Jewish Israeli gets community service after brutal assault on Palestinian worker
MEMO 22 Mar — A Jewish Israeli man was sentenced on Tuesday to 400 hours of community service and a $2,200 fine after participating in a group assault on a Palestinian returning home from work. Daniel Cohen Shor was “convicted of his own admission in a plea bargain deal for the crime of aggravated battery,” reported Haaretz. The Jerusalem District Court judge justified the light sentence “because of the man’s personal circumstances and because he accepted responsibility for his actions”. Cohen Shor, along with five others, attacked a 45-year-old Palestinian – named only as “N.” – as he returned home from work near Al-Walaja, south of Jerusalem. The group threw stones at N., hitting him in the ribs and left ear, before beating him as he lay on the ground and racially abusing him. Haaretz noted that “the trial of the other defendants involved in the incident is still underway”, and “Cohen Shor is expected to testify against the others involved in the incident.”….
Violence / Detentions — West Bank / Jerusalem
Israeli soldiers tear gas Palestinian village as children make their way to school
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 21 Mar — As Palestinian children were heading to school on Wednesday morning, Israeli forces raided the central occupied West Bank village of al-Mughayyir, in the Ramallah district, injuring eight people with rubber-coated steel bullets while dozens of others, some kindergarten children, were suffered from tear gas inhalation. Local sources told Ma‘an that Israeli forces raided the village as students were heading to their schools, and local residents were heading to work. Soldiers deployed at the village’s schools, kindergarten, local mosque, and several homes. The soldiers’ presence prompted clashes with local youth, who threw rocks while forces fire rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas, causing many schoolchildren to be exposed to the gas on their way to school. Eight locals were injured by rubber bullets, with one requiring hospitalization for light injuries, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. Official Palestinian Authority (PA)-owned Wafa news agency reported that undercover Israeli soldiers also raided the local boys’ school, during which they beat 10 students and detained three of them.
Earlier this month, the Palestinian Ministry of Education released a statement saying that in 2017, at least 8,279 Palestinian students and 4,929 teachers and school employees were subjected to attacks by Israeli forces. According to the report, nine students were killed, while 603 students and 55 teachers and school employees sustained live or rubber bullets wounds during Israeli raids into schools or by being run over by Israeli military jeeps, while dozens of students suffered from suffocation due to inhaling tear gas fired by Israeli forces against them.
Israeli forces raid hospital in East Jerusalem, allegedly in search of Palestinian youth
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 22 Mar — Israeli forces raided the al-Makassed Hospital in the Palestinian al-Tur neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem late Wednesday, allegedly in search of a Palestinian youth. Witnesses told Ma‘an Israeli forces raided the hospital and searched several sections before they centered in on the emergency unit of the hospital. Sources added that soldiers were looking for a Palestinian youth who had fled towards the hospital.
Five Palestinians shot, injured during clashes west of Jenin
JENIN (WAFA) 20 Mar – At least five Palestinians sustained rubber-coated steel bullet wounds during clashes with Israeli forces in the town of Burqin to the west of Jenin, said WAFA correspondent. The clashes reportedly broke out after Israeli soldiers and undercover units cordoned off one of the locals’ houses and detained a youth who was identified as 26-year-old Rami Ghanem, leading to violent clashes. Forces fired rubber baton rounds and tear gas canisters at locals, injuring at least five by rubber bullets. The injured were transferred to hospital for medical treatment.
Israeli live rounds, tear gas canisters set fire to Palestinian trees and crops
IMEMC/Agencies 22 Mar — Israeli soldiers invaded, on Thursday evening, Sebastia town, northwest of the northern West Bank city of Nablus, and attacked Palestinian protesters with live fire, gas bombs and concussion grenades, causing many trees and plants to catch fire. Head of Sebastia village council, Mohammad ‘Azem, said an Israeli military force stormed the town amid the heavy firing of live ammunition and tear gas canisters toward the village locals and their homes, causing a nearby land planted with trees and crops to catch fire. No injuries or arrests were reported, according to WAFA. The official also said that the soldiers invaded the area to remove a Palestinian flag which was raised in the archaeological area and withdrew after taking it down.
Israeli forces detain 28 Palestinians during raids in West Bank, East Jerusalem
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 21 Mar — Israeli forces detained at least 28 Palestinians during pre-dawn raids Wednesday, across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. The Israeli army released a statement saying that their forces detained seven Palestinians from the West Bank. The detainees were identified as: 1. Mutaz Ukasha — Nablus City, northern West Bank 2. Nayif al-Shami — Nablus City, northern West Bank 3. Ayman Abd al-Nasser Hadib — Ein al-Sultan refugee camp, Jericho, central West Bank 4. Khalid Issa, al-Khader, Bethlehem, southern West Bank 5. Nafeth Ammar Abu Eisha — Hebron City, southern West Bank 6. Taqi Abboud Jawabreh, 26 — Beit Ummar, Hebron, southern West Bank 7. Islam Asafra — Beit Kahel, Hebron, southern West Bank.
In the Hebron-area town of Beit Ummar, local activist Muhammad Ayyad Awad told Ma‘an that in addition to arresting 26-year-old Taqi Jawabreh, who had previously spent five years in Israeli jails, Israeli forces also assaulted Jawabreh’s brother Ahmad, 22. Another resident of Beit Ummar, a university student identified as Usama Hassan Arrar, 20, was also detained from the town. Arrar is a holder of Russian citizenship. Israeli forces also delivered notices to meet with the Israeli intelligence to two youths from the town. Brief clashes erupted in Beit Ummar between local youth who threw stones and soldiers who fired stun grenades. No injuries were reported.
In East Jerusalem, 20 Palestinians were detained from the Shu‘fat refugee camp.
Israeli forces detain 16 Palestinians from Shu‘fat camp on second day of raids
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 22 Mar — Israeli forces continued to carry out massive search and detention raids in the occupied East Jerusalem Shu‘fat refugee camp for the second day in a row, arresting 16 Palestinians. Spokesperson of the Fatah movement in the refugee camp, Thaer Fasfous, said that hundreds of Israeli soldiers raided the camp Wednesday after midnight as a helicopter flew overhead. Israeli soldiers raided several houses and stores in the refugee camp, and detained 16 youths, summoning several others for interrogation. Locals identified the detainees as: Ibrahim Alqam, Jamil Alqam, Mahmoud Alqam, Iyad Ziyadeh, Amin Ziyadeh, Khalil Ziyadeh, Muath al-Bayya, Mustafa al-Bayya, Ahmad al-Salaymeh, Samah Abu Zayid, Raad al-Tawil, Muhammad Muhamad Ali, Youssef Muhammad Ali, Ahmad Muhammad Ali, Dirar Muhammad Ali and Iyad al-Imwasi. Israeli forces had carried out a similar raid on Wednesday before dawn, detaining 20 locals.. Some of the 20 were later released on conditions while the detentions of others were extended.
PCHR weekly report on Israeli human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territory (15-21 March 2018)
PCHR-Gaza 22 Mar — During the reporting period, Israeli forces wounded 37 Palestinian civilians, including 12 children and a photojournalist, in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In the Gaza Strip as well, the Israeli forces continued to chase the Palestinian fishermen in the Gaza Sea, target the border areas, and carry out airstrikes against objectives belonging to the Palestinian Armed Groups and open lands. In the West Bank, on 20 March 2018, 6 civilians, including a child, were wounded when a group of “Mista’arvim” undercover units dressed like Palestinian civilians sneaked into Burin village, west of Jenin, to carry out an arrest mission. On 21 March 2018, a 45-year-old Palestinian civilian was wounded with a rubber bullet to the abdomen when the Israeli forces moved into al-Moghir village, northeast of Ramallah, to arrest civilians. Moreover, 4 Palestinian civilians, including a child, paramedic, and photojournalist, were wounded after Israeli forces opened fire at them and fired tear gas canisters directly at them during protests and stone-throwing at the Israeli soldiers stationed at the entrances to the Palestinian villages in the West Bank….
