Violence / Raids / Suppression of protests / Arrests — West Bank, Jerusalem
Thousands bury Ramallah youth slain by Israeli soldiers
[with photos] RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 26 Mar — Thousands of Palestinians on Thursday marched in the funeral of a young man who succumbed to his wounds the day before after being shot by Israeli forces during a protest near Ramallah last week. 20-year-old Ali Mahmoud Safi was buried in the al-Shuhada (Martyrs’) Cemetery in the al-Jalazun refugee camp north of Ramallah Thursday, as thousands mourned the first Palestinian youth to be killed in the camp so far this year. The funeral set off from the Palestine Medical Center in Ramallah towards Safi’s home in the refugee camp, where his family, friends, and neighbors said their final goodbyes. He was subsequently taken to the camp’s mosque and then to the cemetery to be buried. Safi’s funeral was well-attended by members of the leftwing Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. “When youths are killed in this brutal way it only shows that Israel will escalate its aggressive procedures,” member of the PFLP politburo Khalida Jarrar told Ma’an, adding that she did not expect Israel to end its “crimes” against Palestinians. Head of a popular committee in the al-Jalazun refugee camp, Mahmoud Mubarak said that the camp is being “systematically and unnaturally” attacked by Israel, pointing out that there are daily clashes and injuries in the camp. Mubarak added that “Safi is the first martyr this year” and that four others were killed the year before in the refugee camp. Safi was shot on March 18 when Israeli forces opened fire on protesters in the camp as they were reportedly working to build a wall to divide it from the nearby Jewish settlement of Beit El. A .22 caliber “tutu” bullet pierced his chest and led to massive internal bleeding, and he succumbed to his wounds a week later. Eight other Palestinians were injured in the Israeli attack against the protesters.
PHOTOS: Hundreds mourn Palestinian youth shot dead by Israeli soldiers
Activestills by Ahmad al Bazz — Hundreds of Palestinians gathered to take part in the funeral of Ali Safi in the Jalazun refugee camp near Ramallah Thursday. Safi, 18, was shot with live bullets by Israeli soldiers during clashes near the refugee camp on Wednesday, March 18. He was taken to a hospital in Ramallah and placed in the ICU until he died on Wednesday night.
Israel forces suppress weekly marches, injure 8
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 27 Mar — Eight Palestinian and foreign activists were injured and one child detained by Israeli forces during weekly marches across the West Bank on Friday, which also saw dozens suffer excessive tear gas inhalation. Four Palestinians sustained injuries from rubber-coated steel bullets when Israeli forces suppressed the Kafr Qaddum weekly march east of Qalqilya. The coordinator of a local popular committee in the village, Murad Ishteiwi, said that clashes erupted between Israeli forces and Palestinian youths when Israeli soldiers raided the village in three different areas, shooting live and rubber-coated bullets, tear-gas canisters and stun grenades. The four injured Palestinians were identified as Nasser Barham, 42, who was hit in the stomach, Hakam Khaldun, 24, hit in the lower stomach, Maher Jumaa, 45, in the foot and Muhammad Abd al-Salam, 18, in the head. Israeli bulldozers destroyed a main waterline feeding the village, cutting water off the town for several hours.
Meanwhile, another four activists, including three Palestinians and one from Iceland, were injured, and one child detained, during clashes with Israeli forces following the weekly march in Bil‘in village north of Ramallah. Israeli forces fire tear-gas, stun grenades and rubber-coated steel bullets at participants in the protest as they neared the Israeli wall, before chasing them through nearby fields. Popular resistance committee member Ratib Abu Rahma, 50, was shot in the back, while Ismail Mohammad Abu Rahma, 18, Ellan Shalif, 78, and one Icelandic activist, 27, were shot in their lower extremities. The Icelandic activist was taken to a Palestinian medical complex for treatment. A Palestinian child, Mahmoud Khalid Abu Rahma, 12, was briefly detained by Israeli forces before being released after the clashes had ended. Protesters raised Palestinian flags and marched through the village chanting songs for unity and resistance. The protest marked the 39th Palestinian “Land Day,” commemorating a general strike and marches that took place on Mar. 30, 1976 in protest over Israeli land seizures. Six unarmed Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces and hundreds injured during the protests that day.
In another protest northwest of Ramallah, in the village of Ni‘lin, dozens of Palestinians suffered excessive tear gas inhalation after Israeli forces violently dispersed the protesters.
It was also reported that dozens of Palestinian and foreign activists suffered excessive tear gas inhalation in clashes with Israeli forces during a “Jerusalem Gate” protest east of Abu Dis village, near Jerusalem.
License to Kill, part 3: Why did Colonel A. order the sniping of Ihab Islim?
+972 blog 27 Mar by Noam Rotem — Members of a family are standing on a balcony and chatting. The commander of IDF forces in the region orders snipers to open fire on them. One brother is killed, the other one loses an eye. The commander fails to account for the order in the investigation that ensues. The case is closed, and the commander is promoted. In the following months, other civilians in the region are killed in the exact same manner. No one is found guilty. The third installment of the License to Kill series. [Read part one and two.]
Israeli forces detain 6 across the West Bank
QALQILIYA (Ma‘an) 25 Mar — Israeli forces detained six Palestinians from across the occupied West Bank overnight and early morning Wednesday. The Palestinian Prisoner’s Society identified two of the detainees from Qalqilya, Muhammad Jamal Nufal, 30, and Amir Khalil Daoud, 28. The group also identified Anas Omar Abu Asal, 25, from ‘Anabta and Tareq Salim al-Tanib, 28, from the Tulkarem district, as well as Alaa Omar Zakarneh, 20, and Adel Ghassan Arqawi, 21, from Jenin.
4 Palestinians detained, 3 injured in Jerusalem
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 26 Mar — Israeli forces detained four Palestinians from Jerusalem after raiding their homes in the Old City and Wadi al-Joz neighborhood early Thursday. A lawyer for the Addameer prisoners right group, Muhammad Mahmoud, said that Israeli forces detained three minors identified as Ahmad al-Sharbati, Khalid Milhis, Saleh Sanduqa and youth Muhammad Bujeh. He added that the detainees were transferred to interrogation centers and were expected to be presented to the magistrate court later in the day Thursday.
On Wednesday, three Palestinians were injured with rubber-coated steel bullets during clashes in the Shu‘fat refugee camp in Jerusalem late Wednesday. A spokesman of the Fatah movement in the refugee camp, Thaer Fasfous, said that clashes went on for several hours in the camp after Israeli soldiers raided the area. Three Palestinians were injured with rubber-coated steel bullets in their lower extremities and one in the head. Several locals also suffered tear-gas inhalation as Israeli soldiers fired tear-gas canisters. Witnesses said that Israeli soldiers raided the main street in the refugee camp and attempted to detain youths.
