Prisoners / Court actions
Palestinian student Kifah Quzmar launches hunger strike under interrogation
IMEMC/Agencies 29 mar — Palestinian university student Kifah Quzmar, in his final year studying business administration at Bir Zeit University, launched a hunger strike on Sunday, 26 March in Ashkelon prison, where he is held shackled and remains under interrogation after 22 days of imprisonment. Quzmar, a popular, well-known student, was seized by Israeli occupation forces on 7 March at the Karameh/Allenby crossing from Jordan as he returned from travel. After denying that he was in their custody for several days, he was then denied access to a lawyer for 19 days. His lawyer, Anan Odeh, was finally allowed to see him on Sunday, 26 March, when his detention was extended by an Israeli military court for eight more days; Odeh reports that his morale and commitment are high and that he is determined to achieve his freedom. No charges or allegations have been made against Quzmar. On Sunday, he reportedly demanded that he be charged with something or released; instead, his interrogation was extended for eight additional days. He has been transferred to four separate prisons and interrogation centers during his 22 days of confinement and has been kept almost continuously shackled throughout that time, subject to “severe and continuous pressure.” In response, he launched a hunger strike and is now on his third day of hunger strike, demanding his release. Quzmar was previously arrested in 2016 by the Palestinian Authority after he posted critical comments about the PA’s arrest of his friend Seif al-Idrissi on Facebook, and was released on bail after widespread Palestinian and international response to his arrest…
Palestinian policeman cleared of murder in Ramallah lynching after 16 years in prison
Haaretz 30 Mar by Yotam Berger — A Palestinian police officer who was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the notorious killing of two Israeli soldiers in 2000 was released on Wednesday, after an Israeli military court vacated his murder conviction in a retrial. The charges against Hatam Faiz Khalil Magari were reduced in the retrial, from murder to assault of a soldier, and failure to prevent a crime. In a plea bargain, he was sentenced to 11 years in prison – time served, in effect, since he had already served 16 years in prison. “The defendant had a small part in the incident” in Ramallah, the judges wrote in their verdict. Magari was arrested in December 2000, two months after Israeli reservists Vadim Nurzhitz and Yossi Avrahami were brutally killed and their bodies savaged by an angry mob, after they drove into the Palestinian West Bank city by mistake. In 2001, Magari was charged with failure to prevent a crime, later amended to a charge of deliberately causing death, equivalent to murder. In 2004 he was convicted of the more serious offense as well as additional, lesser charges, and sentenced to life imprisonment….
Israeli interrogators attempt to strangle Palestinian prisoner
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 29 Mar — Israeli interrogators assaulted an 18-year-old Palestinian prisoner during interrogation, the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) said in a statement on Wednesday. PPS said that Israeli interrogators attempted to strangle Muhammad Ahed al-Khadour while interrogating him in the Russian compound detention center in Jerusalem. Al-Khadour, from the village of Biddu in the occupied West Bank district of Jerusalem, has been detained since March 22. An Israeli court extended his detention until March 30.
PPS: Palestinian prisoner facing medical neglect in solitary confinement
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 29 Mar — The Israeli Prisons Service (IPS) has continued to hold an injured Palestinian prisoner, Mahmoud Amid Nassar, in solitary confinement for nearly two months without providing him with proper medical treatment, the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) reported on Wednesday. A PPS lawyer who visited Nassar in his confinement cell reported that the prisoner had been assaulted four times by IPS officials during his solitary confinement period, adding that Nassar was also assaulted by IPS officials before being transferred to solitary confinement on Feb. 1. According to the lawyer, Nassar was still suffering from pains in his chest, knees and right hand, and has yet to be given proper medical treatment for his injuries. The lawyer also said that Nassar was being held in a cell of a 2 by 3.5 square meter space with a closed window, and a toilet in poor condition. IPS has also banned visits and all forms of communication between Nassar and his family.
Israeli military court postpones court session of sick Palestinian prisoner
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 29 Mar — The Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) reported on Wednesday that an Israeli military court had postponed a hearing for a sick Palestinian prisoner. Head of the legal unit at PPS Jawad Boulos said that the Israeli Ofer military court postponed the court session for Ahmad al-Khasib, 21, to April 3, after his health deteriorated and he had to be transferred to the hospital. According to PPS, al-Khasib has been suffering from thalassemia, a genetic blood disorder. The 21-year-old was detained in November 2016 in the village of ‘Arura in the central occupied West Bank district of Ramallah.
Political poetry as a crime: Inside the surreal trial of Dareen Tatour
+972 Blog 26 Mar by Yoav Haifawi — Arresting someone for publishing a political poem is extraordinary. Having to prove at trial that police mistranslated your poem is nothing short of surreal — It has been nearly a year and a half since Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour was arrested in her home for writing a poem. She spent three months in various prisons, including half a year under house arrest in the town of Kiryat Ono near Tel Aviv. Although she was able to return to her home village of Reineh, near Nazareth, she remains under house arrest as the trial comes to an end. Tatour, 34, was arrested by Israeli police on October 11th, 2015 for a poem she had published on Facebook, along with a number of other Facebook statuses she posted at the height of recent wave of violence in 2015-2016. She was charged with incitement to violence and identifying with a terrorist organization — all because of her poem …
The most blatant contradiction between the two translations was in the following lines: “Do not fear the tongues of the Merkava tank \ The truth in your heart is stronger \ As long as you are rebel in a land \ That has lived through raids but wasn’t exhausted.” The last two verses were translated by the policeman to “As long as you resist in a land \ Long live the Gazawat and will not tire.” The police officer omitted the word “Gazawat,” likely because he could not find the proper translation into Hebrew. In his testimony, Mendel explained that the word was used by Arab tribes at the time of the Jahiliyya (what Muslims call the period before the founding of Islam) to describe attacks on tribes for the purpose of robbery or enslaving women. Tatour’s text clearly uses these lines to refer to the raids that Palestinians are subject to; the police translation, somehow, managed to transform the victim into the aggressor….
Opinion // Separate and unequal: inside Israel’s military courts where the only defendants are Palestinian / Meredith McBride
Haaretz 28 Mar — The UN says Israel’s West Bank justice system, which tries Palestinians exclusively and has reported an almost 100% conviction rate, violates international law. This is what I saw — …In military courts, different rules apply Israel’s military courts differ notably from their civilian counterparts, including the types of acts considered offenses, and the lengths of punishment for an infraction. In military courts, “certain forms of political and cultural expression, association, movement and nonviolent protest, even certain traffic offenses” can be considered crimes, according to Lisa Hajjar in her Courting Conflict: The Israeli Military Court System in the West Bank and Gaza. Under the Israeli penal code, individuals can apply for probation after serving half of their sentence. In the military courts, Palestinians must serve two-thirds of their sentence before applying. Israel has also passed laws allowing Palestinians to be held for 180 days without charges, renewable indefinitely. Over 700 Palestinians are being held without charges or trial, what a UN representative calls an “eight-year high”. Israel is also one of the few countries that allows children to be held under administrative detention. In the military courts, the age of majority is 16, allowing teenagers to be tried as adults, while 18 is the age of majority in Israel. Children in Israel are questioned only by specially trained officers, while in the military courts, officers or members of the Shin Bet security service interrogate minors. When a court has a nearly perfect success rate in prosecuting only one ethnic group, it should not have been surprising that the court officials treated their work so casually….
Violence / Detentions — West Bank / Jerusalem
Palestinian woman shot, killed after alleged attempted stabbing in East Jerusalem
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 29 Mar — Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian woman in the Old City of occupied East Jerusalem on Wednesday afternoon after she allegedly attempted to carry out a stabbing attack, Israeli police said. Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri initially said in a statement that the woman attempted to stab police officers with a pair of scissors at the Old City’s Damascus Gate, only to be “neutralized” by the Israeli forces — a term commonly used by Israeli officials to indicate that an alleged attacker has either been wounded or killed. Moments later, the spokeswoman confirmed that the Palestinian woman had been killed. Al-Samri added that no Israeli officers had been injured in the altercation. The Palestinian Ministry of Health identified the slain Palestinian woman as 49-year-old Siham Ratib Nimr, from East Jerusalem. Al-Samri specified that Nimr was from the northern East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras Khamis, which is cut off from the rest of the city by Israel’s illegal separation wall.
