Land, property, resources theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Restriction of movement
Former Netanyahu aide behind ‘lost tribes’ moving to Israel from India
Middle East Monitor 20 Feb — A former Netanyahu aide is the key figure behind an unprecedented government decision to allow an indigenous people from north-eastern India to immigrate to Israel and convert upon arrival. According to an investigation by Haaretz, nearly 1,000 members of the ‘Bnei Menashe’ community have arrived in Israel over the past two years. “Though little, if any, proof exists of their Jewish lineage”, the paper writes, “the Israeli government voted in October 2012 to allow “a large group” to move to Israel, and, a year later, “voted to bring in an even larger group.” Such a move required “special government permission” since the Bnei Menashe “don’t qualify as Jews under the Law of Return and are, therefore, not eligible for automatic citizenship.” The new arrivals joined another 1,500 already in Israel, “who had arrived in trickles over the years.” Many of the longer-standing immigrants live in West Bank settlements.
The settler organisations appropriating Palestinian land and property in East Jerusalem
Middle East Monitor 20 Feb by Jessica Purkiss — When Israeli settlers turned up at Rafat Sub Laban’s family home last week it was not entirely unexpected. The settlers had arrived with a lawyer to demand the family vacate the property immediately. The Sub Labans have been embroiled in a legal battle to hold onto their house for decades. As Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, their battle is by no means unique. In the 1980s the family needed to hold some maintenance work but the Israeli custodian barred it, forcing them to relocate to another house in Jerusalem. Soon after that, all the Sub Laban’s Palestinian neighbours in the building were evicted and Israeli settlers replaced them — subsequently blocking the entrance of their house … Since the early 1990s groups such as Ateret Cohanim and Elad- another settler organisation- have worked towards a goal of a ensuring a Jewish majority in Jerusalem. Backed by right-wing American Jewish millionaires and Israeli government money they appropriate Palestinian land and properties for the settlement enterprise. When not recruiting the law to get what they want, they use illegal forged or fake documents
Negev Bedouin resist Israeli demolitions ‘to show we exist’
AL ‘ARAQIB, Negev Desert, Israel (IPS) 20 Feb by Silvia Boarini — Lehavim Junction in the northern Negev in Israel has been the backdrop to protests against home demolitions in Bedouin localities for the past four and half years. Every Sunday, inhabitants of the Bedouin village of Al ‘Araqib and their supporters stand behind a large banner reading ‘Stop Demolishing ‘Al Araqib’ in English, Arabic and Hebrew. To the rhythm of clapping hands, the younger ones shout slogans into the PA system, ‘Jews and Arabs can live together’, ‘Stop demolishing our homes’. Last month, the ‘unrecognised’ village of Al ‘Araqib was demolished for the eightieth time in four and half years. Despite the absence of a ruling adjudicating ownership of the lands of Al ‘Araqib, the state is planting a forest on the Al-Turi Arab Bedouin tribe’s ancestral lands. “The newspapers here don’t write about Al ‘Araqib,” Mariam Abu Madegham Al Turi, a young inhabitant of ‘Al Araqib told IPS. “These weekly protests are a way to show that we exist. It is part of our sumoud (steadfastness), our resistance.”
Homeless Jerusalemite family live in a cave: report
[with photo] PIC 19 Feb — Piles of ruins and buildings reduced to rubble left behind by the Israeli army as part of the Israeli displacement policy against the Jerusalemites, a scene repeated every day reflecting both Israeli brutal destruction streak and the Palestinian steadfastness. Um Muhammad, an old lady whose home was destroyed by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF), told the PIC reporter: “On Wednesday morning (29-10-2014) large forces of the Israeli army and police escorting a huge bulldozer knocked the door violently and ordered us to evacuate our home within half an hour, and with the help of our neighbors we could take our furniture out.” And added: “Our home, which we built twenty years ago, consisted of two rooms, a bathroom and a kitchen, and now I have to taken shelter in a cave with my nine children and husband – who is unable to work – in this severe cold winter without water or electricity, even the animals we raised and the trees we planted long years ago were not spared the Israeli destruction; they uprooted the berry and grape trees and killed the hens and cocks taking away all the beautiful memories.”
Settlers uproot hundreds of newly planted olive trees
IMEMC/Agencies 18 Feb — A group of Jewish settlers, reportedly from the Metzad settlement, near Bethlehem, uprooted over 500 newly planted olive tree saplings on Wednesday, near the Hebron town of al-Shuyukh. The damaged fields belong to the al-Ayaydeh family, local activists said. The owners found the damaged trees in the morning, while going out to check the land, which is near the Gush Etzion settlement bloc. Last week, settlers from Metzad destroyed over 70 tree saplings near the town of Sa‘ir, according to Ma‘an News Agency. Attacks on olive trees are a key way that Palestinians are forced out of their homes and their lands confiscated for settlement construction, as the loss of a year’s crop can signal destitution for many.
