Made in Gaza: wedding limousine built from five different cars
GAZA CITY (AFP) 23 Apr — When wedding planner Salama Al Odi was blocked by Israel from importing a limousine for his business in Gaza, he was not dissuaded. Instead, he built his own – from five other cars. “It took us three months and US$21,000 (Dh77,122)” to build the vehicle, says Mr Al Odi, as mechanics put the finishing touches to the limo. The result looks something like a cross between a car and a spaceship [photo], with a rounded roof extending upward from what would have been the original top. In his small mechanic shop, a group of men are busy taking parts from a collection of different cars and adding them to a white Mercedes. Some 30 people weighed in on the design and drew up plans for the improvised limousine. The interior with curtains was “completely conceived in Gaza,” Mr Al Odi says. The entrepreneur had hoped to import a limousine as part of the various services he offers to young Gazans by his company, Farha, but he was unable to … The final touches include hand-painted designs across the sides of the limo. The first bride and groom should be able to climb aboard as soon as Thursday. Mr Al Odi says he will offer it at an affordable rate for young people in Gaza, where marriages have been delayed due to a lack of financial resources. For him, seeing the homemade vehicle roll through the streets of Gaza will also be a message to Gazans to “not give in to the restrictions” imposed by Israel. “You have to answer by inventing and embarking on an adventure,” he said.
Egyptian power line feeding southern Gaza back in operation
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 22 Apr — An Egyptian power line feeding the southern Gaza Strip resumed operations on Friday night after days of damage that left Gaza residents in the southern part of the besieged enclave with only four hours of power per day. On Thursday, it was announced that a power line feeding Gaza from Egypt had been damaged, a few days following an announcement that another Egyptian power line had been disconnected. Head of the public relations department of Gaza’s power company in Rafah Abdullah al-Najili said that the Egyptian power line was fixed after four days of being out of operation. The Egyptian power line provides the southern Gaza Strip with 23 megawatts of electricity, he added. In total, Egypt accounts for 15 per cent of Gaza’s electricity supply….
Israeli soldiers fire on agricultural lands, shepherds in Gaza
IMEMC/Agencies 22 Apr — Israeli forces, on Friday, opened fire on Palestinian agricultural lands and shepherds in the southern and central Gaza Strip, said WAFA sources. Forces opened fire on Palestinian shepherds while they were grazing their livestock along the eastern border area of Johur Addik, in central Gaza. No injuries were reported. Forces also targeted agricultural land to the east of al-‘Amour neighbourhood to the south east of Khan Younis city, in the southern Gaza Strip, with gunfire.
UN Gaza staffer out after allegations of Hamas ties
GAZA CITY (AP) 22 Apr — The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees says a Gaza staffer suspected of being elected to the Islamic militant Hamas group’s leadership no longer works for the agency. Agency spokesman Chris Gunness says Saturday Suhail al-Hindi is no longer employed by the U.N. Relief and Works Agency. He declined to say whether al-Hindi had quit or was fired, saying the agency doesn’t “discuss the terms of departure of individual staff members.” In February, UNRWA suspended al-Hindi — the chairman of the agency’s Palestinian workers’ union — pending the results of an internal investigation sparked by Israeli accusations that the school principal was a member of Hamas’ new political leadership. Al-Hindi denied links to Gaza’s rulers. Hamas is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States and most of Europe.
Hamas, Fatah trade further accusations over situation in Gaza
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 23 Apr — Hamas movement spokesman Fawzi Barhum said on Sunday that its rival Fatah party did not answer issues raised by Hamas over a number of worsening crises in the besieged Gaza Strip. Barhum said that Hamas, the de facto ruling party in Gaza, had asked Fatah, the leading party of the Palestinian Authority (PA), during a meeting on Tuesday to address recent salary cuts to PA civil servants in Gaza, as well as the need for fuel tax exemptions to maintain the distribution of electricity in the blockaded enclave. Barhum urged the Fatah movement to “take seriously” Gaza’s crises and to “get the Palestinian house in order” — referring in part to the nearly decade-long conflict between the two parties.
Meanwhile, the Fatah movement in the Gaza Strip issued a statement on Sunday condemning Hamas for its “inciteful media discourse, marches, and sit-ins” against PA President Mahmoud Abbas, claiming that such moves were an attempt by Hamas to avoid calls by Fatah to end the political divide.
Meanwhile, a number of Palestinians protested on Sunday in front of the gate of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine (UNRWA) office in Gaza to demand a solution to the small Palestinian territory’s ongoing electricity crisis. The popular committee of the al-Shati refugee camp and Gaza City, which organized the demonstration, expressed concern over the “disastrous” consequences of the nearly decade-long Israeli siege and the escalation of electricity woes, adding that Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip wanted nothing to do with internal Palestinian political strife, yet were the first affected by the situation. The committee also demanded that the PA fulfill its responsibilities in Gaza and address the humanitarian crisis of refugees there….
Gaza security releases female Palestinian journalist, activist from detention
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 24 Apr — Palestinian journalist Taghrid Abu Teir and local activist Ruwaida Muharib were released on Sunday after being detained by security forces in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, according to an anonymous security source in the besieged coastal enclave. Abu Teir, who works with the Palestinian Authority’s official television channel Palestine TV, was arrested from her home in Abasan al-Kabira east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on April 13, spending ten days in custody. The security source did not provide further details regarding the circumstances of Muharib’s arrest or the nature of her activist work.
The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) documented a total of 48 violations of media freedoms by security forces in the Gaza Strip over the course of 2016. According to MADA, 2016 also saw a continuation of Palestinian authorities “prosecuting journalists in relation to their publications on social media sites,” in both the Palestinian Authority-governed West Bank, as well as in Gaza….
