Political and other news
Netanyahu’s cabinet seeks to downgrade status of Arabic
Al Jazeera/Agencies 8 May — Proposed law to strip Arabic of official-language status and define Israel as ‘the national home of the Jewish people’ — Israeli ministers have approved a controversial bill that will downgrade Arabic as an official language and define the country as the “national home of the Jewish people”. The Haaretz newspaper reported on Sunday that if the bill were to become law, Arabic would no longer be an official language and would instead be defined as having special status. In the bill, Hebrew is defined as the “national language”, which would become part of the country’s so-called basic law, which is similar to a constitution, it said. The legislation still has to go through further drafting by the justice ministry and pass several votes in parliament. Critics have described the proposed legislation, which also declares that the “right to self-determination” in Israel is “unique to the Jewish people”, as impinging on the rights of its Arab minority, who make up some 20 percent of the 8.7 million population. Defining Israel as the “national home of the Jewish people” has also raised concerns among rights activists and others worried over discrimination and attempts to further mix religion and state. Ayman Odeh, a parliament member who heads the mainly Arab Joint List alliance, said approving the bill would mean trampling on minority rights, adding it would “legally transform us into second-class citizens”. The bill was sponsored by Avi Dichter, a member of the Likud party of Benjamin Netanyahu, who said it was necessary to “set in law our national identity while remaining a democratic state”.
PA says crisis resolved after East Jerusalem hospital turned patients away over debt
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 7 May — The Palestinian Authority (PA) Minister of Health Jawad Awwad announced on Sunday afternoon that an agreement had been reached with a hospital in occupied East Jerusalem after the medical facility had said earlier in the day that it would no longer accept new patients, owing to a “crisis level” financial situation due to excessive delays in payments from the Palestinian Authority (PA) amounting to some $41.78 million. After a meeting with Augusta Victoria Hospital General Manager Walid Nammur and Director of Operations Atif Rimawi, Awwad said that the situation “had been resolved,” and that the hospital would resume accepting patients referred to by the ministry. The minister added in a statement that an agreement was reached on “all unresolved issues” in coordination with Palestinian Minister of Finance Shukri Bishara, and that “we will do our best to end the crises facing Jerusalem hospitals.” The private Augusta Victoria Hospital, which receives patients referred by the Palestinian Ministry of Health from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, had previously warned of the mounting financial crisis last November in a joint statement with East Jerusalem hospital al-Maqasid, that alleged the PA owed the two hospitals a cumulative $62.5 million at the time….
Early local elections voting for security forces, says commission
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 6 May – Security forces will vote early in local elections that will be held in the West Bank only on May 13, the Central Elections Commission (CEC) said on Saturday. Early voting of security forces will take place on Thursday, from 7:00 in the morning until 7:00 in the evening local time, it said. This will enable them to exercise their electoral right while undertaking their responsibility in securing the official elections day on May 13, said the CEC. The CEC will open 10 polling centers with 26 polling stations including 25 localities of the West Bank which have more than 200 registered security personnel. The total number of registered security forces in these localities is 11,000 voters. At the end of the pre-voting day, the ballot boxes will be transferred and securely kept in special rooms inside each center. Ballot boxes will be open for tabulation at the end of the official polling day and the results will be announced on the official day of declaration of election results. Security personnel whose names are not listed in the early voting lists will be entitled to vote on the official elections day, provided they are registered voters, said CEC.
What to expect from Hamas’ newly elected leader / Adnan Abu Amer
Al-Monitor 8 May — Former head of Hamas’ political bureau Khaled Meshaal announced May 6 that Ismail Haniyeh won the movement’s internal elections held that day, and that he is the new head of the movement’s political bureau. Meanwhile, Meshaal, who resides in Qatar, will remain a member of the movement’s Shura Council. A senior Hamas official based in Qatar told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “Hamas’ Shura Council, inside and outside of Palestine, organized a videoconference call on May 6 during which they elected Haniyeh, who was competing for the position with two other Hamas leaders — Mousa Abu Marzouk and Mohammed Nazzal — and the 18 members of Hamas’ new political bureau.” He said, “A number of Hamas leaders were supposed to travel to Qatar, where Hamas’ political leadership is based, to participate in the elections, but Egypt’s closure of the Rafah crossing prevented it. With the election of Haniyeh, Hamas’ internal elections were completed after four months and held in four different geographical areas: Gaza, the West Bank, the Israeli prisons and outside of Palestine.” Hamas issued a statement on the evening of May 7, announcing the names of some of its political bureau members, such as Abu Marzouk, Nazzal, Yahya Sinwar, Saleh al-Arouri, Khalil al-Hayya, Maher Obeid, Izzat al-Rishq and Fathi Hammad. However, with no reason given, the names of the other members and the name of the deputy head were not made public.
Haniyeh’s election as the head of Hamas was expected, because he has been Meshaal’s deputy since 2013. He has led Hamas in the Gaza Strip and traveled to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Qatar and met with a number of Hamas leaders during the last four months of 2016. Haniyeh, who lives in Gaza, is widely popular among the Palestinians. In March, a survey by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research quantified Haniyeh’s popularity and predicted that in the event of Palestinian presidential elections, he would receive 47% of the votes. Abdel Sattar Qassem, a political science professor at An-Najah National University in Nablus, told Al-Monitor, “Haniyeh has a number of traits that may be equal to or superior to Meshaal’s, such as his ability to address the Palestinians and being geographically closer to them. However, what is most important in Haniyeh’s election is that he will bring the movement closer to Iran through efforts by senior Hamas leaders such as Mahmoud al-Zahar and Yahya Sinwar. Haniyeh will also revive rapprochement with Hezbollah and Syria and he will work on resolving the negativity that harmed Hamas’ relationship with these parties.” …
Yet a number of difficult challenges await Haniyeh, such as achieving reconciliation with Fatah, restoring Hamas’ relations with countries in the region such as Egypt and Iran, easing the Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip and keeping the specter of war out of Gaza. Palestinian analyst of Hamas affairs Hussam al-Dajani told Al-Monitor, “Haniyeh is most importantly required to remove Hamas from international terror lists. Haniyeh’s election followed the issuance of Hamas’ new policy document on May 1, which is considered the culmination of a new stage in developing Hamas’ network of local, regional and international relations. So it would be best for Haniyeh to reside in Gaza and not move abroad, and instead assign representatives of the movement abroad to manage foreign relations according to his directives and instructions.”
Many Palestinians welcomed Haniyeh’s victory. Member of Fatah’s Central Committee Azzam al-Ahmad expressed optimism, saying that he hopes Haniyeh will succeed in achieving reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine praised the democratic process that led to Haniyeh’s victory and called on him to quickly address the internal Palestinian situation. Islamic Jihad also welcomed Haniyeh’s victory and urged him to resolve the Palestinian differences, while the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine considered Haniyeh’s election an achievement for the resistance and a point of pride for every Palestinian….
Islamic Jihad rejects Palestinian state within 1967 borders
AFP 6 May — The radical Palestinian group Islamic Jihad has rejected Hamas’s new policy of easing its stand on Israel and accepting the establishment of a Palestinian state limited to the 1967 borders. “As partners with our Hamas brothers in the struggle for liberation, we feel concern over the document” which the main Islamist movement that rules Gaza adopted on Monday, said Islamic Jihad’s deputy leader, Ziad al-Nakhala. “We are opposed to Hamas’s acceptance of a state within the 1967 borders and we think this is a concession which damages our aims,” he said on Islamic Jihad’s website. Nakhala said the new Hamas policy formally accepting the idea of a state in the territories occupied by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War would “lead to deadlock and can only produce half-solutions” … Founded in the 1980s in the wake of the Islamic revolution in Iran, a close ally and source of its ideology, Islamic Jihad is the second force in the Gaza Strip and focused entirely on the armed struggle.
