Violence / Attacks / Raids / Clashes / Suppression of protests / Arrests — West Bank & Jerusalem
Israeli forces shoot Palestinian in eye during clashes
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 16 Apr — A Palestinian was critically injured after being shot in the eye with a rubber-coated steel bullet during clashes with Israeli forces in the al-‘Issawiya village of occupied East Jerusalem late Wednesday. Member of a local committee in al-‘Issawiya, Muhammad Abu al-Hummus, said that Suleiman Mahmoud al-Tarbi was leaving his home when he was “directly” targeted by Israeli forces from a short range. Abu al-Hummus added that al-Tarbi fell to the ground when he was injured, before being assaulted and detained by Israeli forces despite his injuries. Al-Tarbi was taken to the Hadassa Ein Karem Hospital. Clashes erupted in the al-‘Issawiya village late Wednesday after Israeli soldiers raided the street across from the Maale Adumim settlement. Three Palestinian youths were also injured with rubber-coated steel bullets in their lower extremities … Al-Tarbi’s injury is one of many inflicted at the hands of Israeli forces. The United Nations estimates that Israeli forces injured a total of 1,190 Palestinian children in the West Bank during 2014. More than in 1 in 5 of the injuries were caused by Israeli forces’ use of live ammunition, with the rest from rubber-coated metal bullets, tear gas inhalation, and assault.
Another Palestinian loses eye to police sponge bullet
Haaretz 16 Apr by Nir Hasson — A Palestinian youth has lost an eye, apparently as a result of being shot at with a sponge bullet. It is the latest of a series of similar incidents in which Palestinian youths and children, primarily in East Jerusalem, have lost eyes to sponge bullets fired by the Israeli security services. Sliman [or Suleiman] al-Tardi, a resident of the West Bank living in ‘Issawiya, was injured on Wednesday night when he went out to buy cigarettes, according to his own account. Palestinian youths were clashing with Israeli police in the area at the time. Tardi was operated on at Jerusalem’s Hadassah University Hospital in Ein Karem on Thursday, but the doctors were unable to save his eye. Less than two weeks ago, Zakariya Julani, a 13-year-old boy from the Shu‘afat refugee camp in Jerusalem, also lost an eye in similar circumstances….
Israeli forces continue to target Bil‘in, 2 protesters shot
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 17 Apr — Two Palestinians were shot, one with live fire, and up to 60 protesters suffered excessive tear gas inhalation when Israeli forces violently suppressed the Bil‘in weekly march on Friday. Hundreds of Palestinians are reported to have taken part in the march against the separation wall, also marking Palestinian Prisoner’s Day. Israeli forces fired live and rubber-coated steel bullets at the protesters as well as tear-gas canisters. Ahmad Mohammad Mansour, 17, was shot in the chest with a live bullet and was taken to the Palestine Medical Complex in Ramallah, while Munther Ameera was shot with a rubber-coated steel bullet in the lower extremities and treated on the scene. Among those who suffered excessive tear gas inhalation were Palestinian Minister of Prisoners’ Affairs Issa Qarage, Minister of Agriculture Walid Assaf, lawmaker Mustafa al-Barghouthi, and Palestinian journalist Linda Shalash … This year marked the tenth consecutive year of weekly marches against the Israeli separation wall in Bilin, which was constructed on Palestinian land in 2005. In response to the protests, the village has been a target of frequent raids and arrests by Israeli forces.
Israeli forces shot five in Kafr Qaddum
[with video] KAFR QADDUM, Occupied Palestine (ISM, Huwwara Team) 17 Apr — This week’s Friday demonstration in Kafr Qaddum followed the same violent pattern as the previous ones during the past weeks. The Israeli occupation forces began their shooting before the demonstration even started. Soldiers and border police fired tear gas, stun grenades, rubber-coated steel bullets and live ammunition at the protestors. Hammam Khalid Aqil, age 19, was hit by two rubber-coated steel bullets, one in his leg and one in his head. He was badly injured and while he was still unconscious the Israeli army arrested him and took him to a hospital in Israel where he is now under intensive care. His condition is extremely serious, even so it took several hours before his parents were allowed to come and see him at the hospital … The occupation forces met the demonstration with terrifying brutality. They used the skunk-water truck to spray down not only protestors but family homes and gardens covering the village in a foul stink. At least five more people were shot with rubber-coated steel bullets. Maamoun Shtaiwi, 36, and Anna Johnson, a 30 year old ISM volunteer, were both shot in the head and taken to the hospital in Nablus where they were treated for their wounds. Maamoun’s injury required 13 stitches. One Palestinian activist was hit in the leg, and one in the chest, and an Israeli photographer had the camera on his helmet smashed.
When shooting a Palestinian in the back is merely ‘reckless’
+972 blog 15 Apr by Alma Biblash — Why trust the military to investigate itself when soldiers who kill unarmed Palestinians are let off the hook time and time again? — In January 2013, an Israeli soldier shot a 16-year-old Palestinian who posed absolutely no threat in his back. Samir Awad, from the village Budrus, didn’t survive the valiant military operation, and was killed. Last December, the High Court of Justice harshly criticized the Military Advocate General’s (MAG) handling of the case calling on it to finish its investigation. On Tuesday, the State announced that it would charge the soldier with reckless and negligent use of a firearm. Had the incident not ended with the death of a teenager, it could have come off as no more than a silly act of mischief. Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, which accompanied the Awad family throughout the legal process, called the decision a “new low in Israeli authorities’ disregard for the lives of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. The State Attorney’s Office has sent security forces in the Occupied Territories a clear message: if you kill an unarmed Palestinian who poses no threat, we will do everything to cover it up and ensure impunity.” According to Yesh Din, an Israeli organization that provides legal assistance to Palestinians in the occupied territories that has researched this issue in the past few years, 97.8 percent of the Criminal Investigation Division’s (CID) investigations vis-à-vis harm caused to Palestinians have ended without indictments.
Remembering Bassem Abu Rahme
Mondoweiss 18 Apr by Allison Deger — Subhiya Abu Rahme, 60, propped up on her elbows to recount her son’s last morning before he was killed by the Israeli army. Six years ago on April 17, 2009, Bassem Abu Rahme, 30, was shot in the chest with a tear gas canister in his West Bank hometown of Bil‘in outside of Ramallah. That morning Subhiya recalled, was a scorcher. Bassem went into the bathroom to cool off, musing, “I will shower or I will die.” Once clean and dressed, he walked to the garden behind the house. “I was working. He told me don’t tire yourself. It’s not good for you,” Subhiya said, relaying Bassem’s final words to her. Within a few hours Bassem was struck at close range with a tear gas canister, a speedy projectile that pours plumes of white-toxic gas. At the time he was facing off with the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) during a protest on Palestinian Prisoners Day. The annual commemoration marked support for the over 6,000 held in Israeli jails. Palestinians consider all of those incarcerated as political prisoners. Subhiya lounged on a thin mattress wearing a tropical print summer dress. She sipped sweet tea made from zaatar, a local herb, with her niece Asma Abu Rahme, 19. The two gazed at a live-feed report of a Prisoners Day protest, like the one where Bassem was killed. The march was a short walk from Subhiya’s house in Bil‘in’s agricultural lands, near where Bassem was shot. Some protesters carried posters with a photograph of Bassem. The center of town was also plastered with images of him and imprisoned Palestinians. A prayer service was held that morning to honor Bassem. Yet the calm start outside was over. Every few minutes an ambulance flew past Subhiya’s house and then showed up on the screen moments later to cart away an injured protester.
