Israeli bill to annex Jerusalem-area settlement will include controversial E-1 area
[with map] Haaretz 19 Jan by Jonathan Lis — Netanyahu may delay vote to avoid conflict with U.S.; Israeli governments since Rabin have sought to build in E1 to secure Ma’aleh Adumim’s contiguity with Israel proper — An Israeli bill to annex the West Bank settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim will be voted on by Israeli ministers on Sunday, two days after Donald Trump takes office and will also include a clause annexing the controversial E1 area, as a result of its inclusion in the settlement’s municipal boundaries. But the bill’s sponsor, MK Yoav Kish (Likud) said he would be willing to exclude the controversial bloc from the draft law in the event its inclusion created a crisis within the governing coalition. “It absolutely could happen that as part of a compromise we would put the bill through without E1. It’s something to think about … I don’t want someone to say he isn’t willing to join the process as a result of [Israeli] sovereignty being imposed also on E1,” Kish said … Development plans for E1, an area of 12 square kilometers, north and west of Ma’aleh Adumim, that was previously placed inside the settlement’s municipal borders, have raised strong objections from the Palestinians and the international community in the past, and all such plans since 2005 have been put on hold. The Palestinians claim that Israeli construction in E1 would partly cut off the northern West Bank from the southern part and make it more difficult to create a contiguous Palestinian state … Israeli governments since Yitzhak Rabin’s have sought to build in E1 to secure Ma’aleh Adumim’s contiguity with Israel proper, if and when a Palestinian state is established. The Israeli fear is that without “facts on the ground” in E1, Ma’aleh Adumim, which has a population of around 40,000, could end up as a nonviable Israeli enclave inside a Palestinian state.
Violence / Detentions — West Bank, E. Jerusalem, Israel
(accounts of this event from several different places included here, since they have different information)
Palestinian shot dead ‘in cold blood’ by Israeli police during Negev demolition raid
NEGEV (Ma‘an) 18 Jan — Two people were killed and several others were hospitalized on Wednesday after a predawn demolition raid into the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in the Negev region erupted into clashes, as Israeli forces used sponge-tipped bullets, tear gas, and stun grenades to violently suppress locals and supporters who had gathered to resist the demolitions. A Palestinian citizen of Israel was shot dead by Israeli forces after he allegedly carried out a car ramming attack on Israeli officers, leaving several injured, according to Israeli police. However, numerous eyewitness accounts said that the driver lost control of his vehicle after he was shot, causing him to crash into Israeli police, one of whom was killed. Locals identified the slain Palestinian citizen of Israel as 47-year-old Yaqoub Moussa Abu al-Qi‘an, a math teacher at al-Salam High School in the nearby town of Hura.
Israeli police later confirmed that a policeman succumbed to injuries he sustained by being hit by the car. The slain officer was identified as 34-year-old Erez Levi. Israeli Knesset member Taleb Abu Arar said that the police killed Abu al-Qi‘an “in cold blood,” Israeli news site Ynet quoted him as saying. “The police shot him for no reason. The claims that he tried to run over police are not true.” Knesset member Ayman Odeh and head of the Joint List, which represents parties led by Palestinian citizens of Israel, was injured in the head and back with sponge-tipped bullets, locals said, and taken to Soroka Hospital in Beersheba. Initial reports said police were firing rubber-coated steel bullets which are used by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank, which was later denied by Israeli police. A video later emerged showed Odeh bleeding on the ground moments after he was shot:
Two killed in Bedouin village slated to be demolished, replaced with Jewish town
Activestills 18 Jan by Yael Marom & Keren Manor — Two people were killed and several others wounded when large numbers of police officers entered the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran, in southern Israel, to demolish the village at dawn on Wednesday. Police fired tear gas, sponge-tipped bullets, and there were reports of live ammunition as well. Police officers shot and killed a resident of Umm el-Hiran, Yaqub Musa Abu Qi‘an, claiming he drove his vehicle and struck and killed at least one officer. Police also quickly claimed, without offering any evidence, that Abu Qi‘an had “connections” to ISIS. The police officer who was killed was named as 34-year-old Erez Levy. However, local residents and activists at the scene deny the police version of events, saying that Qi‘an’s car veered toward the officers only after he was shot and lost control of the vehicle. Among those wounded was Joint List chairman MK Ayman Odeh, whom police shot in the head and back with sponge-tipped bullets. Odeh was brought to Soroka Hospital in Be’er Sheva in stable condition at the time of this report. The other casualties were both local residents and security forces.
Hundreds of fully armed police arrived at Umm el-Hiran around 5 a.m., pulling drivers out of vehicles, and attacking and threatening others, according to Israeli activist Kobi Snitz, who was in the village Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. Shortly thereafter, shots were heard, Snitz said, adding that he saw a white pickup truck about 30 meters from police. “They started shooting at the car in bursts from all directions,” he said, adding that only after the driver appeared to have been wounded and lost control of his vehicle did it strike the police officers. Police reportedly sealed the village off and barred any additional journalists from entering by mid-morning. By late morning, bulldozers, trucks, and demolition equipment had begun preparing to clear and demolish the village….
Israeli police accused of cover-up over killing during Negev demolition raid
NEGEV (Ma‘an) 18 Jan — The Joint List, which represents parties led by Palestinian citizens of Israel in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, accused Israeli police of spreading misinformation to Israeli media regarding an alleged vehicle attack Wednesday morning in the Negev, as new video footage emerged further contradicting the Israel police’s version of events. The Joint List’s statement argued that Israeli police lied in their claim that a Palestinian Bedouin deliberately rammed his car into officers during a raid to demolish homes in the unrecognized Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran, in order to distract from Israel’s campaign to establish Jewish-only towns “on the ruins of Bedouin villages.” Israeli police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld said that during a raid of the slain Palestinian’s home, police found three copies of a Hebrew-language newspaper from 2015 with the headline: “Isis bomb that took down a plane,” suggesting that the old newspapers were evidence that the man carried out a terror attack. Rosenfeld added in his statement that Israeli police also detained and were questioning the son “of the terrorist” as part of the investigation.
However, numerous eyewitnesses reported that Israeli police fired at the Palestinian Bedouin, identified as Yaqoub Abu al-Qi‘an, while he was driving, which caused him to spin out of control and crash into Israeli officers, killing one policeman. Family members also firmly denied Abu al-Qi‘an intended to carry out an attack.
Meanwhile, new Israeli police footage published by Israeli daily Haaretz [below], which they said was most likely from a police helicopter hovering above the scene, appeared to show police officers shooting at al-Qi‘an as he was driving at a very slow pace, and only several seconds after the gunfire does his car appear to speed up, eventfully plowing through police officers. It is unclear if the driver sped up intentionally….
