Ministry: Death toll from Gaza offensive topped 2,310
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 3 Jan — New figures released by the Palestinian Ministry of Health to mark the end of 2014 reveal that the number of casualties from Israel’s summer assault on the Gaza Strip is significantly higher than previously reported. The ministry figures show that the total number of deaths among Palestinians in the 51-day offensive between July 7 and Aug. 28, 2014 reached 2,310, around 100 more than commonly cited figures. The revised toll likely includes a large number of Palestinians whose bodies were found in the rubble following the end of the Israeli bombardment, as well as dozens who have died of their wounds in hospitals in the months since the conflict’s end. The ministry said that of those killed were 1,802 male and 508 female. 10,626 Palestinians were also injured in the assault, of whom the ministry said 7,275 were male and 3,351 were female. The gender figures include children in both counts, of whom hundreds were killed. The ministry also that in the Gaza Strip 145 families lost three or more members in a single strike, meaning that in some cases entire families were removed from Palestinian civil records. 32 medics were killed and 102 were injured in the offensive, in addition to 36 ambulances and civil defense cars that were destroyed or damaged. Thirteen public hospitals were struck in addition to 17 private and non-governmental hospitals, one of which — al-Wafa Hospital — was completely destroyed. Twenty-three health centers belonging to the ministry were targeted, four of which were completely destroyed. Four private and non-governmental health centers were also targeted, one of which — the Khalil al-Wazir Clinic — was completely destroyed.
Two Palestinian kids burned to death in blockaded Gaza
GAZA (PIC) 4 Jan — Two Palestinian children [photos] died on Saturday evening after a fire engulfed their family home in the blockaded Gaza Strip. Spokesman for the Health Ministry Ashraf al-Qudra said the five-year-old child Amr Mohamed al-Habil and his cousin Khaled, 4, succumbed to the devastating fire that suddenly broke out at al-Habils’ family home at the Shati refugee camp. 22-year-old Mohamed Khaled al-Habil was seriously injured in the same incident. Spokesman for the Civil Defense Mohamed al-Maydana said the fire was caused by a lit candle at the casualties’ family home. A power crisis rocking the war-battered Gaza Strip with the advent of a freezing winter has made life unbearable for Gazans. Due to the blockade and scarce fuel supplies to the sole power generation station in the Strip, houses are supplied with power for only 4 hours a day.
After killing of Gaza teenager, calls for Egyptian inquiry
GAZA (New York Times) 3 Jan by Majd Al Waheidi & Kareem Fahim — Palestinian officials are demanding that the Egyptian government investigate the fatal shooting of a 16-year-old boy from Gaza who they say was killed by Egyptian soldiers, condemning what the officials called excessive force against a teenager who had been crossing the frontier to find work. The shooting of the boy, Zaki al-Hobi, on Friday was the first time in several years that Egyptian security forces had been accused of killing a Palestinian on the border, according to Palestinian officials. It highlighted the Egyptian military’s intensifying clampdown to deter smuggling in an area that the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi increasingly regards as its most serious security threat. An Egyptian military spokesman denied that soldiers had killed the boy, saying in a text message that “the shooting was not from our side.” Palestinian officials and the boy’s family said he had been shot as he and three friends crossed the border. The friends, arrested by the Egyptian authorities, said they had been trying to buy cigarettes in Egypt to sell in Gaza, according to police officials quoted by Reuters. “The child was defenseless and did not pose any threat to Egyptian security,” Iyad al-Buzom, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior and National Security in Gaza, said in a statement….
General strike in Gaza public hospitals over unpaid salaries
GAZA (PIC) 4 Jan — A state of complete paralysis hit the public health sector in the Gaza Strip on Sunday as a result of the general strike that was staged by medical civil servants to demand the payment of their salaries. Spokesman for the health ministry Ashraf al-Qudra said on his Facebook page that all public hospitals in Gaza came to a standstill today after all medical staff went on strike in protest at not receiving salaries for seven consecutive months from the unity government. Qudra added that the strike brought to a halt all medical activities in operating rooms, newborns’ nurseries, intensive care units, delivery rooms and other vital sections inside all public hospitals. He warned that the strike would constitute a threat to the lives and health of many patients, noting that there are 200 surgeries and other emergency operations scheduled for today. The union of public employees in Gaza had threatened to take protest steps to pressure the unity government to pay the salaries of all civil servants.
FIFA delegation to pop in blockaded Gaza Monday
GAZA (PIC) 5 Jan — A delegation of the International Federation of Football Associations (FIFA) is set to pop in Gaza Monday to join in repairing 10 stadium pitches sponsored by the federation. Palestinian sources said a FIFA team is to arrive in Gaza via the Beit Hanoun crossing early on Monday morning. A press conference, followed by a series of appointments with representatives of the Palestinian Football Federation, is expected to be held in the Beit Lahia stadium, north of the blockaded Gaza Strip. The envoy is also expected to stop at the Yarmouk stadium in Gaza City and to attend a football match of the Palestinian Premier League in Khan Younis, to the south of Gaza. The FIFA had pledged a million dollars to refurbish 20 pitches and grass terrains in Gaza stadiums.
