Violence / Detentions — West Bank / Jerusalem
Israeli forces shoot, injure Palestinian woman at Qalandiya checkpoint
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 30 Dec — A Palestinian woman was injured after being shot by Israeli soldiers at the Qalandiya checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem in the central occupied West Bank, for allegedly attempting to stab Israeli soldiers Friday morning. Witnesses told Ma‘an that Israeli soldiers opened fire at the woman who was walking towards the vehicle lane of the checkpoint. Israeli Police Spokeswoman Luba al-Samri said in a statement that “an Arab ID-holder suspect” approached Israeli security forces via the vehicles’ lane. “Israeli security forces noticed her approaching with a knife in her hand, they told her to stop but she ignored and kept walking towards them, they shot at her.” Lawyer Muhammad Mahmoud of prisoners rights group Addameer told Ma‘an that the woman was identified as Jihan Muhammad Hashimeh, 35, from the neighborhood of ‘Issawiya in occupied East Jerusalem. Locals claimed that Hashimeh was ill, and that she was on her way to Jerusalem for medical treatment when she entered the vehicle lane by mistake. According to witnesses, the victim remained on the ground bleeding and screaming in pain while soldiers prevented ambulance crews from approaching her for almost an hour. She was then detained and transferred to a hospital for treatment.
Israel to return bodies of 2 slain Palestinian youths
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 30 Dec — Israeli authorities have decided to return the bodies of two slain Palestinians who were shot and killed by Israeli forces over the past two months, after committing and allegedly attempting to commit stabbing attacks against Israeli soldiers, according to the victims’ families. The family of Maen Nasser al-Din Abu Qaraa, 23, told Ma‘an that Israeli forces notified them that they would be returning their son’s body to the family in their village of al-Mazraa al-Qibliyaa in the central occupied West Bank Ramallah district. Abu Qaraa was killed by Israeli forces on Nov. 3 near the entrance of the illegal Israeli Ofra settlement after he allegedly attempted to carry out a stabbing attack. An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma‘an at the time that a Palestinian “armed with a knife attempted to stab an Israeli soldier guarding a bus stop” near Ofra, and that she was not aware of any Israelis being injured in the case. Israeli forces reportedly prevented Palestinian medics from approaching the scene, eyewitnesses said, adding that Israeli medical teams did not treat him, leaving him to bleed to death…
Israeli intelligence authorities also informed the family of slain Palestinian Hamad Khader al-Sheikh, 21, that his body would be returned to the family’s village of Beit Surik in the occupied West Bank district of Jerusalem. Al-Sheikh was killed after carrying out a stabbing attack in the Old City of occupied East Jerusalem on Dec. 14, injuring one Israeli soldier. Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri said at the time that a suspect approached a group of Israeli police forces deployed near the Austrian Hospice hospital in the Old City, took out a screwdriver and stabbed one of the officers in the head, lightly injuring him. Witnesses at the time said al-Sheikh was left on the ground bleeding for 20 minutes, adding that a Palestinian doctor arrived on the scene but was pushed away by Israeli forces before they finally let him administer first aid to the wounded Palestinian until Israeli ambulances arrived at the scene….
Israeli soldiers raid Bethlehem-area village
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 28 Dec — Hundreds of Israeli soldiers raided the village of Wadi Rahhal south of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank Wednesday afternoon, local sources told Ma‘an. Tens of Israeli military vehicles and hundreds of soldiers deployed in the village’s streets, with locals saying that four Palestinian youth were briefly detained by Israeli forces before being released an hour later. Israeli forces then retreated from the village … The raid came amid a crackdown on Palestinian villages in the area in search for the suspect who allegedly carried out a stabbing attack on an Israeli in the nearby illegal Israeli settlement of Efrat, leaving the settler lightly injured. Israeli troops had also installed military checkpoints at roads in Wadi Rahhal, forcing residents to commute to work on foot by hiking through fields. The crackdown in Wadi Rahhal coincided with widespread military closures on roads and villages in the district of Ramallah, in the wake of two separate shooting attacks that left one Israeli settler lightly wounded while the second resulted in no injuries.
Israeli soldiers invade Hebron
IMEMC 29 Dec — Dozens of Israeli army vehicles invaded, on Thursday at dawn, a number of towns and refugee camps in the southern West Bank district of Hebron, searched many homes and summoned several young men for interrogation. The soldiers invaded the towns of ath-Thaheriyya, Beit Awwa and Sammoa‘ south of Hebron and Nouba and Ethna towns west of Hebron, before storming and searching many homes, causing excessive damage. The army also invaded and searched homes in the al-Fawwar refugee camp south of Hebron, and summoned several young men for interrogation at the Etzion military base and security center. Furthermore, the soldiers installed roadblocks at the entrances of ath-Thaheriyya and Sammoa‘ towns, in addition to Siddet al-Fahs area, south of Hebron, before stopping and searching dozens of cars while inspecting the ID cards of the passengers.
Israeli forces raid Salfit-area village in response to alleged rock-throwing
SALFIT (Ma‘an) 29 Dec — Israeli forces raided the Palestinian town of al-Zawiya west of Salfit in the central occupied West Bank Wednesday night, searching the homes of locals there. Hani, a resident of the town, told Ma‘an that Israeli forces raided and searched several houses in the town, including the homes of Ahmad Raja, Sari Sameeh Ghadban Firas, and Firas Adam. He added that no detentions were made during the raid. Hani said that Israeli forces have been repeatedly raiding the town in recent days, imposing closures and installing roadblocks, with the Israeli army accusing residents of the town of throwing rocks.
Army invades three towns near Ramallah
IMEMC 30 Dec — Dozens of Israeli soldiers invaded, on Friday at dawn, the towns of Beit Rima, Kafr Ein, and Birzeit, north and northeast of the Ramallah and al-Biereh District, in central West Bank, and searched homes. Eyewitnesses said the soldiers drove around in the streets and alleys of the three communities, while many foot soldiers marched in neighborhoods, before breaking into several homes, and searched them. The soldiers also interrogated several Palestinians, while inspecting their ID cards, and withdrew later without conducting any arrests. Also at dawn, several Israeli military vehicles invaded the villages of az-Sawiya and Qaryout, south of Nablus, in the northern part of the occupied West Bank.
Israeli settlers raid village to visit shrine amid restrictions for Palestinian locals
SALFIT (Ma‘an) 29 Dec — Israeli settlers escorted by Israeli forces raided the town of Kifl Haris in the central occupied West Bank district of Salfit to pray at shrines late Wednesday night, locals said. Eyewitnesses told Ma‘an that hundreds of Israeli settlers raided the town shouting slogans and singing songs after midnight and performed prayers at the shrines. Israeli forces obstructed the movement of Palestinian residents in the town and installed flying checkpoints at roads to secure the settlers’ visit. The Israeli army confirmed in a statement that they escorted the Israeli settlers to protect them. Residents of Kifl Haris have been living in continuous tension due to Israeli settlers’ raids to allegedly visit Jewish religious sites. A number of tombs exist in Kifl Haris, which Palestinians in the area believe to be the graves of Muslim prophet Dhul-Kifl, the Sufi saint Dhul-Nun, and another shrine built by 12-century Sultan Saladin. However, some Jews believe the tombs belong to the biblical figures Joshua, Caleb and Nun. Like many other Palestinian towns across the West Bank with religiously significant sites, Kifl Haris, situated on the main road connecting the illegal Ariel settlement to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, commonly experiences incursions by Israeli settlers accompanied by armed escorts. Settlers who visit the tombs to pray often actively disrupt Palestinian residents and damage property. Meanwhile, Palestinians are restricted from visiting holy sites in Israel without hard-to-obtain permits from Israeli authorities.