Palestinian football chief hits out at Netanyahu over West Bank clubs
AFP 8 May — Any attempt by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to pressure FIFA over the issue of Israeli clubs in the West Bank was unprecedented, Palestinian football chief Jibril Rajoub said Monday. Rajoub, speaking after the Asian Football Confederation’s congress in Bahrain, was responding to media reports that Netanyahu had personally telephoned FIFA president Gianni Infantino. The reports further claimed that Netanyahu had urged the FIFA boss to halt world football’s governing body discussing possible sanctions against six Israeli clubs from West Bank settlements at its annual congress later this week. “What happened yesterday, the Israeli prime minister called Infantino and asked him to delete this item from the agenda of FIFA,” said Rajoub. “This has no precedent in the history of football.” He continued: “He phoned Infantino. I am sure that Mr Infantino is not working for Mr Netanyahu, he was elected by FIFA and he represents the interests of FIFA.” The contentious issue of the clubs threatens to cast a shadow over FIFA’s congress, which takes place on May 11, also in Bahrain. The Palestine Football Association argues that the presence of six Israeli clubs on its territory [in illegal Israeli settlements] is in breach of FIFA statutes, which forbids another member association playing on another territory without permission. Israel argues that FIFA rules are unenforceable as there is no permanent border….
Bedouin community gets its Japanese funded solar panel system
BETHLEHEM (WAFA) 4 May – Ceremonies were held on Thursday marking the completion of the installation of a solar panel system in al-Rawaein Bedouin community in the Bethlehem government funded by the government of Japan, according to a press release. Japan’s Representative to Palestine, Takeshi Okubo, visited al-Rawaein to celebrate the completion of the project funded through Japan’s Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects (GGP). The grant of $81,600 was extended to the Agricultural Society for the Wall Affected “SAMED” to install the solar panel system. It aims to improve and benefit the life environment and school environment of all residents in the al-Rawaein Bedouin community which has about 200 residents (40 households), said the press release by the Japan Representative Office in Ramallah. In his speech, Okubo emphasized Japan’s firm commitment of supporting Palestinian people from a human security perspective as well as the importance of implementing social and economic development projects needed for Palestinian communities. Since 1993 the government of Japan has extended its official development assistance to approximately $1.8 billion, to the Palestinians….
Israel-Germany dispute shines spotlight on anti-occupation group
TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) 7 May — Former Israeli combat soldiers who were thrust into the center of a diplomatic row between Israel and Germany say the sudden international spotlight has given them a bigger stage to speak out against Israel’s 50-year rule over millions of Palestinians. Breaking the Silence is a group of ex-soldiers-turned-whistleblowers who view Israel’s open-ended occupation of lands sought for a Palestinian state as an existential threat to their country. Since 2004, the group has collected testimony from more than 1,100 fellow soldiers who describe the dark side of that rule, including seemingly routine mistreatment of Palestinian civilians stripped of basic rights. The veterans hope such accounts by former fighters will carry weight and spark public debate about the moral price of the occupation. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and top officials in his nationalist government have a starkly different view. They have branded Breaking the Silence as foreign-funded subversives who are trying to defame Israel and its military. Netanyahu even seemed willing to rattle Israel’s relationship with key European ally Germany to score points against Breaking the Silence, which has 16 paid staffers, several dozen volunteers and an annual budget of about $2 million. Two weeks ago, he said he would not receive German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel if the visitor stuck to plans to meet with Breaking the Silence. Gabriel chose the soldiers instead. Netanyahu, who also serves as foreign minister, said that shunning visitors who meet with Breaking the Silence is now official policy. The dispute cast a shadow over what would otherwise have been a routine visit to Israel by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier this week. In a speech in Jerusalem on Sunday, Steinmeier did not refer to Breaking the Silence by name, but said that civil society groups “deserve our respect as democrats, also at times when they are critical of a government.” Steinmeier, who met with Netanyahu on Sunday, said he disagreed with the decision not to receive Gabriel. Steinmeier said he decided against canceling his Israel trip because it might have allowed relations to “move deeper into a dead end, which would have harmed both sides.”
German president starts Tuesday an official visit to Palestine
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 8 May – German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier starts on Tuesday an official one-day visit to Palestine during which he meets President Mahmoud Abbas at the presidential headquarters, the Muqata‘a, in Ramallah. Steinmeier will first visit a home for the elderly in Qubeibeh, west of Ramallah, before arriving at the Muqata‘a before noon for a session with Abbas. The two leaders are expected to hold a press conference at noon.
Israel opens first East Jerusalem police station – in a Palestinian refugee camp
Haaretz 7 May by Nir Hasson — The Israel Police dedicated a new police station at the entrance to the Shoafat Palestinian refugee camp in East Jerusalem on Sunday. The first police station in East Jerusalem, the new building is part of a broader plan to improve police services in the capital. According to the Israel Police, the emphasis of the Integrated Service Center, its official name, will be on providing services to residents rather than local law enforcement. It will house offices for municipal services and, in the future, branches of the National Insurance Institute and the Interior Ministry as well. Similar centers in additional Palestinian areas of East Jerusalem are planned. The dedication ceremony was attended by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, Israel Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat. The Shoafat refugee camp is considered one of the highest-crime areas of the city. Situated at the edge of Jerusalem, it is on the West Bank side of the separation barrier despite being part of the capital. After the barrier was built, Israel stopped providing most services to the camp … Local figures who took part in the ceremony welcomed the new station, but there were some dissenting views as well. One resident, who asked that only his first name, Ismail, be used, said many people think the true purpose of the center is to cut off residents from Jerusalem. “It’s all politics. They don’t want people to go to Jerusalem so they are opening a post office and a police station and city hall,” Ismail said. “We want the police to impose order and arrest the drug dealers but so far we haven’t seen them do anything.”….
Haaretz Editorial: The ideological blindness of two right-wing Israeli ministers
7 May — Ayelet Shaked and Yariv Levin are leading Israel to one of two bad prospects: its end as a state that is Jewish and democratic, or its official transformation into an apartheid state — Cabinet ministers Ayelet Shaked and Yariv Levin are working to impose Israeli law on the West Bank, Yedioth Ahronoth reported on Friday. They propose that every government-sponsored bill specify whether it will also apply to the territories. In practice, every new law would automatically apply to the territories, except in rare cases where the government does not want to give Palestinians the rights enjoyed by Jews. The sponsors’ intent is clear: to take one more step toward erasing the Green Line and annexing the West Bank – its territory, not its inhabitants, in order to deprive them of any say in determining their own fate. That is how creeping annexation works: First come the half-tracks, creeping in on their treads, then the settlers creep in, with or without the government’s encouragement. The government follows, extending its official patronage to all. The law creeps in last, to lend the appearance of propriety to a situation that discriminates against the local population, is not recognized by any foreign state and whose future depends on negotiation … Three years ago, before they joined the Netanyahu government, Shaked and Levin (representing Habayit Hayehudi and Likud’s right flank, respectively), together with other Knesset members, proposed a creeping annexation under the guise of imposing judicial equality on either side of the Green Line – but only for Jews. That constitutes exploitation of the 50-year-old fiction that the West Bank is a military area and as such is under the rule of the commanding army officer, whose actions are dictated by military necessity. Since the Israeli military is subordinate to the cabinet, which is bound by the laws passed by the Knesset, the legislative process can be used to smuggle annexation and discrimination past the military….