IOF arrests Palestinian businessman at Erez Crossing
GAZA (PIC) 4 Jan — The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) arrested a Palestinian man from the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis after summoning him at the northern Erez (Beit Hanun) crossing on Sunday. Local sources told the PIC reporter that the IOF arrested the 51-year-old businessman Abdulhakim Shubair, and took him to Majdal prison. They said that the IOF did not disclose reasons for the arrest. The sources noted that Shubair has a trade permit which allows him to travel between Gaza and the West Bank.
Haniyeh: PA not spending fair amount of budget on Gaza
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 4 Jan — Senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on Sunday said in a speech that despite the formation of the unity government, the Palestinian Authority was not spending a fair amount of its budget on Gaza. “They (the PA) take $70 million in taxes and returns from Gaza each month, and it is not true what they have claimed — that they spend 55 percent of their budget on Gaza,” Haniyeh said. He gave his remarks during a speech that followed the funeral of two young Palestinians who died in a house fire. Initial civil defense force investigations showed that the fire was caused by a candle the family was using due to regular power cuts. Palestinians in Gaza blame the Israeli siege for the cuts, given that it severely limits imports and exports into the Strip, including fuel. Haniyeh continued: “Where is the nationalistic, moral, and religious responsibility taken by our brothers in Ramallah while they see our children burned because of this tragedy, the siege, and the crises?” He also asked why the necessary fuel material to operate Gaza’s sole power station had not been allowed into the Strip. “There are those who want to throw Gaza in the sea — unfortunately not just our enemies but our own people,” he added.
Israeli troops leave some communities near Gaza, irking residents
Haaretz 4 Jan by Shirly Seidler — Troops guarding communities near Gaza not right next to the fence packed up and left Sunday, to the consternation of residents who fear incursions by Hamas, as happened during the war over the summer. Buses arrived to pick the soldiers up from the Eshkol, Sha’ar Hanegev and Sdot Negev regions. Troops will continue guarding kibbutzim Nahal Oz, Netiv Ha’asara and Kerem Shalom. The Israel Defense Forces had announced the move last Monday. Haim Yellin, the chairman of the Eshkol regional council, said the decision to remove the soldiers was “disconnected from reality” and “badly impaired the residents’ feeling of security.” “It’s inconceivable that the troops providing security are being taken out before a new barrier is put up along the border,” he said. Before the Gaza war, there was no full-time military presence at the communities, which requested an IDF presence as needed. In some places, residents did guard duty.
Report: New Israeli prisoner being held by Hamas in Gaza
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 3 Jan — A report on a Lebanese satellite channel on Saturday claimed that an Israeli man who was swept out to sea while swimming off the coast of southern Israel is now being held by Hamas. The report was aired on al-Mayadeen, a channel known for its sympathies with the Palestinian cause and Hezbollah, and could not immediately be confirmed. The channel said that the man, who is Jewish of Ethiopian origin, was being held in Gaza, where he ended up on shore after the tide took him. It also said that Israeli authorities had refused to acknowledge the incident, but were planning to invent a “story” with the individual’s family claiming he was “mentally ill.” The report also suggested that racism played a role in the lack of attention given to the case, as it claimed that neither the Israeli government nor right-wing parties had taken up the issue due to the man’s African heritage.[See also article by Richard Silverstein, who broke this story in October only to see it buried]
Violence / Raids / Arrests – West Bank
Israeli forces shoot 3 Palestinian shepherds near Nablus
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 3 Jan — Three Palestinian shepherds were injured on Saturday after Israeli forces and private security guards at a Jewish settlement opened fire on a crowd near Nablus. Ghassan Daghlas, a Palestinian official who monitors settlement activity in the northern West Bank, told Ma‘an that several Israeli settlers attacked a group of shepherds in the area of Khirbet Yanun near the village of ‘Aqraba and opened live fire at them after the group entered the area. Israeli soldiers later entered the area and opened fire as well, hitting three men. The injured were identified as Falah Youssef Bani Jaber, hit in the hand, Ahmad Bani Jaber, also hit in the hand, and Judeh Bani Jaber, who was hit with a rubber-coated steel bullet in his stomach.
An Israeli military spokeswoman told Ma‘an that the Palestinian shepherds gathered near the Gidonim outpost of the Itamar settlement north of ‘Aqraba, claiming that their herds had been stolen. Israeli residents of the settlement then called army forces, she said, and the local security guards and the army forces “fired in the air to disperse the riot.” She said that the herds were subsequently found and that they had not been “stolen,” as the Palestinians had claimed. However, she refused to comment on whether the herds had been found inside the settlement or not. She added that the military was looking into reports that Palestinians had been injured in the incident.
