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Escalating Gaza violence includes 7 Israeli attacks in a week and a rocket near Sharon’s farm

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Gaza under blockade

Palestinian shot by Israeli forces in northern Gaza Strip
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 11 Jan — Israeli forces injured a 22-year-old Palestinian man on Saturday after opening fire in the northern Gaza Strip. Local sources said that the young man was shot by Israeli soldiers stationed in military towers on the border east of Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip. They added that he was shot in the right thigh, and was near a cemetery in the area when the shooting occurred. The youth was transferred to Kamal Adwan Hospital following the incident.

Man dies of electric shock inside Rafah smuggling tunnel
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 12 Jan — A Palestinian man died as a result of an electric shock sustained inside a smuggling tunnel beneath the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt on Sunday morning, medical sources said. Spokesperson for the Gaza Strip Ministry of Health Ashraf al-Qidra identified the victim as 29-year-old Bassam Ismail al-Farmawi from Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Al-Qidra confirmed that the victim had sustained an electric shock. Following the incident, the victim was evacuated to Abu Yousif al-Najjar Hospital in Rafah where medics announced his death.

Egyptian authorities bar entry of Jordanian delegation into Gaza
GAZA (PIC) 12 Jan — The Egyptian authorities banned the entry of a Jordanian delegation into the Gaza Strip via the Rafah border crossing after more than ten days of waiting at El-Arish city. The government committee against the siege in Gaza said in a statement on Sunday that the five-member Jordanian delegation led by Sheikh Hazem Abu Ghazala had arrived in El-Arish city on 30th December and stayed there waiting for allowing them access but to no avail.
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Hours after Sharon’s death, rocket fired from Gaza at Israel
Times of Israel 11 Jan by Ilan Ben Zion — A Kassam rocket was fired from the Gaza Strip at southern Israel Saturday evening, not far from where relatives of late ex-prime minister Ariel Sharon gathered at the family home at Shikmim Farm. Red alert sirens sounded in the area near the coastal city of Ashkelon, but no impact was reported, an IDF spokesperson said. Palestinian sources reported Israeli retaliatory airstrikes into the Gaza Strip shortly thereafter. There was no confirmation of the reports

Slow but steady escalation between Gaza, Israel
Al-Monitor 10 Jan by Shlomi Eldar — After months of relative quiet, the Gaza Strip is back on escalation track. Salah Abu Latif was killed two weeks ago on Dec. 24; the Rahat resident and employee of the Ministry of Defense was fixing the fence that runs along the Gaza border when he was shot and killed. Since then, the war of attrition in the region has been renewed. Armed Palestinians fire mortars and rockets at Israel, and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) respond with aerial assaults at the sources of the attacks, or at various Hamas targets. Last week alone, the Israeli air force attacked the Gaza Strip on seven separate occasions, wounding eight Palestinians. After one of these attacks, the IDF released a statement saying, “The Hamas terrorist organization is the right address, and it bears responsibility.” The gradual but steady escalation stands in stark contradiction to all of the assessments by key figures in Israel’s security establishment, which claims that Hamas is too weak and too isolated at this time, and will therefore do everything it can to avoid another round of military clashes with Israel.

Reflections on 3-year-old Hala Abu Sbekha’s funeral: ‘Gaza is alive’
Ma‘an 11 Jan by Aayesha J Soni (Vice Chairperson of the Johannesburg-based Media Review Network) — Before leaving for Gaza, I was well aware of the statistics in the region which has been under siege since 2007 … However, being well aware of the numbers and seeing the devastation of an entire population living under a constant siege via land, air and sea are two completely different things. We arrived to the gruesome reality of the Gazan population — the funeral of a 3-and-a-half-year-old girl, Hala Abu Sbeikha. She had been martyred by an Israeli strike on her home … We arrived at little Hala’s house, situated in the al-Maghazi refugee camp, to be awakened to the stark reality of what the death of one little child meant. The camp is in close proximity to the Israeli border and is often a target of Israeli fire. We saw the side of Hala’s house completely destroyed — an entire home reduced to rubble within a minute. It was the middle of winter and freezing. I thought about the fact that the Abu Sbeikha family would have to deal not only with the cold left in their hearts by Hala’s absence but by the harsh winters of Gaza as well that night, and for many more nights to come too undoubtedly. We stood in little Hala’s garden where her blood was still evident on the bricks. As she had played innocently with her two other sisters, both of whom were in hospital with injuries as well, a piece of shrapnel penetrated her neck and stole her precious life. We met Hala’s mother, whose strength as she held one of Hala’s younger sisters was enough to move mountains. She stood there, the epitome of resilience and faith, representing what I would soon come to realize lay in the heart of every Gazan — an unconquerable hope and steadfastness you will never find in another population in the world.

