David Cameron blasts Israel’s ‘genuinely shocking’ illegal settlements
The Independent 24 Feb by Jon Stone — The Prime Minister said seeing East Jerusalem first hand had confirmed his view the settlements were wrong — David Cameron has branded Israel’s construction of illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian land as “genuinely shocking” The Prime Minister said that though he was a strong supporter of Israel, he had been taken aback by what had seen first hands on visits to the occupied territories in Jerusalem. “I am well-known as being a strong friend of Israel but I have to say the first time I visited Jerusalem and had a proper tour around that wonderful city and saw what has happened with the effective encirclement of East Jerusalem – occupied East Jerusalem – it is genuinely shocking,” he told MPs in the House of Commons. “What this government has consistently done and gone on doing is saying yes, we are supporters of Israel, but we do not support illegal settlements, we do not support what is happening in East Jerusalem and it’s very important that this capital city is maintained in the way that it was in the past.” The Prime Minister had been asked by Labour MP Imran Hussain what the Government was doing “to prevent the infringement into Palestinian lives and land”.
Israel stops Kenyan president visiting West Bank
Times of Israel 24 Fev — Israel is preventing the Kenyan president from visiting the Palestinian Authority, Army Radio says. Uhuru Kenyatta is currently visiting Israel, and met yesterday with Benjamin Netanyahu. Kenyatta’s camp is furious at the nixing of his plan to visit Ramallah and meet with Mahmoud Abbas. The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem says in response: “This is an important foreign visit that was planned long ago. The request to visit Ramallah was filed at the last minute and unfortunately there is no way to approve it.”
Violence / Detentions — West Bank / Jerusalem
Elderly Palestinian woman killed in possible settler hit-and-run
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 23 Feb — An elderly Palestinian woman was killed and her daughter wounded when they were hit by a car allegedly driven by an Israeli settler in the eastern West Bank district of Jericho Tuesday night, according to the Palestinian Authority’s official news agency Wafa. It was not initially clear whether the incident was an attack or accident, and Wafa’s report that the car was driven by an Israeli settler could not initially be verified. Wafa identified the deceased woman as 60-year-old Zainab Rashida and her injured daughter as Fatima Abdul Yassin, 30, saying they were both taken to Jericho Hospital.
Israeli soldier shot dead accidentally as soldiers fire on alleged Palestinian attacker
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 24 Feb — Israeli forces on Wednesday accidentally shot dead an Israeli soldier when they opened fire on and wounded a Palestinian they allege was attempting to carry out a stabbing attack near the illegal Gush Etzion settlement bloc south of Bethlehem. An Israeli army spokesperson said Israeli forces opened fire on the Palestinian after he attempted to carry out a stabbing attack. They shot both him and an in-uniform Israeli air force captain standing nearby. Both the Israeli and Palestinian were evacuated to Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem. The Israeli, who was shot in his chest, was rushed to the emergency room but later pronounced dead, a hospital spokesperson said. The Palestinian, meanwhile, was also undergoing an operation in the emergency room. Unverified reports circulating on social media identified him as Mamdou Yousef Mahmoud Amro, a 26-year-old teacher from Hebron. An Israeli army spokesperson identified the soldier as Eliav Gelman, 30. Israeli news site Haaretz initially reported that the gunshots may have been fired by an armed Israeli settler, although this was not immediately confirmed.
Thousands attend joint funeral of 2 Palestinian attackers
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 23 Feb — Thousands of Palestinians on Tuesday attended the funeral of two young men who were shot dead by Israeli forces in Jerusalem last week after they attempted to carry out an armed attack. The funeral procession for Omar Muhammad Amro and Mansour Yasir al-Shawarma, both 20, set out from the Palestine Medical Complex in Ramallah for their hometown of al-Qubieba north of Jerusalem, where they were buried in the village cemetery. After the joint funeral, clashes broke out between local youths and Israeli forces, who reportedly fired live and rubber-coated steel rounds. The two bodies were released to their families on Monday, eight days after the young men were shot dead while attempting to carry out an armed attack on Israeli police forces at Damascus Gate outside Jerusalem’s Old City. [The body of 21-year-old Khalid Taqatqa from Beit Fajjar near Bethlehem was also returned to his family on Monday]
VIDEO: Israeli military use stun grenades on young Palestinian school kids
HEBRON, Occupied Palestine 23 Feb by ISM, Al-Khalil Team — . . . As the Palestinian school children shuffled through the Salaymeh checkpoint, Israeli forces carefully watched over them as if they were a serious security threat. The slow and broken process of queuing in the cold, taking off belts and other items whilst searching bags and bodies is a painful one to watch. In the only act of defiance that an eight-year-old can show, one Palestinian boy returns from beyond the checkpoint to throw stones at the soldiers. In many countries, such behavior might be met with serious talks between the child’s parents and authorities. But not in occupied Palestine. Here in Palestine, Israeli forces regularly respond with tear gas, rubber coated steel bullets and stun grenades to stone-throwing children. Today was no different. Israeli soldiers gathered, staring through the scopes of their assault rifles in order to intimidate and keep a forceful eye over the children. Soon after, a stun grenade is thrown by the occupied forces down the busy street. The stun grenade is off target and smashes a Palestinian car window before exploding. The distress is clear on the faces of innocent bystanders and schoolchildren as many flee and one young boy attempts to turn back through the checkpoint in fear. “It was beyond unnecessary. To see a stun grenade being used to control an unarmed eight year old is disgusting. And who will pay for the poor Palestinians car damage? Not Israel. They are never held accountable no matter how minor or great the crime.” International activist on the scene.
2 Palestinians detained in Jerusalem after ‘explosives’ found
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 24 Feb — Israeli police detained two Palestinians at Herod’s Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City on Wednesday morning after they were allegedly found to be carrying improvised explosive devices. Israeli police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld told Ma‘an that two explosive decides — reported by Israeli media to be pipe bombs — were found as the two men went through a “regular police check” at the gate. Rosenfeld said the explosives were removed from the site with no injuries, and police were “looking into the background” of the incident. He added that “security measures” were ongoing, and witnesses told Ma‘an that Israeli forces, including intelligence officials, had closed off the area. The Old City in occupied East Jerusalem has been one of the major focal points of violence since a wave of unrest swept the occupied Palestinian territory in October last year.
Pictures: The occupation targets eyes with ‘black bullets’ … 7 Jerusalemites lost eyes last year including thtree children
SILWAN, Jerusalem (SILWANIC) 24 Feb — They used to see with both eyes…see their way, work, studies and friends. In a moment, they lost sight in one of their eyes due to a rubber bullet. Afterwards, they lost comfort and their lives changed. They also lost hope and security and their lives turned into difficult medical and psychological conditions. Rubber bullets fired by occupation forces towards children and young men caused them to lose their eyes in addition to fractures and wounds in their faces. Wounds will eventually heal but the psychological wound might take many years to heal, if ever. Seven Jerusalemites lost one of their eyes last year in which four of them were from Shu‘fat refugee camp, two from the village of Esawyeh and one in the neighborhood of Al-Thori in Silwan; among the injured were three children in which one of them is mute and deaf. Wadi Hilweh Information Center documented the injuries of the seven Jerusalemites and the extent of health and psychological impact rubber bullets had left in their lives:
Note that not all detentions are included in these newslists – there are just too many.
