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Bulldozers move in on Hebron, preparing another settlement

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Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing

Israelis begin construction on new settlement in central Hebron
[photos, map] HEBRON (Ma‘an) 5 Jan — Israeli settlers began leveling a large tract of land in central Hebron in preparation for the construction of a new Jewish settlement outpost in the beleaguered southern West Bank city on Sunday. Israeli settlers escorted a bulldozer which uprooted fifty-year-old trees in the Tel Rumeida neighborhood near the city center, near an existing extremist right wing Israeli settlement. A Palestinian source told Ma‘an that the Israeli liaison department had notified the Palestinian side that Israeli authorities would do earthwork in the area for two months. This notification, added the source, suggests that Israelis plan to establish a new settlement outpost near the old one known as “Ramat Yashi.” Spokesman for the Hebron activist group Youth Against Settlements Issa Amr highlighted that a mobile home was placed in the area after it was leveled by bulldozers. This means a new outpost is being built, he added.

Israel issues demolition orders for East Jerusalem buildings
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 5 Jan — Jerusalem municipality workers accompanied by Israeli police on Sunday issued demolition orders for houses, shops, storage buildings, and a sports field in the Silwan area of East Jerusalem, residents said. The orders were for buildings in the neighborhoods of Wadi al-Hilweh, Wad Yasoul, Bir Ayub, Ein al-Lawza, al-Abbassiya, and Ras al-Amoud.
Resident Dawoud Siyam said that demolition orders in Beir Ayub were hung on a large building that has been standing since 1814, which currently houses four different shops. He added that orders were posted on a shed that was built in 2002, and that each notice was accompanied by a 15-shekel fine. In Wadi al-Hilweh, a demolition order was hung on 850-meter sports field which was build in 2002, locals said. Notices were also hung on four buildings on the field. Jawad Siyam, the director of Wadi al-Hilweh information center, said he was also handed a demolition order for his house, which was built in 1952.  Additionally, Israeli authorities handed Khalid al-Zeer a demolition order for his home in al-Abbassiya neighborhood. Al-Zeer said he built the home for his seven-member family after their house was demolished in August last year. He said an Israeli judge granted him permission to build the new home. Israeli forces also handed demolition orders to three houses and a cattle ranch in the neighborhoods of Wad Yasoul, Ein al-Lawza, and Ras al-Amoud, locals said.

Israeli forces raid Hebron village, attempt to demolish local oven
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 5 Jan — Israeli troops stormed a village south of Hebron and assaulted three Palestinians on Saturday evening, locals said. During the raid, Israeli forces tried to demolish the village’s traditional oven, which produces bread for more than 50 residents. Tariq Hathalin told Ma‘an that Israeli soldiers raided the semi-nomadic village of Um al-Kher east of Yatta and attacked him, his sister, and an elderly man. Hathalin explained that a group of soldiers escorted a settler from the nearby Israeli settlement of Karmel and tried to destroy the traditional “tabun” oven in use by local villagers. The attack came after settlers in the nearby houses claimed that smoke emanating from the oven disturbed them.  When Hathalin, his sister, and an elderly man Suleiman Hathalin tried to stop the demolition, the soldiers physically assaulted them before fleeing the scene.

VIDEO: Israel demolishes home of Palestinian citizen of Israel
Electronic Intifada 5 Jan by Ali Abunimah — Before dawn on Sunday morning, Israeli forces demolished the home of a Palestinian citizen of Israel in the town of Umm al-Fahim in the north of present-day Israel. Bulldozers belonging to the Israeli interior ministry, accompanied by hundreds of police special forces, carried out the demolition of the home of Sadiq Abu Hallouq in the Ayn al-Shaara neighborhood on the pretext that it was built without a permit, SAFA news agency reported. The demolition took place after the home’s residents were forced out of it. Dozens of Umm al-Fahim residents came into the streets to protest the demolition, Wattan TV reports. The video above, posted by YouTube user “aNas egbaria” and also on the website, is titled “Demolition of a house in Umm al-Fahim’s Ayn al-Shaara neighborhood.” It shows two bulldozers demolishing a home in darkness, by the light of their headlamps … The demolition underscores that citizenship does not protect the 1.5 million Palestinians who are nominally citizens of Israel from the arbitrary and racially motivated state violence that routinely targets Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank, including Jerusalem. Since its founding, Israel has severely restricted the areas on which Palestinian citizens of Israel are allowed to build and has – with the exception of forced resettlement towns for Bedouins – not allowed a single new town for Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Israeli ministers to vote on new bill to curtail West Bank settlement construction
Haaretz 5 Jan by Jonathan Lis –Labor MKs seeking legislation to block construction and unilateral land grabs beyond the Green Line; approval requires majority of 80 MKs — The Ministerial Committee for Legislation will vote Sunday on a private bill submitted by MK Merav Michaeli (Labor) that would block any new construction in areas beyond the Green Line unless it received the backing of 80 Knesset members. Under the proposed bill, such a majority would be required before any such plans are advanced, or before construction based on plans already approved takes place. The initiative is considered a response to the bill sponsored by MK Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism), which had called for approval by 80 MKs before any negotiations could be launched on the future of Jerusalem. That bill was voted down in its preliminary reading two weeks ago.