Israeli settlers take to Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem, Palestinian guard detained
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 28 Dec — Dozens of Israeli settlers and Jewish worshipers took to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem on Wednesday in celebration of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, while Israeli authorities detained a Palestinian from the site. Rami al-Khatib, a public relations representative for the Islamic Endowment, or Waqf, that manages the holy site said that 176 Israeli settlers raided the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound via the Moroccan Gate under strict security escort by Israeli forces between 7 and 10:30 a.m. Witnesses told Ma‘an that a group of Israeli settlers also attempted to carry out religious rituals, but were prevented by Al-Aqsa’s guards. Sources told Ma‘an that Israeli forces also detained a guard, who was identified as Fadi Bakir. Israeli visits to the compound have increased over the past week in time for the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah.
Please note that this newslist contains only a sampling of Israeli raids and arrests – it is not feasible to include all of them.
Israeli soldiers abduct eleven Palestinians in the West Bank
IMEMC 27 Dec — The Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS) has reported that Israeli soldiers abducted, overnight and at dawn Tuesday, eleven Palestinians from their homes in different parts of the occupied West Bank. The Ramallah office of the PPS said the soldiers stormed and searched many homes in the district, and abducted five Palestinians, identified as Mohammad Barakat, Adham Amira, Jad Rajha, Tareq Rajab Nimir, 19, and Thara’ Ali Barghouthi, 19. The soldiers also invaded Qabatia town, south of Jenin, and abducted Ahmad Kamil, Anas Kamil, Walid Kamil, and Khaled Saho, after invading their homes and searching them. In Hebron, in the southern part of the West Bank, the soldiers also searched homes and abducted two Palestinians, identified as Yousef Mohammad al-Allami and Mohammad Abu Turki…
In related news, several army vehicles invaded Wadi al-Nees village, south of Bethlehem, and photographed a few under-construction Palestinian homes that are facing demolition by the military.
Israeli soldiers abduct four Palestinians west of Hebron
IMEMC 30 Dec — Israeli soldiers invaded, on Thursday evening, the village of at-Tabaqa, west of Hebron, in the southern part of the occupied West Bank, conducted extensive searches of homes and abducted four Palestinians. The WAFA Palestinian News Agency said the soldiers invaded and searched homes belonging to members of the al-Atrash family, Abu Atwan and Hamdan families, and violently searched them while interrogating many Palestinians. The soldiers then abducted Qussai al-Atrash, 23, and his brother Mohammad, 19, in addition to Saleh Badawi Hamdan, 24, and Fayez Shehada Hamdan, 27, and took him to an unknown destination. It is worth mentioning that this invasion into the village, and homes, is the second since Wednesday.
IDF recruits guarding bus stop near Camp 80 flee when Arabs confront them
Ynet 27 Dec by Itay Blumenthal, Raanan Ben-Zur — Soldiers securing bus stops near Camp 80 fled on Tuesday when a group of Arabs stopped next to them on Route 65 with their car and started threatening, cursing, and chasing them. Camp 80 is where the IDF’s Ground Forces conduct the most basic level of training for new recruits.
Israel closes another entrance to West Bank village
MEMO 29 Dec — Israeli forces closed the main entrance of the village of Shuqba northwest of Ramallah city in the central occupied West Bank yesterday morning, after closing the other entrance to the village more than week ago. The closure came as Israeli forces continued to impose a strict siege on villages west of Ramallah including Shuqba, Qibya, Shabtin, Umm Safa, Abud, Deir Abu Mashal and Rantis, after an Israeli settler was lightly wounded when his vehicle was fired at in the area on 18 December. On Tuesday, many Palestinians reported being searched and interrogated by Israeli soldiers while attempting to move in the area while road closures forced citizens to take longer and unsafe roads.
Prisoners / Court actions
Wounded child prisoner Osama Zeidat, 15, faces new surgery
Samidoun 29 Dec — Wounded Palestinian child prisoner Osama Zeidat, 15, from the town of Bani Naim near al-Khalil, is facing another painful operation on his leg and foot following his shooting by Israeli occupation forces. Zeidat’s mother told Asra Media that a prison doctor at the Ramle prison clinic informed Osama that an operation that had been performed on his leg was unsuccessful and that he needs a new surgery and procedure. Osama’s mother said that the cause of the failure was medical neglect in the Ramle clinic, to which Osama was moved following the original operation in Shaare Tzedek hospital. Osama was shot in the foot, back, and leg by Israeli occupation soldiers on 23 September and accused of attempting to attack settlers in the Kiryat Arba colony, despite being the only person injured. He was held in Shaare Tzedek hospital for 18 days and several surgeries, during which time he was denied family visits. He was then moved to the Ramle prison clinic with the most severely ill Palestinian prisoners. On several occasions, military court hearings in his case have been cancelled or postponed after he was not transported due to the severity of his injury. He was once brought to the military court on 1 November shackled to a hospital bed. His family have urged that he receive proper medical treatment so that he can be transferred to Ofer with other child prisoners or better, freed.
2 Palestinians charged in allegedly planning attacks against Israeli soldiers
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 29 Dec — Israeli prosecutors from a southern district court reportedly submitted indictments on Thursday charging two Palestinian citizens of Israel with planning to attack Israeli soldiers, according to Israeli news website Arutz Sheva. The report identified the detainees as Muhammad Masr and Abdullah Ayesh. According to Arutz Sheva, the two were planning an attack on Israeli soldiers at three Israeli army bases of Arad, Dimona or Nevatim. The motive for the attack was reportedly Israel’s declaration of the northern branch of Israel’s Islamic Movement as illegal, which occurred last year. An Israeli police spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.
22-year-old Palestinian sentenced to 35 years for ‘assisting’ in Jerusalem attack
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 28 Dec — The Israeli Magistrate’s Court in Jerusalem sentenced 22-year-old Abd al-Aziz Hamad Marie [or Mirie] to 35 years in prison for allegedly assisting in a deadly stabbing attack in occupied East Jerusalem’s Old City last year. On Oct. 3, 2015, 19-year-old Mohannad Shafiq Halabi was shot dead after he stabbed to death two Israelis in Jerusalem’s Old City. The act served to trigger a wave of unrest across the occupied territory and Israel, marked by similar small-scale attacks, which has since left 246 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces and settlers and 34 Israelis killed by Palestinians. Israeli news site Ynet reported that the indictment against Marie alleged that he bought a knife for Halabi. Marie was also convicted of illegally entering Israel and being in possession of a knife. Marie will also reportedly be required to pay 258,000 shekels (approximately $67,000) to each family member of the two Israelis killed by Halabi: Aharon Banita, 21, and Nehemia Lavi, 41. The report did not specify how many family members Marie would be required to pay. Marie is from Qarawat Bani Hassan town of Salfit. Both Marie and Halabi were students at Al-Quds University in Abu Dis.
