Palestinians in Gaza Strip mourn deaths of 7 al-Qassam fighters
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 29 Jan — Thousands of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip took part Friday in the funeral of seven fighters from Hamas’ military wing who were killed while rebuilding the movement’s underground tunnel network. The Hamas movement reported nearly a quarter of a million attendees to the funeral of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades fighters, who were buried in the al-Shuhada (Martyrs’) cemetery in eastern Gaza City. The seven were laid to rest following a funeral march, led by armed members of the Brigades, which set off from Gaza City’s al-Omari mosque following Friday prayers. Senior Hamas official Ismail Haniyeh said during the prayers that resistance was ongoing and that the al-Qassam Brigades were continuing preparations “to face any confrontation with the Israeli occupation,” adding that al-Qassam fighters dug tunnels in order to defend the besieged Gaza Strip.
The movement announced Thursday that at least 10 fighters were in a tunnel in northern Gaza earlier this week when it collapsed due to heavy rains, killing Thabet al-Rifi, 25, Ghazwan al-Shubaki, 25, Izz al-Din Qassem, 21, Wassim Hassouneh, 19, Mahmoud Basal, 25, Nidal Odeh, 24, and Jaafar Hamadeh, 23 [photos]. The announcement supported previous reports that Hamas had been expanding the tunnel network — used mainly for military purposes in the northern Gaza Strip and smuggling in the south — since Israel’s 2014 offensive on the besieged enclave left much of it destroyed . . .
In a press statement released prior to the funeral Friday, Hamas mourned the seven fighters and called on Palestinians to “rally around armed resistance and reject all forms of security coordination with the Israeli occupation. “Those men died as they were preparing for anti-occupation resistance. They have sacrificed their souls to defend their land and holy sites,” the statement read.
Hamas added in the statement that those who have “remained mum over the Israeli crimes and have been propping up security coordination are the nation’s enemies. “Armed resistance is the only road towards the liberation of Palestine. Our people’s sacrifices shall never go in vain,” the movement said. While Hamas has remained largely absent from a wave of unrest that spread across the occupied Palestinian territory in October and continued into January, officials from the movement have been vocal in their rejection of the Palestinian Authority’s response, particularly security coordination carried out with Israel.
Seven Palestinians injured in Gaza clashes
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 29 Jan — Seven Palestinians were injured during clashes with Israeli forces in several parts of Gaza Strip on Friday, the Ministry of Health said. Clashes broke out in the area of al-Faraheen east of Khan Yunis, near the Nahal Oz kibbutz east of Gaza, and near the Beit Hanoun crossing in the northern Gaza Strip. The spokesman for the ministry of health in Gaza, Ashraf al-Qidra, said seven people were wounded after Israeli forces fired live bullets and tear gas at the protesters. Qidra added that one Palestinian suffered serious injuries after being shot in the head.
Israeli forces open fire on Palestinian farmers, shepherds in Gaza
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 30 Jan — Israeli forces deployed at the borderline between the Gaza Strip and Israel opened fire [Saturday] at a group of Palestinian farmers and shepherds who were in nearby agricultural lands. Witnesses told Ma‘an that the group was forced to leave the area after the forces opened fire east of the city of Khan Younis. No injuries were reported.
Israeli forces shoot, injure Palestinian farmer in northern Gaza
GAZA (Ma‘an) 29 Jan — Israeli forces on Friday shot and wounded a Palestinian farmer with live fire near the al-Maqbara al-Sharqiya area of the northern Gaza Strip, medical sources said. The farmer was reportedly hit in the foot and taken to the Indonesian Hospital for treatment. No further details of his identity or condition were provided.
Israeli forces open fire on farmers, shepherds in Gaza
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 28 Jan– Israeli forces opened fire on Palestinian farmers and shepherds in the Gaza Strip near the borderline with Israel early Thursday, locals said. Witnesses told Ma‘an that Israeli forces deployed at military guard towers southeast of Gaza City opened fire on Palestinians farming near the buffer zone, forcing farmers to leave the area.
Separately, forces opened fire on shepherds in the town of al-Qarara northeast of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip. Medical sources confirmed to Ma‘an that no injuries were sustained during either incident . . .
Israeli forces have opened fire on Palestinians a number of times this month, consistent with a pattern of frequent fire faced by Palestinians inside of or near a military-imposed “buffer zone” on both land and seaside borders of the besieged Gaza Strip. The exact limits of the zone are unclear but enforced with live fire, putting the lives of Palestinian farmers and fishermen who work near the border at risk. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights reported 41 incidents of live fire on the borderlines during December 2015 alone.
Man dies, wife suffers smoke inhalation after using coal for heat
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 29 Jan — A Palestinian man was killed and his wife suffered excessive smoke inhalation on Friday after they lit a coal fire in their home to keep warm amid frigid weather in Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip. Medical sources identified the couple as Jamal Abdullah, 48, and Ruba Abed Rabbu, 45. A spokesperson of the Gaza Ministry of Health, Ashraf al-Qidra, told Ma‘an that the woman was taken to the Indonesian Hospital for treatment in critical condition. In addition to poor weather conditions, the Gaza Strip has been suffering serious power shortages, and Palestinians in Gaza have regularly been provided with no more than five hours of electricity a day.
Egypt disconnects power lines to Gaza Strip
GAZA (Ma‘an) 29 Jan — The Egyptian power lines that provide electricity to parts of the southern Gaza Strip’s have been disconnected for maintenance for an unspecified amount of time, the electricity company for the besieged enclave said on Thursday. An official for Gaza’s electricity company told Ma‘an its Egyptian counterpart had informed them that the lines that provide power to the city of Rafah would be disconnected starting at 7:00 a.m. on Friday. The official added that the lines’ disconnection, in addition to pre-existing shortages, would create a power deficit in Rafah. Even at full capacity, the Egyptian and Israeli electricity grids, together with Gaza’s sole power plant, fail to cover the territory’s energy needs.