Israeli forces detain 5 from Hebron
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 26 Mar — Israeli forces detained five Palestinians, including two minors, from the Hebron area on Thursday. Locals said that Israeli forces raided the Beit Awwa town early Thursday, searched several homes and detained an ex-prisoner identified as Nabil Issa Masalmeh, as well as Luay Salim Masalmeh, 20, and Fadi Muhammad Masalmeh, 26…
Israeli forces also detained two minors from the al-‘Arrub refugee camp, Hakam Taleb al-Sharif, 14, and Omar Jasser al-Sharif, 15, after raiding and searching their family homes. The al-‘Arrub refugee camp is located on the Hebron-Jerusalem road immediately south of the illegal Israeli settlement block Gush Etzion and beside an Israeli checkpoint; residents facing regular confrontation from all sides.
Former security prisoner allegedly spied on IDF for Syria
Ynet 27 Mar — A recently-released veteran security prisoner was arrested again on charges of espionage, after he allegedly passed photocopied materials, reports and observations on IDF activity in the Golan Heights to Syrian intelligence sources, it was revealed Friday. Siddqui Al Maqt, 48, was indicted at the Nazareth District Courthouse on Friday following a lengthy investigation by police and the Shin Bet. He stands accused of espionage, abetting an enemy during wartime, supporting a terror organization, having contact with a foreign agent and other security offenses.
Palestinian says soldier forced him to go to Itzhar
Ynet 27 Mar by Elior Levy & Yoav Zitun — 19-year-old Palestinian was afraid Golani soldier was trying to kidnap him, drove his car into a ditch, and fled; military police opened an investigation into the incident and the soldier was taken in for questioning — The 19-year-old Palestinian from the village of Madama near Itzhar was leaving a chicken coop he owns near Route 60 when he saw the soldier standing alone by the side of the road. The soldier indicated to the Palestinian to stop and the Palestinian, who said he was sure this was a routine check, stopped for the soldier who started searching the car. Then, according to the Palestinian, the soldier ordered him to get in the car and got in with him, demanding the Palestinian to go to Itzhar. The Palestinian said he was afraid that the soldier, from the Golani reconnaissance battalion, was trying to kidnap him, so he drove his car into a ditch on the side of the road and escaped. The soldier also fled the car and was able to stop a bus taking soldiers to a nearby outpost and board it. The Palestinian called for help and IDF troops who arrived at the scene stopped the bus. An eye witness who was at the scene boarded the bus with the troops and identified the soldier, who was then taken for questioning.
Husband and his wife brutally beaten by PA forces
[with photo] AL-KHALIL (PIC) 27 Mar — An ex-prisoner and his wife were rushed to al-Ahli hospital in al-Khalil to be treated for wounds sustained after they were heavily beaten up by the Palestinian Authority (PA) Preventive Forces on Thursday evening. The father of the wife explained on his Facebook page that a civilian car stopped outside the house of his son-in-law Muayed Attit at eight o’clock in the evening before two PA preventive officers attacked him and attempted to kidnap him. The wife, Maisoun Shobaki, thought that the assailants were special Israeli forces or thieves and was also physically assaulted as she was trying to defend her husband. Both Muayed and his pregnant wife sustained injuries and bruises in the attack. The attackers fled, leaving the injured citizens in the street until a crowd of people showed up and transferred them to the hospital. Muayed Attit is an ex-prisoner and a holder of a BA in business administration.
Fragmented Lives – Humanitarian Overview 2014
UN OCHA March 2015 — The year 2014 was a traumatic one in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). In the Gaza Strip, 1.8 million Palestinians endured the worst escalation of hostilities since 1967: over 1,500 Palestinian civilians were killed, more than 11,000 injured and some 100,000 remain displaced. In the West Bank, increased confrontations between Palestinian demonstrators and Israeli forces resulted in the highest casualty levels in recent years, while settlement expansion and the forced displacement of Palestinians in Area C and in East Jerusalem continued. Overall, some 4,000,000 Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip remain under an Israeli military occupation that prevents them from exercising many of their basic human rights. This is the fourth year in which the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has detailed the key humanitarian concerns in the oPt. The purpose of the report is to provide a comprehensive overview of the underlying causes or drivers of the humanitarian situation in the oPt in a given year. In place of the extended narrative of previous years, the main trends and indicators for 2014 are represented in info-graphics, with links provided throughout the report to convey additional information and context.
Three Palestinians injured in Gaza
IMEMC/Agencies 28 Mar — Palestinian medical sources have reported on Friday evening that three Palestinians suffered the effects of tear gas inhalation after Israeli soldiers fired gas bombs and live rounds targeting farmers in Palestinian lands east of Rafah and Khan Younis, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. The sources said the soldiers, stationed on military towers across the border fence with Gaza, targeted farmers and residents near ‘Abasan and Khuza‘a towns, east of Khan Younis. Three Palestinians suffered the effects of tear gas inhalation, and received treatment by local medics. The soldiers also fired gas bombs on villagers east of Rafah, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. In addition, Israeli military war jets extensively flew over different parts of the Gaza Strip, while Israeli navy ships opened fire on Palestinian fishing boats in Gaza waters; no injuries were reported.
Al-Qassam fighter killed during training in Khan Younis
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 26 Mar — A fighter of the al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Hamas movement, was killed on Thursday during training in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. The Brigades said in a statement that Ahmad Nimr al-Ghazzawi, 21, had been killed during the training but did not provide any more information regarding the details of his death. Training by the al-Qassam Brigades has continued despite Israeli threats and the recent classification of Hamas as a terrorist organization by neighboring Egypt. Earlier this month the group’s official website reported that it had rebuilt a number of military bases near the Israeli border in the Gaza Strip, asserting that it had recovered from Israel’s summer offensive and was “not afraid” of confronting the occupation again.
Hamdallah urges reconciliation in 2nd official visit to Gaza
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 25 Mar — Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said Wednesday that his visit to Gaza was out of devotion to national reconciliation, saying that the Palestinian government “will not accept separating or isolating Gaza.” It was only Hamdallah’s second visit to the Gaza Strip since a unity government agreed on by rivals Fatah and Hamas took office last June. Ramdallah emphasized during a press conference that he aims to find solutions to all issues plaguing the Gaza Strip, vowing that civilian workers of Hamas’s de facto administration in Gaza would go on the payroll of the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority. The prime minister also stressed the importance of holding presidential and legislative elections. Hamas signed a reconciliation agreement with the PLO in April which was to pave the way for a general election by the end of 2014, but the Gaza war and a failure to implement the unity deal has caused delays. Several dozen protesters gave Hamdallah a cool welcome at the press conference, chanting “Leave, Leave, Hamdallah!” held up banners that read: “No welcome for those who besieged Gaza,” an accusation that the PA was complicit in Israel’s blockade of the territory. Last October, the Palestinian reconciliation government met in Gaza for the first time since 2007.