Israeli forces seize garbage truck, tractor in Hebron town
HEBRON (WAFA) 19 Feb — Israeli forces seized on Wednesday evening a waste collection vehicle and tractor belonging to Yatta town to the south of Hebron, said a local activist. Coordinator of the Popular Committees against Wall and Settlement Ratib Jabour said that the truck and tractor belong to Yatta municipality and were seized by Israeli soldiers while moving waste to a landfill to the east of the town. Both vehicles were retained in the military base of Etzion, south of Bethlehem. Jabour condemned Israeli practices targeting Palestinian property, in this case trucks that are necessary for daily garbage disposal, urging international human rights organizations to intervene and help return the vehicles, to which the town has no alternative.
Stray dogs kill 33 sheep in Salfit-area village
SALFIT (Ma‘an) 18 Feb — Thirty-three sheep were killed by stray dogs on a farm in the village of Qarawat Bani Hassan west of Salfit on Wednesday, local farmers said. Owner of the farm, Mahmoud Marie, told Ma‘an that six stray dogs attacked his farm, killing the sheep in their pen. Marie told Ma‘an that each of the sheep is worth around 1,000 shekels ($260), meaning that the incident cost him nearly $8,600. He called upon the Palestinian Minister of Agriculture and the veterinary services to solve the problem of stray dogs in the region. Marie argued that the reason there are so many stray dogs in the area is that settlers bring them by car and leave them in the area, though this allegation could not be verified.
Israeli still refuses to run water to Rawabi
Al-Monitor 18 Feb by Shlomi Eldar — In an interview with Al-Monitor, attorney Dov Weissglass deplores the ongoing Israeli refusal to connect the Palestinian town Rawabi to the water network, claiming that the refusal by Ministers Moshe Ya’alon and Silvan Shalom is politically motivated — After nearly a year of foot-dragging, Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj. Gen. Yoav (Poli) Mordechai finally approved two weeks ago the connection of the new West Bank Palestinian city of Rawabi to the water supply system. For a moment, the entrepreneur behind the project, Palestinian-American billionaire Bashar al-Masri, who is a member of a wealthy Nablus family, was tempted to believe that the project of his life was saved from collapse. Masri invested practically his entire fortune in the new Palestinian city, and for a while, it looked like the threat of bankruptcy looming over the entrepreneur who sought to do good to his people had passed. It turns out that the joy of Masri and the hundreds of Rawabi homebuyers was premature. While Mordechai approved the connection of the city to the national water supply system, his approval has been subsequently foiled by another Israeli knock-back that sealed off the taps even before they were opened.
Israel is still banning Gaza students from West Bank universities
Middle East Monitor 20 Feb by Ben White — Palestinian students from Gaza are still prevented by Israel from studying at West Bank universities, after an announcement this week to the contrary was retracted as a mistake. On Wednesday, Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) announced that a quota of 50 students would be permitted to exit Gaza “for the purpose of academic studies” in the West Bank. However, as related by NGO Gisha, the very same evening, COGAT clarified that there had been a “clerical error” in the relevant document, and that there would be no such permits. The Israeli government has opposed Palestinians from Gaza studying in the West Bank on the grounds of ‘security’.
Hamas fighter, civilian killed in Gaza tunnels near Rafah
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 19 Feb — Two Palestinians died in separate incidents in underground tunnels beneath the besieged Gaza Strip and Egypt on Thursday. The al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Hamas movement, said that a fighter in the group was killed during a military mission in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. The brigades said in a statement that “Muhammad Talal Abu Matar, 25, from western Rafah was killed in a jihadi mission,” without providing further details. However, a spokesperson for the Gaza Ministry of Health said that Abu Matar was killed in an accident in one of the tunnels. Also Thursday, a young Palestinian man died after being accidentally electrocuted inside a smuggling tunnel connecting Rafah to Egypt. A spokesman for the Gaza Strip’s civil defense forces, Muhammad al-Midana, identified the victim as 19-year-old Abd al-Majid Othman. The ministry said he was from Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip … The tunnels have served as a lifeline to the outside world for Gaza’s 1.8 million inhabitants, as imports and exports are almost completely restricts by Israel with Egyptian collaboration.
Gazans forced to sell their belongings
GAZA CITY (Al-Monitor) 20 Feb by Rasha Abou Jalal — Poverty has led Khaled Selim, 48, to sell some of his furniture at a very cheap price in order to provide for his family members and stop them from reaching the stage of begging. Selim, who works in a concrete factory that was destroyed during the war on Gaza, told Al-Monitor, “I had no option but to sell my furniture as I ran out of all the money I had saved. I had no money left to cover the needs of my family. I cannot afford my wife’s medicine, and she is suffering from cancer.” Selim said that his family is now sleeping on the floor as he had to sell their beds, and that his unemployment will force him to sell his refrigerator in the near future: “What is the point of having a refrigerator when it’s always empty?” The suffering of Selim, who lives in Gaza City, mirrors the suffering of the majority of the 1.8 million Gazans. They are suffering from multiple severe financial crises that have affected the already devastating Palestinian economic situation.
