Israeli forces attack protests commemorating Mandela across West Bank
[photos] RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 6 Dec — Dozens of Palestinians were injured and one detained as Israeli forces opened fire to disperse protests against the Israeli occupation and commemorating Nelson Mandela’s death across the West Bank on Friday afternoon. Protests against the Israeli occupation and separation wall took place in villages across the West Bank, including in Bil‘in, al-Ma‘sara, Kafr Qaddum, and Nabi Saleh. Demonstrators raised slogans and posters of South African anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela in many villages, commemorating the legacy of the “freedom fighter” who passed away on Thursday … In Nabi Saleh, Israeli forces dispersed demonstrators who marched throughout the village raising Palestinian flags as well as photographs of Mustafa Tamimi, who was shot dead by Israeli forces at a similar rally in 2011. Israeli forces opened fire on the demonstrations throughout the day with tear gas, stun grenades, and rubber bullets. [details from all these villages]
IDF closes probe into killing of Mustafa Tamimi in Nabi Saleh
[with photo of close-up shooting] 972mag 5 Dec by Mairav Zonszein — The Israeli Military Advocate General (MAG) announced Thursday that it has closed the investigation into the killing of Mustafa Tamimi, a Palestinian resident of the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh. Tamimi died almost exactly two years ago, on December 10, 2011, after being hit by a tear gas canister shot by IDF soldiers at close range during a demonstration in the village. He was critically injured at the protest, and died the next day at Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva. According to Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, the MAG claims the canister that killed Tamimi was fired “according to the relevant rules and regulations and did not involve any illegality.” It accepted the soldier’s claim that he didn’t see Tamimi when shooting from the military jeep and further relied on expert opinion that determined the soldier could not have seen Tamimi while shooting. How could it possibly be in line with regulations for a soldier to fire any weapon without having a clear line of sight, especially during a protest? According to B’Tselem, Israeli military orders officially forbid shooting tear gas canisters directly at people. While military officials regularly cite this position in response to B’Tselem’s queries, in practice such shooting continues unabated.
Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing
Report: Israel to let Palestinians use some of their own land
972mag 4 Dec by Mairav Zonszein — Israeli officials reveal plans to allocate nearly 5,000 acres [about 16 sq. km] of privately owned Palestinian land so as not to stand in the way of a PA-USAID economic development program — Israel is pushing through a plan to allocate nearly 5,000 acres of land in Area C of the West Bank (under full Israeli military and administrative control) for a Palestinian economic development program, Hebrew daily Ma’ariv reported Wednesday. According to the report, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is behind the initiative, and plans to fund and facilitate Palestinian agricultural and commercial development there. Israel’s Defense Ministry has committed to speeding up the planning process so the appropriate permits can be issued within 90 days. It should be noted that the article reads like it was fed to Ma’ariv by the Defense Ministry or Prime Minister’s Office in order to show the Americans that, as a goodwill gesture, Israel is not entirely opposed to allowing Palestinians to use land that even Israel recognizes they own. To calm the domestic Israeli audience, those same “unnamed” officials say that the land in question is nowhere near the separation barrier, Jewish settlements or anything that is strategically important to Israel. In other words, this is an area that will become part of a Palestinian state in any future agreement, they added (i.e., this isn’t land that Israel wants). A “senior Israeli defense official,” however, told Maariv the land will not actually be transferred to Palestinian Authority control and that it will remain “under Israeli sovereignty.”
Marked for destruction: Jerusalem neighborhoods brace for large wave of home demolitions
Mondoweiss 4 Dec by Ben Hattem — As Isam Hamad Ali, a civil engineer in the Shu’fat refugee camp in East Jerusalem, drove his silver sedan along a wide dirt road near Israel’s Separation Wall, he pointed to every building he passed. The buildings he indicated – towering apartment complexes housing tens of families each – recently received notices from the Jerusalem municipality scheduling them to be destroyed in the largest wave of home demolitions ever proposed by the Israeli authorities … The exact number of buildings and families affected is difficult to determine. Ronit Sela, head of the Human Rights in East Jerusalem project for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), puts the number of families targeted by the notices somewhere between two and eight hundred. Jeff Halper, Director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, cites the possible destruction of 2,000 housing units covering 15,000 people in the area.
36 aid groups demand end to house demolitions by Israel
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 4 Dec — Thirty-six international charities and human rights groups on Wednesday released a statement calling for an immediate end to the demolition of Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. The groups — among them Amnesty International, Oxfam and Save the Children — co-signed a statement denouncing Israeli house demolitions in the occupied Palestinian territories … House demolitions are often carried out to facilitate the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements and the destruction of civilian property is a violation of International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law, AIDA added. Below is a list of the 36 aid groups.
Road collapses in Silwan due to excavations, say residents
JERUSALEM (WAFA) 4 Dec – The residents of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan were surprised Thursday when they saw collapses and wide cracks in their main road of Wadi Hilweh following rainfall blaming it on excavations underneath their homes and streets. The Wadi Hilweh Information Center said 30-meter-long collapse and cracks were seen in the main access road they take daily in Wadi Hilweh neighborhood … The residents said that such collapses occur every year after rainfall due to the excavations carried out by both Elad settlement organization and Israel Antiquities Authority underneath their houses and streets in Silwan, noting that under the excavations there is a tunnel that connects Silwan spring with Maghrabe Gate and plans are made to connect it with the Western Wall. They added that many collapses occurred in Silwan, most notably a collapse of a classroom floor in a UN-run school.
20 years of talks — keeping Palestinians occupied
Visualizing Palestine 3 Dec — infographics – Israeli settlements and Palestinian displacement, Israeli restrictions and Palestinian fragmentation
IOA builds new settlement in the West Bank
RAMALLAH (PIC) 4 Dec — The Israeli occupation authorities (IOA) started building a new settlement in Mazra Gharbiya village to the north of Ramallah. Eyewitnesses told the PIC that IOA bulldozers were working for the past week in leveling Palestinian land in Wadi Al-Qara‘a area, north of the village. They said that the villagers were stunned at the sight of mobile homes set up on that land on Tuesday. Citizens told the PIC reporter that they own documents proving their ownership of the land, adding that the IOA had confiscated the land last month. They said that Jewish settlers had started cultivating the land and paved routes for their motorbikes to facilitate their movement and attacks on villagers.
