UN officials accused of bowing to Israeli pressure over children’s rights list
The Guardian 17 Mar by Harriet Sherwood — Senior UN officials in Jerusalem have been accused of caving in to Israeli pressure to abandon moves to include the state’s armed forces on a UN list of serious violators of children’s rights. UN officials backed away from recommending that the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) be included on the list following telephone calls from senior Israeli officials. The Israelis allegedly warned of serious consequences if a meeting of UN agencies and NGOs based in Jerusalem to ratify the recommendation went ahead. Within hours, the meeting was cancelled. “Top officials have buckled under political pressure,” said a UN source. “As a result, a clear message has been given that Israel will not be listed.” Organisations pressing for the IDF’s inclusion on the list since the war in Gaza last summer – which left more than 500 children dead and more than 3,300 injured – include Save the Children and War Child as well as at least a dozen Palestinian human rights organisations, the Israeli rights organisation B’Tselem and UN bodies such as the children’s agency Unicef. “These organisations are in uproar over what has happened,” said the UN source. The IDF’s inclusion on the UN’s list of grave violators of children’s rights would place it alongside non-state armed forces such as Islamic State, Boko Haram and the Taliban. There are no other state armies on the list. It would propel Israel further towards pariah status within international bodies and could lead to UN sanctions.
Violence / Raids / Attacks / Suppression of demos / Arrests — West Bank / Jerusalem
VIDEO: Israeli soldiers attack peaceful gathering in commemoration of Rachel Corrie
IMEMC/Agencies 18 Mar — Young Palestinians in Qaryout, near Nablus, today, were planting olive saplings to commemorate the 12th anniversary of the murder of activist Rachel Corrie. They then sat down for a peaceful picnic. Watch what happens next… Those present were planting trees, cooking food and singing before the soldiers rushed in with their guns to disperse the peaceful gathering. One man can be seen to faint, during the raid, and is carried to patch of land on a stretcher as soldiers threaten with their weapons and shove participants this way and that. What happens next is unclear, as a panic begins to surface within the crowd, the camera shaky. An argument is heard to erupt over what is to become of the fainted man. The scene ends with the young soldiers carrying the man away and, then, dropping him to the ground. [Also see Corrie family statement under ‘Gaza’]
PHOTOS: Army arrests unconscious activist at Corrie commemoration
Activestills 16 Mar Text and photos by: Ahmad Al-Bazz — During an olive planting action to commemorate the 12th anniversary of the death of American activist Rachel Corrie, Israeli forces arrest two Palestinians–one of them while unconscious.
Palestinian protesters honor Tristan Anderson on 6th anniversary of his shooting
NI‘LIN, Occupied Palestine (ISM, Ramallah Team) 16 Mar — During last week’s Friday demonstration in Ni‘lin the inhabitants of the village commemorated the anniversary of US activist Tristan Anderson’s shooting during a protest in the village six years ago. At the demonstration Israeli forces fired several hundred tear gas grenades and canisters, rubber-coated steel bullets, and two rounds of live ammunition at protesters. The demonstration began from the village mosque after noon prayers, as villagers accompanied by international and Israeli activists marched down a road leading towards the Apartheid Wall. Palestinians from Ni‘lin carried posters calling for justice for Tristan Anderson. Tristan, who was volunteering with ISM at the time, was shot in the head with a high-velocity tear gas grenade by Israeli border police on March 13, 2009 after that week’s Friday demonstration in Ni‘lin. The injury left him with permanent severe brain damage. He now suffers chronic pain, is blind on his right eye, paralyzed and requires 24-hour care. Tristan’s family is currently pursuing a civil lawsuit in court demanding that the Israeli government pay for the extensive care Tristan will need for the rest of his life.
Israel investigates attempt to poison [water] tank in Hebron
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 17 Mar — Israeli settlers on Thursday [12 March] attempted to poison a water tank belonging to a Palestinian family living in Hebron, relatives reported Monday. Imad Abu Shamsiyeh told Ma‘an that last week he went to his home in Tel al-Rumeida near the illegal settlements of Beit Yishai and Beit Hadassah where he found three settlers waiting. “One of them was wearing dark clothes and covering his face while the others stood guarding him,” he said. “When the three settlers saw me they fled the scene.” He continued: “I headed to the water tanks and when I looked inside the tanks I saw a white substance in the water and immediately informed Israeli police and occupation forces of the incident. “Several soldiers went up to my roof and an Israeli officer told me that the substance was poisonous upon seeing it.” He added: “The police arrived later and I filed a complaint against the settlers. I asked them to remove the military outpost above my house, provide protection to my family, and put an iron gate at the entrance of my home to protect me from settler attacks.” Abu Shamsiyeh explained that he informed the Palestinian Ministry of Health and the Hebron municipality, but they could not test a sample of the water. Abu Shamsiyeh and his family say they have been on the receiving end of several attacks from both Israeli soldiers and settlers, most recently when settlers damaged cameras he had set up to document attacks.
7 activists detained as Israeli forces attack Jerusalem Gate
IMEMC/Agencies 17 Mar — Israeli occupation forces, Tuesday afternoon, attacked a popular demonstration that surfaced around the story of the Jerusalem Gate protest camp, on the day of Israeli Knesset elections. PNN reports that hundreds of citizens and supporters, including foreigners and even Israelis, have participated in the march toward the Gate. Israeli forces attacked demonstrators in a brutal way, detained at least seven activists, including the popular struggle activists, Yousef Sharqawi and Ahmed Odeh, both from Bethlehem, in addition to two students from Al-Quds University and two Israeli activists. Munther Ameera, head of the higher coordination committee against the wall and settlements in the West Bank said that today’s demonstration was coordinated between the popular struggle committee and the Student Shabiba (youth)movement which follows the PLO, and the student senate of the university … The village was installed for the first in February, in the Khallet ar-Raheb area, east of Abu Dis, to protest Israel’s decision to displace and relocate the Bedouin communities so that it can continue its construction and expansion of its illegal colonies.
Two settlers wounded in stone attack in J’lem
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (PIC) 18 Mar — Two Jewish female settlers on Tuesday evening suffered minor injuries when Palestinian young men hurled stones at the bus they were aboard in occupied Jerusalem. The Hebrew radio said that young men threw stones at a bus belonging to the Israeli transport company Egged as it was driving on Uzi Narkiss road near Beit Hanina junction. It added that the Israeli police reached the scene and launched a manhunt for the youths. Earlier on the same day, Palestinian resistance fighters opened fire at Israeli soldiers at Qalandiya checkpoint, north of Jerusalem, while one soldier suffered injuries described as minor when a Palestinian driver tried to run over soldiers at Gush Etzion junction near Bethlehem.
