Thirty international aid agencies: ‘We must not fail in Gaza’
GAZA (WAFA) 26 Feb – United Nations agencies and international NGOs operating in Gaza Thursday said they are alarmed by the limited progress in rebuilding the lives of those affected and tackling the root causes of the conflict in the Gaza Strip. A total of 30 international aid agencies, said that the aid work must not fail in Gaza. “We must realize the vision of making Gaza a livable place and a cornerstone of peace and security for all in the region.” Six months have passed since a ceasefire on 26 August 2014 ended over seven weeks of fighting between Israeli forces and Palestinians, however the Israeli-imposed blockade continues, the political process, along with the economy, are paralyzed, and living conditions have worsened. The international community is not providing Gaza with adequate assistance. Little of the $5.4 billion pledged in Cairo has reached Gaza and the cash assistance to families who lost everything has been suspended and other crucial aid is unavailable due to lack of funds. A return to hostilities is inevitable if progress is not made and the root causes of conflict are not addressed, said the agencies. The statement added that the reconstruction and repairs to the tens of thousands of homes, hospitals, and schools damaged or destroyed in the fighting has been woefully slow. Sporadic rocket fire from Palestinians has resumed. Overall, the lack of progress has deepened levels of desperation and frustration among the population, more than two thirds of whom are Palestine refugees.
OXFAM: Gaza reconstruction could take over a century to complete
IMEMC/Agencies 27 Feb — The British rights organization Oxfam stated that the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip may take more than 100 years, at the current rate, to complete essential building of homes, schools and health facilities in Gaza unless the Israeli blockade is lifted. According to Al Ray’s report, less than 0.25 percent of truckloads containing essential construction materials needed have entered Gaza in the past three months. Six months have now passed since the end of the conflict, and the situation in Gaza is becoming increasingly desperate. Oxfam is calling for an urgent end to the blockade, which has now been in place for nearly eight years. Gaza needs more than 800,000 truckloads of materials required after repeated conflicts and years of blockade, according to aid agencies on the ground, Catherine Essoyan, Oxfam’s Regional Director, explained on Thursday. Essoyan also pointed out that the conflict displaced about 100 thousand people, half of them children, now living in shelters and temporary housing centers or with their extended family: “Every day that people are unable to build is putting more lives at risk. Only an end to the blockade of Gaza will ensure that people can rebuild their lives. Families have been living in homes without roofs, walls or windows for the past six months….”
Violence / Incursions / Attacks / Suppression of protests / Arrests
Israeli troops ‘violently’ attack Palestinian teen at border crossing
JENIN (Ma‘an) 28 Feb – A teenage Palestinian boy from the northern West Bank says he was violently assaulted by Israeli soldiers at al-Jalama crossing north of Jenin while he was trying to cross into Israel. Muhammad Asri Fayyad, 17, told Ma‘an Saturday that on Thursday morning he arrived at the crossing along with a busload of young men and teenagers who had organized a trip to Israel and obtained the needed permits from Israeli authorities. He says he entered the crossing and complied with the instructions Israeli officers were giving through loudspeakers. The instructions included “that we shove our mobile phones in one place and we cross from a different place which we did.” “Everybody received back their mobile phones except me. The soldiers asked me to pass through a path under a bridge on top of which stood a number of soldiers pointing their guns at me. “They then asked me to enter a room which has several doors and I obeyed the orders. All the doors were immediately locked before the officers started to shout through loudspeakers demanding that I take off my clothes and my shoes.” He added that he took off his shoes first but the soldiers continued to shout “violently” repeating that he must take off all his clothes. “When I took off my clothes, they turned on a huge ceiling fan which caused frigid coldness. I told them to turn off the fan because I was freezing, but they didn’t, and so I knocked on the fan in an attempt to cause it to stop. At that point the soldiers broke into the room and started to beat me with rifle butts until I fell to the ground. “They then tied my hand to a steel bar behind my back and tied my foot to another bar. I remained in that position from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. After that a number of soldiers arrived and a female soldier untied me after she took a silver necklace I was wearing. She ordered me to put on my clothes, then she handcuffed and blindfolded my eyes and escorted me outside the crossing and told me that I was denied entry to Israel. She gave me a small sack in which I found the remnants of my mobile phone which had been smashed.” Muhammad says he has been suffering severe shoulder and foot pain ever since.
Soldiers use excessive force against nonviolent protest in Hebron
IMEMC 27 Feb by Saed Bannoura — Israeli soldiers attacked, on Friday, a nonviolent protest organized by hundreds of students to demand that the army reopen Shuhada Street in Hebron, in the southern part of the occupied West Bank. At least 15 Palestinians were injured, with two reported kidnappings. The soldiers fired rounds of live ammunition, gas bombs and rubber-coated metal bullets, wounding three with live fire and twelve with rubber-coated metal bullets; many others suffered the effects of tear gas inhalation. The three Palestinians injured by live fire have been identified as Abdul-Majid ‘Amro, Issa Mahmoud ‘Amro, and Anas ‘Amro. One of the kidnapped Palestinians is Hijazi ‘Obeido, age 22, a law student and activist with the Youth Against Settlements Coalition that organized the protest, along with various national and Islamic factions, in addition to a number of Popular Committees from different parts of the occupied West Bank. Shuhada Street, and all of its shops and stores, have been shut down by the Israeli military for 21 years now, after Israeli-American Baruch Goldstein stormed the Ibrahimi Mosque and opened automatic fire on worshipers, on February 25, 1994, killing 29 and wounding more than 200, before some managed to subdue and kill him.
Palestinians mark the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre in Hebron
IMEMC/Agencies 26 Feb — Hundreds of Palestinians marked, Wednesday, the 21st anniversary of the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre that led to the death of 29 Palestinians, and the injury of around 200. Among the victims were many children and elderly; some of the wounded suffered permanent disabilities. The Palestinians in the city started the ceremony with prayers in the mosque, and demanded protection to them, homes and property, and their holy sites. They said Israeli fanatics, illegally living in the city, are ongoing with their violations and assaults, while enjoying protection from the army. The massacres was carried out by American-born Baruch Goldstein, who was also a physician; Israel claimed he was “mentally unstable”. ‘Adel Edris, one of the survivors of the attack, told the Wattan News Agency that, as the Muslim worshipers were kneeling, they heard dozens of rounds of live ammunition fired towards them from a gunman who was standing all the way behind them. “The physician, who was also an army officer, entered through the ‘Ishaqiyya Gate’ of the Ibrahim Mosque, and started shooting,” Edris said, “My brother, Salim, was killed, my other brother and many relatives were injured.” The Khatib of the al-Ibrahimi Mosque Hatem al-Bakri said that, after the massacre, Israel used the situation to divide the mosque, and emptied all nearby Palestinian homes after forcing the families out, so that it can bring more Israeli colonizers to replace the Palestinians. “Israel also deliberately shut down around 3000 stores after the massacre,” he added, “It divided the mosque, has been trying to keep us out, and still intends to fully control it.”
