Israel advances settlement plans despite international outcry
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 27 Jan by Killian Redden — In defiance of mounting international criticism, Israel has started to formally approve a burst of new settler housing construction across the occupied Palestinian territory. Israeli media reported Tuesday that Israel’s Civil Administration had approved a further 153 settler units in settlements across the West Bank last week . . . A spokesperson for Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) declined to comment, but Israeli daily Haaretz said the plans effectively put an end to an “informal construction freeze” that had lasted about 18 months. Hagit Ofran, spokesperson for Israeli advocacy group and settlement watchdog Peace Now, told Ma‘an that while approval for new homes in Israel’s settlements may have slowed over the last year and a half, construction had continued more or less unabated. “They try to say there is a freeze while on the ground construction is continuing,” she said. “What we see is the policy of Netanyahu’s government.” Peace Now is still compiling data for last year, but estimates so far suggest that 2015 saw at least as much settlement construction as 2013, even if less than in 2014 — “a unique year when they almost doubled construction,” Ofran said. While the Israeli government has not approved as many new homes in the settlements over the past year and a half, work has gone ahead on buildings whose construction was approved earlier. She said that even if there were to be a complete halt to new approvals, these earlier ones — in some cases dating back 20 years — could allow for the construction of as many as 10,000 new homes in settlements across the occupied Palestinian territory. This was quite aside from the fact that settlers could also build homes without official authorization only to have them approved “retroactively,” she said . . .
There are now some 550,000 Israelis living in Jewish-only settlements across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem in contravention of international law.According to Israeli rights group B’Tselem, this population lives in 125 settlements recognized by the Israeli state and about 100 outposts that do not have official authorization but enjoy “support and assistance from government ministries.”
Herzog calls for electrified fence between Israel, West Bank
Times of Israel 26 Jan — During the funeral ceremony for Shlomit Krigman, who was stabbed to death Monday in Beit Horon, opposition leader Isaac Herzog posts on Facebook setting out his vision for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict . . . Herzog, who chairs the center-left Zionist Union, which has traditionally called for a negotiated solution to the conflict with the Palestinians, goes on to outline a plan for unilateral “separation” between Israel and the West Bank. “Why don’t they implement an effective separation? Why don’t they erect a wall? What’s the point of a fence if one can hop over or crawl under it? We don’t need a livestock fence. We need real separation that will truly block the terrorists. We can erect a real fence, topped with electrified barbed wire, one that can’t be traversed. Any weaker solution is wantonness that this government is responsible for. We need a fence that’ll deter murderers and defend civilians. We can do that and defend our civilians from terrorism and murder. That’s part of my separation plan.” Herzog’s proposal sounds a lot like the one floated by his main rival in the center, Yesh Atid party chairman Yair Lapid, on Monday.
7 Hamas fighters killed in tunnel collapse in Gaza
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 28 Jan — Hamas’ military wing announced on social media on Thursday that seven of its fighters were killed when a tunnel collapsed in the northern Gaza Strip on Tuesday. “Al-Qassam Brigades mourn the death of seven Qassam members who were (killed) during their work inside resistance tunnels in Gaza,” the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades posted on their Twitter account. The group identified those who died in the tunnel as Thabet al-Rifi, Ghazwan al-Shubaki, Izz al-Din Qassem, Wassim Hassouneh, Mahmoud Basal, Nidal Odeh, and Jaafar Hamadeh. Hamas security sources had previously said in a statement that more than 10 fighters were in a tunnel when it collapsed due to heavy rain on Tuesday. The Qassam Brigades said the fighters had been working on rebuilding the tunnel at the time of the accident. The fate of the remaining fighters had yet to be specified. [IMEMC: four fighters managed to exit the tunnel]
Gaza border residents renew complaints of underground tunnel digging
JPost 27 Jan — Fears of resumed underground infiltration network construction by Gaza terrorists come amid reports that 8 Hamas operatives were crushed in a tunnel collapse — Residents of various Israeli communities along the southern border of the Gaza Strip have renewed complaints of reverberating, underground drilling sounds possibly linked to the construction of infiltration tunnels by Palestinian terrorists, Channel 10 reported Tuesday night. The residents told the Israeli news channel that at first they believed the middle of the night excavation sounds were caused by rain storms that hit the country earlier this week, however when the sounds desisted at 4 a.m. they realized their source was not the precipitation. One resident, Tzila Pitusi, said it felt as if someone was breaking into her home. “We started hearing things like concrete cracking, we felt that the concrete was rising up. We heard booms and bangs from the kitchen,” another local, Esther Naim, told Channel 10 . . . According to the report, an IDF official responded to the complaints, saying that after examination it was determined that no underground tunnels existed in Israeli territory.
Head Israeli official threatens closure of Gaza crossings
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 27 Jan– The head coordinator of Israeli government activity in the occupied Palestinian territory has threatened to seal crossings between Israel and the besieged Gaza Strip. A spokesperson for COGAT told Ma‘an on Wednesday that COGAT head Yoav Mordechai broke the news during an interview with the Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds, on the grounds that the Hamas movement that governs the strip is recruiting people exiting Gaza for “terrorism purposes.” Mordechai said: “[…] it seems that Hamas is preparing for another military offensive and has no interest in serving the interests of the population in the strip. This situation will eventually cause the closing of the crossings and the cessation of exits from Gaza,” COGAT told Ma‘an in a statement. The Israeli official warned Hamas to “cease efforts to exploit entry permits from Gaza to Israel for terrorism purposes,” saying that the movement gives permits to Gazan merchants and workers traveling to the occupied West Bank. “They recruit them for terror purposes and this is forcing Israel to consider several times before issuing permits,” COGAT quoted Mordechai as saying. Around 91,000 Palestinians were allowed by Israel to pass through the Erez crossing during 2015 for business-related purposes, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The number marked around four times the number of business-related entrances and exits from Israel to Gaza Strip in previous years. Israel had reportedly increased business permits for the purposes of boosting Gaza’s economy, which the World Bank last spring estimated was on the verge of collapse due to the blockade, ongoing war, and poor governance . . . The body [COGAT] added that the body had issued “over 100,000 permits for prayers, medical treatments and merchandise” since the military’s last operation in the strip.