Erdoğan calls Israel policy on Palestinians ‘racist’
Al Jazeera/Agencies 9 May — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has compared Israel’s policies against the Palestinians to the racism of the early days of the United States and the apartheid era in South Africa. “What’s the difference between the present acts of the Israeli administration and the racist and discriminatory politics that were practised against black people in the past in America – and up until a short time ago in South Africa,” Erdoğan said on Monday. Erdoğan – speaking at an event in Istanbul that focused on the Middle East conflict – also cautioned the US not to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Such a move is “extremely wrong” and such talk should be abandoned, he said. He added the embargo on Gaza by Israel “has no place in humanity”. The Turkish leader criticised Israel over legislation working its way through the Knesset that would place restrictions on the Islamic call to prayer. One such bill would ban calls to worship via loudspeakers between 11pm and 7am. Israel fired back later on Monday calling Erdoğan a “serial human rights violator”….
UK government said to cancel Prince Charles’ visit to Israel
Times of Israel 7 May by Tamar Pileggi & Raoul Wootliff — A potentially historic visit to Israel by a senior member of the British royal family scheduled for later this year has reportedly been canceled by the country’s Foreign Office over fears it would anger the UK’s Arab allies. The Sun tabloid reported Sunday that Prince Charles will not visit Israel in the fall of 2017 for a trip that was planned to coincide with the 100-year anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. Though never officially confirmed by London or Jerusalem, a senior British Jewish community leader told The Times of Israel last November that plans were underway for a member of the royal family to visit Israel in the first-ever official visit. In March, in a meeting with UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, President Reuven Rivlin publicly extended an invitation to Prince Charles to visit Israel during the centennial year of the 1917 signing of the Balfour Declaration … The UK Foreign Office denied a visit had ever been planned, in a statement to The Times of Israel.
Violence / Detentions — West Bank / Jerusalem / Israel
Teenage Palestinian girl ‘executed in cold blood’, witnesses say
[with video, photos] JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 8 May — Palestinians who witnessed Israeli border police shooting and killing 16-year-old Fatima Afif Abd al-Rahman Hjeiji in occupied East Jerusalem on Sunday evening said the girl was “executed in cold blood” and did not pose a lethal threat when she was hit with some 20 bullets outside of the Old City. Israeli police claimed Hjeiji “approached Israeli police and border guards stationed at the site, drew a knife, and tried to attack them while calling out ‘Allah Akbar’ in an attempt to hurt Israeli forces, who determinedly and professionally neutralized her.” However, shortly after the shooting, an eyewitness told Ma‘an that Hjeiji had been standing near Damascus Gate, more than ten meters away from a group of Israeli border guard soldiers, before she was killed. “One of the soldiers started to shout ‘knife! knife!’ and moments after that, about five soldiers opened fire at her from every direction,” he said. Another witness said the girl was first hit in the chest and fell to the ground, “but Israeli soldiers continued to fire at her back.” Witnesses highlighted that a parked car nearby was riddled with bullets, indicating the extent of indiscriminate force used on the teenage girl, allegedly armed with only a knife.
In the wake of the killing, Israeli forces cordoned off the area as bystanders tried to crowd around Hjeiji’s body. Israeli border guards, intelligence officers, and police on horseback deployed heavily in the area and denied locals access to the Old City. In the ensuing chaos, Israeli forces “haphazardly used pepper spray on Palestinians to keep them away from the girl,” a witness told Ma‘an. A young Palestinian man sustained face burns after Israeli forces attacked him with pepper spray near Damascus Gate, and a nine-year-old child, Mahmoud Abu Sbeih, was badly bruised from falling over after he and a group of teenagers were chased by mounted police officers. An impassioned bystander confronted Israeli police, shouting: “Why do you continue to tell lies? What did that girl do? What did she do? Do you actually want peace?” Israeli police spokespersons had also published a photo of a knife that allegedly seized at the scene, and said a letter written by Hjeiji, in which she bid farewell to her family, was also found. According to Israeli police, the note “included verses from the Quran, and was signed ‘martyr,’” the term used by Palestinians to refer to those who are killed by Israeli forces.
Palestinians mourn Fatima Hjeiji in the West Bank
OCCUPIED WEST BANK, Palestine (Al Jazeera) 9 May by Nigel Wilson — Photo: Newly attached posters on a a building wall in Qarawat Bani Zeid depict Fatima Hjeiji who was shot dead on May 7 — Fatima Hjeiji was the seventh Palestinian child to be killed by Israeli security forces in 2017 — At the Hjeiji family home in the occupied West Bank village of Qarawat Bani Zeid, classmates, friends and relatives of Fatima Hjeiji lined up to pay their respects. One by one, the women and girls hugged Fatima’s mother Dareen and offered sympathetic words. “She was such a lovely girl. Everybody at school loved her,” said Nadin Imad, 17, who attended the girls’ school in the village with Fatima. “I was in class with her since the first grade. She had a very strong character and was not afraid to say whatever she wanted.” The previous afternoon had begun like any other afternoon in the Hjeiji household. Fatima, 16, had returned home from school around 1.30pm and updated her mother on the morning’s events. “It was a normal day, nothing unusual,” said Dareen Hjeiji … Fatima’s uncle Salameh Hjeiji told Al Jazeera that he believed the teenager had gone to visit another uncle and aunt who lived in the Old City of Jerusalem. However, the teenager had not told her immediate family of any plans to do so and did not have an entry permit that would have enabled her to pass through the Israeli checkpoints that separate Jerusalem from the occupied West Bank. Later that evening a family member received a phone call from the DCO, the joint Palestinian-Israeli military coordination office in the West Bank, informing them that Fatima had been shot dead by Israeli paramilitary police close to Damascus Gate in Jerusalem. Soon afterwards, Fatima’s father Afeef received a call from an Israeli intelligence official, asking him to come to Jerusalem and identify Fatima’s body. He was also questioned by intelligence officers for three hours that evening, he told Al Jazeera … The eldest of four siblings, Fatima had been a strong student and enjoyed writing poetry and speeches in her spare time, but she really excelled in mathematics, her family said. “She was part of a club for gifted mathematics students in Ramallah,” said her mother Dareen. Dareen described her as quiet, calm and kind, noting that she was popular among her classmates. The teenager was politically aware and had ambitions to work in the media after completing her education. “She was a good speaker and a good writer,” said Dareen. “She always watched the news because she wanted to be a journalist when she was older.”
10-year-old Palestinian girl attacked by wild boar near Jenin
JENIN (Ma‘an) 6 May — A ten-year-old Palestinian girl was hospitalized Friday night after a wild boar attacked her in the town of al-Yamun northwest of Jenin in the northern occupied West Bank, with locals saying the incident was a result of Israeli settlers deliberately releasing wild boars in the area. Palestinian medical sources said that the child, Alaa Kamil Hoshiya, was bitten on her hand and was also suffering from shock. According to locals, the girl was attacked in al-Khirbeh area of al-Yamun. Palestinians say they have been dealing with an ongoing wild boar problem in the occupied West Bank, claiming that extremist Israeli settlers have brought boars and released them near Palestinian areas to attack farmers and villagers as a way to keep them off their land. After years of injuries and damages to agricultural lands caused by wild boars, some Palestinians have taken to poisoning the animals. Meanwhile, some organizations have alleged that the construction of the Israeli separation wall has affected the habitat of wild boars, possibly leading to higher concentrations of the animal’s population in certain areas in the occupied West Bank.
East Jerusalem parents denounce Israeli police’s assault of Palestinian school principal
[with VIDEO] JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 8 May — The union of parent committees in occupied East Jerusalem schools held a sit-in on Monday in solidarity with the principal of a preparatory school in the Beit Hanina neighborhood, who was hospitalized last week after Israeli police officers arbitrarily assaulted and detained him. The head of the union, Ziyad al-Shamali, told Ma‘an that Israeli police were chasing a vehicle driven by a Palestinian in Beit Hanina on Thursday, and detained the young man in the Beit Hanina preparatory school’s yard. When school principal Hassan Ghneim came out to the yard to ask Israeli officers what was happening on the school premises, the officers started swearing at him, then violently assaulted him and held chains around his neck, causing Ghneim to fall to the ground and suffer a head injury, al-Shamali said. Ghneim told Ma‘an that he had come out after the Israeli officers hit a young student with their vehicle following the detention of the young Palestinian man, bruising the child. Video footage [below] recorded by an eyewitness showed Ghneim being forcibly dragged away by the neck, as Israeli police officers pushed away bystanders who were trying to help Ghneim. The officers detained Ghneim and took him to a police station in the illegal settlement of Neve Yaakov, where they continued to hurl insults at him. Ghneim was then released without any charges held against him, and was hospitalized to treat the wounds and bruises he suffered from the attack.