200 Gazans pray at al-Aqsa Mosque
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 29 Jan — Some 200 Palestinians from the Gaza Strip headed to Jerusalem on Friday morning to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. The group of worshipers left the blockaded coastal enclave via the Erez crossing in Gaza’s north, an official with the Palestinian liaison department told Ma‘an. Friday’s weekly visit was part of an ongoing agreement following the 2014 Gaza war that allows 200 Gazans over the age of 60 to attend Friday prayers at the mosque compound before returning to Gaza immediately afterward. The agreement came as few Palestinians are able to leave the besieged strip, which has been under Israeli military blockade since Hamas took power over the area in 2007. The head coordinator of Israeli government activity in the occupied Palestinian territory threatened earlier this week to seal crossings between Israel and the besieged Gaza Strip following allegations that Hamas has been recruiting people exiting Gaza for “terrorism purposes.” It was not clear from the Israeli official’s statement if the potential closure would impact the weekly trip by Gazans to the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Coca Cola to open Gaza factory ‘within weeks’
Times of Israel 28 Jan — Coca Cola is to open a factory in the Gaza Strip within weeks, which will eventually provide more than 1,000 jobs in what is one of the world’s worst-hit unemployment hot spots. Palestinian investors have plowed some $20 million to underpin the drinks giant’s first foray into the Strip, the NRG website reported Thursday. They include the billionaire Munib Masri, known as the richest Palestinian, and Palestinian-American businessman Zahi Khouri, head of the Palestinian National Beverage Company (PNBC), Coca Cola’s Palestinian subsidiary, which already operates factories in Ramallah, Tulkarem and Jericho in the West Bank. “Coca Cola is one of the first of the biggest global companies to invest in Palestine, and this investment opened the doors to others,” Khouri told foreign media. “The same will happen in the Gaza Strip.” The PNBC received a permit from Israel two years ago to the build the factory in the Karni industrial zone. The recent transfer of equipment for the factory suggests the plant will open soon, NRG said.
UK and US spies hacked Israeli drone feeds to watch Gaza strikes, Snowden leaks reveal
Newsweek 29 Jan by Jack Moore — British and Americans spies, under a program code-named Anarchist, secretly hacked into the video feeds of Israeli drones to monitor strikes on the Gaza Strip and watch for a potential strike on an Iranian target, newly leaked files from whistleblower Edward Snowden showed on Friday. According to a report by investigative website The Intercept, led by prominent journalist Glenn Greenwald, Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) operated the classified program from a mountaintop listening post in Cyprus. This allowed them a bird’s-eye view from the Israeli military’s drone fleet for more than a decade. British intelligence services ordered analysts to monitor Israel’s drones over the Golan Heights, an area the Israeli military captured from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, as well as Israel’s borders with Lebanon and Syria.
Photo: Gaza’s way of the ninja
Reuters 19 Jan photo by Mohammed Salem — A Palestinian youth blows fire as he demonstrates his ninja-style skills for a photographer in front of the ruins of a building, that was destroyed in the 2014 war, in the northern Gaza Strip January 29, 2016. The youths, who have been receiving martial arts training at local clubs in Gaza for the past two years, decided to form a team to hold regular shows in the hope that the publicity generated will eventually lead to them being invited to participate in international contests
Closures / Restriction of movement
Israel closes main road, blocks 20 villages from accessing Ramallah
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 28 Jan — Israeli forces on Thursday closed a main road west of Ramallah city which connects 20 villages to the economic and cultural hub, the mayor of Ramallah said. Ras Karqar Bahjat Samhan said Israeli troops closed the road with large concrete blocks without prior notice, preventing residents from being able to access Ramallah city, in the central occupied West Bank. He added that the closure affects 45,000 Palestinians from 20 villages and neighborhoods from reaching their families, work, universities and schools . . . On Sunday, the mayor said Israeli forces also closed the road between Beit Owr junction and route 443 which separates five other villages from Ramallah city. Roadblocks, temporary checkpoints, and security checks upon entrance and exit into many Palestinian villages and towns are among the increased restrictions that Israeli forces have initiated since a wave of unrest swept the region at the start of October.
Nonviolent resistance in the South Hebron Hills
Dissident Voice 28 Jan by Cassandra Dixon — The worst worries of a child’s school day should be homework. Maybe a lost book, or an argument with a friend. No child’s walk to school should routinely involve armed soldiers and fear of sometimes being chased and assaulted by angry adults. But for the Palestinian children who live with their families in the small rural villages that make up the South Hebron Hills, this is how the school day begins . . . Once, the trip from the tiny hamlet of Tuba to the school in the village of Tuwani was a calm and beautiful walk along a quiet road connecting the two villages. During the l980s Israeli settlers built a settlement on privately owned Palestinian land, which had been used to graze sheep and goats. Following construction of the settlement, the settlers established an illegal outpost. Now, industrial chicken barns sit astride the road that once served children walking to school, farmers taking livestock to town, and families traveling to Tuwani, or the larger town of Yatta for health care, shopping, and higher education. Between the settlement and the outpost, what remains of the road is closed to Palestinians. With one exception – children walk behind an Israeli military jeep to reach their school. Their parents are not allowed to walk with them. The twenty or so children who make this trip start their school day in an unprotected field, anxiously waiting for the Israeli soldiers who will oversee their walk to school. Villagers had built shelters in which the children could await the soldiers, but Israeli authorities have dismantled every shelter. If it is raining, the children get soaked. Some days the soldiers are the same soldiers who chased or arrested shepherds the day before – shepherds who may be the brothers or fathers of these children. Some days the soldiers are late, leaving the group of children waiting, vulnerable to attack and within easy reach of the outpost. Some days the military escort does not arrive at all, and the children make the trip to school with international volunteers along a longer path, which also lies alongside the settlement. About 1,000 people live in the neighboring villages, an estimated half of whom are children. Nevertheless, because the villages lie inside of Israeli Firing Zone 918, the military uses the land for military training. Amazingly, despite all of this, it is almost unheard of for children to miss a day of school. Parents are determined that their children will be educated . . . This is what nonviolent resistance to military occupation looks like.
Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing
East Jerusalem resident condemns Israeli plan to connect settlements
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 28 Jan — The Palestinian owner of a home demolished in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shu‘fat condemned Israel on Thursday for tearing down local homes for the purpose of connecting illegal Israeli settlements. Israeli forces demolished the home of Kifaya al-Rashq on Wednesday, displacing 19 Palestinians living in the 150-square-meter house. Al-Rashq told Ma‘an that Israeli forces with police dogs entered and evacuated family members, the majority of whom were children and only able to leave the home with a few possessions. The forces assaulted locals who gathered near the home during the demolition using batons, physical force, and pepper spray, al-Rashq said. Eighteen Palestinians were left with injuries following the incident, including three Red Crescent paramedics. Al-Rashq told Ma‘an that the family had been living in the house since 2000, after building on a piece of land they purchased, and that the Jerusalem Municipality has issued several demolition orders on the home since. “We’ve struggled with Israeli courts for 15 years to protect our house from demolition, as it is our only shelter, and we’ve paid thousands of shekels for building violations, lawyers and engineers, but in vain.”
Al-Rashq says the demolition of her home and others in the neighborhood was carried out by Israeli authorities “for the benefit of settlements” to make way for a road — Route 21 — which will run through Shu‘fat in order to connect the illegal Israeli settlements of Pisgat Zeev, Ramat Shlomo and Neve Yaakov. An activist who monitors settlement activity, Ahmad Sub Laban, told Ma‘an that Route 21 was planned in the 1990s and that its construction is expected to be followed by 1,500 new settlement units in the Ramat Shlomo settlement. Sub Laban added that the Israeli municipality had opened two additional entrances for Ramat Shlomo through Route 21. Al-Rashq’s neighbor, Rajeh Huwwarin, and his seven-member family told Ma‘an he also received a demolition order issued by an Israeli court, expected to be carried out in April.
Israel destroys Negev mosque, issues mass demolition order in Nablus
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 28 Jan — Israeli authorities on Thursday demolished a mosque in the Negev village of Rakhama, and issued a demolition order for an area in Nablus, home to 85 residents, local sources told Ma‘an. In the Negev, Israeli forces demolished a mosque in the unrecognized village of Rakhama for the second time this month. Like the housing in the unrecognized village, the mosque was built with corrugated metal. Israeli forces initially destroyed the mosque on Jan. 6, but residents rebuilt the structure, which was then torn down again. Following the first demolition, Palestinian member of the Israeli Knesset Taleb Abu Arar said he attempted to prevent the demolition, but had been unable to convince the Israeli authorities. “(They) do not spare any effort in exerting pressure on the Arab population of the Negev in their attempt to empty the land of Arabs and to displace them,” he said. The Palestinian MK slammed Israel for not providing “any services to Palestinians in unrecognized villages.” Despite collecting taxes from Palestinians, he said that “Israeli authorities demolish their homes and close the doors of livelihoods in their faces.”
Meanwhile, Israeli forces delivered a demolition order to residents in the Ain al-Rashash area near Duma village in southern Nablus. According to the order, 85 residents will have until next Monday to evacuate their homes before the demolition. A spokesperson for the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) said the orders were given “against 12 illegal buildings.”
Israeli forces seize Palestinian vehicles, equipment in Jordan Valley
TUBAS (Ma‘an) 30 Jan — Israeli forces late Friday confiscated trucks and equipment being used to build a new agricultural road in the Palestinian village of Khirbet al-Dir in the northern Jordan Valley. The head of a local council in the occupied West Bank village, al-Maleh Arif Daraghmah, told Ma‘an that military forces had seized the equipment, without citing a reason for its removal. Daraghmah added that days before, Israeli forces had ruined dozens of acres of agricultural land and roads while carrying out military drills in the area. Palestinians living in the Jordan Valley — occupied with the rest of the West Bank in 1967 — is in Area C, under full Israeli military and administrative control, and residents of the area face a constant threat of destruction of structures and property. Threats of displacement for the thousands of Bedouins living in the area have reportedly increased dramatically since 2012, notably the use of Israeli military training exercises as a means of forcible displacement. Rights groups argue that Israel aims to fully annex the strategic area of land and is unlikely to return the occupied area to Palestinians.
Israeli land grab threatens Palestinian church
RAMALLAH (Al-Monitor) 26 Jan by Ahmad Melhem — Israel’s confiscation of Palestinian land is in the spotlight once again, this time for annexing the Beit al-Baraka church to a Jewish settlement in the West Bank after a shady deal over its ownership — Israel is continuing to annex Christian church endowments in Palestine, both covertly and blatantly. Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon recently approved the annexation of the Beit al-Baraka church compound to the Gush Etzion settlements established on Palestinian territories south of the West Bank, according to a Jan. 6 Haaretz report. Reportedly, Ya’alon was responding to pressure by Israeli settlers who are constantly breaking into the church compound under the protection of the Israel Defense Forces. These settlers claim that they bought the compound, where a fence and security cameras have been installed and the IDF prohibits anyone from entering. Meanwhile, Palestinians are organizing marches in Beit al-Baraka to protest the settlers’ control over the church. According to Palestinian officials and Christian citizens who spoke to Al-Monitor, there are eight buildings on the 10-acre church grounds, including a hospital providing medical care and services to Palestinians. The compound is owned and supervised by the Presbyterian Church in Palestine, which in turn is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in the United States, they said . . .