MK Ghattas greeted at home after arrest with cheers and candy
[with photos] Ynet 27 Dec by Hassan Shaalan — After being detained for allegedly smuggling cellular phones to security prisoners and being released earlier Tuesday, MK Basel Ghattas (Joint List) returned his home to the northern Arab town of Rameh to be welcomed with cheers and candy. He was visited by dozens of family members, friends and activists from Balad — Ghattas’ own faction within the Joint List — who celebrated Ghattas’ release with songs and sweets. “Extending my arrest the day before yesterday was unnecessary,” Ghattas said. “If the police had a minimal amount of decency, they would have released me, since all the investigative activities had been over before Christmas Eve. But of course vengeance and the need to create drama — as if there is a security case here with an Arab MK aiding terrorism — overcame common sense among police chiefs.” “I want to congratulate everyone with a Merry Christmas and a blessed new year,” added Ghattas, who is a Christian Arab. “I thank my people for … noticing this is a targeted, political assassination of an Arab MK.” Describing his time in jail, Ghattas said, “I was in jail for five days. It wasn’t a disaster or the end of the world — not even for an Arab MK. I want to once again declare that I have not committed any security offense or anything that comes close to it, nor have I committed something that constitutes a public security risk. I gave my version to the police, a version that I have insisted on and that I will continue to insist on.” Everything I’ve done and will continue to do for the prisoners comes from a humane, moral and conscientious perspective,” said Ghattas. “The same goes for what I did that day (in which he was documented handing a phone to terrorist Walid Daka).” [house arrest for 10 days, will be allowed to vote in the Knesset during that time]
Opinion: Security prisoners are human beings / Gideon Levy
Haaretz 29 Dec — Israel’s inhumane treatment of security prisoners is often overlooked. Don’t they deserve at least the same treatment as convicted murderers? — If Israel were a nation of justice and equality, Walid Daka would have been released from prison years ago. If Israel were a country that honored its international commitments, he would have been released more than two years ago, in the fourth batch of prisoner releases. If Israel were a humane nation, Daka would be eligible for furloughs and phone calls from prison. If Israel understood all this, it wouldn’t engage in such wild incitement against MK Basel Ghattas. And if Ghattas would have smuggled phones to Prisoners of Zion or prisoners from the underground movements in that time, he would be considered a national hero. But none of this happened. None of this could happen in 2016 Israel, where Arabs are hated. Daka has been imprisoned for 31 years in inhuman conditions, and meanwhile the Knesset wants the Shin Bet security service to determine the “level of danger” posed by Ghattas – another new low. Ghattas tried to challenge the unjust treatment of security prisoners. He did so in an allegedly illegal way. Had Israel treated them properly, Ghattas would not have undertaken his brave, foolish and desperate step. Ilana Hammerman and her friends, who smuggle Palestinian children to the seashore, are also breaking the law, and their actions are praiseworthy. But for the Israeli incitement system – a combination of (nearly all) politicians and (nearly all) media – Ghattas passed “coded messages” and the nationalist Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein had the gall to call him a “terrorist.”
Daka’s fate is even more maddening. In 1986, he was convicted of being part of the cell that kidnapped and murdered soldier Moshe Tamam. He denied the charges. Had he been a Jew who murdered a Palestinian, he would have been released after a few years, if he was ever even brought to trial. Were he a Palestinian from the territories, he would have been released in one of the prisoner exchanges. And if he were a criminal murderer, he would have served 18-24 years and been released a while ago. But Daka is not a Jewish terrorist or a Palestinian from the territories or a criminal murderer. He is an Arab-Israeli security prisoner.
No one else in Israeli prison has been oppressed the way he and the other 14 pre-Oslo prisoners have been. No shortened sentences, no furloughs, no pardons, no phone calls, no deals, no conjugal visits. Thirty-one years. “Phones no longer have dials, tires no longer have inner tubes, we’re here since before the fall of the Berlin Wall, and time stands still for us,” Daka wrote 11 years ago. Time has stood still for him ever since, too. The week he was due to be released in 2014, I was at his family’s home in Baka al-Garbiyeh: A road had been paved in his honor, schoolchildren had put up a sign that said “Huriya – Freedom” opposite his house, hundreds of T-shirts had been printed with a picture of him and his mother, thousands of candles and fireworks and sweets had been bought. And then Israel decided it didn’t feel like letting him go. The emotional upheaval this caused in the town is hard to describe.…
Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Settlements / Judaization
Israel approves new settlement building in the heart of Silwan
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 28 Dec — Hours after Israel’s Jerusalem municipality cancelled plans to vote on approving construction of hundreds of new Israeli settlement units in occupied East Jerusalem, Jerusalem’s city planning commission instead approved a plan to build a three-story building for Jewish settlers in the heart of the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan, Israeli media reported. Reuters news agency had reported earlier Wednesday that the municipality cancelled a vote to approve settler units to avoid further strain on diplomatic relations with the US, as US Secretary of State John Kerry was set to give a speech addressing his vision for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a new United Nations Security Council resolution that reaffirmed that Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory are illegal under international law. In the days following its passage, reports emerged that Israel’s Local Planning and Building Committee in Jerusalem municipality was expected to approve thousands of housing units in occupied East Jerusalem for illegal settlements. However, newer reports said the coming plans would have been just for the approval of 492 building permits in Ramot and Ramat Shlomo. Members of the Jerusalem committee told Reuters Wednesday that the cancellation of the vote came at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request out of fear the approval of the new settlements would have given Kerry “ammunition before the speech.”
However, just ahead of Kerry’s speech, a vote on the Silwan project took place, according to Israeli daily Haaretz,. The report also said that the Jerusalem municipality denied Netanyahu had called for the earlier vote on the unites in Ramot and Ramat Shlomo to be put off. The Silwan settlement project was introduced by the Israeli pro-settlement nonprofit organization Ateret Cohanim, and its approval was been postponed many times in the past due to political pressure, according to Haaretz. The plan will permit Ateret Cohanim to construct a new building located near the site of controversial Beit Yonathan, which was sold to Ateret Cohanim by the custodian of absentee properties, without a tender. Ateret Cohanim focuses on “Judaizing” East Jerusalem through a Jewish reclamation project working to expand illegal settlements and facilitate Jewish takeover of Palestinian properties across the Green Line into Palestinian territory….
