Israel approves 186 new East Jerusalem homes
AFP 19 Mar — Israel moved forward Wednesday with plans to build another 186 new homes in East Jerusalem, a city councillor told AFP. The plans would see construction of 40 new homes in Pisgat Zeev and 146 in Har Homa. This announcement comes as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he would require a settlement freeze if the United States proposed an extension negotiations beyond the end of April deadline.
Palestinians protest Jerusalem marathon
JERUSALEM (AFP) 22 Mar — Some 100 Palestinians tried to disrupt the annual Jerusalem marathon on Friday, police said, as activists called for a boycott of the race through the Holy City. “Around 100 demonstrators holding Palestinian flags tried, at two separate parts of the course, to disrupt the race,” police spokeswoman Luba Samri told AFP. Police arrested four of them and dispersed the rest “with ease,” she said, adding that the race had “continued as normal.” Some 20,000 people participated in Friday’s marathon, in which Kenyan runner Ronald Kimbly raced to victory. Pro-Palestinian activists oppose the Israeli-organized marathon, particularly its route through Arab east Jerusalem, which was occupied by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed, in a move never recognized by the international community. “The marathon is used to cover up Israel’s image around the world while acting as a smokescreen to its illegal annexation of and gradual ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the occupied city,” said a statement from a leading Palestinian movement to boycott Israel over its alleged human rights violations. Police had restricted access to the flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound on the day of the marathon, which bisects a small part of the Old City near where the compound is located.
Israel advances plans for 2,269 West Bank homes
AFP 20 Mar — Israel has progressed with plans for more than 2,000 new homes in six West Bank settlements, an official said Thursday, in a move likely to further endanger peace talks. Guy Inbar, a spokesman for the defense ministry unit responsible for civilian affairs in the Palestinian territories, said a ministry committee had furthered existing plans for 2,269 homes at a meeting last month. He confirmed claims by anti-settlements Israeli group Peace Now about decisions on two sets of projects, which the watchdog said the committee had examined on February 19. In the first case, the committee approved for validation 1,015 units in Leshem, Beit El and Almog, meaning the only remaining formality for their final approval is the okay of Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon. The same committee approved for deposit 1,254 units in Ariel, Shvut Rachel and Shavei Shomron, meaning those projects will now be published in the media for public comment before returning to the committee for further discussion. Haaretz newspaper, which first reported the story, noted the Ariel plans for 839 units had been “snarled in bureaucracy for the past decade,” and the 290 units in Beit El were part of a promise made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he evacuated a neighbourhood in that settlement 18 months ago.
Land, property, resources theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Islamic sites under threat
PHOTOS: A life of discrimination for Negev Bedouin
Activestills 21 Mar Text: Michal Rotam / Negev Coexistence Forum For Civil Equality Photos: Yotam Ronen — In honor of International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the Negev Coexistence Forum For Civil Equality and Activestills highlight the immense gaps between the recognized Bedouin villages and the Jewish towns in the Negev. The conclusion is clear: while the basic rights of the Bedouin residents have been recognized by the government, they are still violated on a regular basis.
Israeli court rejects appeal against demolition of Bedouin village
BEERSHEBA (Ma‘an) 20 Mar — An Israeli central court in Beersheba on Wednesday rejected an appeal against a decision to demolish a Palestinian Bedouin village in the Negev, even though the structures were built after residents were forcibly moved there by Israel decades ago. The Israeli court’s decision paves the way for the planned displacement of Umm al-Heiran‘s 1,000 inhabitants to make way for a planned Jewish town, 50 years after the state gave the village inhabitants’ the land after their original lands were confiscated. The judge rejected an appeal filed by Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights, on behalf of residents against a court decision to demolish 33 buildings in the village. The judge reportedly accepted the defense’s argument that despite the land ownership, and the fact that Israel moved residents there but refused to ever recognize the village, the buildings themselves were still considered unlicensed and thus should be demolished. The judge did however decide to delay the demolitions for nine months in order to give residents enough time to find new homes.
Demolition orders in Khirbat al-Tawil
IMEMC 20 Mar by Chris Carlson — Israeli occupation authorities, on Thursday morning, served four demolition orders for infrastructure projects in the Palestinian village of Khirbat al-Tawil, to the south of the West Bank city of Nablus. Activist Hamza Diriya (Resistance Against the Separation Wall and Settlement Committee), said that Israeli administration personnel, accompanied with military patrols, came to Khirbat al-Tawil in the morning, handing residents demolition orders for power lines and a water reservoir. Diriya explained that the orders include the demolition of the power network which was funded by the Belgian government in 2007 with $200,000, Al Ray reports. Also included is the demolition of a water network and pipes linking houses, agricultural facilities and fields, as well as the demolition of a well which gathers water, owned by a Palestinian farmer, and a power pole.
Israeli bulldozers demolish Palestinian home in East Jerusalem
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 19 Mar — Israeli bulldozers demolished a house in the Beit Hanina neighborhood of East Jerusalem early Wednesday, the homeowner’s family said. Without prior warning, Israeli military forces surrounded the Beit Hanina property, blockaded the home of Badwan Salaymah while he and his family were absent, and proceeded to tear the house down, Salaymah’s brother said. Israeli municipality officials then issued Salaymah a demolishing bill of 110,000 shekels ($32,000), which he will be unable to pay, Marwan Salaymah said. He said the house was built of tin and iron on a plot of 70 square meters. The Jerusalem municipality also demolished two houses owned by Salaymah in May 2013, he added.
Israel ‘destroyed’ Islamic archaeological sites in Silwan dig
[with photos] JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 19 Mar — The Israel Antiquities Authority has destroyed several ancient archeological sites and antiquities as a result of a controversial dig in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan in East Jerusalem, the Al-Aqsa Foundation for Endowment and Heritage said Tuesday. The authority recently began the final stage of archaeological excavations at the site, which is located in the Wadi Silweh area only 20 meters from the walls of the Old City, the foundation said in a statement on Tuesday. As a result of the excavations, several ancient Islamic archeological sites and antiquities have been destroyed, including a cemetery that dated back to the Abbasid caliphate. Additionally, the dig has damaged relics that date back to the Jebusite Canaanite era in the second millenium BC, the Al-Aqsa foundation alleged. The excavations are the continuation of an Israeli project to build a biblical park in the area alongside the City of David archaeological park, and will feature a “museum of Jewish history” and a “Jewish national park.” The excavation site measures around six dunams (1.5 acres) and runs 20 meters deep in some places. The excavations are connected by a network of tunnels that “the Israeli occupation has been digging under and around Al-Aqsa Mosque,” the statement said, pointing out that the third-holiest site in Islam is located only 100 meters from the site itself. The foundation said that the Ir David Foundation – commonly known as Elad – is funding the excavations as part of a plan to build a seven-story building which will serve as a Jewish cultural center. The excavation site is located on what used to be private Palestinian land owned by the Siyam family from Silwan. The land was confiscated by Israeli authorities for the dig…
Critics charge that the digs search for ancient Jewish ruins at the expense of existing homes, and that Israeli archaeologists often ignore and even damage non-Jewish artifacts. 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.
Israeli army recruits, rightists tour Aqsa compound
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) Wed 19 Mar — Dozens of Israeli soldiers and settlers toured the courtyards of the Al-Aqsa mosque compound on Wednesday, the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Endowment said. Over 90 Israeli army recruits entered the compound via the Moroccan Gate and were escorted by Israeli police officers. The visit was part of an Israeli army orientation tour, the PA ministry said. Over 20 extremists also entered the mosque compound, it added.