Twitter page of Al-Qassam Brigades arbitrarily closed
GAZA (PIC) 12 Jan — Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, said that the administration of the Twitter social networking service had closed without prior notice its increasingly popular English page. Al-Qassam website quoted the supervisor of the removed page as saying that the Twitter administration closed on Thursday the Al-Qassam Brigades page after it had complied with pressures made by “Zionist and Christian groups”.  The supervisor accused Twitter of deliberately removing the page after its followers had become more than 40,000 persons. He said that this arbitrary step by Twitter came after the huge success which Al-Qassam Brigades had achieved in its virtual warfare against the Israeli occupation regime. He described the policy pursued by Twitter as non-professional, noting that Twitter was supposed to remove the page of the criminal Israeli army due to the terrorism it exercises everyday against the occupied Palestinian people.
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Violence / Raids / Clashes / Settler attacks and harassment / Illegal arrests

The IDF no longer even pretends it’s trying
972blog 12 Jan by Yesh Din, written by Yossi Gurvitz — The army admits its observers noticed the masked Israeli bandits descending on Qusra — and did nothing. — A case of man bites dog: on Tuesday, January 7, in the village of Qusra, Palestinians united in order to defend themselves from a group of Israeli marauders, taking the latter captive, and turning them over to the authorities. The rare event drew significant media attention. However one point did not get the attention it required: The IDF told Haaretz newspaper (Hebrew) that “an observation post identified the settlers, some of whom were hooded, descending towards the village, but then eye contact with them was lost.” You get that? The IDF identified a group of masked people heading toward a Palestinian village, and in response it did… nothing. The army entered the picture only after the raiders’ plans had been disrupted, in order to return them to their homes. That is, as far the Israeli army – which effectively is the sovereign over the West Bank — is concerned, it is perfectly reasonable that masked men will pass by its apathetic eyes to raid a Palestinian village. Had the villagers of Qusra not congregated to protect their persons and property, the incident would have ended with more damage to Palestinian property and perhaps more wounding of Palestinians — and it seems the IDF would not have cared that much. Now let’s try and imagine the opposite scenario: masked Palestinians creep toward a settlement. Do you think in this case the IDF observer would consider it sufficient to inform command that it had “lost eye contact” with the suspicious masked group?

Two Palestinians arrested in Bruqin
BRUQIN (ISM Nablus Team) 12 Jan — On Thursday, 9th January 2014, two farmers from Bruqin, in Salfit district, were arrested by Israeli soldiers. 19-year-old Mohammad Baker and 29-year-old Jaad Baker, accompanied by his 4-year-old son and their 40 cows, entered their land to the west of Bruqin. The land between the village and the industrial area of the illegal settlement of Ariel belongs to villagers of Bruqin and the farmers use it for their sheep and cows. At 11:30am Israeli forces entered the land, which is monitored by a surveillance camera, and arrested the two villagers. They were taken in handcuffs to a jeep nearby, leaving the 4-year-old boy alone in the field with the cattle. The soldiers refused to call any family members so that the boy could be brought home to the village. The Israeli forces held the farmers until 2:00pm on the road by the jeep. The men were arrested for entering a closing military zone. The soldiers searched them various times and kept them detained in handcuffs before transferring them to a prison in the illegal settlement of Ariel. Later in the afternoon another family member heard from witnesses of the arrest and went to the field to take the boy home and to gather the cows. The boy is still traumatized.
Furthermore five of the forty cows remain missing. The villagers believe that settlers from the illegal settlement of Bruchin have stolen the cattle. Israeli police have refused to investigate, claiming that they have other issues to deal with. On Saturday morning a police officer called the family to inform them that the prisoners are being held in Ariel and that tomorrow after the Jewish holiday they will be transferred to Haderim prison in Israel. A court hearing is due to be held on Monday, 13th January in the military court in Salem. A lawyer is dealing with the case.

Kifl Hares: Closure of village and settler harassment
KIFL HARES (ISM,Nablus Team) 12 Jan — On Friday, 10th January 2014, at approximately 4 o’clock in the morning, a group of twenty settlers from nearby illegal settlements entered the Palestinian village of Kifl Hares. Some of them arrived in cars, others on foot. The settlers made noise and broke windows of parked cars. Palestinians on their way to the mosque for the first prayers were harassed and settlers in cars tried to run them over. Children were frightened and the villagers were afraid to leave their homes. Previously, on Tuesday 7th January, the Israeli army had closed the gate at the main entrance to the village, which leads to the main road. When villagers asked the reason for this, the soldiers stationed in a watchtower nearby answered that the gate would be closed indefinitely for security reasons.  On Thursday, 9th January, an emergency occurred, when an ambulance attempted to take an elderly lady living near the entrance to a hospital in Nablus. The residents requested that the Israeli soldiers open the gate for just five minutes so that the ambulance could reach the main road. The Israeli forces refused and the paramedic had to carry the lady by hand on a stretcher from her house to the other side of the gate. This delayed her arrival at hospital. The gate has been opened only once in the past few days. This happened on Friday, when the settlers entered the village, implying that the Israeli forces knew of the settler attack.
Illegal settlers and Jewish tourists have entered Kifl Hares on many occasions. The village is located in the northern West Bank in the Salfit district and close to Ariel, the largest of the illegal settlements. The pretext for the incursions into Kifl Hares is a pilgrimage to three disputed tombs. The centuries-old tombs belonging to the village are also important for Muslims. Large numbers of settlers arrive on visits organized by the DCO and with Israeli army protection. Settlers and Jewish tourists from all over the world arrive by bus, frequently during the night. During the incursions, Israeli forces declare the village a closed military zone and Palestinians are required to stay in their homes until the settlers have left. This event occurs around twenty times a year. Nevertheless settlers also come weekly without army protection to pray in the tombs and often to harass or attack villagers.

