Violence / Detentions — Jerusalem, West Bank
3 Palestinians shot dead after Jerusalem attack kills Israeli officer
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 3 Feb — Three Palestinians were shot dead Wednesday after they killed an Israeli police officer and wounded another in an armed attack near Damascus Gate in occupied East Jerusalem’s Old City, Israeli police said. Israeli police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld told Ma‘an that “three attackers were shot dead at the scene” by Israeli Border Police after carrying out an attack with knives and an automatic weapon. The three Palestinian youths had attracted the attention of Israeli Border Police officers as they approached Damascus Gate, police spokesperson Luba al-Samri said. She said they were stopped by the officers, and as one showed their identification card, another pulled out a gun and opened fire. Two female Border Police officers were wounded and evacuated for medical treatment. One of them, 19-year-old Hadar Cohen, was shot in the head and later pronounced dead at Hadassah Hospital. A spokesperson for the hospital said that the other police officer, 18 years old, was in moderate condition, having received stab wounds across her body. Explosive devices were later found near the site, which was cordoned off following the attack, Rosenfeld said, adding that Israeli forces carried out a controlled explosion of the devices. Rosenfeld said following initial investigations that the three Palestinians were armed with three automatic weapons. Witnesses told Ma‘an that Israeli forces fired stun grenades and pepper spray near the Salah al-Deen Street and Al-Sultan Suliman streets near Damascus Gate to prevent Palestinians from approaching the area. Witnesses added the forces also stopped a group of people and inspected them in a “humiliating” way. The three Palestinians killed were identified as Ahmad Rajeh Ismail Zakarneh, Muhammad Ahmad Hilmi Kamil, and Najeh Ibrahim Abu al-Rub from the village of Qabatiya near the occupied West Bank city of Jenin. Israeli media reported that two of the three were barred from entrance into Israel and that all three had crossed over illegally. Israeli media reports also said none of the three Palestinians were affiliated with any political organization.
Chaos erupts in hometown of 3 Palestinian attackers as Israeli forces raid village
JENIN (Ma‘an) 4 Feb — Israeli forces stormed the northern occupied West Bank district of Jenin’s Qabatiya village, the home of three Palestinian youths who were shot dead Wednesday after killing one 19-year-old Israeli police officer and seriously injuring another, a PLO spokesman told Ma‘an. Ali Zakarneh said that during the raid, Israeli forces shot and injured four youths with live bullets, one of whom is in critical condition after being shot in the head. The spokesperson added that Israeli forces also ran over a 15-year-old boy, identified as Mujahed Zakarneh, with a military jeep. The 15-year-old is also in critical condition. The five youths were all evacuated to a nearby hospital for treatment, Zakarneh said. Israeli forces also raided the family homes of the three youths who committed the attack and notified them that their homes would be demolished, requesting they evacuate their belongings in preparation for the demolition . . . Zakarneh said Israeli forces announced during the raid that Qabatiya had been designated a closed military zone, and will remain a closed zone for at least a month. Forces closed all of entrances to the village with dirt mounds, completely preventing passage in or out of the village. The Israeli spokesperson said “security measures have been taken in the village in accordance with situation assessments, which means entrances and exits are closed with exception of humanitarian cases.” During a 2007 census, Qabatiya was documented as having 20,198 residents. At least ten Palestinians were detained during the raid, as well as two others outside of the village.
14-year-old Palestinian shot, critically injured in Ramallah-area clashes
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 2 Feb — Israeli forces shot and critically injured a 14-year-old Palestinian during clashes in the Jabal al-Tawil area of al-Bireh City on Tuesday, medics told Ma‘an. Medics said the teen was in critical condition after being shot in the lower stomach with a live bullet. The 14-year-old was first taken to the Palestine Medical Center and then transferred to the Ramallah Government Hospital for surgery. An Israeli army spokesperson said “a violent mob approached and attempted to damage the security fence surrounding the community of Psagot, south of al-Bireh,” referring to the illegal Israeli settlement. “In order to prevent an escalation of violence forces called the rioters to halt and disperse and upon the ongoing aggression forces responded and fired against the main instigator and a hit was confirmed.” Clashes erupt near the illegal Israel settlement of Psagot on a near daily basis. During clashes, Israeli forces fired live and rubber-coated steel bullets at protesters, most of whom are students from Ramallah’s high schools and universities.
Two Palestinian girls detained after attempted stabbing attack in Ramla
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 4 Feb — Two Palestinian girls were detained after attempting to attack an Israeli security guard at a bus station in the central Israeli city of Ramla on Thursday, an Israeli police spokesperson said. Police spokesperson Luba al-Samri identified the two girls as 13-year-olds from the al-Jawarish area of Ramla. “The two arrived at the central bus station in Ramle, when the security guard asked them to identify themselves before going into search machine, they stabbed him,” al-Samri said, adding that one of the teens was carrying a school bag. Israeli police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld said a security guard was “lightly” injured. Rosenfeld shared a photo on social media of two kitchen knives scattered amongst school papers at the scene of the incident. The knives appeared to be clean, with no signs of blood.
Soldiers kidnap eight Palestinians, wound two children, in Jerusalem
IMEMC 4 Feb — Israeli soldiers kidnapped, Wednesday, eight Palestinians, including many children, in different parts of occupied Jerusalem, and injured two children — one with special needs. The soldiers also invaded and searched several homes. Mohammad Abu al-Hummus, member of the Follow-Up Committee in the al-‘Eesawiyya town in Jerusalem, said the soldiers invaded the town at dawn, and installed a military tent at its main entrance, and that the invasion lasted until late evening hours. He added that the invasion led to clashes between dozens of local youngsters and the soldiers, and that the army fired several gas bombs, concussion grenades and rubber-coated steel bullets, in addition to holding a bus for 40 minutes. The soldiers also invaded Dari neighborhood in the town, stormed and searched many homes, and attacked several Palestinians while ransacking their homes. Abu al-Hummus further said that the soldiers fired concussion grenades and rubber-coated steel bullets in the neighborhood, causing several injuries, while two children, including one with special needs, fainted after the Israeli military assault. In addition, the soldiers kidnapped Khaled Abu Gush, 15, Abed Abu Saima, 15, Mousa Dirar Darweesh, 20, Ali Bader, 22, and Mohammad Ahmad Dari, 17, in Bab al-Amoud area in Jerusalem. The soldiers claimed that Dari “carried a screw driver.” In Sheikh Jarrah area, in Jerusalem, the soldiers kidnapped three children, identified as Hamza Abdullah, 13, Mohammad Tha’er Sarhan, 13, and Qassem Shehada, 13; all from Qalandia refugee camp, north of Jerusalem.
Undercover forces shoot Palestinian, detain 19 in West Bank raids
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 2 Feb — Undercover Israeli forces shot and injured a young Palestinian man and detained 19 throughout the occupied West Bank during predawn military raids on Tuesday. A Palestinian Authority official who monitors settlement activities, Ghassan Daghlas, told Ma‘an that a squad of six undercover Israeli officers stormed a mobile phone shop in the village of Qabalan near Nablus and confiscated a desktop computer and a tablet. During the raid, the forces shot a Palestinian identified as Yousif Shahrour in the foot before detaining him and two others, identified as Samir al-Aqra and Abd al-Latif, Daghlas said. He added that the three were taken to a station in the illegal Ariel settlement . . . Israeli military forces also raided the Nablus-area village of Jammaa‘in and ransacked the home of Amjad Sukkari, a PA officer who was killed after shooting and injuring three Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint near Ramallah on Sunday. Daghlas told Ma‘an that engineers took measurements of Sukkari’s home in preparation for its demolition, in line with an Israeli policy of punitive demolitions for the homes of Palestinians who carry out attacks or are suspected of carrying attacks on Israelis.
In the southern area of the city of Nablus, forces also stormed and searched student dorms of Al-Najah University, Daghlas added. Separately, Palestinian Sahir Nasasra from the village of Beit Furik near Nablus and Suhayb al-Ashqar from Sayda in the Tulkarem district were detained, locals told Ma‘an. East of Jerusalem, Israeli soldiers raided the towns of Abu Dis and al-Eizariya, detaining 11, identified as Muhammad al-Mukahhal, Muhammad Yazid Hamdan, Ali Faroun, Abdullah Shatara, Amir Shatara, Muhammad Shatara, Mustafa al-Yasini, Marwan Bassa, Nayif al-Khatib, Ashraf al-Yasini and Ali Ayyad. In the village of al-Khader south of Bethlehem in the southern West Bank, Bilal Salah, Mansour Atiyeh, and Khalil Khalid Salah were also detained, according to locals . . .