Israeli security guard shoots, injures Hebron teen
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 4 Jan — A Palestinian teenager was shot in the foot on Sunday by a security guard of the Israeli settlement of Kiryat Arbaa east of Hebron, locals said. Local sources identified the teen as 18-year-old Haytham Ziad Hijazi al-Rajabi. The security guard shot al-Rajabi during clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli troops in the Jabal Juhur neighborhood near the illegal settlement of Kiryat Arbaa. He was taken to al-Ahli hospital for treatment.
Israeli forces raid West Bank town, deliver summons
SALFIT (Ma‘an) 4 Jan — Israeli forces overnight raided the central West Bank town of Qarawat Bani Hassan in the western Salfit district, locals said Sunday. Local sources told Ma‘an several Israeli soldiers stormed the town after midnight and ransacked houses. The troops delivered summons for interrogation to several Palestinian men in the area, they said.
Israeli forces hold Fatah leader at Bethlehem-area checkpoint
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 3 Jan — Israeli forces deployed at the Container checkpoint east of Bethlehem on Saturday stopped and held Fatah central committee member Abbas Zaki in an apparent attempt to detain him. Zaki told Ma‘an via telephone that Israeli forces at the checkpoint were holding him and two of his escorts in his car. He said they had taken his identity card with them without clarifying the reason for the stop. Zaki told Ma‘an that Israeli soldiers were making telephone calls and he suspected they were trying to find a reason to detain him. “There seems to be an Israeli order for my detention.” Zaki said. “Israeli forces are preventing me from making or receiving calls on my mobile,” he added. He added that several Palestinians at the checkpoint had attempted to defend him and prevent his detention. Ma‘an lost contact with Zaki soon afterward. The Container checkpoint, located northeast of Bethlehem near the Wadi Nar canyon east of al-Sawahira al-Sharqiya village, is located on the only major road open to Palestinians that connects the southern West Bank regions of Hebron and Bethlehem to the central and northern West Bank.
At least 5 kidnapped by Israeli forces in Jerusalem and West Bank
IMEMC/Agencies 5 Jan — …In Jerusalem, Israeli police invaded the Old City neighborhood and arrested three Palestinians, WAFA Palestinian News & Info Agency reports. They were identified as Mahmoud Teryaki, Abdullah Abu Diab and Ahmad Za’anin. The three were led to the Russian Compound detention center, in Jerusalem, for interrogation. Meanwhile, the army stormed the village of Taqu‘, east of Bethlehem, where they arrested 18-year-old Mohammad Asakrah and 20-year-old Mohammad Sabah, after raiding their homes and damaging their furniture. Forces also stormed Bethlehem city, serving Ismail Nabahin, 36, with a notification to appear before Israeli intelligence in the nearby Gush Etzion military compound …
To the west of Hebron, on Sunday, Israeli authorities served local residents of Idhna village with notices to remove four Palestinian-owned commercial and agricultural structures in the village, according to local sources. The village is located in Area C, under full Israeli military and administrative control, where issuance of construction permits is strictly limited, forcing many to attempt building without obtaining a permit.
On New Year’s Day occupation kidnaps boy giving out flowers
[with photos] IWPS Team 1 Jan — On the first day of the year 2015 Israeli occupation beat and kidnapped an 18-year-old from Nablus city in broad daylight. The teen had been giving out red roses to Palestinian drivers at Huwara checkpoint. A group of Nablus-based Palestinian activists gathered at Huwara checkpoint at around midday today, to mark the beginning of the new year with banners that said, “2015: No occupation! No checkpoints! No Apartheid Wall!” Two Santa Clauses had only started giving out red roses to drivers when a bunch of Israeli occupation soldiers appeared and started harassing the people. They also took over traffic management although nobody had asked them to and either way the traffic was running fine without such unwanted intervention by the occupation. Some half an hour later the Palestinian group turned back to return to Nablus. They were however followed by a bunch of Israeli occupation soldiers and a military jeep. Although it is illegal for Israeli citizens – and occupation soldiers are Israeli citizens – to enter Nablus, which is Area A (in theory and on paper, under full Palestinian security control), the Israeli occupation has never bothered with such unimportant matters as law, even its own law. Soldiers followed the group to a nearby hill between local shops and houses and caught the 18-year-old who had been giving out roses not long before. They pushed him to the ground, beat him, locked him up in a military jeep and drove off, presumably to the nearby illegal Israeli military base for interrogation.
