Violence / Raids / Suppression of protests / Arrests
Palestinian killed by Israeli police during Negev funeral
RAHAT (Ma‘an) 19 Jan — A Palestinian Bedouin man was killed late Sunday during the funeral for another man shot dead last week by Israeli forces in southern Israel. Sami Ibrahim Zayadna, 45, died after inhaling tear gas fired by Israeli police at mourners in the Bedouin city of Rahat. Over 40 other people were injured during the clashes, including Rahat mayor Talal al-Qureinawi and Raed Salah, head of the Islamic Movement. Twenty-two people were treated at Soroka hospital in Beersheba, with three sustaining serious injuries. The clashes began after Israeli police entered the cemetery as mourners were burying Sami al-Jaar, 22, who was shot dead last week while standing on the patio of his home during clashes between police and local youths in the neighborhood. Israeli police entered the funeral ceremony, despite an agreement with Rahat municipality to stay clear of the area, and fired plastic bullets and tear gas at mourners as Raed Salah was delivering a eulogy. “The funeral has become a battle from one side as we were being chased and dozens were hurt though there were no clashes in the place,” Salah told Ma‘an. “When I uttered the first sentence of the funeral oration a tear gas canister was fired in front of us. We thought it was fired accidentally, but showers of tear gas followed. It was clear they wanted to disperse the mourners before they could bid the martyr farewell and I think the officers on the ground were receiving instructions from the helicopter which was hovering above the mourners focusing its lights on us.” An Israeli police vehicle also deliberately rammed vehicles parked near the cemetery, he added. The Higher Guidance Committee of Arab Residents of the Negev denounced what it labeled “state terrorism.” “We hereby tell the Israeli security organizations that your terror won’t scare us and we won’t hesitate to live in dignity despite your mean attempts and plans day and night to impose restrictions on us seeking to displace us. Save your bullets and your terror because we have already made our minds … we will stay here as long as there is thyme and olive oil,” the group said. A leadership committee announced a general strike on Tuesday in all Palestinians towns and neighborhoods in Israel, in addition to a general strike in Rahat on Monday.
PHOTOS: Police kill Bedouin man, wound dozens at funeral
Activestills 19 Jan — Israeli police shot and killed 43-year-old Sami Ziadna and wounded a 50-year-old man, along with dozens of others Sunday night during clashes that erupted at a funeral in the southern city of Rahat. Police fired live bullets, tear gas and sound grenades during the funeral of Sami Ja‘ar, who was shot to death in the early hours of Thursday morning during a police operation.
PIC reports two killed, not one:
Two killed, scores injured in Israeli police attack on funeral
NEGEV (PIC) 19 Jan — Two Palestinian young men were killed and scores of citizens suffered injuries when the Israeli police forces on Sunday evening violently attacked a funeral procession in al-Rahat town, north of the Negev region. The funeral procession was for 21-year-old Sami Jaar, who was shot dead a few days ago by the Israeli police in the same town. Eyewitnesses said that Sami al-Zayadena and Anwar al-Afawi died after inhaling tear gas that was intensively used by the Israeli police forces during their attack on the funeral. They added that dozens of people, including Sheikh Ra’ed Salah, head of the Islamic Movement in the 1948 occupied lands, also suffered from tear gas suffocation. They also said that the violent clashes broke out when the Israeli police sent its forces to the cemetery of the town upon the arrival of the mourners there for the burial service.
Bedouin towns on strike after youth slain by Israeli police
BEERSHEBA (Ma‘an) 18 Jan — A general strike paralyzed the city of Rahat and all major Bedouin villages in the Negev Desert of southern Israel on Sunday in protest against the killing of a young Arab man by an Israeli police officer earlier in the week. Sami Khalid al-Jaar, a young man in his 20s from Rahat, was shot dead by Israeli police while standing on the patio of his home as clashes between police and local youths in the neighborhood. Al-Jaar is the second Palestinian citizen of Israel to be killed by police in recent months, and the case has sparked rage in the many majority-Bedouin villages of southern Israel where severe discrimination by authorities is already the norm. A Ma‘an reporter in Beersheba said that shops and market places remained closed Sunday and hundreds of schoolchildren did not attend classes as part of the strike. Local councils and other public offices remained closed as well. The Israeli ministry of education reportedly attempted to break the strike by forcing teachers and school employees to go to work, threatening to punish them if they refused….
Israeli soldiers assault 3 men working at bakery in Nablus
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 18 Jan — Three Palestinians required treatment at the hospital Sunday morning after being assaulted by Israeli soldiers while they were working at a bakery in the center of Nablus. Palestinian security sources told Ma‘an that Israeli military forces entered the city center in the area of Shuhada (Martyrs’) Square early Sunday and carried out a number of raids on stores in the Anabtawi building. They then entered the Palestine Bakery located in the same area, and during the raid beat three workers, leaving them bruised. Nayif Muhammad Ali al-Shami, his brother Jihad al-Shami, and Muhammad Ali Ramadan were evacuated to al-Watani Hospital in Nablus as a result of the assault.They were later discharged after receiving treatment. The security sources said that during the raid on central Nablus, Palestinian youths clashed with the Israeli soldiers in the streets.
Palestinians injured, dozens suffocate as Israeli forces crush march near Hebron
HEBRON (WAFA) 17 Jan – Several Palestinians were injured Saturday and dozens of others suffocated as Israeli forces crushed a peaceful march to the north of Surif town, north of Hebron, said local activists and a WAFA correspondent. Israeli forces attacked and attempted to crush a peaceful march that was organized by the Popular Committee against the Wall and Settlement in the southern West Bank, brutally assaulting participants using the butts of their rifles, spraying them with pepper spray, and firing tear gas canisters and stun grenades at them. Several Palestinians were injured and dozens others suffocated as a result of inhaling excessive tear gas. The march was organized to protest the ongoing closure of the road linking Surif with al-Jab‘a village to the southwest of Bethlehem. Coordinator of the Popular Committee against the Wall and Settlement in Hebron Rateb al-Jabour said that the march was intended to protest the ongoing closure and siege imposed on Palestinian communities in that areas, especially communities located adjacent to illegal settlements, as well as the seizure of 2,000 dunums of land belonging to Surif for the benefit of settlement expansion. Several activists were briefly detained by soldiers, including Ahmad al-Hih and Loai Ghnaimat. Marchers demanded that the removal of the metal gate that have been installed for the last fourteen years by Israeli forces between Surif and al-Jab‘a.