Mufti slams Israeli ‘Judaization’ policies in Old City of Jerusalem
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 28 Dec — The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and Palestine Sheikh Mohammed Hussein warned in a statement Wednesday that Israeli authorities were going “too far” with excavation and construction activities in the Old City of occupied East Jerusalem, saying that the digging endangered the lives and properties of Jerusalemites. Hussein added that Israel was violating international law regarding the state’s responsibility towards civilians in the territory it militarily occupies, and he called upon international organizations to intervene to stop the measures “before it’s too late.” He also denounced Israel for imposing the vacation schedule of Jewish schools on Palestinian schools in Jerusalem, saying that the policy aimed to “Judaize” the educational system in Jerusalem. Hussein also said that renaming streets and quarters in the Old City with Hebrew names was an attempt to eliminate the Palestinian and Muslim identity in Jerusalem … Palestinian communities in occupied East Jerusalem — within the municipal boundaries and also beyond the wall in the occupied West Bank — have long been targeted by Israeli authorities in what has been denounced as a policy of “Judaization” of the holy city at the expense of other religious communities. This “Judaization” has also been characterized by the continuous expansion of illegal Jewish-only settlements and a large-scale policy of demolition of Palestinian homes.
Israeli tourism maps aim to shape Jerusalem narrative
JERUSALEM (Al Jazeera) 28 Dec by Nigel Wilson — Although new version is more inclusive than controversial older map, it erases the Palestinian neighbourhood of Silwan — Running a finger over a new tourist map of Jerusalem’s Old City, Husam Jubran counted a number of cultural and holy sites and compared them with an old version of the map, both issued by Israel’s tourism ministry. Side by side, the maps are starkly different. The old version, released earlier this year, was heavily criticised for promoting an Israeli-settler narrative of the Old City and its environs. It featured a crowded design and a key listing 57 sites across the Old City and surrounding neighbourhoods. Most of the labelled sites were of little interest to tourists, including yeshivas, or centres for the study of the Torah, and buildings managed by radical Jewish settler organisations. At the same time, the key failed to locate important holy sites for Christian and Muslim visitors, including al-Aqsa Mosque and the Stations of the Cross. The new version, recently released by Israel’s tourism ministry, is slicker and enlarges some of the key holy sites that draw millions of visitors to Jerusalem each year. “You have all the Christian sites, all the Muslim sites – they are even avoiding the controversial words like Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, which I think is good,” said Jubran, a tour guide who has worked in Israel and the Palestinian territories since 1999. Examining the old map beside the new one, Jubran noted that the new map was a “huge improvement”. “It is more inclusive … I doubt any Palestinian guide would willingly give the old map to tourists,” he added. “It lists sites that Palestinians consider settlements.” The updated map highlights Al-Aqsa, the route of the Stations of the Cross and the Church of St Anne, while removing sites associated with right-wing settler organisations such as Ateret Cohanim, which aims to replace Palestinian residents of the city with Jewish settlers .. .However, spokeswoman Lydia Weitzman said that the map highlighting al-Aqsa and removing some settler sites was “only a temporary version”, noting: “The tourism ministry is currently working on a new version for printing and distributing to tourists and visitors to the Old City.”….
Israeli authorities demolish Palestinian structures in East Jerusalem
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 28 Dec — Israel’s Jerusalem municipality demolished Palestinian-owned structures in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan on Wednesday, under the pretext that they lacked Israeli-issued building permits, according to local organization the Wadi Hilweh Information Center. The center said that municipality crew accompanied by Israeli police forces destroyed three containers and a steel structure belonging to the Siyam family in the Ein al-Luza neighborhood of Silwan. The structures were being used for agricultural purposes. Locals sources said that parts of a store — measuring some 10 square meters — belonging to the Abu Hadwan family were also demolished in the area.
Israeli forces demolish agricultural water tank, structure in Hebron area
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 27 Dec — Israeli authorities on Tuesday demolished an agricultural water tank and structure in the southern occupied West Bank Hebron-area town of ‘Idhna, for building without a license in ‘Area C’ — the more than 60 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli civilian and security control. The ‘Idhna municipality said in a statement that Israeli bulldozers escorted by several military jeeps demolished a 500 square-meter space water tank used for agricultural purposes and an “agricultural room” belonging to Moussa Ahmad Muhammad Farajallah in the Uyoun al-Bass area of the town. The statement added that Farajallah has had an open case regarding the demolished structures in an Israeli court since 2011, and that he was “shocked” by the demolition, which took place without prior notice.
Israel continues demolition campaign on Palestinian homes in Negev
NEGEV (Ma‘an) 27 Dec — Israeli forces Tuesday demolished a Palestinian-owned home in the Bedouin village of Qasr al-Ser in the Negev of southern Israel in the continuation of what locals have said is retaliation for the impending demolition of the illegal Israeli Amona outpost in the occupied West Bank. Locals told Ma‘an that the home belonged to Youssef Hussein al-Hawashleh. The Higher Guidance Committee for Arab Residents of Negev said in a statement that Israeli forces are demolishing homes in several villages in the Negev in order to implement Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s promise to Israeli settlers of Amona to demolish dozens of Arab (Palestinian) homes in retaliation for the upcoming demolition of the illegal Israeli outpost.
UN: Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes reach record high in 2016
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 29 Dec — Israel demolished more Palestinian homes in the occupied territory in 2016 than in any year since the United Nations began documenting demolitions in 2009, while Israel also increased restrictions on the movement of Palestinians in the occupied territory in 2016. The unprecedented demolition campaign left some 1,593 Palestinians homeless and affected the livelihoods of another 7,101, according to preliminary analysis of data collected by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The UN agency’s documentation encompassed the occupied West Bank as well as East Jerusalem, where Israeli authorities demolished or seized 1,089 Palestinian-owned structures since the beginning of 2016 until Dec. 28. The “vast majority” of the Palestinian structures were destroyed or seized for lacking Israeli-issued building permits, according to the report. Israel rarely grants Palestinians permits to build in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, forcing most Palestinians to build illegally…
OCHA’s report also documented an increase on restrictions to movement and access of people in the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip. The UN agency documented a 5 percent increase in Israeli military obstacles across the occupied West Bank compared to 2015, though they recorded 15 fewer permanently staffed checkpoints that became partially staffed in 2016. As of mid-December 2016, there were 472 movement obstacles in the West Bank, including 44 permanently staffed checkpoints — 31 of them along Israel’s illegal separation wall, 52 partially staffed checkpoints, 180 earth mounds, 72 roadblocks, and 124 road gates — half of which are normally closed. The report noted that West Bank closure figures excluded eight checkpoints placed on the Green Line, as well as ad-hoc, so-called “’flying” checkpoints that lack permanent infrastructure, but nonetheless impede Palestinian freedom of movement on a daily basis. According to OCHA, there were also 110 obstacles deployed within the Israeli-controlled area of Hebron city (H2) in the southern occupied West Bank by the end of 2016….