Internal unrest threatens Gaza
GAZA CITY 19 Feb by Hazem Balousha — As violence and general lawlessness increase in the Gaza Strip, Fatah and Hamas are accusing each other of being behind the turmoil — As soon as Gaza escaped a bloody and cruel war with Israel that lasted 50 days, it entered a spiral of bombings and lawlessness. The last three months have seen shootings, bombings and local institutions stormed and robbed. The security services have made no arrests, and Gaza’s citizens are now back to the years of security chaos that preceded Hamas’ takeover of the Strip in 2007. Periodic reports issued by the Independent Commission for Human Rights show a rise in crime in the Gaza Strip since the beginning of 2015. Starting November 2014, there has been an increase in bombings, car burnings, kidnappings, theft and shootings, most notably the assassination attempt of Fatah leader Mamoun Sweidan on Feb. 16.
UN tells donors to make good on Gaza pledges
UNITED NATIONS, United States (AFP) 18 Feb — The failure by world donors to deliver billions of dollars of aid to rebuild Gaza is jeopardizing efforts to avoid a new flareup in the Palestinian territory, a senior UN official warned Wednesday. UN political affairs chief Jeffrey Feltman told the Security Council that donors who had promised $5.4 billion to the Palestinians at the Cairo conference four months ago “have yet to fulfill the vast majority of their pledges.” “This is, quite frankly, unacceptable, and cannot continue if we hope to avoid another escalation in Gaza,” Feltman told the 15-member council during a meeting on the Middle East. “Failure to deliver the necessary support is putting an almost unbearable strain on an already highly fractious environment,” he said.
Karem Abu Salem crossing open to allow goods into besieged Gaza
RAFAH (WAFA) 19 Feb – Karem Abu Salem commercial border crossing was opened Thursday morning to allow truckloads of goods and building material entry into the blockaded Gaza Strip, said a Palestinian official. Head of the Presidential Commission for the Coordination of Goods into Gaza Strip Raed Fattouh said that 400 truckloads of goods and construction material were allowed entry into Gaza through Karem Abu Salem border crossing. Fatouh noted that 150 truckloads of gravel were intended for the Qatar-funded road reconstruction projects while the rest were carrying goods intended for both commercial and agricultural sectors. According to Fattouh, unidentified quantities of diesel and gasoline for transportation as well as were cooking gas and industrial fuel were allowed entry into Gaza.
Makeshift homes sprout in Gaza amid Israeli restrictions on materials
Al Jazeera America 19 Feb — Aid agencies struggling to shelter thousands of Gazans made homeless by war have resorted to building makeshift temporary homes out of metal and wood to evade Israeli restrictions on imports into the territory. Around 150,000 families are still homeless after last year’s war between Israel and Hamas, in which Israeli bombardment destroyed thousands of apartment buildings and homes. Israel tightly limits the flow of concrete, cement, iron bars and other materials into Gaza, as “dual use” items that could have a military purpose if they were seized by Hamas to rebuild tunnels used to launch attacks. That means few homes have been rebuilt despite international pledges of billions for reconstruction. Rather than wait to rebuild permanent homes, some relief agencies have decided to build temporary structures with materials they can get … Those Gazans who can afford to rebuild themselves are cobbling together designs that do not rely on standard building materials. “The goal was to move quickly into a house to shelter my brother’s six children and two wives,” said Motasem Dalloul, whose brother has spent around $20,000 building a home out of plaster, metal, wood and the bit of cement he could afford.
Restoring water for Gaza families
GAZA (ANERA) 18 Feb — Mohanad Mousa couldn’t wait to tell his family what he had learned in his science class about water. The eight-year-old proudly repeated the facts: rain is a source of water and water brings goodness and blessings to the earth. But that blessing is elusive for Mohanad and his family who have been without running water at home in Gaza for many years. Mohanad’s mother Fatima explains, “We live far away from any water connections. Our community has been left behind and forgotten.” She says the families have filed complaints, but nothing has been done. The community in Beit Hanoun where Mohanad and his family live suffers sharp decreases in the supply of water at home, especially during the summer when the need for water is high. The family purchases water in town when they can, but this greatly strains the family budget … Fatima and her family were thrilled when they heard the news that ANERA would be connecting their community to a steady flow of water. The water project, funded by Islamic Relief USA, aims to restore water supply lines to homes and communities that were damaged in the recent conflict.
Video — Gaza: A step forward
ICRC 19 Feb — Osama lost a leg during the 2014 Gaza conflict. He was sure that he would never again live a normal life, or be able to support his wife and four children. But the treatment he received at the ICRC-supported Artificial Limbs and Polio Center restored his hope in the future and enabled him to return to work. Last year, the Centre provided physical rehabilitation services to over 2,500 people in the Gaza Strip. In this video, we follow Osama as he takes a big step forward — learning to walk again.
Brave Gaza boy saved by Brits heard the bullet explode and feared he would die
The Mirror 18 Feb by Chris Hughes — Brave Majad, 14, is the latest victim of the Israeli-Gaza conflict and after a 14-hour operation says he is just glad to be alive — Bloodied, battered and dazed from the deadly explosion that almost killed him, brave Majad is the latest victim of the Israeli-Gaza conflict. The 14-year-old boy has just recovered from a six-hour operation. His mangled left hand had to be amputated and he endured major stomach surgery. The Daily Mirror reported how he and his two cousins Yazam and Musab, both three, were blown up by a bullet [shell] left after the war finished six months ago. We watched as British surgeons helped Gaza medics try to save the boys but staff told us at least one of them might not survive as they had lost so much blood. Miraculously, when we returned 24 hours later, both the younger boys were in a stable condition and Majad was well enough to speak to us.
