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Tear-gas canister lands in 85-year-old Palestinian man’s house, and suffocates him

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Violence / Raids / Clashes / Suppression of protests / Illegal arrests — West Bank

Elderly man dies after inhaling tear gas fired by Israeli forces
QALQILIYA (Ma‘an) 2 Jan — An 85-year-old man died overnight Wednesday after inhaling excessive amounts of tear gas fired by Israeli forces in the Qalqiliya village of Kafr Qaddum, locals said, representing the first Palestinian death of 2014. The incident occurred after Israeli forces dispersed a rally in the town commemorating the 49th anniversary of the founding of the Fatah movement. The rally marched towards the entrance of the town before Israeli troops showered the area with tear gas. A canister landed in the home of Said Jasir, causing him to suffocate. He was taken to the Al-Arabi hospital in Nablus where he was pronounced dead overnight. [ISM: In recent weeks there has been a steady escalation of night raids, increasingly violent repression of Friday demonstrations, flying checkpoints and seemingly arbitrary arrests. In the past month alone there have been more than twenty night raids on houses in the village.]

Minor shot near Bethlehem, activists arrested
IMEMC — [Wed Jan 1] by Chris Carlson — A Palestinian minor was shot and injured by Israeli forces, Wednesday, in ‘Aida refugee camp, north of Bethlehem. The Palestinian News & Info Agency (WAFA) reports that, according to security sources, live bullets were fired toward Palestinian minors in the camp, shooting a 14-year-old in the foot. He was transferred to a hospital, for treatment, where his condition was described as moderate.

Israeli forces disperse weekly protests across West Bank
[with photos] BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 3 Jan — Israeli forces injured two Palestinians and detained one after protests broke out in three West Bank towns on Friday. The weekly protests against the Israeli occupation and the separation wall were dispersed by Israeli forces with rubber bullets and tear gas in Bil‘in, Kafr Qaddum, and al-Ma‘sara. [details follow concerning each town]

Video: Heavily armed Israeli occupation soldiers arrest Jerusalem girl
Electronic Intifada 3 Jan by Ali Abunimah — Instagram user @zalameh (@BDS4Justice on Twitter) captured these dramatic images and videos of heavily armed Israeli forces arresting a Palestinian girl in eastern occupied Jerusalem’s Old City on Friday afternoon. In an email to The Electronic Intifada, @zalameh, a resident of Jerusalem, gave his eyewitness account of the incident: “This afternoon after work I headed to the Old City, I entered through Damascus Gate. Right at the entrance I saw more commotion than usual so I headed close to where people were congregating. There were about 8 soldiers (as I counted) surrounding this girl and handcuffing her, she was quiet but her eyes showed fear, she seemed bewildered and was offering no resistance. It all seemed surreal to see all these soldiers armed to the teeth overwhelming this child and the soldiers were behaving as if they had caught a dangerous criminal. The soldiers did not want people around, especially as they had their phone cameras out, and started pushing them away. Despite being handcuffed and completely restrained, two soldiers were holding her arms each. She was wearing a sweater saying “I <3 Palestine.”… While it is unclear if it is referring to the same incident, The Jerusalem Post also reported today that a “16-year-old Arab girl attempted to stab a border police officer with a knife near Nablus Gate in Jerusalem on Friday. The suspect is a resident of the Jabal al-Mukaber neighborhood in east Jerusalem, police said.” The newspaper claimed that “Security personnel succeeded in disarming the woman and bringing her under control but in the process, one of them was injured lightly in the leg. The injured man received medical treatment at the scene.” Doubtful account  However, @zalameh casts doubt on this version of events if indeed it refers to the same incident. He writes: First, I saw no soldier injured. I am confident I came there just as she was arrested and I saw no one being taken out from Damascus Gate as I entered. That would have been obvious and second, it is common for Israelis to treat any form of reaction from Palestinians as an “attack.” And what Israel often calls stabbing could be with anything, even if the girl had a go at a soldier with a pen, they would have called it a “stabbing attempt.” “A more credible version would be that she lost her temper after a particular provocation or humiliation, which for those who live in Jerusalem is a daily reality and this triggered the arrest,” @zalameh added.

Soldiers kidnap a young woman in Jerusalem
IMEMC 4 Jan [Fri Jan 3] Israeli soldiers kidnapped a young Palestinian woman in Bab Al-‘Amoud, in occupied East Jerusalem, allegedly after she tried to stab an Israeli soldier. According to Israeli Police Spokeswoman for Arab Media, Luba Samri, a teenage young Palestinian woman, identified as Dima Mohammad Sawahra, 16 years of age, tried to stab a soldier, and that one soldier was injured in the legs while trying to arrest her. Sawahra was moved to a Police station in occupied Jerusalem, and is currently under interrogation. So far, the Israeli Police does not believe any Palestinian group planned that incident.

Israel raids on West Bank homes condemned
Al Jazeera 2 Jan — Human rights groups have reported a rise in Israeli military training exercises being held in Palestinian towns and villages. Israel was condemned by the groups on Thursday, after reports of soldiers taking up positions in Palestinians homes during mock raids in the occupied West Bank and Palestinians being detained for hours without explanation. The criticism came as US Secretary of State John Kerry was due to arrive in the Middle East on Thursday, hoping to seal a long-elusive peace deal between Israel and Palestinians … Human rights groups including Breaking The Silence said the Israeli military’s exercises in the West Bank broke the law and endangered civilians. “I’m not sure as an Israeli would agree that somebody would do it in my street, to raid my house as part of a training,” Breaking The Silence’s Shai Davidovitch told Al Jazeera. “That’s why I think it’s wrong.”

Clashes for two days in the Palestinian city of Hebron
HEBRON (ISM Khalil Team) 3 Jan — At approximately 11.30am yesterday morning, Israeli forces detained a 13-year-old boy at Bab Al-Baladiyye in Khalil (Hebron). After a short period of time the young boy was released and a group of Israeli soldiers invaded the old city of Hebron, harassing residents and demanding identification from a number of Palestinians. The group of Israeli soldiers started to walk down New Al-Shallalah Street detaining a 14-year-old Palestinian for an unknown period of time before releasing him shortly after international activists arrived. Israeli forces continued to harass people in the area before heading towards Bab Al-Zawiye, the city center, where residents had started to gather after the anniversary party for Fatah’s founding ended. The Palestinian youth present reacted to these series of events by throwing stones at the Israeli soldiers. The stone throwing and military presence began a clash between Israeli forces and Palestinian youth …The clashes continued for many hours and became more violent as Israeli soldiers and border police positioned themselves at checkpoint 56 [an entrance to H2] and on nearby rooftops. Israeli forces fired a large amount of stun grenades, rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas grenades and canisters. Many shops and businesses where forced to close because of the tear gas and the violent interruption in the city. One Palestinian was shot with unknown ammunition as Israeli soldiers were sniping demonstrators from various points in the city. Once shot, the young man lost consciousness, he was carried away from the clash and taken to a nearby hospital … Today, Friday 3rd January, clashes began at approximately 2pm …

Several Palestinians injured by army fire in Hebron
IMEMC 4 Jan — [Fri Jan 3] Palestinian medical sources have reported that several Palestinians have been injured by Israeli army fire in Beit Ummar town, north of Hebron, in the southern part of the occupied West Bank. The Ma‘an News Agency has reported that several residents suffered the effects of teargas inhalation in the Aseeda area, in Beit Ummar, and that the soldiers fired rounds of live ammunition and rubber-coated metal bullets. Mohammad Awad, spokesperson of the Popular Committee Against the Wall in Beit Ummar, said several residents suffered serious effects of gas inhalation. Awad added that an explosion occurred near an Israeli military tower, at the northern entrance of Beit Ummar, and that the soldiers began firing rounds of live ammunition before more army jeeps arrived at the scene and chased residents in the region, leading to clashes with them. Earlier on Friday, an Israeli military jeep caused damage to a Palestinian car near the town. Awad said that while the jeep was driving from the Halhoul area, towards Beit Ummar, one of its wheels was detached and struck a car, causing excessive damage.