Witness told Ma‘an that the Nimr was walking with her daughter in the entrance to Damascus Gate, and that an altercation occurred once they came close to Israeli police officers. The witnesses said that an Israeli border police officer shot Nimr at point-blank range in the chest and lower extremities, and that Israeli police forcibly prevented an Israeli paramedic from approaching the woman, “leaving her to bleed to death.”The eyewitnesses added that Israeli forces then completely sealed off the area, preventing Palestinians from using the entrance to the Old City.Israeli forces reportedly also assaulted young Palestinian men who were in the area. Israeli media reported that Nimr was the mother of Mustafa Nimr, a 27-year-old Palestinian who was killed by Israeli forces in September during a night raid in the Jerusalem-area Shu‘faat refugee camp….
2 Palestinian youths injured in al-Jalazun shooting transferred to Israeli hospital
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 28 Mar — Two of three seriously injured 18-year-old Palestinians were transferred to a hospital in Israel on Monday evening, medical sources said, four days after Israeli forces opened fire on them in the central occupied West Bank in a shooting that left another teenager dead.
Jassem Muhammad Nakhla, Muhammad Hattab, and Muhammad Moussa Nakhla remained in critical condition, sources at the Palestine Medical Complex in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah — where the youths had initially been treated — told Ma‘an. Immediately following the shooting, the Palestinian Ministry of Health stated that Jassem Nakhla had been shot in the head and foot, while Muhammad Hattab was shot in the abdomen, and Muhammad Moussa Nakhla was shot in the chest, foot and shoulder. Palestine Medical Complex Director Ahmad Bitawi told Ma‘an on Tuesday that two of the young men had been transferred to a hospital in Tel Aviv, while Muhammad Hattab remained in the intensive care unit in the Ramallah hospital.
The Israeli Civil Administration released a statement saying that it had coordinated the transfer of two of the Palestinian youths, accompanied by two Palestinian doctors and an unspecified number of relatives, to the Ichilov hospital in Tel Aviv. A spokesperson for the Ichilov medical center confirmed to Ma‘an that Jassem and Muhammad Nakhla were the two Palestinians who were currently being treated in the Israeli hospital. The Civil Administration added that the two youths were in serious condition, and reiterated contested Israeli army claims that the Palestinians had been “involved in riots” when they were shot. Israeli forces shot at the young Palestinian men, all residents of the al-Jalazun refugee camp in the Ramallah district of the West Bank, in contested circumstances on Thursday, with 17-year-old Muhammad Mahmoud Ibrahim al-Hattab succumbing to his wounds that same evening after being shot in the chest and shoulder….
PA cops rescue IDF soldier who mistakenly entered West Bank village
Times of Israel 27 Mar by Judah Ari Gross — Palestinian security forces rescued an IDF soldier after he accidentally drove into a West Bank village, and residents pelted his truck with rocks, lightly wounding him, the army said. It was not immediately clear what caused the soldier to accidentally enter the village of Sa‘ir, north of Hebron. But once inside, he was surrounded by local residents, who threw stones at his vehicle. Members of the Palestinian Authority’s security services got the soldier to safety and handed him over to the IDF “in collaboration with the Civil Administration,” the army said. The soldier was taken to the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem for medical care, the hospital said. In the past, such incidents occurred due to troops relying on smartphone navigation apps. Last Tuesday, another IDF soldier was lightly wounded when rocks were thrown at his truck, after he and another serviceman mistakenly drove into the Palestinian village of Beit Fajjar in the southern West Bank. In that case, the pair were able to exit the Palestinian village without assistance, meeting up with additional troops nearby….
Israeli commander tells soldiers to reduce use of force against Palestinian protesters
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 27 Mar — An Israeli army commander unveiled a new directive for Israeli forces Monday, issued in an effort to decrease unwanted “reactions” from Palestinians by reducing Israel’s use of weapons to suppress protests in the occupied West Bank, particularly those organized next to Israel’s illegal separation wall. The announcement came as Israeli forces have come under repeated criticism for excessive use of force, as well as lethal methods of crowd control that often result in the injury or death of protesters, amid a backdrop of what critics have called a culture of impunity for Israeli soldiers. In a written statement obtained by Ma‘an, Israeli army commander Roi Sheetrit, responsible for the West Bank’s northern districts, touted the army’s success in refraining from shooting any protesters in the village of Ni‘lin — where Palestinians stage weekly protests against the separation wall and Israeli settlement expansion — since the directive was issued in February.
Not mentioned in the statement was the Israeli army’s violent suppression of a weekly march in the village of Kafr Qaddum this month — also under the commander’s purview in the northern West Bank — during which two Palestinians, including a journalist attempting to cover the protest, were shot and injured. The incident was described by a local activist as an “unprecedented” display of violence in the village, where locals began staging protests every Friday in 2011….
Israeli army abducts 24 Palestinians in the West Bank
IMEMC 28 Mar — Israeli soldiers abducted, overnight and at dawn Tuesday, twenty-four Palestinians, including children and a young woman, during invasions and violent searches of homes in Jerusalem, Hebron, Nablus, Tubas and Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society has reported. The PPS stated that the soldiers abducted twelve Palestinians, all civilian guards of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, in occupied Jerusalem, after invading and ransacking their homes in several parts of the city, and later released one of them … In Hebron, in the southern part of the West Bank, the soldiers abducted Mahmoud Raed Masalma, Ahmad Khaled Abu al-Jammal, 16, Abdul-Rahim Amran al-Atrash, 28, and Abdul-Rahman ‘Ala al-Jabari. In Nablus, in the northern part of the west Bank, the soldiers abducted a young woman, identified as Sojoud As’ad Reehan, in addition to Dirar Sami Thaher, 22, Amir Sweilem, and Ahmad Eid Hindi, 22. In Tubas, in northeastern West Bank, the soldiers also searched homes and abducted a child [minor], identified as Saif Daraghma, in addition to Jamal Rakez Maslamani. In Ramallah, in central West Bank, the soldiers abducted Nasr Adel Barghouthi, 16, Ali Ahmad Barghouthi, 18, and Mohammad Khalil Abu Srour, 18.
Israeli forces detain 11 Palestinians, including 4 minors, in overnight raids
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 29 Mar — Israeli forces detained at least 11 Palestinians, including at least four minors, during predawn raids Wednesday across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, according to Palestinian and Israeli sources, with the Israeli army also claiming to have shut down weapons manufacturing workshops during raids in Hebron.
Northern West Bank The Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) said that three Palestinians were detained from the Nablus district in the northern West Bank, and identified the three as Huthaifa Khater, Khalid Rasmi Edeili, 18, and 17-year-old Amid Ibrahim Edeili. An Israeli army spokesperson confirmed to Ma‘an two detentions from the Nablus district. The spokesperson also mentioned one detention from the village of ‘Aqaba in the Tubas district, also in the northern West Bank. PPS mentioned no detentions from Tubas. Central West Bank & East Jerusalem In the central West Bank, PPS reported that Hamza Fouad Abu al-Hajj was detained from the Deir al-Sudan village in the Ramallah district. Meanwhile, locals in the Salfit district told Ma‘an that overnight, Israeli forces raided Salfit city, as well as the the nearby villages of Kifl Haris, Haris, and Yasuf, in order to carry out training activities. No detentions were reported … PPS added that three “children” were detained from occupied East Jerusalem. The minors were identified as Ibrahim al-Zaghal, 13, Muhammad Shweiki, 16, and Hamdi Jaber, 16….
Cameras are changing the fight against the Israeli occuparion, This is how.
Haaretz 30 Mar by Judy Maltz — Rights groups are equipping volunteers with cameras in an attempt to curb abuses by the Israeli army. Sure enough, the army is responding in kind —Ahmed Tawil had just backed into a parking space in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Wadi Joz when a heated argument erupted between an Israeli police officer and a Palestinian truck driver parked just in front of him. Judging from their loud tones and wild hand gestures, Tawil, a 26-year-old resident of East Jerusalem, sensed things could turn violent. Instinctively, he reached for his smartphone and tapped the video record button. The two-minute clip quickly found its way onto social media and went viral. The footage shows the police officer head-butting the truck driver, slapping him and kneeing him in the groin before lunging at several other Palestinians as they tried to intervene. The police officer has since been suspended and placed under house arrest. But this wasn’t the only video shot last week to spark an outcry over the behavior of Israeli security forces patrolling Palestinian areas … For Palestinians fighting the occupation, the camera has become the weapon of choice. “There is no better tool for nonviolent resistance,” says Issa Amro, the coordinator and cofounder of the grass-roots movement Youth Against Settlements … thanks to new technologies and the widespread availability of filming devices, the army operates today under the assumption that it is no longer possible to cover up things and maintain secrecy. Everything that happens today is out there in the open and reported on in real time.” Under such circumstances, Shai says, the army’s ability to control and manipulate information about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been dramatically curtailed “and has even totally disappeared.” … Fighting cameras with cameras The widespread presence of cameras in the areas under Israeli occupation, Shai believes, induces restraint among the soldiers, many of whom fear ending up like Elor Azaria. At the same time, he notes, the army has begun to equip the soldiers with their own cameras so that when questions arise about the credibility of footage released by the other side, it can rely on its own clips….