Life away from home: the Asian wives of Gaza
GAZA (Channel News Asia) 20 Feb by Majd Al Waheidi — Asian women who moved to Gaza with their Palestinian husbands continue to pine for home, especially during festive seasons like Chinese New Year — There are dozens of women from China and the Philippines living in Gaza with their Palestinian husbands. Most of the couples met while the men were studying at universities in Asia. For the women, life in Gaza can be fraught with homesickness and uncertainty. Although they have built lives in the Middle East, they continue to long for their families back home. Zhang Xiaobu moved to Gaza in 2008 after she met and married her husband, who had been studying in China. Zhang is now known by her Arabic name Dina al-Haj, and she runs a shoe store with her husband in the Palestinian territory. Ms Al-Haj now bridges the 6,000km distance from her homeland by listening to Chinese songs while she works. Her store imports Chinese bags, shoes and accessories through Israel’s crossing into Gaza. Although Ms Al-Haj longs to spend Chinese New Year with her mother back in China, the travel restrictions imposed by Israel and Egypt stops her from leaving the coastal enclave.
Violence / Raids / Arrests
Soldiers invade a village near Bethlehem
IMEMC/Agencies 18 Feb — Israeli soldiers invaded, on Wednesday at dawn, the village of Wadi Fukin, west of Bethlehem in the West Bank, stormed several homes, and photographed families. Head of the Wadi Fukin Village Council Ahmad Sukkar said a large military force invaded the village, before the soldiers stormed dozens of homes and counted the number of rooms each home has, in addition to taking pictures of the families and their properties … Sukkar said that, approximately two weeks ago, the army started similar invasions that included taking pictures of homes, residents and collecting personal information from the families. He warned that such activities could have serious implications on the families and their very existence in their own homes and lands.
Activists rebuild E1 protest camp for 9th time after Israeli army raid
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 18 Feb — Palestinian activists rebuilt the Gateway to Jerusalem protest camp in the central West Bank on Wednesday for the ninth time in just over two weeks following another raid and demolition by the Israeli military, local activists said. Activists said they will insist on remaining on the land in the Khallet al-Raheb area near Abu Dis despite the constant demolitions, repression, and detentions by Israeli forces in order to prevent Israeli plans to displace thousands of Palestinian Bedouin families from their homes. Spokesperson for the local popular resistance committees, Hani Halabiya, told Ma‘an that activists set up the tents in the protest camp as soon as Israeli bulldozers left Wednesday afternoon. He said that Israeli forces had raided the area as the activists rebuilt, surrounding the camp and taking pictures of activists as they were setting the tents up. Halabiya added that activists will remain in the Gateway to Jerusalem (‘Bawwabat al-Quds’) protest camp until Israeli plans to displace Palestinian Bedouins are canceled, calling upon Palestinians and activists to join the protests in the camp.
Israeli forces arrest 14 Palestinians in raids across the West Bank
TULKAREM (Ma‘an) 19 Feb — Israeli forces arrested 14 Palestinians in overnight raids across the northern and southern West Bank early Thursday. Israeli troops carried out detention raids at dawn in the northern West Bank regions of Nablus and Tulkarem, Palestinian security sources and witnesses said. The sources told Ma’an that in Tulkarem district several Israeli military vehicles raided the city of Tulkarem, Tulkarem refugee camp, and the village of Iktaba hours after gunshots were fired at Israeli vehicles traveling on the main road near Tulkarem … Israeli troops also stormed the Northern Mountain and Kurum Ashour neighborhoods of Nablus and detained Iyad Mansour, 40, and Mahdi Ashour, 33. The Israeli forces also raided Balata refugee camp east of Nablus and apprehended Muhammad al-Riyahi, an employee of the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism. The Nablus-area village of Zuwata was also stormed by Israeli forces, who arrested a young Palestinian man identified as Islam Judah. An Israeli military spokeswoman said that all of the individuals arrested in the Nablus region were affiliated with Hamas. Israeli soldiers also carried out raids in Hebron in the southern West Bank overnight. The Palestinian Prisoner’s Society said in a statement that Israeli forces detained four Palestinians from the region. Two detainees from the town of Beit Kahel in Hebron were identified as Laith Asafra, 21, and Muhammad Asafra, 21. [as usual, this is only a sampling of the people arrested from 18-20 Feb.]
Prisoners / Court actions
Prisoners’ committee appeals to help Palestinian prisoners as winter storm approaches
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 18 Feb — As a possible winter storm is expected to hit the region over the weekend, the Detainees and ex-Detainees Affairs Committee Wednesday called upon the International Red Crescent and other international humanitarian organizations to promptly intervene and provide Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails with the much needed winter supplies. As the Palestinian territory is expected to be affected by a cold front at the end of this week, the committee appealed for the provision of heating methods and warm winter clothes and blankets to Palestinian prisoners detained in Israeli cells that fail to meet the minimum standard conditions. Palestinian prisoners are held in overcrowded cells that lack basic health standards, including the infestation of insects and rats, extreme cold and lack of heating methods, and wastewater leakage into their cells, which further aggravates their already poor conditions.