7 Palestinians injured during clashes near Ramallah
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 16 Apr — Seven Palestinians were injured with rubber-coated steel bullets during clashes with Israeli soldiers following a march by prisoners’ rights groups near Ofer jail in Beitunia on Thursday. Dozens of Palestinians took part in the march that set off from central Beitunia toward Ofer jail. Israeli forces fired tear-gas canisters at protesters before the march started approaching the jail. The demonstration was called for by the popular resistance and national committees to commemorate Palestinian Prisoner’s Day on April 17. Israeli forces suppressed the march using rubber-coated steel bullets, stun grenades and tear-gas canisters while youths responded with stones.
Tension prevails in Aqsa Mosque due to repeated incursions
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (PIC) 19 Apr — Tension ran high in the Aqsa Mosque plazas on Sunday morning after an Israeli policeman assaulted a Jerusalemite woman for trying to confront settlers who broke into the Aqsa Mosque. Media sources revealed that dozens of Jewish settlers earlier on Sunday stormed the Aqsa Mosque’s plazas from the Magharebah gate and provocatively performed Talmudic rituals under protection of Israeli policemen and Special Forces. The sources said the Palestinian worshipers have been heading since the morning hours to the Aqsa Mosque to defend the holy site from settler incursions. They confronted the settlers by chants of Allahu Akbar until the Jewish settlers went out of the Mosque via Silsilah gate. Clashes took place in the Mosque’s plazas between Jerusalemites and Israeli Special Forces when a policeman attacked a female Jerusalemite worshiper after she confronted settlers. Policemen took photos of all of the Jerusalemite worshipers including women and children, the sources said.
IOF detains press team near Leshem outpost
NABLUS (PIC) 19 Apr — Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) detained on Sunday a team of Palestinian pressmen in Kafr al-Dik town to the west of Salfit while covering an event. The Palestinian journalist and researcher Khaled Maali told the PIC reporter that the IOF detained him along with a cameraman and Kafr al-Dik’s municipal secretary for accessing into the Leshem settlement which is illegally established on the Palestinian lands. Maali, however, said the media team was present at the nearby area for making a report on Israeli leveling of Palestinian’s lands and ceaseless settlement construction. He said that they did not approach Leshem outpost as claimed by the IOF. The Israeli Occupation built Leshem settlement in 2015, and since then continuous expansion works are being conducted in the area at the expense of the lands of four Palestinian towns and a historical hamlet.
Army kidnaps seven Palestinians in the West Bank
IMEMC/Agencies 19 Apr — Israeli soldiers kidnapped, on Sunday at dawn, seven Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, including five in Bethlehem, and one child in Hebron. The soldiers also handed several Palestinians military orders for interrogation. Media sources in Hebron, in the southern part of the West Bank, said the soldiers invaded Beit ‘Awwa town, south of the city, kidnapped one child and handed three former political prisoners, military warrants for interrogation. The kidnapped child, identified as Mohammad ‘Amarin, 15, years of age, was taken prisoner after the soldiers stormed and ransacked his family home. The soldiers also invaded and searched several neighborhoods in Hebron, and in Halhoul town, north of the city. Furthermore, soldiers stationed on the Container Roadblock, to the east of occupied Jerusalem, kidnapped three Palestinians from the Hebron district; two of them have been identified as Samer Mojahed and Ata Jouda al-Mahdhi. In Bethlehem, soldiers invaded the town of Husan, stormed and searched a number of homes, and kidnapped two Palestinians identified as Haitham Mahmoud Hamamra, 20, and Ahmad Yousef Za’oul, 18 years of age. Another Palestinian was kidnapped in Kafr ‘Aqab town, south of the central West Bank city of Ramallah.
One Palestinian kidnapped in Jerusalem
IMEMC/Agencies 19 Apr — The Palestine TV said dozens of soldiers invaded the al-Eesawiyya town, broke into many homes, including the Shreiteh family home, looking for their son, but he was not home during the attack. Soldiers also invaded Kafr ‘Aqab and Samir Amis neighborhoods, and kidnapped a young Palestinian man after repeatedly beating and kicking him, and took him to an interrogation facility in Jerusalem. The invasion led to clashes between the soldiers and local youths who hurled stones and empty bottles on them, while the army fired rounds of live ammunition in addition to rubber-coated metal bullets, and gas bombs. Eyewitnesses said Israeli soldiers occupied rooftops of several buildings in Kafr ‘Aqab, especially in Um ash-Sharayet, the Airport Road, and the al-Ajlouni neighborhood.
Youth injured after apparently attempting to stab Israeli policeman
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 18 Apr — A Palestinian youth suspected of theft was shot and injured in the foot by the Israeli police claiming he attempted to stab a policeman west of Jerusalem Friday night, Israeli media reported. The Walla Hebrew-language website said that the youth from the Nahalin town west of Bethlehem, was detained afterwards, and that his injuries were reported as light. The Palestinian was suspected of theft while raiding a school in the Beit Shemesh town of western Jerusalem Policemen reportedly noticed three masked men inside the school, one of whom attempted to stab a policeman with a screwdriver after police ordered the three to stop. The policeman then opened fire injuring the youth in the foot. The youth was taken to the Hadassa Ein Karem Hospital for treatment, while another one of the masked men was able to flee the area.
Palestinian driver deliberately killed Israeli: police
JERUSALEM (AFP) 18 Apr — A Palestinian driver deliberately rammed his car into a Jerusalem bus stop this week and killed an Israeli man in a “horrible attack”, police chief Yohanan Danino said on Saturday. “Today we can say that it is a horrible attack,” Danino said in a statement after an investigation into Wednesday’s incident. He ruled out initial suggestions that it had been an accident. Shalom Yohai Cherki, 26, and Shira Klein, 20, were seriously injured in the attack on the bus stop in Israeli-annexed Arab east Jerusalem. Cherki, the son of prominent rabbi Ouri Cherki who is well known in the city’s francophone community, died of his injuries on Thursday morning and was buried later that day. The driver, a 37-year-old Palestinian from east Jerusalem, who was also hurt, was arrested and interrogated by police.
Elderly Gazan woman crushed to death in collapsed home walls
GAZA (PIC) 19 Ap r– The 78-year-old Palestinian citizen Shnara Abdul Jawad Hamid was killed after a wall of their home, already damaged by Israel’s latest offensive, collapsed on her, the Palestinian Health Ministry announced on Saturday afternoon. Journalist Fayez al-Sheikh, one of the casualty’s relatives, said in an exclusive statement to the PIC on Saturday evening that his father’s aunt was crushed to death while she was taking a nap in her own home. The deceased was living in a home of her own that sustained remarkable damage in last summer’s Israeli military aggression on the blockaded Gaza Strip.
3 Palestinians injured as Israel forces open fire in Gaza
IMEMC/Agencies 18 Apr — Israeli forces shot and injured three Palestinians east of Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on Friday. Witnesses said that Israeli forces deployed along the Gazan border opened fire on the Palestinians in the al-Sanati area in Khan Younis. The three injured have been taken to the European Hospital in Khan Younis for treatment, according to Ma’an News Agency. Israeli forces have repeatedly opened fire on Palestinian civilians near the border since the ceasefire agreement signed Aug. 26, 2014 that ended a devastating 50-day war between Israel and Hamas. In March alone, there were a total of 38 incidents of shootings, incursions into the Strip, and arrests, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR).
Israeli naval forces open fire at Gaza fishermen
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 15 Apr — Israeli naval forces opened fire at Palestinian fishing boats off the coast of Gaza City Wednesday morning. Fishermen told Ma‘an that Israeli forces had fired at several fishing boats working in the area, and that no injuries were reported. Witnesses added that Israeli F16 warplanes were flying at low altitude at the time … Wednesday’s incident comes just one week after Israeli forces shot and injured Palestinian fisherman Khalid Zayid with a rubber-coated steel bullet while he was working off the coast of Beit Lahiya. Palestinian fishermen continue to be targeted by Israeli forces, facing near daily harassment and interference with their work.