Emigration of settlers from Palestine increases year after year
Middle East Monitor 3 Jan by Mahmoud Omar — Israeli statistics indicate that during the past year, there has been a rising number of Jews emigrating from the Palestinian territories occupied since 1948, while the process of bringing in Jews from various areas of the world into the Zionist state is very slow, which demonstrates that the living conditions experienced by Israeli settlers on Palestinian lands are difficult. Various reasons, including economic, social and other concerns related to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the growing security risks of living in a Zionist state, have made life in historic Palestine intolerable for many Jews, who subsequently search for homes in other countries around the world. The Hebrew newspaper Maariv reported that the Israeli Government now “intends to implement a scheme that involves the transfer of tens of thousands of French Jews to live in Israel”. The newspaper reported last Friday that the implementation of the planned transfer of Jews from France to Israel will occur during the first four months of 2014, according to data compiled by the ministry of diaspora. The ministry said that this past year has seen the emigration of tens of thousands of Jews to the United States, Britain and Canada, while only three thousand Jews immigrated to Israel.

Resource: How agriculture is used to take over West Bank land
972mag 4 Jan – The Zionist ideal of Jewish agriculture in the Land of Israel reached the occupied West Bank within months of the end of the 1967 War. The agricultural takeover of large swaths of land requires relatively few resources and time in comparison with actual construction or the establishment of outposts, and facilitates the quick establishment of facts on the ground. This activity is part of a widespread and well-funded strategy, whose explicit goal is to expand the territory controlled by Israeli settlers throughout Area C in the West Bank. A recent report by Dror Etkes of Kerem Navot shows that the wholesale takeover of agricultural land is not an isolated effort of individual settlers or settlements, but part of a long-term and well-funded strategy that has been encouraged and supported by governmental and public agencies for many years, despite the blatant illegality of much of the activity, even in terms of Israeli law.

Restriction of movement

Israel denies freed prisoner entry to Jordan for medical treatment
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 5 Jan — Israeli authorities told the Palestinian Red Crescent that newly released Palestinian prisoner Naim Shawamrah would not be allowed to enter Jordan for treatment, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society said. Shawamrah, whose health has been deteriorating since before he was released from Israeli jails, was scheduled to head to Jordan for treatment mid-Sunday, Hebron PPS director Amjad al-Najjar said. “Everybody was surprised by the decision to reject him,” al-Najjar said. “Preparations have been ongoing since Saturday, but the Red Crescent was notified of an Israeli decision to deny him entry to Jordan.” Shawamrah was hospitalized late Wednesday due to serious deterioration in his health condition. Doctors said his condition was worsening, and transferred him to al-Ahli Hospital in Hebron, al-Najjar said at the time.

Violence / Raids / Clashes / Illegal arrests

Israeli man physically assaults Palestinian girl in Jerusalem
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 5 Jan — An Israeli man on Sunday assaulted a Palestinian girl in the al-Sharaf neighborhood of the Old City of Jerusalem, her father said. He said his daughter, 12-year-old Marah Munther Jalajel, was beaten by an Israeli “settler” on her way to school. She was walking with her cousin through al-Sharaf when the man attacked Marah, her father said. He said the man “struck her in the back, causing her to fall down, then proceeded to hit her on the back, stomach, and head.” Her cousin “managed to escape and call for help, and a young man came to the area to help Marah.” “The perpetrator fled.” Marah suffered “several bruises,” her father said, adding that he had notified the police. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said he was unfamiliar with the incident.

IOF soldiers attack civilians in Yatta
AL-KHALIL (PIC) 5 Jan — Israeli occupation forces (IOF) attacked citizens in Um Al-Khair hamlet near Yatta town, south of Al-Khalil, on Saturday night. Activist Ratib Al-Jabour told the PIC that IOF soldiers broke into the hamlet and attacked citizens with their rifle butts to provide protection for settlers from the nearby settlement of Karma’il [Karmel].
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Photos: Palestinians mourn elderly man who died from tear gas inhalation
Activestills 2 Jan — Hundreds of Palestinians took part in a funeral march today for Said Jasir, an 85-year-old man from the West Bank village of Kfar Qaddum. According to Palestnian medical sources, Jasir died after the Israeli army shot tear gas into his house during a protest in the village on New Year’s Day. After inhaling tear gas, Jasir was evacuated to the hospital in Nablus, were he died a few hours later. After the funeral, youth from the village marched to the area near the settlement of Kedumim, and clashed with the Israeli army.

