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Today in Palestine

Hamas shuts down Gaza crossing, blaming Israel for assassinating leader

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Ma’an News Agency reports, “The Hamas-run Ministry of Interior in Gaza closed the Palestinian side of the Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel on Sunday morning, denying residents of the besieged coastal enclave passage in both directions, as local sources described a ‘state of alert’ in Gaza with severe security measures being imposed across the small Palestinian territory.”

Rasmea Odeh accepts plea deal, loses US citizenship in exchange for no jail time, will leave the US

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The Rasmea Defense Committee announced yesterday Palestinian activist Rasmea Odeh, “has made the difficult decision to accept a plea agreement. She will plead guilty to Unlawful Procurement of Naturalization, lose her U.S. citizenship, and be forced to leave the country, but will exit the U.S. without having to serve any more time in prison or ICE detention, a victory, considering that the government had earlier fought for a sentence of 5-7 years.”

Israel arrests 18 Palestinian members of a WhatsApp religious chat group

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Ma’an News Agency reports: “Israeli forces have detained 18 Palestinians from occupied East Jerusalem and West Bank for being in a WhatsApp group with a Palestinian who was killed by Israeli forces on Monday [near the Lion’s Gate to the Al-Aqsa Mosque] after allegedly carrying out a stabbing attack. Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri said in a statement on Sunday that the detained were all members of a group called “Road to heaven” on the messaging application, which she said was used to share religious messages.”

Israel jails Palestinian writer for her novel about occupation

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The Palestinian prisoner rights group Samidoun reports novelist Khalida Ghosheh was released on bail on Saturday. Still, she faces charges over her fictional book about Palestinians collaborators for Israel. Samidoun writes, Ghosheh said while in jail “the interrogators claimed that her novel poses a threat to collaborators working with the occupation, saying that the novel reflects her own experiences and aims to warn young people about ways [the Israeli authorities] may attempt to compel them to become collaborators.”

Israeli lawmakers advance bill to ban Muslim call to prayer

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In a hotly contested session of Knesset, Israeli lawmakers passed the first reading of a bill to ban the Muslim call to prayer, sparking Arab representatives to walk-out mid-session. Al Jazeera reports, “A law to muffle mosques’ amplified calls to prayer in Israel and occupied East Jerusalem won preliminary approval on Wednesday in a charged parliamentary session where Palestinian legislators denounced the measure as racist. The bill passed a preliminary reading with 55 votes in favour and 48 against as the assembly broke out into chaotic arguments.”

Trump’s pick for amb. to Israel funded settlements in Jerusalem’s Muslim Quarter

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Haaretz reports Trump’s pick for U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman has a “leadership role in an organization that raises funds for the West Bank settlement of Beit El [that] is frequently cited as grounds for disqualifying him from becoming U.S. ambassador to Israel. It now emerges that Friedman’s financial ties to the settlement movement run deeper than Beit El. Friedman has also made contributions over the years to Ateret Cohanim, a right-wing organization that buys land in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City and Arab East Jerusalem for creating a ‘Jewish presence’ there.”

‘All the houses received [demolition] orders’: Israel to destroy entire Bedouin village in the West Bank

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Haaretz reports: The IDF’s Civil Administration in the West Bank on Sunday distributed some 40 demolition orders in a Bedouin village in Area C, which is under full Israeli civil and military control. Residents say the issuing of dozens of demolition orders is unprecedented in the area. “All the houses received [demolition] orders,” A’id Khamis Jahalin, a local resident, told Haaretz. “I’m scared. This time is different. Then they gave one [demolition order] or two, but such a blow, it’s something. They gave 42 orders. They gave for everything, there are no structures here in all the area that didn’t receive an order. I spoke with our lawyer, they gave us up to five days [to object], that’s a short time,” said Jahalin. Israeli authorities confirmed that such a widespread issuance of demolition orders was unprecedented in the area, and this is a declaration of intention in advance of an attempt to evacuate the entire village.