Israeli forces detain blind man, 30 others in West Bank raids
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 23 Feb — Israeli forces detained at least 31 Palestinians in predawn raids across the occupied West Bank on Tuesday, including a blind man, Palestinian and Israeli sources reported. The Palestinian Authority said in a statement that at least six Palestinians were detained in the northern West Bank district of Jenin, including a 50-year-old blind man identified as Majd Amarnah . . . An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma‘an that Israeli forces detained two Palestinians in the town of Ya‘bad west of Jenin city, and one in Qabatiya south of Jenin. Palestinian security sources told Ma‘an two young Palestinian men were moderately injured by live ammunition during detention raids in Nablus’ Old City, which erupted into clashes after Israeli military vehicles and excavators broke down several shop fronts. Palestinian sources said at least 14 Palestinians were detained in Nablus district. They were identified as Mahir Khattab and Muhammad Mashaal from the city of Nablus, Muhammad Maraqa from Ein Beit al-Mai refugee camp, and Ahmad Abed al-Sallaj from ‘Askar refugee camp. In Balata refugee camp, Israeli troops detained Muhammad Mitaaib and Shahir al-Najmi. Witnesses said Israeli soldiers also broke three storefronts and ransacked several homes. Eight other Palestinians were detained in Nablus district, the Palestinian Authority said, without specifying the exact locations . . . Israeli forces detained at least eight people in the central West Bank district of Ramallah, Palestinian security sources told Ma‘an. They identified those arrested in the cities of Ramallah, Birzeit and Beitin as Ayman Abu Iram, Sami Hussein, Said al-Qasrawi, 22, Faraj Rummanah, Ibrahim al-Sabiaa, Yazan Khalid Hamid, Samir Khalid Hamid, and Samir Jamal Hamid. The Israeli army spokesperson said four “Hamas operatives” were detained south and southwest of Ramallah, another in Birzeit, and one Palestinian was detained south of Ramallah for unspecified reasons. In Hebron district in the southern West Bank, Palestinian security sources said Israeli forces raided the town of al-Samu‘ and detained Jibril al-Hawamda, 24. The Israeli army confirmed that they detained one person in the Hebron area. Israeli forces also said they detained one person, identified by Palestinian sources as Muhammad Munjid Khallaf, in the town of Doha southwest of Bethlehem city. A resident of Jericho identified as Fawzi Muhammad al-Raal was reportedly detained at a checkpoint east of Bethlehem.
According to Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Addameer, 6,900 Palestinians were being imprisoned by Israel as of January 2016, including 650 in administrative detention.
Israeli forces detain 33 Palestinians in overnight raids
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 25 Feb — Israeli forces detained at least 33 Palestinians overnight Wednesday during raids across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, an Israeli army spokesperson told Ma‘an. Locals were able to identify at least 25 of those detained. In the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron, Israeli forces detained six Palestinians identified by locals as Ehab al-Qawasmi, Abdul-Hadi Abu Eisha, Mustafa al-Bustanji, Anas Saed, Tamer Yaghmour and Mahmoud al-Zareer. In Hebron’s al-Majd village, Israeli forces raided the home of Mamdouh Amr and took measurements for a future punitive home demolition. Amr was shot and injured on Wednesday after allegedly attempting to stab an Israeli soldier, resulting in the death of the soldier, as Israeli forces hit the Israeli with friendly fire. (Continued)
Israeli minister calls for ‘displacing attackers’ families to Gaza or Syria’
JERUSALEM (PNN) 22 Feb — The Israeli Transportation minister, Yisrael Katz, on Sunday has called on Israeli authorities to displace the families of “Palestinian attackers” to Gaza or Syria. According to the leading Hebrew newspaper Ynet, Katz said that this move of displacing the Palestinian families will deter the Palestinian minors from carrying any attempts to attack Israelis, since demolitions were not enough to stop them. For his part, the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his support to Katz, however said that the judiciary system would not allow it, because it is considered as collective punishment, which is illegal in the international law. However, Netanyahu promised Katz to run a discussion on the issue in the Cabinet. And in another similar stand, the right-wing extremist minister of Education, Naftali Bennett, said on Sunday during the cabinet meeting that Palestinian parents “do not prevent their sons from “stabbing Israelis” since they “get financial compensation from the Palestinian Authority” when their child is killed.
PA official: Israel using ‘tripwire explosive device’ around settlements
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 24 Feb — Israeli forces have reportedly been implementing a ‘tripwire explosive device’ to prevent Palestinians from approaching areas near illegal Israeli settlements and roads in the occupied West Bank, a PA official said Wednesday. Issa Ghuneimat, Director of Operations at the PA’s Palestinian Mine Action Center, told Ma‘an that the device operates as “a trap targeting Palestinian citizens.” A tripwire attached to the device explodes on impact, producing large amounts of light, according to the official. “They use this device instead of having a 24-hour-a-day military patrol. When it goes off, military patrols will see the light and rush to the area,” Ghuneimat said. Though the device is intended to emit light in order to notify Israeli forces that someone is approaching, Ghuneimat said that when detonated, the device “releases shrapnel that could kill if they hit a human body directly.”
The official highlighted what he said was Israel’s potentially fatal use of the device, which is not clearly marked, comparing the tactic to the use of landmines. According to Ghuneimat, one of the devices was recently found in Salfit district in the central West Bank, as well as in the car park of a stadium in the Bethlehem-area al-Khader town. A Palestinian intelligence officer last week said a “suspicious object” was found adjacent to al-Khader football stadium. The PA’s military liaison office reportedly contacted its Israeli counterpart, and the device was removed shortly after by Israeli forces . . .
While the explosive devices do not hold the destructive power of landmines, the PA official said the West Bank used to be littered with landmines, used during Israel’s illegal takeover of the area from Jordan in 1967. Ghuneimat said that the PA’s Palestinian Mine Action Center launched a project in 2014 to clear all landmines in the occupied West Bank, which has so far removed at least 210 mines from the Bethlehem-area town of Husan and Nabi Elias in Qalqilya.
Israeli military chief: All off-duty combat soldiers must carry their weapons
Haaretz 22 Feb by Gili Cohen — Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot ordered that all off-duty IDF combat soldiers must carry their personal weapons in response to the recent violence, specifically following last week’s terror attack at a West Bank supermarket. Earlier Monday, Nahal Brigade Commander Colonel Amos Hacohen ordered a review of the unit’s regulations regarding the carrying of weapons while on leave, following the death last week of one of the unit’s soldiers. Off-duty Staff Sergeant Tuvia Yanay Wieseman, who held U.S. citizenship, was stabbed to death in a terrorist attack on the Rami Levy supermarket in the Sha’ar Binyamin industrial zone last Thursday. Wieseman had deposited his personal weapon in the base armory, in accordance with orders from his commanding officer, before leaving on vacation. The brigade’s review will look into the specific case of Wiesman as well as the general issue of whether soldiers should carry weapons when not on duty.