Israeli forces suppress West Bank demos
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 27 Feb — Israeli forces on Friday fired live bullets and tear gas canisters at Palestinians demonstrating against the Israeli occupation in the West Bank. Local sources told Ma‘an that Israeli forces suppressed a demonstration of Palestinians who were demanding Israeli authorities reopen Shuhada street, once a major thoroughfare in Hebron‘s Old City … Meanwhile, in Kafr Qaddum near Nablus, a photojournalist who works for Reuters was hit by an Israeli tear gas grenade in the neck. Murad Ishtewi, the coordinator of the popular resistance committees in Kafr Qaddum, told Ma‘an Israeli soldiers opened fire and shot tear gas canisters, injuring Reuters photojournalist Abd al-Rahman al-Qussini. Dozens of Palestinians suffered from tear-gas inhalation and faintness and were treated on the spot by the Palestinian Red Crescent, he said. The marchers chanted slogans calling for the boycott of Israeli products. The march was organized under the title: “Do not pay for the bullets that kill you and the gas that suffocates you.” It came amid a series of activities organized by the Fatah movement calling for boycott. Protests are held every Friday in Kafr Qaddum against Israel’s closure of a main road linking the village to its nearest city, Nablus.
Palestinians tear-gassed on 10th anniversary of barrier protests
Bil‘in, Palestinian Territories (AFP) 27 Feb — Palestinian, Israeli and foreign activists faced off against Israeli forces Friday in the occupied West Bank village of Bil‘in where they marked 10 years of protests against Israel’s separation barrier. In what has become a weekly ritual, the activists marched towards the barrier which cuts villagers off from their fields. Palestinian youths with slingshots aimed stones at border police posted along the wire-topped concrete wall and the police fired tear gas to disperse them, AFP journalists at the scene said. At least one demonstrator was arrested, another was seen being taken away by ambulance after a blow to the head and several suffered tear gas inhalation. The extent of their injuries was not known. Israel says the barrier is designed to prevent militant attacks, but the Palestinians say it is an “apartheid wall” that carves off key parts of their promised state. When the 709-kilometre (435-mile) barrier is complete, 85 percent of it will have been built inside the West Bank.
Israeli forces destroy protest camp for 10th time
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 27 Feb — Israeli civil administration employees on Friday demolished the “Jerusalem Gate” protest camp for the 10th time, a spokesman told Ma‘an. Popular resistance committees spokesman Hani Halabiya said Israeli forces raided the area, dismantled the camp, and seized equipment. Halabiya said the camp was most recently rebuilt Thursday evening, highlighting that activists continued their protest in the street across from the camp after it was demolished. The camp was built in protest against an Israeli plan to build Jewish-only settlements in the E1 corridor east of Jerusalem on the way to Jericho where Palestinian Bedouins have been living for decades.
In January 2013, Palestinian activists set-up over 25 tents and a medical center in the E1 area east of Jerusalem to protest Israeli settlement plans and protect Palestinian land from annexation. The protest village, called Bab al-Shams, or ‘Gate of the Sun’, was later demolished by Israeli forces. Over the following months, activists set up the al-Karamah (Dignity) protest village in Beit Iksa, and the Ahfad Younis village in Eizariya.
Cops accused of abusing Bedouin family evade investigation
Haaretz 28 Feb by Amira Hass — A Bedouin father and his two sons were detained during a protest. Their complaint of assault and serious abuse was dismissed without any attempt to locate the policemen involved — …Taleb Alturi and his sons Nidal and Rauf, of the Bedouin town of Rahat in the Negev, accused a group of some 20 policemen of attacking them after a protest on September 30, 2013 against the so-called Prawer plan for the relocation of tens of thousands of Negev Bedouin to government-recognized local councils. The police, who they said were not recognizable due to their helmets and face guards, reportedly shouted “Why did you throw stones at us, you bastards?” According to the complaint, the police then hit the three with batons and fists, kicked them, dragged them along the ground and jumped on their bodies when they were lying manacled on the ground. One of Alturi’s sons complained that a stun grenade was thrown directly at him, injuring his back, and the other said that a policeman had urinated on him. At some point, the father lost consciousness. According to their testimonies, the police also made such comments as “let’s give each of them a bullet in the head,” “you stinking Arab bastard” and “watch your bum because they’ll soon be fucking you in prison.” The assault took place in an unlit area, in which the assailants could not be recognized. Later, when they were taken to police vehicles in a lit area, one of the policemen warned his comrades that “it’s not dark; everything is being filmed and documented.” The three were imprisoned for just over a day, but later released without any charges being laid against them. Two judges ruled that there was no evidentiary basis on which to hold them, with one noting that the father had been severely beaten. The complainants maintained that during the full year that their complaint was under investigation, the investigators only questioned the two policemen in whose custody the three had been left following the beatings. The file was then closed due to “absence of guilt,” on the basis of the testimony of the two policemen questioned. However, even those two testified that the three Bedouin had been arrested by members of paramilitary police units.
Soldiers invade town near Salfit
IMEMC/Agencies 27 Feb — Several Israeli military vehicles invaded, on Friday at dawn, Kifl Hares town, east of the central West Bank city of Salfit, to accompany Israelis touring archaeological sites [reputed tombs of Joshua, Caleb & Nun] in the town. Eyewitnesses said approximately 30 military vehicles invaded the town after surrounding it, forced shut local shops, and prevented the Palestinians from entering various areas. They added that, after the army surrounded and invaded the town, dozens of Israeli buses drove through, heading towards the archaeological sites, while denying freedom of movement to the locals. Many Israeli buses parked in the center of the town, as many colonialist settlers wanted to walk from there to the historic sites, and the rest of the buses drove straight to the sites. Dozens of Israeli extremists started chanting anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian slogans, while marching through the town during the early dawn hours.
On Thursday evening, several Palestinians suffered the effects of tear gas inhalation, including a few who fainted, after the soldiers fired dozens of gas bombs, and rubber-coated metal bullets targeting Palestinian protesters near the Rachel Tomb area, at the northern entrance of Bethlehem. Media sources said local youths hurled stones, Molotov cocktails and empty bottles at the soldiers, stationed in a military tower behind the Annexation Wall, on the northern entrance of the city.