Christians celebrate Easter in Gaza amid restrictions and fear of terrorism
GAZA (Asia News) 20 Apr — “The situation is very difficult. Easter celebrations did not go well. There is a lot of fear among Christians because of the attacks in Egypt. Few, Catholic and Orthodox, have attended Mass, both. Only 50 people came to our church. As far as I know, 25 were Orthodox,” said Mario da Silva, a Brazilian priest in charge of Gaza’s Holy Family Latin Parish. The source of fear is the Islamic State group (IS). Its groups are active in the Sinai Peninsula, just a few kilometres from the Gaza Strip. Its latest attack took place near the St Catherine monastery. Fear aside, there were no incidents. “Thank God,” said Fr da Silva. Still, the atmosphere in the Gaza Strip remains tense because of the social and economic problems affecting the residents. Christians, about 1,300 in total, “suffer like all Palestinians, because of their many problems.” For the clergyman, the difficulty in obtaining travel permits to go to Jerusalem affected Easter celebrations. “This is the second year that we asked Israel for family permits to go on pilgrimage on the holiday. People can choose to visit the holy places at Easter and Christmas. Last year we were able to send mostly young people under 35. The official figure was 891, but I believe the actual number was 800. For them it was their first time outside of Gaza.” This year, the number of permits for Easter has declined significantly. “The official number was 700, but in fact there were far fewer. Some of these permits were sent to dead people, or people no longer in Gaza. Or were given to parents and not their young children, and vice versa. The actual number of permits was around 500, perhaps less.” Until the last moment, Christians in the Holy Land had hoped for an open Jerusalem despite announced restrictive Israeli security measures. For Fr da Silva, the greatest concern is that the Christian community is disappearing from the Strip. “There are fewer and fewer. Those who manage to get out do not come back. They seek peace elsewhere. On feast days, the church is increasingly empty.”
Library train brings books to Gaza children
KHAN YUNIS, Gaza Strip (Al-Monitor) 21 Apr by Ibrahim Abdelhadi — Inside the cars of the train that have been decorated with Palestinian flags, colored balloons, flowers and cartoons, dozens of children sit on wooden benches reading storybooks. This is the first “knowledge train” that visits villages in the southern Gaza Strip to encourage children to read and to develop their linguistic and creative skills. Khalil Fares, the director of Shorouq wa Amal Center, which is affiliated with the Culture and Free Thought Association (CFTA) in Khan Yunis, told Al-Monitor, “The knowledge train is the first initiative launched by the center in cooperation with education associations affiliated with the CFTA and others like Asdaa Recreation Center. The latter lent the train to the center as a contribution to encourage children to learn and read.” Fares said, “The knowledge train took off on March 15 and will maintain its activities for a month and a half. The initiative is set to end on April 30. This annual activity is organized by Shorouq wa Amal Center. We sought a rare and unfamiliar way to attract children to read, and this is how the idea of the train emerged. Children really warmed up to it. The train targets around 200 children per day whose ages range between 6 and 12 and who are eager to learn new things … “The train offers many activities; it includes more than 150 storybooks as well as plays that talk about the childhood of Palestinian authors such as Mahmoud Shukair, Ghassan Kanafani and poet Jabra Ibrahim Jabra. So the children are introduced to the most influential authors and poets in the Palestinian territories,” he noted….
Freedom Flotilla Coalition planning bigger mission to Gaza next year
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (NewStraitsTimes) 24 Apr by Masriwanie Muhamading — The international Freedom Flotilla Coalition (FFC), a grassroot people-to-people solidarity movement that aim to end the illegal Israeli siege in Gaza, is planning to organise a bigger humanitarian mission to the war-torn land with at least two large boats next year. Former United States diplomat Ann Wright, who was involved in the campaign for the humanitarian mission, said that they plan to organise at least 12 national campaigns throughout the world to raise funds for the mission which is expected to take place in September or October next year. “We plan to purchase several boats for 2018 humanitarian mission. We are not sure yet how many or how big the boats will be as it all depends on how much funds we are able to collect. “However, we hope to have at least two or three boats and hopefully the boats can accommodate about 40 to 50 people each. “So it will be a much larger campaign. That is why we need 18 months for the fundraising efforts so that we will be able to sail to Gaza in September or October next year,” she said….
Samidoun 24 Apr — Imprisoned Palestinian political leader Marwan Barghouthi, a member of the Fateh Central Committee and leader of the current Strike for Freedom and Dignity, is reportedly suffering serious deterioration to his health on his eighth day on hunger strike, as reported in multiple Palestinian media outlets. Barghouthi launched the strike with 1500 fellow Palestinians on 17 April, Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, with a list of demands including an end to the denial of family visits, appropriate medical care for Palestinian prisoners and an end to solitary confinement and administrative detention, imprisonment without charge or trial. The Palestinian Prisoners’ Society and the Prisoners Affairs Commission reported that the director of Jalameh prison, where Barghouthi is held in solitary confinement along with other leaders of the strike, including Karim Younis, Kamil Abu Hanish, Anas Jaradat and Wajdi Jawdat, called for him to be taken to treatment immediately. However, Barghouthi reportedly refused any form of medical treatment. Fellow hunger-striking prisoner Nasser Abu Hamid, also held in Jalameh prison, was asked by the director of the prison to convince Barghouthi to receive treatment; however, he refused to do so, after which Abu Hamid was transferred from Jalameh to Eshel prison….
Violence / Detentions — West Bank / Jerusalem
Palestinian woman blinded in one eye after being shot by Israeli forces
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 23 Apr — A Palestinian woman was critically injured and lost sight in her left eye after being shot by a rubber-coated steel bullet, when Israeli forces violently raided her neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem to disperse a local dispute Saturday night. Israeli forces raided al-‘Issawiya in northeastern Jerusalem amid a dispute between neighbors and indiscriminately opened fire, shooting 52-year-old Fatima Muhmoud Obeid in the eye with a rubber-coated steel bullet, according to member of follow-up committee in al-‘Issawiya Muhammad Abu al-Hummus. Fatima’s husband Rajab Obeid told Ma‘an that his wife had been sitting with their daughter and son in-law on their balcony, when he heard Fatima suddenly scream after being shot. Rajab said that his wife was transferred to Israel’s Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem, where doctors informed them that Fatima lost sight in her left eye, and that she would require surgery for fractures in her skull caused by the bullet wound.
Israeli police spokesperson Luba al-Samri later said in a written statement in Arabic that Israeli police officers who “rushed” to disperse the dispute “were attacked with stones and fire bombs.” She said an Israeli police officer was “hit in the hand,” and acknowledged that a number of locals were also injured, “including a woman who was taken to hospital.” Rights groups have routinely condemned Israeli authorities for their use of excessive force against Palestinians with “non-lethal” weapons such as rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas that often result in serious, sometimes fatal, injuries. Israeli military regulations in the occupied Palestinian territory say that Israeli forces may only fire rubber-coated steel bullets at the legs, and never at women or children. Israeli forces are also required to be 50 to 60 meters from their targets.