NGO to High Court: Stop private security policing Palestinian land
JPost 30 Dec by Yonah Jeremy Bob — Yesh Din petitioned the High Court of Justice on Wednesday to revoke private security contractors’ powers from policing private Palestinian land and to publish any changes in the contractors’ guarding zones. The NGO, whose full name is Yesh Din: Volunteers for Human Rights, defines guarding zones as “areas in and around settlements” where specific settlers are contracted to provide security supplemental to that provided by the IDF. In 1971, the IDF issued an order applying its “regional defense” doctrine to settlements in the West Bank, empowering private contractors to perform searches and seizures, and use “any reasonable measure” to arrest Palestinians to maintain security, the petition explains. “The order was issued as part of an overall military strategy, which considered the settlements an auxiliary to the military,” wrote Yesh Din. However, it argued that the IDF order “”no longer serves the ‘regional defense’ doctrine, which was meant to protect Israel from enemy invasion, and has remained in place solely to protect the settlements” and illicit outposts … The petition, filed by lawyers Shlomy Zachary, Michal Ziv and Muhammad Shakir, states: “It is inconceivable that Palestinians must gamble with their rights and liberty every time they encounter a contractor, simply because the IDF has decided to operate without transparency and openness, contrary to previous undertakings made by the legal adviser of the area.” According to Yesh Din, until 2009, contractors were allowed to “use their powers only within the municipal boundaries of a settlement or Israeli industrial zone in the West Bank.” However, since then, ‘guarding zones’ were created which enable contractors to “use their powers in privately owned Palestinian lands, and any changes made to them are not publicized.” … The NGO said it has “documented a slew of incidents in which contractors have abused their powers and harmed Palestinian farmers, including cases in which routine incidents escalated into violence and gunfire.”….
VIDEO: Israeli journalist Gideon Levy: The ‘real landlords’ of Israel are the settlers
IMEMC 26 Dec — Gideon Levy discusses how the government’s preoccupation with a small Israeli colony, in the occupied West Bank, reflects the political power of settlers in Israel.
Family denies that detained son is a Hamas operative, say he is ‘mentally unstable’
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 29 Dec — The family of a detained Palestinian whom Israel accused of being involved in “sniper exercises” and tunnel-digging with the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement in Gaza, denied on Thursday that their son had any affiliation with the group, and said that he is mentally unstable. Israeli authorities said on Wednesday that they detained Bilal Razineh last month, according to Israeli media reports that emerged after an Israeli-issued gag order was lifted on the case. According to Israeli news site Ynet, Razineh was detained by Israel’s security agency the Shin Bet after he crossed into Israel from Gaza. Hebrew-language site NRG reported that Razineh told interrogators that his brother Mustafa served as chief of internal security in the Hamas-run government in the Gaza Strip. In addition, he allegedly mentioned during interrogation that a tunnel was dug from his family’s home in the northern Gaza Strip that connected to other tunnels used for storing ammunition and fighting equipment. The report claimed that Razineh told Israeli interrogators that a number of Hamas’ leaders, included his brother, were steering the battle from inside Gaza’s Kamal Udwan hospital during the 2014 Israeli military offensive on the small Palestinian territory. He also mentioned that several commanders from Gaza’s internal security were involved in the fighting and “used residents’ houses” in military activities, according to NRG report. Al-Razayneh’s family however, said in a statement on Thursday that their son was in no way related to the Brigades, that he was not a Hamas government employee as alleged by Israeli authorities, and that he has not worked for the Hamas movement at any point. The family said that Razineh suffers from psychological instability and was being treated at the time of his detention, and added that they have proof that their son is psychologically unstable. The statement added that all the confessions that Razineh made under interrogation were “pulled out of him under physical and psychological torture.”
Israel releases Gaza merchant detained at Erez crossing 8 days ago
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 27 Dec — Israeli authorities Monday released a Palestinian merchant following an eight-day detention after being detained by Israeli forces at the Erez crossing between Israel and the besieged Gaza Strip. Palestinian sources told Ma‘an that Hassan Fares Shihadeh from Gaza city was released after eight days of being in Israeli custody. The reasons behind the detention remained unclear … Israeli forces have detained some 20 businessmen from Gaza since the start of 2016 for various reasons, a source at the Palestinian liaison office told Ma‘an last month. Erez is the only land crossing between Gaza and Israel, although travel is heavily restricted by Israeli authorities as part of a crippling blockade on the coastal enclave in place since 2007. Palestinians detained at Erez are often interrogated for several hours, sometimes for days, before they are either allowed into Israel or sent back to Gaza.
Israeli forces allow cooking gas, diesel into Gaza Strip
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 30 Dec — Israeli authorities on Friday allowed limited amounts of cooking gas and diesel into the Gaza Strip in an exceptional, one day opening of the Karm Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) crossing between Israel and Gaza. General Director of the Petroleum Committee in Gaza Khalil Shuqba told Ma‘an that some 100 tons of cooking gas and 300,000 liters of diesel entered the besieged coastal enclave, noting that the diesel would be sent to Gaza’s main power station. Director-General of the Public Administration of the Crossing Points and Borders in Gaza Nazmi Muhanna announced the opening on Thursday.
Israel’s pesticide war on Gazan farmers
RAMALLAH (Gulf News) 26 Dec by Nasouh Nazzal — Israel plans to spray harmful pesticides along its border with Gaza for the third year straight, according to the Gaza Ministry of Agriculture. Palestinians say the action, which is slated to start at the beginning of the new year, will have a devastating impact on Gazan crops due to drifting winds. “This action is extremely harmful and could even be fatal to our Gazan crops,” Younis Al Zaytonah, who heads the Agricultural Department in northern Gaza, announced in a statement. Most farms are located on the outskirts of the Gaza Strip. The Israeli regime claims they are spraying to kill overgrown grass and weeds in the area in order to “improve visibility” for security purposes on its border with Gaza. When Israel used light aeroplanes to spray last year, the fields located closest to the Gazan borders were severely affected. The ministry noted that occupation forces use the pesticides without any kind of coordination or cooperation with Palestinian authorities in Gaza, which have lodged repeated complaints. Certain international bodies have also been informed about the damage. Although Israel is fully aware of the Gazan complaints, the ministry alleges that the occupation forces have ignored them. The ministry, via the Red Cross, has supplied Israel with a comprehensive list of the farms closest to the borders, as well as the crops to be planted in those areas. These crops are low-growing (no more than 30 centimetres from the ground), and therefore do not impact on visibility or the security of the borders. Gazan farmers have been warned not to offer any of their spayed crops for sale at the local markets, as the pesticides used are extremely harmful. They have also been advised by the ministry not to use the crops as fodder or foodstuff for animals. The pesticides can linger in the soil for years….
Only 46% of pledges to rebuild Gaza received
MEMO 29 Dec — The Palestinian Authority (PA) has received only 46 per cent of the money that had been pledged to rebuild the Gaza Strip after the Israeli war on the coastal enclave in 2014, official documents revealed yesterday. In the wake of the Israeli war, Cairo hosted a conference for donor countries who pledged $5.082 billion for the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including $3.507 billion to rebuild Gaza. “Rebuilding Gaza is going very slowly,” the document, which was prepared by a PA committee together with the World Bank, showed. According to the report, the reason for the slowness is Israel’s delay in approving the quantities and kinds of construction materials necessary for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, in addition to problems related to the list of banned materials which Israel says have dual uses for arms development. The report showed that the PA processed 160,000 applications for rebuilding or repairing homes applied for by residents affected by Israeli military actions. Meanwhile, the number of partially and fully destroyed homes stands at 171,000. In addition, the report showed that up until earlier this week, only 19 per cent of the 11,000 fully destroyed homes were rebuilt, and 54 per cent of the 160,000 partially destroyed homes were repaired. Meanwhile, and up until last July, the number of displaced Gazan families was around 11,850 families, or 65,000 people. They lived or are still living in caravans and other temporary homes.