Video of deadly car-ramming appears to show cops fire before jeep speeds into officers
Times of Israel 18 Jan by staff and Dov Lieber — Two videos taken by police aerial surveillance drones of the early Wednesday car-ramming that killed a policeman at the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran appear to show police opening fire before the ramming — as well as the driver maneuvering his vehicle as he fatally accelerates into the officers … After the video footage was released, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior officials reiterated that the incident was a terror attack. “He was killed in a vehicular terror attack,” Netanyahu said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. The deputy commander of the police southern district, Peretz Amar, said the incident was “a deliberate attack. This is clear. This is a fact. There is no other explanation, and anyone who tries to offer an alternative explanation wasn’t here at the time and doesn’t understand.” Amar said there were two lines of officers either side of the road, and “no possible means to claim in this situation that he didn’t see them… He hit them. He killed.” The videos did not definitively resolve the conflicting accounts. One video, slowed to one-quarter speed, seems to show muzzle flashes from at least three shots coming from the firearm of one officer located next to Abu Al-Qi‘an’s vehicle just before it accelerates toward other officers. Some police sources said officers did fire, but into the air. An official police version of the video, which shows the muzzle flashes in its first seconds, points out that Abu Al-Qi‘an’s headlights were off as he drove past the officers. After the ramming, the vehicle is shown swerving to the right, then correcting to the left before coming to a stop as a police vehicle rushes into its way. Uriel Eisner, 26, an activist for the Center for Jewish Non-violence who said he witnessed the incident, confirmed to The Times of Israel that police fired at the vehicle before it accelerated. Eisner speculated that the driver was trying to leave the village in order to avoid confrontation with police. An earlier video put out by a police spokesperson showed the predawn dark and the sense of confusion that prevailed from the perspective of those on the ground…
Family of slain Palestinian teacher demands investigation into his death
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 19 Jan — The family of Yaqoub Moussa Abu al-Qi‘an, a math teacher and Palestinian citizen of Israel who was shot dead by Israeli police on Wednesday, demanded on Thursday that Israeli police open an investigation into his death. NGO Adalah–The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, who is representing Abu al-Qi‘an’s family, released a statement Thursday demanding an investigation be opened into the circumstances of the death of Abu al-Qi‘an, who Adalah said was 50 years old, though earlier reports claimed he was 47 years old … In Thursday’s statement, Adalah said that Abu al-Qi‘an’s parents requested that the NGO represent the family and demand that the Israeli Justice Ministry’s Police Investigations Division, ‘Mahash’, investigate the circumstances of their son’s death. According to the Adalah, the group’s attorneys sent a letter to Mahash late Wednesday arguing that police video footage of the incident and eyewitness testimony reveal that police opened fire on Abu Al-Qi‘an’s vehicle before he accelerated in the direction of officers. “This totally contradicts police claims that Abu Al Qi‘an sought to ‘ram’ them with his vehicle,” the statement said. Adalah also emphasized that, according to witnesses, police officers prevented an ambulance from approaching the scene and paramedics from treating Abu Al-Qi‘an for three hours following the shooting.”This fact alone suggests police forces violated the law and raises questions about the credibility of police testimony regarding the unfolding of events during the course of the incident,” Adalah asserted….
Israeli forces kill Palestinians near Tulkarem after alleged stabbing attempt
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 17 Jan — Israeli forces killed a Palestinian near the northern occupied West Bank city of Tulkarem early on Tuesday evening after he allegedly attempted to carry out a stabbing attack. An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma‘an that “an assailant armed with a knife approached Israeli forces at a crossing adjacent to Tulkarem,” adding that Israeli forces “fired at the attacker, resulting in his death.” The spokesperson added that no Israelis were injured in the incident. Locals later identified the slain Palestinian as Nidal Daoud Mahdawi, 44, who was a holder of Israeli residency, married, and a father of five. Witnesses told Ma‘an that Mahdawi approached the checkpoint when gunshots were heard and Mahdawi was seen falling to the ground after being injured by several bullets fired by the Israeli soldiers. Israeli forces then closed the checkpoint and prevented anyone from entering Tulkarem. According to Hebrew media, Israeli authorities said that the Palestinian was throwing rocks at the Beit Lid checkpoint, also known as Checkpoint 104, adding that “at some point he pulled out a knife and attempted to stab a soldier,” and was subsequently shot dead by Israeli forces. Mahdawi is the fifth Palestinian to have been confirmed killed by Israeli forces in 2017. Four Israelis have been killed by Palestinians in the first two weeks of the year.
‘They have destroyed me’: Mother grieves as slain Palestinian teen laid to rest
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 17 Jan by Yumna Patel — The early morning traffic began to ease as the funeral procession departed from Bethlehem’s city limits, and cars sped up on their way to the nearby village of Tuqu‘, in the southern occupied West Bank. “Look, look,” said one of the drivers in the funeral procession, pointing upwards to a group of Israeli soldiers stationed on the hill just above the shared Palestinian-Israeli settler road. “They’re trying to provoke us.” As traffic slowed for a moment, young men — residents of Tuqu‘ where 17-year-old Qusay al-Umour was shot dead less than 24 hours earlier — hopped out of their vehicles to grab stones from the side of the road and hurl them as far as they could at the soldiers, not knowing if one of them had shot the four fatal bullets that killed their friend. Women and children gathered on rooftops, passersby honked their horns, and young men hung out of the windows of speeding cars waving Palestinian and Fatah flags, with pictures of al-Umour, the latest “martyr,” taped to the backs of their cars … “They [Israelis] are terrorists. They are tyrants. They didn’t allow me to see him. They didn’t help him,” Fatima al-Umour, Qusay’s mother, said in a faint cry, barely able to speak as dozens of mourning women crowded around her.
“I kept asking them [the soldiers] to give him first aid without taking me with them, but they didn’t. They dragged him to a remote area and we didn’t know where he was. They took him behind the jeep, tore his clothes, then they threw him away and left him alone [to die],” she said as she struggled to sit up straight, resting her head on a family member next to her … The residents of Tuqu‘ — those who were present at the clashes where al-Umour was shot, and those who saw the video documenting the events immediately following his death — seemed to be sure of two things: the high school student was wrongfully killed by Israeli forces, and they do not know, and will likely never know, if Qusay was already dead when soldiers got hold of his motionless body, or if he died in their custody….
NGO: Israeli shooting of Palestinian teen in Tuqu‘ ‘extrajudicial killing’
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 18 Jan — A Palestinian rights group slammed on Wednesday the killing of a Palestinian teen by Israeli forces earlier this week, calling the case an “extrajudicial killing” and demanding that Israeli authorities open an investigation into the case. Qusay al-Umour, 17, was killed during clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian youth in the Bethlehem-area village of Tuqu‘ in the occupied West Bank on Monday. Video of the moments immediately following al-Umour being shot by Israeli forces has elicited a strong emotional response, as it showed Israeli soldiers roughly carrying the teenager’s limp body by his dangling arms and legs. Legal NGO BADIL said in a statement on Wednesday that the footage provided “evidence contradicting Israeli accounts and raises concerns about the adherence of the Israeli forces to the central tenets of international law.” The group quoted Hisham Abu Shaqra, the Palestinian journalist who recorded the video, who said that al-Umour was not a threat to Israeli forces when he was fatally shot — contradicting claims by the Israeli army, which said that the Palestinian youth was the “main instigator” of the clashes that day. “Qusay was sitting between olive trees, you know how guys are, he was just watching the soldiers…Only a few seconds after (I was) looking at him the Israeli forces shot him three or four times,” Abu Shaqra said. “The soldier who shot him was not in danger at the time of the shooting, in fact, he was secured and safe,” he added. “First the (Israeli military) jeeps started coming closer and closer [to the youth] and then this specific soldier, the sniper with the Ruger rifle, also started coming closer. I remember he was by the third jeep, then I saw him by the second jeep and he was by the first jeep when he shot Qusay.” The eyewitness accounts of the incident, coupled with the audiovisual evidence, have led BADIL to conclude that “whether he was throwing stones at the soldiers or not, al-Umour could not have presented a lethal threat to the well-protected Israeli border police from a distance of around 100 meters, and the use of live ammunition against him was therefore unjustified.” The NGO denounced the “complete lack of consideration for (al-Umour)’s human dignity or his traumatic injuries.”….
Israeli settler runs over Palestinian child in Hebron City
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 17 Jan — An Israeli settler on Tuesday evening ran over a four-year-old Palestinian child in the southern part of Hebron city in the occupied West Bank. Medical sources at al-Ahli Hospital told Ma‘an that Layan Ayed al-Razem, 4, was brought into the hospital with “bruises all over her body, mainly on her right leg.” Sources added that she was in a stable condition. Locals told Ma‘an that al-Razem was crossing the street in the Jabal Jalis area of southern Hebron city when an Israeli settler ran her over with his car. The Israeli police and Magen David ambulances arrived at the scene and took the child to the nearby illegal Israeli settlement of Kiryat Arba, before bringing her to a Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance half an hour later. Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told Ma‘an he was not familiar with the incident. It was unclear whether authorities believed the incident to be deliberate.