Closures / Restriction of movement
Israeli authorities prevent construction of agricultural road in Salfit
SALFIT (Ma‘an) 27 Mar — Israeli authorities prevented workers of the Salfit municipality in the central occupied West Bank on Monday from paving a new dirt road intended to help Palestinian farmers access their agricultural lands in the al-Thahar agricultural area in the northern outskirts of Salfit. Salfit’s mayor Abd al-Karim Fattash told Ma‘an that Israeli troops stormed the area twice while municipality crews were working on the road. “The soldiers coerced workers and crews to stop work, claiming the road is too close to Israel’s separation wall,” which separates Salfit and the illegal Israeli Ariel settlement, Fattash said. Additionally, Israeli authorities claimed the area was part of Area C — the more than 60 percent of the occupied Palestinian territory under full Israeli security and civilian control. Fattash highlighted that when Israeli troops stormed the area the first time, they confiscated a bulldozer belonging to the municipality, which was later returned through coordination with the Palestinian liaison office, under the Israeli stipulation that the bulldozer would not be used to resume work on the road.
Israel continues closure of main road connecting Bethlehem-area villages
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 27 Mar — Israeli forces continued to impose road closures on a main road in the southern occupied West Bank district of Bethlehem for the fifth day in a row on Monday, blockading a route used every day by thousands of commuters from four Palestinian villages. Five days ago, Israeli forces placed rocks and dirt mounds in the middle of a road near the village of al-Khader. Though the closure does not directly affect the residents of al-Khader, the road serves as a main route between the city of Bethlehem and the villages of Husan, Battir, Nahhalin, and Wadi Fukin. Israeli forces have yet to clear the road or provide residents with a reason for the closure.
Grand Mufti: Arrest of Al-Aqsa guards ‘unacceptable’
JERUSALEM (Al Jazeera) 29 Mar by Ibrahim Husseini — The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem says Israel’s detention of Palestinian security guards working at the al-Aqsa compound is “unacceptable” and Israeli police are trying to change the status quo at the holy site. Israeli police detained several guards working at the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem earlier this week after they prevented an Israeli archaeologist from trying to remove a stone from the religious compound. “I believe the Israeli police are trying to impose a new reality and are trying to intimidate the al-Aqsa guards and to stop them from carrying out their duty,” Mufti Muhammad Hussein told Al Jazeera. “That is unacceptable.” The initial confrontation happened on Monday morning after the guards at al-Aqsa intervened when Yuval Baruch, employed by the Israeli Antiquities Authority and escorted by Israeli police, entered the compound and tried to take a stone from a pillar in an underground section of the al-Qibli mosque. A heated argument ensued when one of the guards allegedly noticed Baruch remove a small piece of stone from the pillar and place it in his pocket. Baruch has denied trying to remove it. The antiquities employee was removed from the area by police, but later tried to re-enter the underground Marwani prayer hall. Al-Aqsa guards quickly refused him entry. Israeli police returned to the compound and arrested three guards, according to the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf, a religious trust tasked with managing the al-Aqsa compound. The police later raided the homes of four other guards and arrested them, before detaining another guard on Tuesday. Six guards remained in Israeli police custody as of Tuesday night
Mufti Hussein demanded that Israel respect the status quo that has prevailed since before Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967. While Jews and non-Muslims are allowed to visit the compound, non-Muslim worship is prohibited according to an agreement signed between Jordan and Israel shortly after Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967. The agreement put Islamic Waqf in charge of the compound’s administration. The Mufti added that maintenance and renovation work at the compound are matters dealt with only by the Waqf and Israel has no right to intervene….
Right-wing Israeli lawmaker: Lift ban on politicians’ visits to Temple Mount immediately
Haaretz 28 Mar by Nir Hasson — Lawmaker Yehudah Glick (Likud) has petitioned the High Court of Justice against Prime Minister Netanyahu and other leaders, asking to immediately repeal the ban on MKs visiting Temple Mount. Netanyahu decided on Monday that the prohibition on Knesset members and ministers visiting Temple Mount would be gradually phased out in three months, if security conditions permit it. The petition also targets Interior Minister Arye Dery, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and others. Glick told Haaretz on Tuesday he has no doubt that Netanyahu’s remarks were meant to preempt his appeal. “I am saying something very simple,” he said. “We want to visit Temple Mount, and the police have said for nine months that there are no security considerations preventing this. Anyone visiting the Mount sees that quiet has returned to the place, and political and diplomatic reasons do not justify the continued ban. It is illogical that the whole world can go there, just not MKs.” Glick, who spoke with Haaretz while on his way to the High Court to file his petition, said he would have cancelled his plan had Netanyahu called him and offered to work on a solution together….
Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Settlements
Israeli forces demolish 2 Palestinian homes in Jabal al-Mukabbir
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 29 Mar — Israeli bulldozers demolished two Palestinian homes in Jabal al-Mukabbir in occupied East Jerusalem on Wednesday morning without prior notice, over the pretext that the structures lacked licenses required by Israel’s Jerusalem municipality. The two houses belong to brothers Islam and Imam al-Abbasi. Their two families, comprised of a total of 14 people — including 10 children — were displaced as result of the demolition. Witnesses told Ma‘an that municipality crews and vehicles escorted by dozens of Israeli police raided the al-Salaa neighborhood of Jabal al-Mukabbir, before evacuating the al-Abbasis from their homes and proceeding to raze the buildings to the ground.Islam and Imam’s father, Moussa al-Abbasi, told Ma‘an that the houses were built in 2014 and measured 160 square meters. He said that Israeli authorities had carried out the demolition without prior notice, as the family had presented a request to the municipality to freeze the demolition order, with no response ever received. Moussa added that residents of the al-Salaa neighborhood had presented plans to the municipality over the past few years in an attempt to regularize a master plan for the area, to no avail….
Israeli authorities demolish 2 buildings in East Jerusalem’s ‘Issawiya
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 28 Mar — Israeli authorities demolished two buildings under construction in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of ‘Issawiya on Tuesday morning, local sources told Ma‘an. ‘Issawiya follow-up committee member Muhammad Abu al-Hummus told Ma‘an that Israeli forces were heavily deployed in the neighborhood as bulldozers demolished a house belonging to Ahmad Abu al-Hummus. The construction of the building was almost complete, and the Abu al-Hummus family had been preparing to move into the new home shortly, they said. Israeli bulldozers then demolished another building under construction in the area belonging to the Muheisin family. The Muheisins, according to Abu al-Hummus, started building the home a year ago but stopped construction after building the ground floor, upon receiving a demolition warrant from the Israeli municipality of Jerusalem. Abu al-Hummus said that the municipality had frozen the demolition order on the home, but that the Muheisin family said Tuesday’s demolition came “without prior notice.”….
West Bank: Bethlehem-area residents prevent seizure of their lands as demolitions continue in Jordan Valley
IMEMC/Agencies 29 Mar — Residents of the Bethlehem-area village of Walaja, on Tuesday, confronted Israelis who came to their land and marked it in preparation to take it over, according to Hasan Breijieh, an activist with the anti-settlements, anti-wall committee in Bethlehem. Breijieh told WAFA correspondents that staff from an Israeli company known as Yoel, accompanied by soldiers and staff from the so-called absentee department in the settlements of Beit El and Etzion, as well as the head of the Israeli land authority, came to an area of the village and put marks on land in preparation to seize more than 600,000 square kilometers of land in that area. Palestinian owners of the land confronted the Israelis and showed them deeds which proved their ownership of the land, while Israeli occupation authorities said they were going to take over land upon which, it claims, its owners were absent.