Israel arrests ISIS-inspired Palestinians in West Bank
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (Reuters) 5 Jan — Israeli forces have detained three ISIS-inspired militants in the occupied West Bank, the first known Palestinian cell linked to the Syria- and Iraq-based insurgent group, the Shin Bet internal security service said Sunday. It said the three men, all in their early 20s and from Hebron, were arrested in November and told interrogators they planned to attack Israeli soldiers and a Jewish settler. The Shin Bet statement described the three as “identifying with” ISIS but made no mention of them having left the West Bank to meet with members of the jihadi group. A Shin Bet official said this was the first case Israel knew of in which Palestinians planned attacks in the name of ISIS, whose bases in Syria and Iraq have drawn dozens of foreign volunteers, including Palestinians and Israeli Arabs. The three detainees are to be tried in Israeli military courts. It was not immediately clear from the Shin Bet statement whether they had been assigned lawyers or how they would plead to terrorism charges planned against them.
PCHR Weekly Report: 4 killed, 17 wounded by Israeli forces this week
PCHR-Gaza 4 Jan — In its Weekly Report On Israeli Human Rights Violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories for the week of 24- 30 Dec. 2014, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) found that Israeli forces continue systematic attacks against Palestinian civilians and property in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, with 4 dead this week from Israeli attacks and 17 wounded. 3 of the dead and 16 of the wounded were civilian non-combatants, and 2 of the dead were children … Israeli forces continued to use force against peaceful protests in the West Bank. 3 Palestinian civilians were wounded during Kufor Qaddoum protest, northeast of Qalqilya. 3 Palestinian children were wounded during other protests. 6 Palestinian civilians, including a child and 2 women, were wounded during several shooting incidents … Israeli forces conducted 65 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank, abducting 61 Palestinian civilians, including 14 children and 2 women. 16 of these civilians, including 8 children and 2 women, were abducted in occupied Jerusalem. [Full Report with details of these and many other violations]
IPS rejects appeals to end isolation of 6 Palestinian prisoners
RAMALLAH (PIC) 5 Jan — The Israeli prison service (IPS) turned down appeals to end the isolation of six Palestinian prisoners in Nafha jail. Lawyer of the Prisoners Society said following a visit he paid to the prisoners, the IPS has ended the isolation of only four prisoners out of 10 incarcerated in solitary confinement since June. Another four-prisoner-batch is expected to be transferred from solitary lock-down to ordinary prison cells within the next few weeks. The lawyer identified the four prisoners as: Mahmoud Kelibi, Ya’koub Kadri, Samir Toubas, and Ismail Abu Shadouf. The IPS has rebuffed petitions calling for ending the isolation of the two Palestinian prisoners Fahd Sawalha and Mihana Ziyoud. Earlier, in December, 10 Palestinian prisoners held in the Israeli occupation lock-down of Nafha had initiated a hunger strike in solidarity with the isolated Palestinian inmate Nahar al-Saadi. Over 100 prisoners reportedly joined the two-week-long hunger strike.
Land, property theft & destruction / Restrictions on movement / Apartheid
Israeli Supreme Court rules against separation wall in Battir
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 4 Jan — The Israeli Supreme Court has ruled against the construction of a section of the separation wall in the West Bank village of Battir west of Bethlehem, a local official said Sunday. Akram Badir, head of Battir’s local council, told Ma‘an that the Supreme Court “signed a final decision rejecting a request by the Israeli army to build a section of the annexation wall in the village.” “To make any changes to the decision, the Israeli occupation will have to start new procedures from scratch that will take several years,” Badir said. “This triumph in Battir is a victory for Palestine as whole,” he added. He said Battir locals had worked tirelessly to protect its landscape, which was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage in Danger site in 2014. Battir is famous for its ancient terraces and Roman-era irrigation system which is still used by villagers for their crops. But the village came under threat from Israeli plans to erect part of the West Bank separation barrier there, which experts say would have irretrievably damaged the water system. Palestine won membership in UNESCO in October 2011 and quickly moved to submit a number of sites for recognition, including an emergency application for Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity which was approved in June the following year, despite Israeli objections. In 2004, the International Court of Justice issued an advisory opinion calling on Israel to stop building the wall and dismantle or re-route sections that had been constructed.