Is Gaza seaport construction on its way?
Al-Monitor 29 Dec by Shlomi Eldar — Gaza residents are hoping that the small fishing port being constructed near Khan Yunis will one day be transformed into a real commercial seaport — A functioning airport and seaport are the dream of every Palestinian living in the Gaza Strip. Calls for their construction in Gaza date to the cease-fire negotiations between Israel and Hamas during Operation Protective Edge in 2014. At the time, the leaders of Hamas made their agreement to a cease-fire conditional on a commitment by Israel and Egypt (which hosted the talks) to allow the construction of an airport and seaport and an end to the closure now imposed on Gaza. The original demand was rejected, but in all talks with the sponsors of the agreement or donors who help rebuild the Gaza Strip — Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates — the Hamas leadership demands repeatedly that these countries pressure Israel to allow Gaza to build an airport and a seaport. The construction of a seaport and airport in Gaza would require the Palestinians to raise hundreds of millions of dollars in addition to having to deal with security issues. Hamas leaders believe that those donor countries, which occasionally provide humanitarian and financial aid to the Gaza Strip, would agree to fund these dream projects. At the same time, the leaders are also convinced that such projects would ease the suffering of the 1.8 million Palestinians living in Gaza once and for all, and also strengthen the position of the Hamas regime. In an interview with the Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds in October, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said that if Hamas stops arming itself, Israel would allow the creation of an airport and seaport in Gaza. For its part, Hamas is unwilling to consider stopping the influx of weapons into Gaza or the disarming of the Hamas army and the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades….
Will Iran, Hamas break ties over Aleppo?
Al-Monitor 29 Dec by Adnan Abu Amer — Hamas and Iran had moved closer to each other this year, but those ties are being stretched by the bloody civil war in Syria — especially with the horrible scenes that emerged earlier this month from Aleppo, the former rebel stronghold. Hamas, a Sunni fundamentalist movement, has always differed from Iran on the Syrian civil war. Hamas sympathizes with the Syrian rebels in their revolt against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad — who is Iran’s main ally in the region. Yet Iran has supported Hamas financially in the Palestinian struggle against Israel. The balance was already precarious and the tipping point came in mid-December with the deaths and displacement of thousands of Aleppo inhabitants due to Syrian and Russian shelling and operations by Iran and Hezbollah. On Dec. 14, Hamas issued a scathing statement condemning the “genocide” of Syrian citizens, but without naming the Syrian government. Hamas called for immediate action to halt the massacres in Aleppo and rescue those civilians still alive. Iran’s response to Hamas’ statement was equally strong. Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, a member of the Iranian parliament’s Committee on National Security and Foreign Policy, told the conservative Ghanoun newspaper Dec. 22 that Hamas has long been estranged from Iran over the Syrian situation. Falahatpisheh accused Hamas leaders of unspecified aggression against Iran and threatened to halt any dealings with Hamas and to engage in new relations with other Palestinian movements….
Gaza to hear appeal of woman’s death sentence
GAZA CITY (Al-Monitor) 27 Dec by Rasha Abou Jalal — A woman who says her husband beat her is appealing her death sentence with the support of more than a dozen rights groups — In 1984, the TV movie “The Burning Bed” opened Americans’ eyes to the long-cloaked reality of domestic violence. It helped establish in American minds the validity of desperation as an extenuating circumstance in certain criminal cases. More than 30 years later, in a statement issued Dec. 18, an alliance of Palestinian nongovernmental organizations is calling on the Palestinian judiciary to consider the effects of domestic violence as a woman appeals her death sentence in the slaying of her husband. The case is the first in which the death penalty has been issued against a Palestinian woman since the Palestinian Authority was established in 1994. The Al Muntada alliance, which comprises 14 women’s and human rights organizations, fears that carrying out the sentence would pave the way for more death penalties against Palestinian women, including those reeling from the growing phenomenon of domestic and social violence. On Oct. 5, the First Instance Court of Khan Yunis issued a judgment convicting Nahla Abu Anzeh, 26, of murdering her husband in January and sentenced her to death by hanging. Anzeh’s husband beat her, according to Zeinab al-Ghonaimi, director of the Center for Women’s Legal Research and Consulting in the Gaza Strip (CWLRC)….
Opinion: The Israeli jailer whose orders killed 21 Palestinian civilians / Amira Hass
Haaretz 28 Dec — Brig. Gen. (res.) Ilan Malka was recently appointed deputy chief commissioner of the Israel Prison Service and then promoted to commissioner (a rank parallel to major general in the Israel Defense Forces). As someone who has been exonerated for the killing of Palestinian civilians, both beforehand and retroactively, no one is more worthy to move to the top of the pyramid of the Israeli jailers corps … Malka’s appointment should be highlighted this week, which marks eight years since the winter onslaught against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Operation Cast Lead began on that black Saturday, December 27, 2008 … In Israel, Malka was exonerated for the killing of 21 members of the Samouni family from the Zeitoun neighborhood. As usual, the IDF investigated itself and found itself free of any problem. The Samouni family’s disaster turned it into a symbol of the 2008-09 assault. One order from Malka to press the button on the morning of January 5 sent a few missiles toward the structure in which about a hundred family members had been gathered. His soldiers from the Givati Brigade had conquered the neighborhood 24 hours before, killed a boy and three unarmed adults in or near their home, and took the frightened civilians out of the houses, some of which had been turned into IDF positions. The soldiers closely supervised the line of old men and old women, the men and the children and the women with babies, who walked in the cold and thought that together, in one building, they would be safe. What’s more, the IDF position was only a few dozen meters away. The soldiers could see that a few men had gone out to get boards to start a fire and make a little bread for the children, who were crying in fear and shivering from cold. But the high-tech forward command post interpreted the long boards they were carrying as rocket-propelled grenades, and Malka ordered a bombardment. The men carrying the boards were sentenced to death, along with the rest of the civilians in the building, who Malka’s soldiers knew full well were there. Let’s remember the Samounis’ 10 babies and children that Malka’s order killed that morning: Mohammed, less than 1 year old; Muatasam, 1 year old; Aza, a 2-year-old girl; Nassar, 5; Fares, 12; Ishak, 13; Rizka, a 14-year-old girl; Ismail, 15; Walid, 16; and Huda, a 16-year-old girl. May their memory be blessed….
