Fadel Abu Odwan, 13, in critical condition after being shot by Israeli military in Gaza

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Gaza under blockade

13-year-old shot and seriously injured near Rafah
IMEMC Sat 22 Feb by Chris Carlson — A Palestinian child, age 13, has been seriously injured, on Friday evening, as Israeli forces east of Rafah fired at him. Al Ray reports that medical sources at Abu Yousef al-Najjar Hospital in the southern Gaza Strip said Fadel Abu Odwan, 13, was shot in the pelvis, assessing his this status as critical. The child was transferred to the European Hospital in Khan Younis, given his serious injury, the sources added. The Israeli military claimed that they targeted a militant, saying that the shooting was carried out after the ‘militant’ did not respond to the calls of the Israeli soldiers.
Some 16 Palestinian civilians were injured earlier, one child critically, by Israeli occupation forces east of Jabalya, during a weekly border protest against Israel limiting the buffer zone imposed along the east borders and the blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Egyptian naval ship fires at Gaza fishermen
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 22 Feb — An Egyptian naval ship opened fire at a Palestinian fishing boat off the coast of the southern Gaza Strip early Saturday, a Palestinian union official said. Nizar Ayyash, spokesman for the union of Gaza fishermen, told Ma‘an that the Egyptian navy fired warning shots at a fishing boat off the coast of Rafah. The fishing boat was nearing Egyptian territorial waters, Ayyash said. The Egyptian ship was stationed just within Palestinian territorial waters at the time, he added. Ayyash said that the Gaza fishing boat sailed away after the warning shots were fired. No injuries were reported.

Rafah crossing to open on Sunday for two days
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 22 Feb — The Gaza Strip Ministry of the Interior said on Saturday that Egyptian authorities had agreed to open the Rafah crossing on Sunday morning in order to allow pilgrims and those stranded in Egypt to travel over the next two days. The ministry said in a statement that the Egyptian side had informed them of their intention to open the crossing to allow the first batch of three groups of pilgrims to cross en route to Mecca as well as to allow the return of another group of pilgrims. The crossing, which is the sole connection between the Gaza Strip’s 1.5 million inhabitants and outside world, would also open to allow Palestinians currently stuck inside Egypt to return home. However, there was no indication as to whether Egypt would allow humanitarian cases from the Gaza Strip to cross into Egypt.

Israel allows 230 aid trucks into Gaza
GAZA (IANS/WAM) 23 Feb — Israeli authorities Sunday opened the Karam Abu Salem crossing to allow the entry of 230 trucks into Gaza. Raed Fattouh, head of the coordination committee for entry of goods in the Gaza Strip, said the Israeli side decided to allow the entry of goods for commercial, agricultural, transportation and other aid sectors. Fattouh added that industrial diesel for the Gaza power plant, transportation fuel and cooking gas will be pumped through the terminal.

Hamas govt says to privatize Gaza crossings
GAZA CITY (AFP) 22 Feb — The Hamas government has said it plans to let private contractors take over the running of the Palestinian territory’s border crossings with Egypt and Israel. “The government is to give the private sector the opportunity to handle the technical management of crossing points from the Gaza Strip,” Hamas deputy prime minister Ziad al-Zaza told AFP on Saturday and said that a commission of seven businessmen would be dedicated to the project. “Supervision of all terminals will be under government control,” said Zaza, who is also finance minister. The coastal strip, whose air and sea lanes are blocked by Israel, has three land crossings; Erez and Kerem Shalom with Israel and Rafah with Egypt. Kerem Shalom is for goods only, while Erez and Rafah are for passenger traffic.
Hamas MPs, who hold the majority of seats in the Palestinian parliament — met in special session in a tent at Rafah on Sunday to demand that Egypt lift border crossing restrictions. “We are here in front of the Rafah terminal to ask our brothers in Egypt to open Rafah to goods and persons,” deputy parliament speaker Ahmad Bahar said. Egypt imposed the restrictions as part of a campaign by its security forces against ‘jihadists’ in the lawless Sinai Peninsula, which borders Gaza and Israel.

Destruction of tunnels marks the end of good times for Gazan entrepreneurs
RAFAH, Gaza Strip (The National (UAE)) 22 Feb by Hugh Naylor — There was a time when Abu Mohammed reaped almost unimaginable riches from a tunnel industry that spurred an unprecedented boom in this once sleepy border town. More than a million dollars in cash passed through his hands in recent years, he said, from his business of hauling in construction material from Egypt to circumvent the Israeli blockade of Gaza. Unlike dozens of tunnel operators in Rafah, who spent their sudden influx of cash on villas and flashy cars, Abu Mohammed played the long game. Dreaming of more bounty, he invested his earnings in building more tunnels. But, after Egypt destroyed the 1,200 tunnels that bring Gazans everything from medicine, concrete and weapons to buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken, those dreams have come crashing down. Like many here, he faces ruin. “I got greedy. That was my problem,” said Abu Mohammed, 30, a father of two whose five tunnels were blown up or bulldozed by the Egyptian military over the past eight months. That left him with no way to pay back the US$80,000 (Dh294,000) in loans that he took out to construct more tunnels. He now lives at his parents’ home in Rafah with wife and children.