Hamdallah forms committee to resolve Gaza issues
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 25 Mar — Top Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya said on Wednesday that the movement has agreed with Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah to form a committee focused on the issues facing the besieged Gaza Strip. Al-Hayya, who is a member of Hamas’ political bureau, gave the news following a meeting with Hamdallah, who was on the first day of an official visit to the Strip. The trip is only his second since June, when the national unity government was agreed upon. Al-Hayya told the press that all the issues facing Gaza had been discussed and that the committee was formed to resolve them. He said they would begin with the issues of public employees’ salaries as well as transferring control of the Rafah and Erez crossings in and out of Gaza from Hamas hands into PA hands. He said that Hamdallah had proposed several ideas and solutions and had promised to work on implementing them. Hamas reiterated that the government must take responsibility and quickly apply the solutions.
The question of public employees’ salaries has been one of the most pressing facing the reconciliation government between the West Bank and Gaza formed last year. Hamas, which technically stepped down in June but has remained the de facto power in Gaza, has demanded that the government take responsibility for 50,000 employees it hired after it came to power in 2006. They have not been paid in seven months, as the PA government has instead reverting to working with the 70,000 workers who were employed before the PA and Hamas split up in 2007. Those workers have remained on the Palestinian Authority’s payroll, despite being unemployed. Before the government’s formation in June, Hamas and Fatah led rival administrations in Gaza and the West Bank.
Hamas welcomes Egypt decision to remove group from terror list
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 27 Mar — A senior Hamas leader welcomed an Egyptian decision made Friday to drop the classification of the movement as a terrorist organization. Salah al-Bardawil said in a statement that he hopes this step is the first of many towards improving the relationship between Egypt and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Al-Bardawil added that “Palestinians in Gaza, Hamas and the al-Qassam Brigades will keep protecting Egypt, Palestine and the Arab nation, as it is part of our religion, political and security views.”
Haneyya: Israel to extend gas pipeline to Gaza power plant
GAZA (PIC) 27 Mar — During Friday sermon, deputy head of Hamas political bureau Ismail Haneyya revealed that Israel had agreed to extend a direct natural gas pipeline to operate Gaza’s sole power plant. There are two proposals in this matter: the first is to extend the line directly from the gas-production company off the shores of the Gaza Strip, he said, adding, “The second is to extend the line from Israel to the center of the Gaza Strip passing through Egypt”. “The cost of extending the line from Israel to the center of the Gaza Strip is close to $25 million; Qatar has agreed to fund the project,” Haneyya said.
Palestinian rockets killed more Gazans in 2014 war: Amnesty
JERUSALEM (AFP) 26 Mar – Amnesty International said Thursday Palestinian rocket fire during the 2014 summer war in Gaza had killed more civilians in the Gaza Strip than in Israel. Such deadly attacks on civilians on both sides constituted “a war crime,” it said. The damning report urged armed Palestinian groups to end attacks on civilians in Israel and to protect those in the Gaza Strip from the effects of such attacks. The militant group Hamas, which de facto rules Gaza and led fighting against Israel during the conflict, slammed the report as “biased” and accused Amnesty of being a “Zionist organisation”. The 50-day war killed some 2,200 people in Gaza, the majority of them civilians, and 73 on the Israeli side, mostly soldiers. Amnesty said rocket attacks had killed six civilians in Israel, including a child, but that other rockets aimed at the Jewish state had fallen short and killed at least 13 civilians, 11 of them children, in Gaza. In the deadliest such attack, “13 Palestinian civilians — 11 of them children — were killed when a projectile exploded next to a supermarket in the crowded Al-Shati refugee camp,” the report said. Palestinian witnesses blamed the attack on the beachside camp on an Israeli F-16 warplane, but the army denied that, accusing militants of misfiring their own rockets. Amnesty said “an independent munitions expert who examined the available evidence… concluded that the projectile used in the attack was a Palestinian rocket.”
Israel devastated Gaza, but ‘aid’ helps it stay that way / Nora Lester Murad
Huffington Post 27 Mar — Marking six months since the ceasefire in Gaza, 30 international aid agencies joined together to issue a statement titled, “We must not fail in Gaza.” At face value, this warning is a responsible step by credible international humanitarian and development actors. Yet, a deeper reading reveals that the statement is neither candid nor wholly truthful. How can we solve the appalling conditions in Gaza or elsewhere if aid actors actively participate — including through this statement — in mystifying the public about what is really going on and where responsibility lies? … It is not wholly truthful to say, “We must not fail in Gaza” when we have already failed in Gaza. Nearly 2 million people remain essentially imprisoned under military occupation in one of the most densely populated areas of the world. The international community has legal, moral, and professional obligations to hold Israel accountable for these and other violations against Palestinians, but it does not do so. Admitting failure could allow aid actors to stop investing intensive efforts and massive resources in a flawed system. It could open up discussion leading to radical change. It is not wholly truthful to say 100,000 Palestinians remain displaced when there are nearly 7 million Palestinians displaced. Like other oft-repeated statistics, the number “100,000” actually hides the bigger picture. This number does not include those still displaced from the last Gaza war in 2012; and it does not include those without homes because the Israeli blockade bans sufficient materials to meet the natural growth in demand for housing. It certainly does not include the total number of Palestinians who are not home because they have no homeland. Confronting the problem holistically could allow aid actors to extract themselves from complicity. It is not wholly truthful to say that the international community is not providing Gaza with adequate assistance because little of the $5.4 billion pledged in Cairo has reached Gaza, as if Palestinians are merely entitled to compensation for recent war damages. In fact, the international response is inadequate because “aid” is offered as consolation for 67 years of statelessness. In fact, decisive political intervention is the only way to achieve a long-term solution….
Saving Gaza’s only grand piano
BBC News 26 Mar by Tim Whewell — The only concert grand piano in war-ravaged Gaza has been rediscovered and brought back to life after years of neglect. It survived last year’s war with Israel – though only just – but was unplayable until a restorer arrived on a special mission from France, and paved the way for a rare concert. When my eyes got used to the gloom of the Nawras Theatre in northern Gaza, I gasped at the scale of the destruction. A tangle of cables, twisted metal and broken lamps hung down like spilled entrails from the shattered ceiling. The luxurious scarlet seats were littered with crumbled plasterboard. The theatre – one of very few in Gaza – had been expensively refurbished just months before a rocket landed a few metres away during last summer’s war with Israel. But then, in the middle of the wreckage, I got my first glimpse of a greater treasure that, almost miraculously, had survived unscathed. On the cracked marble of the stage, dusty but intact, stood a concert grand piano – the only one in Gaza. That’s what Claire Bertrand, a young French music technician, and I had travelled to find. But Claire isn’t one to stand and gawp. She marched up to the piano, flung up the lid and gazed in horror at the rusty strings inside. She tapped – or, rather, crunched – a few keys and listened to the grating notes…. [Listen to the piano before and after restoration on this site]
Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Judaization
Last Palestinian family in Jerusalem neighborhood fears eviction at any moment
JERUSALEM (EI) 25 Mar by Sarah Levy — A Palestinian family that has lived in Jerusalem’s Old City since 1953 is being forced out of their home by Israeli settlers backed by the state. Since 9 February the Sub Laban family of eight have been twice subjected to eviction attempts by Israeli settlers and police. The family are expecting a third attempt to come at any time. Approximately seventy Palestinian, Israeli and international activists demonstrated outside the family’s home on Sunday in a display of solidarity. The family believe that were it not for a similar action last week, an Israeli district court would not have issued a temporary injunction which gave them enough time to stop the eviction. However, since then the injunction has expired. Although the family have an appeal hearing before an Israeli district court to challenge the eviction on 31 May, the court has refused to give an order that would prohibit an eviction before that date. The constant fear of invasion and eviction by Israeli settlers, police — or both — has effectively put the family’s lives on hold. “Right now if we are inside and we hear anything— if someone comes to the door, or if someone passes by outside — we are afraid that it’s going to be the Israeli forces,” Ahmad Sub Laban told The Electronic Intifada.