West Bank refugee camp threatens Palestinian leadership
Al-Monitor 16 Mar by Daoud Kuttab — The largest Palestinian refugee camp in the West Bank is boiling, and the troubles that are usually confined to the Balata camp are now spilling outward, with the main Ramallah-Nablus road blocked by protesters. Continuous gunshots can be heard from the camp, travelers on the road told Al-Monitor. The camp has been the scene of regular clashes between armed militants and the Palestinian security forces since February, raising fears that the camp will provoke a major destabilization campaign against the Palestinian government and presidency. Situated on the outskirts of the West Bank’s largest city, Nablus, the Balata camp is home to over 23,000 Palestinian refugees, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. For years the camp was the hotbed of anti-Israeli protests and resistance, but in recent years it has become the battleground for internal Palestinian wars. The majority of Balata’s residents support the mainline Palestinian movement Fatah, but herein lies the problem. Moamar Orabi, who runs Wattan TV in Ramallah and is producing an investigative report on Balata, told Al-Monitor that the camp is now home to various rebellious individuals, including those aligned with ousted Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan. “It is an internal battle within Fatah and it is clear that the refugee camp has been hijacked by militants,” he said.
Israeli forces detain 23 Palestinians in West Bank
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 16 Mar — Israeli forces detained 23 Palestinians across the West Bank overnight Monday and seven minors in East Jerusalem, a prisoners’ rights group said. The Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) said Israeli forces detained four Palestinians from the al-Fawwar refugee camp in Hebron … Mahmoud Ali Rujoub, 39, and his son Alaa, 26, were reportedly detained from the Hebron town of Dura, along with Yacoub Jamal al-Shawabkeh. Two Palestinians identified as Nathmi Alawneh, 28, and Zakariya Azzuqa, 24, were detained from Jenin. Adham Akef Asmar and Omar Abdullah al-Rimawi were detained from the Beit Rima town near Ramallah. Director of PPS in Jerusalem, Nasser Qaws, said Israeli police arrested seven minors from the al-‘Issawiya village, the Ras al-‘Amud neighborhood and Silwan …
Israeli forces also detained five Palestinians from the Zawata, Qaryut and Beit Iba villages of Nablus early Monday. Palestinian security sources named these as Muhammad Atta Miari, 28, from Zawata and Khalid Abu Badr from Beit Iba. They said that Hussein Muhammad Mustafa Maradweh, Thaer Mustafa Hussein Maradweh and Mazen Muhammad Hassan Allan were detained from Qaryut following clashes with Israeli fores that erupted when activists planted olive tree saplings in the village. Israeli also reportedly assaulted students from Birzeit and an-Najah universities who were planting the saplings, before proceeding to uproot them. Israeli soldiers detained Samer Makhlouf, a student at an-Najah University and Muhammad Majd, a student at Birzeit.
Soldiers detain a Palestinian near Jenin
IMEMC/Agencies 17 Mar — Israeli soldiers detained, earlier on Tuesday morning, a Palestinian in the northern West Bank city of Jenin, installed a roadblock near the city, as the army conducted several hours of training, and detained a Palestinian. Media sources in Jenin, said the soldiers conducted several hours of training in the location of the former Sanour military base, and detained a Palestinian identified as Sufian Mohammad al-Athra. The sources added that the soldiers invaded Jenin city, and the area surrounding “Haddad Tourist Village.” In addition, soldiers installed a roadblock on the main entrance of Ya‘bad town, near Jenin, and searched dozens of cars while inspecting the ID cards of the passengers. Also on Tuesday, soldiers invaded various neighborhoods in Hebron city, in the southern part of the occupied West Bank, and installed roadblocks on the main entrances of Sa‘ir and Halhoul towns, before searching dozens of cars, and inspecting the ID cards of the passengers.
Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Judaization
Within a week, Israeli forces demolish 18 Negev homes
IMEMC/Agencies 17 Mar — Israel’s interior ministry has announced that it demolished about 18 Palestinian homes in the Negev, within the last week, according to Al Ray Palestinian Media Agency. In a press statement, the Israeli interior stated that they oversaw a number of demolitions operation on homes, in cooperation with ” The Jewish National Fund”, “Kern Kayemt” organization and what is known as the “Green Patrols.” Israeli authorities expanded the demolition of homes, and farmlands in the Negev through the past weeks, with bulldozers raiding dozens of homes in Negev villages, then destroying them under the pretext that they were built without a permit. The campaign of demolition is still going until the date of this report, in a move that is seen as a race against time ahead of the Israeli elections to destroy the largest possible number of Palestinian houses in the region in order to win more votes from electorate extremists.
Army installs a mobile home on Kisan village land
IMEMC/Agencies 17 Mar — Israeli soldiers installed on Monday evening, a mobile home on bulldozed Palestinian lands, near the main entrance of Kisan village, east of Bethlehem, in the area where Israeli is bulldozing the lands to build a settlement “industrial zone.” Head of the Kisan village council, Hussein Ghazal, said the mobile home was installed on the lands that were bulldozed two days ago, where Israeli intends to build a factory. Ghazal added that the many bulldozers and workers are operating in the area, while wood, iron and construction supplies have been brought to the scene. The official further stated that Israel intends to “conduct more theft of Palestinian lands, and eventually surround the village from all directions.”
It is worth mentioning that the Applied Research Institute in Jerusalem (ARIJ) recently reported that Israel is trying to illegally annex lands belonging to Kisan village, in order to make them part of the so-called “Greater Jerusalem” settlement project. ARIJ conducted a geopolitical research on the issue, also examining the Israeli plans, maps, and the lands the army is bulldozing, and found out that the Israeli plan aims at expanding the Gush Etzion settlement block to reach all the way to the Dead Sea shores, as part of the “Greater Jerusalem” plan.