Palestinian, 17, held as suspect in kibbutz woman’s stabbing
Haatetz 24 Feb by Almog Ben Zikri — Israeli police and the Shin Bet security services have arrested a 17-year-old Palestinian from the Hebron-area town of Yatta as a suspect in the stabbing and wounding of an Israeli woman in Rahat [Bedouin city in Israel] on February 6. The suspect was arrested four days after the attack but a gag order prevented that from being published before Wednesday. Police said the suspect would be indicted in the near future. In the incident, Shlomit Ganon, of Kibbutz Mishmar Hanegev was stabbed while shopping in a Rahat market, sustaining wounds to an ear and back of the neck. The suspect, whose name has not been published, fled the scene right after the attack. He had been in Israel illegally . . . A video clip of the incident was published on YouTube, and the perpetrator told his brother, also in Israel illegally at the time, that he had committed the attack. They fled together back to Yatta. The suspect was arrested along with his brother. Police said he admitted to the attack during questioning and led police to the weapon, a knife, that he used to stab Ganon. The suspect had been doing agricultural work in Rahat with other family members and that he stayed with the family that employed them. The Rahat family had been unaware of what he had done.
Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Settlements
When Israel’s bulldozers escape our attention
EI 22 Feb by Barbara Erickson — Last autumn, when word came that the unpaved road to al-Hadidiya would be repaired, villagers in this Jordan Valley herding community looked forward to a winter of less hardship. Now, even when the rains arrived and turned the track into muck, supplies could get through, children could walk to school and the sick could reach clinics. “I can’t tell you how happy we all were,” said Khadijeh Bsharat, a widow with 11 children, who was interviewed by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. “We said to each other that life would be better, and we would be able to get from place to place in summer and winter.” Residents began working on the road, leveling ruts and spreading gravel over the surface. Although Israeli army officials had issued a stop work order on 15 November, an attorney had won an injunction, and the work, supported by aid from donors, went forward. Nevertheless, Israeli bulldozers arrived before dawn on 25 November and began to destroy what had been accomplished, piling gravel in heaps. “The bulldozers began raking up the road,” said Bsharat, “taking our hopes with it.” Although a member of the Bedouin regional council persuaded the crews to leave after an hour, a full 400 meters had become impassable again. Now, it seemed to Bsharat, her children could not come to visit her, and sick members of the community would continue to have to ride for help in a tractor or on the back of a donkey. – Routine destruction – To add to the villagers’ dismay, the crews returned the next day to tear down tents, animal shelters, a small silo, a brick oven and even a dovecote, crushing pigeon chicks in the process. Seven of the demolished structures had been donated by humanitarian groups. Only a small two-person tent remained for a community of nearly 100. The assault on al-Hadidiya loomed large in the lives of the struggling villagers, but it was a routine affair in the occupied West Bank. (Continued)
Palestinian families in Silwan receive evacuation notices
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 24 Feb — A Palestinian family in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan on Tuesday received a court notice for eviction following efforts by right-wing group Ateret Cohanim to take over their land, according to the Wadi Hilweh Information Center. The Silwan-based center said in a statement that Ateret Cohanim brought to court their claim over land belonging to the Awad Abdul-Fattah al-Rajabi and Abdul-Fattah Jaber al-Rajabi families. Ateret Cohanim — an organization that aims to create a Jewish majority in occupied East Jerusalem at the expense of Palestinian communities — claims the land was owned by three Yemenite Jews prior to 1948. The eviction would displace at 28 members of the al-Rajabi family who live in two buildings on the property, located in the Baten al-Hawa area of the neighborhood, including at least 12 children. The buildings stand on a plot just over five dunams (0.296 acres). Kayed al-Rajabi, member of the neighborhood committee, said the family was given 30 days to provide evidence of their ownership of the land to an Israeli court. Attempts to take over the property are part of a bigger plan by Ateret Cohanim to seize 5,200 square meters in the central quarter of Baten al-Hawa, the Wadi Hilweh Center said, adding that the move would displace 436 Palestinian residents who legally purchased the land. Peace Now reported that in 2015, Israeli settlers doubled their presence in Batan al-Hawa, joining around 500 Israeli settlers living in Silwan among a population of 45,000 Palestinians. Silwan is one of many Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem to face ongoing state-sanctioned efforts to create a Jewish majority since Israel illegally occupied the city in 1967.
Army invades Ni‘lin, demolishes agricultural structures
IMEMC/Agencies 25 Feb — Several Israeli military vehicles and armored bulldozers, invaded on Thursday at dawn Ni‘lin village, west of the central West Bank city of Ramallah, and demolished agricultural structures and barns. Mohammad ‘Amira, a member of the Popular Committee in Bil‘in, said a large military force surrounded the village, and invaded it, especially the al-Emhallel area, in its eastern part. He added that the soldiers proceeded to demolish agricultural structures, barns several sheds. The army claims the structures “are close to a settlement road,” although the colonies and their segregated roads were illegally built on Palestinian lands.
IOF confiscates lands to construct watchtower near Ramallah
RAMALLAH (PIC) 23 Feb — Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) confiscated on Monday Palestinian lands to the east of Ramallah to construct a military watchtower. The lands confiscated by Israeli forces are located in both Palestinian villages of Bittin and Burqah overlooking Beit El settlement, eyewitnesses said. Tawfiq Mousa, member of the village council of Bittin, said the area of the lands confiscated is estimated at six dunums of Bittin’s land. They belong to Palestinian families and contain 15 land plots. He pointed out that the construction of the watchtower will change the area into a military zone and, accordingly, the inhabitants of the village will be deprived of accessing their lands.
Israeli settlers mark Palestinian land in Salfit district
SALFIT (Ma‘an) 24 Feb — Israeli settlers on Tuesday surveyed land belonging to the Palestinian community of Izbat Abu Basal in the occupied West Bank’s Salfit district, witnesses said. Witnesses told Ma‘an that settlers marked the land in what they believed to be an indication that the area would soon be leveled by Israeli forces. The small community has lost land before to the illegal Israeli settlement of Ariel, located around eight kilometers east of Izbat Abu Basal, according to field researcher Khalid Maali. Israeli authorities in 2001 cut down 500 of the community’s trees on the grounds that the land was a part of Ariel settlement, and [the community] was told after bringing their case to an Israeli court that the land was not legally theirs, according a report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Israeli forces demolish homes of 2 Palestinians in Hebron area
[with video] HEBRON (Ma‘an) 23 Feb — Israeli forces raided two Palestinian towns in the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron overnight Monday, where they demolished the homes of two young men who carried out attacks against Israelis. A video shared online by an Israeli army spokesperson showed excavators demolishing two houses in the middle of the night. Local sources told Ma‘an that Israeli troops stormed the town of Deir Samit and demolished the home of Muhammad al-Huroub. Israeli forces detained al-Huroub after he shot and killed two Israelis near the illegal settlement bloc of Gush Etzion south of Bethlehem in November. A young Palestinian bystander was also shot dead in the attack. Israeli forces also demolished the home of Raed Muhammad Jabara al-Masalma in the town of Dura near Hebron. Al-Masalma was also detained in November after he stabbed to death two Israelis in Tel Aviv.