Soldiers kidnap a Palestinian in Jerusalem
IMEMC [Thursday at dawn, Jan 2] Israeli soldiers invaded Al-‘Ezariyya town, southeast of occupied East Jerusalem, and kidnapped one Palestinian. Local sources have reported that the soldiers violently broke into several homes and searched them, before kidnapping a young man identified as Fadi Tamimi.
The sources added that clashes took place late on Wednesday at night in the Ras Kabsa area, between Al-Ezariyya and Abu Dis, after the army invaded them. The soldiers fired several gas bombs, concussion grenades and rubber-coated metal bullets.
On Wednesday night, several Israeli military jeeps kidnapped a student of Polytechnic University in the Hebron district, in the southern part of the West Bank. The kidnapped Palestinian, Moneer Dofesh, was kidnapped in Nomra area, in Hebron, and was moved to an unknown destination.
Also on Wednesday night, soldiers kidnapped at least 15 Palestinian children and a young man in the Tabaqa village, south of Doura, in the southern West Bank district of Hebron.

Two Palestinians kidnapped in Bethlehem
IMEMC — [Thurs Jan 2] Undercover forces of the Israeli army have invaded the West Bank city of Bethlehem, kidnapping two Palestinians. Local sources have reported that undercover soldiers, driving a local Palestinian car, infiltrated the Jerusalem-Hebron road in Bethlehem, and broke into a shopping center before kidnapping Sajed Abu Khashaba, 20.  The kidnapped Palestinian works at a local store in the shopping center; the soldiers also confiscated his mobile phone.
Furthermore, the army invaded Saff Street, in Bethlehem, kidnapped Ahmad Ezzat, 33, and confiscated his phone.
Eyewitnesses said that the soldiers also fired rounds of live ammunition and gas bombs, in the area.

IOF soldiers raid Jenin; settlers beat up boy in nearby village
JENIN (PIC) 2 Jan — Israeli occupation forces (IOF) stormed Jenin city on Wednesday night and occupied the rooftop of a citizen’s house to monitor movement of citizens. Local sources said that the soldiers occupied the rooftop of Majd Tobasi’s house for hours after roaming the streets of Marah area and Jabariyat suburb.
Meanwhile, the sources said that Jewish settlers from Haramish settlement, built on Ya‘bad village land south of Jenin, assaulted and beat up a Palestinian boy, Ahmed Abu Ermaila, on Wednesday night. They said that the IOF soldiers and settlers were deployed in the vicinity of Ya‘bad on the same night and combed nearby areas.
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Israeli settlers terrorize family in Hebron
HEBRON (WAFA) 4 Jan — A number of Israeli settlers Saturday terrorized a Palestinian family living in Shuhada Street in the Israeli-controlled area of Hebron after breaking into their house and badgering the family, according to the house owner Zaidan Sharabati. He told WAFA that nine settlers from nearby Beit Hadassah and Dabouya settlements located in the old city section of the southern West Bank city of Hebron broke into his house and harassed his family while cursing them before they ran away. He said his children were terrified by this incident. It was not clear if the Israeli police have arrested the culprits.

Specter of settlers’ return looms over Hebron neighborhood
HEBRON (AFP)  1 Jan — Before they were evicted, the Israeli settlers threw bottles of urine, attacked children and poisoned a horse, according to Palestinian residents in Hebron- who now fear their former neighbors will return. When Israeli soldiers evicted the settlers in 2008 and took over the Rajabi building in the West Bank city — which is still home to hundreds of radical Israeli settlers — even the daily drag of inspections seemed civilized by comparison. But the nightmare looks set to resume for Palestinians living near here and another flashpoint property called the Abu Rajab house, both of which have been claimed by settlers in the heart of the tense city. The settlers were forced out of the Abu Rajab house last year, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently ordered they be allowed back in after an Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper. And Israel’s Supreme Court is set to rule on the ownership dispute over the Rajabi building, with a verdict in the settlers’ favor likely to bring back the violence and abuse.

NGO accuses Israel of torturing Palestinian children during winter storm
Jerusalem Post 31 Dec by Yonah Jeremy Bob — An NGO on Tuesday accused the state of torturing Palestinian children suspected of minor crimes, including placing them in outdoor cages during the worst of the recent storm, and of other acts designed to terrify the children. The practice of placing the children in outdoor cages was halted when Justice Minister Tzipi Livni learned of it and immediately telephoned Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, telling him to end the practice … According to the Public Defender’s Office, it learned of the issue during a standard visit to prison complex in Ramle at the height of the storm, with the children enduring freezing temperatures and inclement weather outside a transit facility. The children were to be held outside for a number of hours overnight after their arrest until they were to be brought to court in the early morning … It was unclear who within the Prisons Service initiated the practice, why it was initiated or who decided to continue it despite the adverse weather conditions, but the service responded that since it had received criticism the situation had been improved.
The Public Committee Against Torture said that the practice was just one example of the torture and ill treatment of Palestinian children by law enforcement. In that regard, later Tuesday the Knesset committee said that the manner of arrest and detention conditions of Palestinian children was violating Israeli law for dealing with children. The committee also complained that the state “lacked data” for answering the panel’s questions about the frequency and scope of those practices it objected to such as midnight arrests. Yesh Atid MK Adi Kol sounded a note of exasperation, saying “We do not need to throw a child out of his bed at night.”

