.m., when Israeli warplanes launched more than 100 airstrikes on Gaza simultaneously. The airstrikes killed hundreds of police officers and civilians, including dozens of police cadets who were attending their graduation ceremony, and injured more than 2,000 Gazans on the first day alone. On Jan. 3, 2009, meanwhile, an Israeli ground offensive began around 9 p.m., with Israeli soldiers, artillery, tanks, and other units raiding the Gaza Strip by land as the assault continued by air and sea. Israeli forces famously used a number of internationally-banned weapons such as white phosphorus, a chemical that enters the body and burns the skin from the inside. More than 5,500 Palestinians were injured in the assault while around 50,000 were displaced. Israel launched the attack at the conclusion of a six-month ceasefire with Hamas that it repeatedly violated, despite Hamas’ general adherence. On Nov. 4, a month and a half before Cast Lead began, Israel launched an unprovoked attack on Gaza that left six Hamas members dead and led to a number of Palestinian rocket firings into Israel. Critics pointed out that the attack was carried out on the same day as the US elections and went nearly unreported in the international media. Cast Lead itself, meanwhile, was launched in the media lull between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. The utter devastation of Cast Lead was previously unimaginable in Gaza, which — despite having survived decades of Israeli military occupation — had never before been so viciously assaulted from air, land, and sea. Cast Lead is also considered one of the first wars in modern history from which there was no possibility of flight or refuge, as both Israel and Egypt kept the border with Gaza tightly sealed, preventing Gaza’s 1.7 million residents from escaping. The scenes would be repeated again only three years later, however, when Israel launched an assault in Nov. 2012 that killed around 160 Palestinians, the majority of whom were civilians.
European campaign in solidarity with Gaza launched
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 28 Dec — Activities in solidarity with the Gaza Strip called for by the European Campaign to End the Siege of Gaza were launched in several European cities on Saturday to mark the sixth anniversary of the Israeli offensive on Gaza in 2008-2009. The group said in a statement on Saturday that the campaign was launched in London, Berlin, and Granada in solidarity with those under siege in the Gaza Strip as well as demanding the opening of the Rafah crossing and the reconstruction of Gaza. The campaign also calls for Israel to allow Gazans to fulfill their right to have a seaport connecting them with the rest of the world, which Israel denies them. Activities were also held in Vienna, Austria and Hamburg, Germany on Thursday and Friday condemning the Israeli siege on Gaza. The electronic European campaign also launched on Saturday using the hashtags #OpenGazaPort, #GazaUnderRubble and #OpenRafahBorder in seven languages.
Hamas chief lauds Turkey as ‘source of power’ for Muslims
ANKARA (AFP) 27 Dec — Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal on Saturday praised Turkey as a “source of power” for all Muslims in gratitude to Turkey’s leaders for supporting the Palestinian cause. “A democratic, stable and developed Turkey is a source of power for all Muslims,” Meshaal said in an address to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) annual congress in the conservative central Anatolian city of Konya. Meshaal said a “strong Turkey means a strong Jerusalem, a strong Palestine,” voicing hopes to “liberate Palestine and Jerusalem,” according to the state-run Anatolia news agency. His brief address was interrupted repeatedly by cheering crowds in the hall waving Turkish and Palestinian flags and chanting: “Allahu Akbar (God is greatest)” and “Down with Israel!”