Hundreds of Israeli police raid refugee camp to detain Palestinian youths
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 17 Jan — Hundreds of Israeli police forces raided the Shu‘fat refugee camp in occupied East Jerusalem before dawn on Tuesday to detain nine young Palestinian men, searching and ransacking more than 20 homes at gunpoint. Spokesman of the Fatah movement in Shu‘fat Thaer al-Fasfous said more than 500 Israeli police officers, border police soldiers, and special force officers were involved in the raid of the camp, which is home to some 9,850 Palestinian refugees living in just a 0.2-square-kilometer space. Al-Fasfous added that Israeli troops “deliberately” damaged the interiors of the houses they searched.
He identified seven of the young men who were detained as Usayd Ahmad Ali, Ward Muhammad Sheikh Ali, Amir Sheikh Ali, Muhammad al-Fasfous, Ihab Muhammad Nababta, Ihab Nawfal, and Anas al-Rajabi. However, the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) identified in a statement the nine Palestinians as Usayd Sheikh Ali, Ward Sheikh Ali, Amir Sheikh Ali, Muhammad al-Fasfous, Issa Muhammad Ali, Issa Dirbas, Muhammad Jabiri, Ihab Suleiman, and Nadia Abu Jamal — the widow of Ghassan Abu Jamal, a Palestinian who was killed in 2014 after carrying out a deadly attack in a Jerusalem synagogue. According to Israeli police, it was the eighth time Israeli forces had raided Shu‘fat refugee camp since the beginning of 2017, as part of what spokeswoman Luba al-Samri called “the 700 campaign.” Some of the detainees, according to al-Samri, were suspected of throwing stones, fireworks, and Molotov cocktails at Israeli forces. Others were suspected of illegal possession of firearms and stolen commodities….
Army injures six Palestinians, demolishes structures, causes truck and cars to burn in Qalandia
IMEMC 18 Jan — Palestinian medical sources have reported that Israeli soldiers shot and injured, on Wednesday at dawn, at least six Palestinians, after the army invaded Qalandia refugee camp, north of occupied Jerusalem, and prevented journalists and medics from entering it. The soldiers demolished structures and causing fires in a truck and several cars. The invasion was carried out by several army vehicles and jeeps, before the soldiers clashed with local youngsters, who hurled stones and empty bottles on the invading military vehicles. The soldiers fired dozens of live rounds, rubber-coated steel bullets and gas bombs, wounding at least six Palestinians, while many others suffered the severe effects of teargas inhalation. Palestinian Red Crescent ambulances and fire trucks, rushed to the refugee camp, but the soldiers prevented them from entering it. The army also fired gas bombs, concussion grenades and live rounds at several Palestinian cars, causing one truck and a few cars to burn. During the invasion, the soldiers demolished sheds and structures used for commercial purposes and as carwash facilities, under the allegation of being built without permits.
Palestinian detained for allegedly planning attack in Jerusalem
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 17 Jan — Israeli police claimed Tuesday that they had prevented a stabbing attack the previous day in occupied East Jerusalem. Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said in a statement that border police officers suspected a 19-year-old man while conducting “spot checks” and checking ID cards on public buses in the Palestinian neighborhood of al-Tur east of the Old City. The 19-year-old, who was not further identified, was questioned after officers discovered he lacked identification papers, and allegedly confessed to police that he intended to get off the bus at the Damascus Gate entrance to the Old City, buy a knife, and carry out a “terror attack” against Israeli police or security officers there, according to Rosenfeld. The police spokesman said that the suspect would be held until Wednesday, when he will appear in court, adding that the investigation was continuing. Israeli media sites reported that the suspect was a resident of the occupied West Bank, and had entered occupied East Jerusalem “illegally.”
Israeli army detains 24 Palestinians in overnight raids
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 17 Jan — Israeli forces detained at least 24 Palestinians, including the widow of a slain Palestinian, in predawn military raids across the occupied West Bank between Monday and Tuesday, Palestinian and Israeli sources said. The Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) said in a statement that nine of the Palestinians were detained when Israeli police forces raided the Jerusalem district refugee camp of Shufat … In the northern West Bank, PPS said that five Palestinians were detained in the Jenin district … Mahmoud Walwil, meanwhile, was detained in the al-Faraa refugee camp in the Tubas district, PPS reported. An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma‘an of four detentions in Qabatiya in the Jenin district and one in al-Faraa. PPS said that Israeli forces detained Abd al-Rahman Abu Haniyeh, 22, in the Qalqiliya district, with the army confirming a detention in the village of Habla. In the central West Bank district of Ramallah, Israeli forces detained Mutasem Sheikh Yousif, 21, and Ahmad Adnan al-Kanash, 20, according to PPS. The army reported a detention in the Ramallah-area refugee camp of al-Jalazun, and another in the village of Jifna. In the southern West Bank, PPS reported that Dakhallah Habis al-Umour was detained in the Bethlehem-area village of Tuqu‘, where Israeli forces shot and killed a 17-year-old Palestinian teen during clashes on Monday. The army, meanwhile, told Ma‘an that two Palestinians were detained in Tuqu‘ overnight, with no further information on whether the detentions were related to the killing that day. In the Hebron district, meanwhile, PPS said that Israeli forces detained Rahib Yousif Mughannam, 18, Muhiyi Salah Abu Maria, 18, Harith Ibrahim Tmeizi, and Safwat Jihad Tmeizi, 36. The army mentioned one detention in the village of Beit Ummar, and another in Yatta.
Israeli soldiers abduct seventeen Palestinians in the West Bank
IMEMC 19 Jan — The Palestinian Prisoners Society (PPS) has reported that Israeli soldiers abducted, overnight and at dawn Thursday, seventeen Palestinians, during massive invasions and searches of homes in different parts of the occupied West Bank. The PPS office in Qalqilia, in the northern part of the West Bank, said the soldiers abducted six Palestinians, in various parts of the district. The abducted Palestinians have been identified as Yousef Yasser Sweilem, 23, Kathem Mofeed Radwan, 24, Mo’men Farouq Abu Haniyya, 25, Abdul-Rahman Bilal Radwan, 23, Mohammad Nasser Dahbour, 55, and Saher Hisham Adwan, 42. In Nablus, in the northern part of the West Bank, the soldiers searched a few homes and abducted Ahmad Abu Basseer and Rami Abu Hweila. In Tulkarem, also in the northern part of the West Bank, the soldiers abducted three Palestinians, identified as Ismael Adwan Mekhel, 23, Mahmoud Mohammad Shehada, 31, and Jad Abdul-Rahma Yahia, 38. In Ramallah, in central West Bank, the soldiers abducted Abdul-Halim Hamed and Ja‘far Abed Erbash. In Hebron, in the southern part of the West Bank, the soldiers abducted Monatser Wajeeh Abu Ayyash and Mohammad Zeidat, the son of Fayez Zeidat, who was killed by the army in 2012. In occupied Jerusalem, the soldiers also searched homes and abducted Yassin Qanbar, 20, and Mahmoud ‘Oweisat.