According to Israeli police, one of those detained in the West Bank was taken in for questioning after police and army forces raided the suspect’s home in the al-Jalazun refugee camp near Ramallah. Israeli police spokesperson Luba al-Samri said in a statement that forces seized a weapons cache that included rifles, handguns, ammunition, a stolen vehicle, drugs including hashish and “Mr. Nice Guy” (herbal smoke blend), forged 10 shekel coins, as well as two safes full of money.
Israeli forces detain at least 17 in West Bank raids
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 1 Feb — Israeli occupation forces on Monday detained at least 17 Palestinians in overnight raids in the West Bank. An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma‘an that Israeli forces had detained 16 Palestinians overnight for being “suspected of illegal activities.” She listed four arrests in and around Tulkarem, three in the area of Nablus, three near the city of Bethlehem, three in and around Hebron, two near Ramallah and one in Qalqiliya. Local sources told Ma‘an that Israeli forces detained Saddam al-Jaabri and Ali Abd al-Ghaffar Dufash from the Old City of Hebron. Israeli troops also detained Muhammad Qasim Masalmah,17, and Jibreel Hassan Masalmah,16, from the town of Beit Awwa west of Hebron, and summoned Udai Sameer Masalmah to meet with Israeli intelligence. Palestinian security sources told Ma‘an that Israeli troops raided several houses in the city of Tulkarem, detaining Bassam Jameel Lifdawi, 23, Muhammad Ibrahim Badawi, 27, and two brothers, Saleh, 25, and Ahmad Mitleq Daji Balawna, 29.
Israeli settlers assault Palestinian man in Hebron
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 3 Feb — A group of settlers from the illegal Kiryat Arbaa settlement east of Hebron assaulted a young Palestinian man on Tuesday, locals told Ma‘an. Locals said that Raad Muhammad al-Haddad, 21, was evacuated to the public hospital in Hebron after he sustained bruises from the attack. Issa Amro, an activist with the group Youth Against Settlements, told Ma‘an that he had heard several people had been beaten by the group of settlers, who reportedly pelted houses in the Old City of Hebron with stones. Youth Against Settlements has been staging a sit-in for 28 days demanding that Israel remove the closed military zone which has been in place in the neighborhood of Tel Rumeida since Nov. 1.
Thousands attend military funeral of PA officer behind West Bank shooting
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 1 Feb — Thousands of Palestinian on Monday took part in the military funeral procession of Palestinian Authority police officer Amjad Sukkari, who was shot dead the day before when he shot and wounded three Israeli soldiers west of Ramallah. Mourners marched from Rafidia hospital to Shuhada Square in the northern West Bank city of Nablus, chanting national slogans applauding Palestinian “martyrs.” They reportedly waved Palestinian flags as well as photos and posters of Sukkari. Sukkari’s body was then taken to his home village of Jammaa‘in south of Nablus, where he was buried in the village cemetery following funeral prayers. Nablus Governor Akram Rajoub was present at the funeral along with officials from the PA and PLO. Representatives of Palestinian factions delivered speeches at the cemetery during the burial. The PA has not officially commented on Sukkari’s actions, although Hamas and Islamic Jihad officials have hailed his attack as a “rejection” of the PA’s ongoing security coordination with Israel. Sukkari, a PA staff sergeant in Nablus, was shot dead after he shot and wounded three Israeli soldiers at an Israeli military checkpoint near the illegal Israeli settlement of Beit El outside Ramallah. Witnesses told Ma‘an that Sukkari opened fire on the soldiers when his car was stopped at the checkpoint. Of the three injured, two were in critical condition, while one was mildly injured, Israeli emergency services said.
What makes Palestinian security officials turn on Israelis? / Edo Konrad
+972 mag 1 Feb — The reality in the West Bank has pushed some Palestinians to enforce an occupation against their own people — On Sunday morning, 34-year-old Amjed Sakari, a member of the Palestinian security services, drove up to an Israeli checkpoint reserved exclusively for Palestinian Authority personnel. When asked to produce his ID, he stepped out of the car and opened fire, wounding three Israeli soldiers . . . The Oslo Accords produced a series of political and economic agreements between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the most significant of which was the creation of the Palestinian Authority — an interim self-governing body established to oversee both security and civil matters in parts of the West Bank as well as the Gaza Strip. While the PA was not allowed a military, it could establish its own security forces, including police and secret service. These forces work in tandem with the Shin Bet and the Israeli army to foil attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers as well as to prevent insurrection against the PA within Areas A and B . . . So what do those Palestinians who are embedded within the security apparatus do when they realize the game is fixed — that they themselves are carrying out the duties of occupying soldiers against their own people? What do they do when they realize that there is, in fact, no way out? A look at Sakari’s Facebook page offers a glimpse into his dilemma. In the early hours of Sunday morning, Sakari published a Facebook status in which he declared that there is no use in living “as long as the occupation oppresses our souls and kills our brothers and sisters.” The previous night, Sakari published a status, according to which “Every day we hear news of a death…Forgive me, perhaps I will be next.”
Terror victims’ relatives to gov’t: Deport terrorists’ families
Ynet 31 Jan by Elisha Ben Kimon — Relatives of 18 terror victims, mostly from the wave of terrorism that began in autumn 2015, on Sunday issued an open letter to government ministers, in which they demanded a harsher response – deporting terrorists’ families. “The real punishment the murderers deserve is death,” read the letter. “But Jewish compassion prevents us from using it. Therefore, we demand of the Israeli government to at least deport the terrorists’ families forever.” The bereaved families stated that “the family that raised the murderer, educated him, and taught him to hate Jews and murder must pay the price, and not only because of the deterrence created by deportation.” (Continued)
Israeli Knesset passes stop and frisk law for ‘suspicious’ individuals
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 3 Feb — Israel’s Knesset on Tuesday passed a new law allowing Israeli forces to stop and frisk “individuals who appear suspicious” for unlicensed weapons. A statement released by the Knesset said the measure was passed 39 to 31 during its third and final reading. The new law will permit Israeli police officers to search “anyone in a place prone to violence if they have reason to believe he or she may use a weapon,” the statement said. “If someone is fighting or is engaged in ‘verbal violence’ — without a visual clue that the person may be carrying a weapon — that person could be searched and evidence found would be admissible in court,” according to the Knesset statement. The bill stipulates that an officer also now has the legal ability to search anyone, regardless of behavior, in a “location that is thought to be a target for hostile destructive actions,” referring to situations where there is a “suspicion of terrorism.” Such locations can be declared as such by a regional commander for a period of 21 days which may be extended for up to two months.
Knesset member Ilan Gilon of the Meretz party criticized the new law, saying the measure ”perpetuates the viewpoint that every citizen is guilty until proven innocent — exactly the opposite of what criminal law should be.” MK Jamal Zahalka of the Joint List for his part said: ”This law sends a message to police officers: ‘do whatever you want. There is no need for any criteria, and everything can be approved retroactively.’” The new law comes as Palestinian citizens of Israel and particularly Palestinians living in occupied East Jerusalem already come under heavy surveillance and searches by Israeli forces.
Israeli military ends blockade of occupied West Bank hub
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 2 Feb – Israeli forces on Monday night ended a military blockade of the occupied West Bank hub of Ramallah, put in place following a shooting attack carried out by a Palestinian Authority police officer on Israeli soldiers in the area. Director of the PA’s military liaison office, Jihad al-Jayyusi, told Ma‘an that all temporary checkpoints set up around Ramallah were removed and Israeli military forces had pulled out of the area around midnight. Al-Jayyusi confirmed that all exits and entrances into Ramallah as well as main roads leading to neighboring villages were now open to traffic, adding that his office had exerted pressure on its Israeli counterpart to end the closures. An Israeli army spokesperson confirmed to Ma‘an that “all crossings returned to normal activity” on Monday night “following a situation assessment of the area.” The move comes after days of debilitating closures throughout the Ramallah district, affecting tens of thousands of Palestinians. The district was largely sealed by the Israeli military hours after PA police officer Amjad Sukkari was shot dead on Sunday when he opened fire on a military checkpoint near the Beit El settlement directly north of Ramallah, injuring three Israeli soldiers. Witnesses told Ma‘an at the time that Israeli forces had activated all military checkpoints around Ramallah — many of which are normally unmanned — in addition to several flying checkpoints set up throughout the area. Locals said every car was being stopped and inspected at the checkpoints, with passengers’ identity cards scrutinized before being allowed to enter or exit Ramallah, causing long waits for non-Ramallah residents attempting to leave the city as well as Ramallah residents on their way home.