IOF summons 4 Palestinian children for interrogation
NABLUS (PIC) 19 Jan — The Israeli occupation forces (IOF) at dawn Sunday summoned four Palestinian children from Qaryout village, in the northern West Bank city of Nablus, for interrogation at the Hawara military camp. An Israeli occupation army patrol stormed the village at the crack of dawn, moments before they suddenly broke into a number of Palestinian civilian homes and summoned their sons for interrogation, member of the Qaryout village council, Younis Mousa, told the PIC. The targeted children have been identified as brothers Bashar and Zuheir Zahi, aged 10 and 11 years old, along with Ahmad Ibrahim Habib, 15, and Hutheifa Issam, 14. The four children are currently held for investigation at the military camp, Mousa further reported, dubbing the attack a flagrant violation of children’s rights and an act of terror against the innocent Palestinian minors and their families
Two Palestinians kidnapped, others injured in IOF raid
NABLUS (PIC) 19 Jan — At least two Palestinian youths were kidnapped Sunday evening in a raid launched by the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) near the northern West Bank city of Nablus. The IOF rounded up the Palestinian youth Saber Samara and dragged him to an unknown location, moments after they stormed his family home in Beit Amrein village and scoured it, by-standers at the scene told the PIC. The IOF troops further moved into eastern Nablus and cordoned off the al-Jabarini’s family home shortly before they broke into the building and ravaged it. The attack culminated in the abduction of an unidentified Palestinian at the hands of the Israeli occupation soldiers who suddenly pushed their way into the Faraa refugee camp, to the east of Nablus. Meanwhile, a number of Palestinian civilians sustained critical breathing disorders and gas injuries during a wave of clashes rocking al-Khalil’s town of Beit Ummar. According to Mohamed Awad, coordinator for the Popular Committee against Settlement in Beit Ummar, the Israeli occupation patrols raided Beit Dhuhr neighborhood, in the village, and climbed over the rooftops of Mohamed Bahr’s house. Heavy volleys of tear gas canisters were randomly discharged by the invading IOF squads in the process, leading to a number of suffocation cases among the Palestinian civilians, who reportedly responded by hurling stones at the Israeli invading troops.
Soldiers kidnap four Palestinians in Hebron
IMEMC/Agencies 18 Jan — Israeli soldiers invaded Surif and Ethna towns, in the southern West Bank district of Hebron, and kidnapped four Palestinians. The army also installed roadblocks north of Hebron, and near several villages in Jenin. Several military vehicles invaded Surif town, northeast of Hebron, searched and ransacked several homes, and kidnapped three Palestinians identified as Wajdi Hatem Ghneimat, Azmi Fuad Ghneimat and Mohammad Nasser Ghneimat. Soldiers also invaded Ethna town, west of Hebron, and kidnapped Mohammad Hasan Abu As’ad, 20, after searching his home. In addition, the army invaded Hebron city, broke into the home of Walid Karama, and handed him a military warrant for interrogation. Furthermore, soldiers installed a roadblock on the main entrance of Yatta town, south of Hebron, detained a number of youths and interrogated them. The soldiers stopped dozens of cars and searched them while inspecting the ID cards of the passengers. In Jenin, in the northern part of the West Bank, soldiers installed several roadblocks near the towns of Jaba‘, Meithaloon, Sanour and ‘Ejja, stopped and searched dozens of cars.
Night raid in Beit Ummar: arrests, violence and property destruction
BEIT UMMAR, Occupied Palestine (ISM, Hebron Team) 18 Jan — Early Wednesday morning, January 14, 2015, a massive deployment of 400 Israeli occupation forces invaded the village of Beit Ummar, north of Hebron. From 2:00 – 5:00 am, the occupation forces invaded approximately 100 Palestinian homes, arresting 25 males and leaving notices for 15 additional males to meet with the Israeli intelligence. Occupation soldiers invaded the private homes with violent force, blowing open the front doors with explosions, ransacking the rooms, breaking the furniture inside, smashing windows, and attacking the residents. One of the victims of this brutal invasion was the family of 25-year-old Nidal Abu Maria. Nidal is the oldest son of Ahmed Abu Maria, who has been imprisoned for the last four months. According to the family, the occupation soldiers forcibly entered their home with large aggressive dogs, blowing the door open with explosives. Nidal’s mother, sister, and two brothers ages 6 and 7 were inside, and awoke shocked to find soldiers inside their home. The occupation forces locked Nidal’s mother in a separate room, away from her children, and took her phone, noting the family members phone numbers from it. The pregnant sister attempted to speak to the young boys, who were scared of the military invasion and their dogs, when the occupation forces violently hit her in the face and told her to keep quiet. In addition to physical violence against the family, the soldiers also ransacked the home, destroying the windows, the furniture, and the entire kitchen. Nearly 99 other houses were also invaded this same night, and experienced the same destruction. During this brutal night invasion, 25 males were taken from their homes and arrested without any official charges or explanations. According to Ma’an News, those detained were as young as sixteen years old. The youths were not known activists nor had there been any protests in Beit Ummar since the massacre in Gaza for them to take part in. Five were released the next morning, while the rest still remain in custody … Nidal’s uncle Hashem Abu Maria was executed on July 25, 2014 during a peaceful protest against the 2014 massacre in Gaza. Hashem was shot in the heart by an Israeli sniper on the main street, while encouraging the children to go home rather than risk being hurt in the demonstration….
Israel’s hateful, misguided policy against the weakest of the weak / Gideon Levy
Haaretz 18 Jan — What connects jailed asylum seekers and displaced Palestinian shepherds? The government’s shameful, bullying treatment of them both — About 250 kilometers separate the Holot prison in the Negev and Ain al-Hilweh in the northern Jordan Valley, but a direct line of evil connects them. The two places are seemingly as different as the distance between the desert and the valley. The first is a “detention center” – an open prison for refugees fleeing violence, and asylum seekers from Africa. The other is a tiny village with Palestinian shepherds. The Israel Prison Service controls the first, the Israel Defense Forces’ Civil Administration the other – again, two organizations with no seeming connection … Evil holds sway in both, with abuse of the helpless and their dehumanization. In both cases, this abuse is aimed at making the victims miserable, until they break and want to leave it all behind – the Africans to leave Israel, the Palestinians to leave the Jordan Valley. Israel is freezing the detainees in the cold. It incarcerated some 2,300 people at Holot, without providing any heating devices for their rooms. Freezing cold. The shepherds’ dwellings at Ain al-Hilweh (and other shepherds’ dwellings) are demolished, leaving its residents – including babies and children, pregnant women and disabled elderly – exposed to the heavens, without anything, in the freezing cold of the Jordan Valley. In recent weeks I visited both sites, which have everything except for a scrap of humanity or fragment of compassion.