Update: Israel cages Palestinian children in outdoor holding pens during freezing storm
Mondoweiss 2 Jan by Annie Robbins — (Updated with new graphic from Carlos Latuff  “A #cartoon to @Mondoweiss – #Israel cages Palestinian children in outdoor during freezing storm”):

PCHR Weekly Report: 2 elderly men dead, 9 civilians wounded by Israel troops this week [26 Dec-1 Jan]
IMEMC 3 Jan — In its Weekly Report On Israeli Human Rights Violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, for the week of 26 Dec. 2013 – 01 Jan. 2014, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) found that an elderly Palestinian man died due to tear gas inhalation in Kofur Qaddoum village, northeast of Qalqilia, and a second elderly Palestinian man died as Israeli forces hindered his passage at a military checkpoint at the entrance of Ya‘bad village, southwest of Jenin. Israeli forces have continued to use excessive force against peaceful protesters in the West Bank. 8 demonstrators were wounded in Bil’in, an-Nabi Saleh and Selwad weekly protests, in Ramallah. Of the wounded were 3 children, 2 women and 2 photojournalists. A child was wounded in Ayda refugee camp, north of Bethlehem … Israeli forces conducted 53 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. At least 40 Palestinians, including 18 children, were abducted … In the Gaza Strip, Israeli forces launched 2 airstrikes, opened fire at the east of Jabalia, in the northern Gaza Strip, and also opened fire at Palestinian fishing boats, but no casualties were reported. On Thursday, 26 December, 2013, at approximately 22:25, an Israeli warplane launched a missile at an agricultural land belonging to Muqat family, to the east of al-Nafaq Street, in the north of Gaza City. However, no casualties were reported. The same night, at approximately 22:30, an Israeli warplane launched a missile at Bader military training site, belonging to al-Qassam Brigades (the armed wing of Hamas movement) near al-Shuhada’ intersection, south of Gaza City. However, no casualties were reported. Full report

Israeli forces arrest 13 Palestinians, Israeli behind bus bombing near Tel Aviv
Haaretz 2 Jan by Gili Cohen — The Shin Bet security service has arrested 13 Palestinian militants and an Israeli Bedouin suspected of involvement in the bombing of a bus from Tel Aviv to Bat Yam two weeks ago, including the perpetrator himself, a gag order lifted on Thursday revealed. The bomb exploded on December 22, shortly after the bus was evacuated due to a concerned passenger who alerted the driver after discovering a suspicious bag … None were wounded in the blast. Israeli security forces carried out a series of arrests in the West Bank city of Bethlehem following the attack, detaining members of the Islamic Jihad militant group. The Shin Bet believes that two of the central suspects in the plot to bomb the bus are former security prisoners in Israel: Shahada Ta’amri, 24, and his 21-year-old brother Hamdi Ta’amri, a former cadet in the Jericho Police officers’ course. Another central suspect was named as Yousef Salame, 22. The Israel Defense Forces and the Israel Police have also arrested Sami Harimi, a 20-year-old Palestinian who worked for a few months without legal permit at the Abulafia bakery in Jaffa. The suspects confessed during interrogation to planning over the course of the last few months to carry out a mass murder attack in Israel….

Gaza under blockade

Gaza teen dies of wounds after Thursday border shooting
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 3 Jan — A Palestinian teenager died early Friday of wounds sustained by Israeli forces the day before in the northern Gaza Strip, medics told Ma‘an. Palestinian medical sources identified the teen, who was shot Thursday at the Israeli border near Jabaliya, as 16-year-old Adnan Abu Khater. Ashraf al-Qudra, a spokesman for the emergency services in Gaza, said in a statement that Abu Khater died of his wounds after soldiers shot him in the leg east of Jabaliya, according to AFP.  Medical sources originally told Ma‘an that Abu Khater was 18. On Thursday afternoon, the youth was shot and injured by Israeli forces after he “was damaging” the border fence, an Israeli army spokeswoman said at the time. She said that after he refused to stop, Israeli soldiers hit him in the leg with live fire. The Israeli news site Ynet reported he was “throwing stones” at the separation barrier.
The teen’s death came as Israeli airstrikes targeted the Gaza Strip, hitting agricultural land near al-Maghazi refugee camp in central Gaza, the town of Beit Hanoun in the north, and another neighborhood in eastern Gaza City, Palestinian sources said. No injuries from the strikes have been reported. The Israeli army said the airstrikes were in response to a rocket from Gaza that hit southern Israel, causing no injuries or damages.
On Dec. 20, a similar death to Abu Khater’s was documented. Two Palestinians were collecting scrap metal and plastic in the northern Gaza Strip — nearly a kilometer away from the border — when 27-year-old Odeh Hamad was shot dead by Israeli forces, his brother said. An Israeli army statement said Hamad was shot because he tried to lay an explosive device at the border.

Israeli forces shoot, injure 2 Palestinians in Gaza
GAZA (Ma‘an) 3 Jan — Israeli forces shot and injured two Palestinians east of Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip on Friday. The shootings followed protests that broke out after the funeral procession of Adnan Abu Khater, 16, a Palestinian youth who died earlier on Friday after being shot by Israeli soldiers on Thursday. A 21-year-old man from al-Shati refugee camp was shot in the foot near the eastern cemetery in Jabaliya. He was taken to Kamal Adwan hospital with moderate injuries. A spokesman for the Gaza Ministry of Health said that another 26-year-old man was shot in the back by Israeli soldiers in a watchtower in the same area. [IMEMC: both were shot with live rounds]

Armed clashes reported near Gaza borders
GAZA (PIC) 1 Jan — Palestinian resistance fighters engaged an Israeli army patrol near the Gaza borders at an early hour on Wednesday. Palestinian security sources told the PIC reporter that a violent exchange of fire was going on north of the Kissufim position. They said that the Israeli occupation forces fired flare bombs and sent reconnaissance planes. Hebrew media sources said that an IOF patrol came under gun fire near Kissufim position, but would not elaborate further.
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Gaza: Stranded SA delegation allowed safe passage into Cairo
Mail & Guardian 1 Jan by Sarah Evans — A South African delegation in Gaza, which was stranded at the closed Rafah crossing at the Egyptian border this week, has been allowed safe passage into Cairo following an intervention by South African officials from the department of international relations and co-operation (Dirco). The 19-member delegation travelled to Gaza a little over 10 days ago in an effort to provide humanitarian aid to the strip. But the journey home for the South Africans was stymied at the Rafah crossing, between Gaza and Egypt. The crossing remains closed, indefinitely, by the Egyptian military. Dirco spokesperson Clayson Monyela said the group was told they would only be allowed to cross into Egypt sometime around January 6, and were essentially stranded in the Gaza strip. The South African embassy in Egypt then intervened to negotiate with the military to allow the delegation safe passage.

Italian aid convoy arrives in Gaza
IMEMC 3 Jan by Chris Carlson — An Italian solidarity delegation has arrived in the Gaza Strip, on Thursday evening via the Rafah crossing, in order to assess the humanitarian situation across Gaza’s five governorates and refugee camps. Al Ray news agency reports that the delegation is composed of 27 activists who donated medicines to the health sector in Gaza, noting that they would meet with a number of government officials, representatives of factions and civil society and human rights organizations. The delegation arrives just after Egyptian authorities “exceptionally” opened the Rafah crossing to them on Thursday evening … Egypt has repeatedly closed the Rafah border crossing since the recent deposition of President Mohammed Morsi, leading to an extreme decline in the number of solidarity and aid delegations entering to Gaza.

Hamas denies involvement in Dec 2 Egypt explosion
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 2 Jan — A spokesman for the Hamas movement on Thursday denied Egyptian claims that Hamas provided support to the perpetrators of the Dec. 24 explosion in Egypt’s Dakahlia governorate. Sami Abu Zuhri said the Egyptian minister of interior’s claims that Hamas provided logistical support for the attack were “false and unfounded.” Such claims are an attempt to misguide Egyptians, Abu Zuhri said in statement … At least 12 people were killed and over 130 injured on Dec. 24 when two explosions hit an Interior Ministry building in Mansoura. The militant group Ansar Beit El-Maqdis claimed responsibility for the attack.