Clashes in Jenin and al-Khalil, casualties reported
JENIN/AL-KHALIL, (PIC)– Violent clashes erupted in Romana [Rummana] town in Jenin between Palestinian youths and Israeli occupation forces who intensively fired tear gas bombs. Casualties were reported among Palestinians. According to local sources, 10 Israeli military vehicles stormed Romana town on Friday night and erected a checkpoint near UNRWA school, which led to the outbreak of the clashes. The IOF soldiers fired barrage of stun grenades and tear gas bombs and attacked a number of citizens who were detained at the entrance to the town, the sources added. More than 20 youths suffered from suffocation after inhaling gas during the clashes, the sources said, adding that a number of citizens suffered breathing difficulty in their houses.
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Soldiers kidnap four Palestinians in Jerusalem, Bethlehem
IMEMC 5 Jan — Israeli police officers kidnapped a Palestinian in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, in occupied East Jerusalem, while Israeli soldiers kidnapped three Palestinians in Beit Fajjar town, south of the West Bank city of Bethlehem. Palestinian sources in Jerusalem have reported that Israeli Police officers kidnapped a Palestinian scholar in the mosque, and handed a guard a military warrant ordering him to head to a nearby police station for questioning. The Palestinian News & Info Agency (WAFA) has reported that dozens of police officers and Israeli settlers broke into the yards of the mosque through the Magharba Gate, harassing several Palestinians.
Late on Saturday night, soldiers invaded Beit Fajjar town, south of Bethlehem, kidnapping three Palestinians at a roadblock the army installed at the western entrance of the town.

In 2013 Israel arrested 1,450 Jerusalemites including 450 children
Middle East Monitor 4 Jan — In its annual report, Wadi Al-Hilwa and Silwan Information Centre have said that the Israeli occupation arrested 1,450 residents from Jerusalem in 2013, including 450 children and 25 women. They have displaced 446, destroyed 95 shops and issued destruction warrants to the owners of hundreds of houses. Last year, the Information Centre said they had witnessed a sharp increase in the targeting of Palestinian residents in Jerusalem, including arbitrary arrests of women, children and elderly people. One of the children who was arrested last year was a 5 year old and from Silwan. He was arrested and confined inside a military vehicle for one hour. More than 20 children from those arrested were interrogated and kept under remand arrest for more than five days in solitary confinement. During this time they were confined to cells and prevented from seeing lawyers. In addition, the children were tried in secret hearings in which none of their relatives or lawyers were present. The cells where they were kept, the report said, did not meet minimum humanitarian standards.

Israeli forces say they foiled attack on settlement near Bethlehem
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 5 Jan — Israeli forces claimed they foiled an attack against the Israeli settlement of Migdal Oz south of Bethlehem on Saturday. An Israeli radio station quoted Israeli forces as saying that four Palestinians were detained in a vehicle near the settlement Saturday night. According to the report, knives and arms were found in the vehicle, and the Palestinians were taken for interrogation. An Israeli army spokeswoman said she was unfamiliar with the incident.

Gaza under blockade

Italian solidarity delegation denied entry to Egypt after Gaza visit
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 5 Jan — Egyptian authorities on Saturday evening denied Italian solidarity activists entry to Egypt and sent them back to the Gaza Strip after they waited three hours at the Rafah crossing, Gaza officials said. An official at the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing told Ma‘an that 23 Italian solidarity activists were asked to return to Gaza “because there were no special coordination arrangements for their departure.” The activists were told by the Italian embassy in Cairo to head to Rafah crossing, the official added. The Italian delegation had been visiting the Gaza Strip since Thursday evening. They came to express solidarity with the besieged coastal enclave and brought with them quantities of medicines and medical aid.

Lifeline Committee: We did not get Egypt’s approval to enter Gaza
AMMAN (PIC) 4 Jan — Informed sources told PIC that the Egyptian authorities have not allowed International Lifeline Convoy to enter the Gaza Strip. A delegation from Jordan Lifeline Committee of about 20 partisan figures is slated to participate in the international aid convoy to the Gaza Strip. The convoy will also include about 100 international solidarity activists representing Miles of Smiles Campaign, the European al-Wafaa campaign, Ansar convoys, and the relief committees of Algeria, Libya, Bahrain, and Malaysia. It aims to deliver aid to Gaza to alleviate the repercussions of the winter storm that hit the Strip recently. A number of Arab and Islamic relief organizations and institutions have launched an emergency appeal calling upon the Egyptian government to open Rafah crossing, and urging the Egyptian relief committees and competent authorities to contribute in the relief efforts to help Gaza people.
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‘Miles of Smiles’ aid convoy denied entry to Gaza
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 5 Jan — Egyptian authorities refused to allow an aid convoy headed for Gaza through the Rafah crossing, an activist committee said. A humanitarian aid convoy entitled “Miles of Smiles 24″ was prevented from entering the coastal enclave despite special arrangements made previously with Egyptian authorities to enter on Saturday, deputy manager of a Gaza government committee against the siege Alaa al-Battah told Ma‘an. Al-Battah highlighted that the convoy was carrying humanitarian aid, including medicines and accommodation equipment, for Gaza residents who suffered serious property damages during the winter storm Alexa which hit the area in December. The aid is accompanied by a convoy of 127 solidarity activists from Arab and European countries including Jordan, Algeria, Malaysia, UK, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco and Bahrain, among many others.