Israeli forces detain 3 Palestinians near Qalqiliya
QALQILIYA (Ma‘an) 11 Jan — Israeli forces detained three Palestinian men early Saturday in the northern West Bank, locals said. Witnesses told Ma’an that a large number of Israeli troops raided the village of ‘Azzun east of Qalqiliya, detaining Jafar Ahmad Husein, 22, Muhammad Abd al-Karim Salim, 34, and 20-year-old Ibrahim Nassar Salim. Before taking the men into custody, the soldiers ransacked their homes and confiscated one of their families’ vehicles, locals added.

Several Palestinians injured in ‘Aida refugee camp, two kidnapped
IMEMC 00 [Saturday evening, Jan 11] Palestinian medical sources have reported that several residents have been wounded during clashes which took place between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian youth in the ‘Aida refugee camp, north of Bethlehem. The sources said that the wounded Palestinians suffered the effects of tear gas inhalation, and received the needed medical attention.
Eyewitnesses said that the army also fired rounds of live ammunition and rubber-coated metal bullets at a number of youth, and that one of the Palestinians then hurled a Molotov cocktail at the military tower overlooking the camp. In addition, a number of soldiers broke into the Lajee Center “Refugee Center” in the camp, causing panic among the children who were playing there.
Soldiers continued to kidnap two Palestinians identified as Ahmad Al-A’raj, 20, and Samer Oweis, 32, taking them to an unknown destination.

Israeli soldiers attack school in ‘Urif
‘URIF, Occupied Palestine  (ISM, Nablus Team) 12 Jan — At around 9:00am on Sunday 12th January 2014, students at the boys’ school in ‘Urif, in Nablus district, were assaulted by Israeli soldiers firing tear gas grenades within the school grounds. Eleven soldiers from the nearby illegal settlement of Yizhar entered the grounds firing tear gas near the entrance to the school. Several boys resisted the attack by throwing stones. Four of the soldiers then tried to enter a classroom but were prevented from doing so by a teacher. Several hours after the attack, the soldiers remain stationed on a hillside just 200m from the school.
This is the second time in two weeks that the village of ‘Urif has been attacked. The last attack, however, which took place on 6th January, involved six settlers from the illegal settlement Yizhar trying to damage an electricity box attached to the town’s water reservoir. The incursion led to clashes in which Palestinian boys threw stones to repel the settlers.

Israeli forces raid Bethlehem, detain 3 young Palestinian men
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 12 Jan — Israeli forces stormed the city of Bethlehem and a nearby refugee camp early on Sunday morning and detained three young Palestinian men. Locals told Ma‘an that Israeli military vehicles raided ‘Aida refugee camp north of Bethlehem and detained 21-year-old Ahmad Atallah Mashayikh. Another dawn raid by Israeli troops targeted al-Saff neighborhood of Bethlehem, where 17-year-old Walid al-Hreimi and 20-year-old Jivara al-Jantuli were detained.

Israeli forces raid West Bank, Nablus
IMEMC 12 Jan by Chris Carlson — The Palestinian News & Info Agency (WAFA) has reported that forces have raided and searched homes in Idna, Sa‘ir and the al-Hawooz neighborhood of Hebron. A number of people were served with orders to appear before the Israeli security service for interrogation. Military checkpoints were also set up at the northern entrance of Hebron and on the road linking Dura and al-Fawwar refugee camp, where soldiers stopped passing vehicles and checked ID cards.
Furthermore, forces raided homes in the village of ‘Anza, in northern West Bank area of Jenin, and served a 27-year-old man with a summons to appear before the security service. Soldiers also set up military checkpoints at the entrances of ’Arraba, ‘Anza and ‘Azzaweya, inspecting vehicles and checking IDs.
In related news, WAFA also reports that Israeli police have arrested seven people, including five minors, from Shu‘fat refugee camp in Jerusalem. Mohammad Mahmoud, an attorney with Addameer, a support group for prisoners, said that police raided Shu‘fat camp, arresting four minors ranging, in age, between 14 and 16 years old. The minors were taken to the Russian compound police station for interrogation.

Soul searching at a West Bank demonstration
972blog 11 Jan by Noam Rotem (translated by Jordan Michaeli) — ‘I go to demonstrations as a private person protesting the injustice done to the inhabitants of the West Bank. For them, however, I’m an Israeli before anything else, and this dissonance stands at the basis of the soul searching you are now reading.’ — …Only when you see the incomprehensible amounts of tear gas showered on residents’ homes can you understand how an 85-year-old man suffocates, and only then do you realize that army commanders can’t argue that they weren’t aware of the amount of damage caused by their weapons. Only when looking at settlement houses built on territory that used to belong to the village, and by observing where the soldiers are, practically anywhere except for the space between the village and the settlement’s houses, only then do you understand that the name, Israel “Defense Forces” is a sad joke. Only when you see children aged four, six and ten, choke from tear gas the soldiers shoot and escape in terror from armed men shielded head to toe, do you truly understand the price and effect on the human experience of those people Israel chooses to oppress. The violence, the stupidity, the wickedness – all that for a false ideal. For me, that’s the main benefit of being there – a true and deep understanding of the crime, the pain and the price, an understanding which gives strength to continue fighting.