Otherwise Occupied: Fighting for Bruce Lee at The Hague
Haaretz 19 Jan by Amira Hass — A word of advice to the International Criminal Court: Law enforcement officers who don’t put settlers on trial for attacking Palestinians must also be considered suspects — If Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had asked me, I would have suggested that the International Criminal Court in The Hague investigate suspicions of war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories starting from April 18, 2011, not June 13, 2014. Why? Because on April 19, 2011, a terrorist with a Jewish appearance shot Bruce Lee. Bruce Lee? His friends from the West Bank village of Burin hoped his unconventional name would attract widespread attention, so that the attack against him would not be buried – like almost 100 other documented cases since 2005 had been of Jewish terrorists attacking village residents. His friends were mistaken. Lee’s name did not lead to earth-shattering headlines. I, too, am partly at fault. Twice I intended to write; twice, events of force majeure intervened and the reporting was postponed. The most important thing: Israel Police’s Judea and Samaria District let the investigation drift away, as is it customarily does. The file was passed back and forth from the police in Ariel to the Central District prosecutor’s office, and to the prosecution in the Samaria District – and then closed. Closed despite the file containing video footage of the incident that had been provided to the police, along with three eyewitnesses who identified the Israeli with the pistol from a lineup of digital pictures, and despite Bruce Lee’s serious injury.
Prisoners / Court actions
Eighth grade girl detained for 19 consecutive days in Israeli prison
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 18 Jan – The Israeli authorities continue to detain Palestinian eighth grader Malak al-Khatib, 14, for the 19th consecutive day in the Israeli prison Hasharon, reported the Palestinian Prisoner’s Club (PPC). Al-Khatib was arrested near her school in the Ramallah village of Beitin on December 31, 2014 for alleged rock-throwing at Israeli forces. A military decision was supposed to be made on January 4th, however, the Israeli Ofer military court postponed her hearing to January 11, yet no decision has been reached so far. Malak’s family wasn’t able to visit her at the detention center, but only saw her at the court on Sunday January 4th during a court hearing. Her father said that she looked distressed and scared. “After all she is only 14,” he explained desperately … B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, said that, “From the beginning of 2005 to the end of 2010, at least 835 Palestinian minors were arrested and tried in military courts in the West Bank on charges of stone throwing. Thirty-four of them were aged 12 – 13, 255 were 14 – 15, 546 were between the ages of 16 – 17. Only one of the 835 was acquitted; all the rest were found guilty.”
Israeli Prison Service refuses to replace Palestinian inmate’s prosthetic leg
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 17 Jan — The Detainees and ex-Detainees Affairs Committee Saturday reported that the Israeli prison administration evaded its promise and refused to give permission for a surgery for a Palestinian prisoner in urgent need of an artificial limb. The committee’s lawyer, Karim Ajwa, said that prisoner Mohammad Ibrash, sentenced to a lifetime in prison since 2003, suffers from severe infections in his amputated leg and is in urgent need to replace his prosthetic leg. He also suffers from vision disabilities and is in need of corneal transplant in his left eye. Ibrash has previously paid an amount of 2500 Shekels to the prison administration following a previous agreement with the latter to allow him to undergo surgery after securing the needed money. However, the prison administration broke its promise and informed Ibrash that he would only be allowed to add a piece to his old artificial leg, which is in a very poor condition.
7 Arab Israelis charged with setting up IS cell
JERUSALEM (AFP) 18 Jan — Israel on Sunday laid charges against seven Arab Israelis over allegations they set up a militant cell linked to the Islamic State group, the Shin Bet internal security agency said. The seven, who all come from Israel’s northern Galilee region, were all arrested in November and December and indicted at Haifa District Court on Sunday. They are aged between 22 and 40. Shin Bet said they were indicted on charges of “membership of, and activity within an illegal organisation, support for a terror organisation and attempts to make contact with an enemy agent”. In September, Israel outlawed both IS and the Al-Qaeda affiliated Abdullah Azzam Brigades as “illegal organisations”, allowing for legal measures to be taken against them or anyone supporting or financing them. In a statement, Shin Bet identified the ringleader as 40-year-old Adnan Alaaeddin and said the group met frequently with a radical Salafist cleric … Although Israel has previously arrested individuals for travelling to Syria to join jihadist groups, this was the first cell uncovered inside Israel, the agency said.
HaMoKed calls for halting demolition of Palestinian homes
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (PIC) 18 Jan — HaMoKed Center for the Defense of the Individual called on the Israeli supreme court to hold another hearing to listen to the general petition filed against Israel’s systematic demolition of Palestinian homes in occupied Jerusalem. The center stated on Saturday that the Israeli supreme court declined last month the petition filed by it and other human rights groups against Israel’s punitive house demolition policy in Jerusalem, which was intensively used in the summer of 2014. The center added that the court ignored its legal arguments against the lawfulness of regulation 119 and the need to revisit it, in view of the fact that the issue had not been discussed on its merits since the 1980s and there had been significant changes in the international law since then. It also said that the main arguments in its petition to the court highlighted that the punitive demolition policy constitutes collective punishment and destruction of property owned by people who are protected under the international law.
War-ravaged Gaza families marrying in-laws for support
GAZA CITY (Al-Monitor) 15 Jan by Asmaa al-Ghoul — Ali Abd Rabbo is 19, but looks even younger. He sits in front of a computer, chatting on Facebook like most of his peers. In a few days, however, Ali will do something that he is not really prepared to do: He is going to marry two older women — the wives of his two brothers who were killed in the 2014 war against Israel. In their house in Jabaliya, in northern Gaza, Jihad, 24, was sitting on her bed, holding a picture of her daughter Rahaf, 3, and her husband, Alaa. Tears streamed from her right eye. She had lost her left eye in the shelling that killed her husband, her daughter, her mother-in-law, her brother-in-law Mohammed and his two-year-old son Jamal, and two other brothers-in-law, Ibrahim, 22, and Abdullah, 23. During the war, there was severe shelling as the family took shelter at a relative’s house. Ali, who had returned from receiving treatment for his war wounds in Turkey, and his sister, Walaa, 26, who told Al-Monitor her family’s story, somehow survived, along with Jihad and Islam, Mohammed’s wife. “I saw their bodies blown up in front of my eyes. I could not believe it. It was during the month of Ramadan, and we were about to eat. This winter reminds me so much of them. I will never forget them,” she said. The family’s two-story home felt large, the floors crystal clean, but the house was completely empty and cold. This void and the silence were the main reasons behind the idea of Ali marrying the wives of his deceased brothers….