[Israel to demolish homes of Qabatiya teens who allegedly carried out attack in Jerusalem]
IMEMC/Agencies 24 Feb — Israeli forces, Wednesday, handed the families of three Palestinian teenagers who were recently killed by Israeli troops notices of their intent to demolish their homes, located in Qabatia town, south of Jenin, according to security sources. Forces broke into the homes of Ahmad Naji Zakarneh, Tawfiq Abur-Rob, and Ahmad Najeh Abur-Rob, and notified their families about their intention to demolish the homes of their families on February 29 as a collective punishment against them. The three were shot dead by Israeli police in Jerusalem on February 3, after allegedly carrying out a stabbing and gunfire attack which killed one Israeli policeman.
Meanwhile, the army detained at least one Palestinian in the town. He was identified as Taqwfiq Zakarneh, 20. The town has been blockaded by the Israeli army for three consecutive days, following the army’s fatal shooting of a Palestinian teenager from the town, according to WAFA. Israel claimed the teenager, Qusai Abur-rub, had attempted to attack Israeli soldiers near Beta junction, to the south Nablus, before he was gunned down. This is the second time in less than a month Israel blockades Qabatia. On February 6th, the Israeli army lifted its three-day blockade of the town, imposed in the aftermath of the stabbing and gunfire attack in Jerusalem, on February 3.
Prisoners / Court actions
Palestinian detainee on hunger strike reaches 89 days [now 92]
Al Jazeera 22 Feb — A Palestinian detainee has entered uncharted medical territory with a hunger strike of 89 days — longer than protest fasts by other Palestinians or by prisoners in Northern Ireland in 1981, an advocacy group said Monday. Mohammed Al-Qeq, a news reporter for Saudi channel Al Majd, is under observation at an Israeli hospital, but has refused all treatment unless he is released from Israeli custody . . . Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, an advocacy group, said Monday that Qeq has been on a hunger strike longer than any other Palestinian detainee or any of the participants in 1981 protest strikes by Irish Republican Army prisoners held by Britain in Northern Ireland. Ten of the Irish hunger strikers died after extended fasts, the longest lasting 73 days. The previous two longest hunger strikes by Palestinian detainees were 66 and 67 days. Qeq is in “unknown territory” medically because of the length of his fast, said Amani Dayif of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel. “All medical literature depends on experiences from the past, and in all the experiences, there is no case of any hunger striker who has taken the Irish model, only drinking water, for this long,” she said. Qeq twice received dietary supplements against his wishes or while unconscious, for a total of five days, according to his wife, Faiha. She said he refused all supplements when he regained consciousness.
Palestinian mother put under house arrest as part of son’s sentencing
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 24 Feb — Palestinian officials on Wednesday visited a woman in occupied East Jerusalem who the Israeli authorities have sentenced to house arrest along with her 16-year-old son ahead of his court hearing next month. The Palestinian Committee for Prisoners’ Affairs said in a statement that its head, Issa Qaraqe, along with Ramallah Governor Laila Ghannam, had visited the mother of 16-year-old Melad Mousa Najeeb. The statement said that in an unprecedented move the Israeli authorities have sentenced the woman to house arrest along with her son ahead of his court hearing on March 7. It did not say what charges he is facing. Qaraqe condemned her house arrest as a form of “collective punishment,” and said the sentencing the mother was tantamount to “turning parents into jailers.” The statement said that due to her sentencing, Najeeb’s mother had been unable to go to work or seek medical care.
Main suspect in Khdeir murder case determined ‘fit to stand trial’
IMEMC/Agencies 24 Feb — A fresh psych exam has found that Yosef Haim Ben-David, the main suspect in the murder of Palestinian teenager Mohammad Abu Khdeir, is responsible for his actions and fit to stand trial, Israeli Channel 2 reported on Monday evening. A Jerusalem District Court-appointed psychiatrist has determined Ben-David, 30, was not credible and was only pretending to be insane, according to Al Ray. The psychiatric opinion was completed on Thursday, almost three months after the Jerusalem District Court ruled that Ben-David had committed murder, but did not convict him because of a previous psychiatric opinion presented by his attorneys, which questioned his sanity . . . Earlier this month, the two minors who were involved in the murder were convicted and sentenced; one, 18 years old, to life in prison and another, 17, believed to have had a lesser role in the crime, to 21 years imprisonment.
Israeli army uses dubious testimonies to incriminate Palestinians, transcripts show
Haaretz 24 Feb by Chaim Levinson — The police and military prosecution are using ‘supplementary questioning’ of exonerated Palestinians as a way to implicate others — For the second time since his official interrogation ended, Az Tamimi, an 18-year-old Palestinian construction worker, was taken from his cell in Megiddo Prison for “supplementary questioning” by the police. During his interrogation months ago, Tamimi incriminated 15 residents of Nabi Saleh, a village near Ramallah, accusing them of offenses against the Israel Defense Forces. Even though his testimony was ruled false in court, the police kept questioning him, hoping his story would eventually match reality . . . Last September, at the IDF’s behest, the Shin Bet security service arrested two village residents. One was Tamimi, who has a fifth-grade education, barely knows how to read and can barely write his own name. The other, Maher al-Tamimi, is considered by villagers to have a weak personality and to be easily swayed. During questioning by the Shin Bet, the two admitted to many instances of stone-throwing and an attempt to storm an army pillbox. They also incriminated 19 other village residents – many of the village’s young people. Many cases by the military prosecution rely on incrimination of this sort. Someone who took part in an act provides names and the police and military prosecution try to match the names with the events. Even if the witness recants his statement to the police in court, it is often accepted as the only evidence for incrimination.
Back in Nabi Saleh, following the statements by Tamimi and al-Tamimi, the army made arrests and charged 19 more residents of the village. But when the trials began, it turned out that, under interrogation, the two simply framed villagers they knew. For example, al-Tamimi incriminated four people, saying they took part in violence with him at the end of Ramadan – but it turned out some of the four had been in Jordan that month. (Continued)
Flooding, mold in Etzion jail causing illness among detainees
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 24 Feb — Palestinian prisoners in Israel’s Etzion prison are suffering from a lack of protection against cold and wet conditions, leading to illness and infections that are neglected by the prison service, a lawyer with the Palestinian Authority Prisoners’ Affairs Committee said on Wednesday. Lawyer for the committee Hussien al-Sheikh said Etzion is “flooded” from heavy rainfall in recent days. The flooding has ruined prisoners’ clothing and blankets, as mold has taken root in the dampened materials. Al-Sheikh added that due to the poor conditions, flu and skin infection have started to spread among the prisoners, who remain untreated.
Flooding carries away cars, causes massive damage in Gaza
[with photos] GAZA (Ma‘an) 22 Feb – Heavy rainfall in the Gaza Strip has caused massive flood damage in the enclave, the Gaza-based Palestinian Civil Defense office said. The office said flood waters have carried away cars, uprooted trees and entered homes in the besieged Palestinian territory during the past two days of downpour. In Khan Yunis, emergency response teams rescued a number of passengers from two cars that washed off the road into a pool of water during a flash-flood. Palestinian authorities in Gaza have had to evacuate at least six homes due to the flooding in al-Nimsawi neighborhood, south of Khan Yunis. The Civil Defense office has also responded to at least five fires cause by flood damage to gas and electric lines, three of which were in southern Gaza and two in Rafah city. Gaza authorities said emergency response teams were on call, and urged residents not to hesitate when assistance is needed. Gaza has been hit by severe flooding in the past, exacerbating the dire situation faced by Palestinians in the blockaded and war-torn coastal enclave, where thousands of Gazans have been unable to rebuild their homes after Israel’s 2014 offensive. Last month, schools were closed in Gaza for several days as emergency teams struggled to evacuate homes during flooding.