Israeli forces had also continued to seal the village of Beit Ur al-Tahta, west of Ramallah, as well as several other villages closed last week after two Palestinian youths carried out a stabbing attack in the nearby illegal Israeli settlement of Beit Horon, killing a woman and injuring another. The Israeli army has sealed a number of Palestinian towns or villages since a wave of unrest swept the occupied Palestinian territory in October, despite condemnation by the international community and Palestinian leadership that such closures constitute collective punishment.
70 right-wing Israelis tour Aqsa compound, Palestinians denied entry
[with photos] JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 3 Feb — Dozens of right-wing Israelis toured the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Wednesday under Israeli police escort, while a number of Palestinian men and women were denied entry to the holy site. Witnesses said that as many as 70 Israelis entered the compound through the Dung Gate, accompanied by nearly 20 Israeli Border Police and two Israeli intelligence officers. Israeli police meanwhile prevented a number of Palestinian women and men from entering the compound, saying that they were members of the blacklisted Murabitat and Murabitun — Muslim groups that protest what they see as an increasing Jewish presence at the holy site. Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib told Ma‘an that Israeli police were “escalating” actions against the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound as well as the Ministry of Endowments. He said that Israeli police actions were “unacceptable” and were intended to delay restoration work inside the compound.
Israeli forces prepare for punitive home demolitions in Hebron
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 2 Feb — Israeli forces in Hebron on Tuesday raided the homes of two Palestinians who committed attacks against Israelis in preparation for punitive home demolitions, locals told Ma‘an. Israeli forces raided the home of Ibrahim Skafi, who was shot dead in November after he rammed his car into a group of Israeli soldiers, as well as the home of Muhammad al-Huroub, who was detained after carrying out a stabbing attack near the illegal Israeli settlement bloc of Gush Etzion. The forces reportedly took photos and measurements inside the homes. Punitive home demolitions were expedited at the request of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in mid-October, and many have been carried out since. The move came despite past recommendations by an Israeli military committee that the practice does not deter attacks . . . Israeli rights group B’Tselem condemned the practice in October as “court sanctioned revenge,” carried out on family members who have not committed crimes, amounting to collective punishment.
2 Hamas fighters killed in tunnel collapse
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 3 Feb — Two Hamas fighters were killed in a tunnel collapse in the southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday night, just one week after seven other fighters were killed in a tunnel collapse in northern Gaza. In a statement, Hamas’ military wing, Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, identified the fighters as 35-year-old Fouad Ashor al-Etewi and 23-year-old Ahmad Haidar al-Zahhar [photo] from al-Nusirat refugee camp. The statement added that the tunnel “belonged to resistance,” without providing further details. Israeli forces on Wednesday morning reportedly crossed the Gazan border east of Khan Younis, advancing 100 meters into the blockaded coastal enclave where a bulldozer “leveled” land. Locals said the soldiers were destroying tunnels.
Four Gaza fishermen detained by Israeli navy
IMEMC/Agencies 3 Feb — The Israeli navy took into custody four Palestinian fishermen off the Gaza coast and seized their boats, Wednesday morning, while the army invaded the area to the east of Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip. Captain Nezar Ayyash reported that soldiers opened fire towards two Palestinian boats and then detained four fishermen who were aboard. He stated that the fishermen are of the Assaedee family, and that all of them, along with their boats, were taken to an Israeli seaport nearby.
Meanwhile, Israeli bulldozers penetrated the border with Gaza to the east of al-Fukharee town, southeast of Khan Younis.
Israel continues to spray crop-killing chemicals on Gaza farmland
IMEMC/Agencies 3 Feb — Israeli planes have reportedly sprayed chemical substances on farmlands across the besieged Gaza Strip, killing off the crops in the already impoverished Palestinian territory. Several farmers informed that Israeli planes had sprayed their lands with pesticides, in the area between (Kissufim, and Srij) east of al-Qarara village, northeast of Khan Younis, according to Al Ray correspondence. Witnesses pointed out that the Israeli occupation aircraft were spraying pesticides inside the border fence, and were hovering on low level.
WATCH: Hamas cartoon depicts Egyptian flooding of Gaza-Sinai border
JPost 3 Feb — A Hamas-affiliated news agency posted a short animation on Wednesday depicting Egypt’s efforts at creating a canal along the Rafah-Sinai border in order to put a halt to smuggling tunnels. In the clip, Egyptian bulldozers are seen moving large mounds of dirt and flooding the area adjacent to the border fence. The propaganda clip was aired by the Shehab news agency. It ended with a religious statement which read: “God is enough for us, for he is the agent.” Last year, Egyptian forces began to flood smuggling tunnels dug beneath the Gaza-Egypt border, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. The authorities used pipes to pump water from the Mediterranean Sea in an apparent effort to curb the use of the underground passages. The network of tunnels is used to bring in an estimated 30 percent of all goods that reach Gaza.
Israeli forces detain Palestinian student at Erez crossing
GAZA (Ma‘an) 3 Feb — Israeli forces on Tuesday detained a Palestinian student at the Erez crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip, the father of the student said. The father of Muhammad Abdul-Karim al-Assar, 29, told Ma‘an his son had obtained a permit to make the crossing on his way to Jordan where he was to begin classes at the Mideast Aviation Academy. Al-Assar initially attempted to cross through Erez, also known as Beit Hanoun crossing, on Monday, but was turned back and told to return the following morning, the father said. On Tuesday al-Assar returned to the crossing and was detained by Israeli forces. Al-Assar’s father was informed the following day of his son’s detention. The reason for al-Assar’s detention is unknown.
Islamic Jihad, Hamas officials rally in Gaza to support West Bank shooting
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 1 Feb — Senior Islamic Jihad and Hamas officials on Monday attended a rally in Gaza City to voice support for a recent attack on Israeli military forces in the occupied West Bank. Speakers at the rally, organized by the Islamic Jihad, applauded the attack on Sunday by Palestinian police officer Amjad Sukkari, 34, who was shot dead after he shot and wounded three Israeli soldiers at a military checkpoint north of the West Bank city of Ramallah. “This operation by martyr Sukkari was a natural reaction expected by any noble and free Palestinian to the crimes and executions the Israeli occupation army has been carrying out in the West Bank and Jerusalem,” Ahmad al-Mudallal, a senior Islamic Jihad official said. Al-Mudallal added that “the real task of the Palestinian Authority’s security officers is to defend our people and our holy places and tell the Israeli occupation that security coordination won’t protect them.” Similarly, senior Hamas leader Ismail Radwan honored Sukkari in his speech “for siding with his people and opposing security coordination with occupation.” Radwan urged Palestinian members of all Palestinian Authority’s security services to follow in the steps of Sukkari. Resistance, he said, will continue until all its goals come to fruition. He urged Palestinian activists to form a joint command along with committees to lead what he called the “Intifada” in the West Bank. The Palestinian Authority has yet to comment on the attack.