Israeli navy vessels open fire at Palestinian fishing boats
GAZA (PIC) 18 Jan — Israeli navy vessels opened heavy machinegun fire at Palestinian fishing boats off the coast of Gaza Strip on Sunday. Nizar Ayyash, head of the Palestinian fishermen syndicate in Gaza, said Israeli naval boats targeted Palestinian fishermen while sailing off the shores of Gaza. No casualties were reported. He added the Israeli navy claimed that the fishermen exceeded the allowed six-nautical-mile fishing zone in accordance with the ceasefire agreement reached with Palestinian resistance factions in Gaza under Egyptian mediation … Palestinian officials said Israeli army and navy forces almost daily open gunfire in Gaza targeting fishing boats and farming lands at the borders in flagrant violation of the ceasefire agreement.
Egypt to open Rafah crossing for 3 days starting Tuesday
CAIRO (Ma‘an) 18 Jan — Egypt has decided to open the Rafah crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip in both directions for three days starting Tuesday, the Embassy of Palestine in Cairo said Sunday. The embassy said that the decision came at the request of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during his recent visit to Cairo. The crossing has been closed almost completely — save for a few days — since it was closed in October after an attack on Egyptian police by militants in Sinai. The Palestinian Ministry of Internal Affairs says over 25,000 humanitarian cases are on a waiting list to use the crossing for medical treatment and to continue their studies abroad.
Gaza’s sole power plant resumes operations
GAZA (PIC) 18 Jan — Gaza’s sole power plant has resumed generating electricity on Saturday after industrial fuel supplies were dispatched to the besieged Strip. Deputy Chairman of Gaza’s Energy Authority, Fathi al-Sheikh Khalil, told the Anadolu News Agency that power distribution schedules are to be re-charted so as to provide the enclave with extra hours of electricity supplies. The power station has resumed operations after large quantities of industrial diesel were pumped into the plant, allowing a momentary relief to the “eight hours on, 12 hours off” emergency schedule. The Palestinian government on Wednesday pledged 10 million dollars, out of a 25-million-dollar-batch dispatched by Qatar, to provide Gaza’s power plant with fuel quantities, enough to run the station for half a month. Over the past few weeks acute shortages in fuel stocks pushed the power generating company in the blockaded Gaza Strip to operate on the basis of a “six hours on, 12 powers off” schedule, put into effect in periods of emergency. Scores of house fires broke out in Palestinian civilian homes due to burning candles lit up following frequent power shutdowns. Two children were proclaimed dead a couple of weeks ago after a lit candle set their house on fire.
Israel fears Gaza’s economic woes could lead to border skirmishes
Haaretz 18 Jan by Amos Harel — Israel fears that the economic crisis in Gaza could erode the cease-fire that ended the war with Hamas over the summer and lead to conflicts along the border, according to defense officials. Still, Israel has received messages from Hamas that despite Gaza’s financial woes, the organization does not seek another military conflict after the July-August war. Its forces are reportedly working to prevent more-extremist groups from firing rockets into the Negev. Palestinian economic problems have intensified due to the Palestinian Authority’s and Hamas’ difficulties paying their employees in the West Bank and Gaza respectively. The delay in payments to PA employees, including tens of thousands of security personnel in the West Bank, stems from Israel’s decision to halt the transfer of tax revenues collected for the PA. This comes as punishment for the authority’s recent application to join the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to freeze the transfer of tax money was made despite defense officials’ warnings that the move could harm security coordination and increase unrest in the West Bank. Government officials said the PA was contributing to the deteriorating relations and that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was intentionally provoking Israel.Hamas says the PA is sabotaging efforts to rebuild Gaza; it cites a refusal to station security personnel at border crossings with Egypt that would allow for increased traffic … Failure to pay salaries to Hamas people in Gaza has already caused violent protests during which demonstrators blew up ATMs and damaged bank branches, apparently in an effort to prevent salaries from reaching PA personnel there.
Gaza accelerator gets support from Silicon Valley
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) 16 Jan by Sara Ashley O’Brian — The Gaza Strip isn’t exactly known for its burgeoning tech scene. Gaza’s only accelerator — Gaza Sky Geeks — is on a mission to change that. “Most Gazans had never heard of what a startup was,” said Gaza Sky Geeks director Iliana Montauk. Founded in 2011 by global aid organization Mercy Corps, it received $900,000 from Google.org, the tech giant’s humanitarian arm. Since then, Gaza Sky Geeks has held over 100 training events and competitions that it says has reached 1,500 young Palestinians. It also offers free coworking space and helps connect investors with local startups. To date, it’s facilitated investments for four Gazan tech startups, including Wasselni, a carpooling and taxi ordering service, and DWBI Solutions, a data-based business management product. But there are many hurdles to stimulating the local startup sector. There are 1.8 million Palestinians living in Gaza, a strip of land bordered by Israel, the Mediterranean Sea and Egypt. Since 2007, it has been governed by militant organization Hamas, and the economy has deteriorated. One quarter of the population lives in poverty, and over 60% of the youth are unemployed. The war this summer just added to the devastation. “The skill level is definitely lower than Silicon Valley,” said Montauk, who is from the U.S. “There isn’t a Google or a Microsoft creating that kind of talent. [But] compared to other Arab countries, the tech skills are considered quite high.”
Gaza graffiti protest over Charlie Hebdo prophet cartoon
GAZA CITY (AFP) 17 Jan — Protest graffiti was sprayed outside the French cultural centre in Gaza before dawn Saturday following the publication of a new cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed by satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. “You will go to hell, French journalists,” read one of the slogans daubed on the walls of the cultural centre compound, which has been closed since it was damaged in a fire last October. “Anything but the prophet,” read another. Police were deployed outside the compound’s main gate as well as on the adjacent main road, an AFP correspondent reported. The cover cartoon of Mohammed carried by Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday, in its first edition since an attack on its Paris offices claimed by Al-Qaeda killed 12 people on January 7, has sparked angry protests across the Muslim world. Most Muslims regard any depiction of the prophet as sacrilege. Last month, a bomb attack claimed by small ultra-conservative Islamist group Jund Ansar Allah caused minor damage to the compound’s walls.