Jerusalem family fights against all odds to prevent eviction
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 16 Mar by Alex Shams — On a small alley in Jerusalem’s Old City, a Palestinian family is fighting both Israeli government and Jewish settler pressure to stay in a home they have lived in more than half a century. After a day of fighting with police and Jewish settlers bent on kicking them out of the house, on Monday evening the eight members of the Sub Laban family breathed a sigh of relief after an Israeli court stayed their eviction order. But the victory is short-lived. The court said only that the eviction will be frozen until after Tuesday’s parliamentary elections, and family members are already bracing for the renewed attempt to force them out, which they expect to come Wednesday morning, if not earlier. “All of the apartments around us and even in our own building are now inhabited by Jewish settlers,” the family’s son Rafat Sub Laban told Ma’an during an interview at the home. “In the 1970s and 80s they started taking them over one by one, and now we are the only Palestinians left here.” The attempted eviction Monday was the second in just over a month, and the family is becoming increasingly fearful that the chances of being able to stay in their home are rapidly diminishing. – Settlers aim for Jewish-majority Old City – A settler organization named Ateret Cohanim has been trying to push them out of the home since 2010, Sub Laban told Ma‘an, but pressure has increased rapidly in the last 40 days. At issue in the case is the fact that the home was owned by a Jewish landlord prior to the 1948 outbreak of hostilities, when almost all Jews fled the Old City for Zionist-controlled West Jerusalem when war broke out. The Sub Laban family moved into the house in 1956, when they entered into a protected lease agreement with the Jordanian government custodian that took over “absentee” property following the war. When Israel occupied Jerusalem in 1967, the Sub Laban family renegotiated the agreement — which entitles them to stay in the house even after the lease lapses and to pass it on as well — with the Israeli custodian. In the 1980s the family says they were mandated by the government to perform restoration work on the house, and when they temporarily moved out to allow the work, they were prevented by settlers from returning for 15 years. In 2000, they finally managed to move back in. But a decade later an Israeli court sided with the settler group Ateret Cohanim’s assertion that the Sub Laban family had “abandoned” the home by not residing in it during the years when they were prevented from entering….
In photos: Defying Israel’s demolition orders in the South Hebron Hills
Electronic Intifada 16 Mar by Mohammad Alhaj — The Palestinians who have managed to remain in the Masafer Yatta area of the South Hebron Hills face imminent forcible transfer by the Israeli government. The residents of these rural communities have lived in this part of the West Bank for decades, many of them since before the Israeli military occupation began in 1967 and long before the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. Many families have documents proving ownership of the land. In the 1980s, the Israeli army declared most of the area as a closed military zone for training — a designation imposed on approximately 18 percent of the West Bank. Approximately 5,000 Palestinians, mostly herders, live in those areas. The land of Masafer Yatta was subsequently leased to the World Zionist Organization for the development of Israel’s settlements, which are illegal under international law. A pending case regarding the Masafer Yatta communities has remained before Israel’s high court since 2000. But a few years ago the Israeli authorities confirmed their intention to evacuate eight of the twelve villages, “exposing 1,000 people to the imminent threat of forcible transfer, which amounts to a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions and a war crime,” according to the human rights group Al-Haq.
Conditions in the villages are hard. They are not connected to water and electricity networks. Children study far away from home because Israel forbids the building of public service infrastructure like schools and health clinics. Residents are frequently harassed by Israelis from the surrounding settlements encroaching on the villages’ lands. Families in two other Masafer Yatta communities have already been forced to leave because of settler violence, according to the United Nations monitoring group OCHA. Dozens of residential and agricultural structures in the villages have received demolition or stop work orders, forcing families to live in substandard housing.
Israeli court recommends Israeli government recognise Arab village
Middle East Monitor 17 Mar — Israel’s Supreme Court recommended that the Israeli government recognise the village of Dahmash, located between Lod and Ramle. The court held a hearing yesterday over a petition calling for the recognition of the village. The court had deliberated the petition submitted by lawyer Kais Nasser on behalf of the people of Dahmash against the Ministry of the Interior and the Israeli government in order to discuss residents’ demand that the village be recognised within the domain of the Emek Lod Regional Council and the judicial proceedings against the residents be frozen. It decided to issue a recommendation to the Israeli government and the interior ministry to find a practical solution for organising Dahmash, and it requested that the State Prosecution consider the latest developments in the case until 1 September 2015. The court hearing was attended by dozens of the village’s residents, a group of activists, and Jewish jurists who support the people in their demand for organising the village. A mass prayer was held outside the court building comprising a number of Jewish, Christian and Muslim activists.
Settlers set up mobile homes on Palestinian land near Nablus
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 16 Mar — Jewish settlers set up mobile homes on private land belonging to Palestinian farmers in the village of Jalud south of Nablus on Monday, a Palestinian Authority official said. Ghassan Daghlas, who monitors settlement-related activities in the northern West Bank, told Ma‘an that a group of settlers from the illegal outpost Adei Ad set up caravans on a hill in northern Jalud. Daghlas said that the village has lost about 16,000 dunams (4,000 acres) of its farmland to Israeli settlements. The newly set up caravans, he said, mark a new round of land confiscation. Last month, a group of settlers attacked a 37-year-old Palestinian man in Jalud. He was taken to hospital after they hit him over the head with an iron rod.
If reelected, Netanhayu vows wave of E. Jerusalem building
JERUSALEM (AFP) 16 Mar — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed on Monday that if reelected he will build thousands of settler homes in Arab east Jerusalem to prevent future concessions to the Palestinians. Speaking ahead of Tuesday’s general election on a whistlestop tour of Har Homa, a contentious settlement neighbourhood of annexed east Jerusalem, Netanyahu vowed he would never allow the Palestinians to establish a capital in the city’s eastern sector. “I won’t let that happen. My friends and I in Likud will preserve the unity of Jerusalem,” he said of his ruling rightwing party, vowing to prevent any future division of the city by building thousands of new settler homes. “We will continue to build in Jerusalem, we will add thousands of housing units, and in the face of all the (international) pressure, we will persist and continue to develop our eternal capital,” he added. Israel seized Arab east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community. The Jewish state refers to both halves of the city as its “united, undivided capital” and does not see construction in the eastern sector as settlement building. Successive Israeli leaders have vowed that Jerusalem will never again be divided — in war or peace. The Palestinians want the eastern sector of the city as the capital of their future state … “If Tzipi and Bougie set up the next government, Hamastan 2 will be established on these hills here,” he said, pointing to the surrounding landscape. “Hamastan” is a derogatory term used by Israeli politicians to refer to the Gaza Strip which has been ruled by the Palestinian Islamist Hamas movement since 2007. “We are preventing it (by) developing prestigious neighbourhoods here for tens of thousands of Israelis,” he said.
Restriction of movement
Israeli forces ban woman from Al-Aqsa, extend the remand of 3 men
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 17 Mar — Israeli police banned a Palestinian citizen of Israel Tuesday from entering the Al-Aqsa compound for 15 days, and extended the remand of three young men. Abeer Bashir from Kabol in northern Israel was banned from al-Aqsa for 15 days and signed a third party bail of 5000 shekels ($1250), said lawyer Ramzi Kteilat of Qudsuna Human Rights Organization. He added that Israeli police also extended the remand of Mohammad Deeb from al-Jadida, Mustafa Mwasif from Tamra, and Shadi Sha’abneh from Akko, who were accused of assaulting a police officer and causing riot.