New plans for Judaizing the Galilee draw controversy
Al-Monitor 6 Dec by Daniel Ben Simon — A new urban plan for villages in the Galilee sparks controversy among Jews and Arabs, in view of the financial resources it allocates to Jewish localities, neglecting Arab villages — …During my many years as a journalist, I have written much on the Galilee and the Negev as part of my work on the towns of the periphery. In the periphery are the development towns, the social and economic distress, the other Israel. But this is also where most Arabs live in Israel. Any time I tried to understand the reason for the decline in status of the periphery as opposed to the center of the country, the question of demography and the fear that the Arab population will overtake Jewish settlement were raised. Everyone warned about Arab demography. The tone of the words gained urgency when the future of the Galilee was discussed. Since the establishment of the state, the number of Jews in the Galilee has been almost the same as the number of Arabs, and there are some who say that the numbers even lean toward Arabs. That’s the reason why Israeli governments, left and right alike, have not spared resources to change the course of the sensitive pendulum. Billions of shekels have been allocated to the construction of new localities in the Galilee alongside the bolstering of existing towns. The city of Karmiel was established in the 1960s to prevent Arab territorial continuity. Exceptional benefits were offered to the Jewish population that would deign to move from the center of the country to Karmiel. At the same time, Acre, the mixed city, turned into a strategic goal of Israeli governments. New Jewish neighborhoods were frequently built to maintain the demographic advantage of Jewish residents. It is not only the demographic issue that incites dread. A territorial continuity of Arab settlement also sparks fears among decision-makers in Israel. One can’t understand the harsh policy toward Bedouin and Arab settlement in the Galilee, and to a great extent, the establishment of West Bank settlements at the very spots where they were erected, without taking into account the fear of an Arab territorial continuity.
Prawer Plan: How the natives became invaders in their own homes
972mag 5 Dec by Noam Sheizaf — The attempt to forcibly resettle a native minority population justifies international interest. If it continues, international intervention will be justified as well — Members of the foreign press in Israel received an invitation this week for a tour in the south to “explore the topic” of the Bedouin population. The visit is intended to present the plan for the arrangement of Bedouin settlement in the Negev, which, according to the invitation, aims to promote “the economic development for the Negev’s Bedouin population [and] to resolve the conflict over land ownership.” The tour, which will take place on December 10, is hosted by General (res.) Doron Almog, who heads the unit which will implement the (re)arrangement plan, commonly referred to as the Prawer Plan (named after another general, Udi Prawer, who drafted the initial document). This military-like operation is meant to relocate tens of thousands of Bedouin – the native population of the Negev – from their homes in the unrecognized villages and into designated areas whose exact borders and locations have yet to be revealed. There is something telling in the fact that Almog is talking to the foreign press while details of the plan are being kept secret from the Bedouin themselves. Almost 100,000 Bedouin live in the Negev’s unrecognized villages, but while Prawer Plan is set to become state law in a matter of weeks, not one of them knows whether his/her house will be destroyed or village displaced. Even the contractors that are hired to implement the plan must sign a special clause that ensures they maintain absolute secrecy on Prawer’s details; violating this clause is defined in the contract as a “national security offense.” … Click here for +972 Magazine’s full coverage of the Prawer Plan
Israel exploits nature, archaeology for settlement expansion
Al-Monitor 4 Dec by Akiva Eldar — Act One: Early morning in November. Dozens of people have congregated outside the doors of the Interior Ministry in Jerusalem. Security guards at the entrance to the building, which lies in the heart of the city’s western half, are surprised by the large numbers of Palestinians who want to participate in the Regional Planning and Construction Committee’s meeting. Only lawyers are allowed into the hall, where opposition to the creation of the “Slopes of Mount Scopus National Park” on the outskirts of the villages of Issawiya and a-Tur will be discussed. A veteran activist from Issawiya is demanding that the meeting be postponed until he and his friends are allowed access to the room, where the future of their lands will be decided. A police officer warns the man that he will be kept out if he doesn’t shut up. The first person to speak is a representative of the Israeli Nature and Parks Authority, which initiated the project. He surprises all the attendees by telling them that his superior, Minister of Environmental Protection Amir Peretz, instructed him to request that the discussion be halted, now that he has been convinced that there is nothing of natural value in the region that is particularly sensitive.
Israel plans to build wall along Palestinian-Jordanian border
NAZARETH (PIC) 5 Dec — A senior Israeli military official said on Wednesday that the Israeli army intends to build a perimeter fence along the borderline with Jordan, similar to the one it had built along the border with Egypt. Senior Israeli officer Eran Ophir, who heads the border wall construction projects, told the Hebrew radio that the wall with Egypt would not be the last one to be built by the Israeli army, affirming that there is a plan to build another one on the border with Jordan. Ophir added that the Israeli army has finished building the 245-kilometer border wall with Egypt, noting that the wall extends from the Rafah area in the north to Eilat city in the south. He also said that the Israeli army plans to build a fence underwater and deploy naval vessels along the maritime border of Eilat in order to prevent infiltration attempts by African migrants.
Settlers vandalize Nablus village in ‘price tag’ attack
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 6 Dec — Israeli settlers on Friday destroyed a Palestinian car and vandalized a house in Jalud village south of Nablus, a local official said. Ghassan Daghlas, a Palestinian Authority official who monitors settlement activities in the northern West Bank, told Ma‘an that settlers from nearby Ahiya settlement torched a Subaru car belonging to Fathi Yousef Hajj which was parked near his house. Daghlas added that they sprayed graffiti that said “price tag” on the walls of the house, which is located in an isolated area outside the village. In October, an elementary school and a mosque in Jalud were also vandalized in price tag attacks. “Price tag” is the term given by Israeli settler extremists to refer to attacks randomly targeting Palestinian civilians. The attacks are often committed in retribution for any perceived slight against the settlement enterprise, including decisions made by the Israeli government or other political actors.
Israeli forces raid al-Aqsa compound, 40 Palestinians injured
[photos] JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 6 Dec — Israeli forces fired tear gas, rubber-coated bullets and stun grenades at Palestinian worshipers on Friday during clashes in the al-Aqsa compound. Al-Aqsa clinic medics told Ma‘an that 40 people were injured by stun grenade splinters and pepper spray, and five were taken to the hospital as a result. The wounded included a 10-year-old child hit with a stun grenade splinter in the neck. A Ma‘an reporter said Israeli police raided the mosque compound in East Jerusalem and used riot control methods on worshipers, who responded by throwing rocks at Israeli forces. Dozens of Palestinians suffered from tear-gas inhalation. Israeli forces assaulted journalist Atta Ewisat and also used pepper spray to disperse the crowds. Israeli forces said they detained three people for participating in the clashes, and the tally might rise. Clashes also broke out between Palestinians and Israeli forces in Bab Hutta and al-Saidiya neighborhoods.