Why some Gazan professors are selling their homes
GAZA CITY 3 Feb by Mohammed Othman — The Islamic University of Gaza — which is one of the largest and most prestigious universities in the Gaza Strip — has been battling a financial crisis for 2½ years now. The repercussions of this crisis have started to clearly manifest; the university closed its gates for three days in January following disagreements between its administration and its staff union about the rights of employees at the university. The union subsequently resigned. The Islamic University, which was founded in 1978 as the first university in the Gaza Strip, is now suffering a severe financial crisis affecting the living standards of its staff. In mid-2014, the university’s administration issued a decision to implement a 40% reduction in the monthly salaries of its staff. These substantial income cuts led the university staff to resort to applying for financial aid provided by various charities. Riyad Shahin, a history professor at the Islamic University, who also serves as chairman of al-Riyad Charity Society in Gaza City, told Al-Monitor that some of the university staff have applied to his charity seeking financial support. Shahin said that after the substantial salary cuts and the deduction of bank loans, the monthly salary of some employees dropped to less than $200 — where it had been around $1,000 before — which has forced many to sell their homes or cars. (Continued)
Ghetto news from Gaza / Gideon Levy
Haaretz 4 Feb — Most Israelis neither know nor care what goes on in the Gaza Strip — The latest news from the ghetto comes, as usual, from the outside. The addiction to fear and the eternal wallowing in terror in Israel suddenly reminded one of the existence of the neighboring ghetto. Only thus are we here reminded of Gaza. When it shoots, or at least digs. Residents of the communities surrounding Gaza hear sounds, perhaps the sounds of digging, and the ghetto is no longer abandoned. We recall its existence. Iran dropped off the agenda. Sweden isn’t scary enough. Hezbollah is busy. So we return to Gaza . . . But the real news from Gaza doesn’t reach Israelis. Who here heard that jets of the most moral air force in the world poisoned in recent weeks the fields of a “buffer zone,” which Israel declared unilaterally, at a distance of 300 meters from the fence? Farmers in Gaza report that the dusters spread the poison up to 500 meters, and that 1,187 dunams (293 acres) were damaged in the last poisoning in December. The pilots, convinced that they are doing a good thing, reported hitting their targets accurately. Pay attention to the sterile wording of the IDF spokesman: “Aerial spraying of herbicidal germination preventing material next to the security fence was carried out in order to allow optimal implementation of ongoing security missions in the area,” he stated. Fishermen are forbidden from venturing more than six nautical miles out from shore. Sometimes they catch a fisherman or shoot him. Farmers are forbidden from going within 300 meters. Everything is done to serve Israel’s security, and its security alone – and the occupation of the Gaza Strip ended a long time ago. Just an hour’s drive from Tel Aviv, there is a ghetto. Even without supplying “germination preventing materials,” almost nothing grows in it. Up-to-date data from Gisha-Legal Center for Freedom of Movement indicate 43 percent unemployment, 70 percent in need of humanitarian assistance and 57 percent suffering from nutrition insecurity. (Continued)
Cinema returns to Gaza after long absence
GAZA CITY (Al-Monitor) 31 Jan by Entsar Abu Jahal — The lights were dim and the audience whispered. The viewers watched the screen to see what would happen to the hero of the film “Oversized Coat,” which screened Dec. 26 at the Red Crescent Society hall. Gazans watched the film in an uplifted mood, one the city had been not seen for decades. Before the outbreak of Al-Aqsa intifada in 1987, around six film theaters could be found in the Gaza Strip. However, screenings in these theaters stopped after Gazans’ priorities shifted toward resistance, and after some opposed the content of the films shown and deemed them immoral. Messaab al-Hindi, the director of Ain Media who organized the film screening, said that the film premiere initiative was taken by the director of “Oversized Coat,” Nawras Abu Saleh, a Palestinian refugee residing in Jordan. He had contacted Ain Media and expressed his desire to screen the film for a second time in a private atmosphere that could restore the cinema spirit in Gaza . . . For his part, Atef Asqool, director general of the Arts and Heritage Department at the Ministry of Culture, emphasized the role of cinemas in society, as they ease the pressure that Gaza residents face given the successive crises that plague Gaza . . . Asqool said that the reason behind the lack of cinemas in Gaza is not because the Hamas government has an Islamic inclination, but because the Hamas government does not support initiatives aimed at reactivating the role of cinemas. (Continued)
Turkish products break Egyptian monopoly over Gaza markets
RAFAH, Gaza Strip (Al-Monitor) 1 Feb by Fadi Shafei — Strengthening diplomatic ties between Turkey and Hamas means Turkish products have been flooding Gazan markets, leading some to believe the blockade on the Gaza Strip could be lifted — The Saturday flea market stretches along the Egyptian-Palestinian border, from the Salah al-Din Gate (known as the Rafah land port) south of Rafah city to al-‘Awda roundabout in the city center. Because of its location, the market has been known for its Egyptian goods, where merchants and customers from all over the Gaza Strip flock on a weekly basis . . . However, Egyptian goods, as popular as they might have been and despite where they were being sold, have disappeared from the Saturday flea market — and in the rest of Gaza’s markets — and have been replaced with Turkish goods imported through Israel. The Turkish goods have a better quality that goes along with their elevated prices, yet they are within reach for the middle-income bracket in Gaza. Turkish goods in the Gaza markets are not limited to basic commodities. They include all sorts of clothing, home appliances, home accessories and more . . . Speaking to Al-Monitor, Maher Tabbaa, manager of public relations and media at the Gaza Chamber of Commerce and Industry, explained that the markets in the Gaza Strip are full of Turkish goods, as official importers in the Gaza Strip restored relations with export companies in Turkey. He ruled out the possibility that the Turkish imports are the product of any political agreement designed to ease the blockade on the Gaza Strip. (Continued)
Do Gaza’s melting-pot markets reflect identity crisis?
GAZA CITY (Al-Monitor) 1 Feb by Asmaa al-Ghoul — The Gaza Strip tries to maintain its own culture, even as the blockade forces it to embrace imports — The nine-year siege on the Gaza Strip has caused Gaza City to resemble anything but its old self. One can find Egyptian, Turkish, Israeli and Chinese cultural and commercial products — but rarely Palestinian products from either Gaza or the West Bank. The siege, occupation and Islamic rule have altered Gaza City’s true character culturally and economically, but experts assert that these effects are not radical or permanent. The Egyptian culture is a major influence. Since the blockade was imposed on Gaza in 2006, more than 2,000 smuggling tunnels have been dug between Egypt and Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Though the Egyptian army has closed most of the tunnels now, they were widely used, making Rafah Gaza’s window to the world. Al-Tali’ah, a 70-year-old bookstore, is in Palestine Square, one of Gaza City’s largest markets. The store sells Egyptian novels such as “The Future File,” “Beyond Nature” and “Flowers,” by prominent Egyptian authors such as Nabil Farouk, as well as Egyptian paperback novels that were popular in the mid-1980s. The store’s shelves are stacked with hundreds of audiocassettes of Egyptian Quranic reciters such as Abdul Basit Abdus Samad. Facing those shelves are tapes of old Egyptian films, mostly featuring Egyptian actor Adel Imam. In the bookstore, it feels as if time has stopped because everything is so old . . . Books by Gazan authors are almost absent because of the blockade and the high cost of paper for local presses. Local feature films are also absent. Artistic and cultural pieces are almost completely missing. (Continued)
Prisoners / Court actions
UN calls for release of Palestinian journalist on hunger strike
RAMALLAH (Ma‘’an) 3 Feb — A senior UN official voiced alarm over the rapidly deteriorating health condition of Palestinian journalist Muhammad al-Qiq, who entered day 71 on hunger strike Wednesday. UN official Robert Piper in a statement released Tuesday pointed to the possibility of irreversible damage caused to al-Qiq should the strike continue against “the arbitrary nature of his detention and ill-treatment” in Israeli prison. “I reiterate the United Nations’ long-standing position that all administrative detainees — Palestinian or Israeli — should be charged or released without delay,” Piper said. “All allegations of ill-treatment must also be independently and promptly investigated,” the UN official added.
Forcible treatment of al-Qeeq approved
IMEMC/Agencies 3 Feb — Israeli authorities have decided to forcibly treat hunger-striking detainee, journalist Muhammad al-Qeeq, without his consent, according to Minister Issa Qaraqe‘, chairman of the Detainees and Ex-Detainees Commission. Earlier on Wednesday, the Israeli ethics committee at Afula hospital, where Palestinian detainee al-Qeeq is being hospitalized, said that he is on the verge of death, following 71 consecutive days of hunger strike in protest of being imprisoned without charge or trial. Iyad Mesk, an attorney with the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS), said that the Israeli ethics committee, composed of nine physicians, concluded that al-Qeeq’s health has reached a very critical stage and that he faces the possibility of death at any moment, stressing that even if he survives, he still remains at risk of a potential failure of various organs. The commission said that medical reports issued by Afula hospital are merely pro forma reports, given the fact that al-Qeeq has been rejecting to undergo any medical tests, including blood and electrocardiogram (ECG) examinations . . . The World Medical Association, the Red Cross, and the United Nations, consider forced treatment a cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment, and a blatant violation of international law and human rights.