Israel to ease permit restrictions for elderly Palestinians this week
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 17 Mar — Israeli authorities said Tuesday that plans to allow elderly Palestinians into Israel without permits will be activated this week. The Israeli liaison office’s statement on Tuesday said that “facilitation” of the plans still required two days or more to be activated due to developments on the Israeli crossings computer systems. The statement came in response to a report by Ma‘an TV that claimed the Israeli announcement regarding access to Jerusalem for elderly Palestinian was untrue. The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Yoav Mordechai, issued a statement last Thursday stating that as of Sunday, Palestinian men over the age of 55 and women over the age of 50 would be allowed to cross into Israel for daily visits without the need for permits. The statement also added that married men over the age of 22 would be eligible to apply for work permits, in contrast to current regulations that only allow married men over 24 who have children to apply.
Israel to open Ramallah district road closed since 2001
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 16 Mar — The Israeli authorities informed the village council of Beitin village in eastern Ramallah that they will be opening a road between Ramallah and its eastern villages that has been closed since 2001. Deputy head of Beitin village council Said Jaraba‘a said that the Israeli civil administration office had informed them that opening the road has been approved on the condition it undergo improvements to make it more usable. Jaraba‘a added that opening the road would facilitate travel for more than 70,000 Palestinians in the eastern villages of Ramallah. He said that the council considered the decision a beginning for opening the Beit El checkpoint at the northern entrance of Ramallah City, also known as the “DCO.” Removing the checkpoint would open a route into Ramallah 16km shorter for residents of Beitin than the Ein Siniya road which is currently used. Jaraba‘a added that the village council has called on the Palestinian Prime Minister, Local Governance Ministry and the Ministry of Housing and Public Works to rehabilitate the road.
Israeli troops fire at Gaza farmers along border
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 17 Mar – Israeli forces opened fire at Palestinian farmers working in their fields along the border area between Israel and the Gaza Strip Tuesday morning. Witnesses told Ma‘an that gunfire came from Israeli watchtowers commanding the border area opposite to Shuja‘iyya, Zaytoun and Juhr al-Dik neighborhoods. All farmers were forced to leave their fields following the incident.
Separately, Israeli forces opened fire at Palestinian Khalid Saad al-Din’s car near the northern borders of the Gaza Strip while he was on the way to his agricultural land 400 meters from the border. Al-Din’s car was set ablaze following direct hits from Israeli live fire, but he was able to safely flee his burning vehicle, according to witnesses. No injuries have been reported in either incident.
IOF nabs two youths near Gaza fence, showers civilian lands with gunfire
GAZA (PIC) 18 Mar — The Israeli occupation forces (IOF) apprehended two Palestinian citizens for creeping through the border fence with Gaza and opened machinegun fire on Gazan lands in a renewed violation of the Cairo-brokered ceasefire deal. A PIC correspondent quoted eye-witnesses as reporting that the IOF abducted two Palestinian youths who infiltrated the borders with Israel, moments before they showered Palestinian land lots east of the Bureij refugee camp with heavy volleys of machinegun fire. The IOF kept reportedly chasing down the youngsters for dozens of meters before they ultimately captured and dragged them to an unidentified destination.
Israeli warplanes launch mock raids over Gaza
GAZA (PIC) 17 Mat — Israeli warplanes carried out on Tuesday morning sudden and intense mock air raids over Gaza Strip. Quds Press said squadrons of Israeli F16 planes flied over the blockaded Gaza Strip and launched sudden and intense mock raids in the morning hours. Loud explosions were heard across the Strip, spreading fear and panic among residents, particularly children. The raids coincided with the commencement of the Israeli general elections.
Monthly report: Referral of patients from the Gaza Strip, February 2015
World Health Organization 17 Mar — Access restrictions tighten * Rafah border: The Rafah border with Egypt was completely closed by Egypt in February in both directions; no patients were able to travel to Egypt for medical treatment and no medical aid or medical delegations entered Gaza. * Access through Erez: 2 in 10 patients who applied for Israeli permits to travel through Erez checkpoint to access medical treatment in February were not approved. Of the 1,429 patients who applied, 63 patients (15 females and 48 males, including 8 children and 2 elderly) were denied permits, and 218 patients (80 females and 138 males, including 69 children and 12 elderly people over 60) received no response to their applications, and missed their medical treatment appointments. * Interrogations: 10 patients (5 females and 5 males) were requested to attend Israeli security interviews after applying for a permit to cross Erez. None was approved later….
Dalia Khalifa: Gaza’s ‘unbreakable’ girl
Middle East Eye 17 Mar by Mamoon Alabbasi — Nine-year old Dalia Khalifa was in the living room of her family home in the Zaytoun district of the besieged Gaza Strip when an Israeli strike hit their house during last summer’s Operation Protective Edge. On the dawn of 1 August, 2014, she was rushed to Gaza’s Shifa Hospital, where other members of her family – and many compatriots – were being treated. Covered in blood and unable to open her eyes, with her younger sister clinging to her crying out “I love you,” she wasn’t aware where she was and what her surroundings were until she gradually recovered. Her story was narrated by Mohammed Asad, a photojournalist from Gaza, who happened to be in the same hospital documenting civilian casualties of Israel’s military offensive. “When I saw her, the image of the Afghan girl Sharbat Gula, came to my mind,” Asad told MEE, in a reference to the famous photo by Steve McCurry published in the National Geographic. Asad took a photo of Dalia on 9 August, 2014, noting that despite the shrapnel wounds to her face, she did not cry. The name given to the photo was “Assiyat al-Damea,” which translates to “the one who does not cry easily”. The English name given to the photo was simply “unbreakable”. The photo has recently become the Grand Jury Winner in a photography competition organised by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Middle East and North Africa (OCHA) … Dalia’s father said that while some of the traces on her face are vanishing, her body remains riddled with shrapnel scars. What’s worse, he added, is the more serious medical case of her younger sister Remas, whose skull was inured as a result of the Israeli strike. Both girls need medical attention as well as cosmetic surgery, but the shut borders with Egypt and Israel means that they can’t travel to receive treatment in Turkey nor receive specialist doctors who are willing to travel to the besieged Gaza Strip. “Dalia’s face charts the pain of Gaza’s children. But also the unrelenting beauty and courage of a generation that seems determined to withstand the seemingly insurmountable hardships,” commented Ramzy Baroud, Palestinian author and journalist.