Egyptian army: 69 tunnels on Gazan border destroyed since March
CAIRO (Ma‘an) 18 Apr — The Egyptian army has destroyed 69 tunnels along the border with the Gaza Strip since Mar. 28, an Egyptian army spokesman said Saturday. Spokesman Muhammad Samir said that Egyptian border forces stationed in the Egyptian side of Rafah had discovered and destroyed the tunnels in coordination with army engineers. In a statement released last month, Samir said the army had destroyed 194 tunnels between Feb. 1 and Mar. 19, and another statement at the end of March said that 22 tunnels had been destroyed between Mar. 20-27. The latest 69 puts the total number of tunnels destroyed at 285 since February. Earlier this month, the Egyptian Cabinet approved a draft resolution criminalizing the act of tunnel-digging along Egyptian borders with the punishment of life imprisonment. The smuggling tunnels have served as a lifeline to the outside world for Gaza’s 1.8 million inhabitants since Israel imposed a crippling siege on the coastal enclave in 2007, which is supported by Egypt. While the tunnels are used by Hamas as a source of tax revenue and inflow of weapons, they also supply highly-demanded necessities for Gazans including food, medicine, as well as infrastructure materials including concrete and fuel. Egypt has sought to destroy the tunnels as part of an ongoing security campaign in the northern Sinai against anti-regime militants launching attacks on Egyptian police and military personnel.
Tunnel detection system to span Gaza border
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 16 Apr — Israeli defense company Elbit Systems has developed a sensor-based tunnel detection system to be implemented alongside the entirety of the Gaza border, Israeli media reports. The new detection system is designed to block infiltration of “Hamas terrorists” into Israel, by enabling the identification of tunnel building activity and its location without false alarms, Israeli news site Ynet reported … While the system is designed to prevent attacks by militant groups inside Gaza by targeting the many tunnels snaking under the Israel Gaza border, destroying such tunnels also means cutting off the Gaza residents who rely on them from receiving much needed materials and goods they otherwise cannot obtain due to the ongoing Israeli-Egypt blockade of the strip…
Profiting from war Israel has long been at the forefront of technological and weapons development. While championed by some for the state’s ability to produce groundbreaking weapons innovation and leading international arms trade, critics argue success of Israel’s weapons industry has come at the expense of Palestinian communities in effect used as subjects for testing weapon utility … Israeli weapons sales boomed following last summer’s war, partially as Israeli forces were able to use and prove the utility of several weapons systems and other technology that had been under development since the Second Lebanon War in 2006, according to Israeli news site Haaretz … Elbit Systems is Israel’s top defense contractor.
Rafah border crossing closed for 100 days now
World Bulletin 19 Apr — The Rafah crossing on the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula has been closed for 100 days now, the Gaza Interior Ministry said Saturday. It added that this has been the longest closure of the crossing since 2009, calling on Egyptian authorities to reopen the border point to alleviate the suffering of the residents of the Gaza Strip. Around 60,000 Gaza residents have registered to get out of the blockaded territory from the crossing for medical and other needs since July of 2013, according to Gaza’s border crossings authority.
Gaza temporarily stops tomato exports to Israel
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 16 Apr — The Ministry of Agriculture in Gaza decided to temporarily stop exporting tomatoes to Israel after prices and demand increased in local markets, says General Director of Marketing. Tahsin al-Saqqa said the halt on exports is temporary and will continue as soon as tomato production and prices stabilize in local markets, pointing out that the Gaza Strip produces some 70 thousand tons of tomatoes annually. Gazan famers began exporting vegetables to Israel for the first time in eight years in March 2015, the first shipments of their kind since Israel imposed an economic and military blockade on Gaza in 2007.
Rowley: No evidence that Gaza rebuilding material is used for non-civilian purposes
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (PIC) 19 Apr — The UN does not have any evidence that rebuilding material bound for Gaza is being used for anything other than civilian purposes, James Rowley, the Deputy UN Envoy to the Middle East, said on Sunday morning. In an interview with the Israeli Richt Beit Radio, the UN official said even in the ensuing black markets, material entering the blockaded coastal Strip was used to help rebuild houses destroyed during last summer’s military aggression on Gaza … Rowley called for speeding up the reconstruction process, adding that steps have to be taken to lift the blockade on Gaza. Over 16,000 homes were turned into rubble and some 100,000 homes sustained partial damage in last summer’s Israeli offensive on the besieged coastal enclave.
Four years ago we lost Vik
ISM — Today April 15, 2015, marks the fourth anniversary of the murder of ISM activist and comrade Vittorio “Vik” Arrigoni in the Gaza Strip. Vittorio arrived in Gaza on the 23rd of August 2008, breaking the Israeli siege on Gaza with around 40 other international activists which he described as one of the happiest moments of his life: “It became clear, not only to the world, but Palestinians also that there are people who are willing to spend their lives to come and hug their brothers here in Gaza.” From his arrival until his murder [by takfiris/Salafists] on the 15th of April 2011, Vittorio stayed in Gaza to work with the International Solidarity Movement there where he attended regular demonstrations, helped both farmers and fishermen and documented the countless Israeli crimes against humanity that he witnessed. Vittorio also stayed in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead which massacred hundreds of unarmed Palestinian civilians. Vittorio, we will never forget you. [If you’ve never seen DARG Team’s ‘Onadekom’ tribute to Vik, it’s well worth watching. Various Gaza citizens sing it, not just DARG Team. If you have seen it, watch it again!]
Qassam fighter killed in accident
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 18 Apr — The al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Hamas movement, said Saturday that a fighter was killed while on duty. The brigades said in a statement that Nafeth Said al-Mughni from Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip was killed after being hit with a bullet in an accident, but did not give further details surrounding his death. Training by the al-Qassam Brigades has continued since the end of last summer’s war between Israel and Palestinian militant groups. In March, the group’s official website reported that it had rebuilt a number of military bases near the Israeli border in the Gaza Strip, and asserted that it had recovered from Israel’s summer offensive and was “not afraid” of confronting the occupation again.
2 explosions set off in Gaza City center
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 19 Apr — Two explosions went off in Gaza City centre late Saturday causing no injuries, witnesses reported. The first blast took place across from the Sousi building on al-Sanaa Street, while the second explosion was at the entrance of the Khalidi building opposite the Islamic University and next to the Attorney-General’s office. The first blast was close to an office belonging to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA, although it is unclear whether that was the intended target. A spokesman for Gaza’s Interior Ministry said that security forces were investigating the explosion of two devices in central Gaza City, which caused some damage to buildings but no injuries. The explosions come a day after another explosive device went off near the Palestinian Cabinet headquarters in western Gaza City on late Friday. The headquarters are located in the former home of President Mahmoud Abbas, having been moved there following the April 2014 reconciliation agreement between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, intended to bring the parties together after nearly seven years of political division.
Palestinian ministers visit Gaza over employee dispute
GAZA CITY (AFP) 19 Apr — A delegation of Palestinian ministers and senior officials from the West Bank-based national consensus government arrived in Gaza on Sunday in a bid to tackle a thorny dispute over employees. The delegation arrived a day after two small bombs exploded in Gaza City, causing no injuries and only slight damage in a development, highlighting growing security problems in the tiny coastal enclave. “Some 40 government officials, among them eight ministers, crossed the Beit Hanun terminal to enter the Gaza Strip,” a senior official at the border told AFP, referring to the Erez crossing. Central to the visit is the question of government employees which has been a major point of dispute between the Fatah faction of president Mahmud Abbas, which is based in the West Bank, and the rival Islamist Hamas movement, whose power base is in Gaza. Since 2014, when the two factions tried to bury the hatchet after years of bitter and bloody rivalry, Hamas has demanded that the government regulate the salaries of its 50,000 employees who have been on the books since the Islamists seized power in the tiny enclave in 2007. They took over from 70,000 employees of the Palestinian Authority who were forced out of their positions but have still been receiving their salaries. But the consensus government has pledged to return the 70,000 former employees to their positions, saying that the Hamas workers would only be hired “according to need”. Since the consensus government took office in June 2014, only around half of the Hamas employees — all of them civil servants — have received any money: a one-off payment of $1,200 (1,100 euros) at the end of October. The rest, who are employed in security, have not received any salary payments in almost 11 months.