Israel refusing to repair Gaza’s main power line
MEMO 27 Jan — The Palestinian Electricity Distribution Company in the Gaza Strip revealed that the Israeli authorities have refused to repair a major power line which supplies the Gaza Strip with electricity. The line, which is considered Gaza’s main power line, broke down last Thursday. In an exclusive statement to Sawa, the company said: “Despite the efforts that have been made since last Thursday, the Israeli occupation refused to repair the line, which aggravated citizens’ suffering in the Gaza Strip.” The company warned of a humanitarian disaster in the Gaza Strip as a result of the breakdown.
PA to send 1 million liters of fuel to heat Gaza
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 26 Jan– The Palestinian Authority cabinet ministers announced after their weekly meeting on Tuesday that the government will allocate one million liters of fuel to the Gaza Strip’s main power plant in light of the recent wave of freezing weather sweeping the territory. The fuel is intended to supply the Gaza power station, which has suffered from chronic shortages due to the crippling Israeli blockade of the Palestinian enclave. The power station has not run at full capacity in years. With the temperature low in the Gaza Strip expected to be near 0 degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit) for the next several days, Gazans will rely on space heaters for warmth, putting a strain on the enclave’s electrical grid. The Gaza Strip also suffers from shortage of gas — used daily by Palestinians in Gaza for both cooking and heating — as the quantities allowed to be shipped in are not sufficient to resident’s needs.
Gaza turns to wood to warm up
MEMO 27 Jan — EXCLUSIVE IMAGES — Gazans have increasingly become dependent on firewood to keep warm following the strengthening of the Israeli siege on the Strip coupled with the dropping winter temperatures. Since 2014, Gaza’s only electricity plant has been running at only half capacity following the Israeli shelling of the facility, it was partially rebuilt but is still incapable of working at its full ability. Israel has also cut electricity supply lines to the Strip; it claims this is the due to technical problems. Currently, the rate of wood purchase has risen by 40 per cent with each tonne worth $330. Gaza also suffers from a severe shortage of wood due to Israel’s continuous razing of trees in the farmlands along the eastern Gaza border.
Israeli navy detains 4 Palestinian fishermen off Gaza coast
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 27 Jan — Israeli naval forces on Wednesday detained four Palestinian fishermen off the coast of al-Sudaniyya in the northern Gaza Strip, locals said. The fishermen, all members of the Bakr family, were reportedly taken to an unknown destination. Israeli forces also confiscated their boats.
Israel’s deadly restrictions on Palestinian patients
EI 27 Jan by Charlotte Silver — Israel’s robust hasbara – or propaganda – effort devotes no small amount of energy to presenting its army as dedicated to the health and well-being of Palestinians – whether in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, or the blockaded Gaza Strip. For example, last year the Israeli army proudly announced that it had created a new unit whose sole focus would be the provision of medical care and humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian population in “emergency” situations. “When people are in need of care, we can’t afford to be indifferent,” Dr. Yishai Lev, a deputy commander in the new unit, explained. “Indifferent” the army certainly is not. Quite the contrary: Israeli policy practically dictates the health of the people it occupies.
In the first 10 months of 2015, Israel’s military occupation administration, which it calls COGAT – Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories – denied 1,035 Palestinians in Gaza exit permits to receive necessary treatment in the occupied West Bank, Israel or Jordan. This represents almost twice as many denials as were issued the entire previous year. As a policy, Israel issues permits only – but not always – for life-threatening conditions, allowing countless critical ailments and illnesses to go untreated. But Gaza’s health care system, battered by repeated military assaults and a nearly nine-year siege, is “severely lacking,” according to B’Tselem. The Israeli human rights group recently reported that Gaza’s health infrastructure simply cannot “provide for the needs of the local population.” . . .
– New demands – Children who are given medical exit permits must be accompanied by an adult caregiver who must also undergo a security check. At the end of 2015, Israel raised the required age of the caregiver from 35 to 55, adding a significant burden for families trying to obtain treatment for their sick or injured children. B’Tselem notes, moreover, that the “security checks” are lengthy and rarely successful. This new age-restriction worries people like 41-year-old Awatef Abu Daher, a Red Crescent nurse and mother of four who lives in Deir al-Balah. She was widowed when an Israeli airstrike killed her husband during Israel’s summer 2014 assault on Gaza. She was pregnant at the time. Their son, Naim, who was diagnosed with numerous congenital defects of the heart, stomach and intestines while still in the womb, was born in an Israeli hospital. The infant spent the first year of his life in and out of Israeli hospitals. But now his mother has been unable to obtain permission for him to leave for another operation doctors say is necessary. Having been summoned for questioning by the Israel Security Agency, also known as Shin Bet, Abu Daher is worried she won’t be allowed to travel with her baby boy.
Gaza: 70% of Israeli UXOs remain
IMEMC/Agencies 28 Jan — A year after the 2014 Israeli offensive against the Gaza Strip, 70% of the unexploded ordnance (UXO) remains in the region, UNRWA reported on Tuesday. UNRWA stated, in a report, that more than 7,000 total explosive remnants of war are estimated to remain in Gaza. Only 30% have been removed, while the remaining 70% continues to pose a threat to the population of the besieged enclave, especially children and adults who work on agricultural lands. It was added that, since the beginning of last summer’s hostilities, 16 people were killed and 90 wounded, including 38 children, due to contact with these unexploded remnants. The report further noted, according to Al Ray, that UNRWA and the UN Mine Action Service, with the support from the Italian Directorate General for Development Cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, would conduct a wide-range of outreach activities on safety and risk education on the matter.