Writing back: The story of Gaza
Counterpunch 3-5 Jan by David Swanson — Young authors of fiction from Gaza, some of whom say they are finding Palestine on the internet while unable to see it exist in reality, have just published a collection of stories, written in English, marking the five-year anniversary of the 23 days from December 27, 2008, until Obama’s inauguration, during which Israel bombed the people of Gaza far more heavily than usual.  They’re publishing a new excerpt of the book each of these 23 days on their FaceBook page. You can talk with them in an upcoming Google Hangout … The stories in this book are of childhood and family, love and loss, soccer and toothaches. As with any story, people are placed in particularly special circumstances. A visit to the doctor is a visit to someone making decisions of triage: Will your father be sent to a specialist to be saved, or will this baby who has a better chance at living be sent instead? Two farmers, a Gazan and an Israeli unknowingly stand just inches or feet away from each other, separated by an impenetrable wall.  A Gazan and an Israeli are perhaps attracted to each other, but blocked by a wall that needs no physical presence. A child is listening to a bedtime story when a missile strikes the house. Who will live? And who will be traumatized? Or was everyone pre-traumatized already?

Fatah will not hold major anniversary celebration in Gaza
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 2 Jan — Fatah has decided to cancel a major celebration of its 49th anniversary in Gaza City, a leader of the faction said Thursday. “We were content with the crowded festival Tuesday during which a torch was lit at the Unknown Soldier’s Statue in Gaza City,” Faysal Abu Shahla told Ma‘an … Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, had agreed on Monday to allow its rival Fatah to celebrate its 49th anniversary in the Gaza Strip.

Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing

Israel places cornerstone for new settlement in Jordan Valley
IMEMC — [Thurs Jan 2] Israeli Interior Minister, Gideon Sa’ar, placed the cornerstone for a new illegal settlement in the occupied Jordan Valley of the West Bank, Palestine TV has reported. The Minister told reporters that Israel would boost and maintain the presence of its soldiers and settlers in the Jordan Valley, under any peace agreement with the Palestinians, adding that the area is essential for what he called “Israel’s strategic interests”.  His deputy, Ze’ev Elkin, stated that the new cornerstone comes in what he called “a great timing”, as U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, will be visiting Tel Aviv and Ramallah on the same day in an attempt to advance direct political talks. “Giving up the Jordan Valley will make Kfar Saba a border town with the Palestinians”, he said, “Israel will build, will continue to build and expand its settlements”. Meanwhile, the head of the Regional Council of Settlements in the occupied Jordan Valley, David Elchaiiani, demanded that the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu officially annex the Jordan Valley. He added that Netanyahu “doesn’t have a peace coalition”, referring to his settler-led government.

Last Palestinian family vows to remain as Israel gentrifies historic Haifa neighborhood
HAIFA (Electronic Intifada) 3 Jan by Patrick O. Strickland — A local authority plans to demolish a Palestinian neighborhood in Haifa, a coastal city in the Galilee region of present-day Israel. “One day, two years ago, there was an order from the municipality on our door,” Tawfiq Abbas told The Electronic Intifada. He was born and raised in Wadi al-Siyah, a valley on the outskirts of Haifa. Abbas’ extended family includes more than sixty members, twenty of whom are children. The family holds Israeli citizenship. “No one actually talked to us. They just left a paper that said we have ten years to leave, according to the municipality and the interior ministry,” he said, adding that all eight homes in the area would eventually be demolished. Wadi al-Siyah predates the 1948 establishment of Israel. Though it was once a vibrant place with a public swimming area and a large public garden and orchard, Abbas and his family are the last ones left. Only meters away are the crumbling remains of homes, buildings and pathways that once belonged to past residents … “After 1948, Israel didn’t give the neighborhood any services. There was no electricity, water, lights or paved roads.” Despite their constant presence, Haifa’s municipality has only provided Wadi al-Siyah’s remaining residents with access to water and electricity in the last 15 years. At that point, the municipality also ordered that the residents no longer use the local water well.

In photos: Hiking the ruins of Lifta
[with photos] BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 3 Jan — Lifta is a Palestinian village that was mostly destroyed in 1948. Today, its ruins lie in Jerusalem’s western suburbs, overshadowed by the highways and skyscrapers far above. In the years following the Nakba, or “Catastrophe,” that led to the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians from their homes in what became Israel, the majority of the more than 400 depopulated villages were destroyed. This destruction was part of a wider policy of preventing the return of any Palestinian refugees, even those displaced within the borders of the new state. Lifta is unique in that it is one of the few Palestinian villages that was not completely demolished after its inhabitants fled. The village remained empty, a testament to its former residents’ disappearance, even as Israeli neighborhoods slowly encircled it … The village is surprisingly visible, right below several neighborhoods and major roads. It is visited by the occasional Israeli or tourist come to bathe in the village spring, and campers often spend the night in the abandoned homes. At other times, Palestinian refugees originally from Lifta come through to commemorate the life of a village abruptly ended … In December 1947, long before war had been declared, the Stern Gang attacked the local coffee shop, killing six. The purpose of such random attacks on Palestinian civilians was to terrorize them until they fled, while at the same time avoiding wholesale slaughter. This strategy achieved the goal of ethnic cleansing while still allowing many to claim that Palestinians had left of their own free will.

Report: Israel offers land swaps to annex settlement blocs
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 1 Jan — Israel has asked the United States to consider a land swap deal that would give Palestine a section of land in the Triangle area adjacent to the Green Line in exchange for keeping settlement blocs in the West Bank, Israeli media said Wednesday. Israeli daily Maariv reported that recent talks between the US and Israel have involved suggestions to cede to a future Palestinian state areas of the Triangle — a cluster of Palestinian towns in Israel’s Central District — in order to include West Bank settlements within the boundaries of Israel. The discussions were not an official part of the main talks between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State John Kerry, the report said. Israeli officials are reportedly exploring the logistics of the plan, including the question of what would happen to the current Triangle residents’ Israeli citizenship. The Triangle area is a concentration of Palestinian towns and villages in Israel adjacent to the Green Line. Approximately 300,000 Palestinian citizens of Israel live in the area. Palestinians make up 20 percent of Israel’s population.