Israeli court to hold hearing for hunger-striking journalist
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 2 Feb — The Israeli Supreme Court will hold a hearing on Thursday at 3:30 p.m for the case of hunger-striking Palestinian prisoner Muhammad al-Qiq, the Palestinian Authority’s Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs said Monday. Al-Qiq, a 33-year-old journalist from the occupied West Bank and father of two, has been on hunger strike for 70 days to protest his administrative detention in Israeli jail — internment without charge or trial. The committee said the date of the hearing was confirmed after a meeting was held between the Shin Bet and the Israeli prosecution, in which they decided to continue al-Qiq’s administrative detention. The PA committee said the court might hold the session earlier if al-Qiq’s health deteriorates further. Al-Qiq’s condition severely deteriorated over the past several days.
Palestinian prisoner on hunger strike transferred to hospital
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 4 Feb — A Palestinian prisoner on hunger strike was transferred Wednesday by the Israeli Prison Service from solitary confinement to HaEmek Hospital due to his deteriorating health condition. The Palestinian Center for Studies said Kayed Fawzi Yousef Abu al-Reesh, 46, was moved from Megiddo prison on his twentieth day on hunger strike.Spokesperson of the center, Amina al-Taweel, told Ma‘an that Abu al-Reesh began an open hunger strike on Jan. 14 in protest of his administrative detention without trial. She added that Abu al-Reesh had previously suffered from severe headache and dizziness for several years prior, as well as back pain from gunshot wounds received to the back and foot during the First Intifada. Al-Taweel said the hunger striker was detained from his house in al-Ein refugee camp in Nablus on Jan. 13. The Israeli authorities reportedly promised not to renew Abu al-Reesh’s detention following his strike, but have yet to follow through.
Israel to hand over long-time Jordanian prisoner after hunger strike
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 3 Feb — Israeli authorities will transfer a Jordanian national who went on hunger strike after completing a 16-year sentence in Israeli prison over to Jordanian authorities on Thursday, a lawyer from the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society said. The lawyer said Israel’s Prison Service announced on Wednesday that Akram Zuhra would be released. Zuhra had been on hunger strike since Jan. 23, demanding his release after serving out his sentence. Israeli authorities are reportedly in coordination with Jordanian authorities to organize the detainee’s transfer through Allenby crossing.
Israeli authorities have continued to hold another Jordanian national, Abdullah Nuh Abu Jaber, who was detained on July 18 last year and sentenced to 20 years in prison. Jaber has been on hunger strike since Nov. 22 with the exception of a three day break between Dec. 27 and Dec. 30, when he temporarily ended his strike after Israeli authorities allegedly agreed to a number of his demands. Hanan al-Khatib, a lawyer with the Prisoners and Former Prisoners’ Affairs Committee said at the time that Jaber reinstated his hunger strike after being transferred from HaEmek Medical Center — where he was being treated after already having been on hunger strike for 47 days — back to al-Ramla prison hospital. Jaber said the transfer was against the conditions of the reported deal between the Jordanian and Israeli authorities. After Jaber reinstated his hunger strike, he said the Israeli intelligence officer who had initially brokered the deal with him apologized and informed him that his demands would not be met.
Israel extends remand of Palestinian accused of setting off car bomb
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 2 Feb — An Israeli court in Jerusalem on Tuesday extended the remand of a Palestinian woman accused of attempting to set off a car bomb near an Israeli military checkpoint in October, relatives told Ma‘an. Israa Jaabis was detained on Oct. 10 after Israeli police said she attempted to detonate a car bomb in front of an East Jerusalem checkpoint. Her family says the incident was an accident and the fire in her car was caused by a faulty domestic gas cylinder. The 31-year-old mother and resident of occupied East Jerusalem was reportedly still in critical condition last month due to burns she sustained when flames engulfed her car in front of the al-Zayyim checkpoint. Her sister, Muna, told Ma‘an that Israa arrived in court for the first time on Tuesday, where the judge ruled to keep her in custody until Feb.16. Muna said her sister had been unable to attend previous court hearings due to the severe burns she has received treatment for at Hadassah Hospital in Ein Kerem. Israa has recently been moved to HaSharon prison where Muna said she had been “denied” family visits, as the Israeli Prison Service had only scheduled these visits on days Israa was busy undergoing medical treatment. Muna said that on both occasions the family arrived at HaSharon prison without being notified that she was not there. “Israa is still in need of medical treatment and she should stay in a sterilized place, as she has first and third degree burns in the face, hands, back and chest,” Muna said, adding that eight of her sister’s fingers had been amputated.
Muna said that her family rejected Israeli accusations that her sister had attempted to harm anyone. She said the Israeli authorities had first claimed Israa was carrying an explosive device, before they later changed their version of events and accused her of attempting to set fire to a police officer using a domestic gas cylinder. Muna said that on the day of the incident, Israa was in the process of moving to a new home in East Jerusalem — a decision she made so as to retain her Jerusalem residency. “She was moving furniture in her private vehicle, and on the day the accident happened she had a domestic gas cylinder in the car as well as a television,” Muna said, adding that her family believes Israeli police intentionally avoided mentioning that the car was full of personal belongings. “It was proved during court hearings that it was an accident 500 meters away from the checkpoint, which is enough evidence that she wasn’t planning an attack against Israeli soldiers,” Muna said.
When Israel turns houses into jails
EI 3 Feb by Budour Youssef Hassan — Fadi Shaludi, 14, has not left his house since November. Every day, he sees the children from his neighborhood go off to school. He especially misses playing football with his friends and walking around Jerusalem’s Old City. Fadi is under house arrest. He fears going downstairs, let alone to the corner shop next to his home. His punishment came after he was charged with throwing stones at Israeli troops during confrontations in Silwan, the area of occupied East Jerusalem where he lives, in October. That incident also resulted in his mother, Shifa Obeido, being put under house arrest on charges of “incitement.” She awaits a trial that will likely see her forcibly transferred from Jerusalem. Originally from Hebron, Shifa was granted temporary residency and began a family unification process after marrying a Jerusalemite. Her residency was revoked, however, after her husband married a second time. Without papers from the Israeli authorities, Shifa is already prepared to be transferred. Samer Shaludi, Shifa’s 17-year-old son, was meanwhile sentenced to five months in prison, also on charges of throwing stones with his brother. But it is the younger of the two children that Shifa worries about the most. “He is utterly devastated,” she said. “This house arrest has completely changed him. He is nervous and angry all the time. He bangs his head against the wall in frustration. He used to have a strong and daring character, but his voice is barely audible now and he can hardly string sentences together.” – Punishments for minors – Making matters worse is a constant feeling of guilt. “He blames himself for what has happened to me and to his brother Samer,” Shifa added. “He was very close to his brother and since his sentencing, he has frequently repeated that he doesn’t want to live anymore while his brother is in prison.”
Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Disrespect for non-Jewish history
Almost all West Bank land deals for illegal settlements forged, investigation finds
Haaretz 1 Feb by Chaim Levinson — From straw men to cash-stuffed suitcases, new investigation reveals that 14 out 15 acquisitions by right wing firm of West Bank lands from Palestinians were forged — A fraud squad investigation has revealed that 14 of 15 supposed real estate acquisitions made by Al-Watan, a company run by pro-settlement activist Ze’ev Hever and owned by the right wing Amana, were forged. Details of the West Bank forgery industry were broadcast on Tuesday in an investigative report on the Channel 10 program HaMakor with Raviv Drucker. In recent years, whenever the state sought to evacuate illegal outposts in the Binyamin region, Al-Watan officials would announce that they had bought the local lands from their Palestinian owners. The documents often turned out to be forged. A police investigation that was opened in the case ended, and the case was transferred to the state prosecutor. The police did not interrogate Hever, but by questioning a chain of straw men it emerged that 14 of the 15 supposed deals were forged. An investigative report by Raviv Drucker documents two Palestinians who acted as straw men for Al-Watan. The straw men would buy the lands from people using forged documents purporting to be those of the real landowners (many of whom are no longer alive) and then transfer them to Amana in a fake deal. One of them, Akram, said to the camera, “I signed on many plots and lands.” Referring to the land upon which the outpost of Amona was established he said: “I signed in Silwad,” he said, referring to a West Bank Palestinian town northeast of Ramallah. “They told me there is land with such and such a number, and another plot with number … sign. I signed so many times for many lands. I made five or six deals.” He added: “I told them I am signing for all the Palestinians, but let me live in Israel because of my children. My children are in Israel, and I don’t see them, and I am always entering Israel and going to jail because I have no permit, and I tell them in the investigation that I am threatened. I have a problem in the Palestinian Authority, and I am threatened unless you let me live in Israel. I sold [land] because they would help me, and no one is helping me. I am suffering from complexes now.”