Major trauma after the war
Norwegian People’s Aid 17 Mar by Julie Strand Offerdal — Conversational therapy and activities help Gaza’s women and children to process post-war trauma … When their homes were bombed, many fled to UN schools and sought shelter there. Yousra Abu Shihada (57) was one of them. She talks about the dramatic flight. “We fled from our home through a window, and hid among the trees. Then we hid in the basement of a mosque. The Israeli military saw us, and started bombing the mosque. We fled from street to street, from house to house with no refuge as the bombs fell around us. The ground was covered by smoke and dust. I lost track of where my children were. Then we reached a UN school, but it was bombed as well. We had to flee to a second school, and then to a third.” The families at the UN schools lived in extremely close quarters, often with women and children from six families in one classroom. The men lived out under the open sky. Many of the inhabitants have major psychological problems in the wake of the experiences they have been through. “Many women wet their beds. I see one woman who is chewing on her shoe. People are crying, tearing their clothes. They are unable to accept that they have lost everything they had,” says Shihada … The Palestinian Center for Democracy and Conflict Resolution, a Norwegian People’s Aid partner organization, estimates that several thousand women and children have need of psychosiocial aid. “The needs following the war are enormous. Women who have lost their homes are in a state of shock, and undergoing trauma. The problems vary from woman to woman; the ways in which people are equipped to deal with such heavy stresses are entirely individual,” says Amal Eid, one of the organization’s counsellors.
Gaza ministry lays foundation stone for ex-prisoners’ city
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 17 Mar — The Palestinian Ministry of Housing and Public Works and the Qatari Committee for the Reconstruction of the Gaza Strip laid the foundation stone of a project to house former prisoners in southern Gaza on Monday. Minister of Housing and Public Works Mufid al-Hasayneh said during the ceremony that the project, known as the Sheikh Hamad City, will lie on 120 dunams of land in the southern al-Zahra province in the Gaza Strip. He said that 28 buildings consisting of 360 housing units would be built. The project is named after Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa, who was the ruling emir of Qatar from 1995 to 2013. Al-Hasayneh applauded the efforts of the former emir, as well as Qatar’s current ruler, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa, to lessen the suffering of Gazans.
Gazans build temporary houses while awaiting reconstruction
KHAN YUNIS, Gaza Strip 16 Mar by Hazem Balousha — Palestinians whose homes were destroyed during the last war on the Gaza Strip in July-August 2014, did not expect their suffering to last more than six months. Yet, they still do not know when they will be compensated and when their homes will be rebuilt, amid growing doubts that their suffering will last longer in light of the current political situation. Ahmad Barakeh’s two-story house, with four apartments housing 11 family members, was destroyed. He hesitated when he was offered a temporary wooden house next to his destroyed concrete house, because he feared that this temporary house would end up being his permanent one. Gazans are not used to building and living in wooden houses. Because of the high cost and shortages of land in Gaza, large families live in multi-floor concrete buildings that house the grandparents, children and married sons and their families. Barakeh, who lives in al-Zanna neighborhood east of Khan Yunis, accepted after much contemplation a local organization to build him a new wooden house. He came to the conclusion that rebuilding his concrete house will probably take years as the entry of funds and construction materials into Gaza is obstructed.
Many Gazans are turning to fraud to obtain assistance
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip 17 Mar by Rasha Abou Jalal — The aid programs of international and local organizations that provide financial and food assistance to Gaza residents are essential. But to be eligible for aid certain conditions must be met by Gazan families. For instance, the family’s breadwinner must be unemployed or disabled, and some aid only applies to pregnant women or Palestinian refugees. As a result, Gazans to whom the eligibility requirements do not apply have been looking for other ways to be considered for assistance, in light of the deterioration of living conditions and the lack of sources of income and employment. Faten is four months’ pregnant and lives with her husband and family in a school in the northern Gaza Strip, after the 2014 war left them homeless. She has become a resource for a number of women who wish to receive financial aid, which is offered as a one-time payout of $200 by private relief organizations to pregnant women only. Some women have begged Faten for a sample of her urine so that they can use it as “evidence” of being pregnant.
Support to farmers gets food production up and running
Norwegian People’s Aid 16 Mar by Julie Offerdal — The farmers in Gaza lost over six months of crops in the war that raged last summer. A Norwegian People’s Aid partner organization is providing support to the farmers to get food production up and running again. On the border between Gaza and Israel, in the no-man’s land where moving about puts one’s life at risk, lies some of the most fertile farmland available to the farmers in Gaza. Many of the poorest farmers grow their crops here, defying threats and gunfire from the Israeli border guards to tend their fields. The tanks came rolling in across the border region as the Israeli military brought in reinforcements in the attacks on Gaza during the summer. Where once there were orange trees and olive orchards, there are now craters and mounds of earth. The crops are leveled to the ground. “When we returned after the war, we couldn’t even tell the crofts apart from one another. We didn’t know which was ours, and which was our neighbor’s. Everything was leveled, and the buildings were destroyed,” said one farmer we encountered. Because they did not sow their seed in time, the farmers lost between six and nine months of production because of the war, i.e. both the existing crops and the next crop. – “A horrible time” – Khalil Jundiyeh lives with his seven daughters and five sons in a shack a few hundred meters from the border with Israel. The family lives by farming, and depends on being able to cultivate the land situated right at the border for its survival. They often work in fear for their lives; farmers moving toward the Israeli border have been shot by Israeli border guards on a number of occasions….
Gazan gets 15 years’ hard labor for ‘spying’ for Israel
GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories (AFP) 16 Mar — A court in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip has handed a Palestinian convicted of “spying” for Israel 15 years’ hard labour, a judicial source said on Monday. The 53-year-old man was found guilty of “providing the occupier personal names and the location of sites belonging to the resistance,” said the source. The defendant had been found to have “collaborated with the occupier since 1988” and had spent a year in the Jewish state. Under Palestinian law, those convicted of collaboration with Israel, murder and drug trafficking face the death penalty. Since the start of the year, at least one person convicted of “collaboration” with Israel has been sentenced to death in the West Bank. A Gaza-based human rights watchdog in January called on authorities in the Palestinian territories to abolish the death penalty. Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls Gaza, executed 18 men in August for collaboration with Israel during their 50-day war, having executed two others in May last year on the same charge.
Arsonists torch car of Gaza union official
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 17 Mar – Unidentified arsonists on Tuesday morning set fire to a private car belonging to the spokesman of the Gaza union of civil servants while it was parked in front of his house in Gaza City. Khalil Zayyan told Ma‘an that “I was surprised at 3 a.m. when I saw my neighbors trying to put out a fire which broke out in the neighborhood, and we discovered later that the fire was in my own car.” He added that gasoline was found on parts of the vehicle which “indicates the fire was set on purpose.” “I do not have any enemies … the attack is part of the ongoing attempts to mess with Gaza security.” The Ministry of Interior of the former Hamas-run government has released videos showing former security officers of the Palestinian Authority confessing that they were behind a wave of arsons and explosions in the Gaza Strip. Fatah officials immediately denied the claims saying that Hamas “fabricated the videos.”