Army injures two Palestinians, one seriously, near Ramallah
IMEMC 24 Apr — Israeli soldiers shot and injured, on Sunday evening, two young Palestinian men, including one who suffered serious wounds, during clashes that took place after several military vehicles invaded Kafr Malek village, northeast of Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank. Sources at the Palestine Medical Complex in Ramallah said the seriously wounded young man was shot with live rounds in the abdomen. The soldiers also fired many gas bombs and concussion grenades, causing several Palestinians to suffer the severe effects of teargas inhalation.
WATCH: Masked settlers attack left-wing activists in Jordan Valley
+978 Mag 21 Apr by Orly Noy — Five of the activists, who were there to protect Palestinian shepherds from settler attacks, were themselves wounded by Israeli settlers — A group of masked Israeli settlers attacked over a dozen activists with Jewish-Arab solidarity group Ta’ayush in the Jordan Valley on Friday morning. The activists were accompanying Palestinian shepherds working near al-‘Auja, which is near Habaladim [or just Baladim], an Israeli outpost. Last year, in addition to their regular activities in the South Hebron hills, Ta’ayush activists also started going to the Jordan Valley to work with Palestinian communities threatened by Israeli settlers. Until recently, they focused their work in the northern part of the valley, but for the last two weeks they have also accompanied Palestinians in the al-Auja area due to violence settlers have been inflicting on local shepherding communities. “The settlers showed up with clubs last week also,” said one of the Ta’ayush activists who witnessed the violence. “But last week they didn’t go any further than the adjacent hilltop — maybe they didn’t understand who we were. This week they didn’t stop there.” The Baladim outpost is one of the more hard-core settlements in the area. “The most radical and marginalized hilltop youth are there, the type even the rabbis can’t control and don’t even want them there,” the activist continued. “The police also keep an eye on them and show up from time to time, but they basically hide in caves. They’ve become a nightmare for the shepherds in this area.” On Friday, the settlers advanced toward the activists armed with clubs and stones, and violently attacked them, as the video shows. Five of the activists were wounded, one in the head. The activists reported the attack to the police, whom they had informed in advance they would be accompanying the shepherds … “Because the attack took place in a location without any access roads, we were forced to walk down a steep path for around 40 minutes until we reached asphalt, where an ambulance was waiting,” he continued.“The police who showed up told us to go to the Binyamin police station in order to file a complaint, but when we got there the station was empty — not a single soul was there and we had no choice but to leave. If any of the activists want to file a criminal complaint they will have to come back to the station on Sunday.”….
Wave of settler violence hits Palestinian villages in West Bank
+972 Blog 23 Apr by Yael Marom — Settlers from the radical Yitzhar settlement attack Palestinians in Urif and Huwwara, just one day after Israeli activists were assaulted by masked settlers in the Jordan Valley. — Israelis from the radical Yitzhar settlement carried out two waves of attacks on the village of ‘Urif, near Nablus. Four Palestinians were injured in the initial assault, and although residents of the village alerted Israeli security forces about the violence, the soldiers and police who arrived on the scene simply ordered the attackers away and did not arrest anyone. Shortly after, an even bigger group of settlers returned to ‘Urif and started attacking again. A building in the village was damaged and car windshields smashed. This time round, the army entered the village, only to fire rubber bullets at Palestinians who were trying to drive the settlers back by throwing stones at them. According to witnesses, the settlers then started uprooting olive trees, even starting a fire.
A few hours later, Israelis from Yitzhar set out for a further round of violence, this time in the village of Huwwara, also close to Nablus. They threw stones, smashed windows and attacked Palestinians, injuring three — including a woman who received a head wound. According to B’Tselem, her injury was serious, although not life-threatening. Zacharia Sadeh, of Rabbis for Human Rights, told Local Call that the settlers who attacked Huwwara passed an IDF outpost on their way to the village. “They should have reported the settlers heading down [to the village], and they could have prevented three people from being hurt,” he said. “The security forces make no effort to stop these attacks on Palestinians, and do nothing to protect the lives of Palestinians.”….
Another report on these settler attacks:
Several Palestinians hospitalized over multiple settler attacks in Nablus area
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 22 Apr — Israeli forces shot and injured four Palestinians with rubber-coated steel bullets, after residents in a Palestinian village south of Nablus in the northern occupied West Bank gathered to defend their homes from a mob of Israeli settlers that stormed the community. Hours later, two Palestinians were hospitalized when a group of settlers attacked Palestinians in a nearby village. Ghassan Daghlas, an official who monitors settler activities in the northern West Bank, told Ma‘an that some 100 “extremist settlers” from the illegal Yitzhar settlement entered the village of ‘Urif from its east side and proceeded to smash windows of houses, included one belonging to resident Munir al-Nouri. He added that the settlers were about to break into the house before Palestinian villagers gathered and forced them away. According to a Facebook group for ‘Urif, loudspeakers from the village’s mosque were used to inform residents of the incident and to urge them to help defend the homes from the “herds of settlers” attacking the village. Minutes later, Daghlas said, a number of Israeli military vehicles stormed the village to protect the Israelis. Clashes erupted between Palestinian youths and Israeli forces who “haphazardly” fired tear gas canisters, stun grenades, and rubber-coated steel bullets at Palestinians, according to Daghlas. Daghlas said that four Palestinians were shot with rubber-coated steel bullets, one of whom was hit in the head. Medical sources said that Adel al-Safadi, Jihad Saad, Mustafa Fawzi, and Sharif Abd al-Hafith were taken to Rafidiya hospital to be treated for the gunshot injuries.
Later Saturday afternoon, Daghlas said that another group of Israeli settlers attacked Palestinian homes in the town of Huwwara, just a few kilometers away from ‘Urif, on the southeastern edge of Yitzhar. Daghlas said that dozens of settlers attacked Palestinians and their homes with stones and “sharp objects.” A 72-year-old woman, Badiah Muhammad Hamdan, and a young man identified as Ahmad Yousif Udah were hospitalized. Daghlas said Hamdan sustained head injuries. A video [below] shared on social media showed the woman, bloodied and incapacitated, being evacuated in an ambulance….