In pictures: Down and out in Rafah after tunnels close
The National (UAE) 22 February

Video from Gaza: Israeli Apartheid Week – 2014
GAZA (Israeli Apartheid Week – Gaza Strip) 22 February

Protest in Gaza for al-Aqsa and against CAR killings
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 22 Feb — Dozens of protesters rallied in front of the United Nations headquarters on Saturday in support of the al-Aqsa mosque and in condemnation of massacres against Muslims in the Central African Republic. Supporters of the Popular Resistance Movement and other political parties protested against repeated Israeli incursions into the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem in recent weeks, stressing the unity of the Palestinian people in the face of the Israeli occupation.

Islamic Jihad: Deir al-Balah man dies during al-Quds Brigades exercise
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 22 Feb — A member of the Islamic Jihad’s armed movement al-Quds Brigades has died in a “jihadist mission,” according to the group. Al-Quds Brigades said in a statement that 24-year-old Zidan Muhmmad Fatayer from Deir al-Balah died on Saturday evening fulfilling his “duty.” The statement did not explain the circumstances of his death.

PHOTOS: Daily life in Gaza through our Palestinian eyes
22 Feb Photos by Ezz Alzaanon, Gaza — This Little Photos Documentary show the life of the Palestinians through the eyes of the Palestinian people in Gaza. [many photos, of all kinds]

125-yr-old Palestinian does not trust ‘red meat’
Emirates 24/7 23 Feb — Rajab Al Toum of Palestine wants to enter into the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest person on earth. He puts his age at 125 years as he was born in 1889 and fought during the World War I for the Ottoman Empire which had ruled the region for hundreds of years. Al Toum’s says he is still in good health and reveals that the secret of his long life is his good eating habits as he does not “trust” red meat and had mostly olive oil, milk and rabbit meat. A resident of the Gaza Strip, the man had lived in five different eras, including the Ottomans, the British colonialists, the Egyptian rule, the Israeli occupation and now under the Palestinian fundamentalist group Hamas. Quoted by the Turkish Anatolian news agency, Al Toum, he said he was summoned for military service by the Ottomans when he was 30 years old. He fought with them during the World War I against the allied forces in Lebanon before the Turks were defeated and forced out of the Middle East in 1918. He went back to Gaza and married but his wife was infertile. He married again and had four sons and five daughters. His family now comprises 370 members.

Violence / Raids / Clashes / Suppression of protests / Illegal arrests

In photos: Thousands mark Ibrahimi massacre anniversary in Hebron
Ma‘an Sat 22 Feb — The streets of central Hebron filled with protesters on Friday afternoon as around 2,000 Palestinian and international activists marked the 20th anniversary of the Ibrahimi mosque massacre. Protesters marched through the southern West Bank city calling for the re-opening of Shuhada Street, a major thoroughfare that was closed by Israeli forces in the wake of the 1994 killing of 29 Palestinian worshipers by an armed Jewish extremist. Demonstrators were met with violence by Israeli soldiers, who maintain a heavy presence in Hebron’s Old City near areas where around 500 Jewish settlers have taken over properties … Clashes broke out following the protests, turning Hebron’s center into a battleground for hours on Friday afternoon. Coordinator for the activist group Youths against Settlements Issa Amro said that Israeli forces chased protesters into the Bab al-Zawya neighborhood and fired rubber-coated steel bullets, injuring 13

Settlers assault farmers in Beit Ummar
HEBRON (Ma‘an) Sat 22 Feb — Israeli settlers on Saturday attacked a farmer and his sons in the southern West Bank near Beit Ummar, a popular committee spokesman said. Muhammad Ayad Awad, spokesman for the Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements in Beit Ummar, said that around 15 Israeli settlers attacked Muhammad Abd al-Hamid Jaber al-Salibi and his sons in the Wad Abu Rish area near the Israeli settlement of Bat Ayin while they were working on their land. The settlers hurled rocks, but no were casualties reported, Awad said. He added that Israeli forces came to the scene and forced the farmer and his sons to leave the area at gunpoint.

Settlers attack homes and smash vehicle in Jit, near Nablus
NABLUS (Ma‘an) Sat 22 Feb — Dozens of Israeli settlers attacked private homes and smashed vehicles on Saturday evening in the village of Jeet near Nablus, a PA official said. Ghassan Daghlas, a PA official who monitors settlement activity in the northern West Bank, said that dozens of settlers from the Israeli outpost of Havat Gilad hurled rocks at local homes and smashed vehicles on the main village road. Clashes subsequently broke out between settlers and locals, who tried to stop them from attacking the village.
Daghlas said that the settlers attacked local farmers who were planting seedlings near the village on lands they own located close to the illegal Israeli outpost. Locals confronted the settlers and forced them to leave the village after throwing stones.