The demonstrators on Monday held posters reading “Houses and schools have sanctity,” “Our schools are a red line,” “Stop undermining our rights,” and “The perpetrators must be punished.” The parent committees union denounced in a statement “the savage detention of the school’s principal before the very eyes of terrified schoolchildren,” and held Israeli police responsible for the assault. The union also called on Israeli authorities to denounce the assault and carry out legal procedures against the officers involved….
Dawabsha family sues Israel for compensation over deadly Duma arson
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 8 May — Relatives of the Dawabsha family, three of whose members died in an arson attack committed by Israeli settlers in 2015, filed a lawsuit on Monday against the state of Israel seeking compensation for the murders. The high-profile attack sparked outrage in July 2015, when extremist Israeli settlers set fire to a house in the northern occupied West Bank village of Duma, killing 18-month-old Ali and his parents Riham and Saad Dawabsha, and leaving then-four-year-old Ahmad Dawabsha the sole survivor. Ahmad Dawabsha was hospitalized for almost a year to treat the severe burns he sustained all over his body and face. Two Israelis were indicted for murder for the arson in January 2016, although they have yet to be sentenced, while a Jewish extremist arrested over suspicions of being tied to the case was released in June 2016.
The lawsuit comes a week after remarks by Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who said that six-year-old Ahmad did not qualify as a “terror victim” because he was not an Israeli citizen, and was therefore not eligible for compensation from the Israeli government. The Times of Israel reported that the Israeli Defense Ministry had offered that the Dawabsha family submit a request for compensation to an inter-ministerial committee, but that the family had decided to sue the state instead. According to Israeli news outlet Ynet, the Dawabsha family was now requesting some 10 million shekels ($2.77 million) in compensation as part of the lawsuit. Israel’s Channel 2 quoted Tawfiq Muhammad, a representative from the al-Mezan Center for Human Rights as saying that the Dawabsha family would present its lawsuit to the magistrate’s court in Nazareth….
VIDEO: Palestinian family sues Israel over deadly arson attack
Al Jazeera 9 May — The family of a six-year-old Palestinian boy who survived a firebombing that killed his parents and brother is launching legal action against the Israeli government. Two Israeli settlers were charged with the murders of Ahmad Dawabsheh’s family following the attack in July 2015. But his relatives say Israel – through its policy of illegal settlement in the occupied West Bank – bears the ultimate responsibility. Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett reports from Duma in the Occupied West Bank.
Opinion: Palestinian victims of terrorism must be compensated too / Itamar Margalit
Haaretz 9 May — Last week, just before the Memorial Day ceremonies, a laconic message arrived from the Defense Ministry reflecting the discrimination when it comes to the victims of terrorism. The message came in response to a query by MK Yousef Jabareen from the Joint List of Arab parties posed a year and a half ago. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman replied for the ministry. Ahmed Dawabsheh, now 6, the only survivor of an arson attack by Jewish terrorists in the village of Duma in July 2015, won’t be entitled to compensation from the state for the loss of his parents, his brother and their house, which was completely destroyed by the fire. Apparently the obvious steps that follow a terror attack, namely compensating the family of the victims, don’t apply for West Bank Palestinians killed by Jewish terrorists. Details provided by the National Insurance Institute regarding the eligibility for such benefits show that a mere resident of the territories can only be defined as a victim of such an attack if it occurs within the 1967 borders. In contrast, an Israeli citizen hurt in such an attack is eligible for benefits no matter where it took place − in Israel proper or the West Bank. This is an egregious injustice since this abomination took place in the Dawabsheh home in the middle of the night; their only sin was that they were Palestinians. In contrast to the compensation given to the Abu Khdeir family − Israeli residents living in East Jerusalem − after their son Mohammed was burned to death within the 1967 borders, Ahmed Dawabsheh will receive nothing because he isn’t an Israeli citizen and his family was burned to death deep inside Palestinian territory….
Israel increases number of citizens temporarily banned from West Bank
Ynet 7 May by Elisha Ben Kimon — Over the past month, Israel has increased the number of military orders requiring certain Jewish Israelis from entering the West Bank, aiming to reduce terrorist attacks carried out by Jews there. One settler who received such an order has become the focus of a campaign calling the order against him to be lifted. Elkana Picard, a 32-year-old resident of the settlement of Yitzhar, on Sunday received a summons to a hearing. He was informed that that the GOC Central Command — the ex officio sovereign in the West Bank — intended to issue an order removing Picard from the West Bank for a period of four months. Posters have been plastered throughout Yitzhar with a photo of the married father of six and with the caption: “We are all Elkana Picard.” According to the Shin Bet’s assessment, Picard, like others who have received similar orders, may inflame tensions in the West Bank. In total, 17 orders have been issued in the past month. The number of those who have been removed from the disputed territory is 37 since the beginning of the year. The Shin Bet and the Israel Police have asserted that that these orders are effective and point to data that support this. In 2015, there were 16 attacks defined as Jewish terrorism. In 2016, there were only two. This year there were also two incidents defined as Jewish terrorist attacks, including a group from Be’er Sheva who was arrested on suspicion of attacking Arabs and setting fire to a vehicle in Huwara….
Israeli settlers write racist graffiti on walls and cars in Jerusalem
IMEMC 9 May — An unknown number of Israeli fanatic extremists infiltrated, on Tuesday at dawn, the as-Sahl neighborhood in Shu‘fat town, north of occupied East Jerusalem, and wrote racist graffiti in Hebrew on Palestinian cars and buildings. The graffiti included insults against the Muslim Prophet Mohammad. The vandals also slashed car tires. Besides the insults against the Prophet Mohammad, the vandals also wrote ‘Pricetag’ and ‘Revenge’. They punctured the tires of 17 cars belonging to members of the families of Issa, Abu Zahara, Abu Khdeir, al-Mashni, Khaddor, Abdul-al, and D’eis. Local resident Morad Issa said that surveillance cameras captured the images of two Israeli settlers infiltrating into the neighborhood at about 3:15 am. The cameras showed the pair writing graffiti on the walls and on a car. But Israeli police say they have no suspects in the case, although Jerusalem District police say they have opened an investigation …
Also on Tuesday morning before dawn, a Palestinian village in northern Israel, Na‘ura, experienced a similar spate of graffiti and tire slashings, likely carried out by the same perpetrators. There, eight cars had their tires slashed, and the words “administrative price tag” and “administrative revenge” were spray-painted on buildings. The addition of the word “administrative” is speculated to be a reference to administrative detention, a practice of holding prisoners without charges for lengthy terms. In the past, it was only used for Palestinians, but in the past year an Israeli settler leader and several other right-wing Israeli suspects were held without charge in connection to an arson attack that killed a Palestinian family asleep in their beds.