Clashes in Aqsa compound as right-wing MKs tour courtyards
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) Thu 20 Mar — Clashes broke out Thursday between Palestinian worshipers and Israeli forces in the al-Aqsa compound following a visit by a right-wing Israeli MK, locals said. Witnesses told Ma‘an that Likud MK Moshe Feiglin and a number of other right-wing politicians entered the mosque compound via the Moroccan Gate and toured the courtyards. Worshipers shouted “Allah Akbar” at the group before Israeli forces raided the compound and began assaulting them with clubs. In response, young Palestinians began throwing stones at the Knesset members, forcing them to leave the compound. Several worshipers and Shariah Law students sustained bruises and one of them was treated at a clinic in the Aqsa compound. An Israeli police spokeswoman said two Palestinians were detained after throwing stones at Moshe Feiglin. The controversial Likud MK has stated in the past that Palestinians in Israel should be relocated and there is no such thing as a Palestinian people.
Thousands pray in the streets amid Aqsa Mosque restrictions
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) Fri 21 Mar — Thousands of Palestinian worshipers performed prayers in the streets of Jerusalem on Friday after Israeli authorities imposed age restrictions on entering the Al-Aqsa mosque compound. Men under 50 were forced to pray in the streets as Israeli authorities imposed restrictions around the Old City to accommodate the Jerusalem Marathon. Several main roads were closed and a number of checkpoints set up around the Old City as thousands ran in the event. The Al-Aqsa Foundation for Waqf and Heritage said in a statement that Israel is trying to discourage Palestinian from praying at the holy site by imposing frequent restrictions. Last Friday, the compound was mostly empty after Israeli authorities prohibited all Palestinians under the age of 40 from praying there and set up barricades at the compound’s entrances to limit their access.
Jerusalem initiative to sue Israel for repressive measures
IMEMC 19 Mar by Chris Carlson — A Jerusalemite initiative, under the name “Worship is my right”, started on Wednesday, aiming to expose Israel’s policies and violent practices against Palestinians, Muslims and Christians in Jerusalem, with the hope of securing thousands of signatures — enough to sue Israel in the international courts. Israeli forces impose severe restrictions on the entry of people of Jerusalem and pre-1948 Palestine to al-Aqsa mosque, and also prevent the people of the Gaza Strip and West Bank from reaching it, Al Ray reports. They have erected a number of checkpoints at the entrances of the holy city, hindering the movement of West Bank citizens. The Israeli occupation has also deprived Christians from reaching the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, by not giving them permits, especially during holidays. The owner of the initiative, Amid Barahma, said that it does not belong to any party but targets all the people of Palestine in Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank, to highlight the unfair and repressive Israeli measures against Muslims and Christians, and the restriction on the freedom of movement through Israeli checkpoints.
Israel’s legal chaos makes West Bank a paradise for polluters
Haaretz 22 Mar by Zafrir Rinat — Israel needs to update its laws and apply this legislation across the Green Line, experts say — …A recent attempt to enshrine in law enforcement powers in the region failed when the army demanded that these powers not include inspection or enforcement on its bases. As a result, at least seven criminal cases against settlements polluting the environment were halted. Sewage destroying crops One case concerns pollution of the Palestinian village Wadi Fukin. The source is the sewage-treatment plants in the settlement Betar Ilit. Although the settlement’s chiefs say the pollution was caused by problems now fixed, Yuval Arbel of Friends of the Earth Middle East says the sewage flows to fields and destroys crops. “Olive trees that rotted and died from the pollution can be seen,” he said. The lack of enforcement authority in the area has also hampered the fight against the dumping of construction debris from Israel into the West Bank. Considered one of the worst environmental problems in the region, illegal dumping can pollute groundwater. But without the proper authority, inspectors from the Civil Administration or the Environmental Protection Ministry are helpless.
UN rights investigator accuses Israel of ‘ethnic cleansing’
Reuters 21 Mar — A UN human rights investigator accused Israel on Friday of “ethnic cleansing” in pushing Palestinians out of East Jerusalem and cast doubt that the Israeli government could accept a Palestinian state in the current climate … Richard Falk, United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, told a news conference that Israeli policies bore “unacceptable characteristics of colonialism, apartheid and ethnic cleansing”. “Every increment of enlarging the settlements or every incident of house demolition is a way of worsening the situation confronting the Palestinian people and reducing what prospects they might have as the outcome of supposed peace negotiations.” Asked about his accusation of ethnic cleansing, Falk said that more than 11,000 Palestinians had lost their right to live in Jerusalem since 1996 due to Israel imposing residency laws favoring Jews and revoking Palestinian residence permits. “The 11,000 is just the tip of the iceberg because many more are faced with possible challenges to their residency rights.”
WCC General Secretary expresses concern over Israeli Knesset law
World Council of Churches 19 Mar — Joining his voice to those of the churches in Palestine and Israel, the World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit has expressed “grave concern” about a law recently passed by the Israeli Knesset or parliament. The law passed by the Knesset on 24 February would define the status of Palestinian Arab Christians in the state of Israel. Top officials of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land have said that this new law “introduces a distinction between Christian and Muslim Palestinians and states that Christian Palestinians are Christians and not Palestinians”. In a statement issued on 18 March, Tveit called on “Israeli authorities to reverse this law to stop an injustice against the Christian citizens of Israel”. He encouraged the WCC member churches to “raise this issue with representatives of Israel and with their own governments”, urging reversal of this law. Tveit said that this law establishes a “legislative distinction between the indigenous Palestinian Arab Christians and Palestinian Arab Muslims, both of whom are citizens of the State of Israel”. This distinction, he stressed, is an “unacceptable severing of entire communities from their cultural identity”. Tveit added that the “Knesset has transgressed all proper distinctions between state and religious authority by attempting to define the nature and character of Christian communities within Israel against their own will and self-understanding”.
Violence / Attacks / Raids / Suppression of protests / Illegal arrests
Israeli forces shoot, kill Palestinian teen south of Hebron
HEBRON (Ma‘an/AFP) 19 Mar — Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian teenager in the Hebron district on Wednesday, security and medical sources said. The sources said the 15-year-old was attempting to cross Israel’s separation wall near the southernmost West Bank area of al-Ramadin when Israeli forces shot him dead. Israeli troops gave him no warning before shooting him, the sources said. The youth was identified as Yousef Nayif Yousef Shawamrah Abu Akar from the village of Deir al-Asal al-Fauqa south of Hebron. Israeli forces have yet to deliver his body. Witnesses said the victim had been foraging for local plants when he was shot, but the army claimed he and two others had been vandalising the security fence … The victim was evacuated to an Israeli hospital, where he died from his wounds. But the victim’s brother, Abed Shawamreh, 23, denied the army’s account and said the teenager had been out looking for gundelia (‘aqoub), a thistle-type plant used in cooking. “Every year, people from the village go out to pick gundelia. Today Yussef went with his friends to pick some in an area close to the wall and the army shot at them. They hit him and arrested two of his friends,” he told AFP.
Not too bad for the mainstream media:
Palestinian teen shot dead while foraging wild thistles for cooking
Reuters 19 Mar — Israeli troops shot dead a Palestinian teenager on Wednesday in the occupied West Bank, the Israeli military said, in the latest killing to overshadow U.S.-brokered peace talks. The family of Youssef Shawamra said he was killed after he went foraging for wild thistles used in local cooking. Hospital officials said he was 15, while one relative said he was 16. A military spokeswoman said he was shot after he and two other youths were spotted tampering with a security fence near the village of Deir al-Asal al-Tahta. She said soldiers had called on them to stop and had fired warning shots in the air. “After all means were exhausted, the soldiers shot toward the main suspect, at his lower body, and a hit was identified. An Israeli medical team took him to an Israeli hospital where he died of his wounds,” the spokeswoman said. Angry locals contested the army version. “He did not go out … to resist the occupation or anything like that. He went to look for a source of income,” said his cousin, Nafez Shawamra, accusing Israeli soldiers of killing him in cold blood. The boy’s grandfather said Youssef had been with an elderly man planning to collect almonds beyond the wire security fence and two youths. They were all arrested, he added … Hanan Ashrawi, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organization, denounced Shawamra’s death as an “extra-judicial killing”, saying it was part of a broader pattern of “flagrant violations” of international law.