PHOTOS: When even holding signs is forbidden by Israeli Police
+972 Blog 28 Mar by Natasha Roth, photos by Mareike Lauken, Keren Manor/Activestills.org — Dozens of Israeli, Palestinian and international activists protested in the Old City and Sheikh Jarrah against the Judaization of Jerusalem. The police, however, didn’t take kindly to their expressions of free speech — …The march came amid increased tensions over the attempt by Jewish settlers to take over property in Palestinian areas of the city, following the attempted eviction of the Sub Laban family from their home in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City. The most recent attempt on March 15 failed, thanks to the presence of Palestinian and Israeli activists who went to the Sub Labans’ home to try and prevent them from being forced out. The threat of eviction, however, remains. The crowd, which included individuals from the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity movement and Women in Black, began to move away from Damascus Gate, holding signs calling for the end to the occupation and settlements in East Jerusalem, while accompanied by drumming and chanting.
Israel delivers notices to stop construction across Hebron
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 27 Mar — Israeli forces delivered notices to stop construction at Palestinian residences throughout the Hebron Governorate Thursday. Muhammad Lafi Ghneimat, mayor of the Hebron town of Surif, told Ma‘an that Israeli forces raided the Deir Moussa area in northwestern Surif in order to deliver the stop-construction notices to six houses. Ghneimat added that five of the houses are inhabited and the sixth is still under construction. The homes belong to brothers Zaher, Ali, Moussa and Issa Suleiman Moussa Ghneimat, Muhammad Abdullah Hassan Safi and Youssef Muhammad Mustafa Salameh. In Khirbet al-Fakhin and Khirbet Janba in eastern Yatta, coordinator of a local popular committee, Rateb al-Jubur, reported that Israeli forces and the Israeli civil administration delivered notices to demolish three rooms and a tent belonging to Muhammad Mahmoud Hushiyeh, Issam Muhammad Makhamreh and Ali Muhammad al-Jabarin … Palestinian residents residing throughout the Hebron Governorate face continual threat of demolition or displacement. Khirbet al-Fakhin and Khirbet Janba are located in the south Hebron hills, where the illegal presence of around 3,000 Israeli settlers comes at the expense of Palestinian residents’ ability to build homes and infrastructure … As a result of rarely-approved permits, Palestinian residents are forced to build without permits to compensate for their growing population, structures liable to be torn down later by Israeli forces. While settlements in the South Hebron Hills are supplied electricity by Israel, in addition to six Israeli outposts, Palestinian villages have been refused access to the power lines that criss-cross their land, and the army has torn down at least three attempts to connect to the Palestinian Authority supply. Around 552 Palestinian structures have been demolished since the start of 2015, according to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.
Four-day march for Bedouin rights begins in Israel’s south
Haaretz 26 Mar by Shirly Seidler & Jack Khoury — A four-day march to Jerusalem to raise awareness of the plight of unrecognized Bedouin villages and to present a plan to recognize them began on Thursday morning as planned, even though President Reuven Rivlin will not be receiving the marchers in the capital, as they had hoped. Although Rivlin had agreed to receive the marchers on Sunday at the President’s Residence, the march’s final destination, it was learned on Wednesday that he will be in Singapore for the funeral of former president Lee Kuan Yew. Organizers considered postponing the march, but in the end decided to proceed. They will be met by the president’s wife, Nehama Rivlin, and will have an official meeting with the president next week. Some 50 marchers set out in the morning from the unrecognized Negev town of Wadi al-Na’am, the country’s largest with some 8,000 residents. They were due to stop at the Bedouin market in Be’er Sheva before spending the night at the unrecognized village of Al-Arakib, which has been demolished numerous times by the authorities. Joint List leader Ayman Odeh, one of the organizers, told Haaretz that he was not concerned about the small turnout. “Our goal is to send a number of messages to the government and the country as a whole,” Odeh said. “In the 21st century, there are people without water and electricity. At night, children in these villages see the lights of the children in the kibbutzim and it shouldn’t be like that. “It’s a mark of Cain for all the country’s governments.” The objective of the march is to get government recognition of all 46 unrecognized villages in the country, Odeh said.
PHOTOS: Joint List marches for unrecognized Bedouin villages
Activestills 26 Mar Photos: Oren Ziv, text: Yael Maron — Arab leaders begin four-day march across Negev to pressure Israeli government to recognize dozens of villages that lack electricity and running water.
Settlers seize Palestinian land in Bethlehem
BETHLEHEM (PIC) 26 Mar — A group of Jewish settlers on Wednesday embarked on building a house on Palestinian-owned land in an area known as the eastern Badia of Bethlehem city. A spokesman for the popular resistance committee in the south of the West Bank said that settlers seized a piece of land near Ma’ale Amos, particularly in the eastern Badia of Bethlehem, and started to prepare it for the construction of a house. He told Quds Press that the settlers would build the house with the support of the Gush Etzion regional council, adding that the land belongs to the Halayka family, from Ashiyukh town in al-Khalil.
Israel suspends E. Jerusalem settlement building plan
JERUSALEM (AFP) 25 Mar — As tension mounts with Washington, Israel’s outgoing government has suspended a controversial plan to build hundreds of new settler homes in annexed east Jerusalem, a news website reported Wednesday. The plan involves the construction of 1,500 homes in the settlement neighbourhood of Har Homa where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a controversial speech on the eve of March 17 elections, pledging to build thousands of new homes if returned to office. His remarks on east Jerusalem construction, along with comments ruling out a Palestinian state, have sparked a bitter spat with Washington. Ynet said that Netanyahu’s office had frozen the plans due to their “political sensitivity”. Daniel Seidemann, director of settlement watchdog Terrestrial Jerusalem, told AFP that given the “highly problematic” nature of the plan and Netanyahu’s current standoff with Washington, it had “a ring of truth” to it. “This would be a particularly inflammatory plan and I think that he’s afraid that the ceiling would cave in on him,” he said.