Video: West Bank roads bear signs of occupation
AlJazeera 4 Jan — Driving around the occupied West Bank can get confusing for Palestinians. The Palestinian Authority is not allowed to put up road signs in Arabic for most of the region. In the 60 percent of the area under full Israeli control, the original Arabic names of villages cannot even be referred to. Al Jazeera’s Nisreen El-Shamayleh reports from the West Bank. [Note: This video is ‘geo-restricted’, which usually means that viewers in the US who have access to Al Jazeera America TV cannot watch it – perhaps others can’t either]
Israeli forces close entrance to West Bank town with earth mounds
SALFIT (Ma‘an) 4 Jan — Israeli forces early Sunday closed the western entrance to a town in the Salfit district with mounds of earth, locals told Ma‘an. The entrance of the village of Deir Istiya was recently closed by earth mounds piled on the street by Israeli bulldozers, but locals cleared the streets during the recent celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the Fatah movement. One local resident, Nathmi Salman, told Ma‘an Israeli troops arrived with bulldozers overnight and re-closed the entrance completely. Khlaf Khalaf, the mayor of Deir Istiya, described the closure as “collective punishment in line with the Israeli occupation’s efforts to displace Palestinians and force them to leave their lands. He said Israel has continued to expand Israeli settlements built on private Palestinian land in the town. Most recently, Israel “‘legalized’ a new settlement outpost near the Wadi Qana area, which is one of the most beautiful landscapes in Palestine.”
Israel to ask US congressmen to halt aid to Palestinians
Haaretz 5 Jan by Barak Ravid — Recently passed American legislation states that if the Palestinians initiate any action against Israel at the ICC, the State Department would have to stop American aid to the PA, which comes to some $400 million annually. After freezing the transfer of tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority, Israel is taking additional steps to punish the PA’s for its request to join the International Criminal Court at The Hague. A senior Israeli official said on Sunday Jerusalem would be contacting pro-Israel members of the U.S. Congress to ensure the enforcement of legislation stipulating that if the Palestinians initiate any action against Israel at the ICC, the State Department would have to stop American aid to the PA, which comes to some $400 million annually. The stop-gap funding bill was passed in Congress last month. Both houses of the new Congress to be seated later this month will be controlled by the Republican Party, with many key positions filled by senators and representatives who are pro-Israel and anti-Palestinian. The law regarding the Palestinians initiating action at the ICC is strongly worded and states that President Barack Obama cannot waive a decision to halt aid to the PA.
Netanyahu calls on ICC to reject Palestinian bid
Middle East Monitor 2 Jan — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) to reject the Palestinian Authority’s request to join the Rome Statute, saying it is not a state. “We expect the ICC to reject the hypocritical request by the Palestinian Authority, which is not a state but an entity linked to a terrorist organisation,” he said in a statement. “The state of Israel is a lawful country with a moral army that enforces all international laws. We will protect IDF soldiers as they protect us,” he continued. Netanyahu’s remarks came during a meeting in the Defence Ministry’s headquarters in Tel Aviv to discuss the Israeli response to the Palestinian request to join the ICC. On Wednesday evening, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signed a request to join the court, which will allow the Palestinians to prosecute Israeli officials, in addition to another 19 applications to join international institutions and treaties. In November 2012, Palestine became a non-member state at the United Nations which gives it the right to join a series of international treaties and conventions, including the Rome Statute.
Israel withholds funds, weighs lawsuits against Palestinians
JERUSALEM (Reuters) 3 Jan by Allyn Fisher-Ilan — Israel has decided to withhold critical tax revenue from the Palestinians and is seeking ways to bring war crimes prosecutions in the United States and elsewhere against President Mahmoud Abbas and other senior figures, Israeli officials said on Saturday. The moves are in retaliation for moves by the Palestinians to join the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, with the aim of prosecuting Israelis for what they consider war crimes committed on their territory … In a first punitive response to Abbas’ approach to the ICC, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided in consultation with senior ministers on Thursday to withhold a monthly transfer of tax revenue totaling some 500 million shekels ($125 million), an Israeli official said on Saturday. The funds are critical to running the Palestinian Authority, which has limited self-rule, and paying public sector salaries. Israel took a similar step in December 2012, freezing revenue transfers for three months in anger at the Palestinians’ launch of a statehood recognition campaign at the United Nations. Under interim peace deals from the 1990s, Israel collects at least $100 million a month in duties on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. In addition to the revenue freeze, an Israeli official said Israel was “weighing the possibilities for large-scale prosecution in the United States and elsewhere” of President Abbas and other senior Palestinians. Israel would probably press these cases via non-governmental groups and pro-Israel legal organisations capable of filing lawsuits abroad, a second Israeli official said, explaining how the mechanism might work.
Israel eyes tougher moves after Palestinian tax freeze
JERUSALEM (AFP) 4 Jan by Hazel Ward — Israel was weighing its options Sunday for further punishing the Palestinians after freezing millions in tax revenues as a first response to their bid to join the International Criminal Court … Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat denounced the freezing of the transfer as “piracy”, and Hamas said it amounted to “the theft of Palestinian money”, urging the leadership to cut all security cooperation with Israel. But Israeli officials warned it was only the first in a series of punitive measures. “If the Palestinian Authority doesn’t take a step back, I think we have to take much more severe steps,” said Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, a close associate of Netanyahu, referring to a “gradual dissolution” of the PA. “We should not aid the existence of this authority.’ … But, in an unusual development, Israel was not planning to announce any new settlement construction, a senior foreign ministry official said on Sunday. Speaking to Israeli diplomats serving in Europe, foreign ministry director general Nissim Ben Sheetrit said Israel’s response would be “harsher and more comprehensive” than just freezing the taxes, but would not include settlement announcements, ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon told AFP.