Israeli forces arrest and hold 13-year-old for seven hours
BRUQIN, Occupied Palestine (ISM, Nablus Team) 20 Mar — On Tuesday 18th March, Israeli forces entered the village of Bruqin and arrested 13-year-old Abdel Hafez Mohammed, holding him for seven hours before releasing him later in the day. Abdel Hafez Mohammed Samara was working on his land, picking ‘aqoub (Gundelia, a local plant), and allowing his sheep to graze, when an Israeli soldier and two security guards called him to the closest road, which is nearby the illegal settlement of Ariel. Abdel went to speak to the soldier and the security staff and he was told to throw away the small broken knife that he had been using to cut away the aqoub. He was then forced to kneel down, while guns were pointed directly at him. At that moment, Walid Samara, a local teacher who had been working in the nearby village of Hares stopped on the road close to Abdel. He was threatened at gunpoint and then beaten as two Israeli police officers arrived to arrest him and Abdel. The police officer then accused Abdel of threatening the guards with his knife, and Walid of attacking them with stones. They were both taken to a nearby checkpoint, Walid was then released but Abdel was taken to the police station in the illegal settlement of Ariel. Abdel was then interrogated for four hours before his father was called. Once his father arrived, he was able to see his son, but not allowed to say anything during the interrogation. The Israeli police took fingerprints from both Abdel and his father before forcing them both to sign conditions saying that did not have the right to go back to the land to graze their sheep or to cut ‘aqoub [this is the same plant that Yousef Nayif Yousef Shawamrah Abu Akar was gathering on Wednesday when he was shot to death by the Israeli army. Abdel Hafez was ‘lucky’ this time].
Regarding the harvesting of this plant, note this article from 2008:
Haaretz 13 Mar 2008 by Ronit Vered — Every year, at exactly this time, in the brief month between the last rains and the beginning of spring, Samia and her girlfriends in the northern Galilee village used to rent a minivan and leave in the middle of the night for the uncultivated fields in search of the young thistles of the ‘aqub (gundelia). Ten women crowded onto the benches of the special taxi at 3 A.M., made their way to the fields in the south, the north or in the direction of the territories, following a tradition that began at the time of their mothers’ mothers and will end, they always assumed, in eternity. But eternity is a relative term in today’s world, where wilderness areas are gradually shrinking. Today, many of the wild plants used in traditional Arab cookery for hundreds of years are designated as protected, and picking them is prohibited. Ecologists claim that excessive picking of plants such as the ‘aqub (known in Hebrew as akuvit hagalgal) and za‘atar (hyssop) has already brought them to the verge of extinction. But to families that have picked these plants from ancient times and learned from their ancestors that land must be used carefully, with consideration for the yield of future years, this law is considered almost anti-Arab.
2 Palestinian children attacked by settlers near Beit Furik
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 20 Mar — Two Palestinian children were injured on Thursday afternoon after a group of Israeli settlers attacked them near the village of Beit Furik east of Nablus, the children said. Musab Fouad Khatatba, 11, and Amir Mohammed Saleh, 11, suffered moderate injuries as a result of the attack, which they said was carried out by settlers from the nearby Jewish settlement of Itamar. Musab Khatatba said that the settlers attacked him with sticks and struck his head, face, and back during the attack, which occurred after the group had detained him and his friend just east of the village. He said that the settlers forcibly brought them to Itamar, where they handed them over to Israeli authorities. They were subsequently handed over to a Palestinian official liaison, who transferred them to the Rafidia government hospital west of Nablus for treatment. Clashes later erupted between settlers and dozens of young men in the village.
2 injured in clashes in Ramallah
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 21 Mar — Palestinian protesters and Israeli soldiers were injured Friday in clashes with Israeli forces in Silwad north of Ramallah, witnesses said. Witnesses said that one was hit with a tear-gas canister in the face, and another with a metal bullet in the head. They were moderately injured. Several Israeli soldiers were also lightly wounded as Palestinians threw stones and empty bottles at them, they said.
Israeli forces disperse West Bank protests
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 21 Mar — Three Palestinians were injured and dozens suffered from tear-gas inhalation as Israeli forces dispersed protests across the West Bank on Friday. Two were shot with metal bullets in Nabi Saleh village west of Ramallah as Israeli forces dispersed a demonstration “honoring the struggling Palestinian mothers”. Medic Ahmad Nasser and another young man were injured. Dozens of local and international activists participated in the demonstration, chanting slogans against Israel’s wall and songs for unity. They raised banners in support of Druze who refuse military service in Israel. They threw rocks at Israeli soldiers, and tried to reach their confiscated lands near the village. An Israeli army spokeswoman said 40 people hurled rocks at soldiers who dispersed them with riot-dispersal means. The same spokeswoman said 15 Palestinians hurled rocks in nearby Ni‘lin and that Israeli forces used riot-dispersal means to break up that demonstration, too. In Bil‘in village nearby, a teenager was injured and dozens suffered from tear gas inhalation. Mohammad Karaja, 16, was shot in the foot with a rubber-coated steel bullet as Israeli forces fired tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets and stun grenades at protesters … Israeli forces also dispersed a protest in al-Ma‘sara village near Bethlehem. Coordinator for the popular resistance committee Hassa Brejia said Israeli forces blocked the path of protesters and prevented them from reaching the wall.
Israeli forces clash with youths in Bethlehem camp
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 21 Mar — Several Palestinians were injured Friday evening in clashes with Israeli forces in ‘Aida refugee camp north of Bethlehem. Locals said that Israeli forces fired tear gas, rubber bullets, and stun grenades at protesters lightly injuring several of them who were treated on the spot or taken to nearby hospitals. The clashes started after Palestinian youths smashed a hole in Israel’s wall and set the watchtower near the northern entrance of Bethlehem on fire. Tear-gas canisters fired by Israeli soldiers also caused a fire in a house in the camp, witnesses said. The fire started in a room in a house belonging to Ayed Abu Aker, but was stopped from spreading by Palestinian civil defense. An Israeli security official said 80 Palestinians threw rocks as well as one improvised hand grenade.
Israeli forces blockade village of Burin near Nablus after bus attack
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 20 Mar — Israeli forces closed all entrances to the village of Burin near Nablus on Thursday, preventing locals from leaving or entering their village, hours after a Molotov cocktail was thrown at an Israeli settler bus as it was passing by the nearby village of Madama. Locals told Ma‘an that Israeli forces closed the entrance to the village’s main street near the Hawwara checkpoint south of Nablus with sand barriers. Israeli soldiers were stationed at the barriers to ensure no locals were able to pass. The Molotov cocktail thrown earlier in the day resulted in no injuries, Israeli sources said, but caused physical damage to the bus … The area around the villages south of Nablus is a frequent site of settler violence and Palestinian clashes with Israeli forces as it is located beside the notoriously violent Israeli settlement of Yitzhar. In mid-February, local settlers threw rocks at Palestinian schoolchildren and attacked a local high school in two separate incidents that led to clashes.