A group calling itself Arab Orthodox Youth in Jordan and Palestine is speaking out against Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem. The movement’s organizers, who held sit-ins and marches Jan. 6, consider the patriarch “unworthy” due to actions they deem “racist against Arabs and wasteful with properties and endowments of the church that are being diverted to Israel.” Those actions include the patriarch’s leasing to an Israeli company of almost 18 acres of land belonging to the Saint Elias Monastery south of Jerusalem. The Orthodox community believes the deal will leave the village of Beit Safafa surrounded by Israelis and allow them to expand their settlements in Jabal Abu Ghneim and Gilo. Jalal Barham, a member of the Follow-up Committee of the Arab Orthodox High Council and head of the Arab Orthodox Cultural Club, told Al-Monitor, “The area of the Orthodox patriarchate’s endowment properties is estimated at 20% of most religious endowments in Palestine. Nobody knows how many properties and lands were rented or diverted to Israel.” (Continued)
Violence / Invasions / Detentions — West Bank / Jerusalem
Funeral held for teen killed during fatal attack on Israeli settlement
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 30 Jan — Thousands mourned on Friday at the funeral of a 17-year-old Palestinian from the Qalandiya refugee camp in the occupied West Bank who was shot dead while carrying out an attack in the illegal Beit Horon settlement earlier this week. Hussein Muhammad Abu Ghush was killed alongside 23-year-old Osama Youssef Allan on Monday after the two stabbed two Israeli women in the settlement, one of whom died shortly after from critical injuries. Israeli authorities handed over the bodies of both Palestinians Friday evening after withholding them for four days. Abu Ghush’s body was taken in an ambulance from the Palestine Medical Complex in Ramallah to the Qalandiya refugee camp, where residents carried the 17-year-old on their shoulders to his family home. Following final farewells bid by relatives, his body was brought to a mosque inside of the camp for funeral prayers before being laid to rest. Abu Ghush is among at least nine residents of the Qalandiya refugee camp to be killed since a wave of unrest spread across the occupied Palestinian territory in October. Around half of those killed from the camp were shot during clashes with Israeli military forces, while others died while carrying out attacks on Israeli forces or civilians.
Soldiers injure an international activist in Nabi Saleh
IMEMC 29 Jan — Israeli soldiers attacked, Friday, the weekly nonviolent protest in Nabi Saleh village, near Ramallah, and shot an international activist with a live round, while many protesters suffered the effects of tear gas inhalation. Morad Eshteiwy, coordinator of the Popular Committee in Nabi Saleh village, northwest of Ramallah, said the activist was shot in the leg, and was moved to a local hospital for treatment. He added that many protesters suffered severe effects of tear gas inhalation, after the soldiers used excessive force. The army surrounded the village, fired many gas bombs, live rounds and rubber-coated steel bullets. Eshteiwy added that, for the second time in one week, the soldiers sealed the main entrance of the village, forcing hundreds of Palestinians from nearby villages and towns, to take longer, unpaved roads.
Israeli forces disperse Bil‘in, Kafr Qaddoum weekly protests
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 29 Jan– Dozens of Palestinians suffered excessive tear gas inhalation on Friday when Israeli forces dispersed weekly marches in the West Bank villages of Bil‘in and Kafr Qaddum, local activists said. Activists said clashes erupted in Bil‘in west of Ramallah when Israeli forces began firing tear gas canisters at the weekly march, in which Palestinians, Israeli, and foreign activists participated. Protesters raised posters of Muhammad al-Qiq — a Palestinian journalist whose 66-day hunger strike to protest administrative detention has brought him close to death — and called for his immediate release.
Meanwhile, in Kafr Qaddum, dozens of local and foreign activists suffered excessive tear gas inhalation when Israeli forces dispersed their weekly march. Protesters said they were “ambushed” by Israeli soldiers as they marched toward a sealed road at the village’s southern entrance. Israeli forces were reported to have used live fire, although no injuries were reported. Murad Shtewei, a spokesperson for the village’s popular resistance committee, said an Israeli bulldozer had closed a road inside the village using a dirt mount being used by Israeli snipers. He said they had been doing this some two months. Residents of Kafr Qaddum stage regular protests against land confiscations as well as the closure of the village’s southern road by Israeli forces. The road, which has been closed 13 years, is the main route to the nearby city of Nablus, the nearest economic center.
Israeli forces storm al-Quds University, seize documents
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) — Hundreds of Israeli soldiers stormed Abu Dis’ al-Quds Open University early Friday and confiscated equipment and documents belonging to its student union, staff members told Ma‘an. Hassan Dweik, the university’s deputy head, said that up to 300 soldiers stormed the campus, holding six security guards in a room and preventing them from leaving for two and a half hours. He said the soldiers raided the university’s Islamic studies department, as well as its student union offices, after smashing their way through their doors. Dweik said the soldiers confiscated at least one computer as well as boxes filled with students’ documents. He said the soldiers fired stun grenades during the raid, and took pictures and measurements of a number of buildings inside the university campus. He condemned the raid as a dangerous violation against education, and called on international human rights and education rights groups to decry the army’s actions . . . Earlier this month, Birzeit University in Ramallah condemned an Israeli army raid into its campus, during which Israeli forces confiscated and damaged university equipment.”Birzeit University condemns this attack and the direct violation of the sanctity of the university campus,” the university said. “This is a belligerent military attack on the university and our right to education and all the principles involved in the freedom of education.”