Liberman condemns settler rock attack on soldiers
Times of Israel 23 Apr — Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Sunday condemned a rock throwing attack allegedly carried out by Israeli settlers in the West Bank over the weekend in which an IDF officer was injured, calling the perpetrators “thugs.” In a Facebook post, Liberman said that there is “zero tolerance” for violence toward soldiers and that the attackers must be brought to justice. “The legal authorities must judge these thugs severely in a swift and firm manner,” he said. “This is a grave problem that we cannot be forgiving toward.” Liberman made no mention of other incidents over the weekend in which Palestinians and left-wing activists were targeted by settlers. The incident Liberman was referring to took place during a clash between settlers and Palestinians near the northern West Bank village of ‘Urif. Palestinian officials said the incident started after dozens of settlers from the nearby community of Yitzhar attacked Palestinian homes on the eastern side of the village. According to the army, some 50 settlers took part in the violence, during which one Palestinian was wounded upon being struck by a rock. Palestinian media reported that four Palestinians were injured by rubber bullets fired by IDF soldiers. While troops attempted to break up the violence, a group of “extremist” settlers began to throw rocks at them, injuring one officer, who was hit in the hand, the army said in a statement….
Palestinian injured after an Israeli colonist settler rammed him with his car
IMEMC 23 Apr — Palestinian medical sources have reported Saturday, that a young man was injured when he was struck by a speeding Israeli colonist’s car, in the al-Mas‘oudiyya area, west of Nablus, in the northern part of the occupied West Bank. The sources stated that the young man, identified as Assem Salem, 19, was trying to cross the road when the colonizer struck him with his car, and fled the scene without stopping, or even slowing down. The injured young Palestinian man suffered moderate wounds, before local medics rushed him to Rafidia governmental hospital, in Nablus.
On Thursday, a Palestinian teenage girl, identified as Kawthar Mohammad Shawriyya, 17, suffered moderate wounds after being rammed in Tuqu‘ by an Israeli colonist’s car, who also fled the scene.
Two Palestinian children injured after being rammed by a speeding settler’s car near Jerusalem
IMEMC 24 Apr — Palestinian medical sources have reported that two children were injured on Sunday evening after being struck by a speeding Israeli settler’s car, while walking with their parents in Sur Baher town, south of occupied East Jerusalem. The sources stated that Mohammad Mousa Attoun suffered a head wound, while his sister, Nada, suffered several cuts and bruises. An Israeli ambulance was called to the scene, and moved the two children to a hospital for treatment; their condition has been described as stable. Eyewitnesses said a settler, who was accompanied by a passenger, entered the center of town from its main road, and was speeding through its streets, apparently while being chased by an Israeli police car, before ramming the two children in addition to striking several parked cars. The settlers fled the scene, and hid in a medical center, before dozens of soldiers invaded Sur Baher, clashed with many local youths, and evacuated them. [See also the Ynetnews version of this event: Police were hailed to the Sur Baher Palestinian neighborhood on the southeastern outskirts of East Jerusalem after two Jewish people, who apparently arrived there to illegally sell eggs, started getting stoned by local residents. The two escaped in their car, ramming a parked vehicle on their escape and arrived at a local HMO, where they were safely evacuated by security forces.]
Jewish gang attacked Arabs in order to end their romantic ties with Jewish women, state says
Haaretz 23 Apr by Yotam Berger, Gili Cohen & Almog Ben Zikri — Five Israeli men and one male juvenile, all of them Jews, were charged on Sunday in connection to a series of brutal assaults on Arab men in the southern Israeli city of Be’er Sheva. Police said suspects told detectives the assaults — at least six separate incidents between December 2016 and April 6, 2017 — were carried out with the aim of stopping their targets from pursuing romantic relationships with Jewish women. The defendants, aged between 17 and 20, allegedly used knives, clubs, metal bars and other weapons in the assaults. Two of the defendants are soldiers. Three of the defendants were charged with terrorism offenses, in addition to aggravated assault. According to the indictment, which was issued by the Southern District of the State Prosecutor’s Office, before each attack the defendants confirmed that their targets were Arab. In some cases the alleged perpetrators concealed their faces in order to avoid being identified. In the most serious of the attacks, Raz Ben-Shalom Amitzur, 19, is accused of stabbing an Arab man as he sat in a car with a Jewish woman. According to the indictment, after approaching the couple and ascertaining that the man was Arab and the woman Jewish, Amitzur pulled out a knife and stabbed the man several times in the back, chest, abdomen and arm, injuring the man’s kidney. Police said they determined in their investigation and interviews with the suspects that the purpose of the assaults was “to prevent the ‘assimilation’ of Jews and Arabs in Be’er Sheva,” and that some of the defendants had viewed videos produced by the right-wing group Lehava that focused on “saving Jewish women who are married to Arabs.”….
Palestinian detained after stabbing attack injures 4 in Tel Aviv
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 23 Apr — A Palestinian youth stabbed and wounded at least four people in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv on Sunday afternoon, Israeli police reported. Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri said in a statement that an assailant stabbed and lightly injured three Israelis in their fifties, two men and a woman, in the area of Yarkon Park near the coast in Tel Aviv. Al-Samri said that a fourth Israeli in their 70s was also attacked, falling on the ground without being stabbed, and was being treated for minor injuries. Footage shared by Israeli media showed that the attack occurred in the lobby of a hotel, before the assailant was presumably stopped outside. She identified the attacker as an 18-year-old Palestinian from the northern occupied West Bank district of Nablus. Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld meanwhile said that an investigation was under way, and that police had determined that the motives behind the stabbing were “terror related.” Ichilov Medical Center spokesman Avi Shushan told Ma‘an that all four patients were “very lightly” wounded, and were expected to be released from the hospital later Sunday.
Israeli news outlet Arutz Sheva reported on later on Sunday that the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the Israeli agency responsible for implementing Israeli policies in the occupied Palestinian territory, had ordered a freeze in permits given to pro-Palestinian organizations to travel to Israel pending the end of the investigation, following reports that the young Palestinian had been given a one-day permit at the request of one such organization.
Palestinian woman detained for lightly wounding Israeli soldier at checkpoint
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 24 Apr — A Palestinian woman was detained Monday morning after she allegedly stabbed and lightly wounded a female Israeli soldier at the Qalandiya checkpoint stationed between the central occupied West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem, according to Israeli police who claimed that the woman attempted to commit suicide by provoking Israeli forces to shoot her. Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld reported shortly after 7 a.m. that a “female terrorist stabbed a female security personnel on duty, causing her light injuries” at the military checkpoint. The Israeli soldier was evacuated to a hospital for treatment, and the area was closed off, he added. Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri said in a statement in Arabic that a Palestinian woman approached the checkpoint, “and as she waited for her turn for inspection, she approached a young female security officer claiming she wanted to inquire about something. At this point, she seemingly pulled out a knife that was in her bag and stabbed the officer.”