Hamas official: Unity gov’t ‘deliberately impeding’ reconstruction
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 28 Dec — Senior Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzouq on Saturday slammed the Palestinian national consensus government for failing to take charge in the besieged coastal enclave, accusing it of “deliberately impeding the reconstruction of Gaza Strip.” Abu Marzouq said that donor countries had stopped allocating money to Gaza because of the lack of a “real government” to assume responsibilities, and he placed the blame squarely on the Fatah-led PA authorities based in Ramallah for refusing to carry out their responsibilities toward the Gaza Strip in light of the coalition government. The statements, which came during a panel organized Saturday evening by trade unions in the central Gaza Strip, highlight growing anger in Gaza at the slow pace of reconstruction and the lack of real change since a unity government between Palestine’s two rival parties was formed over summer. Abu Marzouq placed the blame for the lack of progress squarely on the shoulders of PA-based authorities, condemning their largesse while noting their continued failure to pay the salaries of PA employees in Gaza on time … “Despite the long strike by doctors and cleaning companies in Gaza, neither president Mahmoud Abbas, nor the prime minister nor his deputy sympathized with the crisis,” he said, referencing a series of protests by medical workers in the Strip angered at major delays in salary payments despite the amount of overtime work they put in during Israel’s nearly two-month long summer assault … UN draft a ‘document of disgrace’ Abu Marzouq’s comments, however, did not only focus on the unity government’s internal policies, but also extended to President Abbas’ campaign for a UN resolution confirming Palestinians statehood within the 1967 borders … Abu Marzouq also accused a senior Fatah official of making false claims about Gaza and trying to paint the Strip as a lawless den of terrorists. “Member of the Fatah central committee Azzam al-Ahmad waved a piece of paper on media outlets claiming it contains a list of criminals who carry out bombings in Sinai Peninsula and run away into the Gaza Strip. We checked with the Egyptians and they affirmed that Azzam al-Ahmad has no such a list and the paper he waves is blank and empty.” The accusation is a serious one, particularly in light of Egypt’s crackdown on the Gaza border using accusations of Hamas collusion with anti-government militant groups in the Sinai Peninsula, which Hamas strenuously denies. The Fatah movement, however, did not stay silent in response to Abu Marzouq’s tirade, releasing a statement on Sunday accusing the Hamas official of attempting to mislead public opinion. “It is shameful for Abu Marzouq to continue to fabricate the facts. It is done mainly to acquit yourself, your movement, and Israel from what is going on in Gaza and take the easiest path by blaming the president, the Fatah movement, and the government, as you always do,” Fatah spokesman Osama al-Qawasmi said in a statement….
Eight Palestinian ministers to head to Gaza Monday
AFP 28 Dec — Eight Palestinian unity government ministers are to travel to Gaza from its West Bank base on Monday for only the second time since its formation in June, a minister said. The government was the fruit of an April reconciliation deal between the Islamist Hamas movement and the Fatah organisation of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas. But Abbas has repeatedly complained that Hamas has prevented it asserting its authority in Gaza, where the Islamists have been dominant since ousting Fatah loyalists in 2007. The eight ministers are travelling to Gaza to “carry out their duties”, labour minister Mamun Abu Shahla said. He said security concerns sparked by a spate of bombings targeting the property of Fatah officials in Gaza early last month had prevented them from doing so sooner. Abu Shahla said that prime minister Rami Hamdallah, who canceled a planned visit to Gaza in the wake of the bombings, would not accompany the ministers. “His duties have kept him in Ramallah where he is continuing talks with an Arab state which is soon going to disburse a large sum for the reconstruction of Gaza,” the minister said.
Fatah to celebrate 50th anniversary of establishment in Gaza
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 27 Dec — The Fatah movement in the Gaza Strip on Saturday said it was planning to hold celebrations on the 50th anniversary of the movement at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Gaza this week. The announcement comes after celebrations marking the 10th anniversary of the death of Yasser Arafat in Gaza were canceled in November, after a series of explosions targeted Fatah leaders in the Hamas-led coastal enclave. The Fatah branch in Gaza called upon Palestinians in a statement to take part in “lighting the flame” for the movement in the square on Wednesday, Dec. 31. The group said that all activities celebrating the anniversary of the establishment had been approved by Fatah’s central leadership.