Israeli forces shoot, injure Palestinian in Gaza
GAZA (Ma‘an) 22 Feb — Israeli forces shot and moderately wounded a Palestinian man in the al-Mintar area east of Gaza City on Monday afternoon, medical sources told Ma‘an.The man, who was shot in his foot, was evacuated to al-Shifaa hospital. The circumstances in which he was shot were not initially clear, although medics said he was with a group of Palestinians when Israeli forces opened fire. An Israeli army spokesperson had no immediate information on the reports. Palestinians regularly face live fire from Israeli forces inside the “buffer zone” along the border between Gaza and Israel. The Israeli army says the use of live fire is necessary to deter potential “security threats,” although the practice has destroyed much of both the agricultural and fishing sectors of the impoverished coastal enclave, which has been under Israeli blockade for nearly nine years.
Photos: Soldiers harass farmers preparing fields in Gaza
KHUZA‘A, Gaza Strip 23 Feb by ISM Gaza Team — On Wednesday 17th February at 8 am, around 30 farmers from the village of Khuza‘a reached their lands near the border. They intended to clean them from weeds before the beginning of the harvest season. They could work peacefully for about an hour, just until an Israeli military jeep stopped in front of them and a group of soldiers came down from it. Immediately the soldiers leaned behind a mount, pointing their weapons towards the farmers, and everyone started to fear that someone could get shot. Shortly after, the soldiers started to shoot with live ammunition to the ground in front of the farmers and into the air. At that point more than half of the farmers started to flee from their lands, some of the farmers however, decided to keep working despite the harassment. After around 20 minutes the soldiers returned to the jeep and left the place, so the farmers that stayed thought that they would be able to continue working in peace. Unfortunately, after 30 minutes another jeep came and the same chain of events started again. At that point the farmers that were left got really afraid and decided to go home without finishing the work they planned to do in their own lands.
Israeli naval forces open fire on Gazan fishermen
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 24 Feb — Israeli naval forces opened fire on Palestinian fishing boats off the coast of the southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday morning with no injuries reported. Fishermen told Ma‘an their boats had suffered material damage during the incident. An Israeli army spokesperson had no immediate information on the reports. As part of Israel’s blockade of the coastal enclave, Gazan fishermen are required to work within a limited “designated fishing zone” of six nautical miles off the coast, but the Palestinian Center for Human Rights says that Israeli naval forces often shoot at fishermen within these limits. Due to the high frequency of the attacks, live fire on fishing boats often goes unreported. The center said that Israeli naval forces opened fire on Palestinian fishermen at least 139 times over the course of 2015, wounding 24 and damaging 16 fishing boats.”These attacks occurred in a time where the fishers did not pose any threat to the Israeli naval troops, as they were doing their job to secure a living,” the center said.
Israeli navy opens fire on Palestinian fishing boats in Gaza
IMEMC/Agencies 24 Feb — Israeli navy ships opened fire, Wednesday, on a number of Palestinian fishing boats near the shore, in the central part of the Gaza Strip, and northwest of Gaza city, causing damage. The navy fired dozens of rounds at the fishing boats while they were only four nautical miles away from the Gaza shore, forcing the fishers back to shore, without being able to fish to provide for their families. The navy also opened fire on fishing boats in the Sudaniyya Sea area, northwest of Gaza city, causing property damage.
Gaza seaport plans put senior Israeli military officers against Netanyahu, Ya’alon
Haaretz 24 Feb by Amos Harel — IDF brass say Gaza’s economic woes are leading to another war, while PM and defense minister stick to stringent security demands — Political and military officials over the past few weeks have once again begun discussing an Israeli position on the possibility of a seaport in Gaza. Renewed discussion of the issue, which was raised for a short time after the war against Hamas in the summer of 2014, is connected to the deteriorating economic conditions in the Gaza Strip, to the desire to seek long-term solutions that would help improve the situation and reduce the danger of a new outbreak of conflict with Hamas. At least five proposals are on the table, including building a port in Egyptian territory in Sinai in the Al Arish area, construction of an artificial port opposite the Gaza shoreline, building it on the Gaza coast itself, and earmarking quays in Cyprus or Ashdod for Gaza-bound shipments. Senior Israel Defense Forces officers are in favor in principle of a port for the Gaza Strip, especially if it comes with a Hamas pledge for a long-term cease-fire. Some ministers also support the idea. However, chances do not seem especially strong, mainly because Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon are against it. Hamas demanded a port before the last war in Gaza and more forcefully during the fighting. But Israel rejected it and Egypt also opposed it. No progress has been made on the matter since then, despite interest by foreign governments, including Qatar and some European countries.
Israel: Hamas ‘stealing’ Gaza reconstruction material
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 23 Feb — The Israeli authorities on Tuesday accused The Gaza Strip’s de facto leaders Hamas of stealing reconstruction material to sell on the black market and use to build tunnels. Faris Atilla, Israel’s liaison coordinator for Gaza, warned that Israel may halt all shipments of reconstruction material — intended to rebuild thousands of homes following three devastating Israeli offensives on the coastal enclave in six years. The official said in a statement that “Israel knows Hamas and some contractors and dealers use the construction materials for other purposes,” alleging that they were being stolen and sold on the black market. A spokesperson for Hamas could not be immediately contacted for comment.
Hamas civil servants declare strike over unpaid salaries
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 23 Feb — Civil servants hired by the Gaza Strip’s de facto Hamas leaders on Tuesday declared a strike across all Gazan ministries and public institutions to protest unpaid salaries. The employees have not been regularly paid since the formation of a unity government in 2014, although even before that Hamas struggled to pay their salaries regularly. A spokesperson for the employees’ union, Muhammad Siyam, said during a press conference that the strike would take place on Thursday across all public institutions, including schools. He also announced a rally on Tuesday next week, marching from Gaza City’s Saraya Square toward the city’s government buildings. Siyam said the unpaid civil servants would “take our rights by force and would be ready to die for the sake of our means of living.” He called on Fatah and Hamas to reach an agreement on the issue as part of the latest round of unity talks in Qatar, warning: “If our problem is not addressed and solved during the ongoing talks in Qatar, we won’t accept a reconciliation agreement that ignores us.”