Prisoners / Court actions / Law
Israel applies its penal code across the West Bank
Haaretz 28 Mar by Chaim Levinson — In a key exception, however, Palestinians may not ward off settler attacks — Central Command chief Nitzan Alon signed an order applying Israel’s penal code to Palestinians in the West Bank, hours before he left office earlier this week. The new order’s significance is mainly declarative. Parts of the Israeli penal code have already been adopted by military judges in the West Bank. And in general, arrest, detention and penal procedures are significantly harsher when applied to West Bank Palestinians than to Israeli citizens. However, an aspect that will not apply to the West Bank is the so-called Shai Dromi amendment enacted in 2008, which exempts a person from criminal responsibility for an “act urgently required to ward off someone who breaks into his home, business or farm.” This aspect would have let Palestinians ward off settler attacks without bearing criminal responsibility. Attorney Smadar Ben-Natan, who researches military law, told Haaretz that while the move is positive, since the Israeli penal code contains clearer definitions, it would also confuse Palestinian defendants and attorneys. “It provides a whole world of precedents and terms they are unfamiliar with,” she said. “Also, the amendment (the order) continues the application of foreign law in the West Bank without considering the possibilities of using local Palestinian law.” Palestinian civilians are tried in military courts in the West Bank based on the Defense (Emergency) Regulations introduced by the British in Mandatory Palestine, the Jordanian penal code and orders issued by the Central Command … The new definitions require proving the existence of criminal intention; they also introduce the element of negligence and the notion of an offense that was attempted but did not succeed . The definitions distinguish between a perpetrator, abettor and someone who persuades another to commit a crime. The amendment also contains exemptions from criminal responsibility, such as in cases of children under 12, insanity and a lack of self-control … The Justice Ministry feared that applying the same procedures to the West Bank could be interpreted as an annexation of the territory, but it agreed to the amendment in a bid to achieve legal clarity and to protect defendants’ rights.
Final witnesses testify in case of Tristan Anderson against the Israeli government
IMEMC 27 Mar by Celine Hagbard — US peace activist Tristan Anderson had his final court hearing yesterday in his civil case against the Israeli military. Anderson was severely wounded and disabled for life in 2009 when an Israeli soldier fired a tear gas canister directly at his face at close range. The canister hit Anderson in the forehead, splitting his head open and leading to the partial removal of his frontal lobe, blinding him in his right eye and paralyzing half of his body. Years later Tristan continues to require around the clock care because of cognitive impairment and physical disability. The family filed a civil suit against the state of Israel after the state failed to press criminal charges against the soldiers responsible. They waited for years to have their day in court, and now that the proceedings have concluded, may have to wait years for a ruling. According to Anderson’s partner Gabby Silverman, the court hearing on Thursday concluded the final civil proceedings of Tristan Anderson against the Israeli Military, with testimony from “Officer Yosi” and “Commander Sharon” of the Border Police. This ends all court appearances in the case … As soon as the court hearing ended, Silverman, who is Jewish, received a formal order that she must leave the State of Israel within the next 7 days. The reasons stated on the paperwork included insufficient proof that there was a lawsuit going on, and insufficient proof that she is a Jew.
Top Islamic Movement cleric in Israel sentenced to prison
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 26 Mar — An Israeli court on Thursday sentenced a top Islamic cleric who is a Palestinian citizen of Israel to 11 months in prison for a speech he gave eight years ago. An Israeli magistrate court in Jerusalem sentenced Sheikh Raed Salah, head of the Islamic movement in northern Israel, to 11 months of prison as well as a suspended three-month sentence for “inciting violence.” The sentence is based on a speech he gave in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Wadi al-Joz in 2007. Banned from approaching Jerusalem’s Old City, he gave a fiery speech in which he condemned Israeli officials for their destruction of a number of holy sites in and around the Al-Aqsa mosque complex, the third-holiest site in Islam. The destruction led to protests across the region, and the defense argued that the sheikh’s anger was part of this reaction. The court however, disagreed, and considered his words both incitement to violence as well as racist. According to Israeli news site Haaretz, the conviction was based primarily on the following texts, which the court claims were a part of his speech: …”We have never allowed ourselves, and listen well, we have never allowed ourselves to knead the blood of children into the bread with which we break the fast of the holy month of Ramadan …. What would happen to some of the children of Europe whose blood was mixed into the holy bread?” Sheikh Raed Salah has denied that he ever made such statements, which the court considers damning because they reference European anti-Semitic libels that suggest Jews baked children’s blood in their holy bread. The sheikh has appealed his conviction repeatedly before, and the court delayed the sentence for 45 days in order to allow an opportunity for further appeals.
Israeli prisons impose over $20k in fines on detained minors
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 26 Mar — Ninety thousand shekels ($22,800) in fines have been imposed by Israel since the beginning of 2015 on Palestinian minors held in Israeli jails. Abd al-Fattah Dawla, representative of minors being held in the Ofer prison said Thursday that Israeli courts continuously impose fines on prisoners in order to financially exhaust prisoners’ families. He said the fines range from 1000-10,000 shekels ($280-$2800). There are currently 94 Palestinian minors being held in the Ofer Israeli prison, only 31 of whom have been given sentences, Dawla said, the remainder being held under administrative detention. As of October 2014, Israel was holding 470 Palestinians under administrative detention, the highest number in five years, according to Israeli human rights organization B’tselem … The prisoners’ affairs committee and human rights institutions have previously called upon the prisoners’ families not be compliant with the Israeli fine requests, which they argue enforces illegal policies which families should oppose. The committee estimated that Israeli courts collect some 20 million shekels ($5 million) annually from detainees.
Hamas militant sentenced for attempted murder, kidnap
Ynet 25 Mar by Ilana Curiel — A Be’er Sheva court sentenced a Hamas operative to 15-and-a-half years in prison on Tuesday for attempted murder in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge. The defendant had been arrested after an ambush he had set to kidnap Israeli soldiers was thwarted by the IDF’s heavy artillery cover … During the summer war he was ordered to cause the deaths of soldiers and attempt a kidnapping in a bid to use the abducted troops as leverage to release Palestinian security detainees. Abu Draz received the directives from his Hamas commanders to hole up in a specified house near a mosque armed with an explosive device and set an ambush for Israeli soldiers. Other operatives were instructed to wait by a tunnel dug near a kindergarten to either kill or kidnap soldiers. The militants were prevented from firing towards the soldiers only due to the heavy artillery cover from the IDF. Abu Draz and some of the other terrorists were arrested by the IDF within the house they had been using for the ambush.
Palestinian sentenced to 12 years for attempted kidnap, firebombing
Ynet 24 Mar by Ahuya Raved — Haifa District Court sentenced on Monday Murad Ali Hussein, a 24 year-old Palestinian from Qabatiya in the northern West Bank, to 12 years in prison for entering the home of a family in the Avtalion community in the lower Galilee and trying to kidnap them. He reportedly intended to ransom his hostage to the Israeli government in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners. The homeowners scared off Hussein by firing gunshots, after which he threw Molotov cocktails at cars parked in the community. The incident occurred in April 2014, when Hussein illegally entered Israel and arrived at Avtalion in the lower Galilee along with a relative, who was a minor. Hussein attempted to persuade him to help him in his kidnapping plot, but the minor refused and left the area….