Religious buildings attacked by suspected Jewish extremists
JABA‘A, West Bank (The National) 26 Feb by Ben Lynfield — Palestinians were quick to paint over burn marks inside Al Hoda mosque in the West Bank village of Jaba‘a but fear persisted as another apparently religion-based attack shook Jerusalem. Suspected Jewish extremists set fire to the mosque under the cover of darkness on Wednesday in an assault that Palestinians and Israeli human rights groups say is far from an isolated incident. Furthering concerns over an increase in religious tensions, assailants — also suspected Jewish extremists — on Thursday set fire to a Greek Orthodox seminary. The attackers left graffiti reading “Redemption of Zion”, similar to that scrawled over Al Hoda mosque … Attacks by Israelis against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank are “routine,’’ according to Noa Cohen of Israeli human rights group Yesh Din. These include violence against persons, harm to property, arson, theft, and the destruction of trees, many of which provide Palestinians’ with their livelihoods, she said. Yesh Din has documented eight cases in which mosques were set on fire in the West Bank since 2006. No one has been arrested in any of the cases. Mr Cohen charged that there is “negligence” and “failure” by the Israeli police when it comes to investigating crimes against Palestinians … Between 2005 and 2014, Yesh Din monitored 1,045 files opened by Israeli police following Palestinian complaints. Only 7.4 per cent of these complaints led to indictments of Israeli civilians suspected of attacking Palestinians and their property, according to the group … In Jaba‘a, there was defiance alongside the fear of more attacks. In white letters, fresh graffiti written on one of the mosque’s walls read: “Whatever you burn, we stay in this land and in our mosque we pray.”
Greek Orthodox Church decries attacks by Jewish settlers
Middle East Monitor 26 Feb — IMAGES — The Patriarch of the Holy City of Jerusalem and all Palestine, Theophilos III, denounced on Thursday what he called “repeated” attacks on Christian and Muslim places of worship in the Palestinian territories by extremist Jewish settlers. “The targeting of churches and mosques is caused by pervasive racism and hatred,” he said in a statement. Earlier Thursday, Jewish Settlers set fire to part of a religious school affiliated with Jerusalem’s Greek Orthodox Church, Which they sprayed with anti-Christian graffiti. On Wednesday, settlers torched and sprayed graffiti on a West Bank mosque. Theophilos III said Christians represented an “integral part” of the Holy Land, its history and its future, going on to assert that the Greek Orthodox Church was one of the world’s most important churches. “Criminals will not intimidate this church or its flock,” he declared. He called on government agencies to address repeated settler attacks on places of worship. Earlier Thursday, The Palestinian Foreign Ministry called on both the Vatican and the international community to protect Islamic and Christian places of worship from what it described as “Jewish extremism.”
Palestinian attempts to stab IDF soldier in West Bank
Times of Israel 26 Feb — A Palestinian man was arrested after attempting to stab an IDF soldier in the West Bank at a junction south of Jerusalem, the army said Thursday. No injuries were reported after the man apparently attempted to knife the soldier at the Gush Etzion junction. IDF Golani brigade soldiers present at the scene detained and questioned the suspect, according to an army statement released soon after the attempted attack. The junction was closed off to traffic in both directions, Army Radio reported.
Shin Bet nabs 2 West Bank terror cells
Times of Israel 26 Feb — The Shin Bet announces that it arrested members of two terror cells who carried out attacks against Israeli cars and an IDF outpost over the past two months. One cell, whose members are activists of the “Popular Front,” carried out shooting attacks against vehicles on a road in the West Bank and against an IDF post in Nabi Salah (also in the West Bank). The cell was also allegedly responsible for Molotov cocktail and pipe bomb attacks. During interrogation, the statement from Shin Bet reads, the cell members turned in four rifles as well as rounds of ammunition. They admitted to having made plans for further attacks. The second cell, whose members are residents of Kfar Bani Na‘im, carried out several shooting attacks in November 2014 against Israeli cars traveling on Route 60 near Kiryat Arba.
Soldiers kidnap a Palestinian south of Bethlehem
IMEMC/Agencies 27 Feb by Saed Bannoura — Israeli soldiers kidnapped, on Thursday evening, a young Palestinian laborer, near the junction of Gush Etzion military base and settlement block, south of the West Bank city of Bethlehem. Mohammad Mheisin, Coordinator of the Popular Committee against the Wall and Settlements in the southern part of the West Bank, witnessed the incident and said the soldiers stopped the Palestinian, searched him and his truck that he uses for work, and kidnapped him “after locating a sharp object.” The object he was carrying in his truck is a type a heavy-duty industrial scissors, he uses for work. Mheisin added that the soldiers assaulted the young worker, while some of them tried to shoot him, but Palestinians who were at the scene prevented them from doing so. The soldiers then kidnapped the Palestinian worker, who suffered various cuts and bruises, and he was moved into the Gush Etzion military base for “interrogation.”
Five Palestinians kidnapped near Ramallah, one near Jenin
IMEMC/Agenciess 26 Feb — Israeli soldiers kidnapped, on Thursday at dawn, five Palestinians near the northern West Bank city of Jenin, and one near the central West Bank city of Ramallah, after the soldiers stormed several homes, and searched them. Media sources in Jenin said several military vehicles invaded the al-Yamoun town, west of Jenin, kidnapped one Palestinian, and hand another a military order for interrogation … In the central West Bank district of Ramallah, soldiers invaded Deir Abu Mashal village, west of the city, and kidnapped five Palestinians after searching their homes…
On Wednesday evening, clashes took place after Israeli army vehicles invaded Ein al-Louza neighborhood in Silwan; one Palestinian was injured by army fire. The soldiers also invaded Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in Jerusalem, and stormed a building, in addition to breaking into a home in Ras al-‘Amoud neighborhood.
One man’s return to Gaza
Al-Monitor 26 Feb by Shlomi Eldar — That the situation in Gaza is serious is a well-known, indisputable fact. The leitmotif of countless reports is the plight, poverty, anxiety and suffering of the people. The testimony I’ve heard from my friend Majdi Arbid, who returned to the Gaza Strip after an eight-year absence, is especially unique and heartrending. Majdi was the photographer I worked with when I covered Gaza during the second intifada, 2000-2005. Back then, he was also the owner of the al-Huriyah (Freedom) radio station, which employed dozens of people broadcasting news, current affairs and entertainment programs. We used to crisscross the Gaza Strip together until Majdi was forced to flee by the skin of his teeth during the 2006 Hamas coup, because his radio station was airing messages against the movement’s policies. Two weeks ago, Majdi’s father passed away. Despite having serious hesitation, he asked to return to Gaza to attend the funeral. Even now, several days after having returned to his new home in Ramallah, his voice is faint. Haunted, he can’t sleep a wink. Majdi is unable to shake the images of his family, friends and neighbors who have been scarred physically and emotionally by poverty and wars. According to him, they’ve become different people, a shadow of themselves. Seeing them face to face, it seems, was far more powerful than any newscast he had seen. The following are verbatim observations Majdi conveyed to me by phone. This is Gaza today from the perspective of a man who fled from it eight years ago and who is horrified by what he saw upon his return. “From the moment I passed through the Erez crossing,” he tells Al-Monitor, “I felt that I had traveled 100 years back in time. I arrived at the cemetery, where many people had come to bid my father a last farewell. The cemeteries are crammed. There’s no more room to bury the dead. My father was laid to rest in a plot where his father had been buried. We had to share them also in death. My father was buried on top of his father. I didn’t recognize my friends who came to console me. Many had grown long beards and their bodies had become gaunt. They’re skinny because they’re hungry. Little by little, they began telling me about their lives after I had left. What blew my mind the most was the fact that many of them, young and old alike — friends, family and neighbors — regularly take Tramal (aka Tramadol) pills that are usually administered after surgery and for severe pain….