Suicide wave hits Gaza Strip in light of citizens’ gloomy day-to-day life
JPost 22 Feb by Maayan Groisman — A rash of suicides has hit the Gaza Strip in February, with six people reportedly taking their lives since the beginning of the month, a significant rise compared to suicide rates last year. The wave is not characterized by a certain age group or gender committing suicide, as it has included both men and women, teenagers and adults. The most common suicide methods among Gazans are hanging and jumping from tall buildings, while one person from the southern town of Khan Yunis, which has witnessed four suicides this month, set himself on fire. Before igniting himself, the 32-year-old man, Azmi Yunis Barim, wrote on his Facebook page: “I have lived all my life and now I want to put an end to my life and reach my safe haven.” Palestinian psychologists explain that the phenomenon derives from the growing distress Gazans suffer in light of the siege, the electricity shortage and growing unemployment rates. Since they have faced this gloomy reality for ten years now, Gazans see only two solutions for their distress: either to leave Gaza searching for employment opportunities abroad or, forced to stay in Gaza since the Rafah border crossing with Egypt is closed, many of them lose hope for a better future and consider suicide as their refuge. Many of the victims in the recent suicide wave were parents, who believed they could no longer provide their children with their basic needs. There are also many failed suicide attempts: according to Palestinian media there are more than 30 suicide attempts per month.
95% of the rubble left after 2014 attack on Gaza has been cleared, Palestinian ministry says
MEMO 22 Feb — The Palestinian Ministry of Public Works and Housing has said that around 95 per cent of the rubble left after the 2014 Israeli war on the Gaza Strip has been removed. In a statistical report issued on Sunday evening, a copy of which was sent to Anadolu Agency, the ministry said that 1.8 million tons (nearly 95 per cent) of the remainder of the rubble of houses that were destroyed by Israel have been removed. The report said the work was done in coordination with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), through the Ministry of Public Works’ teams and the private sector in Gaza . . . The ministry also said that less than 30 per cent of the money pledged by donor countries for the reconstruction of Gaza has been received. In October 2014, donor countries pledged to provide nearly $ 5.4 billion in aid following the attack, half of which was to be “dedicated” to the reconstruction of the coastal enclave.
Gaza dairy industry defies Israeli wars, decade-long siege
GAZA CITY (MEMO) 23 Feb by Hedaya al-Saidi — EXCLUSIVE IMAGES– Mamoun Dalloul is busy rebuilding his dairy factory, which was destroyed for the third time in 2014 during Israel’s latest major offensive against the Gaza Strip. “We face numerous difficulties due to Israeli wars and instability in Gaza,” Dalloul, 39, told Anadolu Agency. “However, we are trying to survive and maintain our source of livelihood.” Dalloul’s factory was destroyed by Israeli shelling three times in the past, leaving him with losses equivalent to $3 million. “I have managed to rebuild part of my factory after months of war,” Dalloul said. Now, only one production line of Dalloul’s three-line factory has come into operation. “The [Israeli] occupation is seeking to keep us in chaos,” he said. There are 15 dairy factories in the Gaza Strip, which has been reeling under a crippling Israeli siege since 2006. In late 2014, Israel launched a 51-day offensive on the Gaza Strip on claims of undermining the capability of Palestinian factions to fire rockets into Israel. According to the Palestinian Public Works Ministry, around 5,000 businesses were destroyed or badly damaged during the Israeli assault. Though he is rebuilding his factory, Dalloul – whose factory currently provides around 20-30 percent of Gaza’s dairy needs — is reluctant to introduce new dairy products in the plant. “The possibility of launching a new Israeli offensive on Gaza is haunting us,” he said.
Manchester charity helps to rebuild Gaza universities
ITV 22 Feb — Human Appeal, a Manchester [England]-based humanitarian aid charity, has completed a project where they rebuilt four Gaza universities. The three-month project saw Human Appeal plough £227,000 worth of donations into rebuilding the higher education facilities that will benefit 52,608 university students in the Palestinian territory. Al Azhar University, the Islamic University of Gaza, the University College of Applied Science and Al Aqsa University were all either directly or indirectly [damaged] by the 2014 conflict with Israel and Human Appeal set out to help start the recovery of Gaza’s crippled higher education system. Al Azhar University suffered significant bomb damage during what was known as ‘Operation Protective Edge’. To help repair the destruction, Human Appeal undertook complete repairs, renovation and reconstruction of the university’s main campus building and provided educational essentials for Al Azhar’s students. (Continued)
‘My other leg is over there’: Injured pals share shoes and life in Gaza
GAZA STRIP (MEE) 22 Feb by Mohammed Omer — Spring is in the air, and it is time for Adli Ebied and Mansour al-Qerem to buy a new pair of shoes. They climb off the motorcycle they share outside one of Gaza’s local shoe shops, walk into the middle of the store aided by their crutches, and happily begin trying on the latest styles. It is not long before they decide on a pair whose cost they will split between them. One takes the left shoe, while the other takes the right. Adli, 24, and Mansour, 26, share a special affinity: they both lost a leg during the Israeli attacks on Gaza in 2011. Although they were not together when each of them sustained their injuries, since recovering in hospital and during rehabilitation their friendship has developed into a unique bond. Day by day they have gained strength from each other and share an appreciation of simply being alive . . . Adli and Mansour both live in Shejayeh, west Gaza City, an area that was severely hit during the last Israeli war on the blockaded strip of land. The pair like to walk through Gaza’s fishing hub from the far eastern border fence with Israel to the seafront in the far west. “We are like everybody else. We do our daily activities and not one day passes without us spending it together,” says Mansour. (Continued)
Gaza women turn heads with bike rides
GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories (AFP) 22 Feb by Adel Zaanoun — Four Palestinian women have turned heads in the Islamist-run Gaza Strip by doing what would pass unnoticed in many other places in the world: riding their bicycles. One of them says that beyond enjoying simply going for a ride, she also hopes to make a statement. Many people encourage and admire them, they say. Others however insult or resent the women in their 20s and 30s because, in their view, they are violating Islamic decency. “For lots of people, when a woman does anything outside, it’s astonishing and surprising,” said one of the four, 33-year-old English teacher Amneh Suleiman, sporting a black sweatsuit and matching hat. “For them, it goes against our traditions, but nothing in our religion prevents it.” . . . With her friends Sara, Noor and Assalah, Suleiman regularly wheels her blue bicycle out of her home in Jabalia refugee camp. The Gaza Strip has been run by Islamist movement Hamas since 2007, but it seems objections to their rides have more to do with traditional attitudes than any new regulations. While Suleiman and her friends are voluntarily pedaling against the winds of conservatism, others are bending some of the old rules due to circumstances. The devastation caused by war along with the blockade in place for nearly a decade have led to an increasing number of women working to help feed their families. (Continued)
Palestinian refugees – Lebanon
The tragedy of Ahmed and Palestine’s feral children
MEMO 24 Feb by Yvonne Ridley — Ahmed is an angry young man; a very angry young man. Unlike most 12-year-olds who are on the cusp of their teens with wild ambitions and high aspirations, he abandoned such grand expectations a long time ago. Life has dealt him a series of cruel blows leaving him with a burning anger and no hope. In this he is not alone, for there are many feral children in the impoverished, desolate Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon where promises are plentiful but delivery is rare . . . As I sat in his family home, Ahmed’s mother told me her story. I was left engulfed by a suffocating feeling that here was someone who had known nothing but abandonment and misery throughout her life. I can understand why Umm Ahmed is suffering from depression given that her own dreams and aspirations have been unraveled in the notorious camp . . . Twice-married, with five children — three boys from the first marriage and two daughters from the second — neither man seems to want to accept responsibility for his children and every month she needs to find $35 to pay the rent. Home is a windowless basement reached through a narrow warren of alleyways; even the spindly candles that provide the little light are so weak that they barely flicker or penetrate the gloom. They are a metaphor for her miserable life . . . Umm Ahmed is just one of many women sitting in despair in the largest refugee camp in Lebanon. It was built originally to house Palestinians whom Zionist terror groups forced out of their homes in Amqa, Saffuriyah, Sha’ab, Taitaba, Manshieh, Al-Simireh, Al-Nahr, Safsaf, Hittin, Al-Ras Al-Ahmar, Al-Tira and Tarshiha. As much as the Israelis have tried to obliterate these towns and villages in northern Palestine — and more than 530 have been destroyed in an act of ethnic cleansing unprecedented in modern times — their memories have been kept alive by Palestinians over the generations. Ain Al-Hilweh was set up near the city of Sidon in 1948 by the International Committee of the Red Cross to accommodate around 20,000 refugees. Today, there are 120,000 crammed into the same area of land; unable to build out, the people have had to build upwards, precariously so. As the war in neighbouring Syria escalates, so more and more refugees arrive every day. (Continued)
Solidarity / BDS
Palestinian woman elected to head up Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign
BETHLEHEM (PNN) 24 Feb — Fatin al Tamimi, a Palestinian woman living in Ireland for almost 30 years, has been elected Chairperson of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC), the first Palestinian in the position in the group’s fifteen year history. She was elected at the IPSC’s Annual General Meeting last Saturday 20th February. Al Tamimi, a freelance photographer, has close family living in Hebron who she says are living in dire and worsening conditions as a result of the Israeli occupation. She also has relatives living in Gaza which she describes as the largest open-air prison in the world, a view echoed during a recent visit to the besieged territory by Catholic Bishop of Dromore, John McAreavey. . . .