Egyptian army finds explosives inside major Gaza smuggling tunnel
CAIRO (Ma‘an) 17 Jan — Egyptian security sources said Saturday morning that the armed forces had uncovered and destroyed a smuggling tunnel running under the Gaza-Egypt border that contained a large amount of explosives and mortar shells. The sources told a Ma‘an reporter in Cairo that the tunnel ran about 1,200 meters and the entrance was located inside of a house belonging to an Egyptian smuggler located on the Egyptian side of the border town of Rafah. The sources said that the tunnel is believed to be one of the biggest in the area. Egyptian army engineering units reportedly blew up the tunnel and were preparing to blow up the house as well, whose owner had managed to flee before the tunnel was discovered. The opening of the tunnel was discovered under the floor tiles of a bedroom. According to the sources, the tunnel interior was covered with steel boards and the floor was made of iron bars covered with wood boards. The tunnel was outfitted with electric lights and an internal communication network. A few meters from the opening, there was even a gate.
At Tel Aviv housing fair, high demand for homes near Gaza
JTA 16 Jan — Areas near Gaza were in highest demand by prospective homeowners who participated in surveys of housing preferences in Israel. In one survey conducted at a housing fair last month, a total of 98 families indicated they would like to move to one of two districts, Eshkol and Sha’ar HaNegev, that are adjacent to the Gaza Strip and are routinely targeted by Hamas rockets. The next most desired are was the Eilat region, followed by Beersheva. The survey of 315 families was conducted at a fair held last month by the Ministry for the Development of the Negev and Galilee in Tel Aviv, which drew 3,000 visitors. Of those who preferred to move to the targeted regions, 56 indicated they would like to live in Sderot, Ofakim or Netivot, towns which have absorbed thousands of rockets fired from Gaza over the past few years. During Israel’s war with Hamas last summer, countless rockets and mortar rounds were fired at population centers near the Gaza Strip, with some landing in the Tel Aviv region. In a separate survey about housing preferences in northern Israel, the Golan Heights emerged as most popular area, with 140 families out of 514 indicating it as their first choice….
Restriction on movement / Denial of entry
Israel shuts main road south of Ramallah for 4 hours
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 18 Jan — Israeli forces on Saturday afternoon closed the West Bank’s main road for Palestinians south of Ramallah for four hours, causing massive traffic jams and headaches for Palestinian commuters even as Jewish settlers moved freely beside them. Witnesses said that Israeli soldiers parked military vehicles in the middle of the road near the central West Bank village of Jaba‘, about two kilometers east of the notorious Qalandia checkpoint that cuts off the road between Jerusalem and Ramallah. The Israeli soldiers distributed a statement claiming that the road had been shut as a form of punishment against Palestinians because local youths throw stones and empty bottles at vehicles belonging to Israeli settlers as they pass through on a bypass road located immediately beside the Palestinian road. Israeli authorities have created a parallel system of roads for Jewish settlers throughout the West Bank, and at the Jaba‘ junction Israelis living in a number of local settlements — including the Maale Adumim bloc, Almon, Adam, and many others — continue northeast on Route 60, which was built to bypass Ramallah. Israeli forces, however, closed the road for Palestinians leading from the junction northwest toward Ramallah, leaving hundreds of Palestinian vehicles stuck in the traffic while Israeli settlers moved freely beside them….
Denied visa by Israel, UN rights expert cancels visit to Palestine
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 17 Jan — An official visit by a UN expert on violence against women was canceled Friday after Israeli authorities refused to give her a visa that would allow her to enter Palestine. The UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes, and consequences, Rashida Manjoo, had been invited on a fact-finding mission by the Palestinian Authority to “obtain first-hand understanding of issues related to violence against women” from Jan. 19-29, 2015. All travel in and out of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip is controlled by Israel, however, and authorities there refused to give her a visa, according to a statement released by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. “For the past six weeks, I have repeatedly sought the cooperation of the government of Israel to facilitate access to the occupied Palestinian territory for me to undertake this visit. Regrettably, I did not receive the necessary support, including a visa by the Government of Israel, ahead of my travel, which is scheduled for tomorrow,” Manjoo said in the statement. “It is unfortunate that I have been denied the opportunity to engage directly with women survivors of violence, and that the exercise of my mandate has been hindered by the unwillingness of the government of Israel, as the occupying power, to facilitate access to the occupied Palestinian territory.”
Israel told Swedish FM they would not secure her visit
Ynet 18 Jan by Itamar Eichner — A high-ranking government official revealed on Saturday that Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom canceled her trip to Israel after she was notified that she would have to bring her own security personnel and that her trip would not be considered an official state visit. The very public breakdown in relations between Sweden and Israel began after Sweden officially recognized Palestine as a state in October. After a series of jabs thrown between Foreign Minister Lieberman and Wallstrom, Wallstrom continued the battle, which has played out in the media, this weekend, calling Israeli policies were “extremely aggressive.” The Israeli government source revealed that Wallstrom canceled her trip after facing many obstacles set forth by the Israeli government. Wallstrom had planned to arrive in Israel for a memorial ceremony for Raoul Wallenberg and also hoped to use the opportunity to visit the Palestinian territories governed by the Palestinian Authority. According to government sources, the Swedish FM tried to force her visit and did not understand the “hints” being sent to her by the Israeli government that she was persona non grata.
Welcome to the Holy Land – and enjoy 27 hours in Israeli custody
Middle East Eye 15 Jan by Hanan Chehata — I went on holiday to Israel only to be detained, interrogated, held overnight and deported on ‘security grounds’ without reason — “Do you know who we are and what we do in this room?” asked the pasty Israeli man sitting across the desk from me. “Israeli airport security?” I replied. “No” he said with a smirk, “we’re part of the Israeli security services team that investigates terrorism and threats to Israel’s national security.” That was as much information as I was ever given about the men who interrogated me shortly after I arrived at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv where I had arrived for a few days holiday. “The best-case scenario for you right now is that I deport you. The worst case is that I charge you with terrorist activities,” said the man in a self-satisfied manner. “You think I’m a terrorist?” I asked incredulously. “You could be,” he retorted. As a Muslim woman wearing a hijab I had expected airport security to be tight when arriving in Tel Aviv from the UK, but I had made the journey a few years back and had got in with no problem, so thought I would try again. I had a few days off work and decided another visit to the Holy Land was well overdue.