Israeli forces begin construction over Bethlehem-area historical site
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 3 Feb — Israeli forces on Wednesday began construction work on top of a historical site in the occupied West Bank town of Beit Jala, the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities said. The PA ministry condemned the Israeli authorities for allowing work to begin on a road that will be built on top of Khirbet al-Najjar, a site that reportedly dates back to Roman and Byzantine periods. The ministry said that Israeli bulldozers began making excavations in the area — site to historical walls, water wells, presses and a cluster of graves — in what it said were the beginning stages to built a road to a nearby settlement. A group sent by the ministry to document activity carried out by the Israeli forces on the historical site was prevented by Israeli forces from accessing the area, the ministry said, slamming Israel for its “obvious violation of international law” regarding Palestinian rights to heritage and culture. Palestinian residents of Beit Jala and other villages in the Bethlehem area have long faced Israeli construction on their land, much of which has been cut off from them by Israel’s separation wall.
Israeli Antiquities staff roll into Silwan, trigger violent response
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (PIC) 2 Feb — The Israeli Antiquities Authorities rolled into Silwan town, in eastern Occupied Jerusalem, triggering a violent response from Palestinian protesters. Israeli news outlets said Palestinians attacked vehicles owned by the Antiquities Authority after the latter stormed Silwan town. The Antiquities Authority broke into the land of the Palestinian citizen Khaled al-Zeir in Silwan and carried out excavations in the presence of the Israeli occupation army. The Israeli occupation authorities have claimed that Jewish relics have been existing beneath al-Zeir’s land tract for years. Al-Zeir has been persecuted by Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority and had his own home demolished on several occasions, forcing him to live in a stockroom.
Israel demolishes 23 homes in Hebron area to make way for IDF training zones
Haaretz 3 Feb by Amira Hass –– Latest development in multiyear battle leaves 60 children, 18 adults without dwellings — The Civil Administration in the West Bank on Tuesday demolished 23 homes and three outhouses in the southern Hebron hills villages of Jinba and Halawa. According to Israeli activists who reached Jinba by midday, shortly after the demolitions, 78 people had been living in the newly-built homes, including 60 children. These are two of the 12 villages in the area that have been waging a legal battle for 17 years in an attempt to prevent their evacuation and demolition so they can be used as army training areas. The European Union has been closely following the villagers’ campaign, and has repeatedly stated it would view their evacuation as a coerced uprooting of a protected population, a contravention of international law. On Monday morning, the State Prosecution and lawyers for the Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), as well as the villagers’ attorney Shlomo Lecker, announced that a bridging process started in October 2013 had failed. To the shocked surprise of residents and lawyers, within hours of informing the High Court of Justice of this development, Civil Administration officials arrived in these two villages and marked 40 dwellings for demolition. Less than 24 hours later they returned, accompanied by the army, and started destroying these structures. They also temporarily blocked a road leading to Jinba and confiscated vehicles and five solar panels. The bridging procedure, mediated by law professor Yitzhak Zamir, was suggested by the High Court of Justice. The two sides were sworn to secrecy during this process. However, the Society of St. Yves learned that during the procedure the army demanded that residents leave their homes for a few days each month so that military exercises could be held in the area. The residents objected, leading to the termination of the bridging process. Prior to the process, the state’s position was that residents of eight villages must move to the village of Yatta permanently, allowing them to cultivate their land and graze their sheep in the area at times when the army was not conducting exercises there, namely on weekends and Jewish holidays. Two more periods for cultivation and grazing would also be allowed during the year. Permanent residence in the villages would not be permitted. The residents of four other smaller villages were permitted to remain in the area, according to the state’s position in 2012. The demolition was interrupted and did not extend to all 40 structures that were slated for demolition after the Society of St. Yves – the Catholic Center for Human Rights – filed a petition to halt the demolitions with the High Court of Justice on Tuesday morning. The court issued a temporary injunction until the state’s reply is received in seven days. (Continued)
Israeli forces demolish 4 Bedouin homes, leaving 22 homeless
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 1 Feb – Israeli forces demolished four corrugated iron Bedouin homes in the occupied West Bank district of Ramallah on Monday, leaving 22 people homeless, locals said. The four homes were located in the ‘Ein Ayub area between the villages of Ras Karkar and Deir Ammar, northwest of Ramallah city. Locals said Israeli military vehicles stormed the area from a bypass road near the homes leading to illegal Israeli settlements. In the next half-hour, Israeli bulldozers then tore down the makeshift homes of corrugated iron, wood, and canvas. Locals added that Israeli forces did not give the families enough time to evacuate their belongings before they destroyed the dwellings. It was not clear whether the demolition was carried out with or without prior notice.
Jerusalem municipality carries out demolition of 2 Palestinian homes
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 2 Feb — Israeli forces on Tuesday morning demolished two Palestinian homes in occupied East Jerusalem reportedly built without proper permits from the Jerusalem municipality, locals said. Witnesses told Ma‘an that large numbers of Israeli soldiers and police officers raided the village of Sur Bahir, surrounding a home in the Wadi Abu al-Hummus area of the village and closing off nearby roads before carrying out its demolition [photo]. The owner of the home, IIyad Abu Mahamid, said that he had recently finished building the 200-square-meter house and had planned to move in on Tuesday with his family of seven. Mahamid told Ma‘an that he “was surprised with the demolition” and had been trying to obtain a license from the Jerusalem municipality.
Also on Tuesday, Israeli forces demolished [photos] a house belonging to Yahya Muhsin in the Wadi Qaddum area of the neighborhood of Silwan. Muhsin told Ma‘an that the home was still under construction when forces demolished the 220-square-meter structure with bulldozers. Muhsin added that he began construction on the home seven months ago for his family of eight.
Israeli forces demolish garage in East Jerusalem
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 3 Feb — Israeli bulldozers on Wednesday morning demolished a garage in the village of al-‘Issawyia in occupied East Jerusalem, its owner told Ma‘an. Haitham Mustafa said that Israeli forces entered the village from its eastern entrance and bulldozed a 400 square meter car-repair garage belonging to him. He said that Israeli forces told him the garage was unlicensed. He said Israeli forces had not allowed him to remove his equipment or cars under repair from the garage before they destroyed it. He added that Israeli forces had not given him any prior notice before demolishing the garage — which he said provided the sole incomes for two families. The head of a local popular committee, Muhammad Abu al-Hummus, said that the garage was built on land that is threatened with confiscation by the Israeli authorities for an Israeli national park . . . He said that Israeli forces also raided the village on Monday and delivered seven demolition notices for housing structures that had been built between four and ten years previously.
Army demolishes several structures in Bil‘in
IMEMC 4 Feb — Israeli soldiers invaded, on Thursday at dawn, Bil‘in village, west of the central West Bank city of Ramallah, and demolished several structures. Coordinator of the Popular Committee in Bil‘in, Abdullah Abu Rahma, said several military vehicles invaded the village, after surrounding it, and fired flares and gas bombs. He added that the soldiers demolished three agricultural structures, several wells and toilet rooms of a local children’s garden. The demolished properties belong to Othman Mansour and Ahmad Mohammad Hamad.
Israeli NGO seeks demolition of unauthorized West Bank road in Palestinian city
JPost 2 Feb by Tovah Lazaroff — The right-wing non-governmental group Regavim seeks the demolition of an unauthorized road built in the newly created Palestinian city of Rawabi. The city is located in Area A and B of the West Bank, which is under the civilian control of the Palestinian Authority. A section of the road, however, is located in Area C of the West Bank, which is under Israeli military and civilian control. Although the road is on private Palestinian property, Rawabi needs permission from the IDF’s Civil Administration to pave that section of the road. It began work on the road two years ago, without such approvals, Regavim says. At that time, Regavim turned to the Civil Administration and asked that it halt the construction. It took time for the Civil Administration to acknowledge the property was in Area C and not B, said Regavim spokesman Avraham Binyamin. The group than turned to the High Court of Justice, which heard the case on Monday. The attorneys for the Civil Administration and for Rawabi informed the court that the roadwork would be frozen until approvals were issued for its completion. The Civil Administration’s attorney added that the IDF was working to retroactively legalize the road but the process was a lengthy one.