Israeli fury at unofficial ads on London Underground
EI 22 Feb by Asa Winstanley — Activists from London Palestine Action put up these posters criticizing Israel’s apartheid policies against Palestinians all over London’s underground train network early Sunday morning. An activist from the group, who did not want to be named, told The Electronic Intifada that they posted 150 copies around at least four different lines on the network. The activist provided these photos. These posters are “subvertisements,” political messages designed to look like sanctioned advertising. They were fitted on top of paid ads, the activist said. The action was timed to coincide with the launch of this year’s Israeli Apartheid Week in the UK on Monday. Photos of the posters began appearing on social media Sunday evening. Transport authorities confirmed to the Jewish Chronicle that many of the unofficial ads were still up Monday morning. A spokesperson told the paper Monday that the posters were being removed. This means they would have been seen during this morning’s rush hour by some of the millions of commuters that use the tube network every day. Update: London Palestine Action has now published the full original posters for people to use online or “print them off and post them wherever! Responsibly (obviously).” – Israeli fury – Israeli politicians reacted with near hysteria on Monday. Israel’s foreign ministry called the subvertisements “inciteful” and said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had instructed their director-general to “demand” the posters’ “immediate removal” during a visit to London for talks with the UK foreign office.
Roger Waters: Pink Floyd star on why his fellow musicians are terrified to speak out against Isarel
The Independent 19 Feb by Paul Gallagher — American musicians who support boycotting Israel over the issue of Palestinian rights are terrified to speak out for fear their careers will be destroyed, according to Roger Waters. The Pink Floyd star – a prominent supporter of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel since its inception 10 years ago – said the experience of seeing himself constantly labeled a Nazi and anti-Semite had scared people into silence. “The only response to BDS is that it is anti-Semitic,” Waters told The Independent, in his first major UK interview about his commitment to Israeli activism. “I know this because I have been accused of being a Nazi and an anti-Semite for the past 10 years. “My industry has been particularly recalcitrant in even raising a voice [against Israel]. There’s me and Elvis Costello, Brian Eno, Manic Street Preachers, one or two others, but there’s nobody in the United States where I live. I’ve talked to a lot of them, and they are scared s***less. “If they say something in public they will no longer have a career. They will be destroyed. I’m hoping to encourage some of them to stop being frightened and to stand up and be counted, because we need them. We need them desperately in this conversation in the same way we needed musicians to join protesters over Vietnam.”
VIDEO: Israeli women monitor soldiers guarding West Bank checkpoints
RT 22 Feb — Checkpoints in the West Bank have become the focus of the deadly cycle of violence between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers. And with little sign of hostility coming to an end, a group of elderly female peace activists [Machsom Watch] have decided to take matters into their own hands.
EU launches Tubas’ first water treatment plant
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 22 Feb — Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamallah and European Union representative Ralph Tarraf on Sunday laid the pave-stone of the first wastewater treatment plant in the northern occupied West Bank district of Tubas. An EU statement said the “large-scale project” would serve around 34,000 people living in Tubas city as well as the outlying villages of Tayasir and ‘Aqqaba. It is also set to provide treated water for agricultural use for farmers across the district. Tarraf said: “Access to clean water is a fundamental human right. Palestinians are not just facing severe drinking-water shortages but also limited quantities for agricultural use. This comes together with the issue of untreated wastewater which has very negative consequences on health and environment.” There has to date not been any sewage network in the area. The statement said that wastewater from Tubas district “flows untreated into the environment reaching agricultural areas and surrounding villages either through the cesspits and vacuum trucks.”The project is expected to “significantly reduce health risks for the population of Tubas and contamination of the environment. It will also allow the re-use of treated wastewater in agriculture hence conserving limited groundwater resources in Palestine,” the statement said. The 24 million dollar project consists of a wastewater treatment plant, sewage collection network and an irrigation scheme for the reuse of treated water. It is expected to be completed in September 2017.
Palestinian security set up checkpoints to stop teachers’ protest
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 23 Feb — Palestinian security forces set up checkpoints outside major West Bank cities early on Tuesday to prevent public school teachers from attending a major demonstration in Ramallah. Palestinian security checkpoints were installed on all roads outside the cities of Ramallah and al-Bireh. Officers at the checkpoints stopped all vehicles traveling to Ramallah for inspection and turned back buses carrying teachers to the city. A large number of security officers were deployed around government buildings in Ramallah, where teachers were planning on protesting. An estimated 20,000 Palestinian teachers demonstrated in Ramallah last week to call for the implementation of a 2013 agreement guaranteeing teachers’ rights . . . “We are not opposing a policy or a regime; all we want is to be able to eat our bread in dignity,” a representative of Bethlehem-area teachers told Ma‘an, adding that Palestinian security officers seized the driving licenses and identity documents of bus drivers . . . In the northern West Bank city of Nablus, witnesses told Ma‘an that Palestinian police officers threatened to revoke the licenses of taxi drivers who carried teachers to Ramallah. Another source, who requested anonymity for safety reasons, told Ma‘an that Palestinian security in Nablus also threatened to punish bus companies if they took teachers to Ramallah for the demonstration. “The instructions the Palestinian government has given to its security services breach the basics of Palestinian law,” Khalil Assaf, a member of a politically unaffiliated committee, told Ma‘an.