Soldiers kidnap six Palestinians in Bethlehem, one in Jenin
IMEMC/Agencies 29 Jan — Israeli soldiers invaded, on Friday at dawn, the West Bank district of Bethlehem, searched many homes and kidnapped six Palestinians. The soldiers also kidnapped one Palestinian in the northern West Bank district of Jenin. Several armored Israeli military vehicles invaded the Deheishe refugee camp, south of Bethlehem, and kidnapped two Palestinians, identified as Ramez Yousef Milhem, 18, and Siraj Khaled al-‘aas, 17, after searching and ransacking their homes. The invasion led to clashes between the soldiers and local youths in the Salaam neighborhood, in the center of the refugee camp, and the soldiers fired several gas bombs and concussion grenades. The soldiers also invaded Bethlehem city, searched homes and kidnapped Mohammad Maher Masalma, 22. In addition, the army kidnapped Mahmoud Issa Najajra, 24, Abdul-Halim Mohammad Najajra, 23, and Rashed Ibrahim Najajra, 17, from Nahhalin town, west of Bethlehem, while working in Jerusalem, after the soldiers claimed they did not carry entry permits or work permits. In related news, the soldiers invaded Qabatia town, south of the northern West Bank city of Jenin, searched homes and kidnapped Ali Yousef Kamil, 28. The soldiers also invaded Barta‘a town, surrounded by the Annexation Wall, west of Jenin, and confiscated two Palestinian taxis. In Jenin city, the soldiers summoned Farid Ziad al-Jammal, 21, for interrogation in the Salem military base, after invading his home and violently searching it, causing excessive damage in addition to breaking some of its doors. Furthermore, the soldiers invaded Kafr Ein village, north of Ramallah, and drove in its neighborhoods; no clashes or arrests were reported.
Israeli forces detain youth for knife possession in Hebron City
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 28 Jan — Israeli forces on Thursday detained a Palestinian who was reportedly carrying a knife near the Tel Rumeida area in Hebron’s Old City, an Israeli army spokesperson said. The spokesperson said the knife was found during a stop-and-search and that the “suspect” was then transferred to an Israeli intelligence office for questioning. Israeli forces have detained a number of Palestinians for possession of knives in recent months following a spate of attacks by Palestinians that have left 20 Israelis dead since the beginning of October. In the same period, more than 160 Palestinians have been shot dead by Israelis. While Israel alleged many of those were attempting to attack Israelis when they were shot, Palestinians and rights groups have disputed Israel’s version of events in a number of cases. Hebron’s Old City has been at the epicenter of the recent tensions, and was declared a closed military zone in November, with entrance to the main residential area only allowed to Palestinian residents of the Israeli-controlled H2 area as well as Israeli settlers that live in illegal settlements throughout the area.
Saer: the cycle of death in Palestinian ‘capital of the martyrs’
SAER [SA‘IR] 18 Jan by Peter Beaumont — In the Palestinian village of Sa‘er each young man’s death at the hands of Israel’s security forces has set the stage for yet another death, 13 now in the space of a few months. Less than two weeks ago four of its men and youths were killed in a single day in what Israelis say were two separate attacks by those who died. One was on the outskirts of Hebron, the second at the Gush Etzion junction where three young men – Muhanad, Ahmad and Alaa Kawasbeh – were killed, all of them cousins. Since then three more have died. As remarkable as the over-representation of this one village in the Palestinian death toll of about 150 since the beginning of October are the close relationships between those killed. The dead are brothers, cousins and friends from a place some locals are now calling the “capital of the martyrs”. Almost half of the deaths have occurred at a single location – the Beit Einun junction, where a settler bypass leads to the illegal Israeli settlement of Kiryat Arba. The deaths have taken place one after the other, a number during attempted attacks, in a seemingly unstoppable cycle of anger and revenge, which can be traced back to a single event – the killing of 27-year-old Abdallah Shalaldeh last year during an arrest raid by undercover Israeli soldiers on a Hebron hospital, when he was shot leaving a toilet on a ward. Abdallah’s cousin Mahmoud Shalaldeh, aged 17, was next to die. He was shot on the day of Abdallah’s funeral during a stone-throwing clash with Israeli soldiers. Mahmoud’s brother Khalil was killed two months later during an attempted knife attack on a nearby Israeli checkpoint. It is hard to see at first what makes Sa‘er, with a population of 25,000, different from other large West Bank communities. Located five miles from the flashpoint southern West Bank city of Hebron, the village and its satellites sprawl along road 60, the the territory’s main thoroughfare . . . Although Hamas won the municipal elections here in 2005, Sa‘er’s mayor is from Fatah, the political faction of the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas. Of the 10 residents who died before last week, Hamas claimed five of them on “martyr” posters, Fatah claimed the other five (Continued)
Is deadly gunfire the only way to stop a Palestinian girl with a knife?
Haaretz 29 Jan by Gideon Levy and Alex Levac — The youngest of the knife-wielders to date, 13, was a fourth-grade dropout who milked sheep. Last Saturday she walked, with a dagger, toward a settlement and tried to stab a guard, who shot her to death — We will never know what really happened in the dimness of last Saturday morning – what Ruqayya was thinking when she picked up a knife and made her way, distraught, toward the iron gate of a nearby settlement, Anatot. The security cameras tell only what happened from that point on. Her blurred figure is seen chasing another blurred figure – the security guard – brandishing the knife. They are a few meters apart. The moment at which he fires a single bullet straight into her heart and she falls to the ground, dead, is not seen on the video footage released for public viewing. Why did he shoot her? Did he have no alternative, even though she never got close to him, according to the video? Why did she do what she did? Did she quarrel with her sister and then go to her death, as her mother says? Was it the conditions of her life under the occupation that drove her to try to stab the guard at the gate of the settlement, as her father suggests? Above all, what difference does it make? For the cruel and irrevocable bottom line is that Ruqayya Abu Eid, not yet 14, was shot to death, as dozens were shot before her, when the action that could – and should – have been taken was to overcome her by force, shoot her in the leg or stop her by other nonlethal means. A girl with a knife – but a girl.
With appalling insensitivity, TV broadcasters and news editors in Israel immediately dubbed her a “13-year-old girl terrorist.” Most of these media people probably have children of their own and know what a girl her age looks like and how an adolescent behaves. They also know that experienced security guards are supposed to be able to stop a girl that age without killing her, even if she runs at them with a knife . . . Her 14th birthday would have been on February 13, but she probably would not have celebrated it even had she lived, this poor shepherd’s daughter who left school in the fourth grade, when she was 10. All her father says about her now is that Ruqayya spent most of her time helping her mother with chores in the tent and milking the family’s sheep. She was a good girl and was very good at milking, he says . . . .