Settlers break into Aqsa Mosque
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (PIC) 23 Feb — Jewish settlers broke into the Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem on Sunday morning via the Maghareba gate and toured its various plazas under tight police protection. Mahmoud Abulatta, the media coordinator of the Aqsa foundation for Endowment and Heritage, told Safa news agency that special police forces escorted the 22 settlers who broke into the holy site. He pointed out that the police force arrested a Palestinian citizen during the tour and took him to a police station.
Abulatta pointed out that more than 1,200 scholars were inside the Mosque along with around 300 worshipers. He added that the Israeli occupation authority was annoyed by such a big number of worshipers and vigilantes [? scholars] and tried to tighten entry measures to reduce the number.
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7 kidnapped across West Bank, 2 from Qalqiliya detained
IMEMC Sun 23 Feb by Chris Carlson — Israeli occupation forces kidnapped, on Sunday, seven Palestinians from different areas in the West Bank during the last 12 hours. Al Ray reports that in Hebron, Israeli forces took Ma’mon al-Fakhory, 27, and handed two other citizens summons to go to the Israeli interrogation centre in Gush Etzion settlement. Forces raided the houses of Alaa Abu Ajameyya, 30, and Hesham Erziqat, serving them summons orders. Taken on Saturday were two children from Fajjar village, southern Bethlehem; two from ‘Aida refugee camp were served with summons orders. Saturday evening, both Shaheen Shaheen, 15, and Mohammed Taqatqa, 16, were kidnapped at a sudden checkpoint set near the village’s clinic. The sources added that undercover individuals belonging to the occupation forces stopped a vehicle on Ras Beit Jala area, took into Israeli custody its Palestinian driver and confiscated the vehicle. Occupation forces kidnapped another Palestinian citizen at a checkpoint set near al-Khader village, southern Bethlehem. Yesterday evening, two Palestinian youths from the Old City of the Occupied Jerusalem were kidnapped and taken to “al-Qashla” police station. Eyewitnesses said that occupation forces took both Mohammed al-Salayma,18, and Mohammed Asaliya,20, during clashes which took place in the Old City of Jerusalem. Furthermore Israeli forces took, on Saturday night, two Palestinian citizens in Anabta town under the pretext of having two explosives and a Molotov cocktail. In the northern West Bank, late Saturday night, Israeli forces detained two young Palestinian men from Kafr Qaddum village, according to a local spokesperson. Ma‘an reports that Murad Shteiwi, a spokesman for the local committees in the villages east of Qalqiliya, told a Ma‘an reporter on Sunday that Israeli forces raided the village and detained 20-year-old Ubayy Mufeed Shteiwi overnight, adding that earlier on Saturday evening, Israeli troops detained 25-year-old Sharaf Dawood Shteiwi at a flying checkpoint between the Nablus-area villages of Sarra and Jit.

2 detained at checkpoint east of Tulkarem
TULKAREM (Ma‘an) Sat 22 Feb — Israeli forces detained two youths at Enav checkpoint east of Tulkarem on Saturday evening. Local Palestinian sources said that a car belonging to Israeli intelligence forces arrived in the area and began searching vehicles and checking the identity cards of passing cars at the Enav checkpoint. The sources added that Israeli forced detained two young men from the village before they reopened the road to traffic. The two were identified as Muhammad Suleiman Dawrish Ghanem, 17, and Mahmoud Hasem Musa, 17. An Israeli army spokeswoman said that the two were “carrying two IEDs and a molotov cocktail,” and were “transferred for security questioning.”

Israeli forces close 2 Nablus checkpoints
NABLUS (Ma‘an) Sun 23 Feb — Israeli forces on Sunday closed two checkpoints in the northern West Bank, forcing cars to take alternative routes, witnesses said. Witnesses told Ma‘an that Israeli forces closed the Huwarra and Zaatara checkpoints south of Nablus in order to examine suspicious items in the area. Bomb experts arrived at the scene to examine the objects, the witnesses said, without elaborating. An Israeli army spokeswoman said that two Palestinians near the Yizhar settlement south of Nablus were found carrying “six IEDs,” though she could not immediately confirm whether this caused the checkpoint closures. The spokeswoman said the Palestinians were “questioned at the scene” and that the “IEDs were detonated in a controlled manner.”

Israeli forces arrest man in Bethlehem village
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) Sun 23 Feb — Israeli forces on Sunday arrested a Palestinian man in al-Rashayida village east of Bethlehem, a local official said. Fawaz Rashayida, head of the village council, told Ma‘an that Israeli forces arrested 48-year-old Hashim Ali Awda Rashayida at a flying checkpoint at the entrance of the village.

Palestinian-Israeli collaborator shot dead in Rehovot
REHOVOT, Israel (Ma‘an) Sat 22 Feb — A Palestinian citizen of Israel was shot dead by unknown assailants at a construction site in central Israel early Saturday. The victim was a 34-year-old Palestinian who had acquired Israeli citizenship after serving as a collaborator with the Israeli intelligence services Shin Bet, and was a resident of Gedera in central Israel, a Ma‘an reporter said. The victim’s name, however, was not immediately made public.

Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Restrictions on expression

Israel pushing to legalize West Bank outpost slated for demolition
Haaretz 23 Feb by Amira Hass — Demolition orders issued against Avigayl, in the southern Hebron Hills, since its establishment in 2001 have never been enforced — The Defense Ministry is in the process of legalizing the status of Avigayil, an illegal outpost in the southern Hebron Hills. Avigayil, founded in 2001 on more than 1,000 dunams (250 acres) of land, is located between the Maon and Susiya settlements. The authorization process is at an advanced stage. Avigayil is part of a chain of Jewish settlements and unauthorized outposts in the area that is rapidly expanding into a bloc that also includes Beit Yattir, Havat Lucifer, Mitzpeh Yair, Susiya, Maon, Havat Maon and Carmel. The official combined area of the legal settlements in the area, excluding Maon and Avigayil, is 10,180 dunams … The gradual expansion of the settlements’ residential and agricultural areas has been accompanied by regular, well-documented efforts by settlers to block the access of Palestinian farmers and shepherds in the area to increasing portions of their land. The numerous closure orders issued by the IDF for the area also limit Palestinian access to their land. The IDF says the closures are designed to prevent friction and conflict between the populations.

Mayor of the occupation clamps down on free speech
Haaretz editorial 24 Feb — Palestinians in East Jerusalem say Israeli police have been strictly monitoring social networks and hampering freedom of expression — Last week the East Jerusalem photographer Ameer Abd Rabbo updated his status on Facebook after returning from an event in Beit Hanina, and attached photos. He described Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who took part in the event, as “the mayor of the occupation.” That evening he received a phone call from the Jerusalem police and was summoned for questioning at the Russian Compound station. The investigator told him he was suspected of incitement. “You live in this city; why did you write occupation?” the investigator asked. Abd Rabbo lives in Beit Hanina, one of Jerusalem’s occupied neighborhoods. For him, as for more than a quarter million Palestinian residents of the city, the mayor of Jerusalem is the mayor of the occupation. For them there is no other way to describe him, especially when their reality is based on life under occupation … East Jerusalem’s residents are discriminated against to such an extent that the city’s health care system, which suffers from a severe shortage of Arabic-speaking professionals, is unwilling to accept doctors who have completed their studies at Al-Quds Hospital in the eastern part of the city. The questioning of Abd Rabbo is not an unusual event in Jerusalem. Palestinians there say the police have been more strictly monitoring social networks. At a book party, the author Rania Hamam tried to launch her autobiography as a Palestinian woman in Jerusalem. A Border Police contingent with four vehicles broke up the event. A few months earlier, 10 of the city’s Palestinian residents were arrested on suspicion of incitement on social networks.

Israeli forces issue stop-work orders in Hebron village
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 23 Feb — Israeli forces on Sunday issued stop-work orders to the owners of several buildings in a village west of Hebron, a local official said. Hashem al-Tomeize told Ma‘an that Israeli forces entered the village of Ithna and delivered stop-work orders for buildings that were being constructed without permits. Al-Tomeize, who heads up the Ithna municipality, noted that the buildings were located within Area C, under complete Israeli control. He said Mahmoud Azmi Abu Jheisheh received a stop-work order for his house and two chicken coups, and Sufjan Abu Jheisheh received an order to stop constructing his workshop in the same area, while Arafat Abu Jheisheh was issued one for his sheep stable. Al-Tomeizi condemned the move, saying it was an attempt to evict Ithna residents. Figures from the Israeli NGO Bimkom show that around 95 percent of applications for building permits are rejected in Area C.

Minister Sa’ar: Jordan Valley will prosper for ages under Israeli sovereignty
Ynet Fri 21 Feb by Moran Azulay —  About 3,000 people, including Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar and Coalition Chairman Knesset Member Yariv Levin, took part Friday morning in a protest march in the Jordan Valley. Minister Sa’ar declared to the participants of the march: “We are here with a simple and clear message – the Jordan Valley is Israeli.” The march was initiated by the chairs of the Lobby of the Eretz-Israel Front in the Knesset.,7340,L-4490957,00.html


Arab League releases report on Palestinian, Arab prisoners in Israel
CAIRO (Ma‘an) 23 Feb — The Arab League released a report on Sunday focusing on Palestinian and other Arab prisoners currently in Israeli custody, according to the official Palestinian news agency Wafa. Issued by the office of the Arab League’s secretary general, the report highlights how the Arab League has been following up on the developments on the cases of Arab and Palestinian prisoners jailed in Israel. More than 5,000 Palestinian and other Arab prisoners held in Israeli jails suffer repeated and ongoing violations of their rights, dire humanitarian conditions and abuse of their dignity, according to the report. Although the majority of the detained are Palestinians, several dozen individuals from other Arab countries are also being held in Israeli prisons.
The report said that several Palestinian prisoners who were previously released were subsequently detained again by Israeli forces, who either imposed new sentences or forced prisoners to finish previous sentences despite the fact that they had already been pardoned and released. Since 1967, more than 650,000 Palestinians have been detained by Israel, representing 20 percent of the total population and 40 percent of all males in the occupied territories.