Paralyzed detainee released after eight months in prison
IMEMC 20 Feb by Saed Bannoura — Israeli soldiers released, on Thursday at night, a paralyzed Palestinian detainee from Za‘tara village, east of the West Bank city of Bethlehem. The Mawwal Radio in Bethlehem said the released wheelchair-bound detainee has been identified as ‘Adnan Abdullah Mohsin, 41 years of age. The soldiers kidnapped Mohsin eight months ago when the army conducted an extensive invasion into the Hebron district, and various West Bank areas, kidnapped hundreds of Palestinians and ransacked hundreds of homes after three Israeli settlers were reportedly kidnapped, and were later found killed near Hebron. Mohsin, a married father of three children, was taken prisoner at 1:30 after midnight on June 19 2014, after dozens of soldiers surrounded the apartment building where he lives with his family, and invaded it. The soldiers wanted to kidnap him by placing him on a stretcher without taking his wheelchair to accompany him, but his father insisted that the soldiers need to keep his son’s wheelchair with him due to his paralysis. The soldiers handcuffed ‘Adnan and blindfolded him, an issue that prompted his father to object, telling them his son is completely paralyzed … After the soldiers kidnapped him, he was placed in a small inaccessible room in Etzion; he fell off his wheelchair and suffered various injuries to his back, arms and legs … He received an Administrative Detention order for four months, without charges or trial; the order was renewed another time … His paralysis was due to an accident in 2001, after he fell while working at a construction site; his spine was severed resulting in paraplegia. He suffered from various health complications
Journalists’ syndicate condemns Israel’s arrest of journalist
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 18 Feb – The Palestinian Journalist Syndicate (PJS) Wednesday slammed Israel’s arrest of journalist Ala’a al-Titi [as] a continuation of Israel’s aggression committed against the Palestinian people. A protest in solidarity with al-Titi was held in front of the Israeli Ofer prison. Secretary General of PJS, Abdul Nasser al-Najjar, condemned Israel’s arrest of al-Titi almost a month ago, expressing total rejection to the policy of arresting journalists on grounds of their work. He stressed the Palestinian satellite channels work in line with regulations and laws and have a right to practice their job inside the Palestinian territories. Al-Titi was arrested three times, including the current arrest, under grounds of working for what the Israeli authorities described as a ‘terrorist satellite channel’; al-Aqsa channel [affiiliated with Hamas].
Girl, interrupted — but free from Israeli prison
Haaretz 20 Feb by Gideon Levy & Alex Levac — Did you throw stones at the road? “Not true.” Were you wearing a mask? “A lie.” Did you throw a knife on the ground? “A lie.” And then, “Maybe they thought my pen was a knife and my notebook was a stone.” Did you try to run from the police? “I wasn’t afraid and I didn’t run.” Malak al-Khatib, the 14-year-old girl about whom we wrote last week, the youngest female Palestinian prisoner ever, is back home. Sentenced to two months in an Israeli prison for throwing stones and being in possession of a knife, the eighth-grade schoolgirl from the West Bank village of Beitin was released last Friday, after her sentence was reduced by two weeks. Her father, Ali Yusuf al-Khatib, had to pay a fine of 6,000 shekels (almost $1,500) to obtain her freedom. He also vowed that on the day of Malak’s release he would shave off his beard. This week we met him – he’s now clean-shaven – on the same closed balcony of his home where we spoke to him a week earlier. Malak, the family’s youngest child, was sitting by his side.
Palestinian refugees – Syria
18,000 Palestinians trapped in Al-Yarmouk in midst of snowstorm: no food, no heating
DAMASCUS (WAFA) 19 Feb — About 18,000 Palestinians are currently trapped in the besieged al-Yarmouk refugee camp in the south neighborhood of Damascus, with no sufficient food supplies and heating sources, according to the UNRWA. The international agency said it was alarmed and concerned by the grave deterioration in the humanitarian situation in Yarmouk, caused by a recent upsurge of armed conflict in the area. With winter weather set to continue for several months, and with no access to regular food supplies, clean water, health care, electricity or heating fuel, says UNRWA, Yarmouk’s civilian population of some 18,000 is at the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe.“To know what it is like in Yarmouk, turn off your electricity, water, heating, eat once a day, live in the dark, live by burning wood,” Anas, a resident of al-Yarmouk was quoted by the UNRWA. UNRWA’s spokesperson, Chris Gunness, said, “Over the previous two months, Yarmouk and its surrounding areas have seen a serious escalation in armed conflict, including frequent exchanges of fire and the use of heavy weapons, which have persistently disrupted the distribution of life-saving humanitarian aid to the 18,000 civilians trapped in the area.” “UNRWA remains deeply concerned that no successful distribution has been completed since 6 December 2014,” he added.