PCHR Weekly Report: Child killed, 7 civilians wounded by Israeli troops this week
IMEMC 21 Mar — In its Weekly Report On Israeli Human Rights Violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories for the week of 13 – 19 March, 2014, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) found that, during the reporting period, Israeli forces killed a Palestinian child. They also wounded 7 Palestinian civilians, including a child and Norwegian activist in the West Bank; 5 of whom, including the Norwegian activist, were wounded in the protests organized against the annexation wall, while a civilian was wounded in other protests. In the Gaza Strip, Israeli forces launched 3 airstrikes on 13 and 14 March, 2014, as a result of which 26 greenhouses were completely destroyed and 20 others were partially damaged, but no casualties were reported. On 17 March, 2014, Israeli forces, positioned on watchtowers in the vicinity of Beit Hanoun crossing and north of Um al-Nasser village in the northern Gaza Strip, opened fire at open areas, but no casualties were reported. In the context of targeting Palestinian fishermen in the sea, Israeli navy forces opened fire 4 times at Palestinian fishing boats on 15, 16 and 17 March, 2014. As a result, a store belonging to a Palestinian fisherman was completely destroyed, but no casualties were reported. Israeli forces conducted 64 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. 50 Palestinian civilians, including 7 children, were arrested… Full Report
Soldiers kidnap a Palestinian near Bethlehem
IMEMC by Saed Bannoura — Wed at dawn, 19 Mar — Several Israeli military jeeps invaded the town of Husan, west of Bethlehem city, and kidnapped a Palestinian man, soldiers also invaded the Deheisha refugee camp. Local sources have reported that the army invaded the home of Jamal Jabr Hamamra, 43, and kidnapped him after violently searched his property causing property damage. The sources said the army invaded various neighborhoods in the town before kidnapping Hamamra, and withdrew later on.
The army also invaded the Deheisha refugee camp, south of Bethlehem, and handed two Palestinians, military warrants ordering them to head to the Ezion military and security base for interrogation. Also on Wednesday at dawn, soldiers invaded various neighborhoods in Hebron city, in the southern part of the West Bank, and Surif town, and kidnapped five Palestinians.
3 detained in Israeli raid on Salfit civil defense HQ
[photos] SALFIT (Ma‘an) 21 Mar — Israeli forces stormed a headquarters of the Palestinian civil defense forces in Salfit in a dawn raid on Friday and detained three members. A public relations official for the civil defense forces told Ma‘an that an estimated 40 Israeli soldiers stormed the office and detained three military personnel working there on Friday. He identified the detained as the assistant Rida Tisheer Madi, Corporal Nabil Mahmoud Beni Nemra, and the soldier Ahmad Abdallah Beni Nemra from Salfit. The official said in a statement that Israeli forces broke and destroyed wireless devices and land lines, and also smashed and vandalized equipment in the office. He added that the raid had lasted an hour. An Israeli military spokesperson said that “three Palestinians were detained,” adding that Israeli forces “uncovered a pistol in the house of one of the suspects.”
Israeli forces detain 9 in overnight arrest raids
QALQILIYA (Ma‘an) Thu 20 Mar — Israeli forces arrested nine Palestinians in overnight arrest raids across the West Bank, Israel’s army and locals said. Israeli military forces raided the northern village of ‘Azzun and detained four men, witnesses said. Villagers were forced to wait outside in the street for several hours at gunpoint before Thaer Zamari, 23, Mahmoud Ghalib Badwan, 22, Jaafar Sami Udwan, 24 and Muhammad Imad Radwan, 23, were blindfolded and taken away in military vehicles. In Nablus, Israeli forces arrested 17-year-old Samir Hamdi Muflih after ransacking his family home. Bakr al-Tawil, 24, was detained at the Huwwara checkpoint and taken to a nearby military base, witnesses said. An Israeli army spokeswoman said nine Palestinians were detained, three in al-Jalazun refugee camp, three in Salfit, one in Nablus, one in Birzeit and one in Hebron.
Raids in West Bank, numerous kidnappings
IMEMC 20 Mar by Chris Carlson — Violence erupted between Israeli forces and young Palestinians, after dozens of soldiers in military vehicles raided various villages in the West Bank, taking with them several Palestinians. Security sources said that Israeli forces raided Jenin city and its refugee camp three times, this past Wednesday, with clashes erupting between soldiers and young Palestinians. Most wounded residents suffered the effects of tear gas inhalation, and received treatment by local medics. Several Palestinians were also injured after being attacked and beaten by the invading soldiers. Occupation forces abducted, on Thursday, 12 Palestinians from the village of Zabbouba, west of Jenin. According to the PNN, sources stated that Israeli troops raided coffee and barber shops belonging to Mahran Jamal Abu Bakr. Forces also kidnapped Muthana Assem Shaban and confiscated an ID and mobile belonging to Tareq Qan’eer, who also works in the police … Israeli forces also stormed the villages of Beit Qad, Deir Abu Da‘if, Masliya, and al-Zababdeh, set several military checkpoints at the main entrances and hindered the movement of the citizens.
Witnesses: PA forces detain 4 in Bethlehem refugee camp
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) Thu 20 Mar — Palestinian Authority security forces raided Bethlehem’s ‘Azza refugee camp overnight Wednesday and detained four people, witnesses said. PA forces raided the camp at around 3 a.m. and arrested Ameen al-Amareen, Karam al-Amareen, Aslaman al-Jouz and another unidentified man. Clashes broke out following the arrests, with youths throwing stones at security forces and PA officers firing warning shots in the air. There had been clashes earlier on Wednesday between youths from the camp and PA police, locals said. The circumstances surrounding the arrests were unclear.
Hamas members arrested in West Bank
Al-Bawaba 20 Mar — The Palestinian security apparatus has arrested dozens of Hamas members in Nablus and its surrounding towns and villages in the aftermath of the funeral of a Hamas military leader whose remains had been handed to the Palestinians for burial. As an apparent confidence building measure, the Israelis have been handing the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) the remains of dozens of bodies of Palestinians it has killed, kept with Israeli authorities for years. Last Wednesday, the Israelis handed the PNA the remains of the body of Mohammad Al Hanbali, who was the leader of Ezz Al Deen Al Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, in Nablus on Al Tayebah Crossing in Tulkarem. His body was carried in a PNA ambulance to Nablus but the funeral was delayed for some time because of disputes between Hamas in Nablus and PNA officials who initially threatened Hamas members in Nablus with arrest in relation to the funeral procedures. At issue was the Hamas desire to conduct the ceremony its own way without PNA involvement. The officer said that Hamas members removed the Palestinian flag wrapped around the remains and replaced it with the Hamas green flag, before insisting that the funeral be conducted on Hamas’ terms. Al Hanbali’s funeral was delayed for at least two hours, during which the PNA security apparatus arrested at least 40 Hamas members from Nablus. The officer stated that he regretted the “childish” Hamas behaviour which gives a bad image to the Palestinian martyrs.
Gaza under double blockade
Israeli forces shoot, injure 2 in Gaza
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 21 Mar — Israeli forces on Friday shot and injured two Palestinians east of Jabaliya refuge camp in the northern Gaza Strip, medical officials said. They told Ma‘an that two people were taken to nearby hospitals in moderate condition after being shot near the eastern cemetery in the camp. An Israeli army spokesman said forces identified two hits after firing on two Palestinians who attempted to climb over a security fence and failed to respond to warnings.
In early March, Israeli forces shot and killed 57-year-old Aminah Qudeih east of Khan Younis when she approached the separation barrier between Israel and the Gaza Strip. The woman’s relatives told AP she was mentally ill, and assumed she wandered toward the border by mistake.