Land, property theft & destruction / Discrimination
Palestinians in East Jerusalem go 10 months without water
+972 mag 18 Jan by Mairav Zonszein — Israel refuses to connect four neighborhoods in its self-declared capital to running water — Tens of thousands of Palestinians in East Jerusalem have been cut off from a regular supply of running water for nearly a year due to to their location beyond Israel’s separation barrier. Despite their location within the boundaries of Israel’s self-declared capital, the neighborhoods of Ras Shehada, Ras Khamis, Dahyat A’salam and the Shu‘fat Refugee Camp have been suffering from a severe water crisis since last March, when residents went three weeks without any water supply. They have been forced to buy water bottles at a high cost, and must limit their consumption by using electric pumps and industrial containers. The High Court of Justice will hold a hearing tomorrow (Monday) to discuss the appeal filed last year by the residents and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI). The Water Authority and the Ministry of Infrastructure have said that they do not intend to connect the houses in these neighborhoods to the water supply, but rather will expand the flow to the central pipelines. This, despite admitting themselves that it will not solve the problem for the roughly 80,000 residents living in these areas.
Settlers uproot 20 olive trees north of Ramallah
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 17 Jan – Israeli settlers Saturday uprooted olive trees from Palestinian-owned land located between the Ramallah villages of al-Mughayyir and Turmus ‘Ayya, according to local sources. They told WAFA settlers uprooted around 20 fruitful olive trees belonging to Rakid al-Nasaan.
Settlers offer bribe to PA police for access to Joseph’s Tomb
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 18 Jan — Israeli settlers on Sunday offered to bribe Palestinian police in order to access a holy site near Nablus, security sources said. A Palestinian Authority security source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Ma‘an that eight settlers arrived in two vehicles and approached the PA police post overlooking the tomb. A few of the settlers offered to pay the police officers $100 in order to access the holy site without coordination with Israeli forces, the source said. The officers refused the offer and escorted the settlers to a junction about 200 meters away, asking them to leave the area. Jewish groups frequently visit Joseph’s Tomb at night under the protection of Israeli forces, who deploy heavily in the area and often get into clashes with youth from the neighboring Balata refugee camp during these visits. Many Palestinians believe that Joseph’s Tomb is the funerary monument to Sheikh Yusef Dweikat, a local religious figure. Others believe that the tomb belongs to the Biblical patriarch Joseph. The area is sacred to Jews, Samaritans, Christians, and Muslims alike.
Right-wing Israelis fly drones over Aqsa compound
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 18 Jan — Two right-wing Israelis on Sunday morning flew small drones over the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the director of the compound said. Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani told Ma‘an that two “settlers” were taking photos of the compound from a drone which they flew over the Marawani mosque and another over the Bab al-Rahmah cemetery. The drones, he said, hovered above the compound for a few minutes. Kiswani added that one of the men claimed that he had permission from the Israeli police to take footage for a TV channel. He said that police denied giving anyone permission to film in the area.
Palestinian refugees outside Palestine
Palestinian survivors of migrant shipwrecks tell their harrowing stories
EI 17 Jan by Maureen Clare Murphy — The painful stories of Palestinians who survived shipwrecks in the Mediterranean Sea while attempting to flee Gaza and Syria for Europe can be heard on two recent BBC broadcasts. Shukri al-Assouli was one of only less than a dozen out of an estimated five hundred migrants to be found by rescue workers four days after their ship was deliberately rammed and capsized by suspected traffickers last September. He lost his wife and two young daughters, aged four and nine months old, in the tragedy, al-Assouli told Matthew Bannister, host of BBC World Service’s Outlook radio program (the interview can be heard here). Bannister interviewed al-Assouli in Athens, where he is seeking asylum in a third country.
Haneyya pledges to help Palestinian refugees stranded in Cyprus
GAZA (PIC) 18 Jan — Deputy head of Hamas’s political bureau Ismail Haneyya on Saturday made a telephone call with representatives of the Palestinian refugees stranded in Cyprus after he received an appeal from them asking him to intervene to end their suffering. In a statement released by Haneyya’s office, the Hamas official phoned representatives of 180 Palestinian asylum seekers residing in shelters in Cyprus and listened to their complaints. According to the statement, Haneyya pledged to conduct contacts with the Turkish leadership to allow them to enter its territory and to urge relief and humanitarian groups to extend help to them. He also expressed his sincere thanks to the Cypriot authorities for saving dozens of Palestinian refugees, who escaped the woes of war in Syria, after their boat ran into trouble last September in the Mediterranean sea and for hosting them since then.
Japan PM pledges $2.5 billion in Mideast aid
CAIRO (AFP) 17 Jan by Samer al-Atrush –– Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged Saturday $2.5 billion in humanitarian and development aid for the Middle East as he launched a regional tour that includes visits to Jordan and Israel. In a speech in Cairo, Abe pledged $200 million in non-military assistance for countries affected by the Islamic State (IS) group’s bloody expansion in Iraq and Syria, which spurred an exodus of refugees to neighbouring countries. “Japan will newly carry out assistance of 2.5 billion US dollars in non-military fields including humanitarian assistance and infrastructure development, intended for the entire region,” Abe said, according to an official transcript. Speaking to Egyptian politicians and businessmen, he said Japan would “provide assistance for refugees and displaced persons from Iraq and Syria”.
Activism / Solidarity / BDS
40 community groups demand New York City Council cancel trip to Israel
IMEMC 18 Jan by Celine Hagbard — A protest this week in New York City was accompanied by the submission of a petition to the New York City Council demanding that the Council cancel an upcoming all-expense-paid hasbara trip to Israel, funded by the deep-pocketed political advocacy groups ‘Jewish Community Relations Council’ and ‘United Jewish Appeal’. he City Council of New York is considered one of the most progressive in the country, having publicly taken a stand against the targeting of mosques by law enforcement throughout the city, and urging tolerance instead of Islamophobia. But over a dozen members of the City Council have accepted all-expense-paid trips to Israel beginning February 15th, sponsored by Zionist organizations, whose stated purpose is to bring international visitors, particularly US politicians, to Israel in order to “see things from an Israeli perspective”. These trips are considered ‘hasbara’, which is the Hebrew for public relations, and is often referred to by anti-apartheid activists as a type of Zionist propaganda that whitewashes and downplays the Israeli occupation and takeover of Palestinian land. Representatives of the forty community groups that signed on to the petition gathered in the freezing cold outside New York’s City Council to deliver their message this week. The protest was led by Jewish Voice for Peace….