IOA closed Karm Abu Salem crossing 150 days in 2013
GAZA (PIC) 5 Jan — Union of Palestinian traders reported that the Israeli occupation authorities (IOA) closed the Karm Abu Salem [Kerem Shalom] crossing, Gaza’s sole commercial crossing, 150 days during the year 2013. The Chamber of Commerce in the Gaza Strip considered in a report that the repeated closure of Karm Abu Salem crossing violates the agreements reached between the Palestinian factions and the IOA over a year ago under the Egyptian auspices. Karm Abu Salem crossing opens 22 days every month. It is closed for Fridays and Saturdays and during the Jewish holidays. The report pointed out that only 55,833 trucks entered the Strip through the crossing during the year 2013, this number is less by 1,578 trucks compared to the year before. It stated that the IOA had allowed the export of only 187 trucks from the Gaza Strip over the past year, compared with 234 trucks in 2012.
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PA to send medicines to Gaza
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 5 Jan — The Palestinian Authority Ministry of Health is set to send medicines and medical equipment to the Gaza Strip on Sunday, the minister of health said. Jawad Awwad told Ma‘an that the shipment would include all kinds of medicines and equipment available in the West Bank. The shipment costs around six million shekels, he added.

Fatah: Hamas will not allow anniversary celebration in Gaza
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 5 Jan — A Fatah spokesman on Sunday said that Hamas refused to allow the faction to hold an official celebration for its 49th anniversary in Gaza. Spokesman Hasan Ahmad said in a statement that Fatah asked to hold a celebration in al-Katiba or al-Saraya square, but that Hamas refused. On New Year’s Eve, Fatah held an unofficial gathering at Unknown Soldier’s Square in Gaza City, where thousands came for a torch-lighting ceremony that marked the movement’s anniversary. Ahmad praised the attendees, who “showed their loyalty, support, love, and pride for Fatah.” Gaza government spokeswoman Isra Almodallal told Ma’an that the Dec. 31 ceremony was “very nice,” but said it was “not the right time” for Fatah to hold an “official” anniversary celebration.

Palestinian refugees in Syria & Lebanon / UNRWA

Protests in Gaza and West Bank in solidarity with besieged Yarmouk
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an)  5 Jan — Protests in solidarity with Palestinian refugees in besieged Yarmouk camp took place in Gaza and El-Bireh in the West Bank on Saturday. Dozens of Palestinians, including many children, erected a solidarity camp in front of the headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Gaza. The rally was held in solidarity with the people and children of Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus, which has been under a siege by regime forces since July of last year. Participants called upon the international community to act to save children, women, and the elderly from starvation. “The children of Yarmouk camp in Syria are dying of hunger and we demand they be provided with water and food,” read a sign held at the protest camp in Gaza … From his part, writer and political analyst Imad Musa said that the sit-in sends a clear message of the need to support the refugees in Syria and he called on all the Palestinian people to act to save them. Musa asked: “Where is the United Nations? Where is Ban Ki-moon? This camp is under the protection of the United Nations, so why has a safe passage not been opened so far to allow the introduction of humanitarian aid to the camp?”