Analysis: For Jerusalem police, a Palestinian who doesn’t prevent a 34-second stabbing attack is a criminal
Haaretz 22 Mar by Nir Hasson — To expect someone to intervene and risk being mistaken for the terrorist is a cruel demand, but the police still want bystanders indicted for the latest fatal attack — Thirty-four seconds. That’s how much time passed between the start of the stabbing attack in which Adiel Coleman was murdered Sunday and the moment the police arrived and killed the assailant, Abed al-Rahman Bani Fadel. That means the bystanders and storekeepers at the scene had only 34 seconds to respond to what was happening. Some only realized what was going on a few seconds into the struggle; others didn’t understand at all when Coleman and Fadel passed them. But according to the police, that short stretch was enough for eight Palestinians nearby to commit the crime of “not preventing a crime,” which carries a sentence of two years in prison. On Monday the police arrested the eight, including a 15-year-old boy and two people in their 60s – Farha Dana, 67, and Zuheir Dana, 62 – although the latter two were released after a few hours. On Tuesday the police asked the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court for the others, including the boy, to be detained for another five days for questioning. Judge Eitan Cohen instead ordered the six released to house arrest for five days. One can assume that no one will be charged. But it’s no coincidence that the police chose Palestinian passersby on Hagai Street in Jerusalem’s Old City as a test case for raising the legal threshold for preventing a crime….
Islamic Waqf warns against Israeli plans to celebrate Jewish Passover Offerings in Umayyad Palaces
JERUSALEM (WAFA) 22 Mar — The Islamic Religious Endowments (Waqf) Council in Jerusalem warned against Israeli plans to hold the festival of Passover Offerings in Umayyad palaces area, adjacent to the walls of al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Preparations for the festival, which will be attended by senior Israeli Rabbis and singers, will begin on Sunday as announced online by the ‘Temple Mount’ movement. The council in a statement stressed that the Umayyad palaces and all that surrounds al-Aqsa Mosque are an integral part of the Islamic Waqf and are purely for Muslims. The statement slammed Israeli plans to hold the festival at Umayyad Palaces as a violation of the sanctity of al-Aqsa Mosque, warning against such Israeli steps, which the council stressed would provoke the feelings of Muslims and could have ominous consequences. Non-Muslim worship at al-Aqsa mosque compound and its surrounding religious Muslim sites is prohibited according to an agreement signed between Israel and the Jordanian government after Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967.
Israel bars Islamic Waqf guard from entering al-Aqsa Mosque for 15 days
JERUSALEM (WAFA) 21 Mar – Israeli authorities banned on Wednesday an Islamic Waqf guard from entering al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem for 15 days under the pretext he did not obey police orders to stay away from Israeli fanatics during their provocative tour of al-Mosque Mosque compound in Jerusalem, according to a Waqf official. He said police detained Ihab Abu Ghazaleh during his work as guard at Al-Aqsa and took him to an interrogation center in the Old City of Jerusalem where he was charged with obstructing police work and not obeying orders to stay away from the Jewish fanatics. He was later released on condition that he does not enter al-Aqsa Mosque for 15 consecutive days. Jordan is in charge of al-Aqsa Mosque compound and Jerusalem Waqf and its staff are considered Jordanian government employees. The Mosque guards are often banned from entering the compound for doing their duty by preventing fanatic Jews from violating conditions for visits by non-Muslims to the holy site that include holding Jewish religious rituals.
Israel condemns hundreds of Palestinians to unemployment — due to their last name
Haaretz 22 Mar by Gideon Levy & Alex Levac — Israeli authorities revoked the work permits of over a thousand Palestinians solely because they have the same surname as the perpetrator of a stabbing attack — If this isn’t collective punishment, then what is collective punishment? If this isn’t arbitrariness, then what is arbitrariness? And if this measure doesn’t ignite a fire in the relatively tranquil West Bank town of Yatta, then what is the measure intended for? Yatta is distraught, its economy is threatened with collapse, and all because of one person who transgressed, because of whom Israel is punishing an entire town. Up until a few months ago, over 7,000 residents of this town in the south Hebron Hills had permits to work. Of them, 915 residents with the surname Abu Aram worked in Israel and hundreds more in the settlements, according to the Palestinian District Coordination and Liaison office in Yatta. But those workers then lost their jobs in Israel and the settlements solely because of their names, in the wake of an astounding, draconian decision of the Civil Administration, Israel’s governing body in the West Bank. In desperation, dozens even changed their names in their ID cards, but to no avail. Their way back to work in Israel, where they’ve held jobs for years, is blocked, though they have done nothing wrong. Here’s what happened:
Last August 2, a 19-year-old Yatta resident, Ismail Abu Aram, stabbed Niv Nehemia, the deputy manager of a supermarket in the Israeli city of Yavneh, wounding him seriously. The assailant was arrested. The next day, the authorities decided – in accordance with standard procedure after a terrorist attack – to bar the assailant’s family from entering Israel. The ban was lifted 10 days later, family members returned to their jobs in Israel and the settlements, and Yatta resumed its usual way of life. However, on December 14, for no apparent reason, Israel suddenly remembered the incident and reintroduced a sweeping ban, which affects thousands of people, without prior notice or explanation. Although such measures are the regular Israeli practice after attacks, this time it is unprecedented in scope. Abu Aram is the largest hamula (clan) in Yatta. According to activists, work in Israel and the settlements sustained thousands of its residents. This week, Yatta’s townsfolk held a meeting to vent their distress and protest. More than 100 men came to a restaurant at the entrance to town. In advance of our visit, some had prepared posters in broken Hebrew to express their outcry: “Workers against punishing,” “No to stinging policy.” From the hill on which a mosque is perched, more and more men descended, most of them middle-aged, their faces sunburnt and unshaved, their hands the hands of laborers, sporting cheap plastic watches – the builders and pavers of the land, now denied of the opportunity….
Court actions / Prisoners
‘Ahed Tamimi gets eight months in prison after plea deal
BETHLEHEM, occupied West Bank (Al Jazeera) 21 Mar by Jaclynn Ashly — Imprisoned Palestinian teen activist ‘Ahed Tamimi has reached a plea bargain with Israeli army prosecutors that will see her serve eight months in jail. The 17-year-old was arrested in December 2017 after a video of her slapping and hitting two Israeli soldiers outside of her house in the village of Nabi Saleh went viral. The sentence, announced during a closed-door hearing on Wednesday at Israel’s Ofer military court near Ramallah, brought to an end a case that attracted worldwide attention. Tamimi accepted the deal in exchange for pleading guilty to four out of the 12 charges initially brought against her, according to Gaby Lasky, the lawyer of the teen. The other eight charges against Tamimi, including those referencing instances of stone throwing and “incitement to terror and stabbings”, were dropped by the prosecution, Lasky told Al Jazeera. “There is no justice under the occupation and this court is illegal,” the teen said, addressing the courtroom after the plea deal was presented to the judge, according to her father, Bassem Tamimi. Tamimi pleaded guilty to “attacking” two Israeli army officials and to “two additional criminal acts” where she “disrupted” an Israeli soldier and “carried out incitement”, according to an Israeli army statement. The three months Tamimi has already served in prison will be counted into her overall sentence, Lasky said. She will also be fined $1,500. Last month, the judge decided that the teen’s trial would proceed behind closed doors. On Monday, Israel’s military appeals court rejected Tamimi’s request to hold her legal proceedings in an open court. Following that decision, “we understood that ‘Ahed was not going to receive a fair trial”, said Lasky. “A plea bargain is the best option that Palestinians can get in the military courts.”….