Israel ‘directly targeted’ children in drone strikes on Gaza, says rights group
EI 17 Apr by Rania Khalek — Israel deliberately targeted children in Gaza last summer, according to a new report by Defence for Children International-Palestine (DCI-Palestine). Of the 2,220 Palestinians killed during Israel’s 51-day bombing campaign, at least 1,492 were civilians, including at least 547 children. A total of 535 of those children were killed as a direct result of Israeli attacks. Moreover, 68 percent of children Israel killed in Gaza were under the age of twelve, according to the report. An additional 3,374 children were injured, including over 1,000 who have been left with lifelong disabilities, many of which require medical care that is inaccessible in Gaza due to a crushing Israeli siege that has yet to be lifted. Another 373,000 children are suffering from deep trauma and require desperately needed psychosocial support that is severely lacking in the Gaza Strip. – Nowhere was safe for children – As a matter of policy, Israel deliberately and indiscriminately targeted the very spaces where children are supposed to feel most secure. Such acts violate international law and amount to war crimes, according to the report. Children were crushed to death while they sheltered in their homes, dismembered as they slept in their beds and torn to pieces as they played in their yards. At least eighteen children were killed by Israeli attacks targeting schools. For the children of Gaza, nowhere was safe from Israeli violence. Equally as haunting as where children were killed is the assortment of weapons Israel deployed against them:
Land, property theft & resources / Ethnic cleansing / Disrespect for religions other than Judaism / Restrictions on movement
Israeli authorities to demolish home, issue stop-work order to another
HEBRON (WAFA) 15 Apr – Israeli Authorities Wednesday notified a Palestinian resident in the village of Dirat to the east of Yatta town in southern Hebron, of intentions to demolish his house, while another local received a notice ordering him to stop the construction work on his home, according to a local activist. Coordinator of the anti-settlement popular committee in southern Hebron, Rateb al-Jabour, told WAFA that Israeli forces stormed the village and handed Mohammed al-Amour a notice to stop the construction work on his home and threatened to confiscate the building material if he resumed with the construction. Forces also handed Salah Ahmad Mohammed a notice informing him of their intentions to demolish his home, where he lives with his family. To be noted, the village of Dirat is surrounded by the illegal Israeli settlement of ‘Haggai’, and a road specifically built for the sole use of settlers residing in nearby illegal settlements built on Yatta town land; which consequently creates instability for Palestinian residents who are constantly harassed by settlers.
Israeli municipality to demolish two homes in East Jerusalem
JERUSALEM (WAFA) 19 Apr — Israeli staff from the West Jerusalem Municipality accompanied by Israeli police units Sunday notified two Palestinian families of orders to demolish their homes to the East of Jerusalem. WAFA correspondent reported that the municipality staff raided the two homes late Saturday, and handed over orders to evict the contents of their homes in preparation for the demolition Sunday morning under the pretext of building without a permit. Issuance of construction permits for Palestinians living in Area C, under full Israeli administrative and military control, is strictly limited, forcing Palestinians residing in such areas to embark on construction without obtaining a permit to provide a shelter for themselves and their families, risking in the process having their homes demolished. Al-Maqdisi Institute reported that between the years 2000 and 2014, the Israeli authorities demolished around 1,342 buildings in East Jerusalem (the areas annexed by Israel in 1967), which has resulted in the displacement of approximately 5,760 people. Data also showed an increase in the cases of residents being forced to demolish their own houses: 340 people were forced to demolish their own homes during the period 2000-2014; the highest rate of self-demolition was recorded in 2010 with 70 demolitions and 49 in 2009. Many families are forced to demolish their homes with their own hands to avoid the high cost of paying for Israeli government bulldozers.
Raed Salah: ‘We will rebuild all houses demolished by Israeli occupation’
Middle East Monitor 18 Apr — Hundreds of Palestinians with Israeli IDs took part in a massive Friday Prayer called for by the High Follow-up Committee for Arabs in the village of Dahmash, where the Israeli occupation has recently demolished five Palestinian houses. Dahmash is located in the outskirts of the historic Palestinian city of Al-Lid (Lod), which was among the Palestinian cities occupied by Israel in 1948. The Israeli occupation demolishes houses in Dahmash and Al-Lid under the pretext of not having building licenses. Sheikh Raed Salah, the most prominent Arab leader in occupied Palestine, led the prayer. He pledged that Arabs would rebuild all the facilities, including the houses demolished by the Israeli occupation. Salah said that the Israeli occupation is aiming, throughout the demolition plans, to evacuate the occupied cities and villages from the Palestinian residents. “Despite the over than 60,000 Israeli demolition orders, we vow to rebuild everything Israel knocks down,” he said. He called the Israeli demolition of the Arab houses a “racist policy” against Palestinians. He stressed that the issue of evacuating the Palestinians from the occupied Palestine is not related to a rightist or leftist Israeli government, “because all Israelis want Palestinians out of Palestine.”
‘Thousands’ of Israeli Arab homes threatened with demolition
RAMLE (Israel) (AFP) 15 Apr by Majeda El-Batsh –– “Where will we go,” asks eight-year-old Tiba Qeren, saying goodbye to the family home that, like those of many other Israeli Arabs, is condemned to demolition for failing to meet planning rules. “I’m afraid,” she tells AFP. “I know that they are going to destroy our home as they have others in Ramle,” the mixed Arab and Jewish town where they live, about 18 kilometres (11 miles) from Tel Aviv. “I’m annoyed because I tell myself: who gives them the right to destroy our house,” she says, her young voice shaking with anger. “The land is not theirs, it belongs to my family and the house is not theirs because it is my family who built it! ” The Israeli Arab community has its roots in the 160,000 Palestinians who stayed on their land after the creation of Israel in 1948. Today they and their descendants number around 1.3 million. While Israeli law guarantees them full equality with other citizens, in practice there are claims of discrimination in government funding and a raft of other issues.
Israeli court rules ‘absentee’ property law applies in East Jerusalem
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 18 Apr — The Israeli Supreme Court has approved the application of a law allowing the Israeli state to seize property in East Jerusalem whose owners live in the West Bank or Gaza, in a move slammed by Palestinian officials. A panel of seven judges approved application of the “Absentee Property Law” in East Jerusalem, despite warning that it presents many problems and should be used only in the “rarest of rare cases,” Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on Thursday. Senior PLO official Ahmad Queri decried the decision, saying the law was based on racial discrimination and was aimed at removing Palestinians from Jerusalem. He said it would lead to an exclusively Jewish Jerusalem.The Israeli law was enacted in 1950 in the aftermath of the violent expulsion of approximately 750,000 Palestinians, and allowed the newly created Israeli state to seize Palestinian property within its boundaries. Following the Six Day War in 1967, Israeli municipal boundaries were extended to include East Jerusalem in contravention of international law, meaning that Palestinians living in the West Bank or Gaza with property in East Jerusalem were suddenly considered “absentee” owners under Israeli law. Right-wing Israelis seeking to increase the Jewish presence in East Jerusalem have been using the law to seize property in East Jerusalem for a number of years, Haaretz reported. The property is transferred to Israel’s Custodian of Absentee Property, which then rents them out to right-wing Jewish families….