Israel blocking humanitarian projects for Gaza: UN
[with video] PressTV 19 Mar — The United Nations says Israel has blocked humanitarian aid worth USD 110 million from reaching Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip. The UN Undersecretary General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman made the comments at the UN Security Council (UNSC) session on Tuesday, March 18. “The implementation of UN projects has not been renewed, though it was agreed upon with the Israeli authorities. Fifteen projects worth $14 million are currently on hold. 42 more projects worth USD 96 million are awaiting Israel’s permission,” the UN official said.
Gaza women protest against 40 days of Rafah crossing closure
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 21 Mar — Activists protested in front of the Egyptian embassy in Gaza on Thursday in condemnation of the continued closure of the Rafah crossing, demanding Egyptian authorities open the terminal to allow humanitarian cases through. Egyptian authorities have kept the crossing — which has been the principal connection between Gaza’s 1.7 million residents and the outside world since the imposition of an economic blockade in 2007 — largely shut for the last 41 days. Activists erected a protest tent in front of the embassy ten days ago, urging Egyptian authorities to re-open the crossing. Only two days after the tent was erected, three-year-old Ahmad Ammar Abu Nahl died after he was unable to travel abroad to receive medical care due to the closure’s crossing.
“Soldiers opened fire at our boat and engine. We were about to sink”
GAZA, Occupied Palestine (ISM, Rosa Schiano) 21 Mar — On Tuesday, 11th March, Israeli naval forces arrested two Palestinian fishermen and confiscated their fishing boat off the coast of Gaza City … “At about 2:00 pm, Israeli vessels approached our boat and soldiers started shooting,” Jihad said. “We were about four miles offshore. We tried to escape. Soldiers opened fire at our boat and engine. We were about to sink. Our boat was destroyed.” … The two fishermen were transported to Erez and crossed into the Gaza Strip around midnight. In addition to the fishing boat, the two fishermen lost two GPS units and a telephone on the fishing boat. Jihad had already been arrested by the Israeli navy once in 2008. His cousin Shabaan was arrested for the third time.
A fisherman said that since 2010, Israel has not returned any of the small fishing boats it has confiscated. Jihad has two young children and has been a fisherman since he was ten. His family is a family of fishermen. Thirty-one people from Jihad and Shabaan’s families depended on the confiscated fishing boat. It was their only source of livelihood. Jihad’s family owns another small boat, without a motor and slightly damaged.
PCHR organizes one-day training course for fishermen on human rights and mechanisms of access to justice
18 Mar — On 17 March 2014, the Training Unit of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) organized a one-day training course on human rights, mechanisms of access to justice and judicial remedy for Palestinian fishermen in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah. The 4-hour training was held in the Fishermen Union’s office in the new fishing port in Rafah and was facilitated by Mr. Bassam al-Aqra‘, Director of PCHR’s Training Unit. It was attended by 23 fishermen working in Rafah. The training was divided into 3 sessions. Mr. al-Aqra‘ gave a brief summary about PCHR and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). He addressed the concept of human rights and how it developed. In the second session, Mr. al-Aqra‘ tackled the concept of the right to adequate housing, land and property under international humanitarian and human rights law, focusing on the requirements of adequate housing. The third session covered mechanisms of justice and means of judicial remedy for fishermen. Moreover, it introduced the work of PCHR’s Legal Aid Unit and explained the mechanisms to defend victims. Mr. Al-Aqra‘ also addressed the importance of monitoring and documenting human rights violations, especially those perpetrated against fishermen. He highlighted a number of cases related to violations of fishermen’s rights that were legally successfully followed up by PCHR. [but not, apparently, any involving confiscated fishing boats?]
Desalinization plant to be built in Gaza
AFP 20 Mar — The European Union and UNICEF launched a project Thursday to build a desalination plant in the Gaza Strip to provide 75,000 Palestinians with drinking water. A joint statement said the project will be implemented by UNICEF thanks to a 10-million-euro ($13.7-million) EU grant. Just 5.8 percent of Gaza households have good quality water because of increased salinity caused by sewage infiltration of groundwater, according to a statement released Thursday by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics ahead of World Water Day on Saturday.
Israeli army uncovers ‘most advanced ever’ Gaza tunnel
Haaretz 21 Mar by Gili Cohen — Tunnel, which extends several hundred meters into Israel, is among the largest and most sophisticated ever found, army says — …For most of its length, the tunnel is at a depth of between eight and nine meters, though it runs as deep as 20 meters in some places. Among the equipment found in the vicinity of the tunnel were generators, security kit and concrete reinforcing. The IDF estimates that the tunnel was built over several months and was worked on until recently. “It’s a very high-quality tunnel and much thought went into it,” a senior IDF source said. “This sort of tunnel is built for a large operation – a kidnapping or something similar.”…
In a special press conference in Gaza on Thursday, the military wing of Hamas, Iz al-Din al-Qassam, said that the tunnel was not new, and had been unearthed months ago when rainfall caused its collapse. “The occupation is hysterical and confused in the face of the resistance army’s tunnels, but we’re ready for any scenario and we’ll teach the enemy a harsh lesson,” the group’s spokesman, Abu Obeida, said … In response, the IDF said that Hamas “is under tremendous pressure. The discovery of the tunnel is a huge blow to them.”
Hamas, Fatah prepare for Gaza student elections
GAZA CITY (Al-Monitor) 19 Mar by Hazem Balousha — Palestinian factions in Gaza, including Fatah, began preparations to participate in university student elections as part of national reconciliation initiatives proposed by Hamas. The elections were said to be held in the first semester of the next academic year, but no exact date has been set. Fatah may not be able to compete in the elections with a single list in light of its internal disputes, while Hamas may also face difficulties in the elections, considering its political and financial crisis.
Qassam Brigades member killed in ‘internal explosion’ in Gaza
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 21 Mar — A member of the armed wing of Hamas was killed in “internal explosion” east of Gaza City on Friday, medical sources said. Spokesperson for the Gaza Strip Ministry of Health Ashraf al-Qidra told Ma‘an that Ibrahim Rifati, 22, arrived dead to the Shifa Hospital after an explosion in the neighborhood of Tuffah. Al-Qassam Brigades that Rifati was killed in an “accidental explosion” while carrying out a “jihadist mission” in the corps of engineers.
Whereabouts and future of Gaza Apollo still unclear
Haaretz 21 Mar — The Louvre art museum in Paris has denied press reports that it will be restoring and exhibiting a bronze statue of the Greek god Apollo, which was found off the Gaza coast last summer. Discovered by a fisherman in shallow water near the Egyptian-Gaza border, the 2,500-year-old, life-size statue has dropped off the radar since its initial appearance. It was briefly listed on eBay at a going price of $500,000, before apparently being taken by Hamas representatives for safekeeping. Ahmed al-Borsh, director of Gaza’s Antiquities Department, was recently quoted by American National Public Radio as saying that the Hamas government had the statue in storage and was hoping to leverage it to forge ties with Western institutions. “We want to establish direct connections with official institutions who share our aim of protecting the statue,” he said. “Direct connections” is the key phrase for Hamas. Considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, Hamas hopes that international interest in preserving the statue could crack open the door of isolation
Detainees / Prisoner releases / Repatriation of bodies
Palestinian teen charged with attempted murder for stone-throwing confessed after torture
IMEMC 21 Mar by Chris Carlson — …Ali Shamlawi, 17, is accused of throwing stones at a truck near Ariel, a settlement in the occupied West Bank, causing a traffic accident in which a three-year-old Israeli girl was seriously injured. He is facing charges of attempted murder. The maximum sentence for attempted murder under Israeli military law is life in prison. Shamlawi says he confessed to throwing stones under duress and now denies the charges. In a sworn testimony given to DCI-Palestine, he claims he was held in solitary confinement, beaten and intimidated, and denied access to counsel by Israeli authorities during his arrest and interrogation. He has now been in detention for a year and neither his lawyer, nor his family know when a verdict will be reached. Under Israeli military law, Palestinian children can be imprisoned for up to a maximum of one year before legal proceedings must be completed against them. The military court has the right to extend detention by a further 60 days. After that, the military court of appeals can extend custody indefinitely in three-month chunks. Shamlawi is one of five boys arrested in connection with the same stone-throwing incident. The others are: Mohammed Suliman, Mohammad Kleib, Tamer Souf, and Ammar Souf. They were all aged 16 at the time. Israeli military law, which fails to ensure and denies basic and fundamental rights, is applied exclusively to the Palestinian population, including women and children.