The 12th anniversary of Rachel Corrie‘s stand in Gaza — family statement
17 Mar — Today, the twelfth anniversary of our daughter and sister Rachel’s stand and death in Gaza, we find ourselves back where our journey for accountability in her case began – in Washington DC. We have come for meetings at the Department of State and in Congress and, also, to join our colleagues in pursuit of a just peace in Israel/Palestine at the national meeting of Jewish Voice for Peace … In March 2005, at the suggestion of the Department of State and to preserve our legal options, our family initiated a civil lawsuit against the State of Israel and Ministry of Defense. After a lengthy Israeli court process, in February of this year, the Israeli Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that said Rachel was killed in a “war activity” for which the state bears no liability under Israeli law … Our family’s legal options in Israel are nearly exhausted, but our search for justice for Rachel goes forward. Back in Washington DC, we have come full circle. We ask again that U.S. officials address their responsibility to U.S. citizens and to all civilians whose lives are impacted and cut short by military actions supported with U.S. taxpayer funding. We ask that they determine what to do when a promise from a key ally’s head of state to our own goes unfulfilled.
Can Gaza’s Islamic Jihad ease tensions with Egypt?
GAZA CITY 16 Mar by Asmaa al-Ghoul — Palestinian Islamic Jihad has been exerting efforts to open the Rafah crossing, angering Hamas, which believes the initiative will divide the Palestinian resistance — The efforts of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) to restore the relations between Egypt and Hamas have seemingly yielded positive results. These have been exemplified by the opening of the Rafah border crossing on March 8-9, the first time since its closure on Jan. 22. Also, Egypt’s State Lawsuits Authority filed on March 11 an appeal with Cairo’s Court for Urgent Matters to review the latter’s designation of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades and the Hamas movement as terrorist organizations. A source from the PIJ office in the Gaza Strip told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that the initiative focused on the opening of the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, provided that the Presidential Guard of President Mahmoud Abbas runs and guards the crossing in the coming period. The source said the initiative also focused on the resumption of Egyptian efforts sponsoring Palestinian reconciliation and the defusing of tension between the Hamas movement and Egypt.
Egypt demolishes 1,020 Rafah homes for Gaza buffer zone
CAIRO (Ma‘an) 17 Mar — The Egyptian army demolished 1,020 houses in the [Egyptian] border city of Rafah as part of the second stage of the establishment of a buffer zone along the border with the Gaza Strip. Egyptian security officials told a Ma‘an reporter in El-Arish city on Tuesday that 200 more houses would be demolished to create a no-go zone extending 500 meters from the border fence. Families evacuated from the properties have already been reimbursed, the official said, adding that the Egyptian government had paid some 150 million Egyptian pounds ($19.7 million) in compensation to evacuated families. The governor of the North Sinai district, Abd al-Fattah Harhour, said in January that each family would receive 1,500 Egyptian pounds ($209) to rent apartments for three months, in addition to 1,200 pounds ($167) for every square meter of cement and 700 pounds ($97) per square meter of the demolished home based on the bearing wall system.
Palestinian refugees in other countries
Bodies of 32 Palestinian refugees killed in Syria identified
DAMASCUS (PIC) 18 Mar — The bodies of 14 Palestinian refugees killed in war-torn Syria due to torture at the Syrian regime lock-ups were identified, just one day after 18 other cadavers were singled out, the Action Group of Palestinians in Syria reported Tuesday. The bodies included those of eight women identified respectively as the Yarmouk refugees Samira al-Sahli, Nesrine Mahmoud Jaber, Rahaf Gheith Ismail along with the 19-year-old Houda Hamdan, 22-year-old Bisan Abdul Ghani, Islam Abu Rashed, 25, Rana al-Masri, 24, and Ibtissam Arafa. The Action Group raised alarm bells over the striking upsurge in the number of Palestinian refugees tortured to death in the jails of the Syrian regime. Over 35 Palestinian refugee women are still incarcerated at lock-ups run by security forces loyal to the Syrian regime.
Rights groups call on Egypt to end refugees’ detention
CAIRO (PIC) 17 Mar — 16 international human rights groups have released Tuesday an urgent appeal calling on the Egyptian government to put an end to the arbitrary detention of refugees and to immediately release all refugees held without charges in spite of the public prosecutor’s release orders. The groups have also called in the statement on Egypt to drop all deportation orders issued in spite of the public prosecutor’s release orders, to repeal its tight visa restrictions for Syrian nationals, and to allow UNHCR to execute its protection mandate to include Palestinian refugees. In the case of 56 Syrian and Palestinian-Syrian refugees the charge of ‘unauthorized entry’ has been dropped as the Public Prosecutor ordered their release on November 5, 2014. Despite this, Egypt’s Homeland Security issued orders for their deportation. For more than 100 days now, they have been held without charge at Karmooz police station, the statement pointed out. The group was arrested by the Egyptian authorities on November 1, 2014 after they had left from Turkey by boat on October 23, 2014 aiming to reach Europe. Following a dispute between the smugglers, the refugees were left stranded on Nelson Island, 4 km north of Abu Qir, Alexandria.
Palestinian refugees gain special rights in Iraq
Middle East Monitor 17 Mar — Iraq’s Supreme Court has issued a decision to grant Palestinian refugees living in Iraq the same rights as Iraqi citizens in all administrative procedures except for obtaining citizenship. Palestine Ambassador to Iraq, Ahmad Aqel said the decision will alleviate the suffering of Palestinian refugees in Iraq and will help improve their living conditions.
PCHR Weekly Report: 1 killed, 36 wounded, 75 abducted by Israeli forces from March 5-11
IMEMC 16 Mar by Celine Hagbard — … the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) found that Israeli navy forces killed a Palestinian fisherman and wounded two others in two separate attacks. A Palestinian civilian was wounded due to the explosion of an object of the Israeli forces’ remnants left in the Gaza Strip during the latest Israeli offensive. In addition, Israeli forces continued to use excessive force against peaceful protests in the West Bank. 12 people were wounded in Kufor Aqeb village, north of occupied Jerusalem, and 12 wounded in other non-violent protests throughout the West Bank and Jerusalem … Israeli forces conducted 45 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank, and 8 into East Jerusalem this week. Full report
Palestinian grassroots resistance to occupation growing
RAMALLAH (IPS) 17 Mar by Mel Frykberg — As soon as the truck carrying Israeli dairy products entered Ramallah’s city centre it was surrounded by Palestinian activists who proceeded to remove and trash almost 20,000 dollars’ worth of mainly milk and yoghurt. The driver of the truck, a Palestinian from the nearby Qalandia refugee camp and an Israeli employee, fainted after watching helplessly. The goods, already paid for by Palestinian shopkeepers, were smashed up and stomped on before they were spread all over the street in front of the Palestinian police stationed at the traffic circle. Activists from the Palestinian Authority (PA)-affiliated Fatah movement are behind a boycott of Israeli goods throughout the West Bank. The boycott follows the withholding by Israel of millions of Palestinian tax dollars in retaliation for the PA advancing plans to take Israel to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged Gaza war crimes and abuses in the West Bank. “We have entered the second phase of the campaign which is confiscating and damaging these goods,” said Abdullah Kamal, who is the leader of the campaign.