Israel proposes construction enforcement units for Arab communities
Haaretz 3 Feb by Jack Khoury — Mayors of Arab communities opposes plan, say they will not cooperate unless all demolition orders are frozen — The government has proposed setting up special units to enforce planning and building laws in Arab communities – a proposal that is liable to lead to conflict with the leaders of these towns. The proposal is based on recommendations submitted last week by a special task force set up by the previous attorney general, Yehuda Weinstein, to discuss ways of improving enforcement of building codes in Arab towns. According to a source familiar with the issue, the proposal was drafted by the director general of the Prime Minister’s Office, Eli Groner. It calls for setting up a special unit to enforce the building laws in every town with more than 10,000 residents. The unit, which will be subordinate to the municipal government, will be responsible for demolishing illegal construction in coordination with the district planning committees and the police . . . Mazen Ganaim, mayor of Sakhnin and chairman of the committee of Arab mayors, said he was unaware of the proposed new enforcement units, but that the mayors would never agree. “We won’t agree to such a thing under any circumstances,” he said. “At meetings with government officials, we made it clear that the issue of unlicensed construction isn’t the responsibility of the local authorities, but of the government and the planning authorities, which for decades neglected Arab towns in everything concerned with expanding jurisdictional areas and approving master plans. “We’re willing to lead on the enforcement issue, but with clear conditions: that all demolition orders be frozen for three years, and that the government allocate funds for planning during this period so we can legalize [the illegal buildings],” he continued. “Without these tools, we can’t work to enforce [the building laws] in any way.” The forum of Druze mayors also published a statement earlier this week saying they would not cooperate with the government on this issue until steps were taken to legalize houses built illegally. The forum said the government should have worked to expand their towns and approve master plans for them, and that the committee’s recommendations came as a major surprise to the Druze.
Don’t blacklist me: Banning the boycott of US allies would keep us from using a powerful toolto fight for justive for Palestinians
Salon 2 Feb by Rebecca Vilkomerson — The State of New York may blacklist me for working for justice for Palestinians. I am the executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace, an organization inspired by Jewish tradition to work for the full freedom and equality of all the people in Israel/Palestine. A part of our work includes campaigns boycotting specific companies to create pressure to cease contributing to Israel’s oppression of Palestinians. On Jan. 20, the New York state Senate passed a bill that would make boycotting countries allied with the United States illegal. The bill requires the state to create a blacklist of “persons” (individuals and companies) that boycott or encourage others to boycott U.S. allies. While the bill references other countries as well, its supporters have made clear their main motivation is to protect Israel from censure. This bill comes in the wake of similar legislative efforts in Congress and in state legislatures around the country, including Illinois, Florida, California and Pennsylvania. Such legislation is intended to have a chilling effect on people who support the global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign for Palestinian freedom. The call to allies around the world for BDS comes directly from Palestinians seeking redress from the occupation and inequality that Palestinians have lived with for too long. The right to boycott is a protected form of political speech. As American citizens we have a fundamental right – indeed an obligation – to speak out against Israel’s nearly 50-year-old occupation [try 68-year-old]a, the theft of Palestinian land for settlements (which violate official U.S. policy), the destruction of Palestinian homes, the cruel and illegal siege and blockade of Gaza, and other Israeli abuses of Palestinian rights. And as Jewish Americans we have the additional imperative of asserting that Israeli policies, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claims to the contrary, are not in our name.
Tom Cotton’s new law would allow a product made in Gaza to be labeled ‘Made in Israel’
WASHINGTON (Huff Post) 1 Feb by Jessica Schulberg — Slamming what he characterized as a global effort to “delegitimize Israel,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) introduced a new bill on Monday that would reverse decades of U.S. policy and allow goods produced in the West Bank and Gaza to be labeled “Made in Israel” when they are sold in the U.S. Cotton’s new bill, which his office says does not yet have any co-sponsors, resembles past congressional attempts to equate Israel with its settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories under the guise of resisting an international boycott against Israel. Yet it goes further than those past efforts: If signed into law, it would reverse a 20-year policy of labeling products from settlement businesses differently than those from Israel proper . . . Cotton’s decision to include a reference in his new bill to goods produced in the Gaza Strip could prove particularly controversial. Israel withdrew its settlers and military from Gaza in 2005. The suggestion that Israeli goods would be produced in Gaza in the future indicates an openness to Israel re-entering the Gaza Strip — an idea that is not even popular within conservative political circles in Israel. (Continued)
Palestinian refugees – Jordan, Lebanon
Palestinians in Jordan outraged over new work permit requirements
Al-Monitor 2 Feb by Adnan Abu Amer — Jordan’s decision to require work permits for Palestinians holding temporary passports on its territory will further add to their economic and social suffering — There are about 2 million Palestinians in Jordan, and the kingdom treats them as two different groups. The first arrived in Jordan after the 1948 war. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees defines them as refugees, and they have Jordanian citizenship. The second group arrived after the 1967 war. Defined as “displaced persons” who came from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, they do not enjoy full citizenship and hold a temporary Jordanian passport that must be renewed every two years. They cannot work in state institutions, but only in the private sector without official work permits from the government. These Palestinians are only allowed to study in public universities, where they enroll within a parallel education system for foreigners. In this context, thousands of Palestinian students who do not have a national ID or Jordanian nationality are treated as foreign students and pay university fees in US dollars instead of the Jordanian dinar, like Jordanian students. This extra cost further adds to the financial problems of Palestinian students, who cannot afford to enroll in private universities. (Continued)
Jews migrating to Israel should go via Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon / Prof. Kamel Hawwash
MEMO 1 Feb — Every year, Israel announces proudly that more Jews have made “aliyah”, the Hebrew term for Jewish migration from the “Diaspora” to the “Land of Israel”. In 2014, 26,500 made the journey, a 10-year high. They do this under the Law of Return, which was introduced in 1950. It is a racist law which gives Jews with no connection to historic Palestine the “right” to move to Israel, to settle and to develop a new life. Non-Jews do not have the same right under the law; Palestinians who were driven out of their homes in 1948 and 1967 (in a process carrying on to this day) do not have the same opportunity to return, even though this is guaranteed by international law . . . A few days spent at one of the twelve official UN refugee camps in Lebanon would be extremely informative to those considering aliyah. They can take their pick from Burj El-Barajneh, Ain Al-Hilweh or the infamous Sabra and Shatila, or maybe one of the growing “informal gatherings” of refugees across the country. After hearing the heart-rending stories of expulsion and dispossession, how would they then justify moving to live where the refugees and their families actually came from? If they eventually move to Israel, how will they feel as they drive through a landscape that was changed deliberately to hide the destroyed villages which were once home to the Palestinians they met in Lebanon? How will they feel about serving in an army that exists to oppress other refugees in the West Bank and to attack Gaza regularly, where the population is 80 per cent refugees, in order for Jews to be able to live in comfort in Israel? As the search for the elusive breakthrough in the conflict continues, those selling the idea of the life-changing experience that aliyah to Israel provides for Jews should also offer them the opportunity to see for themselves the life changing reality that the creation of Israel had and continues to have on an entire people. It has been catastrophic.
The month in photos: Israel/Palestine, January 2016
Activestills 3 Feb Photoediting by Anka Mirkin
Saudi Arabia overturns execution, sentences Palestinian poet to prison, 800 lashes
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 2 Feb — A Saudi court overturned the death sentence for Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh on Tuesday, his lawyer announced in a statement the same day. Fayadh was sentenced to the death penalty in November for “apostasy” and allegedly emitting “blasphemous statements” in some of his poetry. The poet’s sentence has been changed to eight years in prison and 800 lashes by the general court of the city of Abha in southwestern Saudi Arabia. Fayadh’s lawyer, Abd al-Rahman al-Laham, hailed the downgraded sentence, while maintaining that Fayadh was innocent on all charges. Under the new sentence, Fayadh would be subjected to 16 sessions of 50 lashes each, al-Laham said. The lawyer added that he would appeal in the coming days. In May, the general court of Abha had sentenced Fayadh to four years in prison and 800 lashes, but the prosecution, which had called for the death sentence, had successfully appealed. The downgraded sentence effectively adds four more years in prison to the original sentence. Fayadh has denied all charges against him, saying that another man made false accusations to the country’s religious police following a personal dispute. Saudi Arabia’s Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice arrested Fayadh in January 2014 for poetry he had published in 2008. Fayadh had previously been arrested in 2013 after a complaint was filed against him alleging that he spread “misleading ideas.” However, he had quickly been released due to lack of evidence.