Photo Story: Portraits of Palestine’s youth rebellion
Activestills 28 Jan — For nearly four months, popular protests, violence and general unrest have buffeted the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, leading some commentators to suggest a third intifada or uprising. Most of this is driven by restive and young people tired of endless and evidently pointless negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel that have brought no end to Israel’s military occupation and only seen its illegal settlements expand. “This is our land. We must do anything to free it from occupation,” says Mahmoud, 26, from al-Azzeh refugee camp in the West Bank city of Bethlehem.
Prisoners / Court actions
Jailed journalist says will continue hunger strike until freed or dead
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 28 Jan — Hunger-striking Palestinian prisoner Muhammad al-Qiq said on Thursday that he was not surprised the Israeli Supreme Court had delayed its decision on whether or not to release him, his lawyer said. Lawyer Jawad Boulos said al-Qiq, who has been on a hunger strike for 65 days, confirmed that he would continue his strike until he was either released or dead. Boulos said that al-Qiq informed the medical staff and the Israeli Prison Service that he refused to be fed or treated medically by force, even if he fainted or died, adding that the prisoner was barely awake and in critical condition. The prisoner made the decision without outside pressure, and fully accepted the consequences of his decision, Boulos added. Al-Qiq, a 33-year-old journalist from the occupied West Bank and father of two, began his hunger strike in November to protest his administrative detention — internment without charge or trial.
PHRI doctor prevented from visiting hunger striker Muhammad Al-Qeeq
PHRI 29 Jan — January 28, 2016 – HaEmek Hospital, where hunger striker Muhammad al-Qeeq has been hospitalized for about a month, prevented yesterday the entrance of a volunteer physician from Physicians for Human Rights – Israel (PHRI). On January 11, at the request of al-Qeeq and his family, the organization had made an urgent request to the Israel Prison Service (IPS) to allow an independent physician to visit him immediately. This request was submitted to the IPS following the hospital management claim that it had no authority to approve or reject such a request. After the visit was approved and coordinated by the IPS for January 27th, the hospital told PHRI it would not allow the visit, arguing that it did not have a suitable doctor who was available to accompany the visit at the scheduled time. It made this claim even though the presence of a doctor on behalf of the hospital not only is not required – it contradicts the duty to maintain the patient’s privacy. International ethical codes emphasize the importance of a medical examination by an independent doctor to create a trusting relationship with the hunger striker in an attempt to reach a life-saving solution. As Al-Qeeq is now in the 65th day of his hunger strike, this delay can be critical. According to the Patient’s Rights Act, the hospital is required to help the patient do everything necessary to realize his right to be visited by a physician. PHRI condemns the HaEmek Hospital’s decision, which reflects the inappropriate conduct that was described by Al-Qeeq until now: the forced treatment and the pressure to end his hunger strike. In another development, the High Court ruled yesterday that it would not intervene to release Al-Qeeq from administrative detention. PHRI reiterates its call for his immediate release.
‘Hares boys’ sentenced to 15 years after families pay fines
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 29 Jan — After a nearly three-year long battle in Israeli military courts, five Palestinian teens from the occupied West Bank village of Hares accused of manslaughter after reportedly throwing stones were on Thursday issued sentences of 15 years, a prisoners’ rights group said. The case has been disputed in the past by relatives and rights groups, who say that insufficient evidence was provided to prove that the five had any involvement in the death of an Israeli toddler who passed away two years after the teens were accused of throwing stones at her mother’s vehicle, causing it to crash. A lawyer from the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society, Iyad Mahamid, told Ma‘an that the military court issued the sentences to Muhammad Suleiman, Tamer Souf, Ammar Souf, Ali Shamlawi, and Muhammad Kleib. Relatives of the detainees told Ma‘an following a court hearing in December 2015 that the teens would be sentenced to prison terms of 15 years on the grounds [condition] that their families pay fines of 30,000 shekels ($7,700) by Jan. 28. “Hares Boys,” an activist blog dedicated to raising awareness of the teens’ case, posted on their Facebook page “Free the Hares Boys” on Thursday that the families were able to pay the fines in full with the assistance of outside donations. Failure to pay the fines could have resulted in prolonged sentencing to at least 25 years in prison, according to the Hares Boys blog.
Thursday’s sentencing marks a poor end to a drawn-out court battle that began after the five were detained by Israeli forces on March 15, 2013. All were 16 and 17 years old at the time of their detention. Their arrest followed the hospitalization of a three-year-old Israeli girl, Adele Biton, who suffered severe head injuries when her mother’s car collided with a truck near the Israeli mega-settlement of Ariel. The toddler died two years later after suffering complications from pneumonia. The family believes that while the child died of pneumonia, the severity of her complications was due to injuries sustained after the vehicle accident, according to Israeli media. The Israeli vehicle had reportedly lost control after being hit by a stone, and the five teens were later accused of throwing stones that day at vehicles driving on Route 5, a highway leading to several nearby Israeli settlements. Twenty Israeli drivers afterwards filed insurance claims stating that stones hit their cars, but the incidents lacked eyewitness testimony and the police received no calls at the time the teens were throwing stones. (Continued)
Palestinian lawmaker sentenced to 4 months administrative detention
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 29 Jan — The Israeli authorities on Thursday sentenced Palestinian lawmaker Hatim Rabah Rashid Qafisha to four months in administrative detention. Israeli forces detained Qafisha, a Hamas-affiliated member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, on Jan. 24 after raiding his house in Hebron city. Palestinian security sources said at the time that unidentified assailants set fire to Qafisha’s vehicle after the Israeli forces detained him and left the area. The 56-year-old lawmaker is currently being held in the Ofer military prison. He is reported to suffer from high blood pressure and diabetes. Palestinian Prisoners’ Center for Studies spokeswoman Amina Tawil said Qafisha has been detained numerous times before. He is thought to have spent more time in administrative detention than any other Palestinian — a total of 143 months, just shy of 12 years. He recently finished a two-year stint in administrative detention, during which he went on a 20-day hunger strike with other administrative detainees in April 2014. He also spent eight months incarcerated in the Israeli prison of Marj al-Zuhour in Lebanon in 1992. There are currently seven Palestinian lawmakers being held in Israel’s prisons
Detainee Al-Haymouni continues hunger strike
IMEMC 29 Jan — The family of Palestinian detainee Wisam Sa’adi al-Haymouni, 36, reported Thursday that their son started his hunger strike in the Majeddo Israeli detention center fifteen days ago, protesting his arbitrary Administrative Detention . . . Al-Haymouni was previously kidnapped and imprisoned by Israel five times, including his latest arrest on December 24, 2015. After his abduction, an Israeli military court issued a four-month Administrative Detention order against him.