Al-Aqsa director condemns frequent Israeli raids on holy site
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 6 Dec — Director of the al-Aqsa compound Najeh Bkerat warned against the increasing number of Israeli actions and raids in the area of the compound on Friday. Bkerat said Israeli forces raided the compound more than 10 times so far in the year 2013, which he described as a dangerous precedent. Bkerat told Ma‘an that “the Israeli occupation intentionally uses force against worshipers who come to al-Aqsa mosque to terrorize them and keep them away.” “Israel raided al-Aqsa 3 times this week, on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, and trapped worshipers inside to ensure the entrance of settlers,” he said.
Violence / Raids / Clashes / Suppression of protests / Illegal arrests
PHOTOS: Israeli sniper shoots Palestinians using silenced rifle
Activestills 6 Dec — Two Palestinians were shot with live ammunition fired from a silenced rifle on Friday. The rifles were used by Israeli snipers stationed atop the separation wall during clashes in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. Clashes have taken place almost every day in Bethlehem’s ‘Aida Refugee Camp since three Palestinian militants were killed there by Israeli soldiers last week. Last Friday, two Palestinians in Aida Camp were shot with live ammunition. This week saw several more incidents of live ammunition used against Palestinians in Bethlehem before today’s shootings which wounded two. In the second shooting today, a bullet passed through both legs (above the knees) of the Palestinian young man. A report by Mairav Zonszein earlier this year showed the army using same form of ammunition when it seriously injured a 13-year-old boy … It would seem that the “rules of engagement” since February’s shooting have either changed or are being ignored. In both the shootings last week in Aida Camp and today on Bethlehem’s Hebron Road, eyewitnesses reported no use of Molotov cocktails or “improvised grenades” by Palestinians before the Israeli sniper opened fire. In each case, Palestinian youth were throwing stones at the concrete separation wall and watchtowers … Live ammunition was the first response and not a “last resort.”
Settler attack instigates clashes in Hebron; one Palestinian shot with live ammunition
HEBRON, Occupied Palestine (ISM Khalil Team) 6 Dec — This afternoon in Hebron, approximately three illegal settlers, standing on the same roof as several Israeli soldiers, threw stones at Palestinian homes and cars in the old city. This act of aggression caused clashes to break out between Palestinian youth and Israeli forces, where many tear gas canisters, stun grenades, rubber-coated steel bullets and live ammunition were fired. One youth, aged 19-years-old, was seriously injured after being shot with live ammunition in the stomach. The settlers threw stones at Palestinian homes and cars in what is known as Small Shallala Street from a roof in the illegal settlement of Beit Hadassah, damaging a number of cars. This continued for at least ten minutes unobstructed by the guarding Israeli soldiers. After a group of 5 Israeli soldiers entered the souk (market) Palestinian youth gathered and began to throw stones. The group of soldiers returned to Beit Romano military base and shortly after a further fifteen soldiers arrived and began to fire tear gas canisters and stun grenades.The clashes continued for more than five hours with the Israeli forces escalating their aggression by firing tear gas canisters, rubber-coated steel bullet, stun grenades and live ammunition at Palestinian youth. One 19-year-old was shot in his abdomen and was taken to hospital for treatment, his condition is unknown.
Jewish settler runs over Palestinian child
AL-KHALIL (PIC) 4 Dec — A Jewish settler in a speeding car hit a ten-year-old Palestinian child at entrance to Beit Ummar village, north of Al-Khalil, on Tuesday night. Mohammed Awad, the coordinator of the popular committee in Beit Ummar, told Quds Press that the child Mohammed Abu Ayyash was injured in the incident and taken to hospital where his condition was described as moderate. Awad said that Israeli occupation forces fired stun grenades at the citizens who gathered near the scene of the incident.
KHAL AL LUBAN, Occupied Palestine (ISM Nablus Team) 6 Dec — On the 4th of December, Khalid Al-Sanih Daraghmah was working on his property when illegal settlers, Israeli border police and Israeli soldiers entered his farm to harass him, arrest him and confiscate his tractor. In the late afternoon, settlers from the illegal settlement of Ma’ale Levona, two military jeeps with Israeli soldiers and two border police officers entered Khalid’s property while he and his son were working on the farm. The Israeli soldiers and police tried to force him to leave his property and when Khalid wasn’t willing to move away, they handcuffed him and placed him under arrest. After this incident occurred they tried to steal his tractor, and when his son tried to resist he was beaten by an Israeli border police officer. The tractor was taken to an unknown location. The Israeli forces took Khalid to the nearest police station and after several hours Khalil was released, but only after his family paid a large fee. Khalil arrived back to his property at 9 pm in the evening. When international activists attempted to travel to the farm, they were stopped by Israeli soldiers. They were formed by the soldiers that the area could be “dangerous” as they had arrested a Palestinian. After a period of time, international activists were allowed to pass. In 2002 the Israeli High Court ruled that the land in Khan belongs to the family, but illegal settlers claim it is a public spring. For the past four years, Khalid al-Sanih Daraghmah and his family have faced regular attacks by Israeli settlers at their home in Khan, 2 kilometers south of the West Bank village of al-Luban.
Israeli forces detain group of journalists at checkpoint
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 5 Dec — Israeli forces on Wednesday detained a group of journalists and journalism students from Birzeit University at Huwarra checkpoint south of Nablus. They were in a bus heading to Ramallah after they completed a tour in the valley to report on the hardships people suffer there. Israeli forces assaulted a number of them, forced them to leave the bus, and left them stranded in the cold for two hours as they thoroughly searched the bus.
Israeli forces detain 9 Palestinians in West Bank raids
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 5 Dec — Israeli forces detained nine Palestinians in the occupied West Bank overnight Wednesday, locals said. Bashier Nasser Abed Rabu, 27, Muath Abu Nassar, 20, Nitham Mahmud Manasra, 27, and Anas Mahmud al-Sharief, 16, were arrested in Duheisha refugee camp in Bethlehem. Manasra had previously spent four years in Israeli jails.
In Jenin, Israeli soldiers arrested three people in the town of Qabatiya after raiding several homes. The men were identified as Mahmud Sharif Sabaneh, 26, Fathi Meri, 21, and Mahmud Hakam Awad, 19.