‘Ahed Tamimi’s forced plea bargain clearly illustrates role of military juvenile court: Protecting the occupation, not Palestinian minors
B’Tselem 21 Mar — The conviction rate in Israel’s military courts in the West Bank is almost 100% – not because the military prosecution is so efficient, but because Palestinian defendants reluctantly sign plea bargains in which they plead guilty. A new report published yesterday by B’Tselem shows how the measures that Israel has showcased over the last decade as examples of its improved treatment of Palestinian minors in military courts have little to do with the protection of minors and everything to do with public relations. In fact, the function of the military juvenile court boils down to signing off on plea bargains such as the one signed today — This afternoon, the military court at Ofer signed off on plea bargains for ‘Ahed and Nariman Tamimi. The plea bargains include eight months in prison and a fine. A new report published yesterday by B’Tselem, Minors in Jeopardy: Violation of the Rights of Palestinian Minors by Israel’s Military Courts, analyzes the changes that Israel declared over the last decade with regard to the treatment of Palestinian minors in military courts. The report reveals that while useful in Israeli propaganda, these technical changes have done nothing to improve the protection of minors’ rights. In particular, the role of the Military Juvenile Court, whose establishment Israel views as a landmark achievement in the protection of minors’ rights in the military court system, is primarily to sign off on plea bargains already reached between the defense and the prosecution outside the courtroom. Almost all minors sign the plea bargains, having been left little choice by the military courts’ detention policy: most minors are held in custody from the time of their arrest and until they finish serving their sentence. Carrying out an evidentiary trial from within prison is fraught with difficulties, and the defendants know that if convicted, they will be sentenced to prison anyway, as no alternatives exist. Even in the extremely unlikely case that they are acquitted, the time they spent in custody throughout the trial may be just as long, or even longer, than the time they will spend in prison under a plea bargain. ‘Ahed Tamimi’s case is exceptional only in that it garnered special media attention, but it is essentially no different from hundreds of such cases every year. According to figures the Israel Prison Service (IPS) provided to B’Tselem, on 28 February 2018 the IPS had 356 Palestinian minors in custody: 95 of them were serving a prison sentence, 257 were in pre- or post-indictment detention, and four were being held in administrative detention. While Israel claims to hold dear the rights of the Palestinian minors it arrests and puts on trial, the opposite is true: the rights of these minors are routinely and systemically abused from the moment of their arrest….
Sentence of Israeli soldier who executed Palestinian reduced to nine months
IMEMC 21 Mar — Elor Azaria, the Israeli soldier convicted of shooting and killing a Palestinian in the head while the Palestinian was lying on the ground wounded, had his sentence reduced to nine months by an Israeli judge this week. Last February, Azaria was sentenced to eighteen months for the 2016 killing, which was captured on camera by a bystander. He began his prison time in August 2017. With the new sentence reduction, he will be released in May. The Chief Military Prosecutor for Israel, Sharon Zagagi Pinhas, opposed the granting of parole for Azaria, saying that he has shown no remorse for the murder of a prone, wounded man. During Azaria’s trial, the prosecution had pushed for a sentence of 3 – 5 years for the murder. This contrasts with the Israeli military prosecutor’s stance toward Palestinians – children who throw stones at invading soldiers are given a mandatory four-year prison sentence. After the early release of Azaria was announced, Israeli conscientious objector and editor of +972 Magazine, Haggai Mattar, said on Twitter that when he is released in May, Azaria “will have served a shorter sentence than me and my friends who refused to serve in the army of occupation”. Azaria’s case garnered national and international attention, and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was among those who called for the soldier’s early release. The graphic video [see below] of the murder committed by Azaria in March 2016, which was filmed by a Palestinian cameraman from B’Tselem Israeli human rights group, went viral and sparked international rage….
Two Hamas security officers killed trying to nab man behind assassination attempt on PA leader
Haaretz 22 Mar by Jack Khoury — Hours after two suspects in the attempt to assassinate Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah were killed Thursday, senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri praised the Palestinian Interior Ministry in Gaza for the operation, calling it “a great achievement” that “negates [PA President Mahmoud] Abbas’ claims that Hamas was responsible for the assassination attempt.” The two suspects were killed Thursday morning in a gun battle with Hamas security troops in the Nuseirat refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. Two Hamas troops were also killed in the exchange, and a third suspect was arrested.
On Wednesday Hamas security forces had declared a state of high alert and announced that they were conducting extensive searches for the main suspect in the assassination attempt – Enas Abed al-Malik Abu Husa. Hamas said Abu Husa, 25, of Jabaliya, was part of a three-member cell responsible for Palestinian intelligence for the PA. Hamas took the unusual step of offering a reward of $5,000 to anyone providing information about his whereabouts. Abu Husa was one of the suspects killed.
But PA security officials had already said Wednesday that “all the announcements about this issue from the Interior Ministry in Gaza are all a production and a show by Hamas of a false script that will end in the execution of the prisoner.” According to a security source in Ramallah, Abu Husa was a member of a Salafist organization and had no connection to Palestinian intelligence. Palestinian security agents claim the person behind the assassination attempt is a senior Hamas official, Fathi Hamad, and his men. Last week the spokesman for the Palestinian security agencies, Adnan Admiri, blamed Hamas for the assassination attempt….
Hamas reopens telecoms company in Gaza after bomb row
AFP 21 Mar — Gaza City: The Islamist movement Hamas is to reopen the Gaza offices of a major telecommunications firm, officials said Tuesday, after a row over a probe into the attempted assassination of the Palestinian premier. The Hamas-run police in Gaza closed down the Wataniya Mobile firm in the Palestinian enclave on Saturday, after the state prosecutor accused it of failing to comply with the investigation into the bomb attack targeting Rami Hamdallah. Hamdallah, who heads the Palestinian government in the occupied West Bank, was unharmed when a roadside bomb on March 13 blew up near his convoy during a rare visit to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. Six of his bodyguards were lightly wounded. The attorney general in Gaza, in a statement, said Tuesday that the company would reopen fully, without giving further details….
Israel detains Palestinian seeking medical treatment outside of Gaza
GAZA (WAFA) 22 Mar – Israel detained on Wednesday a Palestinian at Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing to the north of Gaza after he appeared for an interview to obtain a permit to leave Gaza for medical treatment, local sources said. They said that Hasan Omar Samia, a resident of Gaza City, was detained when he appeared before Israeli intelligence upon their request to decide about giving him a permit to leave Gaza for medical treatment. A French medical organization was helping Samia to get treatment outside Gaza. The sources said Israel informed the family of Samia at night of his arrest. Samia is the third Palestinian arrested at Beit Hanoun crossing in less than a week as they were trying to cross the border seeking either medical treatment outside Gaza or accompanying a person seeking treatment.