Ads Against Apartheid: Free speech under attack
IMEMC/Agencies 16 Jan — Ads Against Apartheid (AAA) has strongly condemned recent attacks on its advertising campaign, which include vandalism against its partner, a local mobile billboard truck company. In a related incident, an individual stopped the truck, yelled at the driver, and spray-painted a Star of David on the vehicle, according to the Palestinian News Network. The mobile billboard company finally pulled the ads after receiving death threats and reporting $25,000 in damages. The advertisements highlighted the late Nelson Mandela’s support for Palestinian freedom.
PA foreign ministry, Hamas welcome ICC probe
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 17 Jan — The Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Saturday said it welcomed the decision to open an initial probe on Israeli war crimes at the International Criminal Court. The ministry said in a statement that the ICC decision was a positive and important step towards achieving justice and guaranteeing respect of international law. Palestine will fully cooperate with the ICC and facilitate its mission until justice is achieved, the statement said. “The State of Palestine has signed the Rome Statue to guarantee an end to war crimes and crimes against humanity, which Israel, the occupying authority, has committed and is still committing against our people,” it added. The Hamas movement also applauded the decision, saying it was ready to present thousands of documents to the ICC that prove Israeli war crimes have taken place.
Netanyahu rejects ICC’s ‘preposterous’ inquiry into possible war crimes
Haaretz 17 Jan by Gili Cohen & Jonathan Lis — ‘To what depth of absurdity has the tribunal sunk?’ PM asks, adding that decision to probe possible war crimes in Palestinian territories runs contrary to reasons for which the tribunal was created — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sharply criticized on Saturday the decision by the International Criminal Court to launch an inquiry into possible war crimes in the Palestinian territories, saying Israel “fully rejects the preposterous decision.” “I won’t be surprised if ISIS, al-Qaida and Hezbollah follow suit,” said Netanyahu, who released statements in English and in Hebrew. “See, Hamas has already announced that they will join their Palestinian partner, President Abbas, in filing complaints against Israel as a result of this decision. To what depths of absurdity has the ICC sunk?” … “The court was founded to prevent a repeat of history’s worst crimes, foremost among them the genocide of six million Jews,” he said. “Now the Palestinians are cynically manipulating the ICC to deny the Jewish state the right to defend itself against the very war crimes and the very terror that the court was established to prevent. Indeed, there is no greater absurdity.”
Israel lobbies foreign powers to cut ICC funding
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM/AMSTERDAM (Agencies) 19 Jan — Israel is lobbying member states of the International Criminal Court to cut funding for the tribunal in response to its launch of an inquiry into possible war crimes in Palestine, the country’s foreign minister said Sunday. The ICC did not immediately respond to the news, but experts thought it unlikely that the lobbying effort was likely to persuade the countries that contribute most to the court to reduce their funding. Israel, which like the United States does not belong to the ICC, hopes to dent funding for the court that is drawn from the 122 member states in accordance with the size of their economies, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said. “We will demand of our friends in Canada, in Australia and in Germany simply to stop funding it,” he told Israel Radio. Officials told Reuters the lobbying effort would also target Japan, whose Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is visiting Israel.“This body represents no one. It is a political body,” Lieberman said.
Hamdallah: All Israeli violations will be documented
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 17 Jan — Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said Saturday that all Israeli crimes against Palestinians would be documented, and that Palestine would join more international organizations. Speaking during a celebration of Palestinian Martyr Day in Ramallah, Hamdallah said: “We will not accept that our martyrs be turned into numbers, names, or be forgotten as Israel wants.” He said the Palestinian Authority’s main goal was to “accomplish Palestinians’ ambitions and aspirations and that for which the martyrs died and sacrificed.” “We will continue working with all the free people of the world and with international human rights organizations to make sure that the bodies of all Palestinian martyrs be returned from numbered graves (in Israeli-controlled areas) and be buried according to Palestinian national and religious rituals.” Since the late 1960s, Israel has withheld the bodies of hundreds of Palestinians. Their bodies are interred in numbered, rather than named, graves in four cemeteries created for that purpose, the biggest of which is located in the Jordan Valley. Following an Israeli Supreme Court decision in 2014, a number of Palestinian families have received the remains of relatives who were killed by Israeli forces and whose bodies had been held by Israel.
PA struggles to pay salaries amid Israel sanctions
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 18 Jan – The Palestinian government announced on Sunday that it would pay its civil servants 60 percent of their December salaries by the end of this week. A statement said those government officials in cooperation with the president’s bureau contacted several Arab countries to try and obtain money to cover civil servants’ salaries. Both the government and the president are seeking to spare employees the toll of what it called collective punishment against the Palestinian people. A portion of the monthly salary has been secured through loans from banks, aid from Arab countries as well as domestic financial resources, according to the statement. Efforts are ongoing to secure the rest of the salary as soon as possible. As the Israeli government continues to withhold the tax revenue which it collects from Palestinian importers on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, the latter remains unable to pay the monthly salaries to more than 160,000 civil servants. Absence of civil servants’ salaries adds more recession to the Palestinian economy which already suffers serious crises in light of the unstable political situation.
Shtayyeh: Israeli likely to release PA taxes within a few months
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 17 Jan — A senior Fatah official told Ma‘an Saturday that he expected Israel to release the tax revenue money it has been withholding after a month or two. Muhammad Shtayyeh, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, told Ma‘an that Israel was withholding the money in an attempt to “twist the arm of the Palestinian Authority.” But he said the money would likely be released within a few months given that “neither the international community nor Israel is interested in causing the PA to collapse.” “There is international pressure on Israel to release the money … and we don’t swap money with political positions,” Shtayyeh said. Shtayyeh, who is a former PLO negotiator, also said that he did not expect negotiations with Israel to be resumed any time soon.
Armenian community in Palestine celebrates Christmas
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 18 Jan — Armenian Christians in Palestine celebrated Christmas and the Feast of the Epiphany on Sunday with parades in the streets of Bethlehem. The Armenian patriarch of Jerusalem, Mourhan Manouagian, arrived in Bethlehem around noon … Later, President Mahmoud Abbas arrived in Bethlehem for the Christmas celebrations. Abbas was welcomed by al-Bakri, a number of ministers and Palestinian Legislative Council members, security officials, religious figures, and the mayors of Bethlehem, Beit Sahour, Beit Jala, and al-Doha. Armenian Christians in Palestine who follow the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem mark Christmas nearly two weeks after the majority of Armenian and Eastern Orthodox denominations, who mark the holiday on Jan. 6 or 7, and more than three weeks after Western Christians mark Christmas, who celebrate on Dec. 25. The differences in dates of celebration are due to the use of different calendars … Groups of Armenians began moving to Palestine beginning in the fourth century and mainly settled in Jerusalem, where, in the seventh century, they established a Patriarchate Complex which has since attracted Armenian pilgrims. Thousands of Armenians also arrived fleeing the massacres in the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century, after which many settled in Palestine.