‘No to incitement’ slams Al-Jadeed channel for inciting against Palestinians
BEIRUT (PIC) 5 Jan — The Palestinian campaign against media incitement (No to Incitement) in Lebanon strongly denounced the Lebanese satellite channel Al-Jadeed for its persistence in fabricating lies against the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and attempting to implicate them in the Lebanese events. This came in response to Al-Jadeed channel’s claims that the Saudi leader of Abdullah Azzam Brigades, Majed Al-Majed, who died on Saturday in the military hospital in Lebanon, told interrogators before his death that the car that had exploded outside the Iranian embassy in Beirut last November had come from the Palestinian refugee camp Ein Al-Hilweh.
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UNRWA employees strike in Gaza as protests held in West Bank
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 5 Jan — Palestinian employees of the UN agency for Palestine refugees on Sunday went on strike in Gaza to protest the agency’s dismissal of workers and its refusal to increase salaries. The UNRWA teachers’ union condemned the agency’s recent termination of employees, specifically those who worked in development programs, a union official said at a press conference. Mahmoud Hamdan added that employees were calling for a fixed exchange rate to be applied to their basic salary to a assure a steady income … In response to the strike, UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said in a statement that the agency’s “staff are paid over twenty per cent above the equivalent salaries in the Palestinian Authority. This is in accordance with our salary policy, which aims to keep our staff paid at the same rate or above PA equivalent.” An across-the-board pay increases are “unjustifiable,” Gunness said. “Have the people of Gaza not suffered enough because of the Israeli blockade and the destruction of the tunnels from Egypt without being further punished by the UNRWA unions withholding services?”
Also Sunday, protests were launched in the West Bank in solidarity with Gaza’s UNRWA strike … Meanwhile, in Bethlehem, residents of al-Azza refugee camp briefly closed a main road and held signs protesting against UNRWA. Locals said UNRWA schools had been closed for over a month, and that the agency had seriously limited services to the camp. “The agency has to understand that it’s responsible for our situation,” a shop owner who was present at the protest told Ma‘an. Palestinian UNRWA workers are frustrated that their salaries are “much less” than international workers, he said. He said even larger protests would be held on Monday.
The strike in Gaza and protests in the West Bank came after a number of Palestinians went on hunger strike against UNRWA in recent days.

Prisoner releases

Fourth stage of prisoner release clouded with doubt
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 4 Jan — As rumors circulate that Israel will refuse to release the final stage of 104 veteran prisoners, the Palestinian prisoners’ minister says that would be a serious breach of agreement. “From the very beginning, Israel reviewed the lists of prisoners to be released and approved them,” Issa Qaraqe told Ma‘an. “In return, the Palestinian Authority agreed to abstain from filing complaints against Israel with international organizations, in order to go ahead with peace talks.” He said that if Israel refused to follow through with its agreement to release the fourth round of 26 prisoners, he would seek support from international organizations. Of the 26 prisoners who are expected to be released in March, a number of inmates are Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship. Israeli media and political analysts say the government will refuse to release them.

Activism / Solidarity / BDS

Outside prison, protesters demand conscientious objectors be freed
972mag 5 Jan by Haggai Matar — About 100 Palestinian and Jewish protestors gathered on the hilltop overlooking Israel’s ‘Military Prison 6′ Saturday afternoon, calling for the release of Omar Sa’ad and all other conscientious objectors. Sa’ad, a violin player from the village of Maghar who has thus far been given two 20-day prison sentences for refusing the draft, has become a symbol of Druze resistance to conscription. Three other Druze objectors are now in prison and another one is expected to be sentenced later this month. Omar’s siblings and friends preformed several songs on string instruments at the protest, organized by the Sa’ad family, Yesh Gvul and Druze campaigners against conscription. The tunes were carried through loud speakers to Sa’ad himself, who was watching the protest above the prison walls. Other demonstrators sang songs and chanted slogans in Arabic and in Hebrew against the mandatory draft and against the occupation. Also present was Natan Blanc, who was recently released from prison after serving 10 sentences adding up to just under half a year for his refusal to enlist.

Moddi cancels Tel Aviv gig after appeal from Gaza
Electronic Intifada 3 Jan by Ali Abunimah — Norwegian musician Moddi has canceled a scheduled Tel Aviv show following a call from Palestinians in Gaza, echoed by solidarity activists. In his powerful statement, Moddi explains that “Although music can be a unique arena for public debate, the debate over these territories has been misused for a long time. Discussion and dialogue creates an impression of constant progress.”  Meanwhile the “discourse of peace creates a thick veil, concealing the increasingly tighter besiegement of Gaza, the ongoing fragmentation of the West Bank and the continuing discrimination of Arab-Israeli citizens.” Announcing he would be “going to Israel and to the West Bank to see things with my own eyes,” Moddi wrote “As long as ‘dialogue’ continues to be a goal in itself and not a means to solve one of the deepest, most intense conflicts of this time, I will not lend my voice to it.” Moddi, whose full name is Pål Moddi Knutsen, is from the Norwegian island of Senja. The video above is for his song “House by the Sea,” from his album Set the House on Fire due to be released in March.

Peace talks issues

Kerry in new talks with Palestinian leader
RAMALLAH (AFP) 4 Jan — US Secretary of State John Kerry held fresh talks Saturday with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas seeking to brush aside bitter Israeli-Palestinian recriminations and advance difficult peace negotiations. After five months of mostly sticking to pledges not to air their grievances in public, the mutual distrust between the two sides has burst into the open with each accusing the other of trying to scupper the talks. US officials have acknowledged that a sought-after agreement on a framework to guide the negotiations forward would not be reached on this trip, signalling that Kerry may return to Israel soon.