Al-Samri identified the suspect as 39-year-old mother of nine, Asiya Kaabna, a resident of the village of Tayba in the central occupied West Bank district of Ramallah. According to al-Samri, Kaabna is originally from Jordan, and was most recently residing in Duma in the northern Nablus district of the West Bank. According to al-Samri, Kaabna said during interrogation that she had “domestic disputes” with her husband over raising their nine kids, and that her husband has repeatedly threatened to expel her to Jordan. “For these reasons she decided to carry out an attack, expecting to be shot dead by Israeli forces to put an end to her life.”
Funeral held for Palestinian teen killed by Israeli forces following stab attack
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 22 Apr — A funeral was held in the northern occupied West Bank district of Nablus on Saturday for 17-year-old Ahmad Ghazal, who was killed by Israeli forces after carrying out a stabbing attack earlier this month [1 April] which lightly injured three Israelis. Israeli authorities had returned Ghazal’s body to his family on Friday evening…. Participants waved Palestinian flags and chanted slogans denouncing the Israeli occupation and the “atrocities Israeli forces have committed against the Palestinian people.” “We know nothing about his death except the Israeli narrative. We didn’t see the stabbing attack, and even if that version was true, they should have detained my son who was only 17-years-old,” Ghazal’s father Ahmad Fathi Ghazal said during the funeral. His mother said she was proud of her son “who died martyr” … Ghazal was shot and killed by Israeli forces earlier this month after he carried out a stabbing attack in the Old City of occupied East Jerusalem that left three Israelis lightly injured. An eyewitness told Ma‘an at the time that he saw the the boy stab “two settlers” on al-Wad street in the Old City and escape into the nearby building, before Israeli forces ambushed Ghazal in a small apartment, which had no alternate exits. “Then we heard sounds of intensive shooting coming from the building,” he said. “They could have detained him — he was surrounded by a large number of soldiers. But they executed him,” the witness said….
Israeli forces detain Palestinian for weapon possession in northern West Bank
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 20 Apr — Israeli forces on Thursday detained a Palestinian after allegedly finding three guns hidden in his vehicle at an Israeli military checkpoint in the northern occupied West Bank. The Israeli army said in a statement that Israeli forces found three “self-manufactured guns” during a search of a Palestinian car at a checkpoint in the northern West Bank, adding that the Palestinian driver was detained for interrogation. The identity of the Palestinian and the exact location where he was detained remained unknown.
Israeli forces detain 3 Palestinian teens in Hebron for possessing ‘sharp objects’
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 23 Apr — Israeli forces detained three 17-year-old Palestinians from the Old City of Hebron in the southern occupied West Bank, for allegedly possessing “sharp objects,” local sources told Ma‘an. Israeli forces deployed near the illegal Beit Romano settlement detained three Palestinians and forced them into the settlement at gunpoint. The three were identified by locals as Muhammad Majid Abd al-Majid al-Ashqar, Bahaa Mujahid, and Malik Talib Maraqa. Israeli forces have detained scores of Palestinians for allegedly being in possession of knives following a spate of alleged and actual small-scale knife attacks by Palestinians that surged in the fall of 2015, with a number of Palestinians having been shot while being detained at military checkpoints….
Israeli forces detain 11 Palestinians, summon 4 for interrogation in raids
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 23 Apr — Israeli forces detained at least 11 Palestinians and summoned four others to appear for interrogation during predawn raids across occupied West Bank on Sunday, according to Palestinian and Israeli sources.
Palestinian security sources said that Israeli forces raided the town of Beit Fajjar in the southern occupied West Bank district of Bethlehem and detained three Palestinians, identified as Muhammad Jafaar Taqatqa, 19, Mahmoud Abdullah Ali, 18, and Alaa Marwan Taqatqa, 19. During the raid in Beit Fajjar, Asaad Ahmad Thawabta, 28, Ali Mustafa Taqatqa, 27, and Alaa Khalid Samour, 27, were ordered to appear for interrogation at Israel’s Etzion detention center … In southern Bethlehem, Israeli forces raided al-Duheisha refugee camp and detained Iyad Bassam al-Farahin, 21, and Ismail Najib Farraj, 23, after searching their houses. Resident of the camp Malik al-Zighari was summoned for interrogation … East of Bethlehem city, Israeli forces detained secretary of the Fatah movement Ismail Jamil Hamamra, 48, in the village of Husan, as well as 18-year-old Saleh Rizq Mousa in the village of al-Khader, according to the Palestinian security source … The Palestinian security source also said that 18-year-old Samer Salim Shantir was detained in central Bethlehem on al-Saf street.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society said in a statement that three Palestinians were detained in Nur Shams refugee camp in the northern occupied West Bank district of Tulkarem. The three were identified as Ibrahim Yasser Suleiman Fahmawi, 24, Mahmoud Fawaz Qasim Abu Sris, 20, and Nasser Ahmad Suleiman al-Khatib, 22….
Approximately 6,300 Palestinians are currently held in Israeli prisons, including some 300 minors, and 500 Palestinians who have not been charged or tried, according to Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Addameer.
The ‘Freedom and Dignity’ mass hunger strike / Support for the striking prisoners
One week in, Palestinian prisoners continue to join mass hunger strike
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 23 Apr — As a mass hunger strike underway in Israeli prisons entered its seventh day on Sunday, dozens more Palestinian prisoners have declared their participation, while Israeli prison authorities continued to punish those forgoing food by placing them in solitary confinement cells. The media committee established to support what has come to be known as the “Freedom and Dignity” strike, announced Sunday that six Palestinian prisoners held in Megiddo prison in northern Israel began refusing meals on Thursday and were immediately placed in isolation. On Sunday morning, 34 additional Palestinian prisoners in Megiddo joined the some 1,500 Palestinians who launched the hunger strike one week ago, in protest of the torture, ill treatment, and medical neglect of prisoners at the hands of Israeli authorities, as well as Israel’s widespread use of administrative detention — internment without trial or charges — which is only permitted under international law in extremely limited circumstances.