Ubaida Asaid transferred to security prison
IMEMC 23 Feb by Chris Carlson — Lawyer of Prisoner’s Club Society, Fawwaz Shloudi, said that the Israeli occupation administration transferred the 15-year-old Palestinian prisoner Ubaida Asaid from Ofek criminal prison to Hasharon prison. Shloudi said that Asaid started two open hunger strikes protesting his transfer from Al-Maskopia investigation centre to Ofek prison, an Israeli criminal prison full of violent youth offenders where Asaid’s life was in imminent danger, reports Al Ray Palestinian Media Agency. Asaid started his first open hunger strike on December 30, 2013, continuing for four days. He stopped the hunger strike after receiving a promise from the prison administration to accept his demand of transferring from Ofek prison to a security prison. However, the administration did not abide by its promise, so Asaid resumed his hunger strike. He stopped it on February 15, 2014, after receiving another promise to be transferred to a security prison which was achieved last Tuesday.

Prisoner hospitalized after assault by Israeli prison guards
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 22 Feb — A Palestinian prisoner held in a Beersheba prison for driving without a license has been hospitalized following an assault by Israeli prison guards, his family said on Friday. Jihad Abd al-Rahman, a 47-year-old Palestinian from Jerusalem, was taken from the prison to the nearby Soroka Hospital two weeks ago after passing out, a relative of the man told Ma‘an. At the time, Israeli special forces stormed a ward in the jail and assaulted prisoners using pepper spray, and Abd al-Rahman passed out during the assault, the relative said.

Activism / BDS

‘Israel Apartheid Week’ returns to US, UK campuses
Times of Israel 24 Feb byAron Dónzis — Annual event will be held in over 200 cities, but Foreign Ministry says it is in decline as Jewish groups counter message — University campuses across North America and the UK will be kicking off “Israel Apartheid Week” (IAW) today, the tenth anniversary of the international protest against the Jewish state. The event is a major proponent of BDS (Boycott, Sanctions, Divestment), and offers seminars on Israeli occupation of Palestine, and its “racist” practices towards the Palestinian people. It also holds public demonstrations. According to IAW organizers, there has been “a sharp increase of literature and analysis that has sought to document and challenge Israeli apartheid, including reports issued by major international bodies and human rights organizations and findings published by political leaders, thinkers, academics, and activists.”

Urging ‘rethink’, Zionist students fight Israeli Apartheid Week with recycled tactics
Electronic Intifada 22 Feb by Ben White — With campuses across the United Kingdom poised to host Israeli Apartheid Week events, pro-Israel students have launched a propaganda campaign called “Rethink2014.” Promoted on Twitter — using the hashtag #Rethink2014 — and on Facebook by the Union of Jewish Students (UJS), the initiative features students holding signs to up to a camera explaining why they “oppose Israel Apartheid Week.” At time of writing, there were around 40 images posted on the “Rethink2014” Facebook account. Much will be familiar: appeals for “constructive dialogue,” comparisons with other countries in the region and, without a trace of irony, claims that reference to apartheid “trivializes an incredibly complex situation with emotive buzzwords.” One contributor opted for the popular “everything’s not perfect” approach: “the discrimination is real but the word apartheid destroys any road to peace” (the destruction of civilian infrastructure is an unfortunate choice of metaphor given Israel’s actions on the ground). “Be emotional” What is striking is the lack of emphasis on factual refutation. Instead, the messaging is dominated by emotional appeals and a focus on the feelings of the pro-Israel students themselves:

Why Jewish organizations should mark the Green Line
Haaretz 23 Feb by Amos Schonfield and Ella Taylor — U.K. Jewish students are urging their community to only use maps that show Israel’s 1967 borders for the sake of an honest, transparent basis for educating about Israel — …Regardless of one’s personal politics, the use of maps featuring the Green Line is integral to cultivating a well-informed community. This border is recognized by both Israeli and Palestinian authorities as the basis upon which a peaceful solution should be established (albeit with mutually agreed land-swaps). We want to ensure that this position, endorsed by both parties, is accurately represented in our educational materials. Conversely, the absence of the Green Line in our materials sends a dangerous message that we in Anglo-Jewry wish to dismiss the measures that have been adopted, in Oslo and beyond, and one that flattens the complex issue about the status of the land over the Green Line.

Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, Syria

Official: Fatah, PLO have lost control of Lebanon refugee camps
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 23 Feb — The Fatah movement and the Palestine Liberation Organization have lost control of the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, a Lebanon-based Fatah official said on Saturday.  Fatah leader in Lebanon Muneer Maqdah told Ma‘an on Saturday that Lebanese authorities told the PLO to adjust the situation in order “to avoid more aggravations” which they warned could have “negative impacts” on the refugee camps and on Lebanon more broadly. The statement comes two days after a Palestinian was identified as one of the culprits of a double suicide bombing targeting the Iranian cultural center in southern Beirut. Officials are increasingly worried that economic deprivation in the Palestinian camps in Lebanon has laid fertile ground for Wahhabi militant groups.