1948 Palestinians stress their rejection of population exchange proposal
NAZARETH (PIC) 2 Jan — Arab member in the Knesset Mohammed Baraka stressed the rejection of the Palestinians in the 1948 occupied territories to the proposal of “population exchange”. The population exchange proposal is based on transferring the northern part of 1948 territories to the Palestinian Authority’s control, in exchange for keeping the existing settlement blocs built on the occupied West Bank under Israeli control. Baraka warned, in a press release on Wednesday, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of employing the proposal of the population exchange to equate between the illegal settlers and the indigenous owners of the land, stressing that the Palestinians are the only owners of the land. He added that this proposal aims to legitimize the settlement activities and the settlers’ presence in the West Bank.
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Palestinians warn of Israeli plan to build tourist village on Azzeitoun Mount
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (PIC) 2 Jan — Noted Palestinian figures said on Wednesday that the Israeli occupation authority (IOA) plans to annex a vast tract of Palestinian land on Az-Zeitoun Mount [The Mount of Olives]  in east Jerusalem to establish a Jewish heritage village. This came in a conference held in Jerusalem under the rubric “Azzeitoun Mount and the danger of Judaization.” In different speeches, the Palestinian figures urged the Palestinian Authority (PA) to confront Israel’s Judaization and settlement activities in east Jerusalem. Sheikh Kamal Al-Khatib, deputy head of the Islamic Movement in the 1948 occupied lands, warned that this Israeli project poses a threat to the Arab and Islamic identity of the holy city and the Aqsa Mosque.
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IOA carries out excavations in Qalaat al-Quds area
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (PIC) 1 Jan — The Aqsa Foundation for Endowment and Heritage said that the Israeli occupation authority (IOA) had recently started excavations to a depth of 17 meters in the area of Qalaat al-Quds. The Foundation said in a statement on Tuesday that the occupation is destroying the ancient Islamic monuments in the region and plans to turn the site into a cultural center belonging to the Museum of David Castle. The area of Qalaat al-Quds is considered one of the most important archaeological sites in Jerusalem and includes Masjed al-Qalaa, an ancient Islamic mosque which the occupation turned into a Jewish museum after 1967.
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IOA to confiscate hundreds of dunums south of Bethlehem
BETHLEHEM (PIC) 1 Jan — The Israeli occupation authority (IOA) plans to confiscate 300 dunums in Al-Khader village, south of Bethlehem, and turn them into “state land”. Local sources told the PIC reporter that the confiscation of the land would entail the annexation of 1,700 dunums near it to the Jewish settlement of Efrat, which was established on Palestinian land to the south of Bethlehem. The sources said that annexing those lands would mean isolating Bethlehem city from its southern rural areas. The sources said that the Israeli army verbally informed the farmers and land owners of the confiscation, adding that written notifications would be distributed in the few coming days.
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Israel to demolish homes near Nablus
NABLUS (WAFA) 2 Jan — The Israeli forces informed Palestinians in Rujeib, a village east of Nablus, to stop construction in six houses, and that they will be demolished, a local activist said Thursday. Ghassan Daghlas, who monitors settler activities in the north of the West Bank, said Israeli forces handed out stop construction and demolition notices to six villagers in Rujeib.

Christmas Eve demolitions leave more than 60 homeless
Palestine Monitor 31 Dec by Mike J.C. — Early on Christmas Eve, Israeli wrecking crews flattened a Palestinian Bedouin community on a beautiful hilltop in the Ramallah Governorate of the occupied West Bank, demolishing more than a dozen homes and leaving 15 families in temporary tents. Days later, despite the hardship, the residents are proud, hospitable, and determined to hold their land …  In their thirty-plus years on the site — which has no formal name, though their community is often nominally linked with Ein Ayoub — the Bedouin had built up a modest infrastructure of homes and animal barracks constructed with cinder blocks, sheet metal, wood, and canvas. Until Christmas Eve, the Ein Ayoub Bedouin had never experienced an Israeli demolition. Without warning, at about 9:30 in the morning on 24 December, three bulldozers accompanied by numerous army vehicles rumbled into the small village. By early afternoon it was over. Of the 61 people made homeless, more than half are children … Abdullah Jahalin, a young man and father of two boys and a baby girl, showed us video on his smartphone of the bulldozer tearing his house apart. Amidst the jackhammer beat of the heavy machinery, and the groaning, creaking and snapping of walls and rooftop, there is a frenetic despair, figures dashing about, and women and children shouting and screaming — a scene difficult to bear even through a small cracked screen, shaky footage, and tinny sound. Asked what his family will do now, and if they can rebuild or if they will leave the shattered community, Abdullah responds that he cannot rebuild and he will not leave.  “There is no material, no one to help, and nowhere to go,” he says through an interpreter. “But this is home.” … Meters away, Khalid’s home of six, including his wife and four children, looks every bit the trash pile as Abdullah’s. One of Khalid’s children is Rahma, a six-year old disabled girl confined to a wheelchair. …

Israeli bulldozers demolish 3 Bedouin houses in Negev
BEERSHEBA (Ma‘an) 2 Jan – Israeli inspectors of the Ministry of Interior’s department of monitoring unlicensed constructions on Thursday demolished three Bedouin houses in the Negev village of Wadi al-Niam. Locals told Ma‘an that large numbers of police officers escorted the inspectors who brought a bulldozer and demolished three houses in the “unrecognized” village.

Activists arrested
IMEMC 1 Jan — …In related news, WAFA reports that the Israeli army has demolished the tent village of Kanaan, on Wednesday, immediately after its construction; eight activists were arrested, according to a local activist. Hassan Brijiyeh, coordinator of the National Committee against the Wall and Settlements in Bethlehem, said that activists set up a camp in the Jordan Valley, in response to the recent committee recommendation, by Israel, to annex the valley.

Protest march towards the Dead Sea
JERICHO, Occupied Palestine (ISM Khalil Team) 3 Jan — On the 1st January, at approximately 12pm, 40 Palestinian and international activists attempted to march towards the Dead Sea in an effort to protest against the proposed Israeli bill to annex the Jordan Valley. Israeli forces prevented the demonstration from reaching the shore, in response the protesters held speeches demanding for the liberation of Palestinian prisoners and reiterating that the area is Palestinian land. The demonstration continued peacefully beside the fence blocking the entry to the sea and the protesters were continually obstructed by Israeli border police and soldiers. Demonstrators sang slogans against the Israeli occupation and peacefully left the area. At least 8 Palestinian activists were detained and denied passage at various Israeli checkpoints on their way to the demonstration. The access to the Dead Sea is now completely under Israeli government control. Palestinians wishing to access it are forced to pay an entrance fee to Israeli resorts in order to reach the shore. 87% of the Jordan valley and the Dead Sea area is under full Israeli civil and military control.

Poll finds some Jordan Valley settlers want to leave
Jerusalem Post 30 Dec by Gil Hoffman — Amid talk of annexing Jordan Valley to preserve Jewish communities, many Jewish residents actually wouldn’t mind leaving. A poll conducted in one of the regional councils in the Jordan Valley found that residents there are interested in being evacuated in return for proper compensation, and a chance for real peace with the Palestinians. The poll was taken by the Center for Diplomatic Macro- Economics and sponsored by the left-wing organization Blue White Future, which advocates for the passage of legislation compensating settlers to leave their homes. It was taken amid talk of annexing the Jordan Valley, and keeping the Jewish communities there. Among residents of the Arvot Yarden Regional Council, 36 percent said they were willing to leave for proper compensation whether or not a diplomatic agreement with the Palestinian Authority was made. If there will be a peace deal, 62 percent would be willing to evacuate their homes.

Restriction of movement

Israel refuses to let Gaza woman visit sick mother whose medical report says ‘Palestine’
Haaretz 2 Jan by Amira Hass — Israel has refused to let a Gaza woman travel to the West Bank to care for her cancer-stricken mother because the medical report describing the mother’s serious condition bore the heading “State of Palestine.” T., 26, applied on December 17 for a permit to go to the West Bank with her two children, 5 and 2, so she could be with her sick mother. The application was passed on to Israel’s Coordination and Liaison Administration (which is subordinate to the Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories) by its Palestinian counterpart, which answers to the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. On December 22, since no response had been received, Hamoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual sent a follow-up request to the liaison administration on T.’s behalf. Hamoked’s Omri Metzer detailed the mother’s condition: advanced colon cancer, metastasis in the liver and spine, weakness, edema, chemotherapy and a possible hip operation.