The Israel Prison Service (IPS) prevented lawyers from the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs from visiting the hunger strikers in Megiddo, despite a decision made Wednesday by the Israeli Ministry of Justice saying that it was illegal to ban prisoners from accessing their lawyers. The Palestinian Prisoners’ Society has filed a complaint on behalf of lawyers who have been prevented from visiting hunger strikers. As of Thursday, lawyers representing hunger strikers in Ashkelon, Gilboa, Eshel, and Nafha prison were either still being banned from visiting their clients, denied permits, or were told that visits were postponed. Only three hunger-striking prisoners in Ofer prison have been allowed to receive legal visits since the beginning of the strike, according prisoners’ solidarity network Samidoun. the media committee of the Freedom and Dignity strike later confirmed that only three prisoners in Ofer had been able to see their lawyers…
Head of the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs Issa Qaraqe also said Sunday that no prisoners had ended their hunger strike, rejecting reports in Israeli media that claimed 88 prisoners had ended their strike since it began last week…
The IPS crackdown on the hunger strike has also seen prison sections searched [and] raided with police dogs, Qur’ans seized from prisoners, while IPS officers have also prevented hunger strikers from praying and taking breaks in prison yards. IPS authorities have also confiscated personal belongings from hunger-striking prisoners, including bedding, books, clothing, and electronic devices…
Israeli authorities have detained approximately one million Palestinians since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 and the subsequent occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip in 1967, according to a joint statement released last week by Palestinian organizations. According to prisoners’ rights organization Addameer, some 6,300 Palestinians were held in Israeli custody as of March.
Palestinian leaders in Israel launch symbolic hunger strike in solidarity with prisoners
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 21 Apr — Palestinians with Israeli citizenship declared a symbolic hunger strike on Friday until 5 p.m in solidarity with hundreds of Palestinians now in their fifth day of a mass hunger strike during a demonstration in the Palestinian area of Arraba al-Battuf in northern Israel. A solidarity sit-in tent was erected in the town in a show of support for the hunger strikers. Head of the local follow-up committee and lawmaker Muhammad Barakeh, the mayor of Arraba al-Battif Ali Asla, and several regional and local leaders attended the demonstration. Barakeh said that the sit-in was part of a solidarity program with Palestinian prisoners and they would be foregoing food until 5 p.m. on Friday in support of the hunger strikers, until they welcomed recently released Palestinian prisoner Lina Jarbuni, arrested in 2002 and sentenced by Israel to 17 years in prison.
3 Palestinians injured during demonstration in support of hunger strikers
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 23 Apr — Three Palestinians were lightly injured after being shot by Israeli forces with rubber-coated steel bullets during a small march in the central occupied West Bank district of Ramallah on Sunday, as demonstrations continued in solidarity with the hundreds of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli prison. The march set off from a sit-in tent installed at Yasser Arafat Square in central Ramallah, and headed towards the Israeli Beit El military checkpoint. Participants of the march attempted to reach the road that leads the illegal Beit El settlement, but Israeli forces prevented them by force and fired sound bombs and rubber-coated steel bullets, with three Palestinians sustaining minor gunshot injuries, locals said. Israeli forces also fired tear gas, but due to the direction of the wind, the gas was sent back over the Israeli soldiers…
Later on Sunday, hundreds of Palestinians marched in the northern occupied West Bank city of Nablus, at a rally attended by mayor of Nablus Akram Rujoub, a number of other political figures, along with 3,500 scouts from different schools in Nablus. The march set off from the Nablus municipality building and headed to al-Shuhada square in central Nablus, where participants held signs and shouted slogans condemning Israeli crimes and demanding the release of Palestinian prisoners. “Today we send a message to our prisoners that we are with you and you are not alone,” said Muthaffar Thawqan, the coordinator of the national committee established to support hunger-striking prisoners.
Meanwhile, demonstrations in solidarity with the Palestinian hunger strikers were reported to have taken place over the weekend in the United Kingdom, Ireland Sweden, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Canada, and Lebanon, Palestinian prisoner solidarity network Samidoun reported.
Solidarity events held in Gaza, Israel, West Bank in support of hunger strikers
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Palestinians held protests in the besieged Gaza Strip, Israel, and the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, on Saturday to support imprisoned Palestinians refusing food as part of the “Freedom and Dignity” mass hunger strike, which has entered its sixth day in Israeli prisons. Israeli police suppressed a protest in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan on Saturday afternoon, which notably left Jerusalemite activist Suad Abu Rumouz injured by shrapnel from a stun grenade fired by Israeli forces. Silwan activist Khalid al-Zeir told Ma‘an that participants of the rally were caught off guard by the some 50 Israeli troops that attacked the rally with stun grenades and rubber-coated steel bullets. Al-Zeir insisted it had been a peaceful protest, and that demonstrators were chanting national unity slogans in support of Palestinian prisoners.
‘Pots and pans’ march held in Ramallah in solidarity with mass hunger strike
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 23 Apr — Hundreds of Palestinians clanged pots and pans while marching through the streets of Ramallah on Saturday night, to express solidarity with some 1,500 hunger strikers inside Israeli prisons who are calling on Israeli authorities to grant them basic rights. A number of rallies took place Saturday in the occupied Palestinian territory, as will as in Israel and abroad, amid growing support for the hunger strikers who continue to face harsh punishments for refusing their meals. The hunger strikers have denounced the torture, ill treatment, and medical neglect of Palestinian prisoners at the hands of Israeli authorities, as well as Israel’s widespread use of administrative detention — internment without trial or charges — which is only permitted under international law in extremely limited circumstances. Solidarity rallies have been organized daily since the strike began on April 17, Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, under the banner of “Freedom and Dignity.”…
Amin Shuman, head of the Higher Follow-up Commission for Prisoner Affairs, affirmed that solidarity events will be escalated daily. “This mass hunger strike completely differs from all individual hunger strikes that were launched before,” Shuman said, adding that individuals who have launched long-term hunger strikes often take dietary supplements to survive for extended periods. A number of Palestinian prisoners launched individual hunger strikes this year in protest of being held without charge or trial, including Rafaat Shalash, Jamal Abu al-Leil, Raed Mteir, and Muhammad al-Qiq, who ended his second prominent hunger strike in March after 33 days without food. By contrast, Palestinians undertaking the current mass strike have only been consuming water and salt — if available — “putting their lives at risk of near death by the strike’s second week,” Shuman said. He highlighted that Palestinian prisoners have died during hunger strikes, noting that in the 1970s and 1980s, the Israel Prison Service (IPS) tried to force-feed of prisoners to suppress hunger strikes, which resulted in the deaths of Abd Al- Qadir Abu Al-Fahem in 1970, Rasem Halawi in 1980, and Ali al-Jaafari in 1980….