PCHR Weekly Report on Israeli Human Rights Violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (2-8 Jan 2014)
Israeli forces have continued to open fire at border areas in the Gaza Strip.  A Palestinian child was killed in the northern Gaza Strip. 3 civilians were wounded in different shooting incidents. Israeli forces launched 2 airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, but no casualties were reported.  Israeli forces have continued to use excessive force against peaceful protesters in the West Bank.  A Palestinian child was wounded in Bil’in weekly protest, west of Ramallah. Israeli forces conducted 71 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. At least 23 Palestinians, including a child, were arrested. [Full report follows]

OCHA: Two Palestinians killed in Israeli attacks in the first week of 2014
RAMALLAH (PIC) 11 Jan — The UN office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs in occupied Palestine (OCHA) said that two Palestinians were killed and 25 others were wounded by either Israeli troops or settlers during the first week of 2014. In a report released on Saturday, OCHA stated that an 85-year-old Palestinian from Kafr Qaddum village, east of Qalqiliya city, had died last week after he had inhaled tear gas fired by Israeli troops at Palestinian homes. It added in its report, which covered some of the Israeli violations that took place from December 31, 2013 until January 6, 2014, that a 16-year-old boy was also killed and three others suffered injuries in Gaza when they were targeted by Israeli soldiers at the pretext of their presence near the security fence.
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Detainees / Prisoner releases

Amid serious Israeli escalation, detainees start hunger strike
IMEMC 11 Jan — The Palestinian Ministry of Detainees has reported that Palestinian political prisoners held at the Israeli detention facility ‘Ramon’ started a hunger strike to protest the latest serious Israeli assaults carried out against them. Rami Al-‘Alami, a lawyer of the Palestinian Ministry of Detainees, said that the situation at the Ramon Israeli prison could lead to confrontations, especially after four units of the military have continued their assaults against the detainees for the third week in a row. The soldiers, accompanied by military dogs, broke into the cells of the detainees, violently searching them. The Ministry said that the detainees discovered that there are hidden cameras in the walls of their rooms, and protested against this serious violation of their rights. Detainee Abdul-Salam Shokry said that, after the detainees found the hidden cameras and protested the violation, the Prison Administration and the Israeli Security Agency decided to attack the detainees and retrieve the cameras. Shokry added that the soldiers caused excessive damage to the detainees’ property, broke their electrical equipment and forced the detainees into solitary confinement, in another section, after cuffing them and forcing them to undergo a strip search. The issue led to clashes between the detainees and the soldiers, who also attacked and struck several detainees, including Kamal Abu Shanab, Yousef Barghouthi, Ibrahim Ziyada and Ahmad Ka’abna. The prison administration also decided to move the representative of the detainees, Kamal Rajoub, into solitary confinement.

PA expands role in freeing minors detained by Israel
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 1 Jan — One of the major obstacles to ongoing peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians is the continuation of Israeli forces’ detentions raids across the West Bank. These rarely remarked-upon raids are carried out day and night in Palestinian areas and often involve the detention of children. Israel has said that it will not halt detention raids even if a peace agreement is signed, a stipulation that is unacceptable to the Palestinian Authority. In light of Israeli authorities’ insistence on carrying out these raids, the Palestinian Authority’s military liaison department has started working over the last two years to mitigate their effects. “This role has been neglected (in the past). … I contacted the Israeli military liaison department and proposed (applying) the UNICEF definition of children’s rights, highlighting that Palestinian children are being terrified and denied their rights when they are detained for various charges,” said the director of the PA’s military liaison department Jihad al-Jayousi. He told Ma’an that his Israeli counterparts reacted positively to his remarks.  “In April 2012, we agreed that when any Palestinian child is detained, the Palestinian liaison department could intervene and release him even before he is sent to the Israeli police.” According to Defense for Children International, between 500-700 Palestinian children are detained by Israeli forces in the West Bank every year and prosecuted in Israeli military courts. Al-Jayousi confirmed that his department managed to free 90 percent of Palestinian minors whose cases were brought forward by either family members, governorate offices, or other means.  “Last year we managed to free 349 minors,” he added.

The Black Panther comes home with no regrets
QABATIYA, West Bank (Times of Israel) 10 Jan by Avi  Issacharoff — Ahmad Iwad Ali Kamil, 51, smiles when I ask him about his return to Qabatiya after 21 years in an Israeli prison. “Wallah, I wouldn’t recognize this place if I came here at night,” he says about his childhood town, located a few kilometers south of Jenin. “But this is part of progress, of advancement. We changed, you changed, and I hope this will continue when there is peace here,” he says. About a week has passed since his release from prison, but the flow of visitors to his house doesn’t let up. Another senior Fatah official arrives, and a member of the security forces — former brothers-in-arms, who were in the same Black Panthers cell until they were arrested by the Israel Defense Forces in 1993. Kamil became something of a “legend” among many Palestinians in the early 1990s….