Opinion: Kill them, they’re fair game / Gideon Levy
Haaretz 20 Jan — To most Jewish Israelis, Arabs aren’t human beings equal to us. This dehumanization makes the soldiers and police trigger-happy — Palestinians and Israeli Arabs are fair game. They’re fair game in the occupied territories and fair game in Israel. They’re fair game because their blood is cheap. It’s cheap in Umm al-Hiran and cheap at the Tul Karm checkpoint. It’s cheap at construction sites and cheap at roadblocks. When the people killed are Arabs, nobody cares. When a soldier is killed in an accident, it’s front-page news. But when a Palestinian is killed while just waking up at home, nobody cares. Not one of the people killed in the last few days would have been shot to death if he weren’t a Palestinian or a Bedouin. It’s doubtful if any of them deserved to die. Was this wholesale killing designed to divert attention from another story, as has happened in Israel before and is customary in dark regimes? It’s hard to tell. But it’s easy to say with certainty: They’re fair game. They were fair game Wednesday in the Negev. Behold, Zionism 2017 – destroying a community of Bedouin refugees in order to build a Jewish community in its place. That’s the basic Zionist violence; nationalist and racist. Compare the case to the Amona outpost and you have perfect evidence of apartheid: negotiations and compensation for Jews, brutality for Arabs. In no eviction of Jews would the police have fired that way. In Umm al-Hiran it’s allowed. It’s also allowed to wound Joint List leader Ayman Odeh because the police have been trained to think Arab Knesset members are traitors. That’s what they heard from their public security minister, Gilad Erdan. Yakub Abu al-Kiyan, a teacher, was shot to death in his car for allegedly ramming it into policemen on purpose. Immediately the authorities spread their lies about him. They said he was linked to the Islamic State and had four wives. (MK Ahmad Tibi says Abu al-Kiyan’s only wife has a Ph.D., while his brother is an inspector in the Education Ministry).After that, how can anyone believe the police, who hastily claimed he deliberately ran over policemen? …But so much over the past week preceded the events at Umm al-Hiran. In the Fara refugee camp, soldiers killed a man who had just woken up; 11 bullets from point-blank range in front of his mother; the soldiers say he tried to attack them. Mohammed al-Salahi was an only son who lived with his mother in a single room.…
Israel releases Islamic Movement leader Sheikh Raed Salah
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 17 Jan — The Israel Prison Service (IPS) released Sheikh Raed Salah, the leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, on Tuesday morning after he served a nine-month sentence after being accused of “incitement.” Salah’s lawyer Khalid Zabarqa said that IPS had initially only informed him that Salah would be released, but withheld the details on the precise location and time. “The Israeli government is behaving like a gang, not like a government,” said Deputy Head of the Islamic Movement in Israel Sheikh Kamal al-Khatib in reaction to Salah’s imprisonment and release, adding that scores of Sheikh Salah’s supporters had traveled to Nafha prison in southern Israel from where they expected him to be released, only to be informed that he wasn’t there. Al-Khatib said the group then traveled further north to the Beersheba prison complex, but Salah was not there either. Finally they were informed at 9:30 a.m. that Salah had been released three hours prior at a bus station near Kiryat Malakhi and that Salah took a bus from there to Tel Aviv. The Hamas movement released a statement Tuesday, saying they congratulated Salah on his release, “after unjustly spending nine months in the jails of occupation.”….
Israeli navy shoots, injures Palestinian fisherman off Gaza coast
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 17 Jan — Israeli naval forces shot and injured a Palestinian fisherman off the coast in the northern Gaza Strip on Tuesday, as locals reported two other shooting incidents in the besieged coastal enclave. A spokesman for the Union of Agricultural Work Committees Zakariya Bakr said that the fisherman, identified as Khalid Abu Riyala, was shot several times with rubber-coated steel bullets, without specifying the extent of his injuries. Bakr added that Israeli naval forces also confiscated several Palestinian fishing boats … Palestinian fishermen reported that Israeli naval forces also opened fire in the direction of fishing boats off the coast of al-Wahah in the northern Gaza Strip, forcing them to sail back to shore. No injuries were reported. The army spokesperson confirmed the al-Wahah incident, telling Ma‘an that the Palestinian boat had “deviated from the designated fishing zone,” and that Israeli forces fired warning shots into the air. Meanwhile, five Palestinian fishermen who had been detained by Israeli forces on Monday morning were released later that day, although their fishing vessels were not returned.
Separately, Israeli troops opened fire at fields on the eastern outskirts of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday morning, witnesses said, without reporting any injuries.
Palestinian teen in Gaza injured with live fire in the chest from unknown source
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 19 Jan — An 18-year-old Palestinian girl was injured by live fire from an unidentified source in eastern Khan Younis on Thursday morning. Medical sources at the European Hospital in the southern Gaza Strip told Ma‘an that the teenager arrived at the hospital injured with a bullet in the chest. Sources added that the girl underwent surgery and that she was in critical condition
Palestinian NGO hits out at Hamas travel restrictions
AFP 19 Jan — A major Palestinian rights organisation expressed concern Thursday after the Hamas-led authorities in Gaza imposed new restrictions on travel for businessmen. A new circular will restrict businesspeople from leaving Gaza through the Erez crossing into Israel unless they have paid all their water, electricity and other bills, the interior ministry recently announced. The Independent.Commission for Human Rights, a Palestinian NGO, said the move was a threat to Gazans’ freedom of movement, calling it “contrary to law.” “It is a serious encroachment on the right of movement and travel,” a statement said. Iyad al-Bozum, a spokesman for the Hamas-run interior ministry, argued the restrictions were necessary at a time when Gaza was suffering from huge shortages. “It is not reasonable that businessmen and traders are well off but don’t pay their bills,” he told AFP. The embattled enclave has seen chronic electricity shortages in recent weeks, with many homes receiving just four hours of power per day. Around 70 percent of Gazans do not pay their electricity bills, according to the United Nations, either through inability to pay or lack of enforcement.
Palestinian detained at Erez crossing between Israel and Gaza Strip
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 17 Jan — Israeli authorities detained a Palestinian merchant at the Erez crossing between the northern Gaza Strip and Israel on Tuesday evening. Sources at the Palestinian liaison said that Israeli intelligence stopped Omar Abu Asad, 25, who was with his ill mother on their way to the occupied West Bank for treatment. After detaining Abu Asad, Israeli authorities transferred him to an unidentified location, and forced his mother to return to the besieged Gaza Strip, sources added.
Cooking gas, diesel allowed into Gaza amid ongoing power crisis
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 20 Jan — Israeli authorities partially opened the Karam Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) crossing between Israel and Gaza on Friday to allow cooking gas and diesel into the besieged coastal enclave. Head of the gas committee at the Owners of Fuel Companies Organization, Samir Hamadeh, told Ma‘an that 600,000 liters of diesel and 120 tons of cooking gas would be allowed into the Gaza Strip on Friday via the Kerem Shalom crossing.
Gaza electricity protests continue as PA, Hamas trade heated accusations
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 17 Jan — The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) organized a protest on Monday evening demanding a solution “once and for all” to the Gaza electricity crisis, as Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA) exchanged more barbs blaming one another for the severe power shortages in the blockaded coastal enclave. The majority of the Gaza Strip received only three hours of power a day in between 12-hour blackouts for more than a week earlier this month, with recent Qatari aid helping to bring back the Palestinian territory to its usual schedule of eight hours of electricity followed by eight hours without. “This protest comes to affirm that our people have the right to live in dignity and possess all amenities of life, especially electricity 24 hours a day, especially in the winter given the very cold weather,” a DFLP leader, Abd al-Bari al-Talla, told the demonstrators in the al-Maghazi refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip. Al-Talla notably urged the Gaza electricity company to “stop messing with citizens’ lives and burdening the Palestinian economy with huge losses,” calling on the organization to start collecting bills from government institutions, security services, civil organizations, companies, and private universities instead of complaining about a lack of revenue. He also called on the PA to completely exempt the Gaza Strip’s only power plant from paying fuel taxes, as well as to take steps to improve the electricity network in the small Palestinian territory and to rely more on natural gas. Fatah and Hamas, the respective ruling parties in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, have accused one another of bearing the blame for the situation in Gaza….