Syria’s disappeared Palestinians
EI 18 Feb by Budour Youssef Hassan — …It is impossible to estimate the number of Palestinians detained in Syria. The Syrian government doesn’t provide any data regarding political prisoners. Neutral local or international monitoring and human rights groups, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, are not granted access to the numerous prisons and detention facilities across the country. And many families keep quiet about the detention of their loved ones. They stay anonymous, fearing the repercussions and backlash of publicity both on them and on the prisoners. The Action Group for Palestinians in Syria, a London-based monitoring organization founded in 2012, has documented the names of 756 Palestinians currently being detained and nearly 300 more missing. The vast majority of prisoners documented are held in the various detention facilities run by the Syrian government, but some are detained by jihadist or armed opposition groups. One of those is Bahaa Hussein from Yarmouk, detained by Jabhat al-Nusra in late January for blasphemy. The same group has recorded the death under torture of 291 Palestinians in Syrian government detention since the beginning of the Syrian uprising in March 2011. Each of them has a face and a story, but very few of them have made the news … “Tortured in the name of Palestine” In an interview with The Electronic Intifada conducted via Skype, Abu Julia, a Palestinian activist who sought asylum in Germany at the end of 2013, where he remains, gave a glimpse into the horrors faced in Syrian regime jails.
In their own words: four residents of Yarmouk speak
Mondoweiss 20 Feb by Talal Alyan — What follows are the meditations of four current Palestinian residents of the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria. They were prompted to reflect on the state of the camp, what Palestine means to them now after what they have experienced and what they would want to say to Palestinians outside of Syria. The four residents interviewed here come from varied political and professional backgrounds ranging from local relief work to artwork to journalism. Their opinions are theirs alone and have been produced unaltered below although their names have been changed at their request — ..Ahmad, local aid worker with Palestinian non-profit: As Palestinians from Syria, we have lived another dispossession. I am relearning what my father and grandfather lived. I felt we lost Palestine again and that we have been distanced from the right of return again. After sixty five years, as close as we got, I felt we lost another sixty five years after what has happened here. Yarmouk was the center of the Palestinian diaspora. Yarmouk was so significant, it was the center of political and cultural Palestinian life, and we were closer to Palestine than the camps in Jordan or Lebanon or even the West Bank. We lost all of this after we lost Yarmouk … I’d be a liar if I said that the idea of Palestine hasn’t diminished in my mind. After what we saw from the factions, we truly realized that we had no one. I no longer want to return to Palestine. Our country is gone. We finally know what it means to have a country that is destroyed. We have also felt abandoned by the Palestinians outside Syria. There was no one to rely on
166 children have died in Al-Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp
Middle East Monitor 19 Feb — Geneva-based Friends of Humanity announced on Wednesday that 166 children have died since the start of the regime’s siege of Al-Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp south of Damascus, Anadolu has reported. The Bashar Al-Assad regime has imposed a strict siege on the refugee camp, which houses thousands of Syrians as well as Palestinians, since July 2013. In a new report, the NGO described the situation in the refugee camp as “tragic” because of the spread of disease and starvation, and a chronic shortage of medical equipment and medicines. Since the start of the Syrian crisis in 2011, said FoH, 2,651 Palestinian refugees have been killed, most of them by the regime. “Some died of hunger, some were killed by rocket attacks, some by snipers and some under torture,” the report claimed … For months, regime forces have been blocking food and children’s milk from going into Al-Yarmouk, putting the refugees under pressure in order to flush out the opposition groups controlling the camp.
Palestine shuts down as snow, frigid rain pummel Holy Land
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 20 Feb — Shops and offices in cities across the West Bank were closed Friday after a major winter storm pummeled the region and left nearly half a meter of snow in some places. Snowfall began late Thursday and continued into the early morning Friday, blanketing hilltops across the region with a thick layer of snow that shut streets and major thoroughfares. Frigid rain continued to pummel the region Friday night, and was expected to continue into Saturday as temperatures slowly rise from the storm — named “Jenny” by meteorologists — as it continues south … In occupied East Jerusalem, the heavy snowfall had also shut down major roads. Due to the reported failure of the Israeli municipality to clear roads in Palestinian neighborhoods, locals in many places had ventured out to re-open streets … Snowfall also hit Palestinian communities inside Israel where it is rarely seen, including Nazareth in the Galilee, Abu Ghosh west of Jerusalem, and Beersheba and Bedouin communities in the Negev desert in the south…
Meanwhile, frigid rain and hail pounded Gaza and the Palestinian coast overnight and into Friday, without at least 1.8 million in the Strip struggling to survive amid the usual power cuts and limited access to fuel for generators.
US fears for cash-strapped Palestinian Authority
WASHINGTON (AFP) 19 Feb — The United States voiced fears Thursday that the Palestinian Authority may be teetering on the brink of collapse because of a lack of funding, as Israel withholds taxes and donor aid stalls. Washington has been in urgent talks with regional leaders as well as other stakeholders in the frozen Middle East peace process in a bid to try to release more funds. “It’s true we’re very concerned about the continued viability of the Palestinian Authority if they do not receive funds soon,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters. Such funds would include the resumption of monthly Israeli transfers of Palestinian tax revenues, or additional donor assistance, she said.
PA forces raid office of 2 Palestinian MPs
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 19 Feb — Two members of the Palestinian parliament on Thursday said that Palestinian security forces raided their office Wednesday night in Ramallah after arresting the office manager. Fatah-affiliated lawmakers Majid Abu Shammala and Alaa Yaghi told reporters that the attack on their office was part of ongoing violations of the law and “abuses” of power by PA officials. “Remaining silent in the face of such practices has encouraged individual PA leaders to go to the extremes,” Abu Shammala said.