Palestinian gets two life terms for Israeli settler murder
JERUSALEM (AFP) 27 Mar – An Israeli military court has handed down two terms of life imprisonment to a Palestinian who stabbed to death a Jewish woman settler, an army spokeswoman told AFP on Friday. The court on Thursday sentenced Maher al-Hashlamoun, a member of Islamic Jihad from the occupied West Bank city of Hebron, after previously convicting him of murdering Dalia Lemkus, 26, as she waited at a bus stop outside Alon Shvut settlement in November. Hashlamoun wounded two other people before a security guard shot and wounded him. The Jerusalem Post newspaper said he had been freed from prison in 2005 after serving five years for throwing a petrol bomb at Israeli troops.
State refuses to put Kahane’s grandson in administrative custody
Haaretz 26 Mar by Chaim Levinson — State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan has refused a request from Israeli security forces to place the grandson of the late far-right leader Meir Kahane in administrative custody, even though the army and Shin Bet say he endangers the security of the region. The request was made about a month ago. Instead, the prosecution has banned Meir Ettinger, the 23-year-old grandson of the founder and leader of the extreme right-wing Kach party, from the West Bank — where he lives — for a year, and from Jerusalem for six months. He has also been banned from speaking to six of his friends for half a year. Ettinger, who lives on the West Bank outpost of Givat Ronen, has an extensive criminal record and is on the Shin Bet’s priority watch list. He is believed to be involved in throwing a firebomb at a Palestinian home in the West Bank village of Khirbet Abu Falah in November. The residents fled the house unharmed. Shin Bet intelligence indicates that Ettinger also encourages youngsters to take part in violent activity against Palestinians. Two years ago he was imprisoned for six months after he was convicted of gathering information about Israeli soldiers’ movements in order to obstruct settlement evacuation.
Restriction of movement
Palestinian dead after fall from Israeli separation wall
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 25 Mar — A Palestinian who was injured after falling while trying to climb over the Israeli separation wall last week died of his wounds on Wednesday. Akram Mahmoud Mohammad Abd al-Hamid Al-Hroub, from Deir Samit village southwest of Hebron, fell off the wall while he was trying to scale it in order to cross into Israel for work. The incident occurred near al-Ram village east of Jerusalem. Following the fall, he was taken to al-Makased hospital in Jerusalem with serious injuries. He subsequently underwent several operations before succumbing to his wounds on Wednesday. His body was taken back to his village, where he was laid to rest on Wednesday afternoon.
Around 60,000 Palestinians are employed inside Israel, but only about half of those have proper documentation. An estimated 30,000 Palestinians cross into Israel without any work permits, largely traveling through wilderness areas to avoid the strict Israeli permit regime. Some of these undocumented workers cross in populated areas, however, where they have to scale sections of the wall that reach up to eight meters.
In Photos: Thousands run the Palestine Marathon in Bethlehem
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 27 Mar — More than 3,000 people took to the streets of Bethlehem Friday to participate in the third annual Palestine Marathon in support of the Right to Movement of Palestinians under occupation. The crowd of runners included both Palestinians and internationals and nearly equal numbers of women and men. Organizers said they managed to secure entry for 50 Palestinians from Gaza, who are normally restricted by Israel from entering the West Bank. One Gazan runner — Nader al-Masri — even came first in the marathon with a time of 2 hours, 57 minutes, and 14 seconds. The result was hardly a surprise, however, as al-Masri is Palestine’s most famous runner and even participated in the 2008 Olympics. After Israel refused him to allow him to enter the West Bank and participate in last year’s marathon, his victory in Friday’s marathon offered a story of triumph even amid the suffering of Palestinians — especially Gazans — under Israeli occupation. The marathon course runs along Bethlehem’s Manger Street, setting off from the plaza in front of the Church of the Nativity en route to Jerusalem before veering southwest where the Israeli separation wall cuts the road off. The route passes Azza and Aida refugee camps near the wall before continuing along Hebron Road past Duheisha refugee camp and finally Solomon’s Pools, home to a millennia-old water cistern as well as an Ottoman fortress. Bethlehem’s three camps are home to thousands of Palestinian refugees expelled from their villages in what became Israel in 1948, and who are forbidden by Israeli law from returning to their former homes which are sometimes only a few kilometers away. Organizers have previously said that due to the Israeli separation wall, checkpoints, and settlements, they had difficulty finding an uninterrupted 42-kilometer (26 mile) course. The Bethlehem region is bisected by such obstacles, as is much of the West Bank, which has been under Israeli occupation since 1967. The course itself thus in many ways encapsulates the very barriers to Palestinian movement that the marathon seeks to highlight.
UN: Palestine Marathon draws attention to the right of freedom of movement
IMEMC/Agencies/PNN 27 Mar — Press Release UN Resident Coordinator, James W. Rawley on behalf of the United Nations in the State of Palestine… 27 March 2015, Jerusalem – Today, thousands of runners, are expected to participate in the Palestine Marathon in Bethlehem and, in doing so, draw attention to the right to freedom of movement. Freedom of movement is a universal human right. Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that everyone should be able to move around and reside anywhere within their country. Running a marathon is a simple manifestation of this right by each participant. Running a marathon in Bethlehem highlights how freedom of movement of Palestinian women, men, girls and boys continues to be severely restricted under Israel’s prolonged military occupation. Marathon runners often “hit a wall” under the physical and emotional strain of the 42-kilometre course. But in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) you literally hit the Wall well before that distance. The Wall, or Barrier, and military checkpoints in the West Bank are obstacles to free movement and have a devastating impact on Palestinians’ lives, as the International Court of Justice has made clear….
Israel turns Zaim village into a big jail
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (PIC) 28 Mar — The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) have erected an iron gate at the main entrance to the Zaim village to the east of occupied Jerusalem as an attempt to completely isolate it from the holy city. Head of the village local council Naim Sob Laban expressed his surprise over the Israeli decision to erect an iron gate at the village’s entrance without any prior warning, under security pretexts. The iron gate would block the access of people coming from occupied Jerusalem without taking their expected suffering into consideration, he explained. He stated that the decision would turn the village into a big jail and completely isolate its residents. The village’s dignitaries have filed a lawsuit to stop the gate’s construction; however, the building process is still continuing regardless of the judicial procedures. After erecting the iron gate, Jerusalemite citizens would be obliged to cross 4 to 5 km within an hour in order to enter into the village instead of two minutes. 98% of the village’s residents are Jerusalemites, he pointed out.