Opinion: Living in the darkness of Gaza / Mohammed Azaizeh
Haaretz 18 Jan — Extended blackouts are part of daily reality in Gaza. We have adjusted in recent years to a cycle of eight hours with electricity, then eight hours without while other neighborhoods get electricity. Now, even this routine seems a luxurious, distant dream. Over the past two weeks, the supply has been cut to four hours, followed by 12 hours disconnected … And yet I understand that someone living even a few kilometers from Gaza has a hard time imagining life without a reliable source of energy. So let me share some recent experiences … My children are Yusuf, six, and Karim, five. I don’t know exactly why, perhaps because of the bitter cold or because of the growing tension at home since the electricity shortage began, but they have wet their beds a number of times. The little one comes to our bed at night, and he wet the bed again. There was no hot water. There was no electricity. It was deathly cold. My wife and I switched sheets by the light of a space heater operated by cooking gas. We wanted to change our children’s clothes, but the flashlight battery had emptied out and it was impossible to see what was in the closet. We groped in the darkness, trying to figure out which piece of clothing we were feeling and who it fit. After several long moments of confusion, we grasped how ridiculous the situation was, and we broke out laughing hysterically….
Blackouts and bedlam: Gazans left in the dark about their future
GAZA STRIP (MEE) 19 Jan by Mousa Tawfiq — Gazans are forced to use expensive and temporary solutions to deal with the cold winter temperatures and the constant power cuts — At the tender age of 10, the only life Mohammed Yasin has known has been one of living under siege and power cuts. Born in Gaza in 2006 when Hamas won the Palestinian legislative election, triggering the 2006 sanctions against the Palestinian National Authority by Israel, the young boy has become accustomed to economic hardship and darkness. “I don’t remember a day without power cuts,” he told MEE, as his mother lit a candle for him and his sister. Mohammed was born after the beginning of the electricity crisis in 2006, when an Israeli airstrike by an F16 fighter jet hit the sole power plant operating in the Gaza Strip. Since then, the plant has been working at minimal capacity and only when the Strip can purchase electricity from Egypt and Israel … ‘Our life is on hold’ The power cuts have drastic consequences for Gaza’s residents. Ahmed Abu Salama lost the freedom to move around his own home because he could no longer charge his electric wheelchair. “When my wife isn’t at home and the electricity goes off, I stay in bed for hours because I can’t reach the lights and when I try to, I fall on the ground,” Abu Salama said … Small businesses in Gaza, already struggling with the siege, have also been hit hard by the power cuts. Yousef al-Jaro, 52, a carpenter in al-Daraj neighbourhood in the east of Gaza City, said he now has to close his shop most of the day, as all his work requires electrical machines.
Israel cannot shirk its responsibility for Gaza’s electricity crisis
B’Tselem 16 Jan — … the present crisis is simply an extreme version of the ongoing situation in the Gaza Strip, where residents have not had a consistent power supply for years, and lengthy blackouts are a daily occurrence … Israel continues to control what happens in Gaza even after implementing its disengagement plan in 2005 and, therefore, bears significant responsibility for this state of affairs: * Israel prevents the repair and restoration of the power station it bombed in 2006, keeping it from operating at full capacity. * Israel compels Gaza residents to purchase Israeli fuel exclusively, and to so for the same price paid inside Israel. The immense disparity between the economy of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and Israel’s means that both the Palestinian authorities and Palestinian private individuals have difficulty meeting the cost and are unable to buy sufficient amounts of diesel. * Israel delays or prevents repairs to the power grid and imposes restrictions on bringing spare parts into Gaza. It also impedes repairs to Gaza infrastructure damaged in Israeli raids, as well as preventing upgrades to dated infrastructure…
Abbas ally’s home hit in Gaza bombing, no injuries
GAZA CITY (AFP) 19 Jan — Two explosions hit the Gaza Strip, police said Thursday, including one targeting the home of an official from President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party, without causing casualties. The first blast struck at around midnight in eastern Gaza City outside the home of Nayef Khuweter, a Fatah official in the territory, police and eyewitnesses said. Fatah condemned the attack, saying it would “disrupt” attempts at reconciliation with the Islamist movement Hamas which runs the Gaza Strip.
In a separate incident, a car exploded in Nuseirat refugee camp of central Gaza. The Hamas-led police said they had opened investigations into the blasts, for which there were no immediate claims of responsibility. Hamas has ruled Gaza since a near civil war in 2007 led to the expulsion of Fatah, which runs the West Bank. Tension between the two rival parties has increased in recent weeks against the backdrop of an electricity crisis in Gaza and anti-Hamas protests.
Desalination plant brings relief to Gaza
DEIR EL-BALAH, Gaza Strip (AP) 19 Jan by Fares Akram — International aid workers on Thursday opened a new desalination plant in the Gaza Strip, bringing some relief to a territory where 97 percent of the water is undrinkable. It is the Hamas-ruled territory’s second and largest desalination plant. While it will not solve Gaza’s water woes, officials said the project marked an important step. “Despite the small production, this gives symbolism to Gaza residents that the train of water solution is now on track,” said Monzer Shublaq, director of Coastal Municipalities Water Utility in Gaza. The plant will initially produce 6,000 cubic meters of water a day, a small fraction of Gaza’s needs. In all, the population uses 150,000 cubic meters a day, most of it from a depleted coastal aquifer. The European Union said it invested 10 million euros, or $10.6 million, in building the plant with UNICEF. It has pledged a similar amount for a second phase meant to double capacity by 2019. Robert Piper, the United Nations’ local coordinator for humanitarian and development activities, said that large-scale water and energy projects are urgently needed for Gaza….
Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Settlements
Arab Israeli group vows to rebuild destroyed Bedouin homes
Times of Israel 19 Jan by Stuart Winer, Dov Lieber & staff — Oversight committee plans national demonstration, protest motorcade to Jerusalem, in support of condemned, unregistered Negev village — The High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel decided Thursday on a series of protest actions against the violence and the destruction of homes in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran. A gathering of the oversight committee for the country’s Arab communities met in the Bedouin town of Rahat, deciding on a national demonstration, a rolling protest convoy to the government district in Jerusalem, and the rebuilding of homes already torn down in the community. The committee decided on the measures the day after violent confrontations in the the Negev village of Umm al-Hiran during which a policeman was killed when a vehicle, driven by a local man, ran into cops during pre-dawn clashes with residents. Police had arrived in the community to carry out the court-ordered demolition of buildings and, amid protests that continued throughout the day, 12 homes were leveled. Among the planned measures are a national demonstration that will gather on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. in northern area of Wadi Ara, the committee said. On Monday, a motorcade will start at 9:00 a.m. in the Arab town of Qalansawe in central Israel and from there head to the government quarter in Jerusalem, finishing up at the Knesset building. The committee also vowed to rebuild the homes demolished in Umm Al-Hiran and urged continued protests in Arab towns and villages around the country as well as joint Jewish-Arab demonstrations. Thursday saw the Arab Israeli community hold a nationwide strike over the Umm Al-Hiran dispute at the request of the Follow-Up Committee. The Follow-up Committee has also announced a three-day mourning period for Abu al-Qi‘an, committee chair Mohammad Barakeh told Army Radio Thursday morning….
Israeli forces demolish Palestinian property in Nablus-area village
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 17 Jan — Israeli forces demolished a Palestinian home and an agricultural structure made of metal sheets on Tuesday morning in Khirbet al-Tawil, located in the Jordan Valley on the outskirts of the northern occupied West Bank village of Aqraba. Palestinian official Ghassan Daghlas, who monitors settlement-related activities in the northern West Bank, told Ma‘an that the properties belonged to Ahmad Muhammad Hamdan Bani Fadel. Daghlas said that Israeli forces intended to carry out more demolitions in the area, but were forced to suspend their operation when the Israeli bulldozer broke down … According to the Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem (ARIJ), Khirbet Al Tawil is one of the most targeted areas in the Nablus district, and has been “subjected to a huge number of violations and attacks by the occupation forces.” … The community is also one of dozens of shepherding communities in the Jordan Valley currently under threat of expulsion, according to Israeli NGO B’Tselem. The group says the town is home to 113 permanent residents, including 62 children, and some 100 “seasonal residents,” all who have lived at the site for decades. The group documented in 2014 that Israeli authorities demolished the village’s power grid, which had been donated by the Belgian government….