Fatah announces ‘day of rage,’ urging Palestinians to clash with Israeli forces
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 22 Apr — The Fatah movement has pronounced Friday, April 28 to be a “day of rage,” and called on all Palestinians to “clash” with Israeli forces to express solidarity for an ongoing mass hunger strike underway in Israeli prisons, organized by imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi. The Fatah movement in the occupied West Bank, the ruling party of the Palestinian Authority (PA), called for Palestinians to express their unity by performing Friday prayers at the many solidarity tents that have already been set up across the West Bank in support of the some 1,500 hunger strikers, who entered their 6th day without food on Saturday. The official statement urged the Palestinian people to “clash with the occupier in all seam zones,” referring to isolated Palestinian areas in the occupied West Bank that fall between Israel’s separation wall and the Green Line.
“The excessive practices of the Israeli occupation, particularly those of the Israel Prison Service,” necessitated that “we clash with the occupier everywhere across our homeland,” the statement said. Fatah also called for a general strike to be held Thursday, April 27, which is to include “all aspects of daily life,” presumably calling for the shutdown of all businesses and institutions in the West Bank….
Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Settlements
Peace Now: New West Bank outpost built in last two weeks
JPost 21 Apr by Tovah Lazaroff — Settlers have challenged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new policy of constrained construction by building a new outpost in the last two weeks, Peace Now said on Friday. The outpost is located within the boundaries of the Geva Binyamin settlement, but outside of the community’s security fence, Peace Now said, adding that it was built without permits but on state land. Late last month the cabinet agreed to a policy of constrained settlement building. This included an understanding that no new neighborhoods would be constructed and no new outposts would be built. “This is the first outpost that is being established following the recent commitment by the prime minister for a new settlement policy, which included the prevention of establishing any new outposts,” Peace Now said. Lior Amihai of Peace Now said that, unlike other outposts, the residents were motivated by economics and not ideology. Based on conversations with the residents, Amihai said, he concluded that they have moved there because they lack affordable housing. Geva Binyamin, which also is known as Adam, is located in the Binyamin region of the West Bank between Jerusalem and Ramallah, about 4.3 kilometers over the 1949 Armistice line.
Israel-China construction deal reportedly bans settlements
JERUSALEM (AP) 23 Apr — Israel and China have signed a deal to bring Chinese construction workers to Israel, but the workers will reportedly be barred from building in West Bank settlements at China’s insistence. Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said Sunday the deal ensures they will work in areas “agreed upon by both sides that take into consideration their safety and well-being.” He would not elaborate but Israeli media reported this as meaning the workers will not be working in territory Israel captured in 1967 that the Palestinians claim for a future state. The international community mostly views Israeli settlements there as illegal and an obstacle to reaching a two-state solution to the conflict.
Israel delivers demolition warrants to Palestinians in South Hebron Hills
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 24 Apr — Israeli authorities delivered demolition orders for two Palestinian-owned homes and a water well in the South Hebron Hills region of the occupied West Bank on Sunday, according to a southern West Bank committee spokesman. Ratib al-Jubour told Ma‘an that officers from Israel’s Civil Administration escorted by armed Israeli forces raided the village of Khirbet Isfey east of Yatta on Sunday afternoon, and handed warrants to residents Ismail Hussein Awwad and Elayyan Awwad, notifying them that their two single-room residential structures and a water well were ordered to be demolished … Khirbet Isfey is among dozens of small communities located in the Masafer Yatta area — also known as the South Hebron Hills — within Israel’s “Firing Zone 918,” and inside the occupied West Bank’s Area C, the 62 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli civil and security control….
Palestinian delegation arrives in US to prepare upcoming Abbas-Trump meeting
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 23 Apr — A Palestinian delegation left the occupied West Bank on Sunday for the United States in order to prepare for a meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and US President Donald Trump scheduled for May 3. Sources told Ma‘an that the delegation — consisting of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Secretary-General Saeb Erekat, general intelligence chief Majid Faraj, and Palestine Investment Fund head Muhammad Mustafa — would meet with White House, State Department, and national security officials to discuss the topics that will be tackled during the meeting of the two heads of state. The delegation will return on Thursday evening and present the results of the visit to Abbas.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned what it called Israeli efforts to sabotage the Abbas-Trump meeting, notably slamming a recent interview by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with American channel Fox News. During the interview, Netanyahu said Palestinians had a “doctrine of death,” and called on Palestinian authorities to stop transferring money to the families of Palestinians killed or imprisoned by Israel….
In the West Bank, a $1.4 billion bet on better times
Bloomberg 20 Apr by Jonathan Ferziger & David Rocks — When Bashar Masri wants a sense of the ebb and flow of Israeli-Palestinian relations, he has two options: He can glance out the window or check his bank statement. Masri’s office overlooks Rawabi, a new town 25 miles north of Jerusalem that’s endured years of delays he blames on the Israeli occupation. And the ups and downs of his bank balance reflect the money backers in Qatar are willing to devote to the project — a barometer of the faith Gulf investors have in the Middle East peace process. “Rawabi was built knowing today’s politics and the high risks involved,” Masri says, sitting at a desk cluttered with maps and blueprints in the prefabricated building where he manages the development. The project offers stark evidence of the perils of doing business in the occupied territories. Rawabi was conceived in 2010 as a magnet for upwardly mobile Palestinians eager to leave their dusty villages and crumbling cities. It was expected to take five years and cost $750 million to build, but the opening date has been repeatedly pushed back, and the final price tag is likely to hit $1.4 billion, as Masri says he’s battled Israel over water hookups, links to the electric grid, and access for construction vehicles. While violence in the West Bank and war in Gaza have halted construction on several occasions, the goal is to create something that’s “occupation-proof,” says Masri, 56, a scion of a wealthy Palestinian family. He estimates his investors will sustain a $100 million loss if there’s no progress toward peace but could turn a profit if the two sides reach a resolution. “We are building Rawabi to survive under the current difficult circumstances,” he says. “But obviously we hope for better days.” Today, dozens of stone-clad four- to nine-story buildings spill down an arid hillside. The clustered, fortresslike construction resembles some of the 120 Jewish settlements Israel has built across the West Bank….