Elderly father of slain Palestinian dies ‘of shock’ in Umm al-Hiran

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The 100-year old father of Yacoub Abu al-Qee‘an [or al-Qi‘an] died Thursday morning after succumbing to shock over the death of his son, who was killed by Israeli police while defending his village of Umm al-Hiran from eviction. Israeli authorities are in the process of razing and expelling the Palestinian-Bedouin residents of Umm al-Hiran, in order to establish a Jewish-Israeli community in the same location.

Israel demolishes home of 100-year-old Palestinian woman leaving her homeless

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In the latest instance of Israel’s demolition campaign in the Negev region of southern Israel, homes were demolished in two unrecognized Bedouin villages on Wednesday, while Israeli police surrounded the village of Umm al-Hiran. Among those left homeless, a 100-year old Palestinian woman and her 60-year old daughter, both of whom are unable to walk due to health issues.

Palestinian teen killed by Israeli forces during raid on Jenin refugee camp

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Ma‘an reports: “Israeli forces shot and killed a 19-year-old Palestinian Muhammad Mahmoud Abu Khalifa and injured several others early Sunday morning in Jenin refugee camp in the northern occupied West Bank, after clashes erupted following an Israeli army raid into the camp. State-run Palestinian news agency Wafa said that Abu Khalifa was left on the ground for hours before paramedics were able to evacuate his body.”

Trump administration has no comment on Israeli settlement boom

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Israel announced plans on Tuesday for 2,500 more settlement homes in the occupied West Bank, the second such declaration since U.S. President Donald Trump took office. White House spokesman Sean Spicer dodged a question Tuesday on whether the administration supports the Israeli government’s policy.

Israeli forces kill Palestinian teen in southern West Bank village of Tuqu

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Ma‘an reports: Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian teenager during clashes in the Bethlehem-area village of Tuqu‘ in the southern occupied West Bank on Monday evening. A Palestinian Red Crescent spokesperson told Ma‘an that 17-year-old Qusay Hasan al-Umour was shot with live ammunition in the chest at least three times, and that Israeli forces had detained him for an unspecified period of time before handing over his body to the health organization. A video taken by Palestinian journalist Hisham Abu Sharqah immediately after al-Umour was shot seemingly contradicts the Israeli army’s version of events.

Israeli forces seize 5 relatives of Palestinian killed committing truck attack in occupied Jerusalem

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Israeli forces raided homes in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabal al-Mukabbir on Sunday and detained at least five relatives of Fadi Ahmad Hamdan al-Qunbar, a Palestinian who was killed earlier in the day after carrying out a deadly vehicular attack. Israel is also withholding his body, denying family reunification requests, and planning demolition of his house.

Will the Azaria verdict shield Israel from the International Criminal Court?

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One possible consequence of the Azaria verdict is that will help protect Israel from international accountability. Yonah Jeremy Bob writes in the Jerusalem Post: “At the ICC, Hebron shooter Elor Azaria’s manslaughter conviction may affirm the credibility of Israel’s apparatus for prosecuting its own soldiers. This is important because it is the decisive issue affecting whether the ICC will dive deeper into the Israeli- Palestinian conflict.”

Waqf: 14,806 Israeli settler incursions on Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in 2016

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Ma‘an reports: 2016 saw the highest number of incursions on the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound by right-wing Israelis than previous recorded years, according to the Islamic Endowment (Waqf) that manages the holy site. The religious trust said in the statement that a total of 14,806 Israeli settler incursions occurred on the compound in 2016 via the Old City’s Moroccan Gate. These incursions included assaults on employees of the Islamic Waqf, with Israeli forces routinely banning them from entering the holy site.

Israeli forces killed 31 Palestinian youths in the occupied West Bank in 2016

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2016 has been deadliest year of the past decade for West Bank children, according to Defense for Children International–Palestine. In the past year Israeli forces have killed 31 Palestinian children in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Accountability Program director at DCIP, says, “Intentional lethal force now appears to be routinely used by Israeli forces, even in unjustified situations, with no accountability, putting more and more children at risk.”