Detainees / Released prisoners / Court actions

For first time, Palestinians acquitted of stone throwing
Haaretz 2 Jan by Chaim Levinson — The military court at Ofer army base has acquitted, for the first time, Palestinians charged with throwing rocks at a settler. The three Palestinians charged were found not guilty recently because police did not summon to court the settler in question, who was said to have thrown stones himself during the clash. The presiding judge stated that under the circumstances, a ruling against the defendants would be discriminatory. The incident took place in January 2010, near Susya in the south Hebron hills. Footage filmed by a volunteer with B’Tselem shows Ilan Vilanda from the Mitzpe Yair outpost, and three members of the Nawaj’ah family from the Palestinian village Susya. At one point, Vilanda threw stones at the Palestinians and a scuffle ensued.

Abbas: All pre-Oslo Palestinian prisoners to be freed
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 1 Jan — President Mahmoud Abbas remains committed to freeing all veteran Palestinian prisoners, including those from areas inside Israel, a prisoners’ committee said in a statement Wednesday. During a Tuesday meeting with a committee representing Palestinian prisoners from areas inside Israel, Abbas said an agreement was in place stipulating that veteran prisoners from “1948 areas” would also be released in conjunction with the current set of peace talks, the statement said. The list of those to be released was approved by Israel and the United States mediators, Abbas was quoted as saying. The statement said that Palestinian negotiators phoned the American mediators to discuss remarks made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu concerning veteran prisoners who hold Israeli citizenship. The Americans confirmed that all prisoners detained before Oslo would be freed, including those with Israeli citizenship, the statement said.

Freed Palestinian prisoner hospitalized in bad condition
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 2 Jan — Freed Palestinian prisoner Naim Shawamrah was hospitalized late Wednesday due to serious deterioration in his health condition, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society said. Shawamrah was taken to an emergency room in Dura south of Hebron Wednesday night, said Amjad al-Najjar, director of the Society’s Hebron office. Early Thursday, doctors said his condition was worsening, and transferred him to al-Ahli Hospital in Hebron, al-Najjar said. Shawamrah was released Tuesday morning along with 25 other Palestinian prisoners who were detained before the Oslo Accords. He spent 19 years in Israeli jails and in 2013 was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy. Throughout his final days in prison, he was unable to walk.

Pity the poor interrogator
Haaretz 2 Jan by Gideon Levy — No one is denying that Captain George, a former IDF interrogator, committed contemptible acts, but no one is appalled by them either — A new victim is born: Doron Zahavi, better known as Captain George. … Doron served in a similar military unit, with the hush-hush number 504; the unit is today known by the euphemistic name Human Military Intelligence Formation. Nearly 20 years ago, in an interrogation facility with another hush-hush number, 1391, Doron Zahaviinterrogated Lebanese militia operative Mustafa Dirani in an effort to learn the fate of missing Israel Air Force navigator Ron Arad. Whether or not he actually inserted a baton into Dirani’s rectum, Zahavi-George is suing the State of Israel for damages on the grounds that the state tarnished his reputation. This week, Captain George’s true identity was revealed – at his own request. In a coincidence that could be called poetic justice, two lawsuits against the state are now being deliberated in the courtroom: George’s and Dirani’s …Today Zahavi is an adviser on Arab affairs with the Jerusalem District of the Israel Police. His lawyer has stated that his client is a “talented individual” and that the “Israel Police has benefited, and will continue to benefit, from his fine skills and from his understanding of the population with which the police must deal.”

Israeli racism

Arab soccer teams’ bus stoned by Israelis in West Bank settlement
Haaretz 2 Jan by Chaim Levinson — Hapoel Jatt’s players received police escort following game at Kfar Tapuah, but local residents threw stones and eggs at their vehicles — A bus carrying the Hapoel Jatt soccer team was hit with stones on Wednesday in the West Bank settlement of Kfar Tapuah. The incident occurred after the [Israeli] Arab Hapoel Gat team played against Elitzur Shomron – which represents the local settlements – despite protests from Kfar Tapuah resident … According to a report from the website Kol Yehudi, dozens of Kfar Tapuah residents gathered before the game and expressed their opposition to allowing the Arab players to enter the settlement. Kfar Tapuah’s entry policy for Arabs only permits Arab construction workers into the settlement. The report quoted one Kfar Tapuah resident as saying, “There was no notification that Arabs were coming, and no one knew it was happening. They tried to hide it from the residents. I think the administration made a mistake, and I hope it never happens again. There was a big controversy here about Arab workers, and the administration decided they should be allowed entry. This has majority support, but the point is that this is a soccer game, which is a much bigger thing than construction. It is real assimilation.”

Israeli report: Poverty rate for Arab children three times higher than for Jewish children
Middle East Monitor 30 Dec — A new report prepared by Israel’s National Council for the Child reveals that the average poverty rate for Arab children in Israel reached 67.9 per cent in 2012, compared to 65.8 per cent in 2011. Furthermore, the report finds that the percentage of Arab children living in poverty is now three times higher than it is for Jewish children. The results also show that poverty in Israel has become more socially entrenched. In 2000, 10.5 per cent of poor children were able to escape their poverty, whereas in 2012 only 5.3 per cent were able to do so.

Palestinian refugees / UNRWA

UN agency strike leaves trash piled up in refugee camp in Jerusalem
Haaretz 3 Jan by Nir Hasson — A month-long strike by employees of a United Nations refugee agency has resulted in pileups of garbage and clogged sewers in the Sho‘afat refugee camp in Jerusalem and left some 51,000 Palestinian children out of school. The work stoppage by UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, has also closed down dozens of health clinics in the West Bank. The Shoafat refugee camp is part of the Jerusalem municipality, which is responsible for its basic services. The camp is located on the Palestinian side of the separation barrier, however, where the municipality, like all other Israeli service providers, does not operate … UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said that “Shoafat illustrates horrifically the impact of the strike on this forgotten refugee population, living in a state of limbo in a kind of no man’s land. Camp residents pay tax to the Israeli authorities but receive few services and there’s no refuse collection. Compounding the nightmare, the [separation] wall means the PA don’t have access so the refugees are reliant on UNRWA. It’s unsustainable to have people living in these conditions and highlights yet again the need to resolve the refugee issue.” ….