First Palestinian ICC case to be Gaza war: rights group
AFP 4 Jan — The first case the Palestinians will refer to the International Criminal Court will be the “crimes” Israel committed during summer 2014, including the Gaza war, a legal expert said Sunday. On January 2, the Palestinians presented a formal request to join the Hague-based court in a move which opens the way for them to file suit against Israeli officials for alleged war crimes in the occupied territories. The ICC can prosecute individuals accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed since July 1, 2002, when the court’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute, came into force. If the application process goes as planned, the Palestinians should be able to refer a case in early April, with legal preparations to that end already well under way. Shawan Jabarin, director of the Ramallah-based rights group Al-Haq, said the Palestinians had decided to file suit over Israel’s actions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip starting from June 13, 2014. That was the date Israel began a massive crackdown in the West Bank after the kidnapping and subsequent murder of three Israeli teenagers, triggering a series of events which led to the seven-week Gaza war that killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians and 73 people in Israel. Cases referred to the ICC need “a very specific geographic location and timeframe”, Jabarin told AFP, saying the same date had been selected by a UN commission probing alleged rights violations during the Gaza war and the period leading up to it.
Israel ‘won’t let its soldiers be dragged to the ICC’: PM
AFP 4 Jan — Israel will not permit its soldiers to be hauled in front of the International Criminal Court on potential war crimes charges, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday. “We will not let Israel Defence Forces (IDF) soldiers and officers be dragged to the International Criminal Court in The Hague,” Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting, two days after the Palestinians filed a controversial application to become a party to the court. His remarks were made after Israel froze the transfer of half a billion shekels ($127 million/106 million euros) in tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority in the first of what officials said would be a series of punitive steps following the Palestinian move. Israel often freezes the transfer of funds as a punitive measure in response to Palestinian diplomatic or political developments it views as harmful. “The Palestinian Authority has chosen to take a path of confrontation with Israel, and we will not sit idly by,” Netanyahu warned, vowing to defend Israeli military personnel from possible prosecution by the court. The ICC can prosecute individuals accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed since July 1, 2002, when the court’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute, came into force. “IDF soldiers will continue to defend Israel with determination and strength — and as they defend us, we will defend them, with the same determination and the same strength,” Netanyahu said. He said the Palestinian leadership should be put on trial before the ICC for signing a 2014 reconciliation agreement with the Islamist Hamas movement which led to the establishment of a national consensus government. “Those who should face justice are the heads of the Palestinian Authority who signed a covenant with the war criminals of Hamas,” he said.
Abbas seeks to re-submit statehood bid to UN Security Council
RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) 5 Jan — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Sunday he was discussing with Jordan plans to resubmit to the United Nations Security Council a resolution calling for the establishment of a Palestinian state that failed to win enough votes last week. Jordan remains a member of the Security Council while several other countries with revolving membership were replaced over the New Year. The Palestinians hope these states will be more sympathetic to their resolution demanding an Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories and independence by 2017, although the veto-wielding United States would be all but certain to vote ‘No’ again, as it did on Dec. 30. “We didn’t fail, the U.N. Security Council failed us. We’ll go again to the Security Council, why not? Perhaps after a week,” Abbas told officials at a cultural conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah, the Palestinian seat of self-rule government. “We are studying it, and we will study this with our allies and especially Jordan … to submit the resolution again, a third time or even a fourth time.” In the U.N. vote on Tuesday, the Palestinian draft received eight votes in favor, including France, Russia and China, two against and five abstentions, among them Britain. Australia joined the United States in voting against the measure. But any resubmission would face almost certain failure. The U.S. has veto power as one of the council’s five permanent members and has pledged to block Abbas’s plan, calling it one-sided and unproductive.
Official: Palestine to join Interpol
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 3 Jan — Palestinian authorities have decided to join the International Criminal Police Organization, widely known as Interpol, an official revealed Saturday. The head of the international relations and cooperation department in the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Interior told Ma‘an that the PA plans to submit a request to join the group in 2015, ahead of Interpol’s annual meeting. Ahmad al-Rabie said that Palestine submitted a request to join the Interpol in 2011 but that it was only accepted as an observer and not as a full member because it had not been recognized as a state at the time and did not have control over its borders. This time, however, Palestine is sure that 128 countries will vote in favor of the state joining Interpol, four above the required threshold, al-Rabie said. He said joining Interpol will result in several international benefits for Palestine, including the ability to take part in fighting cross-border crimes and fighting terrorism, money laundering, corruption, arms trade, and human trafficking. Al-Rabie said that joining the Interpol will also benefit the Palestinian police as they will receive training courses, expertise, and information from the organization. He expects that police will be supplied with information from other police around the world about international criminal networks in addition to the ability to extradite wanted Palestinians from any other country in the world. Palestine is a member of the Arab Bureau of Criminal Police, which has helped in capturing wanted Palestinian fugitives.