Israeli navy opens fire at fishermen in Gaza
GAZA (WAFA) 19 Mar– Israeli navy Monday opened fire at Palestinian fishermen and their fishing boats while they were sailing in al-Sudaniya sea to the northwest of the Gaza Strip. The navy also propelled waste water at the boats forcing the fishermen to return to shore.
Israeli forces target fisherman, citizens in Gaza
GAZA (WAFA) 21 Mar – Israeli forces Wednesday opened fire at Palestinian fishermen and at citizens to the east and center of the Gaza Strip, according to local sources. The sources said that the Israeli forces opened fire towards citizens while in their lands in the Maghazi area of the Gaza Strip. No one was hurt. Meanwhile, Israeli navy targeted fishermen and their fishing boats forcing them to leave the area in fear of getting shot. According to the sources, the forces also installed barbed wire at the eastern border of the town of al-Qarara, north of the city of Khan Younis.
Israel installs barbed wire fence along Gaza border ahead of Land Day
MEMO 22 Mar — Israeli occupation forces have started to install a barbed wire fence along the eastern borders of the Gaza Strip, ahead of the Great March of Return slated for 30 March, Quds Press reported yesterday. Occupation forces also levelled Palestinian land along the border and set up large mounds of sand which can be used as barricades to hinder the movement of protesters. According to the locals, the barbed wire fence is up to two metres high. Spokesman of the Great March of Return in Gaza Ahmed Abu Irtema said that the Israeli threats and measures “do not scare” the protesters, adding that they are “persistent”. “We are not affected by this Israeli propaganda and psychological war. We will continue with our plans.”
The Great March of Return is an annual event which is held to mark Palestinian Land Day, an annual day of commemoration for Palestinians of the events of that date in 1976. In response to the Israeli government’s announcement of a plan to expropriate thousands of dunams of land for security and settlement purposes, a general strike and marches were organised in Arab towns from the Galilee to the Negev.
Restoring US aid crucial to avoid a water catastrophe in Gaza
GAZA CITY (IPS) 21 Mar — World Water Day (March 22) could not come at a more critical time for the people of Gaza who are facing a humanitarian catastrophe The recent decision by the United States to reduce funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), jeopardizes its role as a critical source of clean drinking water when Gaza’s supplies slow to a drip. An estimated 1.2 million Gaza residents have no access to running water. For those who do, up to 97 percent of the water they receive is too polluted with salt and sewage to drink. The salt comes from seawater, which penetrates Gaza’s only aquifer when the water table drops too low. Palestinians in Gaza consume on average fewer liters per person per day than the World Health Organization recommends, and less than a quarter of the average per capita consumption in Israel. Nevertheless, the combination of rapid population growth and regional climate change extracts 200 million cubic feet of freshwater each year from an aquifer that receives only 60 million cubic feet of diminishing rainfall annually. As the water level steadily drops, more seawater seeps in, increasing the aquifer’s salinity. Only around 22 percent of wells in Gaza produce water with acceptable salt concentrations. The rest are anywhere from two to eight times saltier than global standards, with some wells exceeding the official standard for “brackish.” The high salinity puts Gazans in jeopardy of kidney stones and urinary tract problems. But high salinity is not the worst of Gaza’s water problems. Years of conflict have damaged or destroyed much of its critical water and sanitation facilities—including wells, pumps, desalinization plants and sewage treatment plants. The crippled infrastructure that survives can only be used the few hours a day Gaza receives electrical service. A newly completed World Bank wastewater treatment plant in Beit Lahia, for example, sits idle much of the time because Gaza doesn’t have enough electricity to run it. Without adequate facilities, untreated sewage backflows onto Gaza’s streets, and the equivalent of 40 Olympic-size swimming pools—more than 100 million liters—discharges into the Mediterranean Sea every day….
Gaza farmers denounce Israel pesticide use along border
GAZA CITY (Al-Monitor) 20 Mar by Hana Salah — Ali Abu Said woke up March 7 to irrigate his crops in the village of Juhor ad-Dik, south of Gaza City, like he does every morning. But this time he saw Israeli gliders spraying unknown pesticides on lands along Gaza’s eastern borders. “I saw the soldiers setting tires on fire to determine the direction of the wind. Then the Israeli gliders began spraying unknown pesticides at an altitude of 400 meters [0.25 miles] on the Israeli side of the border. The [pesticides] reached the Palestinian agricultural lands at a distance of 1 kilometer [0.6 miles] from the separation fence. By the end of the day, crops such as spinach and peas on my land and the adjacent lands died. In the following days the zucchinis and berries turned yellow,” he told Al-Monitor. Abu Said’s land is 300 meters (328 yards) from the Gaza-Israel border and extends along 20 acres. He shares the land with his siblings, and he owns about 7 dunams (1.7 acres) that he cannot use because it is 100 meters (109 yards) from the border fence. Every time he tries to plant crops there, he is shot at. He said that this is the second time in two months that the Israelis sprayed pesticides in the area. Some farmers were surprised with the early spraying in March, as crops were exposed. Abu Said noted, “My neighbor lifted the cover off the zucchinis to let them breathe. After the Israelis sprayed the pesticides, he sprayed water to neutralize the effect and barely saved the crops from dying.” … The Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture in Gaza City has accused the Israeli authorities of launching a “chemical war” on the agricultural sector in the border areas of the Gaza Strip….
Hope for Gaza: EU creates broad international coalition to provide drinking water to 2 million people in Gaza
BRUSSELS, 20 Mar European Commission Press Release — Success of pledging conference marks the start of the biggest ever infrastructure project in the Gaza Strip — Today, the EU hosted a pledging conference on the Gaza Central Desalination Plant & Associated Works Project in Brussels. The conference, co-chaired by the EU and the Palestinian Authority, mobilised financial support of €456 million to this biggest ever infrastructure project in the Gaza strip, which will provide a minimum of 55 million m3 of safe and clean drinking water per year to the people in dire need. Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn said: “This project will meet the most urgent water needs in Gaza, providing drinking water and at the same time contributing to economic growth, environmental sustainability and stability. I’m proud that the EU pledged €70 million for the desalination plant plus €7.1 million for management costs. Today’s successful pledging conference takes us a step closer to making a reality of this project and to improve living conditions in Gaza, and remove obstacles to economic development there …
Key outcomes of today’s pledging conference include:
Reinforced support to the project: 42 countries’ delegations (including Israel and 20 EU Member States) and 8 institutions expressed their support for the project and underlined the urgency of making quick progress. The Union for Mediterranean, the European Investment Bank, the World Bank, Office of the Quartet and the Islamic Development Bank expressed their continued commitment to implement this key infrastructure project.
Increased financial assistance: The total amount of pledges reached €456 million, of which €77.1 million alone from the EU. This will cover more than 80% of the total amount needed (€562.3 million).
Moving ahead: Thanks to the financial support committed, the European Investment Bank will now launch the tendering procedure on 15 April. During the conference, the European Investment Bank and the Palestinian Authority also signed a Letter of Intent, to ensure the further successful preparation and implementation of the project….