Palestinian boycott activists ask PA to call off natural gas deal with Israel
Haaretz 19 Feb by Amira Hass — Boycott campaign supporters says deal undermines Palestinian strategy of fighting the occupation and would only increase dependence on Israel — The Palestinian campaign to boycott Israel is demanding that the Palestinian Authority not ratify an agreement to buy natural gas from Israel that was signed more than a year ago. Five social and political activists and several Palestinian public figures, among them a senior member of the Fatah Central Committee, held a press conference in Ramallah this week in which they demanded the January 2014 deal between the Palestine Power Generation Company and the Delek-Noble Energy partnership be canceled. They pledged to exert political pressure on the PA until they reach their goal. The campaign officials said it was absurd that the PA is prepared to commit to a long-term agreement that will help Israel sign similar and even more profitable deals with neighboring countries, even as a Fatah leader called for a boycott of products from six major Israeli companies last week.
Israel army’s top legal officer unconcerned by ICC probe
RAMAT GAN, Israel (AFP) 19 Feb by Hazel Ward — The Israeli army’s top legal officer said Thursday he is unconcerned by Palestinian plans to sue Israel at the International Criminal Court over its conduct in last year’s Gaza war. Major General Dan Efrony said the military is running 15 criminal investigations stemming from the 50-day war, expressing confidence they would head off a parallel probe by the Hague-based court. “It should be enough with our quality and professionalism, and if it meets our professional standards then it should meet that of any others,” he told journalists at a military legal conference near Tel Aviv. Efrony denied a Palestinian move to join the court on January 7 had put pressure on Israel to open its own investigations. “All my decisions are unconnected to the ICC….’
Supreme Court overturns decision to ban Zoabi, Marzel
Ynet 18 Feb — The Supreme Court overturned on Wednesday a decision to ban candidates Hanin Zoabi (Balad) and Baruch Marzel (Yachad) from running for Knesset. The Central Elections Committee voted to disqualify both candidates, but in both cases eight judges ruled against the committee’s decision while Deputy Supreme Court President, Judge Elyakim Rubinstein, was of the minority opinion that Marzel and Zoabi’s candidacy should be disqualified. The reasoning for the judges’ decisions will be released on another date.
Shas religious party tries to appeal to Arab voters in upcoming election
IMEMC/Agencies 20 Feb — The Shas ultra-orthodox Jewish Party, headed by Aryeh Deri, started a campaign addressing the Arab citizens of Israel in an attempt to gain their votes in the upcoming general election, by using the fact that Arabs and Haredi Jews are largely marginalized in Israeli politics. The party is now carrying slogans such as “With Deri; our revolution is coming,” as a move meant to appeal to Arab voters, largely marginalized by the system in Tel Aviv, especially the ongoing displacement of Bedouins in the Negev, and the lack of services for Arab communities, the Arabs48 news website has reported. However, what the party seems to be trying do is to gain Arab votes without offering to include Arab candidates in the upcoming election of March 17.
Italian parliament postpones vote on Palestinian recognition
IMEMC/Agencies 20 Feb — The Italian parliament has again postponed the vote on a non-binding bill calling for the official recognition of a Palestinian state, reportedly under pressure from Israel. The motion is understood to be similar to the one put forth in Sweden, where the government formally recognized a Palestinian state last year , as did France, Britain, Ireland, Portugal and Spain. The motions in question, however, have no actual diplomatic effect and are chiefly a symbolic gesture, PNN reports. A similar vote is planned in Belgium, where legislators are working on a resolution to recognize a Palestinian state, though the government said, last week, that any timing to proceed will depend on European Union action. An AFP count puts the number of states which now recognize Palestine at 112.
EU provides €14 million to West Bank and Gaza families
BETHLEHEM (PNN) 19 Feb — The European Union, Spain and Ireland have joined forces to contribute to the Palestinian Authority’s new payment of social allowances to poor and vulnerable Palestinian families in the West Bank and Gaza. The contribution, channeled through the PEGASE mechanism, amounts to €14 million (€12.7 million from the budget of the European Union, €0.8 million from the Government of Spain and €0.5 million from the Government of Ireland). Palestinian households living in extreme poverty receive assistance through the national cash transfer programme administered by the Ministry of Social Affairs. The programme provides a basic safety-net to the poorest and most vulnerable Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza through cash and in-kind assistance. Today’s contribution will reach over 70,400 Palestinian families living in extreme poverty. More than half live in Gaza.
Israel to sue Meshaal for closing Ben-Gurion airport
Middle East Monitor 20 Feb — The Shurat Hadin legal centre has announced its intention to prosecute the Head of Hamas’s Political Bureau, Khaled Meshaal, as well as other Hamas officials on charges of obstructing air travel at Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport during the most recent Israeli attack on Gaza. Israel’s Channel 2 reported that the centre, which specialises in filing lawsuits against Israel’s opponents in American and Canadian courts, has called on all Americans harmed by the obstructed air travel due to the rockets fired at the airport by the Al-Qassam Brigades to contact the centre in order for a lawsuit to be filed in their names. Channel 2 also quoted Attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, director of Shurat Hadin, saying: “We are trying to find a way to put Khaled Meshaal on trial in the US. The war crimes that he conducted against Israel and its citizens can be heard also in other courts aside from the criminal court in the Hague.” She said that the suit is made possible by the fact that Meshaal holds Jordanian citizenship, and also because the Palestinian Authority (PA) has requested to join the International Criminal Court (ICC).