Palestinian committee begins initiative to estimate damage of Israel’s separation wall
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 29 Dec — The Palestinian National Committee for the Register of Damages (PNCRoD) has launched an initiative to estimate the damages that have resulted from the construction of Israel’s separation wall, in being built on Palestinian lands in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. Procedures for the project began on Tuesday in the southern occupied West Bank district of Bethlehem in ‘Aida refugee camp, al-‘Azza refugee camp, and the town of al-Doha, which are all located next to the wall. Head of the popular committee in ‘Aida refugee camp Sameer Atta said that the procedures were being conducted as a national campaign that aims to accelerate the process of bringing down the separation wall in accordance with United Nations resolutions. Atta said that merely compensating Palestinians for the cost of their lands that were confiscated by Israel to build the wall would not bring justice. He said that Israel should also compensate Palestinians for the decades of economic losses suffered as a result of land seizures, taking into account the lost profits from not being able to cultivate their agricultural lands since Israel occupied the territory. He stressed that Palestinian citizens must cooperate to help the committee in its campaign against the existence of separation wall.
For first time, Jordan and PA conduct trade directly without Israeli intervention
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 29 Dec — The first shipment of vegetables crossed from Jordan directly to the occupied West Bank on Wednesday through the Allenby Bridge crossing, “without any Israeli intervention,” according to Palestinian Minister of Agriculture Sufiyan Sultan. Sultan told Ma‘an that the Palestinian Authority (PA)’s Ministry of Agriculture recently signed an agreement with Israel to allow the import of agricultural and animal products from Jordan by Palestinian merchants, as opposed to the previous practice of being conducted through Israeli merchants. Sultan said that Israeli merchants would buy products from the Jordanian side, transport the goods to the occupied West Bank, where Palestinian merchants would then buy the products from the Israeli merchants. He added that meetings will soon be held with the Jordanian Minister of Agriculture to sign an agreement of agricultural trade between the Jordan and the PA. Sultan expressed hopes that Israel would not “obstruct” importing and exporting products between Jordan and the occupied Palestinian territory in the future, adding that increased trade between Jordan and the occupied Palestine territory would “lessen the burdens put on the Palestinians.”
Report: Increase in violations against press freedoms in occupied Palestinian territory
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 29 Dec — November 2016 saw a significant increase in violations against media freedoms in the occupied Palestinian territory, with the large majority of violations committed by Israeli forces, according to a report from the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA). The Ramallah-based NGO released the report on Tuesday, highlighting that in November alone, the group recorded a total of 31 “violations against media freedom,” with 27 violations committed by Israeli forces, and four committed by Palestinian authorities in the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip. With an increase from 11 recorded violations in October to 27 in November, Israeli violations last month included the restriction of movement of many journalists and media outlets, raids on press offices, destruction of property, and the detention of Palestinian journalists. According to MADA, Israeli authorities banned a total of 28 journalists from traveling from the Gaza Strip to the occupied West Bank for the seventh annual Fatah conference, despite all the journalists applying for permits ahead of the event. On Nov. 17th, MADA reported that Israeli forces “attacked” more than nine journalists by beating them, and firing tear gas bombs and pepper spray at them while the journalists were covering a peaceful demonstration against illegal Israeli settlements and the displacement of Bedouins in the Jordan Valley. Among the injured were Associated Press (AP) cameraman Majdi Muhammad Ishtayeh, 34, Muhammad Turkman, Reuters photographer Saed Hawari, AP photographer Abbas Moumani, Sky News reporter Feras Lutfi, Sky News cameraman Abed al-Rahman Khabeisa, Roaya TV reporter Hafeth Abu Sabra, Roaya cameraman Muhammad Abu Shousheh, and IRIB photographer Khalid Sabarneh. On Nov. 16, Israeli forces stormed the media program for health development office in Ramallah after bombing the front door open, and smashed equipment and confiscated several technical devices, including three hard-discs, two servers, and a recording device for cameras….
Decline in fertility rate among Palestinians, says statistics bureau
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 29 Dec – The total fertility rate among the Palestinian people declined during 2011-2013 to 4.1 births, compared to 5.9 births in 1999, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) said on Thursday. PCBS said in the Gaza Strip the rate was 4.5 births compared to 3.7 births in the West Bank during 2011-2013. Increase in population of Palestinians in the world The projected number of Palestinians in the world is 12.7 million, of whom 4.88 million are in State of Palestine, 1.53 million in Israel, 5.59 million in Arab countries and around 696,000 in foreign countries. More than one-third of population in Gaza Strip The projected number of Palestinians living in State of Palestine at the end of 2016 is 4.88 million: around 2.97 million reside in the West Bank and 1.91 million in Gaza Strip. Palestinian refugees make up 41.9 per cent of the Palestinian population in the State of Palestine: 26.0 per cent in the West Bank and 66.7 per cent in Gaza Strip. Decrease in average household size The average household size in State of Palestine was 5.2 persons in 2015 (compared to 6.1 in 2000): 4.9 persons in the West Bank and 5.7 persons in Gaza Strip. Decrease in crude birth and death rates The crude birth rate was 30.9 births for every 1000 of population in State of Palestine during 2016: 28.5 in the West Bank compared to 35.8 in Gaza Strip. The crude death rate was 3.5 deaths for every 1000 of population in State of Palestine for the same period: 3.7 in the West Bank compared to 3.3 in Gaza Strip….
‘Historic milestone’: Palestinian student wins Rhodes scholarship
EI Podcast 29 Dec by Nora Barrows-Friedman — A senior student at Earlham College in Indiana has been selected as one of just three Rhodes Scholars for its inaugural Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine program. Hashem Abu Sham’a grew up in the Palestinian refugee camp of ‘Arroub, just north of Hebron in the occupied West Bank. He is headed to Oxford University along with Diala Al Masri, an economic researcher at Williams College and Nur Arafeh, a researcher and a policy fellow at the Palestinian think tank Al-Shabaka. Abu Sham’a served as the president of Earlham’s student government, which last year passed a resolution urging the university to divest from corporations that profit from Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights. As one of two of the first Palestinian students to win a Rhodes Scholarship, Abu Sham’a said that it represents not just a historic milestone for Earlham and the student body, but also for his community in ‘Arroub camp. “I insisted that the press release should be sent first to the primary schools in my refugee camp, because I do think this is representative of a breaking through of a new ceiling,” Abu Sham’a told The Electronic Intifada.
Ashrawi concerned over freedom of worship remarks by Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 28 Dec — PLO Executive Committee Member Hanan Ashrawi Wednesday expressed concern over comments made by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, which contradict international reports on the situation of freedom of worship under Israeli occupation. Ashrawi said he praised Israel for being a “democracy” that “respects freedom of worship,” despite being “well informed of the Israeli violations of the freedom to worship of his own community during Easter and is also aware of the occupation of the Saint John Convent nearby the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, today turned into another illegal Israeli settlement.” She said in a press statement “Theophilos III is also well aware of the impact of the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem on the Palestinian people in general, and on the Christian population in particular.” Ashrawi explained that such a statement could only be delivered by someone who “aims at distorting reality by disregarding the rights and aspirations of his own congregation.” Recalling the very recent construction of the separation wall in Beit Jala, Ashrawi questioned whether “Patriarch Theophilos did anything in order to defend the lands that members of his own congregation recently lost in Cremisan.” “Or the fact that thousands of Palestinian Christians cannot access their own Holy Sites in Occupied East Jerusalem due to Israel’s illegal annexation Wall and other movement restrictions.” … The Kairos Document, signed by Palestinian theologians and religious leaders from all congregations, has clearly stated that “religious liberty is severely restricted; the freedom of access to the holy places is denied under the pretext of security,” she explained….