Chinese goods make life easier for Palestinians in poverty-stricken Gaza
Xinhua 22 Mar — A short walk around the markets in the Gaza Strip can easily reveal how much Palestinians in the poverty-stricken enclave rely on Chinese goods, which are not only affordable but also with good quality. China is the second product supplier, after Israel, for the 2 million population in the war-torn Gaza Strip which has been ruled by the Islamic Hamas Movement, Israel’s bitter enemy, since 2007. “I import all the goods I sell in my stores from China,” Mohammed Abu Zeyada, owner of Smart Buy for Houseware, told Xinhua. Thanks to his trade with China, Zeyada has expanded his business rapidly, owning three big stores in Gaza City now. Zeyada, who started his business only two years ago, revealed that he only imports from China because the prices of Chinese products are affordable and the quality is high. In Gaza, there are dozens of customs clearance and support offices and companies that help Palestinian traders import goods from China. Chinese goods are usually shipped to Israeli seaports, before transported into Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing, the only trade terminal between Israel and Gaza … Maher al-Tabbaa, media officer at the Palestinian Chamber of Commerce in Gaza, said China is the second supplier of goods to the Palestinian territories after Israel. The volume of imports from China to the Palestinian territories of West Bank and Gaza Strip exceeds 500 million U.S. dollars annually, he told Xinhua….
Restriction of movement
Israeli military reopens main entrance to Hizma after choking the Palestinian village for 2 months
B’Tselem 15 Mar — The main – northern – entrance to the Palestinian village of Hizma in the West Bank has been closed off for almost two months, since 16 January 2018. The village is home to some 7,000 people and lies between Jerusalem and Ramallah. To the west, on land expropriated from Hizma, Israel established the settlement of Pisgat Ze’ev and the Separation Barrier, which runs right by the village. In addition to closing off the northern entrance, the military closes the two southern entrances for varying lengths of time every week. The grounds given by the military were stone-throwing on nearby roads. For example, on 28 February, soldiers locked the gate installed by the military at the southern entrance that lies near the community of Tublas for three days, until 3 March. With no other choice, the residents had to use dirt paths to bypass the blocked entrances; however, on 28 February the military blocked off those paths, too, with dirt piles. The entire population of the village is suffering from the blocked entrances, and especially residents who need to get to the town of a-Ram, the neighboring village of ‘Anata or Ramallah for studies and work. Some 350 high-school and university students, as well as sick persons who need medical care outside the village and are not easily mobile, have to walk to the outskirts of the village – in some cases more than three kilometers – in order to catch buses or taxis, as public transport has been halted inside the village….
Israeli forces close iron gate leading to villages of Bani Zeid al-Gharbiya
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 22 Mar – Israeli forces Thursday closed the iron gate installed at the entrance to a road that leads to the villages of Bani Zeid, Nabi Saleh, Beit Rima, Kafr Ein, and Qarawat Bani Zeid, to the north of the West Bank district of Ramallah. A traffic jam was witnessed as Israeli forces closed the iron gate from both directions. Palestinian locals were forced to take longer alternative detours to exit and enter the area, disrupting their access to services and livelihoods.
Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Settlements
Israeli demolition of Umm al-Hiran Bedouin village will displace 350 Palestinians
HAIFA (WAFA) 22 Mar – Israeli authorities announced this week that they would demolish the entire Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in the Naqab desert in southern Israel in April, which would displace 350 Palestinians, the Haifa-based Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, said in a press release on Thursday. Adalah sent an urgent letter on Wednesday to Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and the Israel Land Authority demanding that they postpone the eviction of residents and demolition of their homes. Israeli police forces entered Umm al-Hiran on Wednesday in preparation for the April demolitions, posting eviction notices on homes and the village’s mosque. The notices specified that Israeli authorities will carry out demolitions at some point between April 15 and 29. Adalah attorneys Suhad Bishara and Myssana Morany wrote in the urgent letter that the demolition of Umm al-Hiran will leave its 350 residents – including many women and children – homeless. “Despite the state’s obligations and promises to the Supreme Court, these [eviction] notices have been delivered before a just arrangement has been reached with residents and before they have been ensured an adequate and available housing solution.
All of this is taking place in the shadow of the racist and discriminatory aims of the Hiran settlement association which will, apparently, be involved in allocating land plots in [the new town of] Hiran,” set to be built on the ruins of Umm al-Hiran. The Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that “the planned town will not prevent [those from Bedouin villages] from living there and anyone who wishes to live in Hiran is entitled to do so.” But despite the state’s repeated promises to the court that Hiran would accept all new residents – regardless of religion or ethnic background – this is not the case and Hiran is, in fact, closed to non-Jewish residents. According to a document uncovered by Adalah in August 2017, Hiran’s cooperative association bylaws specify that only Orthodox Jews will be permitted to live in the new town….
Jordan Valley farmers say crops destroyed due to Israeli military training
JORDAN VALLEY (WAFA) 21 Mar – Israeli military exercises destroyed on Wednesday agricultural crops belonging to Palestinian farmers in the northern Jordan Valley area, said local sources. Israeli military training in Um al-Jamal, in the northern Jordan Valley, destroyed crops planted on a 7-dunum plot of land in the area when Israeli tanks and armored vehicles drove over them. Israeli army conducts military training in areas inhabited by Palestinians in the Jordan Valley area on regular bases, forcing many families to leave their homes for few days each time. According to B’Tselem, the Israeli information center for human rights, said “The incessant military training in the Jordan Valley is part of a longstanding policy to drive Palestinian communities to leave, as though of their own free will.” Palestinians living in these areas have to also worry about unexploded ordnance left behind by the Israeli army after the drills, which have led to the death of many Palestinians, including children.
Israeli forces conduct military drills in populated area near Nablus
NABLUS (WAFA) 20 Mar — Israeli forces conducted military drills with live ammunition for the second day in a row in Khirbet al-Tawil, north of the city of Nablus in the occupied West Bank, according to local sources. Yousef Derieh, member of the anti-settlements committee in Nablus, told WAFA that Israeli soldiers erected a camp in the area on Monday and started military drills with live ammunition. He noted that the Israeli forces did not notify people of these military exercises and how long they would continue. Rather, the drill continued in an area Israel claims is a firing zone even though this area is populated with Palestinians.
West Bank demolitions and displacement continue at similar pace to 2017
UN OCHA 15 Mar — Concern over 44 schools in Area C and East Jerusalem threatened with demolition — During the first two months of 2018, the Israeli authorities demolished or seized a total of 70 Palestinian-owned structures across the West Bank. On average, this is the same number of monthly demolitions recorded in 2017 (35), and around one-third of figures recorded in 2016 (91). Around 30 per cent of the structures targeted in 2018 were residential and 81 people were displaced. The remainder were livelihood-related or public structures, including two school classrooms. An assessment by humanitarian actors of the education sector indicates that 44 Palestinian schools in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are at risk of full or partial demolition or seizure due to the lack of an Israeli-issued building permit.
–East Jerusalem– Over half of the demolitions recorded during the reporting period (36 of 70) took place in East Jerusalem and were on the grounds of the lack of a building permit, which is very difficult to obtain. Unlike the general trend recorded for the West Bank, the monthly average for this period in East Jerusalem (18 structures) was higher than figures for both 2017 and 2016 (12 and 16 structures respectively), during which OCHA recorded the highest rates of demolition in East Jerusalem since 2000. In one incident in Al ‘Isawiya (30 January), the Israeli authorities demolished twelve commercial and animal structures that were the source of livelihood for nine families. Al ‘Isawiya remains one of the East Jerusalem communities most affected by demolitions, followed by Beit Hanina and Jabal Al Mukkabir, both of which recorded the highest levels of demolitions in 2017….