Three Palestinians from al-Yarmouk refugee camp proclaimed dead
DAMASCUS (PIC) 23 Feb — Three Palestinians from Al-Yarmouk refugee camps in Damascus were proclaimed dead on Saturday; one of them was killed under torture. The action group for the Palestinians in Syria stated that 27-year-old Mohamed Bahtaiti, a refugee from Al-Yarmouk camp, was tortured to death by the Syrian security, pointing out that he was kidnapped one year ago at a checkpoint in the camp.  The group added that two elderly persons, man and woman, died of hunger and lack of medical care because of the tight blockade imposed by the Syrian regime and its militias on Al-Yarmouk camp.  Thanks to the ongoing relief efforts, some number of students and humanitarian cases were able on Saturday to leave Al-Yarmouk.
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Other news

Merkel voices support for Kerry’s Middle East peace bids
BERLIN (AFP) 22 Feb — German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Saturday she will fully support efforts by US Secretary of State John Kerry to relaunch the Middle East peace process during her upcoming visit to Israel. “We need, as soon as possible, a stable two-country solution, with a Jewish state of Israel and at the same time a state for the Palestinians,” Merkel said in her weekly podcast. “We also support the efforts made by US Secretary of State Kerry (and) I will of course use my stay to bring up this issue with the Israeli prime minister,” Benjamin Netanyahu, she added. Merkel, who will be in Israel Monday and Tuesday, recalled that for historical reasons Germany was particularly committed to Israel’s right to exist.

20 years of talks – keeping Palestinians occupied
infographic  — Visualizing Palestine Dec 2013  [repeated because of its importance]

Palestinian paratroopers to compete in skydiving competition
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 22 Feb — Paratroopers from the Palestinian national security forces are set to compete in the fifth Arab Skydiving Competition in Morocco, a statement said Saturday. The Palestinian team has been training in Morocco, where the competition is to be held next week, a statement from the national security forces said Saturday. This is the first time Palestinian paratroopers have competed in an international parachuting competition, the statement said.

Family dynasty dominating Palestinian football
[with 2- minute video] Sky News(UK)  22 Feb — A football team with a difference is taking the Palestinian League by storm. Wadi Al Nees are topping the table after numerous victories over far bigger clubs. But there is something a little unusual about the team that hails from a tiny village on the West Bank – every player is from the same family. Three generations of the Abu Hammad family are represented, either on the pitch or on the sidelines. Wadi Al Nees sits on a hilltop just south of Bethlehem, and has only 900 inhabitants. But that has not stopped the village team dominating the top football league in the West Bank. All the players have professional contracts, and six play at international level, some for the full Palestinian national team, others for the youth team … Speaking after the game, striker Gehad Abu Hammad said the family ties and the team’s loyalty to the village were the key to success. “We are family, thanks be to God, and this helps on the pitch every time. It’s the secret of our success.”

Armed Palestinian activists attend West Bank celebration
Times of Israel 23 Feb by Spencer Ho — Dozens of armed men dotted the crowd in the West Bank city of Abu Dis on the outskirts of Jerusalem, during a weekend event marking the anniversary of a Palestinian military organization. The men, wearing military uniforms and masks to hide their identities, and toting various rifles and pistols, fired shots into the air at the celebration of the 45th anniversary of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Israel Radio reported. The DFLP, the third-largest member faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization, is a Marxist-Leninist, secular military organization that broke away from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in 1969. In past years, the Palestinian Authority has enforced a ban on armed public displays, but in recent months there has been an increase in such incidents, particularly in refugee camps, where Palestinian security forces have little control. At least one armed member of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing, appeared at a late-January memorial service for a slain member of Islamic Jihad in the Jenin refugee camp.

Govt: 128 ‘wanted’ suspects arrested in Hebron
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 23 Feb — A campaign by Palestinian security forces in the Hebron district led to the destruction of 364 “illegal” vehicles and the arrests of 128 wanted people, the Hebron governor said Sunday. Kamil Hmeid said in a news conference at al-Hawuooz police station that over 90 percent of crimes committed in the Hebron district are done in areas under Israeli security control. Hmeid said that a new campaign is the largest so far, and it will continue to fight all “negative phenomena” that endanger the Palestinian community “despite the difficulties faced by occupation.” He praised police officers for their efforts.

Israeli law group accuses Oxfam of funding terrorists
Times of Israel 23 Feb by Spencer Ho — Shurat HaDin claims two entities funded by the humanitarian organization are connected to PFLP — …Shurat HaDin says its aim is to “bankrupt terrorism” through the courts, and has been involved in a number of court cases involving alleged terror outfits and groups that funnel money to them. For its part, Oxfam said that Shurat HaDin was overstating its case and that the allegations had already been investigated. “We take any such allegations seriously, however these same allegations by the Israel Law Center against UAWC were previously investigated thoroughly by the Australian government’s Federal Police and Security Intelligence Organisation, and were found to be completely unsubstantiated,” Oxfam said in a statement.