‘My brother has been incarcerated longer than Mandela and Pollard’
Haaretz 21 Mar by Gideon Levy & Alex Levac — Haaretz visits the families of some of the Palestinian prisoners due to be released in a week as part of the peace talks — …The families of the others of the 14 Palestinian-Israeli prisoners who are due to be released on March 28 (within the framework of the current U.S.-brokered negotiations with the Palestinians) are far more restrained and cautious. Having been disappointed in the past, they are not allowing expectations to soar. No baklavas or flower boxes for them. Their loved ones have been incarcerated for periods of 25 to 32 years, without a single day of furlough, without one phone call. And after all the previous prisoner deals passed over them, they know that this time, too, their lot might be bitter disappointment, as it was after the Gilad Shalit deal in October 2011. Israel wields a double standard with regard to those of its sons who were involved in murderous terrorism before the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993. It refuses to release them, in the context of agreements made as a result of negotiations, because they are citizens of the country, but at the same time does not grant them the same rights as Jewish security prisoners. Some of them have served more than two-thirds of their terms, but have no chance of early release … Farida Daka is sitting in the courtyard of her home in Baka al-Garbiyeh, which her son Assad is now sprucing up for the possible liberation celebrations. Farida stares blankly at the activity around her. The 84-year-old widow has not been fully lucid for some years. When her husband died, Walid was not permitted to attend his father’s funeral, not even to speak to him on the phone as he lay dying. Now, as Assad unfurls a huge poster of Walid that he has prepared, her eyes fill with tears and she extends a soft hand to caress her son’s image.
2 Palestinian prisoners end hunger strike after 70 days
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 19 Mar – Two Palestinian prisoners suspended a 70-day hunger strike Wednesday after the Israeli authorities agreed to their demands, a lawyer said. Jawad Bulous of the Palestinian prisoner’s society visited hunger strikers Muammar Banat and Akram al-Fseisi at Kaplan Medical Center in northern Israel. He said in a statement that an Israeli prosecutor agreed to the demands the two announced when they started the strike. Bulous confirmed that the Israeli authorities agreed to set a time limit for their administrative detention without trial. Banat’s administrative term, he added, must end by May 2014, and al-Fseisi’s must end by August 2014. Banat was detained in August 2013, and al-Fseisi was detained in November 2012. Since they were detained, the two have been held without trial.
Israeli forces free recently detained Bethlehem woman
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 20 Mar — Israeli authorities on Thursday released a Palestinian woman who was taken into custody a few days earlier. A statement by the Palestinian prisoner’s society quoted the group’s lawyer as saying Israeli forces released Nawal Ubayyat from Bethlehem. He highlighted that she is a cancer patient. Ubayyat was detained on March 11 while she was visiting her son Salem in Israeli custody. She was released after two people volunteered to pay a fine on her behalf at the central court in Beersheba.
5 Palestinian moms in Israeli jail on Mother’s Day
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 20 Mar — As Palestinians prepare to mark Mother’s Day on March 21, five Palestinian mothers will be deprived of celebrating the occasion with their sons and daughters because they are jailed by Israel. The Palestinian prisoner’s society released a statement Thursday on the occasion of Mother’s Day to express solidarity with the jailed Palestinian women. Intisar al-Sayyad from Jerusalem, mother of two daughters and two sons, has been detained since Nov. 22, 2012. She is serving two-and-a-half years in Israel’s Sharon prison. Her husband Muhammad al-Sayyad was quoted in the statement as saying that raising children in the absence of their mother is very “difficult task.”….
Israeli minister threatens to resign if any more Palestinians are released from imprisonment
IMEMC 20 Mar by Celine Hagbard — A day after the Israeli government announced a delay in the promised release of 30 long-term Palestinian prisoners, Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon threatened, on Wednesday, to resign from his position if the release is carried out – a move which his critics claim is a political maneuver and not an actual threat. The group of thirty, all of whom have been imprisoned for over twenty years, are the third group of 104 prisoners promised their freedom under a deal negotiated between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority, based in the West Bank. The other two groups have already been released. However, although the third group is scheduled to be released on March 28th, an Israeli government official claimed on Tuesday that the release of prisoners may be delayed, due to a lack of progress in the so-called ‘peace negotiations’ led by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
Israel delivers remains of 4 Palestinians held for over a decade
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 19 Mar — Israeli authorities late Tuesday delivered the remains of four Palestinians withheld by Israel for over a decade, Palestinian officials said. Tamir Arafeh, director of the military liaison department in the northern West Bank, told Ma’an that the remains of Muhammad Abd al-Rahman al-Hanbali, Muhammad Abd al-Hamid Saleh Hamoudha, and Yasser Ahmad Saleh were delivered to the Taybeh checkpoint west of Tulkarem. Separately, the remains of Jamil Khalaf Mustafa Hmeid were delivered to his family at Tarqumiya checkpoint south of Hebron, security sources said. Al-Hanbali died in September 2003 after Israeli troops raided a building to detain him in the al-Makhfiyya neighborhood of Nablus….
The remains of martyr Ahmed Saleh finally returned to family
ASIRA AL-QIBLIYA, Occupied Palestine (ISM, Nablus Team) 20 Mar — In June 2002, Israeli soldiers assassinated 18-year-old Ahmad Saleh from the village of Asira al-Qibliya after he entered the illegal settlement of Yizhar. Ahmad’s body was then convicted post mortem to be held for 20 years by the Israeli authorities. Today, twelve years later, the body was given back to the family and was finally able to be buried with dignity. Two other martyrs’ bodies were also returned to their families yesterday and their funerals began in the morning from a local hospital in Nablus, and continued on to the centre of the city. The funeral procession for Ahmad Saleh continued to his home village of Asira al-Qibliya, with approximately 700 Palestinians in attendance. For the past 12 years the martyrs’ bodies have been held inside one of the ‘cemeteries of numbers’, which are secret cemeteries in closed military areas with bare graves surrounded by stones. Each ‘grave’ has only an identification number on a metal plate; family members are not allowed to visit. There are at least 300 known Palestinian martyrs from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip whose bodies are withheld within one of these ‘cemeteries of numbers’, with more remaining in Israeli morgues.
Thousands bury Bethlehem man after Israel returns body
[with photos] BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 19 Mar — Thousands of mourners on Wednesday attended the burial of a Bethlehem resident whose remains were returned to the occupied West Bank by Israel after being held by authorities for nearly 12 years. The body of Jamil Khalaf Mustafa Hmeid were delivered to his family at Tarqumiya checkpoint south of Hebron late Tuesday, Palestinian security sources said. The funeral procession started at Beit Jala’s public hospital, where the body was placed in an ambulance by Palestinian security officers and taken to Hmeid’s family home in the neighborhood of al-Maslakh. He was then buried in the Martyrs’ Cemetery in east Bethlehem. Hmeid died carrying out a suicide bombing that injured several Israeli settlers near the illegal settlement of Efrat in March 2002, south of Bethlehem. The attack came at the height of the Second Intifada, a Palestinian uprising in the 2000s against the decades-long Israeli occupation.