Cash-strapped Palestinian government adopts emergency budget
RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) – Gripped by financial crisis, the Palestinian government said on Tuesday it was putting an emergency budget in place for 2015 due to the absence of pledged international aid and Israel withholding its tax revenues. “The general budget law for 2015 comes amid complicated and tough conditions, as the treasury is suffering a choking financial crisis,” a Palestinian cabinet statement said … The tax money covers around two-thirds of the Palestinian budget and is used to pay tens of thousands of public sector employees. The tax revenue suspension and a failure of donor countries to transfer $5.4 billion they had pledged in October in aid to the Palestinians after the July-August Israel-Gaza war, rendered the government unable to fulfill its duties, the statement said … The government said it will continue to pay partial salaries to its 160,000 public servants and it cut the running cost of its offices to half what it was in 2014 … The cabinet did not give a figure for the 2015 budget and the Minister of Finance said an amended budget will be presented once the financial crisis is over. The European Union has in recent weeks increased transfers to the PA, in part to offset the loss of tax income this year and the United States has expressed concern about the PA’s viability if the funds remain frozen. Western diplomats are worried that if Israel does not soon release the tax revenues, security coordination will de facto be suspended since the PA will be unable to pay security staff. An end to security coordination between Israel and the Palestinians could have an immediate impact on stability in the occupied West Bank.
2014 sees record number of media violations in Palestine
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 16 Feb — The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) said Sunday that 2014 saw 465 violations of media freedoms in the occupied West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. MADA chairman Dr. Ghazi Hanania told reporters that 2014 was “the worst, the deadliest, and the hardest year ever for journalists and media freedoms in Palestine, in terms of the nature and degree of the violence suffered by journalists and media freedoms, and in terms of the number of crimes and violations committed, which rose at a record pace and unprecedented.” Israeli forces committed a total of 351 violations of press freedoms, 112 of which were recorded in Gaza and 239 in the West Bank. Based on the figures, Israeli violations increased by 132 percent compared to 2013, while violations by Palestinian security forces in both Gaza and the West Bank increased by 46 percent. General director of MADA, Mousa Rimawi, said Israeli violations of press freedoms included assaults, killings, injuries, destruction of media institutions, the arrest of journalists and using the press as human shields. According to MADA’s report, violations by Palestinian security forces in 2014 were at their highest since 2008 … The main forms of media violations by Palestinian security forces are assaults, threats, arrests and being summoned for investigation, the group said.
Palestinian women demand quota increase
GAZA CITY 13 Mar by Asmaa al-Ghoul — Palestinian feminist movements are discussing with PLO factions the possibility of increasing the female quota system, while women’s representation within Hamas remains timid. — A video of a Jordanian parliament session went viral Dec. 3. The clip, shared widely as “Sit down, Hind!,” shows parliament member Yahya al-Saud cursing the quota system that brought female member Hind al-Fayez to parliament in 2013 after he repeatedly demanded that she sit down and listen to him. Though it may have angered some, the quota system is the only solution guaranteeing the presence of women in Arab parliaments … In comparison to five women elected to parliament in 1996, 17 women won in the 2006 parliamentary elections, following feminists’ struggle to impose a 20% quota for women. Today, in coordination with feminist organizations, the General Union of Palestinian Women (GUPW) is preparing to increase the quota to 30%.
Netanyahu says no Palestinian state if reelected
JERUSALEM (AFP) 16 Mar by Hazel Ward — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday there would be no Palestinian state if he were reelected, in a last-ditch effort to woo rightwing voters on the eve of a general election. With his rightwing Likud trailing the centre-left Zionist Union in the latest opinion polls, Netanyahu said that if his rivals were elected security would be compromised and they would give up total Israeli control over Jerusalem … Netanyahu’s most strident statement came when he was asked by the rightwing NRG website if it was true that there would be no Palestinian state established if he was reelected. “Indeed,” said Netanyahu, who in 2009 had endorsed the idea of two states living side by side. He later told public radio the two-state solution was now irrelevant, saying the “reality has changed” and “any territory which would be handed over would be taken over by radical Islamists”.
Israel’s Arabs vote en masse to end Netanyahu era
i24NEWS/AFP 17 Mar — Ayman Odeh, head of Joint Arab List, describes election as ‘historic day for the Arabs’ — Arab Israelis formed long lines outside polling stations Tuesday as they turned out to cast their ballots hoping to end the six-year reign of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “This is the first time that I’ve seen so many people here to vote,” said Ehab Hamam, 37, as he waited with some 50 people at a polling station in Haifa, a mixed Jewish-Arab city. “For the Arabs, voting in this election is saying to the right: We are here,” he told AFP. Jewish Israeli voter Gideon Leber agreed, saying: “I’ve never seen such a long queue outside a polling station.” Israel’s Arabs, who account for just over 20 percent of the population, have long complained of feeling disenfranchised. But this year, after the main Arab parties joined forces in a list tipped to win as many as 13 mandates in the 120-seat parliament, voters have been infused with a new sense of hope. “I voted for the Arab list,” said Nareen Tibi, 22. “We believe that unity is a chance to make a change.” “Today we are giving our answer to racism and to those who want to exclude us,” said Ayman Odeh. “When we have 15 MPs we will be able to influence the decision-making, no-one will be able to act without the third largest party in parliament.”