Special Report: Conflict takes back seat to commerce in Palestinian village
Jerusalem Post 23 Feb by Tovah Lazaroff — …In front of the Palestinian village of 7,000 is a large red sign in three languages that states, “Entry by Israeli citizens is dangerous.” But evidence that the economy trumps the conflict here is evident, even from the road, where right under the sign on Thursday, a Palestinian had set up a van from whose rear doors he sold cartons of 30 eggs for NIS 20 – NIS 10 cheaper than in Betar Illit. And although an army jeep was parked across the road, cars with Israeli licenses streamed into the village.

Israel’s army of Facebook addicts battles to keep its secrets
Times of Israel 23 Feb by Mitch Ginsburg — Israelis, soldiers included, are social media obsessives. That’s creating endless new problems for the IDF, which knows the enemy is watching emails, posts and tweets — …Over the past several years, the army, which today estimates that 95 percent of its enlisted soldiers and 70 percent of its officers’ corps has a Facebook account, has been forced to address an array of leaks. In 2010, a soldier in the artillery corps posted this status: “Cleaning up Katana and home on Thursday.” Katana is a village in the West Bank. The status revealed the time of the planned raid and the unit involved.

Arab professor unanimously elected to key role at Israeli education council
Haaretz 23 Feb by Yarden Skop — Prof. Faisal Azaiza praised by Education Minister Shay Piron for using his skills and experience to integrate into Israeli society — Prof. Faisal Azaiza was unanimously elected deputy chairman of the Council for Higher Education’s budget committee yesterday. The head of the University of Haifa’s school of social work, Azaiza has been a member of the education council for 10 years and its budget panel for four years, and was its first Arab appointee.

Israeli gas field considers talks to lay pipeline to Turkey
Haaretz 22 Feb by Avi Bar-Eli — Estimated $2 billion cost would make it far cheaper option than onshore liquefied natural gas facility in Cyprus — The key stakeholders in Israel’s Leviathan offshore natural gas field are to discuss laying an undersea pipeline from the Mediterranean site to the southern Turkish coast, according to the Turkish daily Hurriyet.

Israelis traveling in Germany to get work visas
Ynet 23 Feb by Attila Somfalvi — Agreement to be signed as part of Merkel’s state visit stipulates Israelis on short-term visits to Germany can get work visas almost automatically — With Israelis moving to Berlin in droves and a delegation led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel set to land in Israel Sunday, a new deal allowing Israelis traveling in the country to work in Berlin has been announced … The agreement also stipulates that Israelis will be able to receive emergency consular services at Germany’s diplomatic missions in countries that Israel does not have diplomatic relations with.,7340,L-4491675,00.html

Analysis / Opinion / Film reviews

A murder that should disturb us all / Gideon Levy
Haaretz 22 Feb — The death of Tha’ar Lala was probably the only time his life was of interest to the majority of Israelis — This past week I have been thinking a lot about Tha’ar Lala. I met him only once, 14 years ago. He was 12 or 13 at the time, a handsome boy, sad and angry, curled up in his mother’s lap in their miserable, small apartment on the outskirts of Tel Aviv. Samar was a single parent, sick and often beaten, accustomed to a hardscrabble life, raising five children. Tha’ar was hungry, so his mother found a few coins and sent her son out to buy a box of breakfast cereal for their lunch. Last Saturday, he was murdered. A hail of gunshot punctured his body. You wouldn’t have heard about it, were it not for the timing and location: Saturday, across from the Hatachana shopping and entertainment compound in Tel Aviv, at the height of the Chocolate Festival. But Tha’ar Lala was born (and raised) to die, with a sick, beaten and poor mother, and a father in Ramallah, torn from his children, and his fate should disturb even the parents at the Chocolate Festival …  Torn between his father in Ramallah – who for nine years has not been allowed into Israel to visit him in Jaffa – and his mother, who did all she could – that is, pitifully little – to somehow raise her children in Jaffa, Tha’ar didn’t stand a chance … Jaffa and poverty, terrible social distress and miserable schools; spreading crime that no one cares about. And the occupation, which tears apart this poor family between the father in Ramallah and the mother in Jaffa.

Why my son will never patrol the streets of West Bank / Oudeh Basharat
Haaretz 24 Feb — If the Israeli government really intends to draft Christian Arabs into the army, it should start building more prisons now — …Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon only had his picture taken with Greek Orthodox Bishop Jibril Nadaf, and already he’s planning to draft wholesale numbers of Christian Arabs into the Israel Defense Forces, “after getting the green light from senior officials in the Christian community” (as reported on Israel’s Walla! news portal). Who are these “senior officials”? God only knows. Danon and his ilk are truly strange: Each time they announce that they’ve invented the wheel, and each time it turns out to be a stubborn square. It all began back in the 1920s, when Haim Margaliot Kalvarisky tried to establish Muslim associations to supplant the existing Christian-Muslim ones, in order to undermine the unity of the Arabs in prestate Israel. Today, nearly a century later, Danon is repeating the experiment that a more skilled man than he failed at. And now he has taken off the gloves. He wants to make military service compulsory for Israel’s Arab Christians. The reason for this is that despite the fact the bishop has his photo taken with all the country’s notables, “only a few members of the community enlist in the IDF today,” as Danon admits. As we say in Arabic, “The funeral was stormy, and the deceased is a dog.”