In related news, interrogators at the al-Jalama Israeli prison have decided to keep detained journalist Mujahid Sa’adi, 38, under interrogation for eight additional days upon request of the Israeli Military Prosecutor’s office. This is the third time Israeli renews the interrogation period of the imprisoned journalist, who previously spent more than five years in Israeli prisons, detention and interrogation centers.
Detention of rights activist extended
AIC 28 Jan — Israel has renewed the administrative detention of civil society activist Itiraf Rimawi for an additional four months. Rimawi had been scheduled to be released today. Rimawi is the executive director of the Bisan Center for Research and Development, a Palestinian NGO based in Ramallah. The civil society activist has been in administrative detention since September 2014. Rimawi is married with three small children. Israel is currently holding some 7,000 Palestinian prisoners, of whom 600 are in administrative detention. Bisan has requested that international groups continue pressuring Israel to free all Palestinian political prisoners and end its policy of administrative detention, the holding of Palestinians prisoner with no charges or trial.
Other News / Opinion
New transportation project aims to get the West Bank moving
Al-Monitor 29 Jan by Daoud Kuttab — The West Bank is preparing to carry out the ORIO project that aims to develop a fleet of public buses, which will be a quantum leap in Palestine’s public transportation system. Yousef Darawbsheh, the vice general traffic observer at the Palestinian Ministry of Transportation, recalls how depressed he was after reviewing the 2011 World Bank report on the problems of transportation in the West Bank. The 2011 report titled “Making Transport Work for Women and Men: Challenges and Opportunities in the Middle East and North Africa” included case studies from Yemen, Morocco and the West Bank. The West Bank case study reflected the negative economic growth by stating that “checkpoints and economic impacts of occupation disempower men as well as women.” While Darawbsheh could do little because of the Israeli restrictions, he was further discouraged by some of the statistics in the World Bank study in regard to local transportation issues. The study, for instance, showed that “only 32% of the women and 41% of men believe that public transport is comfortable for women and 33% of respondents complain about loud music.” The 31-page report also noted that “because routes are not enforced, operators avoid areas they consider unprofitable. Over half of the respondents think that public transport is comfortable while 40% think it is uncomfortable.” (Continued)
Palestinian women increasingly targeted online
RAMALLAH (Al-Monitor) 29 Jan by Ahmad Melhem — The rise in social media in the West Bank and Gaza Strip has been accompanied by an increase in cybercrime, but many women are reluctant to report it — According to Palestinian police reports from Dec. 7, 2015, a 25-year-old woman, A. B., from Hebron fell victim to Internet blackmail, when a young man from a city in the northern West Bank hacked into her Facebook account, stole private photos of her and threatened to publish them. The woman was forced to pay him 10,000 shekels ($2,500) and 250 grams of gold in the hope that he would not make her photos public. The man threatened her until she ran out of money and went to the police cybercrimes unit, which followed up on the case and arrested the man. Louay Erzikat, official spokesperson for the Palestinian police, told Al-Monitor, “Cybercrimes are on the rise in Palestine, especially in light of technological developments, the Internet and social networking sites. Around 1,020 cybercrimes were registered in 2015 in Hebron, the most populous area in the West Bank, compared to 922 in 2014.” Cybercrimes typically involve blackmail, defamation and hacking into social media accounts and credit card information. Many Palestinian women and girls who have been subjected to blackmail or other online threats are reluctant to file complaints with the police given that the situation typically involves a sensitive matter, which can be intimidating in a conservative society. (Continued)
Japan condemns Israeli settlement activity
IMEMC/Agencies 28 Jan — The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on Thursday, issued a statement denouncing Israeli plans of approving new housing units in West Bank settlements. “Settlement activities are in violation of international law, and Japan has repeatedly called upon the Government of Israel to fully freeze settlement activities,” statement said. “Taking this opportunity the Government of Japan also expresses its deep concern about recent announcement by Israel declaring the land in the West Bank as “state land”. The Government of Japan called upon the Israeli government to “refrain from any unilateral act that doesn’t contribute to resuming peace talks and to desist from implementing the above-mentioned plan of construction for the sake of progress in the peace process.”
Israel reluctant to accuse Islamic State over bar shootings despite hallmarks
JERUSALEM (Reuters) 28 Jan by Dan Williams — It appeared to have hallmarks of the first Islamic State attack in Israel: A Muslim citizen opened fire on a Tel Aviv bar days after the militant group threatened the country, and left behind a black ISIS banner. But security officials, given pause by the erratic conduct of the slain gunman and wary of aggravating strains with Israel’s largely quiescent Arab minority, are steering clear of definitively linking him with Islamic State. “This really was not a classic ISIS terrorist attack,” a security official told Reuters on Thursday after the Shin Bet domestic intelligence agency and Justice Ministry issued their findings on the Jan. 1 shooting rampage by Nashat Melhem that killed three people. The 31-year-old died a week later in a gunfight with police . . . In selfie recordings released by the authorities, Melhem is seen holding a bullet and vowing to hit “the Jews” again in Tel Aviv, cursing Shia Islam and telling U.S. President Barack Obama: “Become a Muslim, you Crusader, if you want to be saved.” He also uses foul language and is seen drinking from a beer bottle, smoking and bragging about taking drugs. Relatives said Melhem, previously jailed for assaulting an Israeli soldier, had psychiatric problems. The security official described Melhem’s behavior as inconsistent with Islamist piety and a reason the Shin Bet believed he acted alone. Another was the absence of any evidence he received direct instruction from Islamic State.