Army kidnaps several Palestinians in Jenin
IMEMC — [Thursday, December 5, 2013] Dozens of Israeli soldiers have invaded various areas in the northern West Bank district of Jenin, kidnapped several Palestinians, and installed roadblocks in different part of the district. Local sources have reported that the soldiers kidnapped Hussein Fathy Mer’ey, 21, and Mahmoud Hakam Awad, 19, after breaking into their homes in the eastern neighborhood of the city. Soldiers also invaded Qabatia town, south of Jenin, and kidnapped several Palestinians, one of them has been identified as Mahmoud Sharif Saba’na. Several military units were pushed into the area after a speeding Israeli military jeep flipped over; the army reported no injuries among the soldiers. Media sources in Jenin said that the soldiers also invaded the towns of Methaloon, Sanour, Msalya, and Az-Zababda, installing roadblocks and searching several cars. The army further invaded Aneen village, west of Jenin, fired several flares, gas bombs and concussion grenades; no injuries or arrests were reported. Eyewitnesses stated that the soldiers installed a roadblock at the Arraba Junction, southwest of Jenin city, invaded Marka village and the Sahel area linking it with nearby Qabatia town. Earlier on Thursday, soldiers invaded various towns in the West Bank District of Bethlehem, searched homes and kidnapped eight Palestinians.
Israeli forces detain 2 Palestinians in Jenin
JENIN (Ma‘an) 6 Dec — Israeli forces on Friday detained two Palestinians in the northern West Bank city of Jenin, locals and an army spokeswoman told Ma‘an. Israeli soldiers raided the houses of two men in the Ajja neighborhood of Jenin, detaining brothers Faraj Omar and Muhammad al-Sanouri, aged 35 and 21 respectively. They also raided the houses of Maher Abed al-Aziz Qasem and Osama Sharaf Khalifa, locals said.
PCHR Weekly Report on Israeli Human Rights Violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (28 Nov-4 Dec)
5 Dec —Israeli forces killed a Palestinian worker inside Israel. A Palestinian civilian died of previous wounds in Qalandya refugee camp, north of Jerusalem.7 Palestinian civilians, including 2 children, were wounded during clashes in the camp following the above civilian’s death. A Palestinian civilian was wounded by Israeli forces near the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel. Israeli forces have continued to use excessive force against peaceful protesters in the West Bank. 4 Palestinian civilians, including 2 children, were wounded. Israeli forces conducted 66 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. At least 24 Palestinian civilians, including a child, were arrested. Israeli navy forces have continued targeting Palestinian fishermen in the sea. Israeli forces opened fire at Palestinian fishing boats in the northern Gaza Strip, but neither casualties nor material damage were reported. Israeli forces have continued to support settlement activities in the West Bank and Israeli settlers have continued to attack Palestinian civilians and property. Israeli forces demolished 4 houses and 7 barracks in al-Najada area, north of Jericho. Israeli forces issued notices to demolish houses and civilian facilities in area (C). [details follow]
PA forces arrest 6 Palestinians, including 3 ex-detainees
OCCUPIED WB (PIC) 6 Dec –The Palestinian authority security forces continued to arrest and prosecute university students in West Bank for their political affiliation. In Nablus, PA forces launched raid campaign in Aqraba village where they arrested three liberated prisoners and two former political detainees after storming their houses. In Ramallah, PA Preventive Security Services arrested the student at Birzeit University Moemon Hatab after raiding his house … Meanwhile, Palestinian sources revealed that about 100 Palestinians affiliated to Hamas movement have been either arrested or summoned by PA forces during November. In a report issued by Hamas media center in West Bank, approximately 61 resistance elements were arrested during November by PA forces including 55 affiliated to Hamas movement. About 40 members of Hamas movement have been summoned for investigation in PA interrogation centers, while 6 others’ arrest was extended despite judicial rule for their release.
Gaza under blockade
Abu Sabha: The Egyptian side has promised to open the Rafah crossing next week
GAZA (PIC) 6 Dec — Director of the border affairs Maher Abu Sabha said that the Egyptian side had given him promises and reassurances to open the Rafah border crossings next week. “I personally talked to officials from the Egyptian authorities and they gave us assurances and promises to open it next week,” Abu Sabha said in press remarks on Thursday. He added that the Egyptian authorities pledged to open the Rafah crossing only before the movement of certain passengers without stating how many days it would be opened. The Rafah border crossing has been closed by the Egyptian authorities for about seven days running
Gazan patients, doctors protest Egypt border closure
World Bulletin 6 Dec — Patients and doctors from Gaza staged a Thursday demonstration on the Palestinian side of the Rafah border crossing to protest Egypt’s continued closure of the terminal. Demonstrators called on Egyptian authorities to reopen the crossing, which represents Gaza’s only gateway to the outside world, so as to allow Gazan medical patients to seek medical treatment abroad. “We’re here to demand that the crossing be reopened to medical patients,” Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qodra said. “To our Egyptian brethren, we say: the closure of the crossing is putting the lives of Gaza’s people in jeopardy,” he told Anadolu Agency. Al-Qodra said that the number of Palestinian medical patients in need of treatment outside Gaza was rising each day. He added that some 1,000 Gazans had already applied for medical treatment outside the besieged coastal enclave. He went on to note that drugs and medical equipment were being prevented from entering Gaza, along with aid convoys from other countries.
Interior ministry: Borders with Egypt secured
GAZA (PIC) 5 Dec — Ministry of interior and national security in Gaza said in a statement that the Strip’s borders with Egypt were secured and under strict monitoring and control. The ministry said on Wednesday that the Egyptian military spokesman’s statement about aborting an attempt by armed men from Gaza to blow up an Egyptian military watchtower on the borders was not true. It said that the charge fell in line with the systematic lies being voiced every now and then to justify the siege on the coastal enclave. The ministry asked the Egyptian authorities to stop such scandalous methods, as no proof was established about Gaza involvement in any events in Egypt. In another incident, spokesman for Hamas movement Dr. Sami Abu Zuhri refuted claims by retired Egyptian army general Nabil Abul Najja who claimed that Hisham Al-Su’edni, who lives in Gaza, was masterminding attacks in Sinai Peninsula. Abu Zuhri said that Su’edni was killed in an Israeli air raid on 14/10/2012.
IOF soldiers fire at Palestinian fields south of Gaza
KHAN YOUNIS (PIC) 4 Dec — Israeli occupation forces (IOF) opened machinegun fire at Palestinian agricultural fields to the east of Khan Younis, in the south of the Gaza Strip, on Wednesday morning. The PIC reporter in Khan Younis quoted Palestinian security sources as saying that IOF soldiers manning military watchtowers near the borders of the city opened fire at the fields. They said that there was no apparent reason for the shooting, adding that no casualties were reported.
IOF opens fire at Palestinian farmers east of Khan Younis
GAZA (PIC) 6 Dec — The Israeli occupation forces (IOF) opened fire at Palestinian farmers working on their lands east of Khan Younis to the east of the Gaza Strip. Eyewitnesses reported that Israeli military vehicles stationed across the border with Gaza, fired live tear gas and stun bombs at Palestinian farmers to the east of Khan Younis. No casualties were reported. The shooting coincided with intensive Israeli overflights, the sources added. The farmers were forced to leave their lands due to the intensive firing of tear gas grenades.