1,873 Palestinian refugees killed in Syria till the end of 2013
GAZA (PIC) 3 Jan — The action group for the Palestinians in Syria said that 1,873 Palestinian refugees had been killed in Syria since the start of Syria’s conflict and until the end of 2013. In its annual report, the action group stated that 1,842 Palestinian refugees were killed in Syria, and 31 others were killed outside Syria while trying to escape from the bloody events.  Approximately, 1,270 Palestinian refugees were killed in Palestinian refugee camps, while 572 refugees were killed outside their camps in Syria, the report added … 31 Palestinian refugees died while trying to reach European shores in an attempt to flee the tragic situation in Syria, 15 others died in Egypt, and 16 more were reported dead in Greece, Malta, Italy, Turkey and Libya.
link to

Palestinians trapped in Syria war denied aid, stalked by starvation
Electronic Intifada 31 Dec by Ali Abunimah — Among the millions of people displaced from their homes in Syria’s vicious civil war, Palestinians have been disproportionately affected – more than half of the 540,000 Palestine refugees in the country have been forced from their homes by fighting. But some 20,000 Palestinian refugees in the Yarmouk suburb of Damascus have faced an even worse fate, besieged by the Syrian army since the summer without access to food, medicine or other supplies. In November, a tentative agreement to vacate armed groups from the camp collapsed, prolonging the grim situation. Since September, 15 Palestinians in the area have died of starvation according to reports cited by Chris Gunness, spokesman for UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees … The BBC’s Lyse Doucet reported on 20 December that pictures from inside Yarmouk “showed street markets with only radishes for sale.” … The reality for Palestinians whether trapped in Yarmouk or seeking refuge elsewhere is that they have little control over their fate … A Palestinian woman who survived an 11 October sinking of a refugee boat told Human Rights Watch, “We could not stay in Syria. I could not send the children to school, because [both sides] ask which side you support and, if you answer wrongly, they will kill you.”

Solidarity / BDS

Solidarity helped me keep fighting, says released hunger striker Samer Issawi
‘Issawiya (Electronic Intifada) 1 Jan by Budour Youssef Hassan — There was a distinctly different ambience at the home of the Issawis this time around. It would be the first time that we were visiting expecting to meet Samer Issawi himself. This visit was not about offering solidarity and support, an act we undertook repeatedly when Samer was in prison. This time the visit was not to participate in a demonstration calling for his release. We did not hear the tediously familiar sound bombs that usually accompanied our visits to the village of ‘Issawiyeh in occupied East Jerusalem. This visit was a celebratory and congratulatory one … Demonstrations in support of Samer — albeit not always particularly large — took place across Palestine. They included vigils at the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City that were violently dispersed by Israeli occupation forces, daily sit-ins in Jaffa’s Clock Square that lasted for over forty consecutive days and protests outside Ramle prison hospital when Samer was held there. Protests and solidarity actions also took place in Ramallah and Gaza and in many cities around the world. “My lawyers repeatedly told me about those demonstrations and this definitely buoyed me,” Samer said. “Even at the start when there was little attention I was determined to keep fighting, but of course the support I got from Palestinians in Palestine and the diaspora, as well as all the free people in the world gave me a lot of confidence.”

Israeli actors refuse to perform across Green Line
Al-Monitor 2 Jan by Shlomi Eldar — This week’s refusal by three Israeli theater stars to perform across the Green Line raises the dilemma of commitment to one’s art or one’s conscience — Actors have a difficult life, everybody knows that. But it’s 10 times as hard to be an actor in Israel. An ideological argument among actors employed by establishment theaters in Israel is once again rearing its head these days, and with even more fury than in the past. The argument is over what comes first: the actors’ commitment to their performances, or to their conscience. Ever since the theater in Ariel’s Culture Hall was first inaugurated back in 2010, several theater actors in Israel announced that they would not perform in a venue built in a settlement across the Green Line. They claimed that Ariel is not part of the State of Israel, and their commitment to perform within the country does not include Ariel or any other settlement.

Video: On the 5th anniversary of the attack on Gaza, Galway commemorates the fallen
NUI Galway [Ireland] Palestine Solidarity Society 31 December

Other news

Palestinian protesters greet Kerry’s visit
RAMALLAH (Reuters) 3 Jan — Palestinian protesters on Friday condemned the latest efforts by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to advance peace talks with Israel, using chants evoking the Arab uprisings and telling him to go home. Hours before Kerry was due to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a raucous crowd of several hundred took to the streets of Ramallah, the West Bank’s de facto capital, chanting “Kerry, you coward, there’s no place for you in Palestine!” Separately, an official close to Abbas dismissed Kerry’s drive for a “framework agreement” as biased toward Israel.

Poll: Israelis, Palestinians back two-state deal
News agencies 1 Jan — Hours before Kerry arrives in Israel for tenth round of peace talks, new poll suggests solid majority of Israelis, Palestinians back two-state solution. But is it enough? — In the poll, 63% of 601 Israelis and 53% of 1,270 Palestinians surveyed said they back a two-state solution. Support dropped to 54% and 46%, respectively, when respondents were asked about specifics of a two-state deal.,7340,L-4471986,00.html

Palestinians 11.8 million worldwide, says statistics bureau
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 31 Dec — The projected number of Palestinians in the world increased to reach 11.8 million at the end of 2013, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) said Tuesday. There are 4.5 million Palestinians in the Palestinian Territory, 1.4 million in Israel, 5.2 million in Arab countries and around 665,000 in foreign countries, it said in a year-end report on the status of Palestinians. It said that around 2.8 million are in the West Bank and 1.7 million in the Gaza Strip at the end of 2013. Palestinian refugees make up 44.2% of the Palestinian population in Palestine; 41.2% of them in the West Bank and 58.8% in Gaza Strip, said the report. The report indicated a decrease in the average household size in the Palestinian Territory which reached 5.3 persons in 2012 compared with 6.4 in 1997: 5.1 persons in the West Bank and 6.0 persons in the Gaza Strip. PCBS said the crude birth rate is 32.6 births for every 1000 of population: 29.7 in the West Bank compared to 37.1 in Gaza Strip. The rate is expected to decline to 31.9 in 2015….

PLO says US to allocate $440 million to PA in 2014
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 1 Jan – The United States is set to increase financial aid to the Palestinian Authority in 2014, the PLO ambassador to Washington said Tuesday. Maen Erekat told Ma‘an that the US Congress agreed to allocate $440 million of financial aid to the Palestinian Authority in 2014. He highlighted that in 2013, US aid was $426 million, $495 million in 2012 and $545 million in 2011.  In 2014, most of the financial aid will be developmental projects through the US aid agency USAID. Only $70 million is expected to be paid directly to the PA’s treasury, he highlighted. The ambassador noted that “despite the endorsement, financial aid to the PA will be affected by progress of the peace process in Palestine.”

Jamal al-Jamal: Palestinian ambassador to Prague killed in bomb blast
PRAGUE (AP) 1 Jan — The Palestinian ambassador to the Czech Republic died Wednesday in a blast that occurred when he opened an old safe that had been left untouched for more than 20 years, officials said. Ambassador Jamal al-Jamal, 56, was at home with his family at the time of the explosion, according to Palestinian embassy spokesman Nabil El-Fahel. Al-Jamal was seriously injured and rushed to a hospital where he died, according to police spokeswoman Andrea Zoulova. Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said no foul play was suspected, noting that the safe had been left untouched for more than 20 years. It also appeared that the door of the safe had been booby-trapped, according to Zoulova. It was unclear how al-Jamal tried to open it or what type of safe it was. The safe was recently moved from the old embassy building, but it had come from a building that used to house the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s offices in the 1980s, Malki said.