Palestinians petitioning court to get back Jordan Valley land
Haaretz 20 Apr by Chaim Levinson — Vast tracts of Jordan Valley land owned by petitioners was given to settlers long ago — The High Court of Justice is to hear petitions Monday by Palestinians seeking the return of land they own near the Jordanian border and which was given to Jordan Valley settlers to cultivate. In 1969, two years after the occupation of the West Bank, the army declared the area between the Jordan-Israel border and the nearby security fence to be a closed military zone barred to Palestinians. According to Israel Defense Forces documents, the area in question is made up of about 5,000 dunams (1,250 acres) of private Palestinian land registered in the Jordanian land registry. In the 1980s and 1990s, the state allocated these lands to the World Zionist Organization, after an aide to the defense minister, Uri Ben-On, decided in 1981 that that they could be cultivated. In issuing this decision, Ben-On ignored an opinion by the Justice Ministry that prohibited the cultivation of private Palestinian land. Over the years there has been a sharp rise in the cultivation of Palestinian land by Israeli settlers. Aerial photographs published by the Civil Administration show that in 1997, 2,380 dunams of private Palestinian land was cultivated and in 2012, that figure had risen to 5,064 dunams. The lands are mostly used for date plantations.
Settlers steal rich soil from Palestinian lands near Salfit
SALFIT (Ma‘an) 19 Apr — Israeli settlers have stolen large amounts of nutrient-rich soil belonging to Palestinians in the Salfit-district village of Kafr ad Dik, witnesses reported Sunday. Witnesses said that Israeli bulldozers moved huge piles of the fertile soil from Kafr ad Dik into the illegal Israeli settlement of Lishim. According to researcher Khaled Maali, the red soil was of an extremely high quality. He said it would now be used in settlers’ gardens and also to grow trees in land bordering exclusive settler routes that Israeli military forces have seized from Palestinians as a “buffer zone” for the roads. In 2012, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Israeli police were aware of settlers stealing Palestinian soil, but did nothing about it. An Israeli police official quoted in the report said there was no formal way of enforcing laws against this kind of theft. Kafr ad Dik town has been exposed to Israeli confiscation and razing of lands, as well as the demolition of homes and water wells, according to the Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem….
Vandals attack Christian graveyard in northern Israel
JERUSALEM (AFP) 15 Apr — Vandals have smashed gravestones at a Maronite Christian cemetery in a village near Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, Israeli police said on Wednesday. Police opened an investigation after receiving a report about damage to a number of graves at a Christian cemetery in the village of Kafr Bir‘im, spokeswoman Luba Samri said, indicating that the tombstones were “broken and displaced”. Kafr Bir‘im is a derelict Palestinian Arab village whose inhabitants were evicted by the Israeli army in 1948, six months after Israel was established, and never allowed to return. The village was almost totally razed by the Israeli army in 1953. Last year, Lebanese patriarch of the Maronite church Beshara Rai paid a historic trip to the Holy Land during which he visited Kafr Bir‘im, pledging to help the displaced villagers return. There are some 11,400 Maronite Catholics living in Israel. The police did not say who was behind the attack but in recent years there have been a spate of hate crimes targeting Christian churches and cemeteries, with the perpetrators believed to be Jewish extremists. On Tuesday, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin met with church leaders in Jerusalem’s Old City, pledging to crack down on religiously inspired hate crime.
Israeli town council cancels Jehovah’s Witnesses event
Haaretz 19 Apr by Ilan Lior — The Ra’anana municipality has canceled an event organized by the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Israel, concerned that the religious group’s meeting would “hurt the feelings of the public.” The event, which should have been held Saturday in the Ra’anana municipal sports center, was canceled following pressure by the anti-missionary group Yad L’Achim. Although the event was set to include only a seminar, Yad L’Achim had warned earlier in the week that it would be a “mass baptism.” The four Orthodox members on the municipality said they would resign if the event took place. The Lod District Court rejected a petition by the association, Watchtower for Israel, for an emergency order to allow the event to be held … Following the municipality’s refusal on Thursday to allow the event, Jehovah’s Witnesses went to court, claiming that the municipality’s actions constituted a violation of religious freedom and that it had a right to hold the event on municipal premises. The city responded that it had the right to prevent the event from taking place.
Israeli forces seal Hizma over alleged stone-throwing
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 17 Apr — Israeli forces blocked all entrances into Hizma town on Wednesday as a punitive measure for alleged incidents of stone-throwing, a human rights group and Israeli media reported. Israeli forces are reported to have placed a large sign at the entrance of the eastern Jerusalem-district town requesting that residents divulge information about those “disturbing the peace.” According to Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, the Arabic sign read: “To the area’s residents: Only a few are responsible for disturbing the peace – because of them, this barrier was placed. You must not cooperate with them! Stop these actions that harm your lives. “For the sake of your well-being and the restoration of peace and security to your area, send any pieces of information on those who disturb the peace and on their activities in the area.” The sign gave the contact details for a local Israeli military commander, whom it referred to as “Abu Salam.” B’Tselem condemned Israel’s decision to seal the town, and said that Wednesday was the first time a sign had been posted holding an entire village responsible for alleged stone-throwing. “Restricting the freedom of movement of 7,000 people, the majority of whom have nothing to do with the stone-throwing, constitutes collective punishment; as such, it is prohibited under international law,” the group said in a statement.
Soldiers hold PA governor at Nablus checkpoint for over an hour
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 16 Apr — Israeli forces on Thursday held the Palestinian Authority governor of Nablus at a military checkpoint for over an hour before letting him pass, officials said. PA official Ziad Othman told Ma‘an that governor Akram Rajoub and head of the PA liaison office Usama Abu Arab were escorting a delegation of officials from Beit Furik following an event to commemorate Palestinian Prisoners Day in the village. Israeli forces at a checkpoint near the village prevented all residents from crossing and held the PA governor for over an hour before finally allowing him to pass. There are 99 fixed Israeli military checkpoints in the occupied West Bank in addition to hundreds of temporary “flying checkpoints” set up throughout the year by Israeli soldiers, according to Israeli rights group B’Tselem.
Prisoners / Court actions
Twilight Zone: Help came too late for Jafar Awad in Israeli jail
Haaretz 17 Apr by Gideon Levy & Alex Levac — Suffering from a rare disease while serving time in an Israeli prison, months went by before Awad was hospitalized and given a diagnosis. To no avail. After his funeral, soldiers shot and killed his cousin — It’s a jarring poster of death: Jafar Awad is lying unconscious in a Hebron hospital, a breathing tube thrust into his mouth, while his close friend and cousin, Ziyyad Awad, is leaning over his bed. Within 12 hours both young men in the picture will be dead. Jafar died last Friday before dawn; 12 hours later, Ziyyad was shot to death by Israel Defense Forces soldiers, on his way back from the funeral. Jafar languished in an Israeli prison, apparently suffering from a rare disease, until his release. His death provoked rage in his hometown of Beit Umar, near Hebron, where the general sentiment is that Jafar did not get proper medical treatment during his incarceration. Now the town is mourning for two of its sons: Jafar, a 22-year-old student, and Ziyyad, 28, who was married and had two children. Jafar apparently contracted an extremely rare disease. The initial symptoms included eye problems, rapid pulse and high blood sugar ….Kearns-Sayre syndrome … In the months that followed, which turned out to be the last in his life, the family tried to have Jafar transferred to Israel for treatment. But no hospital agreed to admit him, they say. Subsequently, a hospital in Germany said it would accept Jafar, but that never happened, owing to the foot-dragging of the Palestinian Authority, which was to approve and pass on the necessary funding of 22,000 euros for treatment there … Alongside the picture in the mourners tent of Ziyyad bending over Jafar is another photo. It shows Jafar in the Hebron hospital holding a note he wrote, a kind of last testament: “I, released prisoner Jafar Awad, say to the world: Free all the sick prisoners.”