Official: Gaza commercial crossing opened to allow goods in and out
RAFAH (WAFA) 4 Dec – Israel opened Wednesday Karm Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) border crossing with Gaza to allow export of a strawberry shipment from Gaza to Europe and to allow in truckloads of goods and fuel, according to a crossing official. Raid Fattouh, head of the Coordinating Committee for the Entry of Goods into the Gaza Strip, said 280 truckloads of goods intended for the commercial, agriculture and transportation sectors were allowed into Gaza, in addition to truckloads of assistance and a limited amount of benzene and diesel fuel and cooking gas. Fattouh said six truckloads of strawberry, flowers and green spices were exported to Europe on Tuesday through Karm Abu Salem, the only commercial border crossing located to the east of the Gaza Strip. At the same time, 212 truckloads of goods were allowed into Gaza.
PHOTOS: Palestinian fishermen and activists sail to protest Israel’s siege of Gaza
GAZA (ISM, Charlie Andreasson, 4 Dec — On Monday, 2nd December 2013, 200-250 Palestinians, foreign activists and journalists, many from international media, gathered in the Gaza seaport for a joint action to alert the world about the siege and its consequences for fishermen pursuing their profession. The action resulted from long negotiations between the event’s initiators, the Intifada Youth Coalition, and the General Union of Fishermen. The stumbling block has been whether the siege would be broken or not. It was a negotiation from which the fishermen emerged victorious. The illegal and inhumane siege would be highlighted but not broken. The risk was imminent that they would be attacked and have their boats confiscated. One by one, the boats sailed out of the harbor, waited for each other, then went out together at a speed of three to four knots. In total, there were seven large boats , with a maximum length of 20 meters, and eleven smaller, open ones. The atmosphere on board was good. Flags waved, people sang, and no sign of tension or nervousness appeared. Maybe it was a taste of freedom participants felt, an early celebration of once again being able to sail and fish in their own waters without fear of being attacked by another nation’s military power, to regain an area that far exceeds all the occupied land in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. What I saw on board was joy and anticipation. A single F-16 that flew over us attracted no interest, but a small school of dolphins did. The only ones who seemed worried was the TV crew that had plastic bags over their equipment. And the fishermen. Those who have real reason to worry, those who have the greatest reason to remind the world about the crimes they face, who by their own admission have been called by the Israeli intelligence service, the Mossad, which warned them against participating in the campaign.
Gaza court issues death sentence to suspected collaborator
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 5 Dec — A military court in the Gaza Strip on Thursday sentenced a man to death by hanging. The Hamas-run court found the man – identified only as A.K. – guilty of collaborating with Israeli authorities, without providing further details … Hamas has executed 17 people since taking over Gaza in 2007, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.
Gaza lacks accountability for medical errors
Al-Monitor 6 Dec by Asmaa al-Ghoul — A number of recent cases have shown that medical errors, often leading to the patient’s death, have gone without punishment in the Gaza Strip — When Miriam al-Tawil, 75, entered the operating room in the Al-Aqsa Hospital in the central Gaza Strip Oct. 20 after breaking her left femur, she had no idea she would never return home. The medical staff had assured her family that it would be a simple procedure that would not take more than a couple of hours. However, four hours later, Miriam was transferred to the intensive care unit, where she went into a coma and later took her last breath. The doctors who had been present in the operating room turned off their mobile phones and disappeared. This is how Ibrahim al-Tawil described what happened to his mother. He said, “We were shocked. All of the tests my mother had undergone before the operation confirmed that her heart was healthy and her blood pressure and blood-sugar levels were excellent. After we collected some information from the hospital, we learned that three medical errors had occurred. So we submitted a complaint.”
Hamas summons prominent women’s rights activist
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (Al-Monitor) by Asmaa al-Ghoulg — In a step that was a shock to civil and human rights groups in the Gaza Strip, the Interior Ministry’s security apparatus summoned Nadia Abu Nahla, a feminist activist and director of the Women’s Affairs Technical Committee (WATC) Gaza branch, on several occasions in November. This is the first time the Interior Ministry has summoned an activist and head of a well-known women’s organization … Human rights activist Mustafa Ibrahim said that he does not believe the summons directed at Abu Nahla marks a beginning of similar summonses for female civil society activists and directors of foundations. “This incident, however, has raised fears in civil and human rights circles,” he said … Regarding the security services interfering in the work of foundations, Ayman Ayesh, the director of the Interior Ministry’s NGO department, told Al-Monitor, “In general, over the past three years we have been able to significantly reduce [this interference], to the point of preventing the security services from interfering in the affairs of civil groups.”
Pre-Nakba diwan custom lives on in Gaza
GAZA STRIP (Electronic Intifada) 5 Dec by Rami Almeghari — In many houses across Gaza, a space has been reserved for men from the same extended family to gather each day for conversations and games of cards and, on occasions, the settling of disputes. Known as the diwan in Arabic, this space reflects a patriarchal custom that stretches back hundreds of years. Hassan Ali al-Khaldi — or Abu Bahjat, as he is known — is the head of his clan in al-Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza. A 78-year-old retired police officer, he is originally from Karatiyya, a village in present-day Israel that is approximately 30 kilometers from the Strip. Abu Bahjat and his parents were forced to flee their home by Zionist forces during the Nakba (Arabic for catastrophe) — the forced displacement of 750,000 Palestinians at the time of Israel’s establishment in 1948. He was 14 then. Almost every day he sits in a newly-refurbished garage at the family’s house in al-Bureij and welcomes guests. His father, Ali, had similarly presided over a diwan.
Gaza returns to donkey days
GAZA CITY (IPS) 5 Dec by Mohammed Omer — The garbage trucks of Gaza city are at a standstill due to an ongoing fuel shortage affecting all aspects of daily life, including garbage collection, sewage and waste disposal and other vital services. But the local donkeys are here to help. Abu Hesham on his donkey cart won’t be able to clear all the streets of garbage. In Gaza’s Barcelona neighbourhood, trash bins are overflowing – a common sight since fuel for motor vehicles became scarce – and as the 33-year-old donkey cart owner approaches the garbage dump, there is no space left and no option but to throw the trash out on the side of the road. “What else can I do?” he tells IPS as he carries sacks of waste at 7:00 AM through Gaza’s misty weather. The smell of rotting garbage is getting worse and worse. The people in Gaza attempt to burn the garbage to reduce the quantity and minimize the risk of infection, so the air is filled with black smoke too. Right now, breathing fresh air is not an option for most people in Gaza, whether children or adults.