Meanwhile, Israel continues to demolish Palestinian homes in the Jordan Valley, in an attempt to reduce Palestinian presence there, according to officials. The Israeli army demolished three structures that were still in the building stage in the al-Matar area, east of Jericho, under the usual pretext that they were built without a permit….
Israeli settlers dismantle own structures illegally set up on Palestinian land
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 30 Mar — Israeli settlers dismantled structures they had built on Palestinian lands in the central occupied West Bank on Wednesday afternoon. According to Palestinian residents of the area, the structures — seemingly an attempt to build an illegal settlement outpost — were first set up by Israeli settlers two weeks earlier on lands belonging to the villages of Kafr Malik and al-Mughayyir east of Ramallah. At least one Israeli settler had seized tens dunams of land in the area and brought thousands of sheep to graze there under the protection of Israeli soldiers, locals added. The head of al-Mughayyir local council, Faraj al-Nasaan, said that Israeli bulldozers dismantled the settler structures on both villages’ lands. An official source told Ma‘an that the settlers had received demolition warrants for having built without Israeli-issued permits, and that the settlers had dismantled the structures themselves. The incident occurred less than a week after Israeli forces shot and injured at least 12 Palestinians during a demonstration denouncing the settlers’ illegal seizure of Kafr Malik and al-Mughayyir lands.
How are Palestinians resisting Israel’s settlement law?
KHARBATA, Occupied West Bank (Al Jazeera) 19 Mar by Nigel Wilson — Tawfiq Abu Hadawa, 78, sits behind a sturdy desk, surrounded by the trappings of a life in local government. As the head of Kharbata Bani Harith village council, he eagerly recalls his previous life as a farmer. “In the winter, we planted wheat and barley. In the summer, we gathered the crops. For the rest of the year, we used it for cattle,” he says. Abu Hadawa had inherited 15 dunams, or 1.5 hectares, [or almost 4 acres], of agricultural land from his grandfather to the west of the village. But in the early 2000s, Abu Hadawa lost access to the land, when Israel began construction of the separation wall in the occupied West Bank. The section of the wall close to Kharbata village was completed in 2005 and Abu Hadawa has not returned to the land since then. “For us, having the land meant having everything. We had wheat and vegetables. The cattle meant cheese and milk. Before, if we needed flour, we had it. If we needed milk, we had it. Losing the land meant losing the way of life that came with it,” he says. The council chief is among hundreds of Palestinians from the village and neighbouring villages prevented from using their inherited lands over the past three decades when parts of the villages’ lands were contentiously seized by Israel as state property. Kharbata and its neighbouring Palestinian villages are among the 16 councils that have petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court against the so-called “regulation law”. Passed in February, the law would retroactively legalise Israeli settlements built without permits on privately owned Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank….
Opinion // Israel’s City of David: a tourist attraction concealing a violent enterprise / Yuval Evri
Haaretz 25 Mar — The Jerusalem site draws an imaginary line between Zionist nationalism and Jewish sovereignty in the Bible. It wipes out the history of the land and its Arab inhabitants — The City of David in Jerusalem is a success story. Every year more than 400,000 schoolchildren, soldiers, students, tourists and whole families flock, coupons in hand, to the place “where it all began.” … The website of the Ir David Foundation (also known as Elad) is an invitation to an exciting experience: gravity-defying leaps between historical eras and interactive tours, not to mention offers of attractive prices … The presenter skips among times and spaces. By leaps and bounds he goes from the largely Arab Silwan neighborhood, where the City of David sits, back to the end of the 19th century, when Jews moved outside the Old City walls. Then it’s further back in time – to the days of King David. His narrative creates a continuum of Jewish time and space, from the biblical Jewish kingdom to the Israeli republic … But despite the considerable effort to wipe them off the map and bury their past, it’s hard to ignore the people who live near the archaeological site and the homes of the Jewish newcomers with their guard towers. Arabs have been living for hundreds of years in Silwan. The story of the City of David is the story of the eradication of Silwan. The popular tourism site conceals a violent project of taking over public and private space and robbing the inhabitants of their homes … For many years Yosef Meyuhas, whom Elad has co-opted as a symbol, chided the Jews’ arrogance and alienation regarding the indigenous Arabs. Meyuhas was one of the most important translators and documenters of Palestinian Arab culture into Hebrew … His most important work is the trilogy “Children of Arabia” (1927-1929), a compendium of translations of Bible stories from the local Arab oral tradition. Meyuhas proposed an unusual analysis of the relationship between the biblical text, the Arab inhabitants and the physical space of the land, and presented a political alternative to the doctrine that is still accepted in the Zionist narrative….
Photos: Memorial ceremony for Mazen Fuqaha in Gaza
MEMO 28 March — photos by Mustafa Hassona of the Anadolu Agency
Continuing access restrictions by the de facto authorities in Gaza add to humanitarian concerns
UN OCHA 29 Mar — In the aftermath of the killing of a Hamas member on 24 March in Gaza City by unknown assailants, the Palestinian de facto authorities in Gaza are imposing new access restrictions, citing security reasons, which are negatively impacting already vulnerable sectors in Gaza. These restrictions are taking place before the upcoming Israeli national and religious holidays when the opening hours of the Israeli-controlled passenger and goods crossings are normally reduced. Beginning on 26 March, the de facto authorities began limiting the entry and exit of people through the ‘Arba-‘Arba checkpoint – which controls access to the Erez Crossing between Gaza and Israel. Although entry was restored on the afternoon of 26 March for Gaza ID holders and the next morning for others, restrictions on exits via ‘Arba-Arba remain in place. This has further reduced the already small number of Palestinians in Gaza permitted to leave through Erez due to pre-existing Israeli-imposed restrictions. The total volume of travelers passing through ‘Arba-‘Arba and Erez has declined significantly this week, given the uncertainty surrounding the possibility of departure. In this context, Gaza’s main water and sanitation utility reported that the implementation of large infrastructure projects has been disrupted, as international consultants leading these projects have cancelled their visits. The ‘Arba-‘Arba exit restrictions are particularly affecting patients who have been referred for medical treatment outside Gaza, primarily in East Jerusalem and Israel. On 26 March, none of the 71 patients approved by Israel was allowed to leave through ‘Arba-‘Arba. Restrictions were eased the following day for female patients, but male patients and their companions between 15 and 45 years of age continue to be denied passage. So far, according to the World Health Organization, 79 patients have missed their appointments. These patients will have to reschedule their appointments and operations, and re-start the lengthy permit application process with the Israeli authorities, raising concerns about possible deterioration in the medical condition of the most vulnerable patients….
Gaza: Israel’s war drums are getting louder
GAZA (Al Jazeera) 29 Mar by Tareq Baconi — On Friday, a senior member of Hamas’s military wing, Mazen Faqha, was assassinated in the Gaza Strip by armed gunmen. It was an assassination tactic not seen in Gaza for at least a decade … The timing and the tactic of Faqha’s killing raise questions about the possibility of another conflagration between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Palestinian factions in Gaza agree unanimously that Israel was behind the assassination. Israel had accused Faqha of planning attacks against it from the occupied West Bank while he lived in the coastal enclave. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied involvement. Faqha’s assassination comes at a critical time. Hamas recently elected Yahya Sinwar as its leader within the Gaza Strip. Sinwar is a senior military figure within Hamas, and is often described as a hardliner and an ideologue. Having replaced Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’s soft-spoken Gaza-based political leader, analysts began speaking of a shift in power within Hamas. They speculated that Hamas’ military wing and its constituency in Gaza was strengthening its influence on the group’s decision-making at the expense of the seemingly more pragmatic political wing as well as its external constituency. Concluding that Sinwar’s election has moved Hamas towards a more intransigent military stance is premature. For one thing, the movement-wide elections are still ongoing. Ismail Haniyeh and Musa Abu Marzouk are both competing for the top job to replace Khaled Meshaal. Both these leaders are likely to maintain Meshaal’s track record of diplomatic engagement. Hamas still operates a Shura (consultative) system, which ensures there is room to counterbalance intransigent voices….
Israeli forces open fire at agricultural lands in Gaza
GAZA (WAFA) 28 Mar – Israeli occupation forces on Tuesday opened gunfire at Palestinian agricultural lands near Khan Younis, south of Gaza Strip, local sources said. There were no reports of casualties, however. The Israeli army regularly opens fire on Palestinians along the border areas, which Israeli has unilaterally declared as a buffer zone. According to a report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the occupied Palestinian territories, Israeli forces opened warning or direct fire at Palestinians present in, or approaching the Israeli-imposed Access Restricted Areas (ARA) on land and sea in Gaza, on at least 52 occasions between January 24 and February 6.