Minister approves railway link between West Bank settlements and Israel cities
MEMO 16 Mar — The Israeli Transport Minister Yisrael Katz has approved the construction of a light rail service between the illegal settlement of Ariel in the northern occupied West Bank and the cities of Rosh HaAyin and Petah Tikva in central Israel. The Israeli Ministry of Transport expects the 35.5 kilometre project to cost at least 4 billion shekels ($1.1 billion) upon completion in 2025. Katz said: “The new light rail train will significantly reduce traffic congestion in the area, and enable [Ariel residents] to reach their workplaces, shopping malls and entertainment venues quickly and safely.” He explained that the next phase of the project could include linking the light train rail with the train lines in Tel Aviv. Though Katz backed the plan it is yet to be formally approved.
Israel moves to strip 12 Palestinians of Jerusalem residency
Al Jazeera 21 Mar — Under a recently enacted law, Israel’s Interior Minister Aryeh Deri has expressed his intentions to strip the residency status of 12 Palestinians in Jerusalem, accusing them of being involved in “terror”. The law, passed two weeks ago, gives the interior minister the power to strip the residency documents of any Palestinian on grounds of a “breach of loyalty” to Israel. It will also apply in cases where residency status was obtained on the basis of false information, and in cases where “an individual committed a criminal act” in the view of the interior ministry.
Four of the 12 are affiliated with the Hamas political movement. They were the subject of a controversy in September 2017 when Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that Israeli authorities had no right to strip them of their residency on “breach of loyalty”, after a 10-year legal battle. When the four were elected to the Palestinian Authority’s legislative body in 2006, Israel’s then-Interior Minister Ronnie Bar-On revoked their Jerusalem residency status, claiming a “breach of loyalty” for being members of a foreign parliament and of Hamas. They were deported with their families to the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah.
But last year, the Supreme Court ruled that the interior minister does not have the power to do so after a petition was filed by rights groups. In response, the Israeli government enacted the bill two weeks ago, giving the minister the legal means to strip the residency documents of any Palestinian whom he deems a threat….
Palestinian sports clubs urge Adidas to end sponsorship of Israel Football Association
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 20 Mar — Over 130 Palestinian football clubs and sports associations Tuesday called on German sportswear giant Adidas to end its sponsorship of the Israel Football Association (IFA) over its inclusion of football clubs based in illegal Israeli settlements built on stolen Palestinian land, according to a Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) press release. In a letter addressed to Adidas CEO Kasper Rørsted, the Palestinian clubs cautioned that as “the main international sponsor of the IFA, Adidas is lending its brand to cover up and whitewash Israel’s human rights abuses” and give “international cover to Israel’s illegal settlements.” The letter notes that “UN Security Council Resolution 2334 denounces Israeli settlements as flagrant violations of international law” and cautions the world’s second largest sportswear manufacturer that its sponsorship of the IFA makes it eligible for inclusion in the UN’s database of complicit companies doing business in or with Israel’s illegal settlements. The Palestinian clubs further warn that the company’s continued complicity with Israel’s settlement enterprise “may expose it to consumer-led boycott campaigns in the Arab world and globally.”….
Thousands of Palestinians unable to work in Israel due to labor strike
Haaretz 22 Mar by Yotam Berger — Thousands of Palestinians have been unable to renew their entry permits to Israel and or the settlements because of labor sanctions by employees of Israel’s Civil Administration in the West Bank. The sanctions, which began six days ago, have also frozen invitations to bid on construction projects in West Bank settlements, and are liable to delay approval of plans for thousands of additional homes in the settlements. The Civil Administration manages civilian life in those parts of the West Bank where Israel controls civilian affairs. Despite being a military agency, under the auspices of the Defense Ministry, it also has civilian employees, and they are the ones who are striking. Many were actually in their offices at the agency’s main base in the settlement of Beit El Tuesday morning, but were refusing to help the public … The sanctions have also halted inspections and enforcement against illegal construction in the West Bank. On social media, right-wing activists urged taking advantage of this to build more settlement outposts, but so far, no one seems to have heeded that advice.
The one exception to the sanctions is Palestinians who need to enter Israel for medical treatment. They are still being issued permits. Benny Elbaz, the union chairman, said the sanctions have so far harmed some 4,000 Palestinians, and each additional day of sanctions will harm another 1,000 Palestinians.
Egypt prods Hamas on next PLC head
Al-Monitor 21 Mar by Adnan Abu Amer — A Hamas leadership delegation led by political bureau head Ismail Haniyeh visited Egypt Feb. 9- 28. The trip’s goals and results have remained vague, with no word from participants Khalil al-Hayya, Fathi Hammad, Rawhi Mushtaha, Izzat al-Rishq, Mousa Abu Marzouk and Saleh al-Arouri. Hamas’ Feb. 24 statement said only that all meetings were positive and addressed the situation of the citizens in the Gaza Strip and reconciliation with Fatah. On March 11, Npaa Press quoted prominent Palestinian sources as saying on condition of anonymity that Hamas and its Egyptian hosts mainly discussed President Mahmoud Abbas’ health crisis in late February, about which the Palestinians refrained from providing details, and possible scenarios for the post-Abbas period. The Egyptians also asked Hamas to relinquish the speakership of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) to an internationally accepted figure without specifying what Hamas would gain in return. They suggested three PLC members for the position: Salam Fayyad, Hanan Ashrawi and Mustafa Barghouti….
Hamas, Palestinian factions condemn Abbas measures against Gaza
i24NEWS 20 Mar — Hamas condemned a fiery speech by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas from Ramallah on Monday evening, in which he announced new sanctions against the blockaded enclave and directly accused the Gaza-based Islamist group of being behind the March 13 attack on Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah. Speaking to Palestinian leaders in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Abbas said if the attack on Hamdallah had succeeded it would have “opened the way for a bloody civil war.” He said the incident would “not be allowed to pass” and announced he would take unspecified “national, legal and financial measures.” The Islamist group that rules the Gaza Strip said Abbas’ “irresponsible statements” sought to “bring our people in the Gaza Strip to their knees at this difficult and dangerous phase.” Hamas added that his remarks “undermine the prospects of advancing the Palestinian national project and achieving national unity.” The group called for new elections “so that the people would be able to choose their leadership.” The harsh criticism comes amid great tension between Hamas and the PA, which have failed to implement a reconciliation framework signed in October last year aimed at ending a decade-long split between the rival Palestinian factions. One of the key tenets of the reconciliation deal was Abbas’ lifting of punishing financial sanctions imposed on Hamas, including withholding payment to thousands of Hamas employees and refusing to pay for electricity ...
The Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) also condemned Abbas’ speech, saying it “endangers Palestinian unity and provides additional support for Israel’s blockade on the Gaza Strip.”….
Abbas’ revenge against Hamas, US, Israel
Al-Monitor 21 Mar by Shlomi Eldar — Israeli officials believe that a decision by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to reimpose sanctions on Gaza is meant to entangle Israel and Hamas in a military adventure — On March 19 at Palestinian Authority headquarters in Ramallah, President Mahmoud Abbas delivered a tirade rife with frustration against the United States and Israel, including cursing at the US ambassador to Israel. Even before Abbas’ harangue, Israel knew he had decided to again impose punitive sanctions against Gaza and its 2 million Palestinian residents. Israeli intelligence and military analysts have been studying Abbas’ no-holds-barred behavior of recent weeks, as he slings arrows every which way seemingly without regard for their consequences. “He is under tremendous pressure that makes him adopt irresponsible, verbal populism,” an Israeli defense official told Al-Monitor, speaking on the condition of anonymity and adding that Abbas’ most recent utterances against senior US officials suggest extreme despair. Abbas currently faces a dead end: No horizon for a diplomatic agreement with Israel, no prospects of engineering a UN vote on the establishment of a Palestinian state and dim hopes of implementing the reconciliation agreement with Hamas. All is lost. Adding Abbas’ deteriorating health to this makes for a bitter, angry man with nothing to lose … The sanctions Abbas announced will enter into force immediately. They will result once again in the suspension of wages to PA employees in Gaza, greater hardship for the enclave’s barely functioning hospitals and severe power cuts. In a few weeks, as the mass march nears, Gaza is expected to be under a blackout. This will give the Palestinians additional cause to rise up and set out for the border fence, with Hamas cheering them on so it can shift responsibility for its central role in their plight and Abbas using their plight for his own political means.