West Bank to get 3G mobile service
GAZA CITY (Al-Monitor) 20 Apr by Khaled Abu Amer — Palestine ranked 106th globally on the ICT Development Index, which measures the development of information and communication technology, in November 2016, compared to its 103rd ranking in 2015. A February 2016 World Bank report revealed that the total revenue loss for Palestinian mobile operators during the last three years exceeded $1 billion because of Israeli restrictions on the telecommunications sector. In light of this situation, the Palestinian Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology (MTIT) signed a final agreement with Israel on April 5 to allow Palestinian telecommunications companies to provide 3G services in the West Bank governorates and to allow Wataniya Mobile to operate a 2G mobile system in the Gaza Strip. (The latter of which comes after more than 10 years of negotiations on the issue.) Wataniya Mobile was granted a license to operate in Palestine in 2006 after winning a $355 million tender as a second mobile operator alongside Jawwal. It started operations in the West Bank in 2009 but did not cover the Gaza Strip, as Israel prevented it from importing its equipment into the enclave….
What’s in Palestine’s first ever education law?
RAMALLAH (Al-Monitor) 21 Apr by Ahmad Melhem — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas ratified the first Palestinian Law for Education and Higher Education on April 6, after the Cabinet submitted it on March 7 to replace the applicable Arab laws in the Palestinian territories (the Jordanian law in the West Bank and the Egyptian law in the Gaza Strip). The Ministry of Education and Higher Education hopes the new law will bring about “a significant shift in the education system, promote educational development and boost the role of the local community and its institutions in this regard.” Minister of Education and Higher Education Sabri Saidam told Al-Monitor that he was happy the law had passed. He said, “We are glad the law was ratified after six readings within the Cabinet and after all concerned parties — private and civil institutions — discussed it.” He noted that he began working on this law the day he took office on Aug. 2, 2015. The law includes 58 articles tackling all practical aspects and details of the education process. It will be enforced 30 days after its publication in the Palestinian Gazette. Saidam said that the Education Ministry capitalized on the laws and experience of several international donors such as Ireland, Germany and Norway before drafting the law…..
Palestinian pound to start circulating in West Bank schools
RAMALLAH (Al-Monitor) 23 Apr by Aziza Nofal — Hamza Abdul Hadi Jawabra, a 15-year-old student, does not know what the Palestinian pound is. He said that he only knows the shekel because he gets his daily allowance in Israeli shekels, and he sees his parents holding Jordanian dinars and US dollars. His father, who works as a public affairs officer at An-Najah University in Nablus, gets his salary in dinars, while his mother who works at Al-Mada press in Ramallah is paid in dollars. Jawabra was surprised to find out when talking to Al-Monitor that there is a Palestinian pound and he asked spontaneously, “How does it look?” He said he would be happier getting his allowance in Palestinian pounds. Jawabra, like other Palestinian students, knows nothing about the only known Palestinian currency in history — the Palestinian pound issued during the British Mandate (1927-1948). The Ministry of Education and Higher Education, however, is starting an initiative to introduce children to the Palestinian pound, allowing them to use it to purchase food in school cafeterias … Speaking to Al-Monitor, Sadeq al-Khodour, the general director of activities at the Ministry of Education, said that the aim behind the initiative is to “try to connect students to the banking system that was in place in the past and that used the Palestinian pound. This is a step to break free from economic dependency on Israel.”….
One family tells the story of five generations of Palestinian suffering
Associated Press 23 Apr — 50 years since Israel’s annexation of the West Bank after the 1967 war has left generations of Palestinians in limbo — As a boy, Palestinian Abdullah Abu Massoud fled the war over the birth of Israel in 1948 and sought refuge in the nearby Gaza Strip. As an adult, Abu Massoud was displaced again when Israeli forces captured Gaza, along with the West Bank and east Jerusalem, in 1967. He escaped to Jordan, where he has been living in a refugee camp for 50 years. Now 77, Abu Massoud is the white-haired patriarch of a refugee family spanning five generations, including a great-great-granddaughter. The future looks bleak. “Fifty years have passed without a step forward,” said Abu Massoud. “We don’t belong here.” The plight of Palestinians uprooted by Israeli-Arab wars is one of the world’s longest-running refugee crises, and a solution would likely require setting up a state of Palestine that would take in large numbers of them. Such a solution appears distant, even as President Donald Trump says he wants to try to broker an Israeli-Palestinian agreement. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are being displaced again by regional conflicts, including civil war in Syria. The head of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) which helps displaced Palestinians said they are no longer the world’s focus. “We are dealing here with a community that has essentially reached a crisis of existential nature,” said Pierre Kraehenbuehl….
UN chief vows to stand up against anti-Israel bias
AFP 24 Apr — UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres sought to reassure international Jewish community leaders on Sunday that he would stand up against any perceptions of anti-Israel bias at the world organization. Guterres spoke amid a deepening row over alleged bias within the UN following US pressure, exacerbated last month when a UN rights expert issued a blistering criticism of Israel’s policies. Guterres said he would “guarantee” that those working under him would abide by principles that he considers right. “As secretary general of the United Nations I consider that the state of Israel needs to be treated as any other state,” he said to applause at the World Jewish Congress in New York. “I have already had the opportunity to show that I’m ready to abide by that principle even when that forces me to take some decisions that create some uncomfortable situations,” he added. Former UN official and Jordanian national Rima Khalaf last month said Guterres asked her to withdraw a report in which she accused Israel of being an “apartheid state” and subsequently resigned. The UN chief nonetheless qualified: “That does not mean that I will always be in agreement with all the decisions that are taken at any moment by any government that exists in Israel.” Guterres promised that he would be “in the frontline” in the struggle against anti-Semitism, which he warned was on the rise in Europe and America, and called “absolutely unacceptable.”….
German foreign minister to press Israel for two-state solution
BERLIN (Reuters) 23 Apr by Andrea Shalal — Deep and “unbreakable” ties between Germany and Israel are part of Germany’s national identity and pillars of its foreign policy, but Berlin will continue to press for a two-state solution, Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Sunday. “With respect to the Middle East conflict, our solidarity with Israel also means working to ensure that Israel and Palestine can live side by side in dignity and peace,” Gabriel said in a statement released as he departed for the region. “Only a two-state solution will be sustainable,” he said. Gabriel’s visit, his first since becoming foreign minister in January, comes as German concerns about Israeli settlement building have dragged ties to their lowest point in years. German governments have made strong relations with Israel a top priority ever since World War Two, going to great lengths to make amends for the killing of six million Jews by the Nazis. Gabriel will visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial on Monday and meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel and Palestinian government officials, his spokesman Martin Schaefer told reporters on Friday….