PA consultations on UN statehood bid enter home stretch
Haaretz 28 Dec by Jack Khoury — Senior Palestinian Authority officials said that final consultations about the United Nations Security Council draft resolution calling for an end to the occupation and recognition of 1967 lines as the basis for any peace agreement with Israel would begin Monday. The officials said consultations would continue until Wednesday. One figure said that, as of Saturday night, the official Palestinian position was to seek a vote on the resolution on Wednesday if they were guaranteed nine votes at the Security Council – even if the United States planned to veto the resolution. It remains unclear how the permanent members of the council plan to vote, and the Palestinians are not guaranteed majority support for their resolution. If the Palestinian bid at the council fails, the official said, the Palestinians intend to seek membership in other global organizations and agencies, including the International Criminal Court at The Hague. “This is the official position of the Palestinian leadership, and that is why this week will be decisive for this matter,” the official said. Meanwhile, there are those who believe that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas – who is being pressured simultaneously to seek an immediate vote and to postpone it until early next year or after Israeli elections in March – has not made a final decision about the draft resolution.
Hamas leader condemns Abbas UN draft resolution
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 27 Dec — A Hamas leader on Saturday said that the draft resolution in favor of Palestinian statehood presented to the UN Security Council was “disastrous,” and that it has “no future in the land of Palestine.” The leader’s statements come amid growing criticism at home of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ push for the UN to recognize Palestine as a state, as some have called the move a symbolic gesture that distracts from the larger struggle to end the Israeli occupation. Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahhar, however, took a different approach, saying in a statement that Hamas would not accept the resolution because of its focus on the 1967 borders, and not on the entirety of historic Palestine, which includes the lands where Israel today sits. He said that the movement will only accept the complete borders of the 1948 lands and that the movement refuses to consider allowing to be Jerusalem a capital for both Palestinian and Israeli states. The statement points to the uphill battle Abbas has at convincing the Palestinian public that pushing the resolution is a useful move, even as he is confronted by pro-Israeli pressure abroad.
Haniyeh says Hamas committed to ceasefire as long as Israel is
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 26 Dec — Deputy head of the Hamas political bureau Ismail Haniyeh said on Friday that the group is committed to the ceasefire with Israel but called for international attention to ensure Israel abide by its terms. “We are committed to what was agreed on in Cairo as long as the occupation is,” he said in a statement to the press. He said that Hamas was contacting Egypt and other outside parties to ensure Israel uphold its side of the bargain, which includes a partial lifting of the seven-year-old siege of Gaza that has not come to pass. Haniyeh also called on Egypt to permanently open the Rafah crossing, assuring the country’s authorities that “the security and stability of Egypt is our priority.”
The town with three Christmas Days
BETHLEHEM (BBC News) 28 Dec by Yolande Knell — Christmas comes but once a year – unless you live in Bethlehem, where three different Christian denominations celebrate on three different days — …The Catholics lead processions along the traditional pilgrimage route from Jerusalem to the Nativity Church ahead of their Christmas on 25 December. But now attention switches to the Greek Orthodox, who make up the majority of Palestinian Christians. Their Christmas Day falls on 7 January. The 13 day difference is explained by calendars. While the Latin church switched to the Gregorian calendar, devised by Pope Gregory in the 16th Century, the Eastern Orthodox churches still use the older, Julian calendar – created during the reign of Julius Caesar in 45 BC. What makes the situation in the Holy Land really unusual is that Armenians here wait even longer for Christmas. Their feast isn’t until 18 January. On each Christmas Eve, Bethlehem gives a warm welcome to church patriarchs and priests when they enter Manger Square. And as waiting crowds of the faithful munch chocolate Santas and sip at sahlab – a hot Ottoman-era drink made from orchids – it’s the marching bands that keep them entertained … Many Palestinian Christians see themselves as custodians of Christmas and its colourful traditions. The dwindling number of Christians in the Holy Land adds a sense of urgency to their celebrations. Nowadays many young people in the West Bank choose to emigrate because of the difficult economic and social conditions created by Israel’s occupation. In the quiet of Beit Jala’s Virgin Mary church, where the air’s thick with incense, Father George reflects that this time of year carries spiritual and political significance. “When we celebrate we show the world that Bethlehem’s a peaceful, safe city,” he says. “This is the birthplace of Christ and we’re the oldest congregation in the world. If we don’t light our trees and hang decorations here, then we’ll die out.”