Ex-Egyptian official calls for water trenches along Gaza border
MEMO 27 Mar — A former Egyptian intelligence official called for digging a water barrier on the border with Gaza to combat extremists. In a televised interview, former Assistant Director of Egyptian Military Intelligence, Naji Shuhud, said terrorist elements operate in the areas close to the Gaza Strip. “Terrorism is trying to change the identity of Sinai.” He added that there has been a marked decline in terrorist activities in recent months, and terrorist elements have begun to flee into the mountains.” Adding that the border with Gaza should have a water barrier running along it to stop smuggling and the movement of “terrorist cells”. Shuhoud emphasised the role of Bedouin tribes in the Sinai Peninsula to the fight against terrorism in the Sinai Peninsula. The northern Sinai Peninsula has suffered a number of terrorist attacks since Egypt’s first democratically President Mohamed Morsi was ousted in a 2013 military coup.
Israel delays cancer treatment for Gaza children
EI 28 Mar by Sarah Algherbawi — Jihad is a boy with ambitions. “I want to grow until I become an astronaut and an engineer,” the 9-year-old said. “At the same time.” Before he could achieve those goals, Jihad would have to recover from a major illness. About a year ago, he was diagnosed with cancer of the colon. The diagnosis was made after he had been taken to hospital with food poisoning. For his family, the news was the latest in a series of tragedies. Jihad’s twin brother was born with severe disabilities and died after just two months. “I was so happy when the doctor told me I was pregnant with twin boys,” Jihad’s mother, Majda Ali, said. “I started to dream about how I would be mother to a doctor and an engineer. The dream has been destroyed.” Majda does not know the cause of Jihad’s cancer. She fears, however, that it may have something to do with how she was exposed to a considerable amount of dust from buildings bombed by Israel during Operation Cast Lead, the attack on Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009. What she does know is that Jihad requires urgent treatment. He has been referred to specialists working in Jerusalem. It is not clear when – or even if – Israel will allow him to travel. Rates of cancer are rising in Gaza. Health ministry officials have estimated that there were 105 cases of cancer for every 100,000 residents in Gaza for 1998-2008. For 2009-2014, that had increased to 141 cases per 100,000 residents, 41 percent more than in the previous period … More than 15 percent of all cancer patients requiring surgery are recommended to travel outside Gaza, according to Thabet. Referrals are made to hospitals in Israel, the occupied West Bank, Egypt and, in some cases, to Jordan and Turkey. Israel frequently obstructs efforts to ensure that cancer patients receive the treatment they require. In some urgent cases, Israel has blocked patients from traveling for periods of three or four months, Thabet added….
UK medical team carries out special training in Gaza
IMEMC/Agencies 29 Mar by Riham Shehada for Days of Palestine — A British surgical team has launched a medical training program for Palestinian doctors working in the hospitals of the Gaza Strip. The team, from the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh (RCSEd), arrived in Gaza on Friday to implement the training at Al-Shifa Hospital, the main and largest hospital in Gaza. It is worth mentioning that the Palestinian Ministry of Health signed a memorandum of understanding to train its staff with its British partner, Medical Aid for Palestine (MAP-UK), at the beginning of this year. Director General of Human Resources in the Ministry, Dr. Rami Abdullah said that the Palestinian medical staff is to have training on the general basic skills of surgeries and, specifically, on laparoscopic surgeries. He added: “The ministry has saved no efforts to bring this program to light, which would not be possible without the steadfast support from the RCSEd.” Trainees will be exposed to new devices and medical equipment and learn how to cope with the new medical technology, in addition to receiving advanced curriculum. Leader of the British team, Dr. Ahmed Shafi, a consultant surgeon, hailed the deep commitment of the Palestinian doctors, who rely solely on their skills to save lives of patients amid the difficult crises ensued by the 10-year Israeli siege on the region. Moreover, he praised the warm hospitality and the strong collaboration with the Palestinian doctors in Gaza, over past years.
Gaza real estate sector on the rise
Gaza City (Al-Monitor) 28 Mar by Rasha Abou Jalal — The real estate sector in Gaza is booming in light of a fast-rising population and a small surface area, but will this spur benefit the government?– The real estate and residential construction sectors in the Gaza Strip are experiencing an economic recovery. After sustaining huge losses in the industrial sector following the 2014 Israeli war on Gaza, investors and others with capital are now investing sums significant enough to make these sectors the most profitable in Gaza, which is still reeling under a crippling economy stemming from the 10-year-long and ongoing Israeli blockade. Osama Kahil, the Gaza-based head of the Palestinian Contractors Union, told Al-Monitor that the demographic increase in Gaza coupled with a halt in domestic factory production due to the blockade and successive Israeli wars on Gaza have led investors to pour their money into the construction of residential towers. According to statistics released by the Interior Ministry in Gaza Jan. 18, the population at the end of 2016 stood at 2,015,064 people. A July 2016 press release from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics had put the population density at 5,154 persons per square kilometer. Gaza covers an area of 365 square kilometers (141 square miles)….
Imminent anti-monopoly move angers some Gaza traders
GAZA CITY (Al-Monitor) 28 Mar by Ahmad Abu Amer — A controversial move designed to combat monopolies is about to take effect in the Gaza Strip. Proponents say the change will cut prices for consumers, while opponents warn it will open the door to commercial fraud and counterfeit goods. In October, the Ministry of National Economy in the Gaza Strip gave traders six months to sell their goods as a preliminary step toward abolishing all exclusive commercial trading licenses. The law, which takes effect April 1, is designed to level the playing field for all importers, open the door to market competition and curb rising prices in favor of consumers. Tariq Labad, the spokesman for the Hamas-run Ministry of National Economy, explained that prices are expected to fall 20-50% on many consumer goods. “There are 40-50 commercial licenses in the Gaza Strip and their holders import goods from abroad, while some of them manipulate prices in light of the Israeli siege imposed on Gaza,” he said, stressing that his ministry’s main objective is to protect the consumer. However, Ahmed Abu Shaaban, exclusive agent of Israel’s Tambour paints in Gaza, said the ministry’s decision will hurt his business, which he has been developing for years. He told Al-Monitor he provides all goods related to paints at suitable prices for the consumer….
Gaza military court sentences two to death for drug offenses
GAZA CITY (Al-Monitor) 29 Mar by Ahmad Abu Amer — In the first ruling of its kind since the creation of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in 1994, a military court in Gaza City sentenced two Palestinians convicted of selling drugs to death on March 18. The court condemned others convicted of the same charges to prison with hard labor. The sentences were welcomed by many Palestinians but slammed by human rights groups. According to the charge sheet published by the Ministry of Interior, based on intelligence received, the Palestinian Anti-Narcotics Department arrested the two while in possession of large quantities of drugs they had smuggled across the Gaza Strip’s southern border. A 2013 law on psychotropic substances allows for the execution of drug dealers in the Gaza Strip. The head of the military court, Nasser Suleiman, told journalists on March 18 that those condemned to death had previous convictions of drug dealing but had committed the same crime again, meaning that the previous punishments had not deterred them. He said the military court was hearing 30 cases of drug dealing. The cases had been heard previously by civilian courts, but three months ago, they were transferred to the military court as drugs are considered a threat to public security. As the crimes involve smuggling through the border areas, said Suleiman, they should be under the control of the National Security Forces….
Drugs and delusions in despondent Gaza
Haaretz 28 Mar by Amira Hass — When despair mounts in the beleaguered Strip, addiction spreads — either to opioids or to dreams of waging a holy war — There is a direct connection between the recent death sentences handed down to two men for drug trafficking in the Gaza Strip and the arrest of hundreds of Salafi activists there. The death sentences attest to the local authorities’ growing concern over the increasing number of people using drugs, and the growing power and boldness of those who peddle them. The arrests reflect the authorities’ fears that more youths will “leak” out of the ranks of Hamas into self–described purist religious groups pushing for a military confrontation with Israel. The two groups attest to the extent to which daily life in Gaza has become intolerable. One is addicted to Tramadol, the other to militarization of religion. Both groups are drifting into the realm of fantasy, both are despairing of the chances to improve their horrible reality. Religion and faith in Allah bolster the Palestinian public as it deals long–term with the Israeli regime of organized sadism, but that does not mean everyone all the time. When the frustration and helplessness and despair overpower the support embedded in the verses of the Koran and the joint prayers in the mosques, some individuals turn to addictive painkillers and hashish, while others are helped by harboring delusions of launching a new military campaign that will pave the way to the springs of paradise….