Israeli settlers damage olive trees near Ramallah-area village
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 18 Jan — Israeli settlers damaged olive trees belonging to Palestinians near the village of Turmusayya in the central occupied West Bank district of Ramallah on Wednesday. Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri said in a statement that 12 trees were damaged, and that the perpetrators had graffitied slogans in Hebrew on nearby rocks, which notably called for “revenge.” Al-Samri added that Israeli police had opened an investigation into the case. Settlers often carry out attacks on Palestinians and their property, known as “price tag attacks.” Many Palestinian activists and rights groups have accused Israel of fostering a “culture of impunity” for Israeli settlers and soldiers committing violent acts against Palestinians. According to Israeli NGO Yesh Din, over 85 percent of investigations into violence committed by Israeli settlers against Palestinians are closed without indictments and only 1.9 percent of complaints submitted by Palestinians against Israeli settler attacks result in a conviction.
Israeli rights group submits complaint claiming land allocated to Amona is Palestinian-owned
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 17 Jan — Israeli rights group Yesh Din submitted a complaint to Israeli civil authorities on behalf of Palestinian landowners who claim that they own four plots of land allocated for the building of alternative housing for residents of the soon-to-be demolished Israeli settler outpost of Amona, Israeli media reported on Tuesday. According to Israeli media outlet Ynet, the complaint states that the land belongs to Palestinian residents of Silwad, who are protected in accordance with the Supreme Court ruling on Amona, which states that the settler outpost would be demolished due to its location on privately held Palestinian land. The Israeli government began building new homes for Amona residents last week, Ynet reported, as part of an agreement with the residents and the Israeli government to provide alternative housing to the settlers. “Once the plots were announced, landowners had 96 hours to petition the location of the designated land in the case that they were, in fact,on private Palestinian land,” Ynet added in their report. Last month, the Israeli Supreme Court accepted the Israeli government’s request to postpone the evacuation of Amona until Feb. 8 in order to to give additional time for the Israeli government to provide alternative housing for its residents. Haaretz reported at the time that the government plan would see the majority of them relocated to a nearby hilltop to lease, claiming that the property had been abandoned by its Palestinian owners….
Analysis // Demolition of Bedouin town destroyed Israeli Arabs’ faith in state
Haaretz 19 Jan by Jack Khoury — The situation really worries the 1.5 million citizens determined to remain on their lands and in their homeland. But it should be of no less concern to anyone who seeks to live a normal life in the State of Israel — The announcement by Israel’s Higher Arab Monitoring Committee of actions it is planning in response to the demolitions in Umm al-Hiran Wednesday and the killing of Yakub Abu al-Kiyan [Yaqoub Moussa Abu al-Qi‘an] was expected, the intended measure familiar from previous incidents — general strikes in Arab communities, a march in Wadi Ara and a convoy from Kalansua [Qalansuwa] to the Knesset. It is the announcement’s last two, additional items that point to the depth of the crisis between Israel’s Arab community and state institutions. The first is a call for schools to devote the first two hours of classes today to a discussion about the incident in Umm al-Hiran, the demolition of homes in Kalansua last week and the housing crisis in the country’s Arab communities. The second calls on the international community to provide protection to Israel’s Arab minority in the face of what the committee calls “the increased aggression of state institutions against Arab citizens at the clear instruction of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and with the support of his government.” … This time, rather than send the students to the streets and perhaps endanger them in superfluous clashes, the committee changed its approach. This time they will teach how the government of Israel and its prime minister, under pressure from the education minister, worked tirelessly to find a solution, in the name of the law, for the land thieves in Amona, but in Umm al-Hiran and Kalansua chose to demolish and destroy, in the name of the same law. This is food for thought for Arab society’s next generation, a lesson in the state’s attitude to one-fifth of its citizens, who are shoved to the margins just because they are Arabs. Nor does anyone believe that the call to the world will be effective, certainly not in the near term … But this call expresses the clear lack of confidence the Arabs have in those meant to be responsible for protecting them as citizens — the government, the Knesset, the Supreme Court and the media. Even the hope that some had pinned on peace groups and nonprofits that advocate for coexistence has been dashed under the bulldozers’ treads….
Israel’s head of building-law enforcement lives in illegal West Bank outpost
Haaretz 19 Jan by Or Kashti & Chaim Levinson — The head of the Finance Ministry department that enforces planning and construction laws lives in an illegal West Bank settlement outpost. Avi Cohen, a lawyer, lives in Palgei Mayim, an outpost of the Eli settlement. Palgei Mayim was established in 2001 and has about 40 homes, some of them mobile homes. No master plan has ever been approved for Eli, because parts of the settlement are built on privately owned Palestinian land. Cohen’s job includes issuing demolition orders for illegal construction inside Israel, though he has no authority over demolitions in the West Bank. He instituted the proceedings that resulted in the state’s bulldozing of 11 homes in Kalansua [Qalansuwa] last week. According to one source, who was speaking on the condition of anonymity, government officials “know not to ask about the state of Cohen’s building permits, because it’s a bombshell.” … On Wednesday, a few hours after Israeli authorities razed 15 buildings in the unrecognized Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran, in the Negev, and just days after the Kalansua demolitions, a source familiar with Cohen’s department said that in recent months, “there’s been a tendency to crack down on building violations in the Arab community. It’s hard to know if this comes directly from the prime minister and the other relevant ministers, or if the bureaucracy sensed the mood and fell in line, but someone’s trying to make a show of force here — to press on the Arab community’s sorest spots. It’s cruel behavior.” Another source attributed the upsurge in demolitions to a desire by both Cohen’s department and the Justice Ministry “to show who’s the boss.” … “A situation in which the system responsible for enforcing building laws is headed by someone living in an outpost demonstrates contempt for the system and Israel’s values,” charged Rabbis for Human Rights.
Palestinian refugees – Lebanon
UN condemns violence in Lebanon refugee camp
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 19 Jan — UNRWA, the UN agency responsible for providing services to Palestinian refugees, condemned armed violence in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh in Lebanon that left a number of civilians injured Sunday evening.
“Recurrent armed violence continues to impact the civilian population in the camp, including children,” UNRWA spokesperson Christopher Gunness said in a statement Tuesday, adding that the shooting injured six people, including one child, “as well as shocking and frightening camp inhabitants.” Among the wounded was an UNRWA staff member, who sustained serious injuries, though Gunness said that current information indicated he had not been deliberately targeted. “UNRWA again calls on all those involved to respect the rule of law, the sanctity of human life and the protection of Palestine refugees, particularly of children,” Gunness said, adding that the UN agency was “significantly concerned about the impact of ongoing armed violence and disturbances” taking place in the camp. UNRWA documented that 5,452 children who attend schools run by the agency missed at least ten days of school over 2016, while two health centers in Ain al-Hilweh operated by UNRWA — that serve an average of 1,100 people daily — had been forced to close for seven days since December due to the violence. A spike in armed violence in Ain al-Hilweh last month left two dead and at least five injured, with UNRWA suspending its operations in the camp as a result….