Abu Rudeineh: Our people shall overcome despite plots
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 21 Mar – Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for President Mahmoud Abbas, said on Wednesday on the day marking the 50th anniversary for the Palestinian resistance movement’s victory over the Israeli army in the Battle of al-Karameh (karameh=dignity) that the Palestinian people will overcome despite all the pressures and the suspicious attempts by some parties to liquidate the Palestinian cause. He said in a statement that 50 years since the Battle of al-Karameh, “its message and objectives remain and continue, namely the end of the (Israeli) occupation and the establishment of our independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.”….
Work begins to clear mines from Qasr el Yahud — the West Bank site of Jesus’ baptism
ACNS 20 Mar — Work to clear mines from the traditional site of Jesus’ baptism at Qasr el Yahud – the Castle of the Jews – has begun, almost two years after permission or the work was granted. The international anti-mine charity Halo Trust has been working with the State of Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and the eight denominations whose churches and monasteries have been made out of bounds as a result of the mines, to raise the funds necessary to clear the site. It was mined after the Six Day War in 1967. A path to the River Jordan was cleared in 2000 for the Pope’s visit; but the site wasn’t opened for tourists and pilgrims until 2011. The work to clear the one-million square metres of land is being carried out by Israel’s National Mine Action Authority and the HALO Trust. There are thought to be an estimated 3,000 anti-personnel mines, anti-tank mines, and other explosive devices in the site. When news of the deal to clear the site was announced in June 2016, the budget for the project was $4 million USD (approximately £2.86 million GBP). In April last year, Halo Trust CEO James Cowan told the Archbishop of Canterbury and local church leaders that the budget had been revised down to $1.5 million; and that he was hopeful that the work could be completed by February this year.
2017 Arab Idol winner Yacoub Shaheen, UNICEF run for children at Palestine Marathon
BETHLEHEM (WAFA) 22 Mar – The 2017 Arab Idol Winner Yacoub Shaheen and children and adolescents coming from across the State of Palestine joined forces today to give the sixth international Palestine Marathon a rousing send off. The singer and 13 children coming from marginalized communities across Palestine performed a new song before joining the race in support of children’s rights. The children, who had travelled from different communities of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, sang the new song ‘Dreams alone are not enough’ together with Shaheen on the stage of Manger Square in Bethlehem minutes before the Marathon started. Shaheen, who grew up in the city, came to show support to children’s rights and promote healthy lifestyles … The song, ‘Dreams alone are not enough’, which was composed especially for the event, includes lyrics written by 19 children in Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Its concept was developed by the pop star, Shaheen.
The six children living in Gaza were not able to travel to Bethlehem and meet their Idol due to permit-related issues.
Ramallah protesters want US offices closed in West Bank
Al Jazeera 21 Mar — Dozens of Palestinians on Wednesday called for the closure of US offices in the occupied West Bank in protest against the US decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. In Ramallah, protesters gathered outside the America House, affiliated with the US Consulate General in Jerusalem, to condemn the US Middle East policy. “We are here today to voice our rejection of the US decision on occupied Jerusalem,” Essam Abu Baker, coordinator of the Palestinian National and Islamic Forces in Ramallah, told the Anadolu news agency on the demonstration’s sidelines. “Today, we stand outside America House 100 days after the ‘Trump Declaration’ [that recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital],” Abu Baker said. “We will not abandon our demand that US institutions be expelled from Palestine,” he added … Affiliated with the US Consulate General in Jerusalem, America House was established in Ramallah in 2010 with the stated aim of promoting US culture.
Israelis are now the majority at this Palestinian university
Haaretz 22 Mar by Yaser Wakid — Skirting Israel’s stringent admissions standards, Arabs now outnumber residents of the territories at the first private Palestinian university in Jenin — … At a time when the number of students attending universities in Israel is dropping, in general (students are also flocking to private colleges instead), a report from the Palestinian Education Ministry, which Haaretz has obtained, shows that the number of Israelis at the university in Jenin has climbed from 36 to 5,294 in a decade. An organized transportation system takes students from their homes in the Galilee and Little Triangle area of Arab cities in central Israel to the West Bank. In fact, Israeli Arabs now make up a majority of the student body at AAUJ, the first private Palestinian university. Founded in 2000, the institution is located southeast of Jenin in Area A of the West Bank … Officially, Israelis are prohibited from entering Area A, but the Israel Defense Forces does not enforce the ban when it comes to Arab citizens. The Palestinian Education Ministry report shows about 8,000 Israelis are studying in the West Bank this academic year, 66 percent of them at the university in Jenin. They constitute 55 percent of all students at AAUJ, and their presence is clearly felt in terms of what is studied at the school and in its atmosphere … Studies at AAUJ are conducted in English. The tuition varies depending on the academic field and the student’s grades, and usually ranges from 9,000 to 15,000 shekels ($2,600 to $4,300) a year. Two reasons for its popularity among Israeli Arabs are the proximity and accessibility to/from the Little Triangle area, and the extremely cheap rent and transportation … The Israeli Council for Higher Education estimates that are three main reasons why Arab students opt to study outside of the country: concerns over studying in Hebrew, a fear of the psychometric exam and, specifically, the very high demands for admission to studies in the medical and paramedical professions. Apparently the most important reason that these students apply to AAUJ relate to the conditions for acceptance: a full matriculation certification is enough….
Opinion: Will Europe continue to betray the Palestinians who endorsed a non-violent struggle? / Saeb Erekat
Haaretz 21 Mar — Europe told us only after we Palestinians endorsed non-violence and the 1967 borders would they act on our behalf. We did. Now they refuse to act, because of pressure from a rogue state – America. — This is actually happening. European countries, members of the European Union, itself birthed out of the ashes of the last century’s unprecedented atrocities, are currently putting pressure on Palestine not to demand its rights at the United Nations Human Rights Council. This Friday, four resolutions on Palestine will be voted on, and some European countries are concerned about the political implications of any calls to hold Israel accountable for its systematic violations of international law. The very international legal standards Palestine clings to – self-determination, non-acquisition of territory through force, and equality – are the bedrock of the European project … We understand that the Trump Administration has been pressuring countries, rewarding violations of international law and punishing those who support UN resolutions, especially UNSC 2334, and the UN Charter’s bedrock principles. But are those countries really willing to leave the world in the hands of the Trump Administration? Those countries that argue that voting for resolutions on Israeli settlements or accountability for violations of international law means bias against Israel should review their history and their logic. Does being a true friend of Israel mean that you should tolerate violations of international law that go against your own country’s moral fabric? … Those countries who believe international law is open for negotiation or for political compromise should be certain of two things: Palestine will continue to seek its rights in international fora on the basis of international law, and they are standing on the wrong side of history.