Remnants of ancient church keep this family in Sebastia
RAMALLAH (Al-Monitor) 26 Dec by Ahmad Melhem — Sami Said Debebne, also known as Abu Abdullah, lit up the Christmas tree at his residence Dec. 16 in Sebastia village, Nablus governorate, in the northern West Bank. This came one day after he, his wife and their three children attended the Christmas tree lighting ceremony in the city of Nablus, nearly 15 kilometers (9 miles) away from his village. Debebne, 50, works as a secretary at the Rujeib elementary school for boys in Nablus. His family is the only remaining Christian family in Sebastia village, where 3,500 people live and which is rich in ruins. Debebne and his family are spending the holidays in his wife’s birthplace, Zababdeh, where 3,000 Christians reside — two-thirds of its inhabitants. Zababdeh is 15 kilometers southeast of the city of Jenin, also in the northern West Bank. It is 45 kilometers from Nablus to Jenin. Debebne is happy at Sebastia, where coexistence and strong social ties among the residents prevail. He told Al-Monitor, “Although we are the only remaining Christian family in the village, we live in peace. We do not feel that there are any sectarian conflicts or discrimination between Muslims and Christians.” He added, “My children are students of public schools at the village; they learn the Islamic curriculum, just as my brother and I did before. The inhabitants of the village congratulate me on the holidays, and I do the same on the Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha holidays.”….
Remarks on Middle East peace: Full transcript of John Kerry’s speech on Israel-Palestine (VIDEO)
29 Dec — The Palestine Chronicle is republishing the full transcript of a major policy speech delivered by US Secretary of State, John Kerry on Palestine and Israel on Dec 28, 2016, as appeared in the US State Dept. website. A video link to the full speech is also embedded at the end of the text.
Netanyahu cancels Israeli aid to Angola over Security Council resolution
IMEMC/Agencies 28 Dec — nsnbc : Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to cancel all Israeli aid to Angola. The decision came in response to the country’s support for UN Security Council Resolution 2334 (2016) which, among others, calls on Israel to end its illegal settlements in Palestinian territories. Netanyahu has been instructing the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s Agency for International Development Cooperation to halt activities with Angola over Angola’s endorsement of the Security Council resolution. Angola had initially signaled that it might abstain, but then voted in support of the resolution. The halt of Israel’s “aid” to Angola is largely symbolic, as there are very limited relations including aid, commerce and otherwise between the two countries. Tel Aviv also summoned the Angolan Ambassador. Moreover, Netanyahu recalled Israeli Ambassador to New Zealand and Senegal and canceled Israeli aid to Senegal as well. The round of retaliatory diplomatic measures is bound to further isolate Israel, which is already facing an international Boycott Sanctions Divestment campaign that continues to gain momentum.
The reason for Israel’s hysterical response to the UN Security Council resolution
The Nation 28 Dec by Yousef Munayyer — Netanyahu takes pride in killing the two-state solution — but he doesn’t want to be blamed for it, because he knows the only acceptable alternative is equality for all in a single state — Since last week, we have seen a unique sequence of events, some unprecedented and others less so, that have brought the Palestine-Israel issue back to the fore. Last Friday, the United States abstained at the United Nations Security Council on Resolution 2334, thereby allowing it to pass when the 14 other members of the council voted for it. The language of the resolution as it relates to settlements was nothing really new. The UN — and the whole world, with the exception of the Israeli right wing — has understood that the Fourth Geneva Convention applies to the territory Israel occupied in 1967, and thus that civilian settlements are illegal. In fact, even the Israeli legal counsel understood this in 1967. The Israelis thought that if they could colonize the West Bank under the guise of the military, they could argue that it didn’t put them in violation of the convention’s statute against transfer of civilian populations. This is why they initially called them “paramilitary settlements,” which were set up through a division of the military. Once it became clear that the world would not press them on this, they dropped the disguise and openly violated international law by building, financing, and subsidizing scores of settlements, which would grow to include hundreds of thousands of Israeli settlers. What is unique in the language of Resolution 2334 is the utter desperation it reflects concerning the prospects of a two-state solution to the conflict. That solution itself had not even made it into a Security Council resolution until the George W. Bush era. Now, at the end of his successor’s tenure, this resolution states plainly that such a solution is on the verge of death due to Israeli settlements. The upcoming funeral of the two-state solution may account for the passion behind Secretary of State John Kerry’s remarks in a speech today, in which he criticized the settlements and said Washington cannot allow a two-state solution “to be destroyed before our eyes,” arguing that there is “no viable alternative.” This was an attempt to get out ahead of the blame game in the history books. Kerry made clear that if the Israelis want to kill peace with settlements, that is their choice. Indeed, it is a choice they have already made. I believe the two-state solution is dead. I don’t think it is possible, and I doubt most honest observers do either. Nearly two-thirds of Palestinians in the occupied territories — the highest numbers ever recorded on this question — also believe that because of Israeli settlement expansion it is no longer possible. But the world has pretended that it is still alive, in part because it is not prepared to confront the fact of its death….
Israeli minister: Palestinian state ‘off the table’ under Trump
[with revealing graph of increasing numbers of Israeli settlers] DW 28 Dec — Israel’s education minister, Naftali Bennett, has vowed that a two-state solution will be “taken off the agenda” in January when Trump takes office. He repeated a call that Israel annex most of the West Bank. The inflammatory comments came in response to a speech by outgoing US Secretary of State John Kerry, warning that a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was in “serious jeopardy” due to a more hard-line Israeli stance. Bennett, who is leader of the Jewish Home party, told the Ynet news portal on Thursday that “Palestine will be taken off the agenda” come January 20, referring to the date of US President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration. The religious-nationalist politician also vowed to advance initiatives that would see Israel annex large parts of the West Bank. That move would effectively destroy any hope for a solution that would envisage an independent state of Palestine alongside Israel, an idea first mooted in the 1970s. Bennett added that Kerry’s speech, warning about the fragility of a solution to the long-running conflict, was “totally out of touch with reality.”….
Israeli ministers approve ‘Facebook bill’ to restrict online ‘incitement’
Palestine Chronicle 28 Dec — Israel advanced the so-called “Facebook bill” that would allow Israeli officials to force the social media giant to remove certain content through a court order if there are suspicions of “incitement.” after an Israeli ministerial committee approved the bill on Sunday. According to the Israeli media outlet the Times of Israel, the bill, proposed by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked — members of right-wing Israeli parties Jewish Home and Likud respectively — would “only be invoked in cases of suspected incitement, where there is a real possibility that the material in question endangers the public or national security.” Despite Facebook complying with 95 percent of the Israeli government’s removal requests in recent months, members of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, have consistently expressed their indignation that Facebook has not taken enough action to remove content inciting “acts of terror against Jews.”….