Six months after ceasefire, children of Gaza are trapped in trauma
GAZA, State of Palestine (UNICEF) 26 Feb by Catherine Weibel — It has been six months since a precarious truce ended another devastating bout of violence in Gaza. For children like Samar and Rosol Barakat, the scars left by 51 days of hostilities last summer are as raw as ever. During the conflict, the two girls, their parents and three other siblings fled their flat under heavy shelling. The family took refuge in a United Nations–run school. One night, the classroom in which they slept was hit by an artillery shell. Their father was killed, and their mother seriously injured. Both girls were wounded by shrapnel. Samar, who is 11 years old, and Rosol, who is 6, could not go back to their home at the al-Nada residential towers, which had been destroyed. They moved in with their grandfather, among 12 people squeezed into a tiny and derelict two-bedroom flat in Beit Lahiya … “My children have lost everything, and they need everything,” says Samar and Rosol’s mother, Neveen. “I have to be both their mother and their father now.” Because of her injuries, Neveen has a disability and needs help to take care of herself. – No safe place – Samar and Rosol continue to suffer profound distress. Neveen constantly comforts her daughters as the two girls struggle to cope with the loss of their father. It was months before Rosol agreed to wear her school uniform and return to school. When asked whether she likes her teacher, she freezes, becomes withdrawn and, after a few minutes, starts sobbing. “My children were injured in a school,” says Neveen. “They saw people injured with missing hands or legs, with wounded faces and eyes. They saw her father killed. They no longer see school as a safe place.”
Gazan fishermen dying to survive
GAZA CITY (IPS) 27 Feb by Mel Frykberg — The beautiful Mediterranean Sea laps gently onto the white sandy beach near Gaza City’s port. Fishing boats dot the beach as fishermen tend to their boats and fix their nets. However, this scenic and peaceful setting belies a depressing reality. Gaza’s once thriving fishing industry has been decimated by Israel’s blockade of the coastal territory since 2007. Approximately 3,600 Gazan fishermen, and their dependents, estimated at over 30,000 people, used to rely on fishing for a living. Fish also provided a basic source of food for Gaza’s poverty-stricken population of over 1.5 million people. Following the blockade of the Gaza Strip, more than 90 percent of Gaza’s fishermen have had to depend on aid to survive … The already dire situation was exacerbated during last year’s July-August war with Israel, reducing the area in which the fishermen can fish to six nautical miles. After the Oslo agreement in 1993, the distance had been 20 nautical miles. However, fishermen are still being shot at and killed and injured even within that 6-mile nautical zone. Jarboua pointed to his boat and showed IPS the bullet holes where the Israeli navy had fired on him while out to sea. Other fishermen have had their boats destroyed and been arrested, Jarboua’s friend Fathi Said, also from Shati camp, told IPS that his brother had been arrested by the Israelis several weeks ago while only five nautical miles out to sea. Sami Al Quka, 35, from Shati had his hand blown off when the Israeli navy shot at him while he was within the approved fishing zone … Oxfam GB confirms the fishermen’s claims: “Even when fishing within the six mile restriction, fishermen face being shot or arrested by the Israeli navy. In the first half of 2014, there were at least 177 incidents of naval fire against fishermen – nearly as many as in all of 2013.”
Israeli forces open fire on Palestinian houses in central Gaza Strip
GAZA (WAFA) 26 Feb – Israeli forces Thursday afternoon opened gunfire on Palestinian houses in central Gaza Strip, said a WAFA correspondent. Soldiers deployed and stationed along the border to the east of the blockaded strip indiscriminately opened fire on Palestinian houses. No casualties were reported in the cross-border attack that constitutes a flagrant violation of the ceasefire deal that ended the latest deadly Israeli onslaught on the war-torn coastal enclave. Israeli Forces routinely open fire on Palestinian farmers and other civilians if they approach large tracts of borderline land that Israeli forces have deemed off-limits to Palestinians as well as on fishing boats sailing within the six-nautical-miles zone. The buffer zone extends between 500 meters and 1500 meters into the Strip, effectively turning local farms into no-go zones. According to UNOCHA, 17 percent of Gaza’s total land area and 35% of its agricultural land were within the buffer zone as of 2010, directly affecting the lives and livelihoods of more than 100,000 Gaza residents.
Gaza farmers hit hard by Israel’s summer aggression: NGO
Ma‘an/Al-Akhbar 27 Feb — Farmers in the Gaza Strip continue to suffer the consequences of massive losses incurred during Israel’s military offensive last summer, a French humanitarian NGO said Thursday. Première Urgence – Aide Médicale Internationale (PU-AMI) said that over 88 percent of crops provided to farmers by the group were damaged during the 51-day aggression, with farmers continuing to suffer from access restrictions and violations of International Humanitarian Law … Nearly 87 percent of irrigation systems were damaged during the war, the group said, and the high cost of water means most farmers cannot afford to irrigate their crops. A survey of 285 farmers conducted by the group found that 84 percent assessed were forced to take out loans to cope with the loss of income incurred by damage to their land.
AUDIO: Inside the special school in Gaza which was bombed
[with photos] LBC (UK) 25 Feb — Karl Schembri works for Save the Children in the Middle East. He went back to Gaza exclusively for LBC. He visited a medical centre for children with Down Syndrome and autism that was hit by shelling last summer. He found that six months on, little has been repaired.
The human cost of the Israel-Gaza conflict – in pictures
The Guardian 26 Feb — Photographer Heidi Levine documents Palestinians living with life-changing injuries in Gaza
Inside Gaza’s tunnels, militants get ready for the next war
GAZA STRIP (BBC News) 26 Feb by Quentin Sommerville — In an olive grove close to houses in the southern Gaza Strip, the earth slides open smoothly, revealing a sight to terrify Israel. A deep pit containing a 120mm (4in) mortar tube, and three fighters from the militant group – Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Fully armed and in combat fatigues, the men are all wearing head torches. They move quickly, in well-drilled movements, loading and unloading the tube from a stack of mortars at the back of their position. This is a show of readiness, a show of strength, for the next war with Israel. It is a war that both the militants and the Israeli military, on the other side of the border, believe could come again soon … At the back of the firing position is a small curtain that leads into a tunnel cut through the earth. It turns a corner and enters a larger, even deeper tunnel, perhaps 20m down. Its reinforced concrete walls have an arched roof, tall enough for the men of Islamic Jihad to stand up, and run through it. This is their escape route, running for hundreds of metres, its exit – or exits – unknown … Standing inside, his face hidden, is a fighter, with the nom de guerre Abu Hamza. “In the last war we noticed that every moving thing on the surface of the earth was bombed, whether it was ambulances, civilians or fighters walking on the street,” he said. “So [the tunnels] are our hiding place, away from the eyes of the Zionist enemy… we used them to launch [mortars and anti-tank] missiles”.