Opinion: Palestinians’ new Doomsday Weapon has Israel scared to death / Bradley Burston
Haaretz 21 Mar — It is the sum of all fears of Israel’s ruling right. It is a weapon against which one of the world’s most powerful, advanced militaries is at a loss. It could succeed where suicide bombings, ballistic missile barrages, and sophisticated attack tunnels have failed. And it’s coming on Passover, just over a week away. It’s non-violence. Beginning on the day of the Passover seder, just a week from this Friday, Palestinians plan mass marches toward Israeli and Israeli-held territory, as well as sit-ins and vigils. They will press for Israeli and world attention to UN Resolution 194, the legal basis for what is known as the Palestinian Right of Return. The plan is this: They will be unarmed. They will not throw stones. They will be organized by family clans rather than militant groups. They will avoid clashes with Israeli troops. And Israel, with its layers of defenses against attacks from space, cyberspace, nuclear submarines, and every manner of killing machine devised by man, is unprepared.”
All the announcements we’ve been hearing about mass marches – these are very, very problematic developments,” former Shin Bet chief and ex-minister of Home Front Defense Avi Dichter said Monday. “This is not a military war, rather it is a war of the masses, different in its essentials.” “If on Friday afternoon, at the end of Friday prayers, if thousands or tens of thousands [take part], or if it turns into a number even larger than that, this is an issue which the IDF will need to prepare itself for in a different manner [than it is used to], significantly so, more so,” Dichter, a senior Likud figure and chair of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, told Army Radio … I want the marches to succeed, and as planned. When I was a soldier, I was hoping against hope that one day, massive, truly non-violent protest marches would challenge Israel on a number of fronts, drawing world support for Palestinian self-determination and independence, drawing Israelis to join the ranks of the marchers and make a violent response more difficult to order, carry out and justify, and, in the end, severing the spine of Israeli denial, intransigence, and refusal to relate to the reasons Israel, for its own sake, needs to actively pursue an end to occupation. But I knew that it was something terrible to even think about. Because, with Israeli forces uncertain of how to respond to overwhelming protests of this sort, they could overreact, and the outcome could be bloodbath.
Poor governance, Israeli occupation causing Palestinians to invest abroad
The Media Line 20 Mar by Dima Abumaria — According to new data, Palestinians are increasingly investing and opening businesses outside of the West Bank. The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, in conjunction with the Monetary Authority, reported that the outflow of Palestinian capital abroad exceeded foreign investments in the West Bank by $1.4 billion in 2017. Atta, a Palestinian investor who asked that his last name not be revealed, explained to The Media Line that “in most countries I get incentives as a foreign investor, much more than what I get here in the West Bank,” adding that taxes in the Palestinian territories are extremely high. Moreover, he elaborated, Israeli control over the borders and customs requires that Palestinian goods undergo rigorous security checks that make it more difficult to operate companies located in the West Bank than it is to base them in other countries and run them remotely. “Investing in Palestine is really risky because of the conflict with Israel—it’s a war zone and there is no cash flow,” Atta expounded, noting that for him there is an 80 percent risk attached to each investment in the West Bank….
Israel bans camera drones in West Bank
MEMO 21 Mar — Israeli occupation authorities have banned camera drones in the occupied West Bank, imposing a prison term of up to five years against owners and dealers who do not hold licences, Quds Press reported yesterday. The Israeli occupation army said in a statement that the ban was put in place at the start of the month because these cameras pose a security threat. Palestinian lawyer Ashraf Abu Sneineh said that the military ban “restricts personal freedoms and affects a large number of Palestinians”. He noted that the Israeli occupation imposed an “exaggerated” punishment against dealers and owners of unlicensed cameras as they are given sentences similar to the dealers and owners or unlicensed weapons. An article of the Israeli military ban stipulates, according to the lawyer, that getting a license for a camera drone would not be easy. In addition, he said, any Palestinian who has been imprisoned or whose relative has spent time in jail would not be given a license….
VIDEO: Bil‘in, West Bank, from the air
[speaking of camera drones] Photojournalist Haitham Khatib comments, “This is how birds see my village Bil‘in from above. I love you so much.”
Dead Sea’s revival with Red Sea canal edges closer to reality
AFP 18 Mar — Israel and Jordan have long pursued a common goal to stop the Dead Sea from shrinking while slaking their shared thirst for drinking water with a pipeline from the Red Sea some 200 kilometres away. Geopolitical tensions have stalled efforts to break ground on the ambitious project for years, but the end of the latest diplomatic spat has backers hoping a final accord may now be in sight. The degradation of the Dead Sea, on the border of Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian West Bank, began in the 1960s when water began to be heavily diverted from the Jordan River. “Before 1967, the water was just a 10-minute walk from my house,” said Musa Salim al-Athem, a farmer who grows tomatoes on the banks on the Jordan side. “Now it takes an hour,” he said, standing amid the resulting lunar landscape of spectacular salt sculptures, gaping sinkholes and craters. “Only the sea can fill up the sea.” … After years of studies, the $1.1 billion Red Sea “Peace Conduit” deal was signed by Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian authorities in 2013. The project, located entirely on Jordanian territory, includes a desalination plant near Aqaba. After producing drinking water, the remaining highly saline liquid will be sent by pipeline to fill the Dead Sea, powering two hydroelectric plants along the way. A subsequent 2015 deal would see Israel get 35 billion cubic metres of potable water from the desalination plant for its parched southern regions. The mostly desert Jordan, for its part, would get up to 50 billion cubic metres of freshwater from the Sea of Galilee. Israel also agreed to sell 32 billion cubic metres to the Palestinian authorities….
PHOTOS: By Dead Sea, camels graze at Earth’s lowest place
KIBBUTZ KALYA, West Bank (AP) 18 Mar — Each winter, camels lope around the moon-like desert landscape of the lowest place on Earth under the watchful eyes of their Bedouin Arab herders, in an ancient tradition passed from father to son over the generations. Ali El Guran brings his herd of more than 100 camels from southern Israel to the Dead Sea every November to pasture. It’s birthing season and this year, 30 camels are pregnant. Bedouin lifestyles have changed dramatically in the last few decades, with many leaving their traditional nomadic ways to settle in towns of southern Israel, trading their camels for pickup trucks and living off tourists instead of goat herds. But for three months a year, El Guran and the other herders live as their forefathers have for generations. It’s a simple life. The herders eat mainly bread and olive oil while drinking thick black coffee boiled on campfires. They sleep under the stars, near the herd, for weeks at a time. There is no cellphone coverage or other modern amenities….
Making history, first flight to Israel overflying Saudi Arabia lands in Tel Aviv
Haaretz 22 Mar by Noa Landau — Taking off from New Delhi, Air India completes maiden flight — Israel’s El Al airlines also hopes to be allowed to fly through Saudi airspace, and has been vying for such permission despite the lack of diplomatic relations with Riyadh — Air India’s inaugural flight to Israel took off from New Delhi on Thursday morning with the 256-seater Boeing 787 Dreamliner flying over Saudi Arabia and Persian Gulf states, countries with which Israel has no diplomatic relations. The flight made history and landed shortly after 10 P.M. Overflying Saudi Arabia considerably shortened flight times between Israel and India. The maiden flight, Air India 139, departed New Delhi at 6 P.M. Indian time Thursday and was due to arrive at Ben-Gurion Airport at 9:45 P.M. Israel time, according to the Air India website. Earlier this month the company said it planned to fly the Delhi-Tel Aviv route three times a week….