Palestinian refugees elsewhere
Syria’s besieged Yarmuk gets UN aid after two-week halt
BEIRUT (AFP) 18 Mar — The UN Palestinian refugee agency on Tuesday resumed food distribution in the besieged Yarmuk camp in Damascus after a two-week halt. UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said aid workers distributed 465 food parcels in addition to bread and jam, as well as 2,000 doses of polio vaccines and 800 small cartons of baby formula … “Set against the substantial civilian needs and the protracted closure of Yarmuk, the modest supplies we have taken in are not enough,” Gunness said. “We require secure, substantial and sustained humanitarian access as the Security Council has unanimously requested, and call on all concerned parties to ensure the establishment and maintenance of conditions that facilitate full access to Yarmuk.”
Italy rescues 600 Syrian, Palestinians, Eritrean boat migrants
ROME (AFP) 18 Mar — The Italian navy said on Tuesday it had rescued nearly 600 Syrian, Palestinian and Eritrean migrants crossing the Mediterranean in two overcrowded boats, including 62 minors. The Italian frigate Grecale pulled 323 Syrians and Palestinians to safety late on Monday, after helping rescue another 273 migrants from Eritrea, who were taken aboard the gunboat Sfinge, the navy said in a statement. The migrants, including 103 women, were spotted by a plane patrolling the seas off Italy as part of an operation launched after two October shipwrecks in which hundreds drowned.
Political, other news
PLO: 56 Palestinians killed, 897 injured since peace talks began
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 19 Mar — Israeli military forces have killed 56 Palestinians and injured 897 since the resumption of peace negotiations with Israel in July, the Palestine Liberation Organization said Tuesday. “Israeli violations of international law and human rights continued unabated. Rather than demonstrate goodwill during this period, Israel has done the opposite, with the aim of derailing the US peace efforts led by Secretary of State Kerry,” a PLO statement said. There have been over 500 settler attacks on Palestinian civilians and their property in the occupied West Bank and Israeli forces have arrested over 3,000 Palestinians in 3,767 military raids. Israel has also begun work on 10,509 housing units in illegal settlement while simultaneously demolishing 146 Palestinian homes, the PLO said.
Israeli settlements led to peace talks impasse: Palestinians
RAMALLAH (AFP) 20 Mar — US-sponsored peace talks with Israel have reached an impasse because of Jewish settlement activity, a Palestinian spokesman said, as plans for over 2,000 West Bank units were moved forward. The latest crisis comes as Washington scrambles for a formula to allow the Palestinians and Israelis to carry on the peace talks beyond an April 29 deadline. “Israel’s settlement activity caused the negotiations to fail and led them to an impasse,” Nabil Abu Rudeina, a spokesman for Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, told AFP. Abu Rudeina was reacting to the decision of an Israeli defence ministry committee, revealed earlier on Thursday, to push forward with plans to build 2,269 new West Bank homes.
Abbas demands release of key Palestinian prisoners
RAMALLAH (AFP) 20 Mar — Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas demanded in talks with US President Barack Obama that Israel free key Palestinian prisoners, including Marwan Barghuti, a Palestinian official said Thursday. Earlier this month, Abbas said Palestinians will not agree to extend peace talks with Israel beyond their April 29 deadline without Israel releasing more prisoners beyond the fourth and final tranche planned for later this month. During his meeting with Obama in Washington on Monday, “President Abbas demanded the release of more prisoners and Palestinian leaders in Israeli jails, like Saadat and Barghuti and Shubaki,” manager of the Palestinian prisoner club Abdulal al-Anani told the official Voice of Palestine radio. He was referring to Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) leader Ahmad Saadat, former Palestinian Liberation Organisation finance official Fuad Shubaki and Marwan Barghuti, one of the main architects of the 2000 intifada. Also on Thursday, an EU parliamentary delegation urged Israel to release long-term Palestinian prisoners, saying it was crucial to move a fragile Middle East peace process forward. “We believe that the release of prisoners… is central to the peace process,” said Emer Costello, who headed the EU delegation on a three-day fact-finding mission on Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.
Abbas returns to warm welcome after resisting US pressure
Al-Monitor 21 Mar by Daoud Kuttab — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas received a hero’s welcome in Ramallah after returning from what was billed as a tough summit in Washington with US President Barack Obama. Abbas was hailed as having stood his ground in the Oval Office meeting, resisting strong pressure from the United States to budge on at least two publicly stated issues: recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and the long-term deployment of Israeli troops in the Jordan Valley. Neither US officials nor Palestinians have stated what went on in the closed meeting. Public demonstrations in support of Abbas were held in many West Bank cities before and during the meeting. While thousands rallied in the West Bank, Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip banned the holding of similar demonstrations. The fact that Abbas held his ground was indirectly admitted by Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin, who told Al-Monitor that the Palestinian leader has not changed his position “one millimeter.” Abbas himself basked in the public support and gave a short statement reassuring his supporters that he has held his ground politically.
2 men arrested for ‘attempt’ to attack Fatah spokesman in Egypt
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 19 Mar — Egyptian security forces arrested two people on Wednesday on suspicion of attempting to assault Fatah spokesman Ahmad Assaf in Cairo, Fatah said. “Assaf filed an official complaint to the Egyptian authorities about the crime of attempting to assault him,” Fatah said in a statement. Two unidentified men were arrested and taken to Abdeen Police station in Cairo on suspicion of attempting to assault Assaf while he was on his way to a press conference, the statement added. The men had reportedly received orders to carry out the attack from dismissed Fatah strongman Muhammad Dahlan, Fatah claimed. The reported attempt comes amid a public spat between the controversial figure and Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas.
Security sources: Gunmen open fire at PA official’s home
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 18 Mar — Unidentified gunmen opened fire on the Ramallah home of a Fatah Central Committee member early Tuesday, security sources said. The assailants opened fire at the home of Jibril Rajoub in the Umm al-Sharayit neighborhood from a speeding car, the sources told Ma‘an. No injuries or damage were reported as the gunshots missed the building, the sources said. Palestinian intelligence officers arrived at the scene and opened an investigation into the attack. Adnan Dmeiri, spokesman for the Palestinian security forces, denied that a shooting attack took place.
New Palestinian campaign to support Druze conscientious objectors
Middle East Monitor 20 Mar by Budour Hassan — The snow storm that hit Palestine was at its peak on 17 December 2013, but that did not prevent dozens of Palestinian youth from climbing up Carmel Mountain to protest in support of imprisoned Druze conscientious objectors. While most Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship are exempt from serving in the Israeli occupation army, compulsory military service has been imposed on young Palestinian Druze men since 1956 following an agreement between a few un-elected leaders of the minority Druze community and the Zionist State. The week leading up to the December action was exceptional, as four young Druze publicly announced their refusal to enlist in the Israeli army … Several initiatives have sprung up since 1956 to demand an end to compulsory conscription such as the Free Druze Movement, founded in 1958, and the Druze Initiative Committee, established by the Israeli Communist Party in 1972. However, what distinguishes the new campaign “Orfod” (Arabic for refuse) from previous groups and initiatives is that it is an inclusive campaign that boasts participants from all sects, as well as from both inside the Green Line (present-day Israel) and the West Bank.
Native Israelis in the US given incentives to return home
Arutz Sheva 21 Mar by Eliran Aharon — The Ministry for Immigration and Absorption will be launching a special program in the US on Sunday – the “Return Home” Project – encouraging Israeli emigrants to return to their homeland. Native Israelis living in the US will be encouraged to move to the Negev and the Galilee, as part of efforts to boost development there. The conference will launch on Sunday in New York and be held in other cities across the US, including Chicago, Los Angeles, and Miami. The project will give added incentives to native Israelis who return to Israel and run for two years, from 2014-2015. Eight million shekels ($2.5 million) have been allotted to the project thus far.