Gaza kids were heard worldwide: Mini-arks a huge success
PNN 5 Dec — On Saturday, November 30, over 200 children, ages 4 to 15 years, including 25 orphans, assembled at the Gaza Port. They came from several children’s associations, along with 60 adult volunteers, as well as high school and university students aged 15 – 22. There, they launched around 200 mini arks into the sea, to symbolically challenge the illegal and immoral Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip. These mini-Arks, 40cm-long model-boats sponsored by people across the world, were taken out on the water by the children in small fishing boats, where they were lowered into the sea. Like messages in a bottle, the boats were tasked with the awesome responsibility of carrying the children’s cry for help to the outside world. Trapped in a small stretch of land that is the Gaza Strip, children there want freedom, just like all people do. They want the brutal siege of their land to end. The younger children all had paper mini arks and Palestinian flags to carry. [See videos here]
Palestinian detainees in Malta appeal for release
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 5 Dec — Palestinians being held in a Malta prison on Wednesday called on human rights organizations, officials and international organizations to intervene and secure their release. The Palestinians were detained in late October after they arrived in Malta via boats coming from Libya. Most of the refugees were released but young men are still being held. One of the detainees, Hassan Abdullah, was transferred to hospital after he attempted to commit suicide.
Egyptian security launches campaign of arrests against Palestinian refugees
CAIRO (PIC) 4 Dec — Egyptian authorities launched arrest campaigns against Palestinian refugees fleeing from the ongoing conflict in Syria to Egypt over the three last days. Cairo justifies the campaigns saying that Palestinian refugees do not have residence permits in Egypt, and at the same time it refuses to grant Palestinian and Syrian refugees residence permits, one of the refugees said. Egyptian human rights sources said that this campaign has no legal basis. The London-based Action Group for Palestinian refugees in Syria said on Tuesday that the Egyptian authorities’ arrest campaign came in total violation of international laws and conventions that oblige the protection of refugees fleeing from war and seeking refuge … Sources said that Egypt had detained over 1,500 refugees from Syria, including at least 400 Palestinians and 250 children as young as two months old, for weeks and sometimes months. Serious violations were reported in Egyptian detention centers against the Palestinian and Syrian refugees including sexual harassment, abuses, and poor treatment.
5,000 employees in UNRWA go on strike
RAMALLAH (PIC) 4 Dec — Arab employees in the UN Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA) in the West Bank have decided to go on strike as of Tuesday to protest the agency’s delay in meeting their demands. The union of Arab employees in UNRWA said in a statement that the strike would cover all institutions affiliated with the agency namely those of education and health in addition to services sectors in the West Bank. The union said in a statement that the strike was in protest at the reduction of the agency’s services and aid to Palestinian refugees in the West Bank in addition to its constant threat to reduce the number of Arab employees, who are all refugees. All UNRWA-affiliated institutions and centers were closed as of Tuesday morning in response to the strike by 5,000 workers, who stayed at home.
Israel to move administrative detainees to Negev
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 5 Dec — The administration of Ofer prison informed prisoners of its intention to move a large number of administrative detainees to the Negev prison. The Palestinian Prisoners Society condemned the action as “repressive” and said it aimed to divide administrative detainees in order to foil the steps they have taken against administrative detention. A statement from the society said that detainees will continue their protest steps as scheduled, and will have a 2-day hunger strike each week between Dec. 10 and 30.
IOA renews administrative detention of university lecturer
AL-KHALIL (PIC) 5 Dec — The Israeli occupation authorities renewed the administrative detention, without trial or charge, of Palestinian university lecturer Zeinuddin Shabana. The Palestinian center for prisoners studies said that Shabana, 42, was supposed to be released on Wednesday, but instead the Negev prison administration informed him that his administrative custody would be extended. Israeli occupation forces arrested Shabana, who works as a lecturer at the Open Quds University branch in Al-Khalil, on 3/2/2013.
Palestinian prisoner’s health worsens after 210 days of refusing food
RAMALLAH (Electronic Intifada) 2 Dec by Patrick O. Strickland — Following in the footsteps of many Palestinian political prisoners who undertook lengthy hunger strikes, Alaa Hammad has been refusing meals for more than 210 days. Muntaha Qasem, Hammad’s wife, has not spoken with her husband directly since the early stages of his fast … Hammad, a 35-year-old who began his hunger strike on 2 May, holds an Israeli-issued identity card for Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, as well as Jordanian citizenship. Having been denied all family visits from relatives in Jordan who do not have Jerusalem residency or a passport issued by the Palestinian Authority, he and four other Palestinian political prisoners with Jordanian nationality have demanded to either be released or transferred to prison in Jordan. He is the final remaining hunger striker from that group … Hammad is the only person from his family to be imprisoned by Israel. His arrest took place during a 2006 business trip to Jerusalem. Not having any political ties, Qasem said, Hammad was looking into starting a fresh fruit cocktail café and applying for family reunification to bring his wife and children, who carry only Jordanian citizenship, with him to either Jerusalem or the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah. While renting a home near his uncle’s residence in the Sur Baher area of occupied East Jerusalem, Hammad spoke to a friend in Syria, asking for business advice several times via telephone. … After surrounding his home at approximately 2am on 24 November 2006, Israeli soldiers broke in and arrested him. “They tore apart the whole house searching for evidence. They even ripped the electricity outlets from the walls,” Qasem recalled. Hammad was eventually charged with involvement in an alleged plot to kidnap an Israeli soldier and having contact with Syria, considered a “hostile state” by Israel. “He was in interrogation and tortured in a compound [in Jerusalem] for two months before he was transferred to a prison,” Qasem explained.
Israeli doctors inform patient prisoner of his hopeless case
NAZARETH (PIC) 4 Dec — Israeli doctors in Hadassah prison informed the Palestinian patient prisoner Moataz Abido, from al-Khalil, that they are not able to treat him. The Palestinian prisoners society said, in a statement, that Abido suffers partial paralysis due to an injury he sustained during his arrest in 2011. Following his visit to Moataz, PPS lawyer Jawad Boulos said that a serious deterioration had developed in the prisoner’s health condition and he was transferred to hospital. He said that doctors told him that Moataz will spend all his life in a wheelchair.
Meanwhile, the Israeli occupation authorities continued to deprive three detained brothers of family visits under the pretext of security reasons … The mother said that she was denied visits to her sons after reaching the prison on many past occasions although she had visit permits.