Gaza’s milk industry turns sour
GAZA CITY (Al-Monitor) 26 Jan by Hana Salah — Milk and dairy factories in Gaza have steadily defied the Israeli siege imposed since 2007, maintaining capacity and productivity in the face of imported milk and dairy products from more modern and more productive factories in Israel and the West Bank. Despite their technological and financial vulnerabilities, the Gaza factories have become a critical part of the livestock sector, which has declined due to the various wars with Israel. In the Zaytoun neighborhood, east of Gaza City, lies the Dalloul cheese factory, in operation since 1998. The enterprise had to move three times between 2008 and 2014, after being shelled by Israel for allegedly sheltering rockets. The factory’s owner, Mamoun Dalloul, 40, rebuilt it every time. “This factory is my source of livelihood and the only work that I know. It was bombed during Operation Cast Lead in 2008, and also in 2010 when Israel was carrying out series of night strikes, and it was bombed in the war of 2012. The storage facilities were also bombed in the last war, in 2014, under the same false security pretenses.” . . . Dalloul told Al-Monitor, “Our products, from baladiya cheese, to feta cheese, to yogurt, etc., are sold throughout the Gaza Strip. But we could not restore production of yellow cheese after the damage of the last war, because the machinery we need is barred from entering through the Karam Abu Salem crossing.” (Continued)
High-tech ‘incubator’ nurtures Gaza start-ups with industry’s help
GAZA (Reuters) 26 Jan by Nidal Al-Mughrabi — Gaza may be physically cut off from the world under a blockade imposed by Egypt and Israel, but that hasn’t quashed the enthusiasm of young entrepreneurs who are getting guidance on their start-ups from the likes of Microsoft and Google. Since 2011, a programme called Gaza Sky Geeks has helped identify and nurture high-tech start-ups in Gaza, with the “incubator” launching 16 businesses, including an AirBnB-style office space app and an online publishing platform. In a strip of land where the economy is in turmoil, with 43 percent unemployment, Gaza Sky Geeks receives a steady stream of ideas from the large number of young, tech-savvy people among the territory’s 1.95 million population. Initially set up with the help of Mercy Corps, a U.S.-based charity, the programme is supported by Google.org and pulls in experts from other companies to offer guidance and advice, such as Facebook and YouTube . . . Last year, the incubator took 22 projects under its wing, five of which were successful enough to attract wider Arab investment and one of which is now a registered company.
Gaza speaks: This is what the decades-long siege has done to us
MEMO 26 Jan by Ramzy Baroud & Yousef Aljamal — Whenever Mariam Aljamal’s children hear the sound of thunder at night, they wet their beds. Their reaction is almost instinctive, and is shared by a large number of children throughout the Gaza Strip. Mariam’s three children – Jamal, Lina and Sarah – were all born a few years after the Gaza siege was first imposed in 2006, and all of them have experienced at least one Israeli war. “My kids feel scared when the electricity goes off, which is most of the time,” says the 33-year-old mother from Nuseirat Refugee Camp, who has a degree in Communication and is currently pursuing her MA. “They are still living the trauma of the 2014 offensive. War is still haunting my family, and life has become so hard for us.” Indeed, after years of trying, Mariam is yet to find work. Unemployment in Gaza is the highest in the world, according to the World Bank . . . For Ghada Abu Msabeh, 20, also from Deir Al-Balah, the siege has now become so rooted in the collective psyche of Gazans that it has grown to become the new norm. “I think that we have come to the point that the siege has become a part of our daily life and routine,” she argues. “I honestly cannot imagine what life would be if we are able to move freely or even go for an entire day without power outage. It is honestly difficult to remember how life used to be before the siege.”
Violence / Detentions — West Bank / Jerusalem
Suspected vehicular attack carried out at Israeli checkpoint
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 26 Jan — An Israeli soldier was injured on Tuesday in a suspected vehicular attack carried out on a military checkpoint near the occupied West Bank Palestinian village of Beit ‘Ur al-Tahta, Israeli police said. Israeli police spokesperson Luba al-Samri said that initial reports into the incident revealed that an Israeli soldier had been run over at a checkpoint near an entrance to the village in a suspected “terrorist attack.” The Israeli army confirmed the incident to Ma‘an, adding that the vehicle had broken through the checkpoint before hitting the soldier. The driver then reportedly sped away towards Beit ‘Ur al-Tahta village. The motive for the incident — terrorist or criminal — has yet to be determined, an Israeli army spokesperson added.
Beit ‘Ur al-Tahta, northwest of Ramallah, has been sealed by the Israeli military since Monday night, with all Palestinian movement in and out of the village prevented with the exception of medical cases. The military moved to close off the village hours after a resident of the town, Ibrahim Osama Yousif Allan, 23, carried out a stab attack alongside 17-year-old Muhammad Abu Ghush in the illegal Israeli settlement of Beit Horon, southeast of Beit ‘Ur al-Tahta. Both Palestinians were shot dead by an Israeli security guard on site.
Israeli injured in stabbing near illegal settlement north of Jerusalem
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 27 Jan– An Israeli man was injured Wednesday night in a stabbing attack at a gas station outside an illegal Israeli settlement north of Jerusalem, Israeli police said. Israeli police spokesperson Luba al-Samri said in a statement that a middle-aged Israeli man was critically injured in the upper body after he was stabbed at the entrance of a gas station complex near the illegal Givat Zeev settlement; he was taken to the Shaare Zedek Medical Center for medical treatment. An 18-year-old from the occupied West Bank village of Bir Nibala suspected of carrying out the stabbing fled the scene and was chased down and held by witnesses before being detained by Israeli police following the incident. Al-Samri said the teen was also taken to the hospital for medical treatment, without specifying the nature of his wounds.
Palestinian teen detained after stab attempt at Qalandiya checkpoint
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 27 Jan — Israeli forces on Wednesday detained a Palestinian teenager at the Qalandiya military checkpoint south of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank following an attempted stabbing, Israeli police said. Israeli police spokesperson Luba al-Samri said in a statement that Israeli forces requested that the youth exit a bus for inspection after they noticed he was not carrying identification and was acting in a “suspicious” manner. The Palestinian refused to be searched and pulled a knife from his pocket before an Israeli officer “took control over the youth while the knife dropped to the floor,” al-Samri said, adding that no injuries were reported. The Palestinian, believed to be a 17-year-old from the Nablus area, was transferred for interrogation in Israeli custody.
Soldiers kidnap a young woman in Jerusalem
IMEMC/Agencies 27 Jan — Israeli soldiers kidnapped, on Wednesday at noon, a young Palestinian woman while [she was] leaving the Al-Aqsa Mosque through the Council Gate, in occupied Jerusalem, and took her to an interrogation center in the city . . . Eyewitnesses said the soldiers stopped and questioned the young woman while she was trying to leave the Al-Aqsa mosque, and abducted her. Several Palestinian women tried to prevent the soldiers from abducting the young woman, but they pushed them away. Meanwhile, several Israeli settlers, under heavy police and military protection, stormed the courtyards of Al-Aqsa, while the Palestinian Muslim worshipers were not allowed through.