Kerry pledges ‘fair’ Mideast plan, briefs Arab allies
RIYADH (AFP) 5 Jan — Secretary of State John Kerry Sunday rejected Israeli and Palestinian claims of US bias as he made a whistlestop trip to Jordan and Saudi Arabia to woo support for his peace plan. Kerry promised any agreed plan would be “fair and balanced” and likened his efforts to broker a compromise between the conflicting demands of the two sides to a puzzle. “In the end all of these core issues fit together like a mosaic, like a puzzle and you can’t separate out one piece or another,” Kerry said in Jerusalem before flying to Amman, and later Saudi Arabia. Each piece was interlinked, he stressed, and depended on the compromises the other side might be prepared to make. “And there’s always tension as to when you put your card on the table as to which piece you’re willing to do, when and how,” said Kerry.

Former Mossad chief: Jordan Valley not a vital Israeli security asset
Haaretz 5 Jan 2014 — The Jordan Valley is not essential to Israel’s security because the country is not facing a threat from the east, said former Mossad director Meir Dagan, days after a ministerial panel supported legislation to officially annex the Israeli settlements in the valley, which borders Jordan. “I have no problem with the political demand that the valley should be part of the State of Israel,” Dagan said in a lecture at a Kfar Saba café last week, according to Maariv. “Such a position is permissible. What bothers me is that it’s being depicted as some kind of security problem. There is no Iraqi army, there is no eastern front. There’s peace with Jordan. I don’t like the talk that the valley is essential to Israel’s security.” Dagan said citing security reasons for retaining the Jordan Valley was “manipulation.”
Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, weighing in on the issue on Sunday during U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to the region, told public radio that it would be a mistake to accept any security concessions for the Jordan Valley: “Security must remain in our hands. Anyone who proposes a solution in the Jordan Valley by deploying an international force, Palestinian police or technological means … does not understand the Middle East,” Steinitz said … According to reports, a new security plan drafted by Washington calls for Israel to maintain a military presence in the Jordan Valley for a period of 10 years, as part of a future peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. The Palestinians are vehemently opposed to the plan.

Ya’alon: Pullout from West Bank would bring Hamas
Times of Israel 5 Jan — Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon spoke out against a “Disengagement-style” withdrawal from the West Bank, insisting that such a move would allow Hamas a direct avenue to overthrow Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. “We will not hand over our citizens’ security into the hands of any foreign entity,” he said in recent private conversations, according to the Walla website. Ya’alon’s comments coincide with US Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Jerusalem for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The United States recently suggested that Israel withdraw from the Jordan Valley and replace its military presence with high-tech solutions including UAVs and early warning stations. When Israel objected, Kerry reportedly proposed a joint Israeli-Palestinian border deployment. A senior security official added to the defense minister’s remarks, according to Walla, saying that “it is only because of the IDF’s activities that Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other Salafi extremist groups been unable to raise their heads in the West Bank.” [no credit to the PA?]

Lieberman: Some Israeli Arab towns must be made part of Palestine under peace deal
Haaretz 5 Jan by Barak Ravid — Kerry’s proposal is best Israel will get, says FM; adds that he isn’t advocating ‘transfer’ — Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Sunday he would not support any peace agreement that does not include the exchange of Israeli Arab land and population, calling that demand a “basic condition” that he has already clarified to the international community. “When I talk about land and population exchange, I mean the Little Triangle and Wadi Ara,” Lieberman said, referring to the predominantly Arab regions in central and northern Israel. “This is not a transfer. Nobody will be expelled or banished, but the border will move to the other side of Route 6.” “I will not support any peace deal that will allow the return of even one Palestinian refugee to Israel,” he said. “Because if we leave the right of return on the table, all pressure will be on this subject.” “When there is a Palestinian state, it will absorb hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria and Lebanon, because these states will simply expel all of these refugees,” he added.

Strategic corridor in West Bank remains a stumbling block in Mideast talks
BARDALA, West Bank (NYTimes)  4 Jan by Isabel Kershner — The residents of this neglected Palestinian farming village in the northern Jordan Valley area of the West Bank say they get running water once every three days, which they store in bottles and cisterns. The neighboring Jewish settlement of Mehola is a small paradise by comparison, with green lawns and a swimming pool. The contrasts across this stark landscape of jagged hills reflect the complexities of the fierce contest for control of the Jordan Valley, and the challenges the Palestinians face in administration. As Israeli and Palestinian negotiators struggle to make headway on peace talks initiated by Secretary of State John Kerry, they have remained bitterly at odds over the strategic corridor that runs between the populous heartland of the West Bank and the border with Jordan.

The Prague mystery

Palestinian officials arrive in Prague to follow investigation
PRAGUE (Ma‘an) 4 Jan — A delegation from the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has arrived in Prague to follow ongoing investigations into the Jan. 1 death of the Palestinian ambassador to Czech Republic. The Dutch deputy foreign minister updated Undersecretary to the Palestinian Foreign Ministry Taayseer Jaradat and his delegation regarding recent findings on Jamal al-Jamal’s death, a statement from the Palestinian embassy in the Czech Republic said.