Israeli soldiers assault Palestinian farmers protesting illegal settlement road
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 7 May — Israeli settlers assaulted Palestinian farmers in the village of Turmusayya in the central occupied West Bank district of Ramallah on Sunday, after the farmers arrived to protest the illegal construction of an Israeli settler road on privately owned Palestinian land. Despite an order from the Israeli Civil Administration to stop building the road, Israeli settlers continued to pave the road, according to the Israeli organization Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR). A video [below] published by RHR showed Israeli soldiers assaulting the Palestinian residents, while enabling settlers to carry out the roadwork in defiance of the stop-work order issued last week by the Civil Administration, which is the unit under the Israeli Defense Ministry responsible for enforcing Israeli policies in the occupied Palestinian territory. Israeli soldiers also attacked RHR’s field coordinator Zakharia Sade who documented the incident, according to the group. Some Palestinians who arrived to the work site also reportedly climbed atop farm machinery, the Israeli army told RHR … “Although the soldiers were notified that this work was forbidden by the Israel Army’s Civil Administration, and that the continuation of the paving is expected to harm agricultural work, their reaction was aggressive and they were unwilling to listen,” RHR wrote in a statement. “Time and again, we witness that even in rare incidents when the Civil Administration defends private Palestinian lands, soldiers on the ground are not on the same page, and rather suppress a justified protest.”….
Israeli forces detain 65-year-old father of Palestinian teen slain in 2011
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 8 May — Israeli forces stormed the neighborhood of Silwan in occupied East Jerusalem on Monday morning and detained 65-year-old Said Ayyash, whose son Milad Ayyash was shot dead by Israeli forces in 2011. Ayyash’s family members told Ma‘an that Israeli intelligence officers had stormed their house one day prior, at dawn on Sunday, to detain Ayyash. Ayyash, however, was in the hospital at the time. Israeli forces then returned Monday at dawn and detained him. According to the family, forces gave no explanation for Ayyash’s detention….
Young Palestinian charged for Tel Aviv waterfront attack
Haaretz 8 May by Yaniv Kubovich — Omad Ahgbar, a 18-year-old Palestinian from Nablus, was charged with attempted murder and terrorism Monday for an April attack in Tel Aviv’s boardwalk that wounded four. According to the indictment, Ahgbar “decided to kill Jews because they are Jews, with the intent of either dying or being arrested… to turn into a martyr or hero.” According to suspicions, he decided in 2016 to attempt an attack in the Dead Sea area, where he believed he would find many Jewish Israelis, his charge sheet claimed. He purchased a knife and took a cab from Jericho in the West Bank, but returned after the cab driver told him the beaches were empty. According to the indictment, he then discarded the knife and returned to Nablus. In March, he decided to come to Tel Aviv to attempt an attack. “The suspect planned out how he would enter Israel and come to Tel Aviv, and even turned to a [Palestinian] company that organizes tours in Israel… granting him one-day entry permits to Israel.” He also sharpened his belt buckle, turning it into a makeshift knife which could be smuggled into Israel without being caught by security forces during a search. On April 23 he entered Israel with the one-day permit as part of a tour group and during the tour bus’ first stop, near Tel Aviv’s Yarkon Park, he ditched the group and began searching for victims, the indictment alleges. Heading towards the beach, he crossed paths with a 70-year-old man and proceeded to stab him with his belt buckle, kicking and punching him as well. The assailant then fled the scene and entered into the lobby of the nearby Leonardo Hotel, where he wounded another three people with a larger pair of garden shears he found inside. They suffered light wounds in the form of stabs and cuts….
Israeli forces detain Palestinian suspected in March stabbing attack
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 7 May — Israeli forces have detained a Palestinian suspected of stabbing an Israeli in the southern occupied West Bank district of Bethlehem in March, Israeli media reported on Sunday. According to Israeli news outlet Ynet, Muhammad Ahmad al-Hadiyeh, a 30-year-old member of Islamic Jihad, was detained in connection with a stabbing attack in which a Palestinian hitchhiker lightly injured an Israeli driver on Route 60 near the Palestinian village of Beit Jala on March 7 before fleeing the scene.
Ynet reported that Hadiyeh had initially been arrested by Palestinian security forces, before being detained by Israeli security forces upon his release from Palestinian custody. The case seemed to correspond to security coordination procedures between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israel, which critics have called a “revolving door policy” funneling Palestinians from PA jails into Israeli prisons through politically motivated arrests. The Hamas movement and other Palestinian groups have repeatedly accused the PA of aligning with Israel’s goals in the occupied West Bank by continuing the contested policy. While the PA has repeatedly threatened to put an end to the security coordination with Israel over the years, a report released last year by Israeli newspaper Haaretz claimed that Palestinian security forces had carried out 40 percent of detentions of “suspected terrorists” in the occupied West Bank in previous months.
Israeli forces detain 10 Palestinians in West Bank raids
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 7 May — Israeli forces detained at least 10 Palestinians across the occupied West Bank between Saturday night and early Sunday morning, and summoned two others to appear for interrogation. In the southern occupied West Bank district of Bethlehem, Palestinians security sources said that Israeli forces detained 16-year-old Muhammad Riyad Sabah from the village of Tuqu‘ and 26-year-old Jihad Muhammad Zawahra from the village of al-Ma‘sara after searching their houses … Earlier on Saturday night, Israeli forces detained three Palestinians in al-Ma‘sara who participated in a march held in solidarity with hundreds of Palestinians on hunger strike in Israeli prisons. Locals said that Israeli forces prevented the march from continuing and detained Ahmad Zawahra and his two sons Muhammad, 21, and Ibrahim, 18. Before dawn Sunday morning, Israeli forces also raided ‘Aida refugee camp in northern Bethlehem and delivered orders to Mahmoud Riyad Abu Srour, 29, and 19-year-old Mutaz Mahmoud al-Dibs to appear for interrogation at Israel’s Etzion detention center. An Israeli army spokesperson also informed Ma‘an that during overnight detention raids, one Palestinian was detained in Bethlehem city, another Palestinian was detained in the town of Dura in the southern Hebron district, and two Palestinians were also detained in the town of ‘Anata in the central Jerusalem district.
Israeli raids in Palestinian towns, villages, and refugee camps are a daily occurrence in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem. The United Nations recorded an average of 95 weekly raids in the occupied West Bank in 2016, and 78 weekly raids on average thus far in 2017.
Israeli forces detain 18 Palestinians in predawn military raids
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 8 May — Israeli forces carried out predawn military raids across the occupied West Bank on Monday and detained at least 18 Palestinians, according to Palestinians and Israeli sources. Local sources told Ma‘an that Israeli forces raided the southern West Bank city of Hebron and detained three Palestinians, identified as Munjid Nadir Qawasmeh, Seif al-Islam Qafisha, and Malik al-Natsha. Qawasmeh, the sources said, was released from Israeli custody only a week ago after a nine-month imprisonment. The Israeli army said that four total were detained in Hebron, while “combat tools, including 16 commando knives” were also seized in the city. Locals added that Israeli forces also searched the home of Palestinian journalist Musab Qafisha and upended his belongings during the overnight raid in Hebron, but did not detain him. According to an Israeli army spokesperson, three Palestinians were also detained in the town of Tuqu‘ east of Bethlehem in the southern West Bank. In raids in the northern occupied West Bank, four Palestinians were detained from the village of Far‘un in the Tulkarem district, and two Palestinians were detained from Qalqiliya, according to the Israeli army. Israeli forces also raided the village of Sabastiya west of Nablus in the northern West Bank earlier Sunday evening, sparking clashes with locals. An official who monitors settler activities in the northern West Bank, Ghassan Daghlas, told Ma‘an that Palestinian locals hurled stones and three Molotov cocktails at Israeli military vehicles that stormed the village. Israeli soldiers responded by showering the area with tear gas and stun grenades, causing a number of Palestinians to suffer from tear gas inhalation. Meanwhile, official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported that Israeli police detained five Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem’s Old City. Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri said in a statement that Israeli police had detained four Palestinian minors from the Old City and the Shufaat refugee camp on Sunday night, over suspicions that they targeted Israeli police officers with fireworks near the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
Freedom and Dignity prisoners’ hunger strike
Pressure mounts on Israel, PA, and ICRC over mass prison hunger strike
[with VIDEO] BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 8 May — The National Committee to Support Palestinian Prisoners’ Hunger Strike has called on the Palestinian Authority (PA) to suspend municipal elections scheduled to be held Saturday and to halt its contested security coordination with Israel as some 1,600 Palestinians entered their 22nd day on hunger strike in Israeli prisons on Monday.