Weekly report on Israeli human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territory (12-18 January)
PCHR-Gaza 19 Jan — Israeli forces killed 2 Palestinian civilians in the West Bank. 7 Palestinian Civilians were wounded, including a child and woman, in the West Bank. Israeli forces continued to target the Gaza Strip border areas, but no casualties were reported. A military checkpoint established by Palestinian armed groups was destroyed and another civilian was wounded. Israeli forces conducted 60 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank and 3 limited ones into the Gaza Strip. 62 civilians, including 17 children; woman and PLC Member, were arrested in the West Bank. 23 of them, including 13 children and the woman, were arrested in occupied Jerusalem. Israeli forces continued their efforts to create Jewish majority in occupied East Jerusalem. A civilian was forced to self-demolish his house in al-‘Issawiyah village. 5 brothers were forced to self-demolish 8 commercial and agricultural facilities and another civilian to remove 4 containers in al-Mukaber Mount. A livestock and poultry barn was demolished in Ras al-Mukaber Mount neighbourhood. Settlement activities continued in the West Bank. An agricultural road, dwelling and 4 other facilities were demolished in Kherbet Tana, southeast of Nablus. A 172-dunum land was levelled, and 1200 old olive trees were uprooted in ‘Azoun village, east of Qalqilya, for the interest of establishing a bypass road. Israeli forces continued to target Palestinian fishermen in the Gaza Sea. Two fishermen were wounded, 5 others were arrested and two boats were confiscated [Continues with details of these and other events]
Palestinian parties Fatah and Hamas agree to form unity government
MEE/Agencies 17 Jan — The main Palestinian parties on Tuesday announced a deal to form a national unity government prior to the holding of elections, after three days of reconciliation talks in Moscow involving rival groups Fatah and Hamas. “We have reached agreement under which, within 48 hours, we will call on (Palestinian leader) Mahmoud Abbas to launch consultations on the creation of a government” of national unity, senior Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmad told a press conference, speaking in Arabic. Ater the government is formed, the Palestinians would set up a national council, which would include Palestinians in exile, and hold elections. “Today the conditions for (such an initiative) are better than ever,” said Ahmad. The non-official talks in Moscow began on Sunday under Russian auspices with the goal of restoring “the unity of the Palestinian people.” Representatives came from Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other factions.
Palestinians skeptical about Moscow reconciliation deal
Al Jazeera 19 Jan by Alaa Tartir — The news coming from Moscow about the Palestinian unity government is puzzling for the Palestinian people. On the one hand, a decade of failures to implement reconciliation agreements between the two main Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, testifies that business (of rivalry) will remain as usual. For a long time, both Fatah and Hamas showed many signs that they were neither willing nor interested in having a genuine agreement that bridged the intra-Palestinian divide, as the current status quo is convenient for them especially with the absence of any forms of popular local accountability. On the other hand, recent local, regional and global developments pile further pressure on the Palestinian leadership to be more responsive to the aspirations of the people, and more responsible about the damage they are inflicting on the Palestinian struggle for justice and self-determination. Locally, the recent wave of popular protests in Gaza over electricity cuts shocked Hamas, the de facto government ruling the strip. The protests reflected the fragile situation that could explode any time and threaten Hamas’ rule. Meanwhile, Fatah and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank is facing pressure on three fronts….
Hamas and Fatah accuse each other of ‘politically motivated’ arrests
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 17 Jan — Hamas and Fatah accused each other on Tuesday of carrying out “politically motivated” arrests in the besieged Gaza Strip and occupied West Bank respectively. Spokesperson of Fatah in the Gaza Strip Hassan Ahmad said that the Hamas-run security service in the Gaza Strip recently detained “several” members of the Fatah movement, including Fatah’s secretary in central Gaza Said Musbah and member of Fatah’s leadership Rafat Wishah, without providing further details. Ahmad condemned the detention raids, saying that “these arrests and raids continuously carried out by Hamas’ security services are nationally rejected for the negative consequences they have on the brotherly, social, and national relations.” He called for the immediate release of the detainees and for an end to detention raids targeting Fatah members in the Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile, the Hamas movement released a statement in Arabic on its official website saying that Palestinian Authority (PA) security services in the occupied West Bank had carried out “politically motivated” arrests there. In the northern West Bank district of Tulkarem, PA intelligence services detained Qusay Imad from the town of Qaffin on Tuesday morning, while the PA continued to hold Ashraf Fudeh, Abd al-Muti Farhaneh, Akram Atta, Mither Khreis, Raed Qawzah, Ahmad Abd al-Rabbu, Muhammad al-Sruji, and Omar Turk for the third consecutive week, according to Hamas.
Armenian community celebrates Christmas in Bethlehem
[with photos] BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 18 Jan — Armenian Christians celebrated Christmas on Wednesday, as the Armenian patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Nurhan Manougian, visited the Nativity Church in the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem. Scores of Palestinian Armenian Apostolic Christians came to Bethlehem to celebrate the holiday and welcome a procession for Manougian. Bethlehem Mayor Vera Baboun, Bethlehem district Governor Jibrin al-Bakri, and Head of the Palestinian police Alaa al-Shalabi also attended the event, as did members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, heads of security services, heads and representatives of other churches and institutions. Armenian Christians in Palestine who follow the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem celebrate Christmas nearly two weeks after the majority of Armenian and Eastern Orthodox denominations, who mark the holiday on Jan. 6 or 7, and more than three weeks after Western Christians mark Christmas, who celebrate on Dec. 25. The differences in dates of celebration are due to the use of different calendars … Groups of Armenians began moving to Palestine in the fourth century and mainly settled in Jerusalem, where, in the seventh century, they established a patriarchate complex which has since attracted Armenian pilgrims. Thousands of Armenians also arrived fleeing the massacres in the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century, after which many settled in Palestine. According to Armenian sources, some 7,500 Armenians today live in the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel. About 200 live in Bethlehem, 2,000 in the Armenian quarter in Jerusalem and the rest live in Acre, Ramle, Nazareth, and Beersheba.
UN takes aim at calls for Israeli annexation of West Bank
AFP 17 Jan — Calls for Israel to annex parts or all of the Palestinian West Bank risk destroying prospects for peace, the UN envoy for the Middle East warned Tuesday. Some Israeli ministers have called for an annexation of land earmarked to be part of a future Palestinian state and US President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to be ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, has voiced support for such a move. UN envoy Nickolay Mladenov delivered the warning to the Security Council, which met for the first time since the adoption of a contentious resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlements. “In the aftermath of the vote, emotions on the ground have been heightened,” he said. “Calls have been made for the annexation of parts of or the whole of Area C,” which constitutes about 60 percent of the West Bank. “Such divisive positions risk destroying the prospects for peace.” Mladenov called on “all stakeholders” to avoid any unilateral action that would “prejudge a negotiated final status solution.”….
Trump spokesman says of possibility of US embassy in Jerusalem: ‘Stay tuned’
Reuters 19 Jan — President-elect Donald Trump’s spokesman said on Thursday there will be an announcement on whether the United States will move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. “Stay tuned,” incoming White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters, asked about the issue at a briefing the day before Trump takes office. “There’ll be a further announcement on that.” While campaigning for the presidency, Trump pledged to switch the embassy from Tel Aviv, where it has been located for 68 years, to Jerusalem. The proposal drew an outcry from Palestinians and others who said it would kill any prospect for peace. Palestinians view East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state and the status of the city is one of the most sensitive issues in the Israel-Palestinian dispute. The United States and other countries do not regard Jerusalem as Israel’s capital….
Obama warns Trump against ‘sudden’ unilateral moves on Mideast conflict
AFP 18 Jan — President Barack Obama on Wednesday warned his successor Donald Trump against any “sudden, unilateral moves” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in an apparent reference to his plan to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. “The president-elect will have his own policy,” Obama told his final news conference, two days before leaving office. “But obviously it’s a volatile environment. What we have seen in the past is when some unilateral moves are made that speak to some of the core issues and sensitivities of either side, that can be explosive.”