Cancer-ridden detainee in critical condition
IMEMC 19 Apr — The Palestinian Detainees Committee stated that a political prisoner held by Israe, is facing a serious health condition due to severe complications resulting from his colon cancer and the lack of specialized medical treatment. The Committee said the detainee, Eyas Abdul-Rahman ar-Refa‘ey, 31, is facing a life-threatening condition with serious concerns that he could die at any given moment. It added that ar-Refa‘ey, from Kafr ‘Ein near the central West Bank city of Ramallah, is held in the Eshil Israeli prison, and has been frequently moved to the Ramla prison clinic. The detainee was moved to the Soroka Israeli Medical Center, last week, where he was officially diagnosed with advanced colon cancer, in addition to a number of health complications. The doctors said he requires immediate surgery, and extensive treatment, especially since he contracted several acute infections in his intestines. The Committee said ar-Refa‘ey has lost 25 kilograms of his weight, and requires professional medical treatment, instead of the painkilling pills he is receiving….
Israeli court brings 12 charges against MP Khalida Jarrar
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 18 Apr – An Israeli military court has brought 12 charges against Palestinian lawmaker Khalida Jerrar in connection to her membership of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, an international rights group said. Having been detained and interrogated since Apr. 2, Jerrar was charged by the Israeli military prosecution on Wednesday, according to a report released Friday by Amnesty International. Charges included membership of an illegal organization, participation in protests, and incitement to kidnap Israeli soldiers. A review of the charges against her will take place on Apr. 29, the report said. Jerrar’s defense team argued there was no basis to the incitement charge and that it was vindictive, according to Amnesty’s report. The majority of Palestinian political organizations are considered illegal by Israel, including those that make up the PLO, and association with such parties is often used as grounds for imprisonment, according to prisoners’ rights group Addameer….
Palestinian mother to serve 2 years in jail following house arrest
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 15 Apr — A Palestinian mother of six arrived at Israel’s Ramla jail on Wednesday to serve the remainder of her prison sentence, after spending 38 months under house arrest. Head of prisoner rights NGO Jerusalem Prisoners Families Committee, Amjad Abu Asab, said that Alia al-Sheikh Abbasi, 50, was detained on Jan. 2, 2012 in the the Shufat refugee camp checkpoint on allegations of attempting to stab an Israeli soldier. She was released on Feb. 22, 2012 and transferred to house arrest, where she spent 38 months. Abbasi’s original sentence of 40 months in jail given by the Israeli central court of Jerusalem last year was reduced to 26 months of actual imprisonment after an appeal was presented to the Israeli High Court.
Two suspects confess to arson at Jerusalem Jewish-Arab school
Haaretz 16 Apr by Nir Hasson — Two of the suspects in the arson attack on a bilingual Jewish-Arab school in Jerusalem last November have admitted, as part of a plea agreement last month, that they carried out the attack. In admitting to arson at the Max Rayne Hand in Hand school, brothers Nahman and Shlomo Twito face up to 15 years in prison. They also admitted defacing property and incitement to violence. The prosecution in turn reduced the indictment against the pair, dropping charges of breaking and entering and incitement to racism – over comments they posted on Facebook prior to the attack. No agreement was reached on punishment in the case, which will be handed down in June. The brothers’ public defender said they will be sent for evaluation by the probation department prior to sentencing. A third defendant, Yitzhak Gabai, decided not to agree to a plea arrangement and is pursuing his case to trial, while challenging the admissibility of a confession he gave Shin Bet security service investigators in the case.
Palestinian prisoners languish in Mideast stalemate
RAMALLAH (AFP) 17 Apr by John Davison — Hadi al-Fakhri was 26 the first time he hugged his father, one of thousands of Palestinians serving time in Israeli prisons for militant activity in the occupied West Bank. A decade later, more than 30 years into a life sentence, Fakhri’s father was freed when more than 1,000 prisoners were swapped for a single Israeli soldier held by Palestinian Islamist group Hamas for five years. The landmark 2011 deal to free Gilad Shalit sparked hope for thousands being held in Israeli prisons. But more than three years on, with the peace process in tatters and ties with Israel severely strained, Palestinian hopes of seeing their prisoners released look more remote than ever.Almost every Palestinian family is touched by the prisoners issue. “Every Palestinian family has experience of the occupation’s prisons — people have either been locked up themselves, or they have a family member who’s been in jail at some point,” said Nojood Qassem, 40, whose husband is serving life.Her daughter, who is now 13, has grown up knowing her father only through the glass of a prison window.
Yarmouk Camp – Syria
Yarmouk situation update, 18 April 2015, Issue No. 17
UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East Report: UNRWA continues to seek secure and unhindered access to Yarmouk itself and stands ready to expand the response in the case of further displacement from the area … UNRWA continued to its humanitarian response to the Yarmouk crisis today, distributing humanitarian assistance to displaced civilians and host communities in Babila for the first time. Over 1,000 food parcels, 1,200 bags of bread and other humanitarian items were provided. UNRWA medical personnel established a mobile health point, treating 254 patients over the course of the day, a 65% increase from 16 April. UNRWA doctors identified 10 cases of hepatitis A, the result of contaminated water supplies in the area. The UNRWA distribution team will seek to access the adjacent area of Beit Saham, which is also hosting displaced civilians, tomorrow. Those receiving assistance are comprised of Palestinian and Syrian families displaced or affected by conflict, including host communities. UNRWA missions deliver a broad range of critical humanitarian materials to each of these families, including food, medical supplies, water purification treatments, mattresses, blankets, family kitchen sets and hygiene kits … The vulnerability of civilians in Yarmouk remains of the highest severity. UNRWA is deeply concerned that without access, the most basic humanitarian needs of up to 18,000 Palestinian and Syrian civilians, including 3,500 children, continue to be left unmet
Inside Yarmouk: Islamic State deepens Palestinian misery
Los Angeles Times 17 Apr by Jamal — For weeks, Islamic State militants, aided by Al Nusra Front, waged a street war in Syria’s Yarmouk refugee camp against Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis, an anti-government battalion. Snipers targeted anything that moved. The Syrian government also launched aerial attacks targeting civilian areas, including dropping about 50 barrel bombs, two of them on Palestinian Hospital this month. Reports that Islamic State has left Yarmouk are inaccurate; it has merely redistributed its forces in the camp and Al Nusra remains as well. The residents’ situation is still dire. The Islamic State attacks started April 1, but the Assad regime first sealed off Yarmouk from the outside world in 2013. This 2-year-long siege made me feel old before my time. I was born in Yarmouk in 1989 and lived there until recently, when I had to leave for my safety. Yarmouk is where more than 180,000 Palestinians once lived, made refugees in 1948 by the creation of Israel. All but 14,000 to 15,000 have now fled. Not allowed to return to land and homes taken from us decades ago, those who remain are trapped and are struggling desperately to stave off the Islamic State assault. The Syrian government has declared the camp a war zone and overseen the systematic destruction of our heritage, houses and future. It has prevented aid deliveries, which means no medical supplies for the wounded, no food for the survivors; water was cut off in September. By 2014, at least 200 camp residents had died, most of starvation, as reported by Amnesty International. “I am thirsty — we haven’t had water for some days now. After all this, will we die from water scarcity?” was the message a friend, trapped in a different part of Yarmouk, texted me recently … In our greatest hour of need in 66 years, we want to return home, to Palestine. And if that is too much for the international community to bear, we need to be evacuated to a place where we can live with dignity and rights, and without fear of yet another Nakba, another catastrophic dispossession.