While the elections process has continued to move forward, a number of Palestinian political factions had already boycotted the elections, including the Hamas movement, Islamic Jihad, and the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), amid growing anger against the PA. The hunger strike committee also called on Palestinians to continue showing their support for the hunger strikers through civil disobedience, boycotting all Israeli products, ceasing to work in Israel and in Israeli settlements, participating in a commercial strike scheduled for Thursday, and organizing demonstrations in front of the headquarters for the Red Cross and the United Nations. Daily protests across the occupied Palestinian territory, Israel, and abroad raged on in solidarity with prisoners who are calling for an end to solitary confinement, medical negligence, the denial of family and lawyer visitations, and internment without charge or trial under administrative detention. The committee reiterated its calls to the Palestinian people on Monday to take to the streets and participate in sit-in tents established across the West Bank and Gaza, highlighting that hunger strikers entered a life-threatening stage and many had been evacuated to the Ramla prison hospital.
In one such demonstration on Monday, dozens of relatives of hunger-striking prisoners demonstrated outside the office of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Nablus city in the northern occupied West Bank. The ICRC faced anger last year when it reduced the number of monthly visits it facilitates for relatives of Palestinian prisoners, and has been the target of sustained frustration for its perceived inability to improve incarceration conditions in Israeli prisons, as it prioritizes maintaining its role as an “impartial humanitarian mediator.”.. .Despite its claims of political neutrality, the ICRC enraged Palestinians after head of the ICRC delegation to Israel and the PA Jacques De Maio denied that Israel fits the label of an apartheid state and denied that Israel implemented a shoot-to-kill policy against Palestinians — contradicting numerous international bodies and human rights organizations, in a recent interview with Israeli news site Ynet.
Leila Khaled announced open hunger strike for Palestinian prisoners as Catholic patriarch, international students fast in solidarity
Samidoun 7 May — Support hunger strikes for the Palestinian prisoners, currently engaged in the Strike of Freedom and Dignity in Israeli jails for the past 21 days, have continued to grow. On Saturday, 6 May, Leila Khaled, the historic Palestinian resistance icon and active present-day political leader, announced an open-ended hunger strike in support of the striking prisoners. She announced the hunger strike at the prisoners’ support tent in Amman, Jordan, in the courtyard of the office of the Democratic People’s Unity Party (Wihda Party) of Jordan. “The prisoners on hunger strike are in direct confrontation with the enemy, but they have only the weapon of the empty stomach,” said Khaled. She urged unity in supporting the strike, saying that “the prisoners are telling us for 20 days to come to the streets and showing us an example of unity,” noting that the prisoners’ struggle is a clear alternative to the path of the official Palestinian Authority leadership, which wants “to sell us the illusion that Trump will resolve our struggle through negotiations.” …
Leila Khaled is not alone. Gregory III Lahham, the Catholic Patriarch of Antioch and All the East and Alexandria and Jerusalem has launched a hunger strike in solidarity with Palestinians in Israeli jails. Lahham, 83, also launched his solidarity strike on Saturday, 6 May. In an interview with Al-Mayadeen TV, he said “I say to the prisoners, we are with you in your sacrifice for Palestine.” These support strikes by prominent figures also reflect ongoing collective strikes organized inside and outside Palestine by Palestinian and solidarity groups. Inside Palestine, a number of former prisoners as well as prisoners’ families have launched support strikes along with the prisoners in Israeli jails. Long-term former prisoners like Fakhri Barghouthi have vowed to continue their strikes until the victory of the strikers inside prison. From the Palestinian refugee camps of Lebanon, youth are also standing with Palestinian prisoners …
Meanwhile, illustrating the breadth and diversity of solidarity actions with the prisoners, Columbia University students in New York who are part of the Columbia University Apartheid Divest campaign are holding a rolling hunger strike in New York City. “CUAD stands firmly in solidarity with the resilient Palestinian prisoners in the call for justice, freedom, and dignity,” the group said. Beginning on 4 May, each CUAD member is launching a 24-hour hunger strike in solidarity with the Palestinian prisoners, a rotation that will continue until the end of the Palestinian prisoners’ strike….
Palestinian leaders call for ‘week of rage’ as Israel explores force-feeding hunger strikers
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 6 May — Palestinian leaders of the mass hunger strike that entered its 20th day on Saturday have called for a “week of rage” against the Israeli occupation, in response to reports that Israeli authorities were seeking to bring foreign doctors to Israel to force feed the hunger strikers, as Israeli doctors have aligned themselves with international ethics on force feeding that prohibits doctors from carrying out the act. “Our people should unleash their anger and clash uninterruptedly with the Israeli occupation at seam zones,” the prisoners’ leadership said in a statement, referring to unilaterally declared zones around Israel’s separation wall where Palestinians are not permitted to enter. The statement, which was conveyed by the Media Committee of the Freedom and Dignity Strike — a joint committee formed by the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) and Palestinian Committee for Prisoners’ Affairs — also called upon the Palestinian people to “blockade Israeli embassies all over the world and continue to organize rallies and sit-ins and to crowd in sit-in tents in Palestinian cities and villages.” “Any attempt to force feed any hunger-striking prisoner will be treated as an attempt to execute prisoners. We will turn these prisons into battle fields with our bodies, armed with our will and determination. We count on our people, along with the Arab and Islamic nations, and all the free people of the world to stand by our side,” the prisoners’ added … Before the strike was launched, Israeli Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan ordered the establishment of a military hospital to ensure that hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners were not transferred to civilian hospitals — which have so far refused to force feed hunger striking Palestinian prisoners….
PCHR: Force-feeding is war crime and perpetrators will be prosecuted
PCHR-Gaza 7 May — News is coming about the Israeli preparations to commit the force-feeding crime against hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, who have been on hunger strike for 20 days. The Israeli media lately announced the Israeli government’s intention to recruit doctors from abroad to force-feed hundreds of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike. On 17 April 2017, hundreds of Palestinian prisoners started a hunger strike to pressurize the Israeli Prison Service in order to offer them proper detention conditions that respect their dignity and humanity. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) follows up with deep concern the arbitrary and inhuman measures practiced by the Israeli authorities against Palestinian prisoners since the very first day of their hunger strike. These measures include but not limited to solitary confinement, threats, stress and finally the Israeli perpetrations to force-feed them. PCHR emphasizes that all the Israeli practices fall within the policy of torture as identified by Article 1 of the Convention against Torture. PCHR stresses that it will work on prosecuting all those involved in force-feeding the prisoners on hunger strike by all available legal means. PCHR also calls upon doctors syndicates all over the world to advice its associate members not to participate in any force-feeding process and publish a statement in this regard according to their governments’ obligations under Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Convention against Torture in addition to the peremptory International norms against torture that force-feeding is a form of …
It should be noted that the Israeli Knesset approved on 30 July 2015 a law “to Prevent Harm of Hunger Strike”, allowing force-feeding of prisoners. At that time, the Israeli Medicine Association (IMA) rejected this law and warned of enacting it in addition to advising the associate doctors not to participate in any force-feeding process. Moreover, two United Nations human rights experts today reiterated their call on the Israeli authorities not to enact such a law, which legalizes force-feeding of prisoners … PCHR stresses that the attempts of force-feeding do not aim at maintaining the life of prisoners on hunger strike as claimed by the Israeli authorities, but aim at depriving them of their last means to demand their most basic human rights to proper detention conditions that maintain their dignity and humanity….