Protesters urge release of Israeli Arab security prisoners
Ynet 10 Jan by Hassan Shaalan — Hundreds attended a Friday rally in support of security prisoners, held in the village of Ara. Protesters waved pictures of prisoners and Palestinian flags in demand of the release of Israeli-Arab prisoners … Various reports, however, indicated that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may hinder the group’s release by stipulating that it take effect only if Jonathan Pollard is released …  Samer Issawi – who was held in Israeli prison for involvement in shooting attack against Israelis, released in the Shalit prisoner exchange deal, jailed again, and released again following a lengthy hunger strike – was present at the event, and said: “At first, they convicted Nelson Mandela who supported terror, and then later recognized him for the man of peace that he was and gave him a Nobel Peace Prize. Security prisoners deserve the same prize. They are supporters of peace [now].” Issawi added: “We will continue to fight for all prisoners. We will not allow the prisoner release deal to exclude Israeli Arabs.”,7340,L-4475398,00.html

Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Judaization

New Israeli excavation near Silwan tunnel in East Jerusalem
[photos] JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 12 Jan — Israeli archaeological teams have recently started new excavations near the Silwan tunnel in East Jerusalem, the Al-Aqsa Foundation said in a statement on Sunday. The foundation said that its teams had noticed surface and underground excavations near the tunnel, which runs from the Al-Aqsa Mosque to Silwan. The excavations are the continuation of an Israeli project to build a biblical park in the area alongside the City of David archaeological park, the statement added. The park will be built on 2200 square meters and will be connected with a network of tunnels Israeli authorities have been digging under parts of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, according to the statement. In the past, tunnels have partially collapsed and caused holes to open up above them, threatening Palestinian homes, roads, and a local mosque.
Israel frequently permits excavations and archaeological digs in East Jerusalem, specifically around the Al-Aqsa mosque, that threaten the structural integrity of Palestinian homes and holy sites in the area. In 1967, Israel demolished the 800-year-old Moroccan Quarter of Jerusalem, displacing 650 Palestinians and destroying numerous mosques, homes, and holy sites, in order to build a plaza in front of the Western Wall.  Israel also evicted around 6,000 Palestinians from nearby areas in order to massively expand the city’s historical Jewish Quarter.

Israel annexes Palestinian lands to expand industrial settlement of Ariel
SALFIT (PIC) 12 Jan — Palestinian farmers said that the Israeli occupation authority uses nowadays heavy construction vehicles and explosives to level the Palestinian land around the illegal industrial settlement of Ariel in order to expand the settlement for the building of more factories. They added that these settlement expansion works are taking place on Palestinian annexed lands near the farms of Abu Kayed and Abu Basal, west of Salfit city, noting that the expansion of this settlement would reduce the green areas used for grazing cattle. These annexed lands belong to Salfit city and the towns of Kifl Hares and Bruqin.
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Israeli police detain Palestinian woman near al-Aqsa Mosque
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 12 Jan — Israeli police officers detained a young Palestinian woman Sunday morning as she tried to enter the al-Aqsa Mosque compound through the Chain Gate.  Witnesses told a Ma’an reporter that Hiba al-Taweel, a student who takes courses on Islamic teaching in the compound, was detained….
Separately, more than 30 Jewish Israelis led by right wing extremist Yehuda Glick toured the al-Aqsa compound on Sunday. Yehuda Glick is an American-born Israeli and the chairman of the Temple Mount Heritage Fund, an extremist Jewish organization focused on “strengthening the relationship between Israel and the Temple Mount.” He has been previously banned by Israeli authorities from entering the compound due to provocations while on the site. Critics charge that the Fund actually leads tours to the site with the intention of leading Jewish prayer there — currently banned under Israeli agreements — and encouraging Jews to destroy the Al-Aqsa mosque and build a Jewish temple there.

ALECSO condemns Israel’s intents to divide Aqsa Mosque
TUNISIA (PIC) 11 Jan — The Arab League educational, cultural and scientific organization (ALECSO) strongly denounced Israel’s declared intention to divide the Aqsa Mosque between Muslims and Jews. In a press release, the organization slammed the attempts by the Israeli government and the Knesset to sanction a law to preserve what they described the temple mount as a holy place for Jews. ALECSO warned of Israeli intentions to fully control and Judaize Jerusalem and seize the Aqsa Mosque, and stressed the need for an Arab action to confront Israel’s schemes in Jerusalem.
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Palestinian refugees in Syria

Officials: Efforts to lift Yarmouk siege have failed
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 12 Jan — Efforts to send supplies into Syria’s besieged Yarmouk camp are still futile, Palestinian officials said Sunday. “All efforts to end the siege on Yarmouk camp have failed,” the director of the Palestinian Democratic Union told Ma‘an.
There was “an incident that occurred at the entrance of the camp, preventing the entry of supplies,” Khalid Abu al-Haija said, without elaborating. A PLO Executive Committee member said that the presence of militants in Yarmouk camp impeded the entry of supplies, due to a heavy exchange of fire. Ahmad Majdalani said that Palestinian officials would continue their efforts to “save refugees in Yarmouk camp.” “We are in intensive contact with Syrian officials and militants in Palestinian camps in Syria in order to reach a solution and create a safe passage for the entry of relief supplies to Yarmouk,” Majdalani said. The lives of refugees are in danger, he said.
Earlier Sunday, Fatah Central Committee Member Muhammad Shtayyeh told Ma‘an that the siege on Yarmouk would be lifted “tomorrow.”