Army kidnaps eight Palestinians in the West Bank
IMEMC 27 Jan — Israeli soldiers kidnapped, overnight and at dawn Wednesday, eight Palestinians, including two children (12 and 15) after the army broke into their homes, and searched them, in different parts of the occupied West Bank. The Palestinian Prisoners Society (PPS) has reported that the soldiers invaded a number of communities in Jericho, and kidnapped two Palestinians, identified as Othman Ka‘abna and Khaled Abu Namous. The soldiers also kidnapped a Palestinian, identified as Tareq Khalil, in the al-‘Ezariyya town, near Jerusalem. In addition, the soldiers invaded Deir Samet town, south of the southern West Bank district of Hebron, and kidnapped two children, identified as Odah Abdul-Basset al-Arroub, 12, and his brother Issa, 15, and took them to the Etzion military base. The army also invaded the northern West Bank district of Jenin, kidnapped three Palestinians, identified as Majd Hosni Abu Shamla, Yasser Ali Abu M’alla and Mohammad Ziad ‘Alawna, and summoned Mohammad Khozeimiyya for interrogation.
Soldiers kidnap 11 Palestinians, including a legislator and four children, in Jerusalem
IMEMC 28 Jan — Israeli soldiers kidnapped, on Thursday at dawn, eleven Palestinians, including three children and an elderly legislator, after the soldiers stormed many homes and searched them, mainly in the Old City, the al-‘Eesawiyya town, Kafr Aqab and Shu’fat. Head of the Detainees’ Parents Committee in Jerusalem, Ahmad Abu Asab, said the soldiers invaded the home of legislator Mohammad Abu Teir, 65, in Kafr ‘Aqab town, and abducted him . . . He added that the soldiers also kidnapped Nabil Abdul-Latif, Mahmoud Nasser, Mohammad ad-Deesi, and a child identified as Shadi Ateyya. In the al-‘Eesawiyya town, the soldiers searched homes, and kidnapped two children, identified as Tamer Beea’, 14, and Akram Mustafa, 15. Another child, identified as Khalil Issa, 15, was abducted by Israeli soldiers in Shu‘fat refugee camp, in addition to three Palestinians, identified as, Omar Za‘anin, Saleh Sandouqa and Baha’ Najeeb.
Israeli forces detain Palestinian lawmaker
JERUSALEM (Ma‘’an) 28 Jan — Israeli forces detained Palestinian lawmaker Muhammad Abu Tair early Thursday, a Palestinian rights organization said. The head of the Jerusalem Committee for Families of Prisoners, Amjad Abu Asab, confirmed that Abu Tair, a Jerusalem deputy, was detained while in his home in the neighborhood of Kafr ‘Aqab north of occupied East Jerusalem. The Ahrar Center for Prisoners Studies and Human Rights condemned Abu Tair’s detention, with the head of the center Fouad al-Khafsh calling the detention raid a “war crime.” Al-Khafsh added that Abu Tair has spent at least 32 years in Israeli prison overall, and saw his permanent residency status in Jerusalem revoked on Oct. 8, 2010 after five months of detention. An Israeli army spokesperson confirmed that two people were detained in Kafr ‘Aqab, saying they were “Hamas terror operatives.”
Palestinian village sealed for 2nd day, Ramallah-area roads closed
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 27 Jan — The occupied West Bank village of Beit ‘Ur al-Tahta was sealed and several other areas in the Ramallah district were closed by Israeli military forces for the second day in a row following an attack on a nearby illegal settlement. Locals told Ma‘an that Beit ‘Ur al-Tahta remained closed Wednesday after being shut to all traffic the day before. The Israeli military surrounded the village after a resident — alongside a Palestinian from the Qalandiya refugee camp — carried out a stab attack on the illegal Beit Horon settlement. The attack left a 24-year-old Israeli woman dead and another injured. Locals said that the main road leading from the West Bank hub of Ramallah to six other villages in the Ramallah district were closed following the attack, including Beit ‘Ur al-Fouqa, al-Tirah, Beit Sira, Khirbat al-Misbah, Kharbat Bani Harith, and Saffa. The closures forced Palestinian residents traveling to Ramallah to travel via long detours through neighboring villages, oftentimes on dangerous dirt roads, locals added. An Israeli army spokesperson confirmed to Ma‘an the continued closure of Beit ‘Ur al-Tahta on Wednesday, adding that no residents were permitted to enter or exit the village with the exception of “humanitarian cases.” The Israeli army spokesperson could not specify the expected duration of the closure but told Ma‘an on Tuesday the decision was made in accordance to evaluation of the security situation.
Hating the occupation, not the Jews / Gideon Levy
Haaretz 27 Jan — Palestinian attackers choose violence as a means of resisting a more pernicious violence, that of the occupation — The gloomy, cold hall seethed with repressed anger, and the somber faces of the dozens of men sitting there clearly expressed it. This week there was mourning in the remote Palestinian village of Al-Karmil in the hills south of Hebron, after the killing of Rukaiya Abu Eid, a girl not yet 14 years old. She was killed by a guard she tried to stab at the entrance to the settlement of Anatot. On Israeli media she was termed “a 13 year-old terrorist” without the batting of an eyelid. The grieving father refused to talk to us at first. “What do I have to talk about with the Israelis who killed my daughter?” It snowed on the way there and there was a mist around the mourning hall. Inside there was fury and cold. After a while the atmosphere became somewhat relaxed and the father, Eid, agreed to talk. He pinned his daughter’s desperate act on the reality of life under the occupation. “Every little child sees the crimes,” he said. In Israel they chose to adopt the girl’s mother’s version, according to which Rukaiya left the house with a knife after a fight with her sister. In Israel they liked this explanation, involving no occupation or other such nonsense. A family quarrel. We had no hand in the unfolding of events. Even the notion that every Palestinian knows that if she only ventures out with knife in hand she’ll be shot to death by Israelis does not shock anyone here. The dozens of Palestinian male and female youths who set out over the last few months to kill Israelis did not do so “because they’re Jews,” as Israel’s propaganda likes to portray it, with a (routinely) broad hint about the Holocaust and the persecution of Jews. They set out to stab or run people over by car because they’re conquerors. They set out to kill their conquerors. They chose violence as a means of resisting a more pernicious violence, that of the occupation. They wanted to hurt Israelis, especially soldiers and settlers, because of the occupation, not because they’re Jewish. Their Jewishness has nothing to do with it. For the Palestinians, there’s no difference between a soldier who’s Jewish, Druze or Bedouin and a settler from the tribe of Menashe. (Continued)
Land, property theft & destruction / Settlements
Israel forces demolish two homes in East Jerusalem
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 27 Jan– Israeli forces on Wednesday tore down two buildings in occupied East Jerusalem, claiming one had been built without permits, while the other stood in the way of a new route connecting Israeli settlements. Locals said that Israeli forces stormed and closed off an area in the Jabal al-Mukabbir neighborhood early Wednesday before bulldozers moved in and demolished a building under construction along with its surrounding wall. The building’s owner, Ibrahim Ali Surri, told Ma‘an that the building measured 60 square meters and he had been intending to move into it in the coming weeks. He said that Jerusalem’s municipal authorities ordered him to halt construction a month ago and he had been trying to obtain the necessary permits since then. He said Wednesday’s demolition took place “without prior notice.”