Orthodox Council calls on Greece, Cyprus to cease support of Israel
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 29 Jan — The Arab Orthodox Central Council in Palestine and Jordan called Friday on the governments of Greece and Cyprus to cease their support of Israel. The council said in a statement it was “surprised” by the visit of Greek President and Foreign Minister to Israel, and the planned joint visit with Cyprus officials. “We hope that the two governments reject the Israeli occupation of the State of Palestine, as our leaders and people rejected the Turkish occupation of northern Cyprus,” the statement read. The council added that it hoped “this cooperation was not a general policy and a new approach.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades in the Cypriot capital Nicosia on Thursday to notably sign agreements related to water cooperation and offshore gas reserves in the Mediterranean.The Greek and Israeli governments also signed a number of bilateral agreements pertaining to trade and travel of Israeli citizens to Greece. On Wednesday, Netanyahu hailed the “current progress” of Israeli diplomatic relationships with Greece and Cyprus in parallel with efforts to normalize its relations with Turkey. Tsipras, the head of the left-wing party Syriza which made remarkable victories in Greek polls in 2015, has criticized Israeli policies in the past — notably during the 2014 war in Gaza.But during a visit to Israel in November, Tsipras drew criticism after he reportedly referred to Jerusalem as “the historic capital” of Israel.
Israel rejects French peace bid, saying threat of recognition incentivizes Palestinians not to negotiate
Haaretz 29 Jan by Barak Ravid — ‘This is no way to negotiate,’ Israeli officials say, but Palestinians ‘welcome French call to end occupation.’ — Israel rejected Friday evening the new peace initiative by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. A senior Israeli official said that Fabius’ threat to recognize a Palestinian state should the talks reach a dead end effectively incentivizes the Palestinians to try to see the talks end in deadlock. “The foreign minister of France says up front that if his initiative reaches a dead end, France will recognize a Palestinian state. This statement is an incentive for the Palestinians to bring about a dead end. Negotiations cannot be held nor peace achieved in this manner.”
US Customs issues ‘reminder’, says West Bank products cannot be marked as ‘made in Israel’
Haaretz 28 Jan — Statement follows efforts by pro-Palestinian groups to raise awareness to 1995 legislation, which was meant to aid Palestinian economy after Oslo Accords — U.S. Customs recently released a statement reminding American importers that goods produced in the West Bank must be labeled as such, and not as products of Israel. “…goods produced in the West Bank or Gaza Strip shall be marked as originating from ‘West Bank,’ ‘Gaza,’ ‘Gaza Strip,’ ‘West Bank/Gaza,’ ‘West Bank/Gaza Strip,’ ‘West Bank and Gaza,’ or ‘West Bank and Gaza Strip.’,” the statement said, adding that “it is not acceptable” to mark such goods with the words “Israel,” “Made in Israel,” “Occupied Territories-Israel,” or any variations thereof. The statement was released on January 23, and was a reminder of an existing regulation dating back from 1995, which states that failure to mark such products “shall result in the levy of a duty of 10 percent of the product’s value,” the Forward reported
Minister condemns US for demanding West Bank products be labeled
Times of Israel 29 Jan — Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Uri Ariel on Friday said that while Washington’s decision to issue a reminder that products imported from the West Bank or the Gaza Strip should not be labeled “Made in Israel” may not necessarily imply a shift in policy, the decision itself and its timing were nevertheless “unreasonable, unfair and inappropriate.” Speaking with Israel Radio, Ariel, a former settlement leader from the Orthodox-nationalist Jewish Home party, added that Israel should consider whether it truly needs to have an agricultural attaché remain in the United States. He said Israel should weigh other options as well, such as transferring the attaché to India or China.
Palestinian doctor named Person of the Year by French Oumma media
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 29 Jan — A Palestinian doctor, Samah Jabr, head of the psychiatric unit in the Palestinian Ministry of Health, was named Person of the Year 2015 by French Oumma Media. Jabr was given the award after being hosted to present scientific classes on psychiatry and health in Palestine. She won the award with 35 percent of votes. The doctor is an international activist who educates and writes about the Palestinian humanitarian condition and the psychological effects of Israeli military occupation. She obtained her medical degree from al-Quds University and specialized in psychiatry at a French university, specializing in psychoanalysis at the Israeli Psychoanalytic Society.
Colonizing the hearts of Israeli Arabs with the National Anthemm / Rogel Alpher
Haaretz 23 Jan — The message of ‘Hatikva’ is no less extreme and nationalist than the Palestinian chant ‘In spirit and blood we shall redeem Al Aqsa.’ — “As long as the Jewish spirit yearns deep in the heart,” the Beitar Jerusalem soccer fans sing. “In spirit, in blood, we shall redeem you, Al Aqsa,” the Bnei Sakhnin team chants in response. TV journalist Rafi Reshef decided to look into the matter. He says that when the Arabs chant, “in spirit, in blood, we shall redeem Al Aqsa,” it scares him, white, leftist Jew that he is. Reshef spoke with Bnei Sakhnin chairman Mohammed Abu Yunis on his Channel 10 news program last week, with the chanting fans in the background. “I can assume that you didn’t sing ‘Hatikva’ either,” Reshef began. “I’ll tell you the truth, Abu Yunis answered. “If you ask me right now to sing ‘Hatikva’ I wouldn’t know how.” And why should he know how to sing “to be a free people in our land, the land of Zion and Jerusalem?” What does that have to do with him? Had he allowed himself to be more sincere with the interviewer, he might have explained that when Jews sing “our hope has not been lost, the two-thousand-year-old-hope,” it scares him.