Report: Former Fatah leader met with Israeli minister in Europe
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 4 Jan — Israeli media reported Sunday that former Fatah official Muhammad Dahlan has met with an Israeli minister several times in Europe, but Dahlan denied the claims. Israeli and Palestinian sources told the Hebrew-language news site Walla that Dahlan and the Israeli minister met on numerous occasions. Dahlan told Walla that he had not met with Israeli ministers, and that “such news is meant to serve internal Israeli goals ahead of Knesset elections.” The office of the Israeli minister, not named in the Walla report, also denied the meetings. But the chief of Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence agency said that the meetings did not reflect an official Israeli political policy, but that the meetings rather reflected a personal position of the minister who reportedly met with Dahlan. The Shin Bet’s comments came after Palestinian Authority officials reportedly contacted Israeli officials to ask if the alleged meetings with Dahlan were official meetings.
Report: Tibi joins Aqsa march to mark Prophet’s birthday
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 3 Jan — Palestinian member of the Israeli Knesset Ahmad Tibi on Saturday joint hundreds of Palestinians marching toward the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem to mark the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, Israeli media reported. Tibi waved the Palestinian flag and called for an end to the Israeli occupation, according to the Israeli news site Ynet. “The procession sends a message of liberty and peace and a desire to shake free the burden of the occupation in order to gain a normal and free life,” Tibi said. “The procession ended at Al-Aqsa Mosque, the crown jewel of Jerusalem, which will be the capital of Palestine.”
Erdogan lifts his family from the harsh life in Miyah wa Miyah
BEIRUT (PIC) 4 Jan — The Turkish courage in supporting the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the massacre committed by the Israeli navy on the Turkish aid ship Mavi Marmara motivated the Palestinian refugee Muhammad Shana’a to name his son after the then Turkish Prime Minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Back then, Shana’a didn’t know that this child will cause a drastic change in his family’s harsh life in the Lebanese refugee camps. Erdogan’s visit to Saida in 2010 to sponsor the opening of the Turkish Hospital was a golden opportunity for Shana’a to meet the distinguished guest. After 4 years of that meeting, Shana’a learned that his son “Recep Tayyip Erdogan” and then his five siblings, his father and mother were granted the Turkish nationality, giving them the chance to start a whole new life that would compensate them for the life of poverty and suffering they lived in the refugee camps. Shana’a lives in a small house that lacks the minimum necessities of life in al Miyah wa Miyah camp. “After I named my son, I said that one day the great president Erdogan will carry him, and after about a month I came to know that he will visit Saida to open the Turkish Hospital so I prepared myself to attend the opening to see him even if from afar,” Shana’a said….
Asian Cup: Palestine’s star player dies in Gaza attacks but team still cherishes chance to play
Firstpost Sports 5 Jan — Since the jubilation of qualifying for a maiden Asian Cup campaign Palestine have lost their coach, seen friendly matches cancelled, had players blocked from travel and been involved a bloody conflict, but still they refuse to be downhearted. Few expect their stay in Australia to last longer than the group stage, where they face holders Japan, former winners Iraq and fellow West Asians Jordan, but that does not matter to the side ranked 113th in the world. Their greatest victory has already been achieved — earning the opportunity to show the world they have a team capable of competing against the top sides in Asia despite the issues they face. “This is a historic occasion for us,” forward Ashraf Nu’man told FIFA.com. “Our goal is to let the world know that the Palestinian national team are moving forward despite the difficulties facing us. “We want to convey the message that the Palestinian players have the right to play and develop. Furthermore, we want to bring a smile back to the faces of our people and make our fans happy.
Asian Cup 2015: Palestinians hope footballers can put them on the map
JERUSALEM (The Guardian) 3 Jan by Daniella Peled — …There is no keeping politics and sports apart when it comes to Palestinian football, as the team’s head coach, Ahmed Al-Hassan, acknowledges straight off. “Through this team we hope to achieve a political goal, that we are worthy of a state and that we have built our institutions, despite the occupation, the separation between Gaza and the West Bank and the war against us,” he says. “We are capable of making miracles.” Palestine has had a rocky ride to Australia 2015, failing to qualify for any of the Asian Cups since the team was formed as a member of Fifa in 1998 and only twice achieving limited success in the second-tier AFC Challenge Cup for “emerging” football nations. However, they surprised everyone – including themselves – in winning the 2014 Challenge Cup, securing a berth in Australia and their first top-level match. They will play it in Newcastle against the reigning Asian champions, Japan, on 12 January. But their biggest problems as a team are not sports-related. The security situation and travel restrictions severely limit the team’s opportunities to train together. With squad members having to travel from the closed-off Gaza Strip, and some of them playing far afield in European and Asian leagues, full training sessions are few and far between.