Separately, Israeli forces also demolished a home in the Shu‘fat neighborhood, reportedly to clear way for a road — Route 21 — which will run through Shu‘fat to connect the illegal Israeli settlements of Pisgat Zeev, Ramat Shlom and Neve Yaakov.The plans are expected to divide the neighborhood in two and will require the confiscation of hundreds of dunams of land. The home’s owner, Kifaya al-Rashq, told Ma‘an the the home was built 15 years ago and houses 19 family members. He said that Israeli forces stormed the home and forced his family to evacuate, despite the cold weather, before they proceeded with the demolition.
Some 579 homes have been destroyed in East Jerusalem over the last twelve years, leaving 2,133 Palestinians homeless in total, according to Israeli rights group B’Tselem. Israeli government policies make it nearly impossible for Palestinian residents of Jerusalem to obtain building permits, according to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.
Israel’s logic of dispossession / Amira Hass
Haaretz 27 Jan — The invasion of two Palestinian houses in Hebron’s Old City last week by dozens of Israelis was an obvious, logical step. We still don’t know on what basis the settlers decided that the two houses on Al-Sahla Street were purchased legally. The Zaatari family of Hebron, which owns the houses, denied selling them. In a complaint to the Israel Police, which was submitted via the (Palestinian) Hebron Rehabilitation Committee, the family demanded their immediate eviction. The mystery remains for the time being: Was a straw man hired for the purchase? Did someone from the large family give in to pressure to sell? Whether or not they were sold, there is a very simple reason why these houses and hundreds of others in Hebron are standing empty and deserted. Emptying out the houses in Hebron is a link in a sequence of logical decisions and actions. In 1994 Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin punished the Palestinians for the massacre of Arabs in the Cave of the Patriarchs by Dr. Baruch Goldstein, and imposed a prolonged curfew on them to protect the settlers from acts of revenge. That is the same logic that to this day guides the army commanders, who are punishing the residents of the villages Kerioth and Jaloud, for example, for the violence of the settlers in the outposts Esh Kodesh and Yishuv Hadaat, and evicting them from thousands of dunams of their land.
All the settlements and outposts on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem march along the same path: The ground was prepared by the state, which evicts Palestinians from their natural surroundings with various excuses and with military and administrative orders. Then the Israeli settlers come, the ones who harass the Palestinians who were not evicted or failed to “abandon” the site. To protect the attacking settlers, it’s necessary to widen the circle that is empty of Palestinians, and forbid them to cultivate their land or reach their homes. Then there is room for more outposts, vineyards and settlers’ neighborhoods, and once again the secure area forbidden to the Palestinians must be widened, otherwise God-fearing Jews will attack them. Simple logic. And all that started long before the wave of knifing attacks. That’s how the violent Shiloh bloc was created, or the sacred Ariel panhandle – which smashed the Palestinian space in the center of the West Bank. And that’s how the ancient, beating heart was torn out of Palestinian Hebron, which is now the setting of a horror film, or a paradise for settlers. (Continued)
Attacking churches in Palestine: an Israeli policy since 1948 / Dr. Saleh Al-Naami
translated from Al-Araby Al-Jadeed 27 Jan — Israeli documents have revealed that the Israeli army deliberately adopted a policy based on the destruction, vandalism and harm of the sanctity of churches in Palestine, during and after the 1948 war. An Israeli book, which will be published next month, explains how the Israeli army carried out seizure and destruction operations against churches located in the Palestinian cities, towns and villages the army took control off after expelling their people. The book, which will be published by the Moshe Sharett Heritage Society, is based on the statements and testimonies of former Israeli Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Moshe Sharett, regarding the brutal attacks on Palestinian churches. According to the book, which Haaretz newspaper published excerpts from, Sharett, in his capacity as foreign minister, strongly criticised the policy of destruction and looting adopted by the Israeli army during the meeting held by the government under the presidency of David Ben-Gurion on 5 July 1949 . . . Sharett also said that the soldiers stole a very valuable crown made of precious stones from one of the churches. He also noted another incident where the soldiers broke the hand off a sculpture of Jesus in one of the churches in order to steal the gold bracelets that were on it, as an example of the systematic looting and stealing from the churches which lasted for months. He stressed that the Israeli officers and soldiers also intentionally harmed the sanctity of the churches and tore holy books, mentioning that the acts of destruction committed against the churches were not only committed by the officers and soldiers, but also by many settlers, especially those who newly immigrated.
Israeli army prepares to demolish home of Palestinian allegedly involved in attack
JERUSALEM (WAFA) 27 Jan – Israeli troops on Wednesday stormed the house of a Palestinian youth who was shot dead by Israeli army on Monday, and photographed the house, located in Qalandia refugee camp, seemingly in preparation to demolish it to punish his family. Local sources in Qalandia, north of Jerusalem, said an Israeli police force broke into the house of Hussein Abu Ghoush, 17 years old, and photographed it from inside and outside, a measure that Israeli authorities usually take prior to demolishing the homes of Palestinians suspected of carrying out attacks on Israeli targets . . . B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group, says: “The people who bear the brunt of the [punitive] demolitions are relatives – including women, the elderly, and children – whom Israel does not suspect of involvement in any offense.”
Prisoners / Court actions
Israeli court delays decision on fate of hunger-striking prisoner
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 27 Jan– The Israeli Supreme Court delayed on Wednesday its decision on whether or not to release a Palestinian journalist held under Israeli custody whose 64-day hunger strike has brought him close to death. The head of the legal department of the Palestinian Authority’s Committee for Prisoners’ Affairs, Iyad Misk, said that the court approved to continue Muhammad al-Qiq’s administrative detention until his medical condition had been examined. Al-Qiq, a 33-year-old journalist from the southern West Bank town of Dura, began his hunger strike in November to protest his administrative detention — internment without charge or trial. The committee said al-Qiq’s lawyers had called on the court to lift his administrative detention and to release him due to his critical health condition. The committee’s head, Issa Qaraqe‘, said that the court’s decision was “careless” with al-Qiq’s life, adding that by not releasing the journalist, the court was providing legal cover for his death, and he demanded that the international community pressure Israel to save his life.