Qaraqe: ‘We will prosecute any doctor who participates in force-feeding the detainees’
IMEMC 7 May by Saed Bannoura — The head of the Palestinian Detainees’ Committee Issa Qaraqe stated, Saturday, that the committee will file legal charges against any physician or health professional, regardless of their nationality, who participates in force-feeding the hunger striking Palestinian detainees. Qaraqe stated that force-feeding the detainees is a crime which jeopardizes the detainees’ lives. He added that any doctor who participates in this outrageous crime will not only be violating his oath and medical ethics, but also international laws. “The Declaration of Malta on Hunger Strikers, of 1991, clearly defined the methods of dealing with hunger strikers, and states that force-feeding is immoral and unethical, even when it is intended to help,” Qaraqe said, “It also outlaws using threats, force and punishment methods against the detainees to force them end their strike.”….
Palestinian couple marries at sit-in tent in solidarity with hunger-striking prisoners
GAZA (Ma‘an) 8 May — A Palestinian couple in Gaza got married on Monday at a sit-in tent that had been set up in solidarity with some 1,600 Palestinian prisoners currently on mass hunger strike, as a symbolic gesture of solidarity with the prisoners. During the wedding of Saed al-Lolo and Kholud Darwish, guests of the wedding and the protesters took pictures with the couple — who stood inside a cage, symbolic of a prison cell — while shouting slogans in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners. Al-Lolo, the groom, told Ma‘an that “there is no better place to get married, amid the prisoners’ hunger strike, than the sit-in tent.”
New Hamas chief backs hunger-striking prisoners
Al Jazeera 9 May — New Hamas leader Ismail Haniya pledged support for hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners on Monday in his first comments since being elected as head of the movement that runs the Gaza Strip. Haniya, who was chosen by the party as its new leader on Saturday, said the movement stood with the hundreds of prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails. “This visit is a message to our heroic prisoners that your cause was and will remain a top priority,” he said during a visit to a protest in support of the strikers in Gaza. “Your freedom is a national duty and your dignity is our dignity,” the 54-year-old added….
Committee says alleged footage of Marwan Barghouthi breaking hunger strike is fake
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) 7 May — A committee supporting the mass Palestinian prisoner hunger strike has denounced footage released Sunday evening by the Israel Prison Service (IPS) purporting to show strike leader Marwan Barghouthi eating in his prison cell, calling the release part of an Israeli “war of lies” to discredit the prisoner movement. The footage — which did not bear timestamps and did not clearly show the face of the prisoner being filmed — allegedly showed Barghouthi, a Fatah leader and the emblematic figure of the hunger strike, hiding in a bathroom stall to eat sweets, and was shared widely on Israeli media on Sunday. According to Israeli daily Haaretz, sources from IPS admitted that the organization “set him up in an attempt to see whether Barghouthi was really sticking to the hunger strike.” IPS claimed that the surveillance videos were filmed during the hunger strike, which began on April 17 to demand basic rights and denounce Israel’s use of torture, medical neglect, and administrative detention against Palestinians. However, the National Committee for the Freedom and Dignity Strike — a joint committee formed by the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) and Palestinian Committee for Prisoners’ Affairs — said that the footage dated back to at least 2004. The committee said IPS’ decision to share the footage and present it as recent was evidence that Israel was “waging a serious war of lies and misleading information to create a state of confusion in the Palestinian public and among hunger striking prisoners.”….
Israeli naval forces shoot, injure Palestinian fisherman off Gaza coast
GAZA (Ma‘an) 8 May — A Palestinian fishermen was injured after Israeli naval forces shot him with live fire on Monday evening off the coat of Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip. Local sources told Ma‘an that Palestinian fisherman Muhammad Abu Rayala was transferred to Gaza’s Indonesian Hospital to receive medical care after being shot by Israeli naval forces, who opened fire on his boat while he was at sea. An Israeli army spokesperson said that Israeli forces opened fire on a fishing vessel after it “deviated from the designated zone,” adding that according to the army, no injuries were confirmed.
Israeli forces fire at Gaza fishermen, spray pesticides on Palestinian crops
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 9 May — Israeli naval forces opened fire at Palestinian fishermen off the coast of the besieged Gaza Strip on Tuesday morning, locals told Ma‘an. Fishermen said that Israeli forces shot at Palestinian fishing boats in two separate incidents off the northern coast of Gaza on Tuesday morning…
Meanwhile, Gaza farmers told Ma‘an that Israeli drones sprayed pesticides on Palestinian crops along the border with Israel in central and southern Gaza on Tuesday morning. The pesticides, they said, damage crops in the area, which is Gaza’s main agricultural region.
Who killed Gaza’s fisherman Muhammad al-Hissi?
GAZA CITY (Al Jazeera) 8 May by Mersiha Gadzo — On the windy evening of January 4, 33-year-old fisherman Muhammad al-Hissi had an instinct that he wouldn’t be coming home this time after fishing. “I’m afraid. If I turn off the lights, please come to me quickly. Don’t forget about me.” These were Muhammad’s last words to his relatives as they set out to the sea for their evening catch, his cousin Nihad al-Hissi explained, as he recounted the story for Al Jazeera from Gaza City’s port. Muhammad was feeling uncomfortable that night and wary of the Israeli navy that regularly patrols the sea. He asked his younger brother Wael to switch boats with him in order to stay further away from the six-mile nautical border.
In Gaza, fishing is risky business. In 2016, there were 126 incidents when the Israeli navy fired at Palestinian fishermen and their boats; 12 fishermen were injured that year according to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR). There were also seven cases of shelling at fishermen’s boats. It’s common for shootings and arrests to occur even when fishermen remain within the Israeli-imposed six-nautical-mile limit. All three of their boats were within the designated area for the Palestinian fishermen, Nihad and Wael explained to Al Jazeera. Wael agreed to switch and stayed in the third boat closest to the six-nautical-mile border. Muhammad stayed further away in the second boat at five nautical miles while Nihad and the rest of the al-Hissi family remained at four nautical miles. They were all about 200 metres away from Israel’s southern border. While they were casting their nets, the waves pushed Nihad’s boat across the border area. The Israeli navy vessel came and began circling around Muhammad’s boat. It was a windy night and the waves were so strong that they overpowered the generator on Nihad’s boat, shutting down the lights. “When that happened, the Israelis suspicioned us immediately. The Israeli ship started to move in a really crazy way towards [Muhammad],” Nihad said. “I was standing in my boat and suddenly, I heard a lot of explosions.” The 60-ton ship rammed into Muhammad’s wooden boat and crushed it just like a rock that’s dropped on an egg, Nihad explained. Palestinian fishermen and the Israeli navy searched for Muhammad for three days, but his body was never found. The boat’s electric generator may have dismembered his body. “Israelis in their media said it was a mistake, but it doesn’t make any sense for us. How can these kinds of mistakes happen when they have the best technological capabilities in the whole world?” Nihad asked. “The Israelis are experts in understanding the sea; they knew how difficult it was to control the boats, how horrible the weather was that night. They [the Israelis] intentionally killed him.”….
Israeli soldiers invade Palestinian lands in central Gaza
IMEMC 7 May — Several armored Israeli military vehicles and bulldozers invaded during morning hours, Sunday, Palestinian farmlands close to the border fence east of Deir al-Balah, in the central part of the Gaza Strip. The invasion was carried out by three tanks and three bulldozers that came from Kissufim military base, across the border fence, southeast of Deir al-Balah. The military vehicles advanced approximately 150 meters into the Palestinian agricultural lands, and bulldozed some areas close to the fence. The bulldozers placed sand hills near the border fence, and withdrew later, while military drones hovered overhead.