PA finance minister confirms talks held with Israel to boost economy
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 23 Feb — Palestinian Minister of Finance Shukri Bishara confirmed Monday that he has met with his Israeli counterpart Moshe Kahlon in Jerusalem in recent weeks to discuss an economic agreement to boost the Palestinian economy. Israel’s Channel 10 reported Sunday that the two finance ministers have been meeting to discuss an “economic package” Israel is planning to offer to the Palestinian Authority. Bishara told Ma‘an the meetings had taken place, although he denied that several issues reported by Channel 10 had in fact been discussed. He said the chief objective of the meetings had been to discuss the possibility of reaching a new agreement on Israel’s share of tax revenue it collects on the PA’s behalf. Bishara said that Israel currently deducts at least three percent of all PA taxes on exports and imports, amounting to 350 million shekels annually, and his delegation was seeking to reduce this. He said that Israel also took a significant portion of the travel tax paid by Palestinians when leaving the occupied West Bank via the Allenby Bridge Crossing into Jordan. However, the minister denied Channel 10’s report that he had discussed with Kahlon the possibility of greater integration between Palestinians and Israelis in the construction, medical, and high-tech sectors, including the possibility of a range of study and internship opportunities for young Palestinians. Israel is reportedly hoping to boost the Palestinian economy in part as a gesture to the Obama administration, which has called repeatedly for Israel to strengthen the Palestinian economy. Israeli officials are also reportedly hoping it may reduce tensions after months of violence.
‘High profile’ PA security officer shot dead by unidentified gunman
JENIN (Ma‘an) 24 Feb — Unidentified gunmen shot dead a “high-profile” Palestinian security officer on Wednesday in the northern occupied West Bank town of Silat al-Harithiya in the Jenin district, a Palestinian police spokesperson said. Luay Irzeiqat said the officer was evacuated to the hospital but died of his wounds shortly after. Irzeiqat identified the officer as Ayman Jaradat, a brigadier general in the Palestinian National Security forces and a leader in the Black Panthers, a military offshoot of Fatah. The spokesperson said “a large number” of Palestinian police are in the Silat al-Harithiya area investigating the incident. A spokesman for Jenin’s PLO office, Ali Zakarna, confirmed that Jaradat had been shot by an unidentified assailant. Zakarna said the slain officer was a former prisoner of Israel sentenced to life in prison, but was released as part of the 2011 Gilad Shalit deal. Zakarna highlighted that the Fatah movement in Jenin released a statement denouncing the murder of Jaradat and declared that “it will be lawful to kill the murderer.”
For many Palestinians, Israel settlement work the only option
QIRA, West Bank (Reuters) 22 Feb by Ali Sawafta — Mohammad Arbassi, a 56-year-old father of five sons from the West Bank village of Qira, has a diploma in finance and big plans for his children, two of whom are at university. Yet despite his education and personal drive, for the past 12 years he has worked as a builder on construction sites in the Israeli settlement of Ariel, not far from his village, earning 150 shekels a day ($38). It’s the best job he can get. “You ask why I would accept such a poor job,” he says, pursing his lips. “I will say I didn’t have a better offer.” Around 36,000 Palestinians work in settlements in the occupied West Bank, many in construction, earning up to three times as much as the average Palestinian wage. Many of the jobs are in large settlement blocs built close to the frontier with Israel, in areas Israel intends to keep in any final peace agreement with the Palestinians. It is here that Israel has established one of several industrial zones, comprising around 1,000 businesses in all, many of which benefit from tax breaks and other business concessions, including access to cheaper Palestinian labor. In a report released last month, Human Rights Watch labeled the zones “Occupation, Inc.”, pointing out that they are in violation of international law because they are built on land Israel seized in the 1967 Middle East war . . . Ouda Daqdouq, 26, has worked various settlement jobs since he was 16, earning up to 250 shekels a day. Now married with two children, he can’t afford to stop, even if it frustrates him. “I had an accident while at work in the settlement of Borkan and I could not work for a week, but there was no insurance and they didn’t compensate me,” he says. “There is no choice. We work in settlements so we can feed our children.”
Israel’s West Bank businesses face growing pressure to uproot
TEL AVIV (Reuters) 23 Feb by Steven Scheer & Tova Cohen — When engineer Rami Bone goes to work each day at his company in the settlement of Maaleh Adumim, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, he doesn’t see himself as violating international law. A resident of Tel Aviv, Bone (Bon-eh) started his company over 25 years ago, before Israel and the Palestinians signed an interim peace accord. He said he was drawn to the settlement because he believed Israelis and Palestinians working together could help support peace. More than two decades later, Aluminum Construction has $65 million in annual revenue from two plants in Maaleh Adumim, near Jerusalem, that employ 150 Jews and 400 Palestinians. Israeli companies argue that they are helping Palestinians in the West Bank – employing about 36,000 – by giving them a far better salary than in Arab-owned businesses . . . With pressure growing on settlement firms to uproot, Bone said he does not know how much longer he will be able to maintain his two plants in Maaleh Adumim. “If there’s a boycott against us and we can’t export then we won’t be able to work in this area and we’ll have to move to the center of the country,” he said . . . West Bank businesses deny exploiting Palestinian workers and say they offer much-needed employment. Near the settlement of Ariel, 5,000 Palestinians work in the Barkan industrial park, where international pressure forced companies such as Assa Abloy (ASSAb.ST) unit Mul-T-Lock, pretzel maker Beigel & Beigel and Barkan Winery to relocate to within Israel’s pre-1967 lines. After a high-profile battle, carbonated drinks maker SodaStream (SODA.O) moved from Maaleh Adumim, while Dead Sea cosmetics producer Ahava has said it may pull out from the West Bank. “Once we stop selling or move from here like other companies did, the Palestinian workers have nowhere to go,” said Moshe Lev-Ran, head of exports at Barkan’s TwitoPlast, which makes air conditioner parts and whose plant is managed by a Palestinian.
Arab Israeli professor breaks barriers at home and abroad
HAIFA, Israel (AP) 23 Feb by Tia Goldenberg & Areej Hazboun — Hossam Haick, whose breakthrough work in nanotechnology has garnered global accolades, says his success as an Arab citizen of Israel proves that education knows no boundaries and is key to improving his community’s lot. At just 40 years old, Haick has been repeatedly recognized as a leader in his field. He also teaches a popular online course in his spare time to thousands of students across the Arab world from his lab at Israel’s oldest university, the Technion. Israel’s Arab minority, which makes up 20 percent of the population, has long had strained relations with the Jewish majority, ties that have deteriorated amid a five-month wave of Palestinian-Israeli violence. Suspicions have been mounting against Arab citizens, who often identify with their Palestinian brethren in the West Bank and Gaza. While Israel’s Jewish population has produced a number of Nobel Prize winners and developed a booming tech sector, Israel’s Arabs have often been left behind. They tend to be poorer and less educated than Jews, suffer discrimination in areas like housing and employment, and are underrepresented in academia and the high-tech world. Haick and his mound of academic degrees, his 28 patents and his 40-page resume defy the statistics. He says that’s because academia judges him based on his abilities, not his ethnicity. “I’m not treated as an Arab … I’m treated as a special scientist, and this is nice,” said Haick. “But unfortunately when I get out of the Technion to reality, things change a bit.” (Continued)