Israel and Palestinians ‘reach accord’ on frozen taxes
Al Jazeera 18 Apr — Israel has agreed to transfer in full hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes collected for the Palestinian Authority but frozen in a row over the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Palestinian president said. Mahmoud Abbas said that “There is an agreement; the money will be sent in full.” Israeli officials on Saturday confirmed an agreement was sealed on the taxes, while the media said the transfer of $459m (1.8 billion shekels) would take place on Monday. Israel froze the tax transfers as punishment in January, after the Palestinians applied to join the International Criminal Court – a step that could pave the way for possible war crimes charges against Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced after his re-election last month that the transfers would resume as a humanitarian gesture … The monthly funds account for two-thirds of the Palestinians’ annual budget, excluding foreign aid. Israel agreed at the start of April to release the funds after deducting debts due for electricity, water and medical services, a proposal rejected by the Palestinians who insisted on full payment. Palestininian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said the PA, once the funds are received, will firstly pay the April salaries of its 180,000 employees, who have been receiving only 60 percent of their wages since December. The deficit will also be paid “as soon as possible”, Hamdallah said … Although transfer freezes have been imposed many times, they have rarely lasted more than one or two months, except in 2006 when Hamas won a landslide victory in Palestinian legislative polls and Israel withheld the funds for six months.
Palestinian court drops case against ex-Gaza strongman
RAMALLAH (AFP) 19 Apr – A Palestinian court on Sunday dismissed a high-profile corruption case against exiled Gaza strongman Mohammed Dahlan, in a move that could open the door for his return to the occupied territories. It was an unexpected end to a case which began in December with the former top Fatah official put on trial in connection with the alleged misuse of $17 million (15 million euros) in expenses. The Ramallah-based corruption court ruled on Sunday that the charges against Dahlan — once a leading figure in Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah party — were “inadmissable”, his legal team said … The ruling was hailed by Dahlan as a victory for the Palestinian judicial system. “I very much welcome the court’s decision — it is a ruling which serves justice and enhances the status of the Palestinian judicial system,” he wrote on his Facebook page. Once a leading Fatah figure who headed Gaza’s powerful security apparatus, Dahlan fell from grace in June 2007 after the humiliating rout of his forces by Hamas in week-long street battles that saw the Islamists expel Fatah from the coastal enclave. Now in exile in Dubai, he has faced a series of legal cases, but is still considered a potent potential rival to Abbas, close aides say … The Gaza-born politician was expelled from Fatah in 2011 over allegations of financial corruption and murder, and his name draws both loathing and admiration on the Palestinian street….
Freedom Theater play takes new look at Nativity Church siege
JENIN (Ma‘an) 19 Apr by Alex Shams — In a small alley hidden among the hardscrabble streets of Jenin refugee camp, memories of the bloody Israeli siege of Palestine’s most famous church are being revived. Unlike most memorials, however, this commemoration includes neither a march nor a statue. Instead, the attack on the Church of the Nativity in 2002 is being recounted in theatrical form, and the voices of the Palestinian fighters as well as the priests involved are being brought to the fore exactly 13 years later. The play “The Siege” is a production of the Freedom Theater, one of Palestine’s most famous theater groups and a long time proponent of resistance against occupation through art. With their latest work — which has toured the West Bank since its April 4 opening and is slated to reach the United Kingdom in the coming weeks — they hope to retell a story that once gripped the global public but which the directors say has been little understood until now. – Morality in warfare – “The Siege” focuses on the plight of five Palestinian fighters stuck in the Church of Nativity during the 39-day Israeli siege in April-May 2002. At the time, Israel was conducting a massive campaign against Palestinian resistance groups in the West Bank, and during the invasion of Bethlehem a few dozen armed men as well as policemen and civilians sought sanctuary in the Church, where 200 priests and other church officials were staying. The church leaders accepted the request for sanctuary following an age-old custom, but the Israeli military shocked the world by responding with attacks on the ancient holy place that left eight dead, including a man shot and killed by a sniper while tolling the church bells. At the end of the siege, which left the hundreds inside with little food or water and at constant risk of Israeli fire, the fighters were eventually pressured into accepting an agreement that forced them into exile.
Bereaved families try to block joint Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day event
Haaretz 19 Apr — More than 100 bereaved families sent a letter to Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on Sunday, asking him to prevent Palestinian families from entering Israel to take part in a joint Memorial Day ceremony. “The ceremony is a provocation that demeans Memorial Day and the memory of the state’s fallen soldiers,” said the letter, according to Army Radio. Prompted by the Samaria Settler Council, 107 families signed the letter, which asks Ya’alon to prevent Palestinian families from getting visas to enter Israel to take part in the event scheduled to take place Tuesday at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds. The settler group is also planning a protest outside the event, according to Army Radio. “We are horrified that the Israeli government allows a joint ceremony to take place that commemorates enemies who participated in the killing and harming of our children, who enlisted to protect our nation and land, and our children living in Israel who met their deaths just because they were Jewish,” the letter continued. The letter added that it is “inconceivable” that the organizations Combatants for Peace and the Israeli-Palestinian Bereaved Families for Peace, which organize the joint Memorial Day event, should be able to transform the day into one commemorating enemies of Israel. The families also asked Ya’alon to amend the Memorial Day for the Fallen of Israel’s Wars Law in order to prevent ceremonies that equate Israeli and Palestinian bereavement from taking place in the future. Combatants for Peace issued a statement in response to the letter, saying in part, “Precisely on this difficult day, we call on both sides to acknowledge the pain and the hope of those living on the other side of the fence, and to try to prevent the next war. Then, perhaps on Memorial Day next year, we will not have to tally additional victims.”
Arab guest houses in Israel thriving under the radar
KAFR KANA (Haaretz) 19 Apr by Judy Maltz — Marwa’s Inn doesn’t appear on any tourist maps of northern Israel. Nor does it have a proper address with a street name and number. But first-time visitors need not get overly frustrated. Marwa Taha Abu Rany, the 29-year-old proprietress of this brand new guesthouse in the Galilee, is more than happy to deliver the following helpful instructions over the phone: “When you arrive in town, just give me a call and I’ll direct you.” It’s as easy as that, and after a few twists and turns off the main road, the sight of a woman dressed in a long embroidered dress waving from the second-floor porch of an otherwise inconspicuous building indicates that the visitors have arrived at their destination. Marwa’s Inn is the latest addition to a growing list of charming guesthouses to open recently in Arab towns around Israel … Down south in the Bedouin village of Lakiya, Amal Abu Karen is also determined to breathe new life into an old place. That old place is the Huriya Palace, a huge mud house built by her ancestors, who were spice traders in the area more than 200 years ago. “It was the first permanent structure in the Negev,” boasts Abu Karen, an oncological nurse by profession who began dabbling in the hospitality business a few years ago….
The settlers’ military informant
Ynet 18 Apr by Oded Shalom, Akiva Novik — Corporal Elad Selah allegedly read 15,000 classified documents, gathering the information the Shin Bet had on his friends from Bat Ayin and warning them of impending arrests — … He looks completely harmless.But the indictment filed against him this week tells an incredible story with him at its center – him, and a massive security breach in the Military Intelligence’s computer system … Police first started suspecting an intelligence leak after the Al-Huda Mosque in Jab‘a, a village near Bat-Ayin, was set on fire two months earlier. Worshipers who arrived at the mosque for morning prayers put out the fire and found Hebrew graffiti and a Star of David sprayed on the mosque’s walls.”We launched an investigation,” says Superintendent Erez Amuyal from the Nationalist Crimes Unit. “When we went on an undercover mission, it failed. Meaning, we came to the suspects in Bat Ayin, and they weren’t home. We launched an internal intelligence probe, and at first we didn’t know who the source of the leak was….