A heartbroken Gaza father has one simple request for Israel
JERUSALEM (Le Monde, English ed. via Worldcrunch) 27 Mar by Piotr Smolar — He has the powerful, tireless voice of a man who would not stop knocking on a door until someone eventually opens up. And yet, for the past eight years, Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish has been met with the silence of indifference from the other side. What he’s asking for is both a lot and not much at all: an apology. He wants a formal apology from the Israeli government for the death of three of his daughters — Aya, Mayar and Bissan — and of his niece Noor in the bombing of his family home, in Gaza, in January 2009. He is not motivated by hatred, nor by a lust for revenge but by the unrelenting will to seek honor and justice for his beloved children. “We will never be numbers,” he said at a press conference in Jerusalem a few days ago. “We are human beings, with dreams, with a future, with projects. The guilty party knows who it is. It must have the courage to admit its responsibility, as we’ve had the courage to refuse to be victims … .”
Now, to obtain the acknowledgment of the immense damage he’s endured, Dr. Abuelaish has decided to sue the Israeli government. The lawsuit, filed at the end of December 2010, finally saw its first court hearing on March 15. The next one will take place at the end of the month and would include testimonies of witnesses, among them two of the victims’ sisters, provided the Israel authorities allow them to leave Gaza. Three days before the first hearing came a dramatic turn of events. The army added a ballistics study to the case’s dossier that noted that a shell fragment found on one of the victims wasn’t Israeli made. This, according to the IDF, would imply that the family home contained a cache of weapons. “The army is lying time and time again,” said the Palestinian doctor’s lawyer, Hussein Abu Hussein, with a sigh. “At first, they said that the house hadn’t been targeted. Then they said that there were snipers on the roof. And now, years later, they invent Palestinian munitions.” The grieving father, now 62, has another way of putting it. “They’re blind and deaf. But a patient will never be cured if he doesn’t acknowledge that he’s a patient and that he needs treatment….
Gaza’s first girl drummer: ‘I will never give up on my dream’
[with short video] GAZA STRIP (MEE) 20 Mar by Mousa Tawfiq — There is no doubt that the young woman believes in her talent. As she confidently heads into the drum room at Sayed Darwish music school in Gaza, Nana Ashour, Gaza’s first girl drummer, brushes her curls away from her eyes. Before her drumsticks strike their first beat with the help of her teacher, the 16-year-old politely greets everyone around her. “Playing drums in a concert is a dream for me,” Ashour said. “I keep imagining the moment when I will stand on stage and see people’s reaction as they watch a girl playing drums.” … Though she has had much support, Ashour has also faced a lot of criticism. One of these challenges has been from within her own circle of friends that accused her of disrespecting culture and traditions. “Some of them don’t talk with me anymore,” she said. Negative criticism has also been from peers and their parents alike, with some saying that they did not believe it was even happening in Gaza. “Is this in Gaza? This girl should be [studying] at school,” one complained. Others said girls learning music was haram (forbidden) in Islam. “This is not acceptable in Islam,” while another said: “Why is she playing music? She doesn’t wear hijab!” To some, the sole fact that they have been living under Israeli siege since 2007 means that any joy should be avoided. “We live in woes, while these kids play music and dance?” according to one. Yet fortunately, Ashour’s parents and family have been very supportive and have encouraged her to pursue her talent….
Family of Israeli soldier lost in Gaza turns to court for information
MEMO 28 Mar — The family of the Israeli soldier Oron Shaul, who was lost in Gaza during Israel 2014 assault on the Strip, yesterday appealed to the High Court to get information on his death, the Safa news agency reported. Zehava Shaul and Aviram Shaul, the soldier’s mother and brother, filed the appeal at the High Court against Israeli army chief of staff, the head of the army Manpower Directorate and the chief military rabbi who were in charge at the time of the attack on Gaza. Two months ago, the Shaul family asked the army for the information about his death and the procedures surrounding the court’s sessions to announce his death. The request was denied. In the appeal, the family called for the Israeli officials to be brought before the court to inform them why they did not hand over documents and protocols regarding his death to the family. They accused the army of ignoring their suffering. Al-Qassam Brigades announced on 20 July 2014 that it had arrested Shaul in an ambush to the east of Gaza City.
Abbas demands Britain apologize for Balfour Declaration
Haaretz 29 Mar by Jack Khoury — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on the Arab states to endorse the Palestinian position on statehood and demanded the United Kingdom apologize for granting the Balfour Declaration. Abbas, who spoke at the Arab League summit in Jordan, said Britain should not celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, which supported the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Mandatory Palestine, but rather apologize to the Palestinians.
PA opens nominations for local elections amid ongoing opposition by political factions
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 28 Mar — The Palestinian Authority (PA) Central Elections Commission (CEC) announced on Tuesday the opening of nominations for the 2017 local elections, despite ongoing opposition to the elections by a number of Palestinian political factions. The CEC said in a statement that it would receive nomination applications for electoral lists through its offices across the 11 districts in the occupied West Bank beginning Tuesday and until April 6. The statement detailed specific guidelines for the applications, and explained that the nomination of candidates would be made within electoral lists on the basis of proportional representation, and that political parties, coalitions, or groups were entitled to form lists for the purpose of nomination to the membership of Local Authorities Councils. The voter registration process for local elections was completed earlier in March.
However, after the Fatah-dominated PA announced the elections at the end of January would be scheduled in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Hamas — the de facto ruling party of Gaza — promptly rejected the plan, saying that elections should only take place after the more than decade-long rivalry between Hamas and Fatah came to an end and reconciliation was achieved. The Islamic Jihad movement joined Hamas in the boycott, and more recently, the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine suspended its participation in elections in protest of the violent repression of recent demonstrations at the hands of PA security forces in the occupied West Bank….
Report: PA police used unjustified force against protesters
MEMO 29 Mar — A commission of inquiry established to investigate peaceful protests in the occupied West Bank earlier this month – when Palestinian police assaulted protesters and smashed equipment belonging to journalists covering the events – found that security forces violated regulations and acted disproportionately at a Ramallah sit-in. However, the same commission determined that security forces acted with “a high level of self-control” at a protest near Bethlehem, when live fire was used on locals, and called for an investigation into protesters’ actions.
Demonstrators had first gathered in front of the Ramallah magistrate’s court on 12 March during a hearing into an ongoing case against Palestinian activists charged by the Palestinian Authority (PA) with weapons possession and planning an attack on Israel – despite the fact that four of them are held in Israeli prison and one, Basel Al-Araj, was shot dead by Israeli forces the previous week. A similar protest held later the same day in Duheisha refugee camp in the southern occupied West Bank was also violently suppressed. The case against the activists has been denounced by Palestinians for typifying the PA’s security coordination with Israel, which has been described by critics as a “revolving door policy” funneling Palestinians from PA jails into Israeli prisons.
Following outrage over the police brutality, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in his capacity as interior minister ordered the establishment of a commission of inquiry into the events in both cities, which was appointed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. In the wake of the protests, PA security forces spokesman Adnan Al-Dmeiri also accused “mercenaries” and “foreign agents” of sparking the clashes to cause internal Palestinian strife, and called the protests “cheap incitement”. “There was excessive use of tear-gas bombs, with no consideration of the nature of the area [in which the sit-in took place], which is crowded with schools.”
“The manner in which [the tear gas] was used – in some cases being fired horizontally and directly at protesters – was dangerous and violated principles of using tear-gas,” the report said. The commission recommended that the Interior Ministry issue instructions regarding the appropriate use of tear gas and taking the nature of the area and people into account.