Action group for Syria’s Palestinians slams PFLP-GC for minifying Yarmouk crisis
LONDON (PIC) 12 Jan — The action group for the Palestinians in Syria strongly denounced head of the Popular Front-General Command (PFLP-GC) Hosam Arafat in the West Bank for minimizing the tragedy of Al-Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus, which led 40 Palestinians to starve to death. Coordinator of the action group Tareq Hamoud told Quds Press that Arafat’s claim that a few number of Palestinians were affected by the blockade on Al-Yarmouk camp was an implicit confession of the GC’s direct responsibility for the siege imposed on Al-Yarmouk refugees. Hamoud stated that such an attempt to play down the number of the victims or the affected people reflects that the leadership of the GC has no moral, humanitarian or national feelings.
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Protest against Yarmouk crisis inaction at PLO office in Ramallah
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 12 Jan — Protesters held a sit-in at the offices of the Palestine Liberation Organization in Ramallah on Sunday morning in protest against the PLO’s inaction in the face of the crisis facing Palestinian refugees in Syria. Activists gathered at the main entrance to the building which houses the offices of the PLO and tried to prevent employees from accessing their offices in protest against the “delayed” efforts of the PLO to prevent a “famine” in Syria’s besieged Yarmouk refugee camp. Palestinian Authority security forces deployed in the area in order to disperse the protest, but protesters refused to leave and staged a sit-in strike in front of the building. Protester Rita Abu Ghosh told a Ma‘an reporter that security officers took the identity cards of several protesters. Abu Ghosh added that security forces also detained an activist she identified as Yasin Sbeih.

Dozens gather for Yarmouk solidarity rally in Gaza
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 11 Jan — Dozens of activists rallied in Gaza City on Saturday to show solidarity with Palestinian refugees in Syria’s besieged Yarmouk camp. Protestors gathered in front of the International Red Cross Committee office, holding signs calling for an end to the deadly blockade imposed on the camp. Demonstrators delivered speeches urging the rally, urging militant groups to implement an agreement previously agreed upon to leave Yarmouk. “The agreement included withdrawal of militants from the refugee camp, ending the siege, and allowing food products into the camp,” said Mahmoud al-Ziq, a member of the politburo of the Popular Struggle Front. Al-Ziq spoke out against Palestinian factions that have taken sides in the Syrian conflict, advocating instead for neutrality. He also urged Syrian government and the international community to provide humanitarian aid to Yarmouk.
Similarly, a spokesperson for a Gaza-based NGO said humanitarian aid convoys should be sent to the camp to ease the suffering of its residents, who he said have been living under siege for 180 days.


Jordan Valley settlements hurt by boycott campaign
AP 11 Jan — An international campaign to boycott Israeli settlement products has rapidly turned from a distant nuisance into a harsh economic reality for Israeli farmers in the West Bank’s Jordan Valley. The export-driven income of growers in the valley’s 21 settlements dropped by more than 14 percent, or $29 million, last year, largely because Western European supermarket chains, particularly those in Britain and Scandinavia, are increasingly shunning the area’s peppers, dates, grapes and fresh herbs, settlers say. “The damage is enormous,” said David Elhayani, head of the Jordan Valley Regional Council, which represents about 7,000 settlers. “In effect, today, we are almost not selling to the (Western) European market anymore.,7340,L-4475446,00.html

Academics condemn Israel, but won’t back boycottt
Times of Israel (JTA) 12 Jan — WASHINGTON — Delegates to the Modern Language Association’s annual convention upheld a resolution accusing Israel of keeping Palestinian academics from entering the West Bank, but rejected another expressing solidarity with academics that boycott Israel. After an hour or so of acrimonious debate in Chicago on Saturday, the MLA’s delegate assembly in a 60-53 vote approved a resolution calling on the US State Department to “contest Israel’s denials of entry to the West Bank by US academics who have been invited to teach, confer, or do research at Palestinian universities.” The resolution goes to the MLA’s executive committee for consideration next month. If the executive committee approves it, it goes to the full membership.
Another resolution referred to a vote last month by the American Studies Association to boycott Israeli universities, and its aftermath, in which over 180 American universities have rejected any such boycott. That resolution, defeated 59-41, “condemns the attacks on the ASA and supports the right of academic organizations and individuals, free from intimidation, to take positions in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle against racism.”  The resolution did not specify what intimidation the ASA had suffered as a result of its vote.