GMO Report: 51 Israeli violations against Palestinian journalists in January
IMEMC/Agencies 3 Feb — The Government Media Office in Gaza has documented 51 Israeli violations committed against Palestinian journalists, during the month of January, 2016. In its monthly report on Israeli violations against Palestinian journalists, the GMO explained, according to Al Ray, that the Israeli occupation has committed 338 violations since the beginning of the popular uprising, last October. These violations were varied to include detentions and extensions, field attacks, the banning of media coverage, summons to interrogation, and house raids. The report listed the violations as follows: On 1 Jan., Facebook management was prompted to block a page belonging to the undersecretary of the GMO, Ihab al-Qusian, for one week, under the pretext of posting pictures of Mohammed Addief. Israeli forces shot the correspondent of Palestine TV Anal al-Jada’,26, with a rubber bullet in his right leg during covering the military’s quelling of a Palestinian march in Kafr Qaddoum. (Continued)
PA rejects political motive in arrest of dissident Palestinian professor
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 2 Feb — Palestinian police on Tuesday arrested a Palestinian professor and outspoken critic of the Palestinian Authority, local media reported. Dr. Abd al-Sattar Qassem, 68, a long-time political science professor at Najah University in Nablus, was arrested by PA forces after receiving “complaints” about him from unnamed Palestinians, PA spokesperson Youssef al-Mahmoud said. Qassem’s arrest came one week after he gave an interview to al-Quds TV, a Hamas affiliated news channel, during which the professor criticized the PA, as well as the PLO, for not following their own laws. Al-Mahmoud said the unspecified charges levied against Qassem have nothing to do with his previous statements and that “Palestinian intelligence services had nothing to do with Qassem’s arrest.” However, several Palestinian factions rejected the PA’s statement, demanding Qassem’s release and insisting that the arrest was purely political. MPs from the Hamas movement’s Change and Reform Bloc said the arrest was an attempt to “silence the voice of freedom.” The bloc said in a statement that “this arrest comes under an organized policy by the PA to manipulate the spirit of the escalating Intifada by continuing the policy of political arrests and the sanctification of security coordination with the enemy.” . . . Qassem has been arrested by the PA at least two times in recent years for what Qassem and his colleagues claim was due to his criticism of the Palestinian government.
Palestinian court jails former finance ministry director-general for 15 years
JPost 1 Feb by Khaled Abu Toameh — A Palestinian court in Ramallah on Monday sentenced a former director-general of the Palestinian Authority Finance Ministry, Sami Al-Ramlawi, to 15 years in prison with hard labor after finding him guilty of embezzlement of public funds. Al-Ramlawi, who fled to Jordan several years ago, was sentenced in absentia. The PA said it would seek his extradition. Al-Ramlawi served as director-general of the Finance Ministry shortly after the formation of the PA in 1994. The court also imposed heavy fines on the former official. In one case, Al-Ramlawi received a fine of 100,000 Jordanian Dinars (approximately $128,000). In another case, the court imposed on him a fine of 4.85 million Shekels. The court also decided to confiscate a building and a plot of land owned by Al-Ramlawi. Three other former PA employees were sentenced to prison terms ranging from one to three years for their role in the embezzlement.
Herzog presents ‘separation plan’ to Kerry
IMEMC/Agencies 3 Feb — Leader of Israel’s opposition and head of the Zionist Union party, Isaac Herzog met with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Rome, on Wednesday, presenting him with his recent “separation plan”, and urging the US to “promote confidence building steps in the Middle East.” During the meeting in Rome, Herzog pointed towards a two-state solution, telling the top US diplomat that “a separation policy is the only way to move things in the region.” PNN reports that, during Wednesday’s meeting, Herzog called on the US to support a regional security conference with Egypt, Jordan, Israel and other states, before the end of the Obama administration, “to refuel a regional front against Islamic terror and promote confidence building steps in the Middle East.” Herzog told Kerry his plan, pointing out that “it will not happen tomorrow morning.” “The security situation cannot go on. Israelis are being killed in the streets and the world is presenting bizarre initiatives and boycotts,” Herzog added. Calling for a separation between Israelis and Palestinians in the Jerusalem area as well, Herzog said that some 28 Palestinian villages in the area “have never been part of Jerusalem.” He said that Israel must find a way to physically separate from these villages, “so that they cannot come and stab us.”
Israeli designer eroticizes the Palestinian keffiyeh
Mondoweiss 2 Feb by Philip Weiss — Tanya Habjouqa, a photographer, reported on her Facebook page a few days ago: “Cultural appropriation to an extreme….in a chic Tel Aviv mall, I stopped in my tracks when I saw the Palestinian and Jordanian Keffiyeh fabric filling an entire boutique. Chic sexy dresses, funky flouncy skirts, long hippie draping gowns….minimum cost 150 USD. No sign or explanation of where this material came from. Even my husband stood frozen in alarm, peering in window. It really was too much. Even by the standards here.” We went on to Dodo Bar Or’s site. She is an Israeli designer with stores in Tel Aviv and an international following. Her foto’s at right. Her new line is based largely on the Palestinian keffiyeh, a symbol of Palestinian resistance. Some of the fashions eroticize the keffiyeh. I can’t imagine Dodo Bar Or is considering the sentiments of 20 percent of the Israeli population, let alone the millions under occupation a few miles away. Many are sure to be offended by these clothes.
Rebuffing protest, Knesset unveils Gaza evacuation statue
Times of Israel 1 Feb by Marissa Newman — The Knesset on Monday inaugurated a statue commemorating the evacuation of Jewish settlements in Gaza and the West Bank a decade ago, overriding objections by the director of the Peace Now organization. Earlier Monday, the head of the left-wing NGO, Yariv Oppenheimer, sent a letter to the Knesset questioning Speaker Yuli Edelstein’s authority to formally commemorate the 2005 evacuation of 8,000 Israelis from 21 settlements in the coastal enclave and several hundred more from four settlements in the northern West Bank. “I believe that with all due respect to the pain of the evacuees, placing a permanent memorial to mark one specific political and controversial event (which included no loss of life) is not appropriate, and raises suspicions that Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein is treating the legislative house as his own house,” Oppenheimer wrote, noting that there are no memorials in the wing for the assassination of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, the Yom Kippur War, the evacuation of Yamit in the Sinai Peninsula, or the massacre at Kafr Kassem. The Knesset legal adviser, in response, said the installation was not permanent, and was apolitical.
Obama at mosque: ‘Hugely distorted impression’ of Muslim-Americans
CATONSVILLE, Md. (AP) 3 Feb — President Barack Obama sought Wednesday to correct what he called a “hugely distorted impression” of Muslim-Americans as he made his first visit to a U.S. mosque. He said those who demonize all Muslims for the acts of a few are playing into extremists’ hands. Inserting himself into a debate that has ricocheted in the presidential campaign, Obama told parishioners at a mosque outside Baltimore that he’d heard from young Muslims worried they’ll be rounded up and kicked out of the country. He said Muslims, too, are concerned about the threat of terrorism but are too often blamed as a group “for the violent acts of the very few.” “We’ve seen children bullied, we’ve seen mosques vandalized,” Obama said, warning that such unequal treatment for certain groups in society tears at the nation’s fabric. “That’s not who we are.” For Muslim advocates, Obama’s visit was a long-awaited gesture to a community that has warned of escalating vitriol against them that has accompanied the public’s concern about the Islamic State and other extremist groups. Although Obama has visited mosques overseas, he waited until his final year in office to make such a visit at home, reflecting the issue’s sensitive political implications . . . “We have to understand: An attack on one faith is an attack on all our faiths,” Obama said. He said it fell on all Americans to speak up. . . .