The European Union missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah meanwhile said in a statement on Wednesday that they were “very concerned about the deteriorating health condition of the Palestinian journalist Muhammad al-Qiq.” “The EU calls for the full respect of international human rights obligations towards all prisoners,” the statement read. “Detainees have the right to be informed about the charges underlying any detention, must be granted access to legal assistance, and be subject to a fair trial.” Al-Qiq’s hunger strike has received wide attention across the occupied Palestinian territory, and is being viewed as yet another bid to challenge Israel’s use of administrative detention, under which prisoners may be held without trial or charge for renewable six-month periods. The Israeli authorities have suggested that al-Qiq is being held for “incitement,” working with Hamas-affiliated media, and being a “threat to security,” although Amnesty International said last week that withholding al-Qiq on secret evidence was unlawful. An investigation by the rights group also revealed that al-Qiq had been mistreated and tortured during his administrative detention.
Journalists demand release of hunger-striking prisoner al-Qiq
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 27 Jan — Dozens of Palestinian journalists and relatives of jailed Palestinians on Wednesday demanded immediate intervention to save Palestinian hunger striker Muhammad al-Qiq. A sit-in was held for the 33-year-old journalist and father of two, just as the Israeli Supreme Court in Jerusalem held a session ruling to delay a decision on al-Qiq’s case. Head of the Palestinian Authority’s Committee for Prisoners’ Affairs, Issa Qaraqe‘, said that the committee’s sole demand was for al-Qiq to be released due to his critical condition and arbitrary detention. Head of the Journalists’ Union, Nasser Abu Bakr, meanwhile said a decision by the court to extend al-Qiq’s detention would ultimately result in the striker’s death. Abu Bakr added that the Israeli government would likely use the judiciary system to pass its “crime” of “executing” al-Qiq. Parliament member, Mustafa al-Barghouthi, meanwhile said al-Qiq had become a symbol of resistance against administrative detention and that his strike represents his defense for prisoners in Israeli jails. He added that al-Qiq is defending every journalist, not only Palestinian but internationally, in addition to defending the freedom of opinion and expression.
B’Tselem field researcher Nasser Nawaj‘ah released after six-day arrest
B’Tselem press release 25 Jan — Judge finds that authorities failed to produce sufficient evidence that Nawaj‘ah endangered a land dealer — Ofer Military Court yesterday (Jan. 24, 2016) ordered the release of B’Tselem field researcher Nasser Nawaj‘ah, who was arrested on the night between Tuesday and Wednesday (Jan. 20, 2016). However, the judge delayed the execution of his decision for 24 hours in order to allow the police to appeal. The police announced this afternoon it will not pursue an appeal, which clears the way for his release in the coming hours. Military Judge Major Rani ‘Amer wrote in his decision that “it has not been clarified sufficiently, and on the basis of evidence, how the actions of the suspect before me actually endangered the said Israeli resident who ostensibly acted to sell the land of Palestinians.” The judge also rejected the police claims that Nawaj‘ah presented a threat and was liable to disrupt the investigation.
Child detainees deprived of heat in Hasharon Prison
IMEMC/Agencies 28 Jan — With a snowstorm expected to hit the region by Monday,young Palestinian prisoners in Israel’s Hasharon prison have complained about being deprived of a necessary heating system, according to the Palestinian Prisoners Society (PPS). An attorney with PPS said, according to WAFA, after having visited minor Palestinian detainees in Hasharon, central Israel, the Prison Service has banned prisoners from buying electric heaters and deprived them of sufficient winter blankets. There are some 450 minors in Israeli jails, 41 of whom are in Hasharon.
Palestinian sentenced to 14 months for Facebook posts
IMEMC/Agencies 28 Jan — The Israeli military court of Salem, a few days ago, sentenced Palestinian citizen Mamdouh Abdulhaq, aged 25, from Nablus, to 14 months actual imprisonment and 18 months of suspended sentence for the charge of incitement on Facebook, Palestine Information Center (PIC) said. The prisoner’s father told PIC that the court convicted his son with 21 charges, which include affiliation with Hamas political party, and incitement against the occupation by publishing political leader Sheikh Ahmad Yassin’s photos, as well as posting calls for participation in anti-occupation marches on his Facebook page.
Two elite Israeli soldiers jailed for killing a camel in West Bank
Newsweek 27 Jan by Jack Moore — An Israeli military court has demoted and sentenced two Israeli soldiers from the military’s elite unit to prison after they shot and killed a camel in the West Bank, Israeli media outlets reported on Tuesday. The court sentenced the soldier who shot the camel to four months in prison for unlawful use of weapons and of animal abuse, demoting him to the rank of private, while the second soldier, who filmed the incident, was sentenced to two months in prison and also demoted to private. The pair were members of the Israeli military’s Duvdevan special operations unit, which conducts undercover operations in the West Bank. Footage posted on December 9, 2015 [below] showed one of the men pulling out a handgun and shooting the camel out of his car window while laughing. The graphic video has amassed almost 50,000 views and authorities arrested the pair after discovering the footage of the incident, which took place in November while the pair were on leave. It is unclear where in the West Bank the shooting took place. “The punishment reflects the seriousness with which the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] views animal abuse, especially when carried out with military issued weapons,” an IDF spokesperson told The Jerusalem Post. According to Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz, when asked by investigators why he was laughing after killing the camel, the shooter replied: “We were in a kind of euphoria. It was exciting.”
Israel bans Palestinian prisoners from bringing in books
+972 mag 27 Jan by Haggai Matar — The Israel Prison Service (IPS) has been changing its policy about what it allows Palestinian security prisoners to receive inside its prisons, and has now banned them from bringing in books, +972 has learned. The book ban was imposed “after attempts to smuggle cellular phones inside books,” an IPS spokesperson told +972’s Hebrew sister site Local Call on Tuesday, adding that the ban is indefinite for the time being. The book ban affects only Palestinian security prisons, as opposed to Israeli criminal prisoners. “Unsurprisingly, the IPS chose the easy way of collective punishment and sweeping bans,” said Attorney Abir Baker, who represents Palestinians in Israeli courts. “Attempts to smuggle forbidden items into prisons is a known phenomenon all over and for all types of prisoners. That is why prisons have meticulous inspection mechanisms.” . . . Conditions for Palestinian prisoners are far worse than Israeli prisoners (both are held in facilities run by the IPS). Palestinian prisoners are not allowed to study through university correspondence courses, are not allowed conjugal visits, regular visits are allowed only through barriers and without any physical contact. And unlike Israeli prisoners, Palestinians are not allowed furloughs, and have drastically lower chances of having their sentences reduced.