Growing boycott will ‘hit each of us in the pocket’ warns Yair Lapid
IMEMC 11 Jan by Chris Carlson — Israeli finance minister Yair Lapid has become the latest senior official to warn about the serious impact of growing boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaigns targeting Israel. “The world seems to be losing patience with us,” Lapid told the Hebrew edition of Ynet on 10 January, according to the Electronic Intifada. “In the case of Horizon 2020 (a scientific collaboration with Europe), we managed to avert the damage, and then all of a sudden, a boycott in American academia. We haven’t managed to create an effect around the Iranian agreement, because our voice was not sufficiently heard, because our standing is not as it should be. If we don’t make progress with the Palestinians, we will lose the support of the world and our legitimacy.” Lapid, leader of the Yesh Atid faction, is the senior coalition partner of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Death of Sharon

Sharon’s death sparks joy in Sabra, Shatila refugee camps
BEIRUT (AFP) 12 Jan — Adel Makki rushed into the street in Beirut’s Shatila Palestinian refugee camp Saturday to hand out sweets when he learned of the death of Ariel Sharon, the Israeli leader Palestinians blame for a massacre of hundreds there and in the nearby Sabra camp. “I was relieved when I found out that Sharon was dead. I think the (eight) years he spent in a coma were punishment from God for the crimes he committed,” Makki, age 19, told AFP. Over three days, beginning on September 16, 1982, hundreds of men, women and children were massacred in Sabra and Shatila on the southern outskirts of Beirut. Some 500 more simply vanished without a trace, among them Makki’s uncle. Israel had invaded Lebanon three months before, and the brutal killings, the work of Israel’s Lebanese Phalangist allies, were carried out as Israeli troops surrounded the camps. Sharon, who was defense minister at the time, was forced to resign after an Israeli commission of inquiry found he had been “indirectly responsible” for the massacres. Ten-year-old Ahmad Khodr al-Gosh said Saturday: “I took a piece of candy because the assassin is dead. He killed hundreds of women and children. We are now relieved.” The narrow alleyways of the impoverished Shatila camp came to life when the news broke.

Sharon was planning diplomatic moves beyond Gaza, leaked documents reveal
Haaretz 13 Jan by Barak Ravid — U.S. cables, Palestinian papers quote then-Israeli prime minister eyeing negotiated withdrawals from West Bank … The disengagement plan was approved by the Knesset on October 26, 2004, after a stormy debate. Only a month later, on November 30, 2004, Sharon hosted two U.S. senators in his office – Chuck Hagel, who is now defense secretary, and Joe Biden, now vice president. According to an American cable, Sharon stressed to Biden and Hagel that he was committed to making peace with the Palestinians despite the major domestic struggles he would face “from a left that has no power, and a right which was totally opposed to his initiative.” Sharon told them that the post-Arafat era had presented “a new opportunity” to coordinate the Gaza withdrawal with the Palestinians. The report added that Sharon assured them that if disengagement went off successfully, the Road Map could then be implemented in stages, as had been envisioned by then-U.S. President George W. Bush.  On December 27, 2004, Sharon met with Sen. Joseph Lieberman and told him that after disengagement, he wanted to return to implementing the Road Map, on condition that the Palestinians fight terror. “Israel does not expect Abu Mazen [Abbas] to be a Zionist, but steps need to be taken against terrorism,” he said. In his summary of that meeting, then-U.S. Ambassador Dan Kurtzer makes it clear that Sharon had no intention of stopping with the Gaza withdrawal, but planned to take far-reaching steps in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Kurtzer noted that Sharon put emphasis on annexing the major settlement blocs, implying he would concede other parts of the West Bank, and that while he would not even discuss dividing Jerusalem, he would consider handing over some Arab neighborhoods, “but not the Temple Mount, Mount of Olives or the City of David.”

Atrocities and Bantustans: The legacy of Ariel Sharon
IMEU 11 Jan — During more than a half century in the Israeli military and politics, Ariel Sharon became a figure reviled by Palestinians, the Arab world, much of the international community, and even by many Israelis. He was responsible for numerous atrocities and war crimes, including the killing of tens of thousands of Palestinian, Lebanese, and other civilians, destroying thousands of Palestinian homes, and the theft and colonization of massive amounts of occupied Palestinian land. Although some revisionists and Sharon supporters claim that he had turned over a new leaf and was prepared to make painful concessions towards peace with the Palestinians prior to suffering a massive stroke and falling into a coma in January 2006, the facts lead to a very different conclusion. The following fact sheet provides an overview of Sharon’s war crimes and crimes against humanity, which continue to have a devastating impact on both the victims of his actions and the chances for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Other news

Abbas: Without East Jerusalem there will be no peace with Israel
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 11 Jan — Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas told a delegation on Saturday that without East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state, there will be “no peace between us and Israel.” Speaking to a popular delegation from Jerusalem Saturday in his office in Ramallah, Abbas highlighted that the Arab Follow-up Committee would reiterate this stance during a meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday. “He will be told that occupied East Jerusalem is the capital of the state of Palestine, and without this there will be no peace between us and Israel.” The current round of negotiations has been limited to nine months after which “we are free to do whatever we want,” he said, highlighting that, “the time frame is limited and not open, and our unanimous position isn’t secret.” He added that he heard that they (the Israelis) had refused to mention Jerusalem in any talks or negotiations.

Ashrawi: recognizing Israel as ‘Jewish state’ would legalize ‘racism’
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 11 Jan — Israel’s pressure on Palestinians to recognize it as a Jewish state is an attempt to legalize “racism,” a PLO official said Saturday. PLO Executive Committee Member Hanan Ashrawi said defining Israel as a Jewish state would signify that any Jewish person would have the right to return to Palestine, while Palestinians would lose that right. Ashrawi told Ma’an that Israel wants to “create a narrative that denies the Palestinian presence, rights, and continuity on the historic Palestinian lands.” A “Jewish state” recognition would exempt Israel from its responsibility toward the Palestinian refugees who were forcibly displaced from their homes in 1948, she said. Similarly, a former Palestinian member of the Israeli Knesset said that recognizing Israel as such a state would “annul the Palestinian narrative about the Nakba.”  It would abolish the right of the refugees to return, said Talab al-Sani.