Israel can hide archaeological activity in West Bank, court rules
The Art Newspaper 18 Jan by Lauren Gelfond Feldinger — Israeli excavations in the West Bank and the loan of artefacts discovered there, without Palestinian co-operation or approval, have long rankled with Palestinian heritage experts. Now, a ruling by Israel’s Jerusalem District Court at the end of November further disenfranchises Palestinians, they say. The ruling authorises Israeli archaeologists to dig in the West Bank anonymously and to lend artefacts found on site to Israeli institutions without disclosing these loans. In archaeology publications, Israel has described its West Bank digs as “transparent”. But the Jerusalem District Court rejected most of a petition by human rights and archaeology organisations which argued that Israel is obliged to disclose the full range of its activities in the contested area. After hearing evidence from lawyers representing Israel’s foreign ministry, the court decided that publicising the names of institutions receiving artefacts on loan and locations of storage facilities could “hurt foreign relations” in future negotiations with Palestinians. Representatives of the human rights and archaeology organisations that brought the petition were not permitted to attend the hearing. The ruling also found that revealing the identities of archaeologists working in the West Bank could hurt their opportunities to publish, receive research grants and work with research institutions abroad because of international boycotts. Trying to avoid boycotts does not justify flouting international heritage practices or secrecy that could lead to covert excavations, said the Israeli archaeologist Yonathan Mizrachi of Emek Shaveh, one of the non-governmental organisations that brought the case to court. Accepted practices include publishing all activities and making sure that excavations benefit the local population—in this case, Palestinians, Mizrachi added….
Ghost churches near Jordan River baptism site await reclamation
QASR AL-YAHUD, West Bank (Reuters) 18 Jan by Ori Lewis — Ghost churches on the western bank of the Jordan River, near where Jesus is believed to have been baptised, could be reopened to pilgrims as part of a project to remove booby-traps and land mines. The river banks were once a war zone between Israel and Jordan, and were littered with thousands of mines and unexploded ordnance. The two neighbours made peace in 1994 but it took many years before some mine clearing began. Both claim that the site where John the Baptist and Jesus met is on their side of the river. The Gospel of John refers to “Bethany beyond the Jordan” without further details. In 2002, Jordan opened its site, showing remains of ancient churches and writings of pilgrims down the centuries to bolster its claim. UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site in 2015. The site in the Israeli-occupied West Bank opened in 2011 and has stairs for pilgrims to descend into the muddy river. It has more visitors than the Jordanian site but its churches, mostly built in the 1930s, has remained strictly off-limits. The Halo Trust, a Scottish-based charity that has cleared minefields worldwide and was once sponsored by the late Princess Diana, is looking to raise $4 million to make the western site safe. It says it will need two years to clear the small churches along 100 hectares (247 acres) of land that belongs to the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, and that Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian authorities support the endeavour … Halo says some of the seven abandoned church buildings were boobytrapped by Israel after it captured the West Bank in a 1967 war, making the work for the group’s team of 35 to 40 sappers, mainly from Georgia, more complex….
Jerusalem hospital school offers hope to ill children
OCCUPIED EAST JERUSALEM (Al Jazeera) 19 Jan by Zena Tahhan — For Palestinians living under occupation, achievements that benefit the community are often celebrated as a form of resistance. A new one-classroom school, aptly named “Persistence”, for chronically ill Palestinian children being treated at a hospital in occupied East Jerusalem, is seen as just that: a triumph. The school, the first of its kind in Palestine, has wedged a sliver of hope in an otherwise bleak atmosphere. Here, children suffering from cancer and kidney disease, and who are usually forced to miss out on years of schoolwork, are able to continue their education for free while undergoing treatment. Inside the small classroom, the walls are dotted with children’s posters that read “our future is ahead of us” and “thank you to the best school in Augusta Victoria”. Alongside hang hand-drawn renditions of the Palestinian flag, colourful houses and bird … For the close to five million Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, the importance of the Augusta Victoria Hospital cannot be overstated. It is the only hospital in the occupied Palestinian territories that Israel has permitted to provide radiation therapy for cancer patients. It is also the only hospital offering specialised paediatric kidney dialysis treatment. This means that children from the West Bank and Gaza must spend a considerable amount of time away from their home towns, receiving treatment in Jerusalem….
Palestinians in Latin America unite ‘for Palestine’
17 Jan — Al Jazeera speaks with Ziad el-Aloul, a Palestinian activist, about ways to unite Palestinian diaspora in Latin America — In the first event of its kind, Palestinians in the Chilean capital Santiago participated in a week of events this month, aimed at raising awareness and rallying Palestinians across Latin America. The weeklong project, led by UK-based Palestinian activist Ziad el-Aloul, involved a delegation of journalists and more than 60 community leaders from across the South American continent, as well as members of the Palestinian collective. Chile is home to the largest Palestinian minority outside the Middle East, which numbers approximately half a million. Palestinians make up about 2.5 percent of the coastal country’s 17 million population, and constitute a main element of the state with their hands in major banks, real estate, stock market and the agriculture sectors. Chile was among the first countries to recognise Palestine as an independent, free and sovereign state in 2011. Al Jazeera spoke with el-Aloul to find out more about the purpose of such a mission….
Victims of war crimes in Gaza demand arrest of former Israeli FM upon arrival in Brussels
BDS / BRUSSELS/ 19 Jan — This Monday, January 23rd, 2017, Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time of the Israeli military operation “Cast Lead” in the Gaza Strip between 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009, Tzipi Livni will be arriving in Brussels to participate in a conference in the European Parliament. On 23 June 2010 a group of victims filed a complaint in Belgium with the Federal Prosecutor against certain Israeli civilian and military officials at the time, including Livni, for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the Gaza Strip. The complainants asked the Federal Prosecutor this week for the arrest of Mrs. Tzipi LIVNI when she steps off the plane on her arrival in Belgium on 23 January. The Federal Prosecutor’s Office confirmed that Mrs Tzipi LIVNI would be intercepted by the Federal Judicial Police during her stay in Belgium to be heard and questioned following the complaint lodged against her and that it would ensure the necessary follow-up to this case….
Did war crimes summons force Tzipi Livni to cancel Brussels trip?
EI 19 Jan by Ali Abunimah — Israel’s former foreign minister Tzipi Livni has canceled a visit to Brussels scheduled for next week. The news comes as Belgian prosecutors confirm that Livni was due to be questioned in an ongoing investigation for war crimes. Livni was expected in Brussels on 23 January for a conference at the European Parliament, but she has pulled out citing illness, according to the Belgian newspaper Le Soir. Livni was apparently not too ill to speak to the New York branch of the Israel lobby group the Anti-Defamation League on Wednesday. Israeli officials, including Livni, have a history of cancelling foreign visits if they fear arrest. Thierry Wertz, a Belgian prosecutor, told Le Soir that federal judicial authorities “planned to take advantage of Tzipi Livni’s visit to try to move the investigation forward.” According to Le Soir, Wertz’s comments indicate that prosecutors planned to formally summon Livni for questioning….
Invitations in hand, West Bank settlers head to inauguration
JERUSALEM (AP) 19 Jan by Josef Federman — For nearly 50 years, Israel’s settler movement has been criticized, condemned and ostracized by the international community. But on Friday, they say they will be greeted with open arms as invited guests to President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration. A warm welcome in Washington would be by far the settlers’ greatest accomplishment in terms of gaining international legitimacy, and reflects both the extraordinary nature of the Trump era and their own evolution into a dominant political force in Israel. “I definitely agree that we are now getting the VIP treatment, which is something that we have been working on for many years,” said Oded Revivi, chief foreign envoy of the Yesha Council, an umbrella group representing Israel’s more than 120 West Bank settlements. “You could basically argue that it has taken 50 years, since 1967, to be recognized on such a level for such an event.” Revivi, who is mayor of the fast-growing Efrat settlement near Jerusalem, is leading the delegation on Friday, joined by two other mayors. He said the invite came from a member of Trump’s “first circle” of advisers, but refused to name the person….