Drug cultivation, trafficking on the rise in West Bank
RAMALLAH (Al-Monitor) 29 Mar by Ahmad Melhem — Despite increased efforts to counter it, drug cultivation and trafficking has increased in the West Bank in the first quarter of 2017 compared to previous years — The Palestinian police said that it seized different types of drugs worth 60 million Israeli shekels ($16.5 million) in the various provinces between the beginning of January and mid-March. Speaking to Al-Monitor, Palestinian police spokesman Lt. Col. Luay Irzikat said that drug cultivation and trafficking has increased in the West Bank in the first quarter of 2017 compared to previous years. He said, “The confiscated drugs in 2016 are worth 5 million shekels [roughly $1.40 million], which is a small amount compared to the first quarter of 2017. This indicates that investments increased in this field.” On Feb. 27, the Palestinian police conducted the largest anti-drugs crackdown in its history, in Dura, south of Hebron in the southern West Bank. Police discovered a drugs farm and nursery, and a four-story factory that is fully equipped to produce illegal drugs. According to Irzikat, seeds were grown using advanced techniques such as the appropriate lighting, fertilizers and chemicals for the production of drugs. He noted, “The factory in Dura belongs to a Palestinian drug trafficker hailing from the city of Beersheba, inside the Green Line, who funds and provides the factory with equipment. Those arrested during the crackdown are from the West Bank. The general prosecution is currently investigating them, but the drug lord is still a fugitive inside the Green Line.”….
How junkyard cars from Israel have become deadly Palestinian treasures
QATANEH, West Bank (WaPo) 29 Mar by Ruth Eglash — There’s nothing unusual about Abu Abdullah’s white Ford Fiesta, at first glance. It’s a little beat-up and the tires are bald, but it’s a fine vehicle for a young man working in construction. But take a closer look. The 1993 four-door hatchback, which cost Abu Abdullah just $250, has Israeli license plates, a little out of place in a Palestinian village like this. On the back, there is an array of Hebrew bumper stickers, some with Israeli political slogans and even one dedicated to a long-dead Jewish spiritual leader — more signals that something is awry. Finally, the plain little car is conspicuously missing its road-tax sticker for this year. The last one on the windshield is from 2015. It’s clear: The car is a “mashtub.” The Arabic word literally means scrap, but these days, in West Bank slang, it refers to a car once owned by an Israeli citizen. The car could have been stolen from Israel, but it’s more likely to have been deemed not roadworthy and consigned to be demolished or sold for scrap. Somehow, it never made it to the scrap yard or the crusher and has instead ended up in the West Bank, part of an illegal secondhand-car industry flourishing here in rural Palestinian villages. “Everyone I know drives a mashtub,” said Abu Abdullah, using his traditional Arab nickname for fear of arrest. “We live on a mountainside. We can’t very well walk back and forth. And these are the only cars we can afford.” Israeli and Palestinian authorities say thousands of mashtub cars are being used in the West Bank. The problem has existed for years but has recently assumed a new urgency for both sides; despite the gulf between them on other issues, they appear as one in their determination to stamp it out. For the Israelis, whether the police or the soldiers who patrol the West Bank, the cars are a problem because they are increasingly being used in terrorist attacks on Israeli targets. According to Col. Roman Goffman, army commander of the brigade responsible for the West Bank area south of Jerusalem where numerous attacks have taken place in the past 18 months, 90 percent of such incidents across the territory have involved these illegal cars. For the Palestinian police, the mashtub cars are a headache because they often wind up being used in criminal acts in Palestinian Authority areas. Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah launched a campaign several months ago designed to crack down on them. In both scenarios, because the cars no longer officially exist and are not registered to any individual, they are impossible to track. They are the perfect getaway cars. Then there is their role in auto fatalities….
Palestinian government hopes ancient shrine can lure in tourists
GAZA CITY (Al-Monitor) 27 Mar by Entsar Abu Jahal — The bidding results for parties who would operate the Tomb of the Prophet Moses (Nabi Musa) near Jericho are expected to be announced March 28, according to the Religious Endowments and Affairs Ministry. The Palestinian Tourism Ministry launched restoration and rehabilitation activities of the tomb Feb. 26 in cooperation with the Religious Endowments Ministry, which owns the shrine. The works aim to turn the site into a hotel destination and attract more tourists. The shrine consists of three floors, a sanctuary that includes a mosque and what some believe to be Moses’ tomb, corridors, horse stables and guest rooms. The two ministries are bent on operating the shrine for the first time in the framework of a partnership between the public and private sectors, by turning the deserted guest rooms into hotel rooms and by welcoming guests, opening a restaurant in the corridors, and by establishing two meeting halls, workshops and an interactive museum in the surroundings. This would help preserve the shrine’s religious, historical and cultural value, and at the same time increase the number of tourists to the Palestinian territories and help revive the economic situation. Jihad Yassin, the general director of museums and excavation at the Tourism and Antiquities Ministry and coordinator of the restoration project, told Al-Monitor, “The Prophet Moses shrine is one of the most important in the Palestinian territories because it is a pillar of Islamic heritage and history, cultural and national identity, and global heritage. It was built during the Ayyubid era , and then it was renovated and remodeled in the Ottoman era in 1820.” Moses is revered by Judaism, Christianity and Islam … Yassin said the shrine is on the road connecting Jericho and Jerusalem and covers a surface area of around 4,500 square meters (roughly 1 acre). He denied claims that the shrine was named after Moses because his remains are buried there; he said the shrine aims only at honoring Moses….
Hamdallah denounces Israeli control of Palestinian water resources
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 29 Mar — Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah denounced Israel’s policies affecting Palestinians’ access to water during a speech on Wednesday, calling on the international community to intervene in improving access to safe, clean water in the occupied Palestinian territory and Gaza. In his speech, intended to commemorate International Water Day which occurred a week earlier on March 22, Hamdallah said that Israel was using its control of water resources to “apply pressure on the Palestinian people” and attempt to erode the economic and social fabric of the Palestinian community, as well as to obstruct the establishment of a viable independent Palestinian state. Hamdallah added that the Palestinian Authority (PA) had prioritized the issue of water and established a water committee which he claimed would enable the PA to work on water infrastructure projects in the occupied West Bank, including in Area C — the 60 percent of the West Bank under complete Israeli military control. Hamdallah was seemingly referring to the Palestinian-Israeli Joint Water Committee (JWC), whose activities resumed in January after a years-long PA boycott over its imbalance of power, which has allowed Israel to consistently veto developments in Palestinian water infrastructure….
Israel is world’s leading practitioner of water apartheid
EI 29 Mar by Adri Nieuwhof — Israel markets its water expertise as an agent of change internationally but uses water as a weapon of war against the Palestinians, according to South Africa’s minister of water and sanitation, Nomvula Mokonyane. The minister was criticizing Israel’s policies in a speech during Israeli Apartheid Week delivered earlier this month at the Stellenbosch University in South Africa. Mokonyane said Israel’s water story has “two faces.” One is Israel as the “world’s leading practitioner of water apartheid.” Israel has full control of all water access and water use in historic Palestine – the West Bank, Gaza Strip and present-day Israel. This “skewed distribution” leaves Palestinians in the West Bank with 73 liters per person per day, Mokonyane said, compared to 240-300 liters for Israelis. The Palestinian share is far less than the World Health Organization’s recommendation of 100 liters per person per day for domestic use, hospitals, schools and other institutions. In addition, hundreds of Palestinian communities in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip are not connected to water supplies, the minister told her audience. And Mekorot – Israel’s national water company – frequently shuts down water supply to Palestinians….
Rattled by Trump, Arab leaders renew call for Palestinian state
DEAD SEA, Jordan/AMMAN (Reuters) 29 Mar by Ali Sawafta & Suleiman Al-Khalidi — After weeks of heightened unease over the stance of the United States under the new administration of President Donald Trump, Arab leaders reaffirmed on Wednesday their commitment to a two-state solution to the decades-long Arab-Israeli conflict. They called for a new round of peace talks based on a two-state solution and renewed a 2002 offer of “reconciliation” if Israel quit occupied Arab land and agreed a deal on Palestinian refugees, according to a statement read out after a summit. Trump rattled Arab and European leaders in February by indicating he was open to a one-state solution, upending a position taken by successive administrations and the international community. Trump later told Reuters in an interview he liked the concept of a two-state solution but stopped short of reasserting a U.S. commitment to eventual Palestinian statehood, saying he would be “satisfied with whatever makes both parties happy”. Arab leaders attending a one-day summit beside the Dead Sea did not publicly refer to Trump or his ambiguous statements, but were keen to stress their own continued backing for an independent Palestinian state and also strongly criticized the persistent building of Jewish settlements on occupied territory. The summit’s host, King Abdullah of Jordan, said the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel remained the basis of any comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace deal … The conference venue is only a few km (miles) from the occupied West Bank where Israeli settlements are clearly visible. This week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was committed to working with Trump to advance peace efforts with the Palestinians, but he also stopped short of reiterating a commitment to a two-state solution. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas criticized Israeli policy in his speech at Wednesday’s summit….