Gaza tunnel collapses, killing senior Egyptian officer
EL-ARISH, Egypt (AP) 27 Feb by Ashraf Sweilam — Egyptian security officials say a senior army officer was killed and another was injured when a cross-border smuggling tunnel with the Gaza Strip collapsed after troops went into it to investigate. The officials say the tunnel was discovered on Friday in the Egyptian town of Rafah in northern Sinai. One of its entrances was close to the town’s intelligence headquarters while the other was apparently on Gaza’s side of the border, in the Palestinian town of Rafah. The officials say Lt. Col. Hussam Hamdi Abdel-Aziz was killed in the cave-in and Maj. Ahmed Farouq Mostapha was injured. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity according to regulations. Egypt has been trying to clear a buffer zone with Gaza in order to stamp out a cross-border tunnel network operated by Hamas.
How Gazan natural gas became the epicenter of an international power struggle
Truth-out 26 Feb by Michael Schwartz — Guess what? Almost all the current wars, uprisings, and other conflicts in the Middle East are connected by a single thread, which is also a threat: these conflicts are part of an increasingly frenzied competition to find, extract, and market fossil fuels whose future consumption is guaranteed to lead to a set of cataclysmic environmental crises. Amid the many fossil-fueled conflicts in the region, one of them, packed with threats, large and small, has been largely overlooked, and Israel is at its epicenter. Its origins can be traced back to the early 1990s when Israeli and Palestinian leaders began sparring over rumored natural gas deposits in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Gaza. In the ensuing decades, it has grown into a many-fronted conflict involving several armies and three navies. In the process, it has already inflicted mindboggling misery on tens of thousands of Palestinians, and it threatens to add future layers of misery to the lives of people in Syria, Lebanon, and Cyprus. Eventually, it might even immiserate Israelis.
Prisoners / Court actions
Israel wants bail denied to Palestinians held for online incitement
Haaretz 27 Feb by Nir Hasson — As part of a new policy, the State Prosecutor’s Office has asked the courts to remand Palestinians indicted for online incitement until the end of legal proceedings against them. So far 10 Palestinians, residents of East Jerusalem, have been indicted for inciting to terrorism and violence on Facebook. The suspects have been accused of writing posts in praise of terrorists and encouraging attacks – as well as calling on people to carry out further terrorist attacks. In all these cases the prosecution has submitted requests to remand the accused until the end of proceedings, even though they are not charged with violent acts themselves – and despite that, in cases of Jews who have written posts considered incitement, the prosecutors have not always asked for them to be held until the end of legal proceedings.
Family demands immediate release; Husam Sheikh, 14, sentenced to 4 months
IMEMC 27 Feb by Saed Bannoura — The Israeli military court in the Ofer base and detention center, near the central West Bank city of Ramallah, sentenced on Wednesday child detainee, Husam Khaled Sheikh, 14 years of age, to four months imprisonment, and 2000NIS fine, his family said. The family stated the military court also sentenced the child to a six-month suspended sentence that will remain in effect for five years. Sheikh is from Beit ‘Anan, in occupied Jerusalem; he was kidnapped by the soldiers next to his family home, on December 25, 2014, and is currently held in ‘Ofer. Sheikh’s lawyer Akram Samara told the family that the chief military prosecutor headed the court session, in a move that is unusual, especially since the head prosecutor only presides in exceptional cases. It is worth mentioning that the army detained the child’s father for talking to the media, exposing the Israeli violations against his detained son, and for organizing media and social solidarity campaigns. Under the court ruling, Khaled will remain imprisoned until April 25 2015, after deducting time served … The father said the campaign would continue, especially since Israel is denying the detained child access to his much-needed medications, as he suffers from anemia and several health complications. The child’s lawyer filed all medical reports to the Israeli military court, and demanded the court to provide the needed medical care.
Palestinian girl recounts imprisonment
RAMALLAH (Al-Monitor) 26 Feb by Rasha Abou Jalal — “As I returned home from school, I was surprised by four Israeli soldiers who were armed to the teeth. They attacked me and dragged me to the ground as they handcuffed me and threw me inside a military vehicle,” Malak al-Khatib, a 14-year-old Palestinian from the town of Bitayn in the eastern province of Ramallah, told Al-Monitor. Khatib was arrested in front of the gate to her school in Bitayn on Dec. 31 and accused of three offenses: throwing stones, possessing a knife and blocking a public road. Khatib was brought before Israeli courts four times and sentenced to two months in prison and a fine of 6,000 shekels ($1,560). She was released on Feb. 13. Khatib said during a telephone interview with Al-Monitor, “I was surprised by how I was arrested and by the two-hour-long interrogation, during which I was terrified and panic overtook me. ‘Confess!’ the Israeli officer screamed. I cried, and all I could say was ‘I did not do anything.’” Khatib explained her horror during the detention period. She kept asking the soldiers if she could see her mother so she could hug her. However, Khatib said that the Israeli authorities categorically refused to let her see her parents throughout the duration of her imprisonment. “Throughout my detention period by the occupation authorities, I was denied heavy clothing; they let me freeze. They did not care that I was an eighth-grader, and the prison administration refused to let me have any school books,” the teenager added.
Palestinian journalist on hunger strike in protest at prolonged detention
BETHLEHEM (PIC) 27 Feb — The Bethlehem Magistrate Court on Thursday extended the detention of the Palestinian photojournalist Asid Amarna, 30, for 15 days on charges of undermining the Palestinian Authority’s prestige. A PIC news reporter quoted Amarna’s family as saying that their son was charged by Bethlehem’s Magistrate Court with undermining the prestige of the PA through his work as a cameraman for al-Aqsa [Hamas-affiliated] TV Channel in the southern West Bank. For his part, journalist Amarna started an open-ended hunger-strike in protest at the extension of his detention. The prisoner’s family slammed the Palestinian authority (PA) apparatuses for extending his detention, saying his detention violates the freedoms of speech and the press.
Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Restrictions on movement
Twilight Zone: Coming home from kindergarten to discover Israel demolished your home
Haaretz 28 Feb by Gideon Levy & Alex Levec — Salameh al-Kasasi came home from kindergarten on Sunday to discover that his home had been demolished. He left home in the morning and returned at midday – to nothing. When his father arrived, after having been detained by the police for 40 minutes, he saw his son standing on the heap of rubble and poking around in it. “What are you looking for?” he asked his little boy. “For my yellow teacup,” the boy replied. The beloved cup was found a few minutes later amid the pile of stones that had once been a house. Salameh is a 4-year-old Israeli boy from the “unrecognized” Bedouin village of Saawa in the Negev. In 1952, the Israeli government moved his relatives from the area of Beit Kama – in order to make room for kibbutzim – to the place where he was born. Now the authorities seek to expel his family from there, too. Four times Israel has already demolished this tiny village of Saawa, which lies east of the town of Hura, and four times it’s been rebuilt … Battered by experience, the locals are now rebuilding their homes with cheap components, tin panels, and sealing them with insulation materials. The fate of their little enclave is sealed, too, they know. At the conclusion of their struggle – a lost cause – the village will likely become a Jewish National Fund grove or a site earmarked for Jewish habitation … The people of Saawa, for example, say they are ready to move to Hura, but not to that town’s Neighborhood 16, where the familial, communal and social fabric is unsuited to them … We walked between the ruins – heaps of stones and tin panels. What do they tell their children? “They ask questions for which we don’t have answers,” Nawaf says. “What can we tell them? A child comes home from school and asks, ‘Where is our house?’ What can you tell him?” And there is of course an atmosphere here of discrimination and racism, intensified by the existence of the veteran kibbutzim in the area, but mostly by the phenomenon of nearby single-family farms of Jews, some of them built without permits, which have electrical power and water – and which no one demolishes.