Netanyahu orders IDF to prepare for possible strike on Iran during 2014
Haaretz 19 Mar by Barak Ravid — Despite talks between Iran and West, senior officers tell MKs 10b shekels ($2.9b) allocated to IDF to prepare for possible attack. — …The IDF representatives said the army had received a clear directive from government officials from the political echelon – meaning Netanyahu and Ya’alon – to continue readying for a possible independent strike by Israel on the Iranian nuclear sites, regardless of the talks now happening between Iran and the West, the three MKs said … Ever since the interim accord between Iran and the six powers was reached, Netanyahu has stressed that Israel will not consider itself bound by it.
Israel bombs Syrian military sites in retaliation for roadside bombing in Golan Heights
JERUSALEM (Reuters) 19 Mar – Israel launched air strikes on Wednesday against Syrian military sites in response to a roadside bombing that wounded four of its soldiers, but both sides signaled they were not seeking further escalation. The Syrian army, embroiled in a civil war, said one soldier was killed and seven were wounded in the air raids on three targets. Although Damascus condemned the Israeli attacks, it stopped short of any direct threat of retaliation and affirmed its focus on defeating insurgents. Israel, by announcing the air raids, as opposed to its official silence about past strikes on arms from Syria believed destined for Lebanon’s Hezbollah guerrillas, appeared intent on delivering a message of deterrence to President Bashar al-Assad.
Analysis / Opinion
Jailed militant key to Mideast talks / Mohammed Daraghmeh
RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — A prominent Palestinian uprising leader imprisoned by Israel could soon emerge as the key to keeping fragile U.S.-led peace efforts alive. According to several top officials, the Palestinians are seeking the freedom of Marwan Barghouti, who is serving multiple life sentences for his alleged role in killings of Israelis, as part of any plan to extend negotiations with Israel beyond an April deadline. A release of Barghouti, a popular figure among Palestinians, could inject new life into the troubled peace process, boost embattled Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and even provide the Palestinians with a plausible successor to their 78-year-old leader. But Israel seems unlikely to approve the request, setting the stage for a possible breakdown in the talks … no prisoner is more prized by the Palestinians than Barghouti, who was a rising star in the dominant Fatah party before he was captured by Israeli troops in 2002. Israel says Barghouti, 54, was a leader of the violent uprising in the West Bank early last decade. He is serving five life terms for alleged involvement in the deaths of four Israelis and a Greek monk. The Palestinians say Barghouti is a politician who had no direct involvement in any of the killings … At the outset of talks last July, Israel agreed to release 104 long-serving prisoners in four stages. But the fourth and final stage, scheduled later this month, is suddenly in jeopardy … On Tuesday, Israel’s chief peace negotiator said the final release was not guaranteed unless there was progress in the talks. For that reason, the release of Barghouti could become a contentious issue in the coming weeks. Israeli officials have rejected repeated attempts to include him in past prisoner releases. Still, Israel could be tempted. During the peace talks of the 1990s, Barghouti was generally liked by the Israelis, had many friends among them, and was considered a moderate interlocutor. With many Israelis concerned that Abbas will be followed by more radical nationalists or Islamists, a Barghouti ascension, despite his supposed actions during the uprising, might not seem like the worst option.
Time for a separate Arab parliament / Kobi Niv
Haaretz 19 Mar — They need to stop playing this game for the Jews, stop ‘participating’ in a game where they are not included, and stop voting in the Jews’ make-believe democratic elections — An Israeli Arab who keeps on voting for the “Jewish Knesset,” as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it recently, has to be either stupid or utterly naïve. For 66 years, Israel’s Arabs have been playing the Jews’ “democracy game” like good little children, and what did they ever get from it? Not a thing … Over Israel’s 66 years, 33 governments have served, and there has never been a single Jewish party (including the non-Zionist ones), in one incarnation or other, that was not a partner in one of them. The only parties that have never been members of any Israeli government, not even once, not for five minutes, are the Arab or joint Arab-Jewish parties. Even when the Zionist parties, which supposedly espouse equality and brotherhood and blah blah blah — from the United Workers’ Party in the past through all the various centrist-democratic-progressive parties to Meretz — were partners in the government, they never appointed any minister who was not a Jew according to Jewish religious law, heaven forbid. Only once did Labor, when Amir Peretz was its chairman and Ehud Olmert was prime minister, appoint an Arab minister, Raleb Majadele, who was in office for just over two years. And that is all. It never happened again … One thing is certain: If the Arabs do not participate in the elections for Israel’s Knesset, their voices will be heard much more clearly than they are when they sit on the Knesset benches. They will be saying: Israel is no democracy. To believe it is to believe a lie.
The Palestinian Authority is on the brink of collapse, study says
Haaretz 21 Mar by Amira Hass — Only achieving statehood could save the West Bank from an impending wave of violence, crime, chaos, disease, says major Palestinian report — …But even though most Palestinians want the PA to survive, either for the sake of basic social order or personal interest, and although Israel dreads having to resume responsibility for 3 million West Bankers, President Mahmoud Abbas’ regime will collapse before too long if Israel continues to thwart Palestinian aspirations for independence. This is the conclusion of a massive six-month study by the highly-regarded Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah, directed by Dr. Khalil Shikaki … The report concludes that the results of a PA shutdown would depend largely on whether the various components of the Palestinian leadership break long-time habits of poor planning, lack of transparency, excessive centralization, lack of consulting bodies and the immediate gratification of personal and sectarian interests. Preferably, the Palestinian leadership would decide to restore the status of the PLO and include Islamic movements in its ranks; decentralize planning and management and transfer those responsibilities to civil organizations and institutions; build an alternative management mechanism; or establish a government in exile … One certain result is that Hamas, and in particular the Hamas government in Gaza, would be strengthened.
Despite the cruelties heaped on them, Palestinian refugees’ spirit has not broken / Karma Nabulsi
The Guardian 21 Mar — From Syria to Turkey to Lebanon, exiled Palestinians haven’t surrendered – they are raising the flag for a return to their home — The only thing heard nowadays about the majority of the Palestinian people – those made refugees in the Nakba of 1948 – is that they must consider themselves and their fate entirely forfeited. Surrendering their right to return to the place they were expelled from – the most basic right every refugee has under international law – is apparently a given. It is on every leader’s lips, the key component of “the compromise” required in the leaked details of John Kerry’s “framework” for peace; a commonplace at every western diplomatic closed-door roundtable, which includes the quiet complicity of every Arab regime. Forfeited if you consider what is now happening to the half a million Palestinian refugees in Syria without respite: entire refugee camps, established more than 65 years ago, utterly flattened; the people in them killed or having fled to safely elsewhere; other refugee camps under military siege for so many months that the people suffering in them are literally starving to death. Hundreds of thousands made refugees for the third or fourth time in their lives, spending the hard months of this past winter in the snow and rain, many without a tent or food, the children without a school or medical care, on the slopes of a Turkish hillside, crowded into already bursting camps in Lebanon, cordoned off under military jurisdiction in Jordan … You could think, under these extreme cruelties specifically designed to break Palestinians and their cause, that the people as a whole have surrendered – or, if not surrendered, then at least are resigned to their fate. You would be wrong. Today, right across the world – and leading from besieged Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus – Palestinians are raising the flag of return under the banner Return Unifies Us. As a result of a remarkable call issued by a number of large national civic coalitions, which has spread like wildfire across the Palestinian body politic scattered to the four winds, it is now signed by more than 150 popular and grassroots organisations in Palestine and in exile.