Palestinian refugees – Lebanon, Syria, Palestine
PA trains security officers in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 27 Jan– The Palestinian Authority has completed a training course for 400 new recruits who will serve as security guards in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, according to a commander for the Palestine Liberation Organization in Lebanon. The commander of a joint PLO security force, Munir Maqdah, told Ma‘an on Tuesday that four military patrols consisting of 100 officers each had already been qualified to join the Palestinian Authority National Security forces. The recruits will be working in the refugee camps of Ain al-Hilweh and Burj al-Shamali in southern Lebanon, Burj al-Barajneh in the suburbs of the capital Beirut, and al-Baddawi in the north of the country. Palestinian security forces reportedly serve as traffic police, security guards, drug squads and law enforcement officers in Lebanon refugee camps. Maqdah said no new officers had been recruited “in a long time,” adding that 1,000 Palestinian security officers had retired and dozens had been killed in the past several years, leading to a serious demand for new staff.
Arab League calls for supporting UNRWA’s $817M appeal for Syria, Palestine
CAIRO (WAFA) 26 Jan — The Arab League Tuesday called on donors to immediately respond to UNRWA’s appeal to collect $817 million to aid Palestinian refugees in Syria and the occupied Palestinian Territories. The League said it had been following with great interest UNRWA’s appeal of $817 million emergency funds for refugees in Syria and the oPT, which are according to an UNRWA’s press release, “contexts [that] continue to experience the relentless effects of conflict, occupation and blockade.” Given their worsening conditions and reduced health and educational services, the Arab League emphasized the importance that UNRWA continue to assume its service provision role to Palestinian refugees. The league stressed the importance of responding to the appeal as the UNRWA embodies “the international community’s commitment to the Palestinian refugees until a just solution is found for their issue (question) in accordance to UN resolutions, namely UN resolution 194.”
Palestinian Authority: Gas shortage to be solved within 24 hours
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 27 Jan — The severe gas shortage in the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip should be solved by Thursday, a Palestinian Authority spokesman said. Yousef al-Mahmoud told Ma‘an on Wednesday that the gas crisis would be solved within 24 hours, after a month of serious shortages due to weather conditions delaying the delivery of gas via ships. Palestinians living under military occupation have increasingly turned to gas in order to offset the dependence on Israeli electricity.
The dependence comes despite the discovery of energy resources off the coast of the Gaza Strip and potentially in small pockets in and around the occupied West Bank. According to a 2014 report from Palestinian rights group al-Haq, there are “potentially eight gas fields off the coast of Gaza, one gas field on the border of the West Bank, and potentially two or more oil fields bordering the northern and southern boundaries of the Gaza Strip.” The report said there may also be a cluster of gas and oil deposits around the Dead Sea, as well as one potential oil field near Qalqiliya and another near Hebron. However, the report noted the dependence of Palestinians under occupation on Israel’s energy sector, as well as Israel’s efforts to prevent Palestinians “from developing their natural gas resources.”
Winter storm brings snow to Palestine
MEMO 27 Jan — EXCLUSIVE IMAGES — Under the weight of a 3 day winter storm Palestinian schools have been closed for 3 days. Fears of the very heavy snowfall that has hit the region over the last two winters have as yet failed to materialise. Temperatures have been hovering around freezing since Monday although the storm was initially predicted to hit the region on Sunday evening. Some flooding has been reported in Gaza along with high winds which caused some damage in Israeli cities. Snow first hit the West Bank on Monday as a heavy snowstorm left a temporary blanket of white around some higher areas. The cold snap has continued with intermittent rain, cloud and snow, and on Tuesday evening the heaviest snow fell around Jerusalem, Hebron and some parts of Ramallah. Ill-equipped to deal with cold weather, schools across the West Bank have been closed since the weekend. With many schools having little or no classroom heating, classes are cancelled in advance of predicted freezing temperatures. Hospitals and Municipalities across the region were on full alert having learned from the experiences of the last two winters which brought cities to a standstill amidst several feet of snow. Many people had to be evacuated from their homes in 2014 and again in 2015 when the storms hit and many major roads were impassable.
West Bank road project puts Israel, EU on collision course
JERUSALEM (AP) 27 Jan — A narrow country road outside Jerusalem has turned into a new battleground between Israel and the European Union, deepening a dispute between the allies over Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank. The EU is financing the paving of the dirt road by Palestinians as part of a broader effort to help them develop the local economy on the way to eventual independence. Israel, however, says the roadwork is illegal because it was done without Israeli permits and has ordered it to stop. The dispute goes far beyond the 4-kilometer (2.5-mile) road, which Palestinians say is to help farmers in the area reach their land. At issue is the future of portions of the West Bank known as “Area C,” the 60 percent of the territory that remained under full Israeli control as part of interim peace accords two decades ago. Its ultimate fate has been a major contention point in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. The Palestinians claim all of the West Bank, captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war, as the heartland of a future independent state. Israel seeks to keep large chunks of the area, which is home to 300,000 of the West Bank’s 2.4 million Palestinians as well as the 370,000 Israeli settlers in the territory. Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett, leader of the hard-line “Jewish Home” party, has even said the area should be annexed. According to interim peace accords, any construction in Area C needs permission from Israel. Israel rarely grants approval for Palestinian building . . . In the maze of lines created by the Oslo accords in the West Bank, Area C divides up the territory under Palestinian control into isolated enclaves, making expansion of Palestinian communities difficult. Under the accords, that division was supposed to be temporary, with much of Area C to be transferred to Palestinian control, but with the breakdown of the peace process that never happened . . .The EU runs dozens of projects in Area C. The Israeli government views these efforts with great suspicion and often demolishes projects it says are illegal. Between January and May 2015, for instance, 41 EU-funded structures that cost some 236,000 euros ($255,000) to build were torn down by Israel, the EU’s commissioner for aid and crisis manager, Christos Stylianides, recently told the European Parliament. (Continued)
Palestinian workers banned from settlement jobs
BETHLEHEM (MEE) 26 Jan by Megan Hanna — For over a week more than 10,000 Palestinians have been barred from working in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, after an Israeli army ban some have labelled as “collective punishment”. The Israeli army announced the ban earlier this month after the stabbing of two Israeli settlers, including a mother of six who was fatally stabbed in her home in the illegal settlement of Otniel, south of Hebron. “In light of the daily situation assessment following recent terror attacks, security measures have been taken,” Brigadier General Lior Carmeli, a spokesperson for the Israeli military, said last week. “As of today, Palestinian workers cannot enter Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria,” he said, referring to the occupied West Bank. The duration of the ban remains unclear, but the move is open-ended and will apparently be reviewed on a daily basis. According to local news source Ma’an, the move is expected to impact approximately 11,000 Palestinian labourers whose occupations rely on access to settlements. However, some estimates have put the figure much higher at 26,000 workers, the majority of who are employed in the construction, manufacturing and agricultural industries.