Israeli soldiers to demolish school, two homes near Hebron
HEBRON (WAFA) 26 Feb – Israeli army forces Thursday notified a school and two homes constructed on land categorized as Area C in Hebron, of demolition orders under the pretext of construction without permits, said a local activist. The Popular Committee Coordinator in Yatta, Rateb al-Jabour said that a military force broke into al-Majaz area to south of Hebron and handed residents of two tinplate homes demolition orders for building without obtaining construction permits. A number of caravans, which were donated by a European institution in 2015, function as a school for local kids and were also notified of demolition for being constructed without permit. Israeli authorities did not set a date for the demolitions.
IOA razes Palestinian village east of Negev
RAMALLAH (PIC) 27 Feb — The Israeli occupation authorities (IOA) on Thursday knocked down Palestinian homes in Tel Arad village, south of the occupied Negev. Local sources said the Palestinian natives of Tel Arab became homeless after Israeli bulldozers escorted by police forces destroyed their homes and cultivated lands. The demolished homes belong to al-Zabarqa family, the same sources said, adding that the IOA seized the families’ belongings and forced them out of their homes. Sometime earlier, the IOA tore down six Palestinian family homes in Sa’wa village, in the same area, as part of a systematic ethnic cleansing policy pursued by the Israeli occupation government against the Negev people.
Israel court bans 4 women from entering Aqsa compound
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 26 Feb — An Israeli court on Thursday banned four Palestinian women from entering the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound for periods of between 10 and 60 days, a lawyer said. The women were detained on Wednesday as they were leaving the holy site and taken for interrogation at a local police station, lawyer Ramze Kteilat told Ma‘an. Khadija Khuweis was banned for a total of 60 days and forced to pay bail set at 1,000 shekels ($254). Jihad al-Zarim was banned for 30 days while Latifa Mkheimar and Fatima Elayyan were banned for 10 days from the compound. It is unclear why the women were banned.
200 Gazans to attend Friday prayers in Aqsa Mosque
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 27 Feb — Over 200 Palestinians in Gaza traveled to Jerusalem on Friday to attend prayers in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Palestinian liaison office said. All of the group were over the age of 60 and will return on Friday afternoon. On Oct. 5, some 500 Palestinians in Gaza prayed at the mosque for the first time since 2007, having been prevented by Israel from traveling to Jerusalem since that time. The decision to allow Gazans to travel to al-Aqsa was reached part of the ceasefire deal between Palestinian militant groups and Israel that ended the more than 50-day war over summer in which Israeli bombardment killed more than 2,200 Gazans.
Solidarity / BDS
SOAS votes for academic boycott of Israel
Middle East Monitor 27 Feb — SOAS [School of Oriental & African Studies, Univ. of London] students and staff have endorsed an academic boycott of Israel, after the results of a week-long referendum were released Friday evening. The vote, open to students, academics, and all other staff and management, finished with 73% for the ‘Yes’ campaign and 27% for the ‘No’ campaign. The referendum asked members whether they think SOAS should fully join the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) campaign, and implement academic boycott following the guidelines of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI). Earlier this week, PACBI and Palestinian student and academic unions expressed their support for the ‘Yes’ campaign, and applauded efforts of pro-boycott campaigners.
South African student body wants plight of Palestinians taught in schools
Middle East Monitor 27 Feb — A body representing South African students yesterday called on the Ministry of Basic Education to include the Palestinian struggle against the Israeli occupation in the school curriculum as an example of the “anti-colonial struggle”, the Anadolu Agency reported. President of the Congress of South African Students (COSAS), Sandra Baloyi told reporters at the headquarters of the ruling African National Congress Party that “COSAS has received a positive response from the Department of Basic Education and will be officially meeting with the Ministry of Basic Education next week.” Baloyi pointed out that during their meeting with the minister they will discuss a number of issues which include the compulsory inclusion of the Palestinian struggle against Israel into the school curriculum as an anti-colonial struggle. “In particular, the comparison between South African apartheid and Israeli apartheid to be explained within the curriculum,” Baloyi stressed. COSAS also plans to demand the Ministry of Basic Education to send a student delegation to Palestinian schools to meet with their Palestinian counterparts to learn about their suffering.
Italian parliament recognizes Palestinian state
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 27 Feb — The Italian parliament on Friday voted to recognize the state of Palestine, Fatah leader Nabil Shaath told Ma‘an. Three hundred members of Italy’s parliament voted for the resolution while only 45 voted against it, Shaath said. The non-binding resolution calls for the recognition of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital. It was proposed by Italy’s Democratic party led by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. The motion follows moves in other European countries intended to increase pressure for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Shaath told Ma‘an that Palestine would seek recognition from the parliaments of Denmark and Greece next.
Campaign for Palestinian recognition launched in Ireland
IMEMC/Agencies 27 Feb — A Palestinian solidarity group in Ireland has launched a billboard campaign, Wednesday, to urge the Irish government to support the recognition of Palestine. Solidarity organization “Sadaka” said that former Irish foreign minister Micheál Martin, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams, and PA ambassador to Ireland, Ahmed Abdelrazek, urged the Irish government to recognize a Palestinian state based on the two state parameters, as part of the campaign. John Douglas, President of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, said: “The Dáil and Seanad have given the government a clear mandate to recognize the state of Palestine… Ireland’s stated policy is that it supports a two state solution in Palestine and Israel. Ireland already recognizes Israel – we should now recognize the State of Palestine.”
Japan commits $32.2M to support Palestinian refugees
JERUSALEM (WAFA) 26 Feb — Japan announced a new $32.2 million contribution to UNRWA, in support of urgent relief and recovery needs in Gaza, emergency assistance for Palestine refugees affected by the conflict in Syria, and the continuation of essential UNRWA services in the occupied Palestinian territory, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. In a press release which WAFA received, UNRWA said this donation is the largest ever one-time contribution from Japan to UNRWA. Japan’s total annual contribution in 2014 was $28.3 million, a considerable increase from $15.5 million in 2011. UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl said: “We are extremely grateful for the increased assistance from the Government of Japan, a trusted and valued partner of UNRWA and Palestine refugees.” … A total of $14 million of the Japanese contribution will go towards the UNRWA cash assistance programme supporting repairs and rental subsidies for Palestine refugees rendered homeless by last summer’s conflict in Gaza – a programme that UNRWA was forced to suspend last month due to lack of funds.
Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and Syria
Assad regime executes four Palestinian refugees in Homs
Middle East Monitor 27 Feb — The Syrian regime is reported to have executed four Palestinian refugees on Wednesday from the Al-Aideen refugee camp in Homs. The four victims are named as Wesam Al-Sayyed, Rami Subheya, Ahmed Al-Shuaibi and Abdul Razzaq Amayre. Amayre is a Palestinian refugee from the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus. Palestinian sources in Al-Aideen said Syrian regime forces kidnapped three of the four men’s wives to force them to surrender. The men were found shot dead only a few hours after they surrendered. According to the sources, the men’s wives are still being detained. The Action Group for Palestinians of Syria reports that more than 2,670 Palestinian refugees were killed in Syria from the beginning of the crisis until 25 February.
Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon and Syria: Red Cross Red Crescent is calling for greater support for refugees
GENEVA/BEIRUT 27 Feb — The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is calling for a greater support to Palestinian refugees and people affected by the Syrian crisis. Millions of people have been displaced and are desperately in need of humanitarian support. During a two-day meeting in Beirut, focused on the work of the Palestine Red Crescent Society in the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon and Syria, Movement representatives and other stakeholders stressed the humanitarian imperative of increasing support to refugees … Working hand-in-hand with the Lebanese Red Cross and Syrian Arab Red Crescent, Palestine Red Crescent Society branches in Lebanon and Syria are operating hospitals, clinics and community centres in the Palestinian camps. Volunteers and staff run health services and social activities for both Palestinian and Syrians refugees, helping to alleviate the stress on host communities. In the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, the society manages five hospitals and nine clinics providing health services to 150,000 patients every year in average. The society’s branch in Syria runs three hospitals – in Yarmouk, Homs and Mazzeh near Damascus – and 11 health centres. Yarmouk camp in particular is of particular concern. Staff and volunteers are risking their lives every day to help a desperate population.
Lebanese synagogue’s second life as home for destitute
SIDON, Lebanon (AFP) 25 Feb by Rana Moussaoui — In an alleyway in the Old City of Lebanon’s southern city of Sidon, a run-down synagogue that once served a vibrant Jewish community now houses destitute Syrian and Palestinian families. There are only a handful of signs that the building — abandoned as Lebanon’s Jews fled the country in the last decades — was once a house of worship … But for the last 25 years, Syrian Jihad al-Mohammed has known it simply as home. “In 1990, the place was abandoned and infested with rats,” he told AFP. “I cleaned it up and I moved in.” Mohammed, who moved to Lebanon for work, lives in the building with his six children, wife and mother — one of five Palestinian and Syrian families who have made their homes in the unlikely setting … Separated from him by a wall is his Palestinian neighbour Warda, who has lived for the past seven years with her children in the female prayer section of the synagogue. She grew up in the neighbourhood with her parents, who were expelled from their land after Israel’s creation in 1948. “I remember playing with Jewish children and seeing Jewish women praying here on the wooden benches,” she said, showing off the living room she has fashioned.
Other news, analysis
Shaath: ‘We will appeal US court decision, head to ICC’
IMEMC/Agencies 26 Feb by Saed Bannoura — Nabil Shaath, member of the Executive Committee of the Fateh movement of President Mahmoud Abbas, said the Palestinian National Authority (P.N.A) and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), intend to appeal a ruling made by a US Court, and said the Palestinians will head to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Shaath said that the Manhattan Federal Court, which held the P.N.A (P.A.) and the PLO liable for what it called Palestinian attacks, in six bombings and shooting incidents that took place between the years 2002 and 2004, made a politically motivated, baseless ruling.
He added that the U.S. court has no jurisdiction, or legal stand, to be looking in such cases, and said if the plaintiffs really had a case against the PLO and the P.A, they would have headed to the International Criminal Court, (ICC) instead of suing them in an American court that has no jurisdiction. Talking to the Al-Ghad Al Arabi newspaper, Shaath said the Palestinian National Authority, and the Palestinian Liberation Organization, have decided to head to the International Criminal Court to counter this outrageous ruling, and to bring charges against Israel for committing war crimes against the Palestinian people. He added that the P.N.A, and the PLO would have also filed charges in U.S. courts, but the U.S. legal system does not recognize them. The ruling against the P.A. and the PLO, known as “Sokolow VS PLO case,” was made by a 12-member jury in the Manhattan Federal Court, who held the PLO and the PNA liable for six bombings and shooting incidents that took place between the years 2002 and 2004 in Jerusalem. The ruling orders the PLO to pay $218.5 million to “victims killed in attacks more than a decade ago.”
Jews, Christians and Muslims unite to repair Mount Zion cemeteries
Haaretz 27 Feb by Nir Hasson — Volunteers aim to ‘rescue Israel’s honor’ after a raft of hate crimes have produced no arrests — Thursday morning’s arson attack on a Greek Orthodox seminary on Mount Zion joins a long list of hate crimes by Jews against Christian and Muslim residents of the mount. Dozens of cases of violence have been registered over two years including arson and graffiti attacks, the smashing of gravestones and spitting at priests. In most cases, the police have made no arrests. Last May, in the run-up to Pope Francis’ visit to the region, tensions on Mount Zion worsened amid rumors that the government would transfer control of David’s Tomb – a building whose upper floor is thought to be the location of the Last Supper – to the Vatican. Demonstrations were held at the site and there were calls for attacks on Christians living there. In recent days, posters have reappeared calling for vigorous action against “the transfer of David’s Tomb to the Christians.” … Against this background, Israelis have been working with Mount Zion churches in recent months to repair damage to cemeteries belonging to Jews, Christians or Muslims, whether due to vandalism or simply the ravages of time. The first project, sponsored by the Society for the Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites, is the restoration of the Protestant cemetery on Mount Zion. The cemetery has been desecrated repeatedly, most recently two years ago when dozens of gravestones were smashed, including those of several important Jerusalemites of the 19th and early 20th centuries … Next week the volunteers are expected to begin cleaning up the mount’s Muslim cemetery. After that they plan to restore the Sambursky Cemetery, a Jewish site on the mount. In addition to cleaning up the cemeteries, the volunteers are documenting the graves, some of them very old.
Meet the Palestinian who became Israel’s most divisive politician
HAIFA (The National) 27 Feb — Love her or loathe her, Haneen Zuabi, a Palestinian MP in the Israeli parliament, leaves few people indifferent. Opponents see her as the enemy within, but for others she’s a passionate defender of the Palestinian cause. In the six years since she entered the Knesset, or parliament, Ms Zuabi has become the most controversial figure on the Israeli political scene and a common face inside courtrooms. Four times she has been called on to respond to accusations of “hostility” towards Israel. And as a general election approaches – the second in just over two years – she has once again dodged another right-wing attempt to bar her from standing, with the Supreme Court overruling a ban imposed by the Central Elections Committee. An MP with the secular Balad party, she holds the seventh slot on the newly formed Joint Arab List, a united slate which includes representatives from across the political spectrum, from Communists to religious conservatives. Born in Nazareth, the largest Arab city in Israel, the elegant 45-year-old has forged a reputation as an outspoken politician willing to say the unthinkable regardless of the consequences. And she has pledged to continue bringing the Palestinian struggle to end the occupation to the heart of the Israeli political system.