EU to appeal ruling that Hamas should be off terror list
BRUSSELS (Reuters) 19 Jan — The European Union said on Monday it would appeal against a court ruling that the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas should be removed from the bloc’s terrorist list. Foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement that the EU had decided to challenge last month’s decision by the EU’s General Court, the bloc’s second-highest tribunal, which she said had been made on procedural grounds. As a result of the appeal, Hamas will remain on the EU’s terrorism list and its assets will remain frozen for now, pending a final judgment by the European Court of Justice. An EU court ruled last month that Hamas should be removed from the terrorist list, saying the decision to include it was based on media reports not considered analysis.
Shin Bet manhandled French prime minister in Grand Synagogue, Bibi insulted French Jewish leadership
Tikun Olam 18 Jan by Richard Silverstein — Maariv today published an astonishing story. Anyone reading this blog is used to the brutishness of the Shin Bet. But usually it’s reserved for Palestinians, Arab journalists, and air travelers with Arab “racial” profiles. We would never expect it to be meted out to the elected leader of a country that is an Israeli ally. On the day of the memorial service for those slain in the kosher supermarket attack, Prime Minister Manuel Valls sought to take his seat in the synagogue with the President, Francois Hollande and Israel’s leader, Bibi Netanyahu. As he approached his seat, his path was blocked by a Shin Bet agent who refused to allow him to pass until Netanyahu had taken his own seat. According to Valls, the agent grabbed his arm and forced him to wait until the Israeli had seated himself. Valls shouted at him in French and English: “You don’t make the rules here. You provide security for the prime minister of Israel, that is all.” The Israeli ambassador to France apologized for the encounter. There can be no doubt that this was a deliberate affront to France’s political leadership. Hollande and Valls made clear during the Netanyahu visit that he wasn’t wanted in the country. Bibi isn’t one to suffer insults gladly. So either he, his official lackeys, or the Shin Bet itself took it upon itself to take Valls down a peg or two. It seems to me this is an extremely dangerous game … In a separate encounter, a leader of the French Jewish community recounted a meeting Netanyahu held with the communal leadership. Those attending were “deeply insulted” by the prime minister’s comparison of their behavior to those of the Spanish Jews in 1492 “who felt good in Spain but who erred” in not leaving when they had the chance.
Palestinians throw eggs at Canadian FM, escalating diplomatic spat
RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) 18 Jan by Ali Sawafta & Noah Browning– Palestinian protesters heckled and threw eggs at Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird during a visit to the occupied West Bank on Sunday, denouncing Ottawa’s diplomatic support for Israel. Baird was not hit, but one of the eggs smacked onto the roof of his car after a meeting with his Palestinian counterpart at the Foreign Ministry in Ramallah. Several dozen Palestinian special forces armed with machine guns and riot gear made no effort to confront the egg-throwers among a crowd of about 100 protesters. “You’re not welcome,” the demonstrators shouted at Baird. Canada was among a handful of countries that voted against Palestinians’ successful bid to become a non-member state at the United Nations General Assembly in 2012. This month, Baird called a Palestinian move to join the International Criminal Court “concerning and dangerous”. Amid bouts of failed peace talks with Israel, Palestinians have opted to confront Israel in international bodies and the conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper has become one of the most outspoken critics of the strategy. In a statement on Sunday, top Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erekat demanded an apology from Baird for visiting Israeli officials in occupied East Jerusalem last year.
Zionist tour for Muslim-Americans sparks anger in Palestine
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 18 Jan by Alex Shams — An all-expenses paid trip to Israel organized for Muslim-American leaders by a Duke University-based imam has set off howls of protest in the United States and left Palestinians shaking their heads in disbelief. The Muslim Leadership Initiative, which was developed by Imam Abdullah Antepli in coordination with the Israeli government-funded Shalom Hartman Institute, wrapped up its second trip to the Holy Land on Friday, and has left a great deal controversy in its wake. Billed as an attempt to help Muslim-Americans “explore how Jews understand Judaism, Israel, and Jewish peoplehood,” the initiative has provoked anger among many Palestinians. Some have cried over foul over what they see as a violation of the Palestinian call for international solidarity through the boycott of Israel, while others have denounced trip organizers for allowing themselves to be duped into becoming willing participants in an Israeli propaganda tour….
Italian parliament meets to discuss Palestinian recognition
IMEMC/Agencies 18 Jan — According to the Palestinian Ambassador to Italy, Mai Al-Kaila, the Italian Parliament recently held a preliminary meeting to discuss recognizing a Palestinian State on the borders of 1967. Kaila said, in a statement to the PNN, that she attended the parliamentary hearing session held to discuss the Palestinian recognition proposal submitted by three minority parties on Friday afternoon. Kaila said that it was obvious that the Italian right had adopted Netanyahu’s speech in Paris, as they focused on terrorism and its relations to Islamic political parties like Hamas. They also condemned the President Abbas for making an alliance with Hamas in forming the unity government. Alternately, three leftist parties proposed resolution drafts to recognize a Palestinian state, leading to a heated discussion of differing opinions between members of the Parliament, and ultimately leaving the session to an open end.
Israeli strike in Syria kills senior Hezbollah figures
BEIRUT (Reuters) 18 Jan by Mariam Karouny & Laila Bassam — An Israeli helicopter strike in Syria killed a commander from Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the son of the group’s late military leader Imad Moughniyah, Hezbollah said, in a major blow that could lead to reprisal attacks. The strike hit a convoy carrying Jihad Moughniyah and commander Mohamad Issa, known as Abu Issa, in the province of Quneitra, near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, killing six Hezbollah members in all, a statement from the group said. It comes just days after Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said frequent Israeli strikes in Syria were a major aggression, that the group was stronger than before and that Syria and its allies had the right to respond. Shi’ite Muslim Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran and fought a 34-day war with Israel in 2006, has been fighting alongside President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in Syria’s four-year war. Iran’s semi-official Tabnak news site said several of its Revolutionary Guards had also been killed in the attack, without giving further details. State-run Iranian television said the identity of the “martyrs” could not be confirmed….