Palestinian ambassador’s daughter claims he was ‘assassinated’
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 2 Jan — The daughter of the Palestinian ambassador to the Czech Republic who died in Prague Wednesday said an explosive device in his house was planted to assassinate him. “The information about a safety device detonating in his safe is untrue,” Jamal al-Jamal’s daughter told Ma‘an. “The safe has been used daily for 30 years in the headquarters of the Palestinian embassy. It is old, not modern, and has no (hi-tech) devices,” Rana al-Jamal said. She added that her father had used the safe without being harmed before heading to Egypt two months ago, a period in which the safe was used by other employees in the embassy. “When my father returned a few days ago to the Czech embassy, the safe was moved by a Czech moving company to his house the night before the explosion” al-Jamal said. “A replacement safe was put in the embassy and the old one which was the size of a mini-fridge was taken to the ambassador’s house.” She said the explosion did not come from inside the safe, but from underneath it, insisting that the incident was not an accident, but that her father was “assassinated.”

Closure calls after Palestinian embassy blast
AP 3 Jan — The Czech government is under pressure to close the Palestinian embassy complex in Prague after the discovery of illegal weapons and the death of the Palestinian ambassador in a booby-trap explosion. Petr Hejl, the mayor of Suchdol neighbourhood, said on Friday he has sent a request to Czech Republic’s Foreign Ministry of to remove the embassy from the area. “We have lost trust in the diplomats,” Hejl told AP news agency after receiving complaints from neighbours. “We feel deceived by them.” The Foreign Ministry said it had demanded an explanation from the Palestinians. The weapons cache was found on Thursday. Andrea Zoulova, a police spokeswoman, said on Friday it was not yet clear why the Palestinians had the weapons.

Report: Erekat says he fears for Abbas’ life
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 3 Jan — Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat said Friday that he feared President Mahmoud Abbas might be killed by Israel, according to an international Arabic newspaper. Erekat told Asharq al-Awsat that he had read letters from Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman addressed to various European countries. He said the letters demanded the removal of Abbas, deeming him a danger to Israel.  “The Israelis have this approach,” Erekat said. “Before President Arafat was killed with poison, there were voices in Sharon’s government that said Arafat was an obstacle who must be removed, and they are doing that again.”

Israel ‘tried to brainwash us’, says Druze pioneer who refused army service
HAIFA (Electronic Intifada) 2 Jan by Patrick O. Strickland — Several Palestinian citizens of Israel from the Druze religious community are in prison for refusing to serve in the Israeli military. “How can I serve in Israel’s occupation army?” said Seif Abu Seif, an 18-year-old Druze recently jailed for refusing military service. “I cannot stand at the border and stop its people from entering. I am an Arab.” Omar Saad, whose refusal was widely publicized on the Internet after he wrote an open letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu in 2012, is currently serving twenty days in military prison, along with Mahmoud Saad and Nizar Abu Hammoud. There are several more jailed Druze conscientious objectors who have remained anonymous … Hamdan said that Druze boys are pressured to serve in the military from a young age from both within Druze society and from the state. “It starts in the family and in public schools, where the idea is planted in the kids.” Israel also treats Jewish and Druze conscientious objectors differently. While Jewish Israelis can obtain exemptions on conscientious grounds, Druze cannot. “There is still a lot of fear to refuse,” said Hamdan.

Israel tests ballistic missile shield
Reuters 3 Jan — Israel has tested its upgraded Arrow interceptor, which is designed to destroy in space the kind of missiles held by Iran and Syria, a Defence Ministry spokeswoman said. Friday’s launch of an Arrow III interceptor missile over the Mediterranean sea was the second flight of the system, but did not involve the interception of any target. The US-backed Arrow III is designed to fire missiles at ballistic missiles above the earth’s atmosphere, high enough to allow for any chemical, biological or nuclear warheads to disintegrate safely. Israel deployed the previous version, Arrow II, more than a decade ago and says it has scored around a 90 percent success rate in live trials. Israeli officials have predicted Arrow III could be deployed by next year. The Pentagon and US firm Boeing are partners in the Arrow project, which is overseen by state-run Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).

Hospital: Israeli ex-PM Ariel Sharon’s ‘vital organs’ failing
TEL AVIV (AFP) 2 Jan — Israeli former prime minister Ariel Sharon’s health deteriorated further on Thursday, with his “vital organs” failing, the hospital where he has been housed in a comatose state for eight years announced. “In the last few days, we have seen a gradual decline in the functioning of Ariel Sharon’s vital organs, which are essential for his survival,” Tel Hashomer hospital director Zeev Rotstein told Israeli public radio. “His state is classed as critical, meaning his life is in danger,” Rotstein said … The 85-year-old’s health worsened on Wednesday, as Sharon suffered from “serious kidney problems” after undergoing surgery, Israeli media reported.

Israel denies it killed most of the AMIA bombers
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) 3 Jan — Israel is denying a claim by its former ambassador to Argentina that Israelis killed most of those responsible for the South American county’s worst terrorist attack. The Israeli government’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor called the claim “complete nonsense,” but declined to elaborate. Itzhak Aviran said “the great majority of the guilty ones are already in the other world, and it was we who did this.” He also said that Iranians “were the main ones responsible” for the 1994 Jewish cultural center bombing that killed 85 people. Aviran served as Israel’s ambassador in Buenos Aires from 1993 to 2000, and was only blocks away from the explosion. Aviran could not be reached Friday to explain his claims, which Argentina’s Jewish News Agency published the day before.

Analysis / Opinion

Israel’s march of folly to the Jordan Valley / Akiva Eldar
Al-Monitor 2 Jan — The Jordan Valley is the key to solving the refugee issue and to building a future Palestinian airport, thus the Israeli bill proposing to annex this region is the de facto end to a peace agreement — Almost everyone came out ahead in the Dec. 29 decision by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation to adopt the proposed bill by Knesset member Miri Regev annexing the Jordan Valley. The biggest winner is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu … The second winner is the head of the Israeli team negotiating with the Palestinians, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni … Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat also got a handsome gift for the new year. A Knesset member has again handed him on a platter an easy ball to smash into the court of the Israeli adversary … But there are losers in this affair, as well. Many losers. They are the citizens of Israel, whose fate has been sealed, in the best case, by a group of cynics who treat them like idiots. In the worst case, the future of their state, its standing and image are in the hands of negligent and ignorant representatives.

Egypt: 2013 in review / Patrick Galey
31 Dec — N.B. This is not an attempt at an exhaustive rundown of everything that happened in Egypt in 2013. Firstly, that would take too long and, more importantly, people have already done that for you. Here [Egypt Daily News 2013 Key Events Timeline]. This is a rundown of memorable moments from 2013 that I had a hand in covering. Egypt’s annus horribilis started poorly and got worse. It was the year the popular revolution asking for bread, freedom and social justice was finally squished under the boots of the military, the year liberals showed their true colours by openly supporting a military coup they knew full well would usher in a murderous phase of tyranny not seen since…well, since the military was last in power in Egypt. It was the year a boy was jailed for having a ruler; where a group of girls who had protested in Alexandria were jailed for 11 years. Even Bassem Youssef was banned. 2013 was the year the revolution died. (listserv) (archive)


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

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