‘We have a circus in Palestine’
WEST BANK (Al Jazeera) 4 Jan — A group of young men carry large barrels down the stairs and roll them across the concrete surface of the courtyard into a large, grey circus tent. It is the only circus tent in Palestine and belongs to the Palestinian Circus School, located in the small Christian village of Birzeit in the West Bank. The school recently launched its winter semester, with a significant increase in participants: 220 students this year compared with 160 last year. This is largely due to a new programme for 8- to 12-year-olds living in the neighbouring Al Jalazon refugee camp … From the roof of the school, one can view the neighbouring refugee camp, where the situation for children is “devastating”, noted Jessika Devlieghere, one of the founders of the circus school. “They live crammed together and face much violence on a daily basis. We believe very strongly that this is the heart of our work, because the need for any kind of relief and recreational positive input is bigger then ever,” she told Al Jazeera. Inside the tent, one man jumps on a trampoline while another balances on a wooden stick between two stacks of barrels. The 33-year-old Zmorrod teaches acrobatics. He believes the reason behind the school’s popularity is that it provides a safe haven for children and teenagers to express themselves. “Kids have a lot of energy, but there are no healthy places for them to express how they feel – only the street which is dangerous,” he said, noting children are not traditionally heard in this society. The political tension and everyday obstacles presented by the Israeli occupation foster a situation where they are expected to be tough and become adults from a young age, causing frustrations to build up.”Through circus activities, children can channel their frustration and anger in a positive way,” he said. “The circus school is a place where they are heard and accepted; where they can scream and criticise things. That’s what I teach.”
Bilingual education in Israel faces challenges
The Media Line 2 Jan — The Hand in Hand bilingual schools teach two languages, two cultures, and three religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Each classroom has two teachers, one who teaches in Hebrew and the other in Arabic — When President Obama lit a menorah in the White House last week, it was a colorful olive wood menorah made by Hand in Hand students after arsonists burned down a first grade classroom. Labeled in Hebrew and Arabic, the menorah listed values such as equality, peace, education, friendship and freedom that characterize the school. Two ninth-graders, one Jewish and one Arab, were on hand to light the menorah.
Chilean mother of Bedouin soldiers: Coexistence is natural
Ynet 4 Jan by Noam Barkan — Blanca Hayib left Chile and had 10 children with the love of her life – a Bedouin Israeli Arab; out of the ten kids, two have been wounded in IDF service and two have married Jews: ‘For us, it’s natural. Why not?’ … This wasn’t the first time one of Blanca’s soldier sons was miraculously returned to her alive: Last week it was Abed Aljabar, a fighter in the Israel Defense Forces’ Bedouin Reconnaissance Battalion who was seriously wounded by sniper fire on the Gaza border; and before that it was Zachariah, who lost his friends when their tank blew up. But that’s not even the most interesting part of Blanca’s incredible story.
Business as usual at the UN but US public opinion on Israel is shifting
Middle East Monitor 2 Jan by Ben White — Speaking to the Security Council on Tuesday shortly after voting against the doomed Palestinian-drafted resolution on statehood, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power referred three times to an “unsustainable status quo” between Israel and the Palestinians. It is of course Washington itself that bears most responsibility for this status quo, through its diplomatic, military, and economic support for the occupier, and leadership of a decades-long ‘peace process’ that has given Israel the cover to de facto annex its way to a permanent occupation. There is another ‘status quo’, however, that is already shifting: U.S. public opinion. In a poll conducted last November for the Brookings Institution, when asked about their preferred solution to the conflict, 34% of Americans said their government should push for one state with equal citizenship. That was up from 24% a year previously, a significant difference. Among those who support two states, 66% of them said they would support one state if two states were not possible. In addition: “If a two-state solution is not possible, 71% of Americans (84% of Democrats, 60% of Republicans) favour a single democratic state with Arabs and Jews as equal over a one in which Israel’s Jewish majority is sustained and Palestinians will not have equal citizenship.” Interestingly, given diplomatic events of the last week, only 27% of Americans polled by Brookings said that the U.S. should oppose a Palestinian request for UN endorsement of statehood, while 25% said the U.S. should vote in favour. Reflecting on the poll’s findings, Brooking’s Shibley Telhami noted a “pervasive public discomfort with an Israel that favours its Jewishness over democracy, and a creeping openness to a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, regardless of how practical or possible that might be.”