Jordanians really don’t want Israeli gas
AMMAN, Jordan (Al-Monitor) 29 Mar by Mohammad Ersan — Jordan’s agreement to buy Israeli natural gas has Jordanians up in arms — Voices opposed to a gas sales and purchase agreement (GSPA) signed in September between Jordan’s National Electric Power Company and the operator of an Israeli gas field got louder March 20 when the Jordanian parliament obtained a copy of the agreement, whose details had been kept secret. Those against the contract are calling on the parliament to reject it. Houston-based Noble Energy holds the concession for developing Israel’s largest offshore gas deposit, the Leviathan natural gas field, 50 miles off the coast of Haifa in the Mediterranean. The agreement, expected to enter into force in 2019, has sparked demonstrations because many Jordanians view it as tantamount to normalization with Israel. According to the GSPA, Jordan will import 300 million cubic feet of gas per day from the Leviathan field for 15 years at a cost of $10 billion. Noble has a nearly 40% working interest in the field, while Israeli companies hold the rest. In a related development, Jordanians opposing a gas deal signed in 2014 recently discovered that they had failed to stop the gas from flowing from the Israeli Tamar field to Jordan, as deliveries began in January. “Israel has begun quietly exporting natural gas to Jordan after two Jordanian companies — Arab Potash and Jordan Bromine — were connected to Israel’s national pipeline network,” the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported March 2. The Jordanian government had been keen to keep the two agreements confidential….
Poll: Majority of Jewish Israelis oppose ending 50-year military occupation
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 28 Mar — A new poll was released by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs on Tuesday, revealing that a majority of Israelis oppose any Israeli withdrawal from the occupied West Bank, while 79 percent of Israelis believe in the importance of maintaining a unified Jerusalem under Israeli control, in contradiction with longstanding international peace negotiations and international law. The poll, which was conducted among 521 Jewish Israelis over the age of 18, is said to represent the adult Jewish Israeli opinion on the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict. According to the poll’s findings, Israeli support for a military withdrawal from the West Bank, now in its 50th year under Israeli occupation, has gradually decreased in the last 12 years, with the percentage of those supporting a withdrawal as part of a peace agreement declining from 60 percent in 2005 to just 36 percent in 2017. When it came to completely withdrawing from the entirety of the occupied West Bank, 77 percent of Israelis opposed such a move. Meanwhile, regarding the withdrawal from the territory — but excluding large Israeli settlements blocs constructed in Palestinian territory in violation of international law — the majority of Israelis (57 percent) still opposed it.
However, opposition to an Israeli withdrawal from the Palestinian territory slightly subsided (44 percent) if the illegal settlement blocs were annexed into Israeli territory and a future Palestinian state remained demilitarized. Concerning the Jordan Valley, a crucial area of the Palestinian territory and any future Palestinian state, an overwhelming 81 percent of Israelis said that it was important for the Israeli government to exercise continued sovereignty over the area. The poll also revealed that Israelis have a committed and long-term expectation of maintaining full security control over the occupied West Bank, with 76 percent of those polled expressing their approval of Israeli authorities continuing to control the West Bank owing to various security concerns.
Meanwhile, 79 percent of Israelis believe in the importance of maintaining a unified Jerusalem under Israeli control, with 52 percent opposing any division of Jerusalem into “Jewish and Arab sectors.” When the status of occupied East Jerusalem and its potential incorporation into an independent Palestinian state as the capital was added to the questioning, the opposition to dividing Jerusalem increased to 59 percent. The vast majority of Israelis (83 percent) opposed transferring Al-Aqsa Mosque — known as the Temple Mount among Jews — to Palestinians….
Storm brews over Palestinian pints in Israeli pub
AFP 29 Mar — Just when it seemed there was nothing else left to divide Israelis and Palestinians, some Jewish hardliners have found a new one: beer. The recent decision by a trendy pub in the northern Israeli city of Haifa to make Shepherds beer available sparked the controversy. The problem: Shepherds is a Palestinian beer recently launched by a brewery in the occupied West Bank. The decision by the bar, the Libira, led to drunken-sounding diatribes from some. “Traitors’ bar! I call on everyone not to go there,” read one of the comments on the Facebook page of the pub located at the traditional port in Haifa’s Old City. “This Palestinian beer is made with Jewish blood,” said another. When he saw the insults, co-owner Erik Salarov, said he was shocked. At the bar that he opened with friends, “we don’t do politics”, he said. “We offer a drink with friends. We have highlighted a Scottish beer, a beer from Tel Aviv and Taybeh beer,” he added, naming the most popular Palestinian brew. For Salarov, those who call for a boycott of Libira are “a handful of racist nationalists who do not accept the idea of co-existence”. He says co-existence is a part of life in Haifa, where 10 percent of residents are Arab Israelis, or the descendants of Palestinians who remained after the creation of Israel in 1948. Salarov says that dynamic is particularly strong in the Old City. Jews and Arabs gather together — rare in Israel — at bars and restaurants in the neighbourhood … Suheil Assad, an Arab Israeli member of the city council and former deputy mayor, said Haifa has managed to achieve some level of co-existence better than other mixed cities. “Arabs and Jews live mixed in almost all neighbourhoods,” he said. Still, he said, “every right-wing attack causes tensions to rise between Jews and Arabs”. “Twenty years ago, the number of right-wing militants was much less,” he added. Haifa, known in particular for its Baha’i Gardens, is also a cultural centre for Israel’s Arab population. The city’s Krieger Centre for the arts regularly holds concerts featuring Arab music and theatres stage Arabic plays. Jaafar Farah of Arab Israeli rights group Mossawa said sometimes it seems that “Arabs account for 50 percent of the population instead of only 10 percent”. But the city’s Arab cultural events have regularly come under attack from the far right….
David Friedman takes oath as new US ambassador to Israel
WASHINGTON (AFP) 29 Mar — David Friedman, a Jewish American attorney close to President Donald Trump, and who is known for a hardline stand in favor of settlements in occupied territories, was sworn in on Wednesday as new US envoy to Israel. The Senate confirmed his nomination in a 52-46 vote. “One of the clearest signs of the president’s commitment to the state of Israel and to its people is in his choice of David Friedman as America’s Ambassador to Israel,” Vice President Mike Pence said at the event. A longtime attorney and the son of a rabbi, Friedman has backed Jewish settlements in some occupied territories, as well as moving the US embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. “This is a critical time for our two nations and our peoples. The challenges we face are many, but our resolve to overcome them has never been stronger,” Pence said. “Under President Trump’s leadership, the United States will always be a faithful friend to the Jewish State of Israel.” The Israel job was seen as a key bellwether of the new administration’s attitude to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Friedman’s nomination was welcomed by the Israeli right … he is widely seen as hostile to the two-state solution — the vision of an end to the conflict in which Israel and a future Palestine live side-by-side within agreed borders … Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein voted against Friedman and dubbed him “too divisive to serve in one of our nation’s most sensitive diplomatic positions.” And liberal Jewish lobby group J Street said it was “heartened” that the level of opposition to Friedman’s confirmation showed that his views were outside the US mainstream.
Israel cuts UN contribution due to ‘discrimination’
JERUSALEM (AFP) 29 Mar — Israel announced Wednesday a $2-million cut in its contribution to the United Nations budget because of constant criticism by the UN Human Rights Council of its policies towards the Palestinians. The foreign ministry, in a statement, condemned “obsessional discrimination against Israel on the part of the United Nations and its agencies” to justify the cut in funding. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “decided to allocate the two million dollars to international aid and to investment in developing countries which support Israel in international bodies”, it said. The Jewish state had already cut $6 million from its contribution of $11.7 million following a UN Security Council resolution passed in December condemning Israel’s settlement building in the occupied Palestinian territories, a foreign ministry spokesman said. Last week, a United Nations rights expert issued a blistering criticism of Israel’s policies, deepening a row over alleged anti-Israel bias within the UN following US pressure. In a report, the UN special rapporteur on the Palestinian territories, Michael Lynk, charged Israel with “the subjugation of (Palestinians’) humanity” and intensifying a crackdown on human rights campaigners. Lynk made the claims in a report presented to the UN rights council during the Geneva-based body’s mandated session on Israel, known as Agenda Item Seven. Israel is the only country targeted with a dedicated rights council agenda item….