Ministers reject bill to disallow talks on Jerusalem, refugees
Times of Israel 12 Jan — A bill that would prohibit the prime minister from negotiating with the Palestinians on the issues of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees without prior consent from the Knesset was rejected Sunday by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation. The bill, authored by Likud MK Miri Regev, would force the prime minister to seek parliamentary approval even to bring up the subjects during negotiations with the Palestinians. The vote means that the bill will not have the backing of the coalition and will almost surely fail once it moves to the Knesset … There is already a law on the books requiring that any peace deal that relinquishes sovereign Israeli territory be put to a national referendum.

Former Shin Bet head leaves Denmark over ‘torture’ complaint
Times of Israel (JTA) 12 Jan — Carmi Gillon says he is shocked by the claim, which was filed with Danish police by a pro-Palestinian group — former director of Israel’s Shin Bet security service left Denmark early after a Danish police complaint filed by a pro-Palestinian group accused him of torture. Carmi Gillon left Denmark Saturday afternoon without attending the Copenhagen Film Festival for a showing of the documentary “The Gatekeepers,” and without delivering a scheduled lecture. Gillon is one of six former heads of the Shin Bet to be interviewed for the documentary. Gillon, who headed the Shin Bet in the mid-1990s, at first said he would remain in the country, according to the Danish daily Kristeligt-Dagblad, then decided not to take any chances and left before his scheduled appearance at the film festival … The Danish prosecutor’s office rejected the complaint, citing lack of evidence of Gillon’s involvement in torture, Haaretz reported. The Oscar-nominated documentary “The Gatekeepers” presents interviews with six former leaders of the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service, and records their perceptions of how successive Israeli governments missed opportunities for peace.

Israeli forces disperse protest against reckless driving with tear gas
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 11 Jan — Israeli forces dispersed a Palestinian demonstration against reckless driving by firing tear gas canisters at protesters south of Nablus on Saturday. Local residents blocked a road in the town of Huwwara in the Northern West Bank as part of a demonstration against speeding drivers on the road, a major north-south thoroughfare used by Israeli settlers and local Palestinian residents. The protest came in response to several incidents in which drivers hit and killed pedestrians on the road, including the most recent in which two children were killed by a speeding driver. Israeli soldiers came to the scene of the protest and began launching tear gas canisters at the crowd in order to disperse them and open the road to vehicular traffic.

UN warns Israel over indefinite detention of migrants
Times of Israel 11 Jan — The UN’s refugee agency Friday warned that Israel’s new rules allowing indefinite detention of asylum-seekers may violate international law. The legislation, passed last month by the Knesset, allowed the incarceration of illegal migrants after June 2013 for up to a year without trial and to keep them indefinitely at a detention facility in southern Israel. According to the AFP news agency, the spokesman for the UN high commissioner for refugees, said Israel’s new rules could open the door to indefinite detention of illegal migrants. Adrian Edwards said the Holot detention facility in Israel’s Negev Desert to house new arrivals is problematic. “Since Holot is housing people who cannot be returned to their countries of origin for reasons to do with non-forced returns, we’re concerned that this facility will in effect result in indefinite detention with no release grounds,” Edwards told reporters.

Blue or white collar, racism prevails in Israel’s job market
11 Jan by Yossi Dahan  (Translated from Hebrew by Noam Benishei) — Yuval Hershkowitz, an Ashkenazi Jew, and Yuval Amsalem, a Mizrahi Jew, graduated from the same high school. They recently completed their military service, where they were both trained in counterterrorism. Both of them sent their resumes by email to potential employers seeking to recruit security guards. Their application letters were sent to employers in six different regions around Israel; the number of replies Hershkowitz received from employers asking for more information was double what Amsalem received. He also got twice as many invitations to in-person interviews.
Eden Almog, a Jew, and Waleed Houri, an Arab, both live in the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan. They both attended the same high school, graduated cum laude from the Hebrew University’s law school and served as teaching assistants. The two interned with the State Attorney’s office. Both are proficient in Hebrew and English, while Houri also has full command of Arabic. Almog and Houri alike have engaged in volunteer work with disadvantaged adults and children. Almog served in the army, while Houri performed his civil national service in a hospital. Eighty-nine of their resumes were sent to prominent Israeli law firms (not the same ones, but rather randomly-selected firms of a similar standing). Almog’s resume garnered twice as many receipt confirmations as Houri’s, and he received four times as many interview invitations as his counterpart.

Video: Sami al Haj 12th anniversary of Guantánamo Bay message
10 Jan — On the 12th anniversary of Guantanamo Bay, Sami al Haj, former Al-Jazeera cameraman who was wrongly imprisoned there between 2002 and 2008, sends a message to the Obama administration and the rest of the world. (listserv) (archive)

About Kate

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

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