Activism / BDS
AOHR asks Europe to remove JNF from the charity organizations register
LONDON (PIC) 4 Dec — The Arab Organization for Human Rights in UK (AOHR) said that the Jewish National Fund’s funding of the Israeli government’s plans to displace the indigenous population represents a crime against humanity. AOHR stressed that the fund is taking full advantage of its status as a non-profit charity organization to collect donations from all over the world to finance investment projects aimed at benefiting and settling Jewish families at the expense of Palestinian ones … The organization also called upon all European countries “to ban the JNF from operating within their borders and to have the Fund stricken from the charity organizations register because it would be deplorable for European taxpayers’ money to contribute to the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in Negev and the rest of Palestine.”
Druze youth likely headed to prison for conscientious objection
972mag 4 Dec by Haggai Matar — Omar Sa’ad reports to Israeli army induction base and announces his refusal to enlist. He is expected to be sentenced to prison. Sa’ad has declared his refusal to be ‘both nationally and conscientiously motivated.’ — “I was raised first and foremost as a human being, and as such I feel that I cannot possibly aim an assault weapon at any other human being, be it Arab, Jewish or whomever, and so it has always been clear to me that I will not be able to join the army,” says Omar Sa’ad, a young Druze viola player from the village of Maghar. Sa’ad is now expected to be sentenced in a disciplinary proceeding to a period of up to one month in military prison for refusing conscription after reporting to an Israeli induction base Wednesday morning. [Update, 6.12: Sa’ad has been sentenced to a first period of 20 days in prison] While Muslim and Christian Arabs with Israeli citizenship are exempt from military service, Druze men are required to serve for three years.
American Studies Association national council endorses Israel boycott
Electronic Intifada 4 Dec by Ali Abunimah — In an historic decision, the national council of the American Studies Association (ASA) today announced its endorsement of the Palestinian call for boycott of Israeli academic institutions. “The boycott is the best way to protect and expand academic freedom and access to education,” ASA president Curtis Marez said in an email sent to media. “Palestinian academics are frequently impeded by Israeli occupation authorities, schools and universities have been bombed by US-supported Israeli military forces, and the Wall blocks educational access for thousands of students. As an association of scholars and educators, the ASA has an ethical responsibility to act.” The national council – the ASA’s elected governing body – also called a referendum of the organization’s full membership to endorse its decision. The ASA, with 5,000 individual members and 2,200 library and other institutional subscribers, describes itself as the “nation’s oldest and largest association devoted to the interdisciplinary study of American culture and history.”
‘Made in Israel’ film festival draws protest in Dublin
[with video] Electronic Intifada 5 Dec by Ali Abunimah — Palestine solidarity activists in Dublin protested the opening by an Irish government minister of a film festival sponsored by the Israeli embassy yesterday. The protest was held outside the Cineworld cinema where the “Made in Israel” film festival had what the Israeli embassy termed a “Gala Opening” and “Hanukkah Reception.” There’s no light in Gaza “They’re saying that this a celebration of Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of light, but we’re seeing that the lights are being turned out all over Gaza,” said Donal McFhearaigh, a member of the campaign group People Before Profits. Protestors held a large banner saying “End the Siege of Gaza” and an illuminated sign with the word “Gaza.” “In Gaza there’s sewage flooding in the streets and they only have electricity for six hours per day and they’re struggling. And they’re showing an Israeli festival in Ireland promoting Israel,” said Saiorse Bennett. David Landy, a professor of race, ethnicity and conflict at Trinity College Dublin, said Irish people would have rejected the idea of a white South African film festival during the time of apartheid. [See also longer video from the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, with interviews]
Kerry: Israel, Palestinians closest to peace ‘in years’
BEN GURION AIRPORT, Israel (AFP) 6 Dec — Israel and the Palestinians are closer to a peace deal than they have been in years, US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday wrapping up his latest visit. “I believe we are closer than we have been in years to bringing about the peace and the prosperity and the security that all of the people of this region deserve,” he told reporters traveling with his delegation at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv … Remembering the life of Nelson Mandela, who died late on Thursday, Kerry said the example set by the South African peacemaker should be of particular inspiration for those engaged in the talks. “The naysayers are wrong to call peace in this region an impossible goal,” Kerry said, before quoting Mandela: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
Kerry meets Israel PM for third time in 24 hours
JERUSALEM (AFP) 6 Dec — US Secretary of State John Kerry was meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the third time in 24 hours on Friday for talks understood to be focused on security. Kerry, who is seeking ways to drive forward stagnant peace talks, met twice with Netanyahu on Thursday for more than six hours of talks about potential security issues in any peace agreement. He also held a three-hour meeting in Ramallah with President Mahmoud Abbas … Kerry has said Israel’s security is “fundamental” to the peace negotiations with the Palestinians, and a top priority for Washington in nuclear negotiations with Iran. But his talks in Ramallah did not appear to go so well, with a senior official saying US proposals on security were unacceptable … Chief negotiator Saeb Erekat told AFP the situation was “still very difficult and matters are complicated” but another senior Palestinian source was more direct, saying Kerry’s security proposals “were very bad ideas which we cannot accept.” … A diplomatic source quoted by the paper said Washington “had moved considerably in the direction of Israel’s demands” and had “accepted Israel’s position on a long-term presence in the Jordan Valley.”
Israeli refuses to compromise on Jordan Valley
JERUSALEM (AFP) 5 Dec — Israel’s deputy defense minister ruled out Thursday any compromise on security in the Jordan Valley as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held security talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry. “The Americans are proposing joint control over the crossing points (into Jordan),” Danny Danon told Israel’s army radio. “From the Israeli point of view, there will not be any Palestinian presence at the crossing points,” said the deputy minister, who is a radical member of Netanyahu’s rightwing Likud party. “An Israeli civilian and military presence in the Jordan Valley is essential.”
A week in photos: Days of rage
Activestills 5 Dec — This week: Anti-Prawer Plan protests from south to north, tear gas weapons on a Bethlehem Christmas tree, a Druze refusenik, a fake fur fashion show, a water break during clashes, an Emmy-winner against the wall, Ethiopians arrested, Al-Araqib endures demolition, Afghan asylum seekers in Europe, and the ongoing humiliations of occupation.
Barghouti: Mandela gave Palestinians hope for freedom
JERUSALEM (AFP) 6 Dec — Nelson Mandela’s struggle for freedom inspired Palestinians to believe that their own liberation was “possible,” jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti said on Friday. His remarks were made in an open letter to Mandela sent from Cell 28 of Hadarim prison in Israel, which was published by the Palestine Liberation Organization a day after the South African liberation leader’s death. “You said: ‘We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.’ “And from within my prison cell, I tell you our freedom seems possible because you reached yours,” he wrote. Barghouti still wields huge influence from inside prison where he is serving five life sentences for attacks on Israeli targets and has been dubbed “the Palestinian Mandela”. “Apartheid did not prevail in South Africa, and apartheid shall not prevail in Palestine,” he wrote.