Palestinian fathers can now be with their Israeli wives during childbirth
Haaretz 27 Mar by Netta Ahituv — Jerusalem court sets precedent with decision, but for some it comes too late —Ten years ago, A. and W. met at a wedding of friends and fell in love. Five years later, they married. Their love transcended the ordeals they had to endure as a consequence of her being an Israeli and he a Palestinian. The couple, in their early 30s, now live separately. He resides in the West Bank; she is in the center of Israel, where she is raising their two children – boys, 5 years old and 4 months, respectively – by herself. Ahead of the scheduled birth of the second child, A. submitted a request – and another request, and then another one – to the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories [COGAT – the authority responsible for implementing Israeli civil policy in the West Bank and vis-à-vis Gaza]. He was requesting a permit to enter Israel, in order to be with his wife during the birth, and to look after their elder son while she was in the hospital. In the meantime, the NGO Physicians for Human Rights submitted a professional opinion, prepared by a social worker who is in touch with W., to the Health Ministry’s humanitarian committee. The document noted that W. had lost her mother and that her father had not been in contact with the family since he remarried. She thus lacked family support circles, and she was afraid to give birth alone. She was also worried about who would look after her elder son while she was hospitalized. The request was not approved. W. gave birth to the baby alone; A. missed his son’s birth. He was allowed to visit his family for the first time when his second son was 6 weeks old, and then only for a week. Soon, however, the Civil Administration will no longer be able to ignore Palestinian fathers who wish to be present at the birth of their Israeli children. Last week, the court for administrative affairs, in Jerusalem, gave the state 60 days to arrange procedures that will obviate future cases in which a father is forced to be absent from his child’s birth. The petition to the court was submitted by the legal adviser to Physicians for Human Rights, attorney Tamir Blank. It asked the court to deviate – in cases related to who can present during childbirth – from the strict letter of the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (more precisely, a 2003 amendment to the law), which stipulates that Israeli citizenship or residency shall not be granted to the Palestinian partner in the approximately 22,000 Israeli-Palestinian families living on both sides of the Green Line.
Family of Palestinian girl wounded in Gaza can stay in Israel, court rules
Haaretz 26 Mar by Jack Khoury — A Palestinian girl from Gaza who was seriously injured by an Israel Air Force attack on an Islamic Jihad operative, and her father and brother, can remain in Israel for two more years with temporary resident status and then apply to the Interior Minister for permanent resident status, the High Court of Justice ruled on Wednesday … In May 2006, three and a half-year-old Mariya suffered serious shrapnel wounds to the head that left her almost completely paralyzed. She and her family were injured when the IAF fired missiles at the vehicle of Islamic Jihad operative Mohammed Dahdouh in Gaza, and struck the car that the Aman family had purchased just hours earlier. In addition to Dahdouh, three members of the Aman family were killed – grandmother Hanan, mother Naima and Mariya’s seven-year-old brother Muhand. Mariya and her uncle were brought to Israel for medical treatment. When Physicians for Human Rights – Israel informed then-Defense Minister Amir Peretz that the money transferred by the Palestinian Authority to pay for the girl’s treatment was about to run out, and that the Israeli authorities were preparing to send her back to Gaza, Peretz ordered that the state provide funding for the girl’s medical care “for humanitarian reasons.” Since 2011, Mariya, now 13, has been living with her father Hamdi and her brother Muaman, 11, in Umm al-Fahm, and the family is planning to move to Jerusalem soon. Mariya’s father devotes all his time to caring for his children.
Israel prevents ex-prisoner from entering West Bank
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 27 Mar — Israeli authorities delivered a military order on Friday denying a former Palestinian prisoner from Jerusalem entry to the West Bank for six months. The former prisoner, Salah Hammouri, 29, told Ma‘an that Israeli intelligence had summoned him to the Russian Compound police station in Jerusalem and given him a military order preventing him from entering the West Bank so as to maintain “the security and safety of citizens.” The order, which had been signed by the Israeli Major-General Nitzan Alon in the West Bank, took effect on March 24, 2015 and will continue until September 24, 2015. Al-Hammouri was convicted for being a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and planning to assassinate Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. He was released on December 18, 2011 as part of the the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange deal after having spent six years in Israeli jails, and was prevented from traveling and entering the West Bank for three months at that time as well … Israeli forces maintain severe restrictions on Palestinians’ freedom of movement in the occupied Palestinian Territories through a complex combination of checkpoints, roads forbidden to Palestinians but open exclusively to Jewish settlers, and various other physical obstructions. Dissidents against the Israeli occupation are often specifically denied freedom of movement, to the extent that Israeli authorities sometimes forcibly exile political opponents from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip.
Israel says to release Palestinian tax funds, US welcomes
JERUSALEM (AFP) 27 Mar — Israel said Friday it will release hundreds of millions of dollars in tax funds it has withheld from the Palestinian Authority as a punitive measure. The United States swiftly welcomed the move, which could help disarm tensions with Washington and the international community after a polarising Israeli election campaign. “We welcome the decision of the prime minister of Israel to release withheld tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority,” said US State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke. “This is an important step that will benefit the Palestinian people and will help stabilise the situation in the West Bank.” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said revenues accumulated over three months, frozen by Israel since January in retaliation for a Palestinian move to join the International Criminal Court (ICC), would be transferred after normal deductions for services. But it did not say whether Israel would be resuming the normal monthly payment of around $127 million (118 million euros) in customs duties levied on goods destined for Palestinian markets that transit through Israeli ports. The Palestinian Authority (PA) reacted with caution. “Until now we haven’t received any money, nor have we officially been informed of anything,” PA spokesman Ihab Bseiso said.
UN seeks settlement freeze from new Israeli government
UNITED NATIONS ,United States (AFP) 26 Mar — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government must take steps to freeze Jewish settlements that are threatening to “kill the very possibility of reaching peace,” the UN’s Middle East envoy said Thursday. In his final report to the Security Council as Middle East coordinator, Robert Serry said “I frankly do not know if it is already too late” to revive peace talks aimed at the establishment of a Palestinian state. “The minimum conditions of trust cannot be restored without the new Israeli government taking credible steps to freeze settlement activity,” the Dutch diplomat told the 15-member council. Serry, who served seven years as the UN’s point man on the Middle East, said the Security Council could step in to present a “framework for negotiations, including parameters” to achieve peace. “This may be only way to preserve the goal of a two-state solution, in the present circumstances,” he said in a bluntly-worded assessment of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. The appeal from the top UN envoy came as Netanyahu began talks on forming a new government after vowing in a campaign speech that he would never allow the establishment of a Palestinian state under his watch. The Israeli prime minister later backtracked on his comments but the US administration appeared unconvinced while UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged Netanyahu to renew his commitment to a two-state solution.
France says will propose UN Security Council draft on Israel
UNITED NATIONS (AP) 27 Mar — France’s foreign minister said Friday his country will propose a U.N. Security Council resolution in the coming weeks that could present a framework for negotiations toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Laurent Fabius said “there is no other solution” but said he doesn’t know what the United States, Israel’s top ally, will agree to. The minister spoke to reporters at U.N. headquarters before leaving for the Iran nuclear talks in Switzerland. “France will be part and parcel in proposing a resolution in the U.N.,” he said. He said discussions with partners will begin in the days ahead. The U.N.’s top Mideast envoy, Robert Serry, challenged the Security Council on Thursday to lead the way on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying it should present a framework for talks that “may be the only way to preserve the goal of a two-state solution.” France had put off a previous attempt at a council resolution to wait for the results of Israel’s election earlier this month. “Now look at the result,” Fabius said.