How’s Gaza? / Julia C. Hurley
Cairo Review of Global Affairs 23 Feb — Having recently returned from spending a year in Gaza working with the UN, one would think I’d have an easy answer. So much has changed for the worse since my last stint in 2011 that it’s hard not to simply reply that the coastal enclave is teetering on the brink of disaster. There is barely a positive indicator to report, and as the international community has all but moved on and forgotten Gaza in the midst of the crisis in Syria and during Secretary of State John Kerry’s negotiation efforts, people are wondering why they should hold on to the last bits of hope they have left. Yet, there is a resilience to Palestinians that cannot be underestimated — especially in Gaza. In them lies the potential for a change in course, but it will take courage, trust, cooperation, and ultimately an end to the blockade to fundamentally transform everything …  the people of Gaza are incredibly capable. Well educated and with a literacy rate of 95.3 per cent (nearly 20 percentage points higher than the regional average), the population is doing better in this realm than many of its Arab neighbors, falling only slightly behind Israel’s 97.1 per cent. Time and time again, I’ve been told by people that they don’t want aid. They want opportunity — a chance to work and build a better life. Even children are acutely aware of this, eagerly telling me they want to be doctors and lawyers and engineers so that they can make things better. The blockade is holding them back. With few options and no elections in sight, the blockade amounts to collective punishment at best and a humanitarian catastrophe at worst.

Palestinians exist / David Benkof
Times of Israel 23 Feb — The intensifying Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations have caused opponents of a Palestinian state to revive former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir’s 1969 canard that “there is no such thing as a Palestinian people.” However, “Palestine Denial” is less a debating point than a conversation-stopper: if there are no Palestinians, then there is no Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and thus no need even to discuss West Bank policies. One problem: Palestinians do, in fact, exist. In December, Israeli diplomat Danny Ayalon posted a YouTube video about “The Real Truth About Palestine,” in which he claimed that Palestine is a place, not a nation: “Like Antarctica, the Amazons or Sahara, naming a place doesn’t create a nation of Antarcticans or Saharans.” And in a recent Front Page Magazine essay, Hoover Institution scholar Bruce Thornton referred to “the so-called Palestinians“ and stated that the very idea of a Palestinian nation is but “a device for promoting the incremental war against Israel.” In 2012, three Republican presidential candidates endorsed Palestine Denial: Newt Gingrich called Palestinians “an invented people”; Rick Santorum said “there are no Palestinians… all the people who live in the West Bank are Israelis”; and Herman Cain referred to “the so-called Palestinian people.”  Palestine Denial, like Holocaust Denial, is easily refuted. Most historians, since the publication of Benedict Anderson’s book “Imagined Communities” three decades ago, have accepted that every people is invented, some very recently. Italian consciousness dates to 1764, and until 1871 Italy wasn’t a country. Earlier residents considered themselves Neapolitans or Venetians or Florentines, and their primary loyalties were to their religion or ruler. But “Italian” is not a timeless identity, nation, or people … Denial rhetoric invalidates Palestinian rights by contradicting common sense and nearly all nationalism scholarship. It also leads to very strange questions: Are Italians a nation? Do Pakistanis (a 75-year-old identity) deserve a state? Should we tell a person who says she’s Asian-American, “No, you’re not?”

A World Not Ours  (Alam Laysa Lana) / Jonathan Romney
The Observer 22 Feb — A documentary about a Palestinian refugee camp contrives to find humour amid the despair and disillusionment — This very personal documentary is an intimate portrait of Ain el-Helweh, a Palestinian refugee camp in south Lebanon. Although born in Dubai and raised mainly in Denmark, Mahdi Fleifel has spent much of his life in Ain el-Helweh; the film records his childhood stays and subsequent visits there, and his relationships with residents. They include his cantankerous grandfather, his irascible chicken-raising friend Saïd, and Bassam (aka Abu Iyad), whose increasing despair and disillusionment with the PLO make a poignant counterpoint to the generally positive tone. Along with its anger, Fleifel’s revealing film contrives, against the odds, to derive everyday humour from the refugee experience.

On the Side of the Road — official trailer
(4:21) Naretiv Productions from 2013 — 55 minutes — SYNOPSIS — Former West Bank settler Lia Tarachansky looks at Israelis’ collective amnesia of the fateful events of 1948 when the state of Israel was born and most of the Palestinians became refugees. She follows the transformation of Israeli veterans trying uncover their denial of the war that changed the region forever. Tarachansky then turns the camera on herself and travels back to her settlement where that historical erasure gave birth to a new generation, blind and isolated from its surroundings. Attempting to shed a light on the country’s biggest taboo, she is met with outrage and violence. Formerly entitled Seven Deadly Myths (listserv) (archive)