Palestinian human rights lawyer wins ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 6 Dec — A Palestinian human rights lawyer from the Gaza Strip was presented with the Right Livelihood Award in Sweden on Monday, according to the organization’s website. Raji Sourani “has been defending human rights for all in Palestine and the Arab world for 35 years,” a video on the website said. In addition to being a lawyer, Sourani is also the executive director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, a Gaza-based NGO. Named a Prisoner of Conscience by Amnesty International during a period of detention in 1988, Sourani has been imprisoned, both by Israel and the Palestinian Authority, on six separate occasions for “standing up to power.” Sourani is the first Palestinian to ever receive the award.
Bethlehem man detained over anti-USAID Christmas tree decorations
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 4 Dec — A Bethlehem man was detained on Tuesday by Palestinian police for helping decorate a tree with used American-made tear gas canisters, stun grenades, and ammunition that had been previously fired at Palestinian protesters by Israeli forces. Mustafa al-Arraj was detained on Tuesday morning by Palestinian police while on his way to work over his suspected involvement in the protest the day before. According to al-Arraj, police told him he was being detained for vandalism with the “goal of destroying Christmas,” and forcibly brought him for interrogation to a Bethlehem police station. They also destroyed the decorations that had been put up the day before. “They thought people sent us to destroy the Christmas season,” he said, pointing out that the police who interrogated him thought the tree decoration was an act of overnight vandalism … Activists decorated the tree as a protest against USAID, stressing that the aid agency represents the same government that funds the Israeli occupation and attacks on Palestinian protesters. Bethlehem police spokesman Loay Zreiqat denied that al-Arraj was detained for attempting to “destroy Christmas” and stressed that the protest caught police attention because it involved “putting grenades in trees.”
Bethlehem gets assist from UNESCO for Christmas season
BETHLEHEM, West Bank (Al-Monitor) 4 Dec by Jihan Abdalla — UNESCO’s recognition of the Church of the Nativity as an Endangered World Heritage site has brought much needed funds to revamp the once-popular tourist destination — Christian tradition says that in their journey from Nazareth 2,000 years ago, Mary and Joseph walked along Star Street, Bethlehem’s ancient gateway, to get to the manger. Located just a few hundred meters away from the Church of the Nativity — the church built in the 4th century over the grotto where Jesus is believed to have been born — the long narrow stone alley once boasted a flourishing marketplace of fresh food and handicrafts. Today, Star Street, part of the pilgrimage route along which Christian Palestinian scouts march through during Christmas processions, is lined with weathered green metal doors that are bolted shut … The Palestinian Ministry of Tourism says 2.2 million tourists visited the West Bank in 2012, an 18% increase from 2011. So far this year, 2.6 million visitors have come, with the number expected to rise significantly over the Christmas season. The Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce says business owners cannot profit from most of the visits to the city. Most tourists, on pilgrimage tours with Israeli travel agencies, are dropped off for a brief visit to the Church of the Nativity, and then head back on the bus for a quick lunch or a stop at a souvenir shop.
Teachers union to suspend strike Sunday
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 4 Dec — The Palestinian teachers union on Wednesday announced it would suspend its strike from Sunday and regular classes will continue in all schools and departments. A statement from the union said that the decision was made after extensive talks with all sides, and it added that the next few days will be vital for teachers and workers in the Ministry of Education. A meeting will be held Thursday, Dec. 12 to evaluate the situation, to deal with any updates or “otherwise there will be harsh events”, the statement added.
Swiss expert insists Arafat poisoning likely despite France finding
LAUSANNE (AFP) 5 Dec – A French report ruling out poisoning in Yasser Arafat’s 2004 death has a glaring inconsistency, the co-author of a Swiss probe said Thursday, sticking by his team’s conclusion that the Palestinian leader was likely killed … An as-yet unpublished French report however rules out poisoning, a source close to the probe said this week, with an argument that the naturally occurring radioactive element radon, found in the ground, explained the high polonium levels. Bochud, who has read the French report, stressed that the 107-page Swiss study had presented numerous arguments against that theory, the most compelling being that other remains exhumed from the same cemetery did not contain excessive levels of polonium. Both the Swiss and the French experts thoroughly cleaned Arafat’s bones to remove external contamination before carrying out their measurements, and proceeded to find identical levels of polonium, he pointed out.
Pioneering woman starts Arab Israeli news site
Al-Monitor 6 Dec by Shlomi Eldar — Ghada Zoabi, founder of Bokra, the first daily news site for Israeli Arabs, launches a cooperation project between her e-paper and an Israeli lifestyle online magazine — Ghada Zoabi had a dream. The founder and owner of the popular website Bokra (tomorrow in Arabic) wanted to create a news portal for Israeli Arab society which would connect it to the state of Israel and update its readers on what was happening there. For years, the Arab sector has felt absent from the national media, and rightfully so. In most cases, media coverage adopted a negative perspective, covering the community when there was a murder or other criminal activity, or when it was suspected of posing a threat to the country’s security. But what really goes on in the Arab towns and villages? Who are these citizens, who live in Israel, who want to be recognized and who hope to be more involved? For the most part, the Israeli press takes no interest in such issues. So Zoabi, a 35-year-old mother of three from Nazareth, decided to take up the gauntlet. But she wasn’t satisfied simply with creating a media channel that serves the more than 1.5 million residents, who make up more than 20% of the country’s population. She wanted to draw them closer to Israeli society.
PA accuses 3 government employees of financial corruption
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 5 Dec — The Palestinian Authority general prosecution has been tracking the bank accounts of two employees in the Ministry of finance and a third who quit three months ago, the Finance Minister Shukri Bishara said Thursday. Government sources told Ma‘an that three high-profile employees were referred to the Palestinian anti-corruption commission for investigation over suspected financial offenses. The minister, however, denied that the employees were referred to the corruption commission. Investigations are still ongoing, he said, and it is too early to reveal details.
Marooned at an airport — then what?
BBC Magazine Monitor 3 Dec — After being marooned at Kazakhstan’s Almaty International airport for more than five months, as reported in the Magazine, Palestinian Mohammed al-Bahish was given refuge in Finland. But his problems are not over yet, says Rayhan Demytrie. Mohammed now lives in a one-bedroom flat paid for by the Finnish government. Speaking over Skype from the town of Jyvaskyla, Mohammed says being able to walk out of his door at any time of the day is something he values greatly.