Arab community suffers an Election Day of ups and downs
Haaretz 17 Mar by Jack Khoury — Turnout is strong in the morning, slow in the afternoon, then strong in the evening. The party blames Netanyahu’s ‘incitement and racism’ for the fluctuations — Election Day in Israel’s Arab community was both joyous and tense, as many voters cast their ballots for the joint Arab ticket but worried about the slower turnout in the afternoon. The stream of voters heading to the polls slowed toward noon, sparking concerns among supporters of the Joint List — the ticket comprised of three Arab parties and an Arab-Jewish one. In some Arab towns, especially in the Negev, turnout was still as low as 40 percent by early evening. Joint List members said Election Day campaign messages by the ruling Likud party, which urged its supporters to get out, vote and counter the morning’s high Arab turnout, discouraged many Arabs from voting. MK Dov Khenin (Joint List) petitioned the Central Elections Committee to force Likud to halt those messages. “The prime minister, who is campaigning against voting by citizens belonging to a national minority, is crossing a red line of incitement and racism,” Khenin said. “This is especially grave on Election Day, when the message to all Israeli citizens is to participate in the election, vote and take part in the democratic system. Such a message put out by the prime minister shows that he has completely lost his way and is willing to violate every democratic principle for the sake of staying in power.”
In a vote with something to vex everyone, glimmers of a new Israeli electorate
Haaretz 17 Mar by Bradley Burston — The results of Tuesday’s election suggest a new definition of democracy in Israel: Something to disappoint everyone. There are many clear losers, in particular Israel’s smaller parties – one of which, the extreme right Yahad, appears to have been eliminated altogether. Two others, the dovish Meretz and Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu, barely survived the election … While the results of the election may only enhance the disenchantment which many Israelis feel regarding those who govern them and the peculiar system which puts them into office, the campaign also pointed to new and significant trends emerging within the Israeli electorate, voting groups which could have growing impact in the years to come. First and foremost was the impact of the votes of Israeli Arabs. In a country where it often seems that the only reliable natural resource is irony, the great irony of the 2015 campaign was that the formation of a Joint List of Arab parties and their remarkable showing in the election, came as a response to a Lieberman-inspired bill to eliminate Arab parties from the Knesset. To the horror of Lieberman, who has often traded on anti-Arab racism to boost his party’s electoral standing among hardline Jews, the “Governability Law” not only had the effect of boosting Arab representation to unprecedented levels, but nearly resulted in the elimination of Lieberman’s own party. The law raised the minimum number of votes necessary for a party to enter the Knesset. It was based on the assumption that fractious Arab parties would never band together – and even if they did, Israeli Arabs would refrain from voting in large numbers. The election proved both assumptions to be dramatically wrong. The Joint List galvanized voting in Arab communities, and had a powerful effect on the election as a whole. Not least, the high Arab voter turnout may have led directly to the elimination of Yahad, a party which included one of Israel’s most glaring anti-Arab racists, Kahane disciple Baruch Marzel.
Israeli parties’ stance on Palestinians
JERUSALEM (AFP) 17 Mar — After an election campaign in which the Palestinian issue rarely featured, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu upped the stakes by unequivocally ruling out a Palestinian state in the near future. But it is an issue no Israeli government can afford to ignore as the humanitarian crisis in Gaza worsens and the Palestinian leadership advances international legal and diplomatic action against Israel. Here is an outline of the main parties’ positions on the issue: … Zionist Union Likud’s main challenger, the centre-left Zionist Union, has pledged to pursue a political agreement outlining Israel’s permanent borders with the support of moderate Arab states and the international community. It would feature a demilitarised Palestinian state while Israel would retain sovereignty over the major Jewish settlement blocs as well as Jerusalem, with freedom of religion and access to all faiths guaranteed. Palestinian refugees who fled or were forced out of their homes when the Jewish state was created in 1948 would not be allowed to return to Israel. The Union says it will prevent any action that “harms the possibility of reaching a political agreement”, pledging to stop settlement construction outside major blocs. Yesh Atid Yesh Atid supports the creation of a Palestinian state, championing a “regional accord” with Arab states, but would make major West Bank settlements part of Israel….
EU names Middle East special envoy
BRUSSELSs (AFP) 16 Mar — EU foreign ministers named Fernando Gentilini on Monday as new special representative for the Middle East, filling a post vacant since early 2014 in the hope of getting the stalled peace process back on track, officials said. Gentilini — an Italian, as is EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini — currently heads the EU’s Western Balkans and Turkey division and his appointment will have to be confirmed by member states. The Middle East position was created in 1996 after the Oslo Accords offered the prospect of real progress towards a Israel-Palestinian peace deal. Mogherini’s predecessor, Briton Catherine Ashton, abolished the office in a controversial move aimed at bringing the European Union’s peace efforts under one roof in its external affairs arm. The EU also plays a prominent role in what is known as the Middle East Quartet, set up in 2000 by the UN, the EU, the United States and Russia to promote peace efforts but which has also become bogged down.
French experts conclude Arafat did not die of poisoning
AFP 17 Mar — French experts reexamining evidence have confirmed their earlier conclusion that the 2004 death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was not the result of poisoning, a prosecutor told AFP Monday. The prosecutor for the western Paris suburb of Nanterre said the experts found there was no foul play in Arafat’s death, which sparked immediate and enduring conspiracy rumours. A centre in the Swiss city of Lausanne had tested biological samples taken from Arafat’s personal belongings given to his widow after his death, and found “abnormal levels of polonium” – an extremely radioactive toxin, but stopped short of saying that he had been poisoned by polonium. French experts “maintain that the polonium-210 and lead-210 found in Arafat’s grave and in the samples are of an environmental nature,” Nanterre prosecutor Catherine Denis said. The reevaluation of earlier data “disproves the hypothesis of an acute ingestion of polonium-210 in the days preceding the appearance of symptoms,” she said. This confirmed French findings from 2013, which also matched those of a Russian team. However, a Swiss probe has said that the poisoning theory is “more consistent” with its test results. Arafat died aged 75 on November 11, 2004 at the Percy de Clamart hospital, close to Paris. He had been admitted there at the end of October that year after developing stomach pains while at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, where he had lived since December 2001, surrounded by the Israeli army. Arafat’s widow Suha lodged a complaint at a court in Nanterre in 2012, claiming that her husband was assassinated, sparking an inquiry. The same year, Arafat’s tomb in Ramallah was opened for a few hours allowing three teams of French, Swiss and Russian investigators to collect around 60 samples. Many Palestinians believe that the Israelis poisoned Arafat with the complicity of some people in his entourage.
Google restores Gaza Man
Middle East Monitor 16 Mar — Google has decided to restore the Gaza Man game to its Play Store after removing it following Israeli pressure to remove it earlier this month, Palestinian newspaper Al-Resalah reported yesterday. The decision was taken after massive international popular pressure put on Google through different mediums, including social media, radios and satellite channels. Bridgeview For Trading, which owns the game, said in a statement: “We appreciate this measure, which we consider a correction of a big mistake.” Immediately after it was launched, the game came under intense attack and Google removed it from its Play Store after only three days. The game shows a Palestinian man with light and primitive weapons facing multiple attacks by fighter jets, helicopters, drones, tanks and other weapons.