Nadia Hilou, first Arab Christian woman to serve in Knesset, dies at 61
Haaretz 27 Feb by Jonathan Lis — Former Labor MK Nadia Hilou, the first Arab Christian woman to serve in the Knesset, died Thursday night at 61. Hiilou, a social worker, served in the 17th Knesset as a member of the Labor-Meimad faction. During her tenure, she served as chairwoman of the Committee on the Rights of the Child. Labor Party chairman Isaac Herzog remembered Hilou as “a strong, courageous, optimistic woman who shattered glass ceilings and barriers,” and called her “a champion of Israel’s non-Jewish sectors.” Meretz chairwoman Zahava Galon called Hilou “groundbreaking” and “a symbol of the struggle for the national and social struggle for gender equality.”
Israel, Jordan sign Red-Dead canal agreement
Haaretz 27 Feb by Ora Cohen — Project will provide potable water to Aqaba and Eilat and sea water to raise the level of the Dead Sea — Israel and Jordan agreed on Thursday to begin work on the Red Sea–Dead Sea Canal project, which will convey potable water to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Environmental organizations object to the project and have proposed another plan, which they say would be more effective and less wasteful, such as conveying water to Jordan via the Jordan River. The project envisages bringing water from the Red Sea to stabilize the level of the Dead Sea and setting up a desalination facility in Aqaba, Jordan. The agreement signed by the two countries on Thursday provides for a joint administration to draft a tender and choose the contractors for the project. Officials said that construction of the desalination facility was expected to start in about 18 months, while the laying of the 180-kilometer pipe would begin in about three years … The agreement signed on Thursday was between Israel and Jordan only. The Palestinian Authority will be able to sign a separate agreement with Israel if it chooses to use the Israeli water system, officials said … The desalination plant will provide water to both the Arava region in Israel and Aqaba in Jordan. The pipe, situated in Jordan, will convey salt water from the Red Sea to the shrinking Dead Sea, while, in exchange, drinking water from the north of Israel will be provided to Amman, the capital of Jordan.
Palestine ‘guest of honour’ at Casablanca International Book Fair
Middle East Monitor 24 Feb by Abderrahim Chalfouat — …Palestine had one of the biggest galleries, if not the biggest, in the whole fair. The exhibition included books, kufiyas, drawings, dresses, posters, music and an old man with his walking stick who shared greetings, stories and photos with the visitors. The books included titles by around 200 writers, many of whom were new to Moroccan readers. They characterised diverse and prolific careers dealing mainly with Palestinian suffering, women’s participation in public life, the political process, the Palestinian cause internationally, recent developments, Palestinian prisoners, art and poetry. Among the purposes of including new titles was to expose Moroccan visitors to Palestinian novelists. Books by Mahmoud Darwish, Samih Al-Qâssim and Emile Habibi were all sold. Moreover, at least 20 Palestinian writers participated in different cultural activities during the fair. Daily seminars and debates tackled Palestine from different angles, looking at history, current affairs, the diaspora, refugees, art, culture, memory and literature. The activities were attended by large and enthusiastic audiences. The many who visited the Palestine gallery brought to mind the millions of Moroccans who marched in protest at Israeli terrorism and systematic aggression against the Palestinians … Morocco’s shared heritage with Palestine was stressed, with a focus on Bab Al-Maghribi (“the Moroccans’ Door”) and the Maghribi Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Israel halts West Bank power cuts
NAZARETH (PIC) 27 Feb — An agreement has been reached between the Israeli electric company and the Israeli government to use frozen Palestinian tax funds to offset the Palestinian Authority’s electricity debt. Hebrew media sources quoted an Israeli official as saying that the company will stop cutting power to Palestinian cities over unpaid bills and will deduct funds from tax money. Under the deal reached Thursday between the Israeli premier’s office and the electric company, the latter will receive 300 million shekels ($75.8 million) from the frozen PA tax revenues, equivalent to the Palestinian debt for the last three months – December, January and February. This week, the Israeli electric company twice cut power to the northern West Bank for periods of up to an hour to protest the PA’s unpaid debt, which totals some 1.9 billion shekels ($483 million).
US hails Israeli decision to connect Palestinian town to water grid
Jerusalem Post 27 Feb by Michael Wilner & Herb Keinon — Israel’s decision to provide the Palestinian city of Rawabi with water is a welcome development, The State Department said on Friday. “We are looking forward to the Rawabi complex receiving the water it needs to function, and that deliberate electricity cuts to Palestinian cities in the West Bank will cease,” State Department spokesman Edgar Vasquez said in an e-mail to The Jerusalem Post. “We support all efforts to improve the investment climate and generate greater prosperity and opportunity for Palestinians and Israelis.”
West Bank settlers vote although outside of sovereign Israel
JERUSALEM (AP) 26 Feb by Tia Goldenberg — When Israelis go to the polls next month, tens of thousands of Jewish settlers in the West Bank will also be casting votes, even though they do not live on what is sovereign Israeli territory. This exception in a country that doesn’t allow absentee voting for citizens living abroad is a telling reflection of Israel’s somewhat ambiguous and highly contentious claim to the territory, which has been under military occupation for almost a half century. Over the years, Israel has cultivated a separate legal system there. The Palestinians are ultimately governed by Israeli military rule — while Israel’s own criminal and civilian laws apply to more than 350,000 Jewish settlers in a way they cannot apply to Israeli expats. The settlers’ voting rights stem from Israel’s 1969 election law that stipulates “there will only be voting on Israeli land,” with exceptions made for diplomats and soldiers serving on naval vessels. The law was amended the following year — when the settlement movement was in its infancy — to allow voting by Israelis “whose address is listed in the population registry located in territory held by the Israel Defense Forces.”
Is what Israel does really apartheid? / Jessica Purkiss
Middle East Monitor 27 Feb — …Defining Israel as a state which practices apartheid often hinges upon a tedious weighing-up of the similarities and differences between the Israel-Palestine scenario and that of apartheid as the ruling ideology in South Africa from 1948 to 1994. You often hear people say that Israel cannot be an apartheid state because it does not have a white population discriminating against a black population; that it is a question of religion not race; and that, unlike South Africa, the discrimination happens in a territory separate from the State of Israel itself. Aside from the latter two statements not being quite accurate, in international law a regime commits apartheid when it institutionalises discrimination to create and maintain the domination of one “racial” group over another. In 1973, the UN General Assembly adopted the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. By doing so it had to describe in detail what apartheid looks like. Below are the “inhumane acts” considered to be crimes of apartheid as listed in the convention followed by a small fraction of the Israeli policies and practices that correlate with these crimes….