New horizons for refugee women in the West Bank
ReliefWeb from UNRWA 26 Dec — Female entrepreneurs from camps across the West Bank exhibited 3,000 examples of traditional Palestinian products such as embroidery and soap at a bazaar in Nazareth earlier this month, in coordination with the UNRWA Relief and Social Services Programme’s woman’s department. “This bazaar opens new horizons for women and a new opportunity to reach out to other markets. Marketing alone is not enough, and communication is an important tool. Our presence today here in Nazareth cuts through distances,” said Deputy Director of UNRWA Operations in the West Bank David Hutton during the opening ceremony of the event. The bazaar, themed ‘Hand-in-hand to support female refugee entrepreneurship’, was well received by the local Nazareth community. Nazareth Mayor Salem Shararah welcomed attendees, highlighting the Nazareth community’s support for women, and the importance of handicrafts as a source of income for many Palestinian families. The bazaar created 223 part time job opportunities for women, including 25 women with special needs. It also provided women with 194 training opportunities in embroidery and handicraft production. Twelve women’s programme centres participated in the event.
High Court hears petition against law raising electoral threshold
Haaretz 29 Dec by Revital Hovel — Raising threshold from 2% to 3.25% effectively means Arab parties need to run in joint slates to gain Knesset representation — The High Court of Justice heard a petition Sunday morning against the law passed last March that raised the electoral threshold to 3.25 percent. If the High Court lets the new law go into effect for the March 2015 election, it means any party that does not receive at least 3.25 percent of all votes cast will not enter the Knesset. During the hearing, Justice Salim Joubran called the law superfluous, noting, “The majority in the country is measured by its relationship to the minority.” The petition was filed by two Israeli citizens, joined by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and Adalah – the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel. “How will Israel look in the world when it does not have Arab slates in the Knesset?” asked Joubran. “Could this cause the Arab citizen not to vote, now they are telling him the idea of unity does not find favor in their eyes? He will say his worldview is different, it creates a problem.” Justice Esther Hayut said the law “raises difficulties and discomfort,” while Justice Elyakim Rubinstein noted that if one examined the history of the Arab vote in Israel, then almost all the Arab parties would not be in the next Knesset under the new parliamentary election threshold….
The plight of the Palestinian laborer / Gideon Levy
Haaretz 28 Dec — Poverty and unemployment in the West Bank – a direct result of the occupation – drive Palestinian laborers to endure the pain and humiliation of working in Israel — Israelis see them and they don’t see them. They are on the scaffold of the building going up next to ours. We see them and we don’t see them. We have no idea what they endure and we don’t care. The people who build our homes and pave our roads left their own homes at around 2 A.M. last night. They will return in the evening, after a long, exhausting day of work, nearly 24 hours of hard labor, hard traveling and humiliation. Tonight they will again leave their homes for jobs in Israel. While some Israelis come to work bleary-eyed because their baby woke them up two or three times during the night, these people know no day or night. They are divided into the lucky and the unlucky. A few tens of thousands have work permits for Israel — 47,350 as of March — and a few tens of thousands sneak in without permits. Those with permits travel this Via Dolorosa each night; those who sneak in will stay at the construction site for two or three weeks, passing long, cold nights in fear of getting caught. They are the illegals. If caught they will be treated like hunted animals. After a few hours of questioning they will be dumped on the other side of the checkpoint, like garbage. Sometimes they will be arrested or fined. They will return. They have no choice. Some pay with their lives for this journey in search of work. They come to Israel on account of the poverty and unemployment of the West Bank, which are the direct result of the closure and the occupation imposed by Israel. Their working and living conditions are worse even than those of sweatshop workers in the Far East. There once can at least fall asleep at one’s machine, the (miserable) quarters are next to the factory and there are no “illegals.” It is doubtful that Chinese workers are humiliated the way their Palestinian counterparts are, even if the Palestinians are paid much more. Israel needs them and knows how to exploit their weakness….