Israel PM to request extra time for forming govt
JERUSALEM (AFP) 18 Apr — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to make a formal request for extra time to piece together a new government, the president’s office said Sunday. After a surprise election victory, Netanyahu was on March 25 tasked by President Reuven Rivlin with forming the next government and given four weeks to do so. With the deadline fast approaching, the Israeli leader was to formally request an extension of up to two weeks at a working meeting with Rivlin on Monday morning, the president’s office said in a statement.
The lighter side
Gazans build bottle boat
[with photos] AFP 18 Apr — Five Palestinians from coastal strip scrap together a 13-foot vessel out of some 1,000 green plastic bottles — With little to do and nowhere to go, five Palestinians stuck in the Gaza Strip came up with a plan: make a boat out of recycled plastic bottles. The tiny coastal enclave, home to 1.8 million people, has been under a land and sea blockade since 2006. Both Israel and Egypt enforce a strict closure of the coastal territory. And as for the Mediterranean Sea, Gazans can only venture to six nautical miles offshore before they face interception by the Israeli navy. We wanted to break the depression that comes from being stuck in Gaza,” said Bahaa Obeid, a 25-year-electrician who built the boat with his lawyer cousin Mohamed Obeid, also 25. For three months the five friends shaped and welded scrap metal to form a rigid frame before fitting it out with nearly 1,000 green plastic bottles. “It took some time to make because we only had six hours of electricity a day,” said Bahaa. They spent about $500 on their creation, a four-meter (13-foot) vessel two meters wide that now flies the Palestinian flag. “We can go out fishing or just for a cruise,” said Mohamed. “It’s something new, maybe a bit bizarre,” he said of the bright green boat that has been attracting attention on the Gaza shore.
Palestinians learn to overcome rocky times in the West Bank
YABRUD, Palestine (The National) 19 Apr — Gripping tightly with her hands, her feet searching for a foothold, Salwa Khashan edges along a sheer rock face in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, urged on by friends below. She and her fellow climbers are the first group of Palestinians to win climbing certificates after graduating from a three-day “Wadi Climbing” course just north of Ramallah. “It taught me a lot,” said Ms Khashan, who lives in East Jerusalem. “I learned to push myself and to use my mental strength to find the way up, to deal with the physical pain and push myself to the top,” she said. For the 23-year-old and her small group of fellow climbers it has been a voyage of discovery thanks to two young Americans with a love of climbing and a determination to share their passion with others.
Opinion / Analysis
A defeat for Israel, a victory for settlers and BDS / Lara Friedman
Haaretz 19 Apr — The High Court’s decision to uphold the so-called Anti-Boycott Law will, regrettably, be a boon to Israeli settlers and their supporters, whilst giving a gift to activists worldwide who support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. By approving legislation to curb boycotts of Israel and “areas under its control,” the High Court effectively equated the two, giving a kosher stamp (deliberately or not) to Israel’s control of territory beyond the Green Line, and in doing so legitimized Israeli settlements. Settlers and their supporters will be overjoyed at this victory, for it is not about economics (nobody ever argued that boycotts would financially dry up settlements) but, rather, politics. With this ruling, the High Court has taken a step toward formalizing and codifying Israel’s de-facto annexation of the West Bank, by further erasing the Green Line, and shackling to the settlements the 96 percent of Israelis who live inside “Israel proper,” including the many who have zero interest in seeing their futures being hijacked by and tied to the settlers’ expansionist, Greater-Israel agenda. Joining the settlers in celebrating this ruling will be activists from the opposite end of the political spectrum: those who support the BDS movement, including those who are plainly anti-Israel … If the settlers are overjoyed to see the High Court rule that settlements must be treated like Israel, these BDS activists are equally happy to see the High Court rule that Israel is, in effect, no different to the settlements
Slow violence, cold violence — Teju Cole on East Jerusalem
The Guardian 17 Apr — Why the viciousness of modern Israeli law directed against Palestinians must be taken as seriously as the cruelties of war — …the Israeli oppression of Palestinian people is not necessarily – or at least not always – as crude as western media can make it seem. It is in fact extremely refined, and involves a dizzying assemblage of laws and bylaws, contracts, ancient documents, force, amendments, customs, religion, conventions and sudden irrational moves, all mixed together and imposed with the greatest care. The impression this insistence on legality confers, from the Israeli side, is of an infinitely patient due process that will eventually pacify the enemy and guarantee security. The reality, from the Palestinian side, is of a suffocating viciousness. The fate of Palestinian Arabs since the nakba has been to be scattered and oppressed by different means: in the West Bank, in Gaza, inside the 1948 borders, in Jerusalem, in refugee camps abroad, in Jordan, in the distant diaspora. In all these places, Palestinians experience restrictions on their freedom and on their movement. To be Palestinian is to be hemmed in. Much of this is done by brute military force from the Israeli Defence Forces – killing for which no later accounting is possible – or on an individual basis in the secret chambers of the Shin Bet. But a lot of it is done according to Israeli law, argued in and approved by Israeli courts, and technically legal, even when the laws in question are bad laws and in clear contravention of international standards and conventions.
In Israel’s army, more officers now religious. What that means.
Christian Science Monitor 17 Apr by Christa Case Bryant — …In the early 1990s, when Lt. Eitan Fund was born, Orthodox men accounted for 2.5 percent of graduates of infantry officer training courses; since then, it’s grown to more than 25 percent, according to a 2013 book. In some combat units, they make up as much as 50 percent of new officers – roughly quadruple their share of Israel’s population. The upward trend, coupled with a parallel decline in the number of combat soldiers and officers coming from secular families, is dramatically changing the face of the IDF. Many Israelis respect religious Zionists like Fund – Orthodox Jews who see the state as playing a part in the prophesied redemption of Israel – for their willingness to defend the nation. But some worry that their worldview could change the character not only of the army – traditionally a secular “people’s army,” where youngsters of all stripes forged lasting bonds during their mandatory two- to three-year service – but the state of Israel itself. One of the most cited concerns is that if Israel agreed to a peace deal with Palestinians, the outsized influence of religious soldiers could complicate the IDF’s evacuation of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. “There was sort of a vacuum, which the religious camp entered,” says Amos Harel, author of “The New Face of the IDF,” and veteran military correspondent for the liberal newspaper Haaretz. “There are troubling trends from within Israeli democracy and the state of Israel that will start affecting how the army conducts itself. But those fears have not been proven yet.”
Israel’s Low Court of Justice helps perpetuate the occupation / Gideon Levy
Haaretz 19 Apr — The institution that has always betrayed its role as the guardian of human rights, international law and justice in the West Bank is continuing its inglorious tradition — The process of tearing off the masks and lifting the veils is in full swing — now at the High Court of Justice as well. Last week saw three disgraceful rulings [upholding the so-called anti-boycott law, barring ‘security prisoners’ from formal study] that expose its real image. We can now no longer talk loftily about “the beacon of justice” or the “guardian of influence.” The great and illustrious names — Meir Shamgar, Aharon Barak and Dorit Beinisch — have been replaced by gray jurists. But actually, nothing has changed. The institution that has always betrayed its role as the guardian of human rights, international law, equality and justice in the occupied territories is continuing its inglorious tradition. Now we’ve lost the pretention and superficiality — and it’s better that way. Israel has never had someone to guard its ethical image in light of the crimes of the occupation. Israel has to deal with the issue most fateful for its image and future without the High Court. It’s time to acknowledge this and draw the necessary conclusions.