Prague police: 12 weapons found in Palestinian envoy’s mission
PRAGUE (AFP) 5 Jan — Investigators have found 12 weapons inside the Palestinian mission in Prague where a New Year’s Day explosion fatally wounded its envoy, police said Sunday. At the same time Prague police chief Martin Cervicek denied media speculation that an arsenal of more than 70 weapons had been kept at the embassy, but would not give details. “I firmly protest against false information that police officers found about 70 weapons. This doesn’t make sense,” the website of Prague daily Dnes quoted him as saying. Cervicek said the weapons including submachine guns and pistols would undergo DNA and ballistic tests, but that no further information would be made public before that has happened. Jamal al-Jamal, the 56-year-old ambassador to the Czech Republic since October, died on January 1. Police later ruled out an assassination, instead advancing the theory that the blast was caused by an anti-theft device inside a safe Jamal was manipulating. They also said unregistered weapons were found inside the mission in violation of diplomatic treaties.

Palestinian ambassador’s death recalls days of Israeli secret agents in Europe
LONDON (The National, UAE) 5 Jan by Colin Randall — From Ramallah to Prague, officials moved swiftly to dismiss suggestions that the New Year’s death of the Palestinian ambassador to the Czech Republic was anything sinister. But as the diplomat’s daughter cast doubt on explanations that her father died in a bizarre accident, the manner of his death – reportedly caused by an old embassy safe exploding – recalled murky days of special operations blamed on Israeli agents in European cities and beyond. Since the 1950s, the fingerprints of Israel’s national intelligence agency Mossad and the internal security service Shin Bet have been detected in a string of attacks and assassinations ranging from targeted shootings to bombings and kidnappings. Allegations of such activities have become rarer in recent years but nevertheless persist.

Other news

The month in pictures: December 2013
Electronic Intifada 5 January

Palestinian power company signs natural gas deal
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 5 Jan — Palestine Power Generation Company has signed a 20-year-deal with Israeli and American natural gas companies, the Palestinian Authority’s minister of energy said. Omar Kittaneh said that a power plant would be built in the West Bank on land designated by the Palestinian cabinet, and that bids for the project are now open. Partners in Israel’s Leviathan natural gas field signed a $1.2 billion deal with PPGC, Reuters reported. According to the Reuters report, PPGC plans to build a $300 million power plant in Jenin that will be operated by the gas from the deal. The Leviathan natural gas field is located in the Mediterranean Sea west of Haifa.

Palestinian children write to UN pleading for return of soccer ball
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 5 Jan — A group of children in a Palestinian village south of Tulkarem have taken the unprecedented step of writing a letter directly to the United Nations in a bold attempt to win back their soccer ball from Israeli occupation authorities. The children in the village of Kafr Sur sent the letter to Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon via social media, asking him to intervene after the ball fell into lands confiscated by Israeli authorities to build the separation barrier through their village. The campaign began after a local youth named Amir was playing soccer in the village and kicked the ball too far, hitting it into an area in the village under Israeli military control and beyond barbed wire, according to municipality head Imad Zibda. The group of children spoke to Ma‘an on Saturday, explaining that the Israeli occupation had impinged on their rights by not allowing them to retrieve their ball, which had disappeared behind the barbed wire of the separation barrier. They stressed that they have the right to play in their own lands without any restrictions. They expressed their fear that the ball would never be returned because it had fallen on the other side of the barbed wire. They feared that all of the lands that had been confiscated from the village would suffer a similar fate, they added.

Pope to make first visit to Holy Land on May 24-25
VATICAN CITY (AFP)  5 Jan — Pope Francis said Sunday he will make his first trip to the Holy Land, visiting Amman, Bethlehem, and Jerusalem from May 24 to 26. “In the climate of joy typical of this Christmas period, I would like to announce that from May 24 to 26, God willing, I will carry out a pilgrimage to the Holy Land,” Francis told crowds gathered in St Peter’s Square for the traditional Angelus prayer … During the visit, the pontiff said he would hold an “ecumenical meeting with all the representatives of the Christian Churches in Jerusalem” at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in East Jerusalem, venerated as the place where Jesus was buried. Francis was invited to visit the Holy Land by Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, who said he would “walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ.” The 77-year-old pontiff has made many appeals for peace in the Middle East.

Report: Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad leaders denied entry to Tunisia
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 4 Jan — Representatives for Hezbollah and the Islamic Jihad movement were denied entry to Tunisia Saturday where they were scheduled to attend a conference against Zionism, reports said. Abu Imad al-Rifai, who represented the Islamic Jihad movement in Palestine, and Hasan Izz al-Din of the Lebanese Hezbollah movement were denied entry to Tunisia via Carthage airport, a report by the German News Agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur said. The Tunisian authorities did not give any reason for their deportation, according to the report. The two were set to partake in a conference entitled “National Sovereignty and Resistance within the Arab Movements,” scheduled to be held in Tunis Saturday. They had been invited by a coalition of Tunisians against Zionism. The two had previously been allowed into Tunisia after the 2011 revolution, when “they joined political and intellectual activities,” the report said.