US trial over attacks could hurt Palestinian war crimes push
JERUSALEM (AP) 20 Feb by Ian Deitch— Palestinian officials are nervously watching a landmark terrorism trial in the United States, brought by victims of Palestinian suicide bombings and shootings aimed at civilians. They fear a negative verdict could hurt their international image at a time when they are preparing to press war crimes charges against Israel. The $1 billion lawsuit was filed over a series of deadly attacks in or near Jerusalem that killed 33 people and wounded hundreds more during the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, a decade ago. The plaintiffs have turned to the U.S. court because some of the victims were American citizens. Although the cases are not directly linked, a ruling against the Palestinian Authority in New York federal court threatens to undermine Palestinian efforts to rally international support for a brewing battle at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. With American plaintiffs seeking billions of dollars in damages, it could also deliver a tough financial blow to the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the West Bank. The Palestinian Authority refused to comment on the lawsuit. But several senior Palestinian officials said the case is being closely watched in Ramallah and acknowledged they are worried about the outcome. The officials spoke anonymously on the advice of their lawyers.At issue are several Palestinian attacks between 2001 and 2004 targeting civilians,
Palestinian Christians urge stronger fight against IS
JERUSALEM (AFP) 18 Feb — Some 200 Palestinian Christians staged a candlelit march in Jerusalem Wednesday to mourn Egyptian Copts killed by the Islamic State group in Libya, calling for stronger international action against the jihadists. The demonstrators carried four cardboard coffins decorated with gold crosses, and held up banners showing pictures of the 21 Coptic Christians who were beheaded by IS militants in a graphic video released Sunday … The sombre march made its way to Jerusalem’s Coptic monastery, where banners were displayed featuring stills from the IS video and passages from the Bible. “We want to express solidarity with Egyptians and Copts, and to show how sad Palestinian Christians and Muslim friends are” about the deaths, said Nashat Filmon, 39.
Exclusive: UNIFIL suspects Israel deliberately killed peacekeeper
BEIRUT (Daily Star) 19 Feb by Nicholas Blanford — A Spanish UNIFIL peacekeeper killed three weeks ago by an Israel artillery shell following Hezbollah’s missile attack on an Israeli army convoy appears to have fallen victim to the Hannibal Protocol – the controversial Israeli policy of preventing the kidnapping of a soldier even at the expense of his life. The deadly incident has left some UNIFIL officers convinced that Israel deliberately targeted one of their positions to “punish” the peacekeepers for not taking greater action against Hezbollah’s activities in the southern border district. No Israeli soldiers were abducted in Hezbollah’s Jan. 28 attack. But the retaliatory shelling – a mix of mortar rounds and 155mm high explosive and white phosphorous artillery shells – was unusual in blanketing both sides of the Blue Line in a 3-kilometer arc from the village of Ghajar to the foot of the Shebaa Farms hills.Unlike past retaliatory bombardments which target the sources of Hezbollah fire north of the Blue Line, the shelling around Ghajar indicates that the Israelis were attempting to hit a possible kidnap squad retreating to Lebanese territory with captive soldiers.
French media documents Israeli reporter’s fraudulent Paris walk on Muslim ‘wild side’
Tikun Olam 18 Feb by Richard Silverstein — Though Israeli “journalist” Zvika Klein’s Paris “walk on the wild side” through allegedly Muslim Paris neighborhoods aroused indignation in Israeli and western media, the story aroused skepticism in French media. The French publication Les Inrocks published an investigative piece and interview with Klein which undermined many of the claims and assumptions on which his video was based … Klein’s foray into the heart of the Paris’ Muslim beast is an extension of the Robert Spencer fake “No-Go” claims about UK cities like Birmingham. The truth is that there are no No-Go neighborhoods in any European city where Jews may not walk without being in fear of their lives.
Palestinian farms break new ground with ostrich and mushrooms
DAR SALEH, Palestinian Territories (AFP) 19 Feb by Shatha Yaish with Imad Abu Sombul in Jericho — The small farm in the southern West Bank seems unremarkable, but for one thing. Instead of the sheep traditional to the area, its livestock are ostriches. Fifty-year-old farmer Abdelrahman Abu Tir, whose name coincidentally translates as “father of the bird”, has for the last three years been farming ostriches for meat in a project unique in the Palestinian Territories. In another corner of the West Bank in Jericho, a separate group of agricultural entrepreneurs have begun the first Palestinian mushroom farm since Israel occupied the territories in 1967. The two projects are among a growing number of ventures in Palestinian agriculture that seek to fill gaps in the market, both for business purposes and to cut reliance on the Jewish state for food. Picking at tufts of coarse grass, Abu Tir’s giant birds — normally spotted on the plains of Africa — look out of place in the village of Dar Salah, where he keeps 200 of them on around two hectares (five acres) of land.