EU weighs new methods to coax Israel back to peace talks
BRUSSELS (AP) 17 Mar — The European Union is assessing new ways to push Israel back to the peace negotiating table with the Palestinians for a deal based on a two-state solution, working in tandem with the United States, EU officials say. The EU is exploring new diplomatic terrain and could consider ways to discourage Europeans from buying products from Israeli settlements it believes are illegal. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s election rhetoric has fueled doubts about Israel’s commitment to a two-state solution — a cornerstone of EU and U.S. policies for ending the Middle East conflict. “We will not forget or ignore what was being said during the campaign and in particular some of the incendiary statements by Prime Minister Netanyahu,” German EU lawmaker Reinhard Buetikofer told The Associated Press. The Europeans are aware that the rhetoric could remain at fever pitch for the next month as the Israeli leader negotiates a new coalition government, so they are reluctant to move too far too fast. “We first have to wait for the policy that new Israeli government is going to set out,” Buetikofer said.
Hamas denounces EU decision to keep it on terror list
GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories (AFP) 27 Mar — Hamas on Friday denounced a European Union decision to keep the Palestinian Islamist group and de facto Gaza Strip ruler on its terrorism blacklist, despite a court ordering its removal. “This decision completely contradicts the court’s ruling,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum told AFP. “It is unjust and wrong to our people and legitimate resistance, and also encourages the occupation to continue its crimes,” he said of Israel. “We reject this decision and call for its review, and to remove all forms of injustice against our people and Hamas,” Barhum said. Brussels has lodged an appeal against a December ruling by the bloc’s second highest court that Hamas should be removed from the list for the first time since 2001. A spokeswoman for the European Council said on Friday Hamas would stay “on list” during the council’s appeal process, which is expected to take around a year and a half. Hamas’s military wing was added to the EU’s first-ever terrorism blacklist drawn up in December 2001 in the wake of the September 11 attacks on the United States. The EU then blacklisted the political wing of Hamas in 2003. But the General Court of the European Union ruled last year that the Hamas blacklisting was based not on sound legal judgments but on conclusions derived from the media and the Internet.
France-based firm pulls out of Jerusalem cable car project
JERUSALEM (AFP) 25 Mar — France-based utility giant Suez Environnement said Wednesday that, because of political sensitivities, it has decided not to take part in a cable car project linking west Jerusalem to the annexed eastern sector. The project, run by Jerusalem city council, has stoked controversy over the Israeli cable car’s planned route, which passes through parts of mostly Arab east Jerusalem. “To avoid any political interpretation, Suez Environnement has decided not to take part in this project,” it said. Suez said its involvement in the project was limited to a feasibility study carried out by engineering firm SAFEGE, one of its subsidiaries. “SAFEGE fulfilled a contract for Jerusalem municipality between June and November 2013, carrying out a feasibility study, from a technical perspective, on a public cable car system in Jerusalem,” it said. The Palestinians oppose any Israeli construction in the eastern sector, seized in the 1967 Middle East war, which they want as the capital of a future state.
IDF playing war games, but with real Palestinians
Haaretz 18 Mar by Amos Harel — The Israeli army used a training maneuver in the West Bank this week to prepare for potential unrest in the territories. Haaretz accompanied the soldiers, and witnessed a surreal exercise — …The exercise was planned with the goal of causing relatively little disruption to the routine of Palestinian life. The only complaint that reached the Israeli media came from the head of the regional council in the (Jewish) Beit Arye settlement: his PR man fired off an angry email about an attack helicopter landing in the settlement without prior warning. The helicopter, he wrote, “woke up children and caused panic among the inhabitants.” The army apologized and explained that the helicopter was supposed to have landed next to a nearby Palestinian village. Still, after almost 48 years of occupation, it seems that only an outsider is taken aback by situations the IDF blithely accepts. It’s the duty of commanders to collect intelligence and prepare their troops ahead of a possible confrontation. However, within the framework of the maneuvers – and with no immediate security need – the Palestinian residents become extras who are not asked whether they want to take part in the dress rehearsal, and receive no warning of what is about to take place. Their homes are targets for night visits, searches and the family’s coerced awakening. At best, the PA can preserve order and protect the citizens of the West Bank from manifestations of anarchy. But when the IDF enters, the PA steps aside and the inhabitants are left on their own.
West Bank hasbara: Settlers host Israeli diplomats
Ynet 24 Mar by Itamar Eichner — Fifty ambassadors and other diplomats visit Samaria region for educational tour of area as part of preparations for oversea missions — …The diplomats were briefed by officers in the Judea and Samaria Division, met with veteran settler leader Benny Katzover on Mount Gerizim, and visited the Bracha winery’s visitor center near Nablus. The delegation also visited the Barkan Industrial zone where 8,000 workers are employed – including 5,000 Palestinians. This industrial zone exports are worth $150 million a year – and if the EU decides to boycott settlement products, the economical damage would be significant … The Foreign Ministry stressed that the tour was an educational experience which aimed to strengthen the tools available to Israeli diplomats in their missions abroad, where they face many challenges related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Masika told the group that “when you bring guests, bring them here. Seeing is believing – the hasbara (public diplomacy in Israel) is very important to us.”
Yemen set to dominate Arab League summit
i24news/AFP 28 Mar — The 26th annual Arab League Summit is to be held on March 28-29 — Arab leaders have arrived in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm El-Sheikh ahead of this weekend’s annual Arab League Summit at which regional leaders will discuss plans to form a joint military force against the backdrop of Saudi-led strikes on rebels in Yemen. In a post-Arab Spring era of conflict and political turmoil in which jihadists have emerged as a serious threat, Yemen is serving as a test case of joint military intervention by regional players rather than led by Western powers. Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, alarmed by the chaos in neighbouring Libya and violence in its own Sinai Peninsula, has been advocating joint action against Islamists. On the eve of the summit in Egypt’s Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, fellow regional superpower Saudi Arabia forged an Arab military coalition to carry out air strikes this week on Iran-backed Shiite rebels in its neighbour Yemen. Egypt itself has joined the coalition of more than 10 countries, deploying both its air force and navy, as Riyadh leads the predominantly Sunni Muslim 22-member Arab League in a bid to curb the growing regional influence of Shiite rival Tehran … The Israeli-Palestinian peace process, as in every Arab summit, also figures on the agenda, and ahead of summit, Abbas told the press delegation that he will “candidly disclose all our ideas to Arab leaders,” in his speech to the league on Saturday. The summit is expected to reaffirm Arab support for a Palestinian state as well as support the Arab Peace Initiative for a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.