Hospital: Ex-Israel PM Sharon faces ‘imminent’ death
TEL AVIV (AFP) 5 Jan — Former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon was on Sunday facing “imminent” death, the Tel Aviv hospital where he is in critical condition said. The health of the 85-year-old Sharon, who was dubbed “the Bulldozer” both for his style and physique, has been worsening since Wednesday when he suffered serious kidney problems after surgery.

US officials destroy flutes of famous Palestinian musician
IMEMC 5 Jan — Boujemaa Razgui had his ney flutes taken from him by TSA and destroyed by US customs officials in New York. Boujemaa Razgui is a virtuoso ney player and longtime Al Andalus Ensemble ( You can hear Boujemaa Razgui’s beautiful ney playing on the Al Andalus Ensemble “Illumination (” on the track “Nabil.” Boujemaa has performed and recorded with Beyonce, Shakira and the Cirque de Soleil and is a regular with the Boston Camarata. Boujemaa has made many trips around the world for over three decades, with these flutes, and never before has had a problem. He was traveling back to the US, to his home in Boston, Massachusetts, from Marrakech, Morocco via Madrid, Spain when his instruments were confiscated and destroyed in New York. Boujemaa is a Canadian citizen and longtime US permanent resident. His wife and children are US citizens. In addition to the loss of his valuable instruments, Boujemaa said he was treated very poorly by US Customs, where he was questioned for hours, photographed and fingerprinted without cause. Boujemaa was in tears when he told us about the loss of his neys. [most articles say he is Moroccan, but this is IMEMC’s take]

Hip hop (still) lives in Palestine — listen to album preview
Electronic Intifada 5 Jan by Ali Abunimah — Mohammed Elsusi of the Gaza hip-hop duo Revolution Makers sent me this video previewing a forthcoming album that is a collaboration among several Gaza artists, called “Ongoing Culture” (Thaqafa Mustamirra).The trailer features previews of at least three tracks and, from the sound of it, it’s going to be brilliant. Have a listen.

Opinion / Analysis

Their blood is cheap / Yitzhak Laor
Haaretz 5 Jan — There’s a lot of secrecy surrounding the negotiations, and we hear the United States secretary of state’s optimism, the analyses of the diplomatic reporters, and a great many lordly declarations from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Housing Minister Uri Ariel, Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinmetz and their ilk. If these were delusional right-wing extremists, we would say it’s a good thing they didn’t pass the electoral threshold, because they are liable to doom us to eternal control over these lawless territories. But they are speaking like masters because they are the masters. As far as they’re concerned, the Palestinians are meant to remain slaves without rights. One is permitted to be pessimistic after hearing these arrogant men, and one is allowed to be pessimistic in the face of the total impotence of the parliamentary and extra-parliamentary left, which is busy entertaining itself on the social networks. It seems as if the Palestinian leadership is participating in the negotiations in return for Western recognition of its right to represent its people, a right that Israel disparages because it disparages the Palestinian people’s right to exist. The self-evident colonialist common denominator among all Israelis is that only we have a need for security and the right to maintain an army and to ignore international law by continuing to build settlements. The Palestinian armed forces are helping defend us, not the homes that are raided at night by Israel Defense Forces soldiers, and not the orchards that are torched by the abominable settlers. A timetable for withdrawal? We will determine it, no one will determine it for us, says the master. After all, the lebensraum is ours.

Israel aims to silence growing international criticism with Texas A&M deal in Nazareth / Jonathan Cook
Mondoweiss 3 Jan — Two months ago officials from Israel and Texas made an unexpected announcement, unveiling an ambitious plan to build in Israel the first branch of an American university, at a probable cost of $100 million. The greatest surprise of all was the location: Texas A&M University, one of the biggest in the US, is set to open its new campus in Nazareth, a town of 80,000 in the Galilee, home to the largest community of Christians in Israel and the unofficial capital of the country’s Palestinian minority. Israel hopes to accomplish several goals from the venture: silence international criticism for its having the highest levels of poverty and inequality among the advanced economies; drive a wedge further between Palestinian Christians and Muslims; stymie efforts by Palestinians in Israel to win educational autonomy; and strike a powerful blow against mounting pressure from the movement for an academic and cultural boycott.


American; political science major, M.A.; former ISM volunteer in the West Bank

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One Response

  1. seafoid on January 6, 2014, 10:18 am

    Hebron is where judaism contracted cancer, in the form of book worship instead of understanding the point of the book.

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