Abbas: Unity government, elections still on the table
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 27 Jan — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday said that a national unity government as well as national elections were still on the table, but not yet approved by the Hamas movement. The president, in an interview with the Monte Carlo al-Doualiya radio station in Ramallah, said he was “continuing efforts” to end Palestinian factional division, but blamed Hamas for abandoning an agreement signed in April of 2014. The agreement was intended to end the more than seven-year split between Hamas and Fatah, and led to the formation of a unity government months later. While national elections were set to be held shortly after, the unity government subsequently failed and elections have yet to be held.
How the PA is complicit in Israel’s occupation
Visualizing Palestine 26 Jan [infographics]– It was reported in the past week that Palestinian Authority (PA) paramilitary police have acted in coordination with Israeli authorities to arrest around 100 Palestinians since October. This won’t come as a surprise to seasoned Palestinian commentators, many of whom have long criticised “coordination” as a means of securing Israel’s occupation at the expense of Palestinian human rights. The PA is the West Bank’s largest employer, and around one third of its annual budget is allocated to ‘security and public order’ – more than health and education combined. All new recruits are vetted by Israeli and US officials, and have been widely deployed to crack down on non-violent Palestinian civil society activities, while doing nothing to protect Palestinians from attacks by Israeli settlers or soldiers. 1. Know who controls your income 2. Set your spending priorities 3. Build a paramilitary force 4. Ignore the will of your people 5. Know who you answer to 6. Know who to target 7. Know who to leave alone (Political agreements explicitly prevent the PA from policing Israelis occupying Palestinian land, while the Israeli military regularly invades areas under PA control)
UN’s Ban: Violent response to Israeli occupation ‘human nature’
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 26 Jan — UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday lent his voice to mounting international criticism of key Israeli policies and said it was “human nature” for Palestinians to react violently to Israel’s nearly 50-year military occupation. Speaking at the UN Security Council’s Middle East debate, Ban said the new year had begun as 2015 ended — “with unacceptable levels of violence and a polarized public discourse across the spectrum in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory.” He condemned a series of violent attacks carried out by Palestinians in recent months, but said that Israeli security measures were failing to “address the profound sense of alienation and despair driving some Palestinians — especially young people.” Ban said: “Palestinian frustration is growing under the weight of a half century of occupation and the paralysis of the peace process. Some have taken me to task for pointing out this indisputable truth. Yet, as oppressed peoples have demonstrated throughout the ages, it is human nature to react to occupation, which often serves as a potent incubator of hate and extremism.” The UN Secretary-General urged drastic change to key Israeli policies toward the occupied territory. “So-called facts on the ground in the occupied West Bank are steadily chipping away the viability of a Palestinian state and the ability of Palestinian people to live in dignity,” he said.
Israeli PM accuses UN’s Ban of encouraging ‘terror’
MEMO 27 Jan — Israel has accused UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of encouraging “terror” by suggesting that alleged knife attacks by Palestinian youth were a natural reaction to Israel’s heavy-handed occupation. “The UN lost its neutrality and moral force a long time ago and the secretary-general’s remarks do not improve the situation,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday. “The Palestinian murderers do not want to build a state — they want to destroy a state,” he added. Israel insists that an ongoing wave of violence seen since last October — in which more than 160 Palestinians have been shot dead by Israeli forces after alleged attacks or during protests — was the result of “incitement” on social media.
Erekat appeals to Quartet to pressure Israel to release bodies
JERICHO (Ma‘an) 26 Jan — PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat on Tuesday called on the Middle East Quartet to pressure Israel to return the bodies of alleged Palestinians attackers still being held by the Israeli authorities. The call was made in an open letter sent to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini, United States Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. “I call upon you to instantly take action and exert diplomatic and political pressures on Israel to immediately release bodies of Palestinian martyrs killed by Israeli forces and settlers,” Erekat wrote. He said that withholding the bodies of Palestinians was a form of “collective punishment” by Israel against the Palestinian people, which he described as illegal under international law. Erekat gave the full list of Palestinians whose bodies are being held by Israeli authorities [or at least the full list of those who have died in the last 3 1/2 months – many believe Israel has held other bodies for years,]
Saudi Arabia supports PA’s budget with $60M
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 26 Jan — The Arab League announced, in a statement Tuesday, that the government of Saudi Arabia has transferred $60 million to support the Palestinian Authority’s budget for the last three months in 2015. The league said it had received a memorandum from Saudi Arabia’s permanent delegation to the League proclaiming that the Saudi Fund for Development had transferred $60 million to the PA. The statement noted that with this financial transfer, Saudi Arabia has honored its financial commitments to the PA for the months of October, November and December in the fiscal year 2015.
Israel vows to restart law of return for Ethiopian Jews
GONDAR, Ethiopia — The Israeli government says it plans to restart its law of return programme in Ethiopia. Under the “Aliyah” rule, anyone who can prove their Jewish identity can move to Israel. Israel stopped the programme for Ethiopians in 2013, saying there was no one left who met the criteria – a move that split up thousands of families. For example, the family of Werkenshe Akalu, an Ethiopian Jew, left for Israel in 2013 but she was unable to follow. “I feel lonely here because all my family are in Israel,” Akalu told Al Jazeera. Feleke Goba’s parents and grandparents were allowed to settle in Israel in 2003. He said he does not know why his application was not accepted. His mother passed away in Israel and he was unable to afford to travel and see her before she died. “Now I hope I can go to Israel before my father dies, even just for one day,” said Goba. However, in light of the government’s recent change of heart, critics say Israel arbitrarily makes changes to increase the Jewish population, and treats Ethiopian Jews as second-class citizens . . . The Jewish Agency, which helps to organise the immigration of Jews to Israel, denies accusations that the government applies the law of return arbitrarily . . . About 135,500 Jewish Israelis of Ethiopian descent live in Israel; more than 50,000 of whom were born inside the country.