Nearly 1,500 Palestinians enter Gaza Strip on 2nd day of border opening
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 8 May — Nearly 1,500 Palestinians were able to enter the besieged Gaza Strip through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt on Sunday, officials said, as Egyptian authorities opened the border crossing in one direction for the third of four days on Monday. The borders and crossings committee of Gaza’s Ministry of Interior said in a statement that 1,458 Palestinians entered the Gaza Strip via the Rafah crossing on Sunday, including patients who were carried across the border in six ambulances. The committee added that several trucks carrying construction materials were also allowed through the crossing.
More than 800 Palestinians traveled through the crossing on Saturday. Egyptian authorities announced their decision to open the crossing on Thursday, saying that the order came at the request of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to Egyptian President Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi. Initially planned to be a three-day opening for Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, Egyptian authorities later announced that the opening was extended and Palestinians would be allowed to enter Gaza from Egypt on Tuesday as well.
Palestinian resistance brigades conduct joint military exercise in Gaza
GAZA (Ma‘an) 7 May — The National Resistance Brigades, the military wing of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), conducted a joint exercise with the Abd al Qadir al-Husseini Brigades, a group affiliated with Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, at a military training site in Gaza Strip on Sunday. The maneuver was conducted to display new artillery and missile tactics, and to “affirm the unity of resistance brigades on the battle field against enemy,” spokesperson for the National Resistance Brigades Abu Khalid said in a statement.”We are sending a message to the enemy that we remain persistent and are continuing preparations to follow in the footsteps of our martyrs on the path of resistance and struggle,” Abu Khalid said. He added that the National Resistance Brigades was determined to develop its military capabilities to protect the rights of the Palestinian people, and prisoners in particular, “in the face of the Israeli occupation’s aggression.” Abu Khalid also extended a greeting to the hundreds of Palestinian prisoners who entered the 21st day on a hunger strike in Israeli prisons on Sunday, and stressed the brigades’ support for the prisoners’ cause, vowing that it “would not hesitate to break them free through all available means.”
The ‘silent’ war on Gaza’s hospitals
+972 mag 7 May by Samer Badawi — The director of a hospital destroyed during ‘Protective Edge’ has managed to rebuild part of the facility. Now he has about a month’s worth of fuel left to keep its back-up generators running. Without them, the hospital faces another complete shutdown — At the height of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, El Wafa Medical Rehabilitation Hospital was the target of fierce attacks from Israeli positions along Gaza’s eastern border, just over a kilometer away. Speaking to +972 at the time, the hospital’s director, Dr. Basman Alashi, described panic among his patients but insisted that he and his staff would continue to care for them — even if it meant paying the ultimate price. “I am not going to leave my patients,” he said. “We either stay together, or we leave this world together.” That kind of fight-or-flight urgency helped drive home the danger facing Gaza’s civilians during Protective Edge, moving thousands to protest worldwide. No matter one’s take on the assault or the reasons behind it, the scale of destruction in Gaza was undeniable, broadcast to the world through livestreams and harrowing images … When I caught up with Alashi again this week, he recalled in vivid detail how El Wafa staff evacuated their patients — “one by one on sheets and blankets” — before a July 23, 2014 airstrike leveled the 50-bed hospital, destroying “all [its] buildings, medical equipment, and stored medications.” The aftermath of that attack, which +972 documented here, completed a picture of devastation that needed no further exposition. But if the airstrike and the events that led up to it evoked clear images of Gaza’s plight, Alashi now struggles to convey the impact of another danger – an ongoing electricity crisis that, according to the World Health Organization, could “leave thousands of people without access to life-saving health care.” … Although it’s true that electricity shortages in Gaza are nothing new, two developments in the past month have pushed the crisis to an unprecedented level….
Patient referrals, a costly life-saving program
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 6 May by Bilal Ghaith Kiswani – Two-year-old Elain Zamou, from Gaza City, had just returned home after a successful liver transplant in Turkey. Zamou, according to her father, Omar, has suffered from liver failure from age three months. She was getting treatment at Gaza hospitals for a while until her situation worsened at age 10 months and she suffered from bleeding in the esophagus. She was rushed to an Israeli hospital after getting an Israeli army issued permit to leave Gaza through Beit Hanoun (Erez) checkpoint and after the Ministry of Health provided her with the necessary patient referral papers that say all costs, including for the accompanying party, will be covered by the ministry. The doctors, however, informed Zamou’s parents that the only way to save her life is for her to get a liver transplant. The Ministry of Health, through its patient referral program, transferred Zamou to a specialized hospital in Turkey. Zamou, in an unusual step, was flown out of Tel Aviv airport, usually off limits to Palestinians from Gaza and the West Bank, on a special medical airplane arranged for through the ministry. Upon arrival in Turkey, she underwent liver transplant provided by her mother, and remained there for 50 days until doctors were definite that she was doing well and was then sent back home to Gaza. For many Palestinian patients, particularly those in the besieged and impoverished Gaza Strip, the patient referral program is a life-saving Ministry of Health program in spite of its high cost for a financially strapped ministry and government.
Amira Hindi, who runs this program in the Ministry of Health, told WAFA that Zamou is only one of thousands of children and other patients the ministry makes hard effort to transfer to specialized hospitals outside their area of residence with almost all costs paid if medical treatment is not available in the Palestinian hospitals. “Gaza patients normally get 100 per cent exemption, while West Bank patients usually get an average of 70 per cent exemption,” she said, explaining that when her department gets a referral request, it immediately looks into it due to the urgency of the matter and takes action as quickly as possible. When a patient from Gaza gets a referral approval to a hospital in East Jerusalem, Israel, Egypt or abroad, work starts immediately by the family to obtain a hospital appointment in order to start work on getting the special Israeli permit that would allow the patients and an accompanying person to leave Gaza through Beit Hanoun checkpoint. According to the biweekly World Health Organization reports on Gaza patient referrals, getting an Israeli permit to leave Gaza was not always guaranteed and there were many cases of patients who died while waiting for this permit. Hindi said her office covers also room and board costs of a family member of a Gaza patient getting treatment abroad, while it does not provide the same treatment for West Bank patients, who have to pay their own costs. She said that between June 2014 and October 2016, the Ministry of Health spent over $160 million on referrals, stressing that if local hospitals can provide the medical treatment, the patient will be transferred to a local one and not abroad….
Palestinian refugees – Syria
Deal sees Nusra fighters evacuate from Syria’s Yarmouk
Al Jazeera 8 May — An agreement has been reached to evacuate fighters from the hardline group formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra from Yarmouk in the southern suburbs of Damascus to rebel-held Idlib province in the northwest of Syria. The agreement is the second phase of an earlier deal to evacuate people from two towns besieged by rebels, and two towns besieged by pro-government forces, the first phase of which was implemented last month. “Activists in the area told us that green buses arrived in Yarmouk and left carrying dozens of Nusra Front fighters along with their families,” said Al Jazeera’s Hashem Ahelbarra, reporting from Gaziantep along the Turkey-Syria border. “The operation will continue for some days, and then the Syrian army is expected to take over the part of the camp that was under the control of al-Nusra.” Most of the nearly 50 fighters were wounded, according to the Beirut-based Hezbollah-affiliated television channel al-Manar. Hezbollah is a close military ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Jabhat al-Nusra was the official branch of al-Qaeda in Syria until a year ago when it broke its formal allegiance and renamed itself. It has since joined a number of hardline groups under the new name Hay’et Tahrir al-Sham (commonly referred to as Tahrir al-Sham). Jabhat al-Nusra and later Tahrir al-Sham have at times fought alongside other rebels, including those that operate under the banner of the Free Syrian Army, against the government and at times have clashed with them. Yarmouk, in the southern suburbs of Damascus, is the location of a large Palestinian refugee camp. Parts of the area are held by the government, parts by rebels including Tahrir al-Sham, and parts by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS).