Violence / Detentions – West Bank, Jerusalem
Palestinian shot after stab attempt in Hebron’s Old City
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 20 Dec — Israeli forces on Sunday shot a Palestinian near an Israeli military checkpoint at the entrance of al-Shuhada street in Hebron’s Old City after she attempted to carry out a stabbing attack. Witnesses told Ma‘an that a 35-year-old woman from a Hebron-area village attempted to stab a soldier before she was shot in the head with a rubber-coated steel bullet. According to witnesses, a young Palestinian man approached the woman and attempted to help her but was prevented when he was also shot by a rubber-coated steel bullet. Palestinian Red Crescent paramedics then gave the woman medical treatment on site before she was taken into custody by Israeli soldiers, witnesses added. Israeli media reported that the woman was in moderate to serious condition after being shot.
PHOTOS: Israeli forces injure 3 Palestinians before shooting tear gas at bypassers in the market of Hebron
AL-KHALIL, Occupied Palestine 20 Dec by ISM, al-Khalil Team — Sunday, 20th December 2015, Israeli forces shot and injured three Palestinians at Shuhada checkpoint in occupied al-Khalil (Hebron), before arbitrarily firing towards civilians and journalists in the area. Israeli forces shot a girl in the head with live ammunition. A Palestinian bystander, trying to help the girl and pull her towards the Palestinian side of the checkpoint right after she was shot, was shot in the mouth by Israeli forces. The man was trying to help, knowing that Israeli forces would most likely deny the girl any medical aid if the Palestinian ambulance was unable to reach her. Another Palestinian bystander was shot.
The Palestinian girl, according to eyewitnesses, did have a knife, but instead of trying to disarm her, Israeli forces directly shot her in the head. Whereas the Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance, at the scene after only a few minutes, was denied access to the girl in order to deliver first aid, the two Palestinians injured were taken to hospital. After this happened, the Israeli forces threw stun grenades and shot tear-gas at passers-by and Red Crescent medics to prevent them from coming any closer and seeing what happened. Journalists that arrived at the scene were also attacked with stun grenades and threatened by Israeli forces with rubber coated steel bullets.
Israeli forces entered the H1-side of al-Khalil that is under full Palestinian control, running into the Palestinian market and indiscriminately shooting tear gas at civilians going about their everyday life. They entered the roof of a Palestinian family’s home to use it as a base for shooting tear gas and rubber coated steel bullets at Palestinians in the street. A 5-year old boy was injured when Israeli forces fired directly at a school-bus passing by the checkpoint.
Israeli forces injure teen in Kafr Qaddum
QALQILIYA (Ma‘an) 19 Dec — A Palestinian teenager was shot and injured Saturday in clashes with Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank village of Kafr Qaddum. A spokesperson for the Fatah movement in the Qalqiliya district, Murad Shtewei, told Ma‘an that a 17-year-old was “ambushed by Israeli forces” before he was shot with a live bullet in the thigh and a rubber-coated steel bullet in the knee. Israeli forces then chased the teen down to arrest him, but he managed to escape despite his injuries, Shtewei added. An Israeli army spokesperson did not have immediate information on the incident. Around 150 Palestinians were shot and injured on Friday during clashes across the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, joining the over 11,000 Palestinians to be injured by Israeli military forces since the beginning of October.
Two children injured by Israeli army fire in Qalandia
IMEMC/Agencies 20 Dec — Palestinian medical sources have reported, Saturday, that two children were shot and injured by Israeli army fire, in the Qalandia refugee camp, north of occupied Jerusalem . . . The two were shot, in their homes, during armed clashes between Palestinian fighters and Israeli soldiers. The sources said Fida’ Shweiki, 14, was shot in the abdomen while in her home, facing the Qalandia terminal, after the soldiers randomly opened fire, targeting homes and stores, while another child was shot in his arm. A number of Palestinians also hurled explosive charges on the soldiers, and exchanged fire with them, approximately for twenty minutes.
Israeli forces shoot 9 university students on Tulkarem campus
TULKAREM (Ma‘an) 20 Dec — At least 9 Palestinian students were shot and injured on Sunday when clashes broke out with Israeli forces outside a university in the occupied West Bank city of Tulkarem. Clashes erupted after a group of Israeli soldiers deployed at an Israeli military base illegally set up on the campus of Palestine Technical University- Kadoorie, locals told Ma‘an. Soldiers reportedly advanced towards university buildings where they were confronted by students throwing stones. Palestinian medical sources at Tulkarem’s public hospital told Ma‘an that several students were evacuated in Palestinian Red Crescent ambulances following the clashes. Four of the victims were hit with live ammunition in their lower extremities and five others were injured by rubber-coated steel bullets, medics said, adding that a paramedic was injured by a rubber-coated steel bullet while evacuating students. Dozens of others suffered from excessive tear gas inhalation, medics added . . . Violence on the campus of Palestine Technical University has been near-daily in recent weeks.
Home of Raanana attack suspect raided, 4 shot
TUBAS (Ma‘an) 20 Dec — Four Palestinians were shot and injured after Israeli forces raided the occupied West Bank village of Tammun, hometown of the suspect of a stab attack that left three Israelis injured the day before, locals said. Local sources told Ma‘an that Israeli soldiers entered the village around 3:00 a.m and ransacked the home of Mahmoud Faisal Bsharat, 20, who was detained Saturday after carrying out the attack in Raanana, north of Tel Aviv. Clashes then broke out between Palestinian youths and Israeli forces, locals said, leaving one shot by live fire and three others hit with rubber-coated steel bullets. All were transferred to the Turkey hospital in the nearby town of Tubas for medical treatment, locals added . . . Bsharat on Saturday stabbed three Israelis in the Israeli city of Raanana, leaving one moderately injured and two lightly injured, Israeli police said at the time. Locals told Ma‘an that Bsharat’s family evacuated their home in Tammun following the attack out of fear that it would be demolished by Israeli forces.
Israeli forces raid Duheisha refugee camp, West Bank
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 21 Dec — Israeli forces early Monday stormed the Duheisha refugee camp south of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank during an arrest raid, locals said. Locals told Ma‘an that snipers deployed on rooftops as groups of soldiers surrounded the home of 24-year-old Salih Jueidi, a resident of the camp. Jueidi’s home was searched before Israeli soldiers detained him. Locals across the camp told Ma‘an that they came under heavy tear gas fire as well as live ammunition when military vehicles and undercover forces that raided the camp remained in the area following the arrest. Several residents of Duheisha were evacuated to the hospital following tear gas inhalation, and military forces stayed in the camp as rush hour began, obstructing travel for students and workers leaving for their morning commute. Locals said that exams for several students began this week, noting that Israeli military activity often increases during finals.
PHOTOS: Palestinian Santa Clauses clash with Border Police in Bethlehem
Activestills 20 Dec by Anne Paq — A week before Christmas, Palestinians dressed up as Santa Claus marched toward the separation wall in Bethlehem last Friday, where they clashed with Israeli Border Police. The protesters chanted slogans and held up posters with messages such as “For Christmas I want every Palestinian child back home,” in reference to the children who have been arrested by Israeli soldiers over the past two months. The nonviolent Santa Claus march was dispersed with tear gas, after which young men from Bethlehem began throwing stones at the police officers, who fired more tear gas, along with rubber-coated bullets and live fire. At least three Palestinians were wounded.
VIDEO: Palestinian Christians dressed as Santa Claus march against Israeli occupation
MEE 19 Dec by Abed al Qaisi — Palestinian Christians say they have often become invisible in the Israel-Palestine conflict behind the perceived schism between Judaism and Islam. In the run-up to Christmas 2015, Palestinian Christians in Bethlehem dressed up as Santa Claus and gave out gifts to activists and took part in actions against Israeli occupation troops.
Palestinian youth set Israeli control tower on fire near Nablus
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 20 Dec — Palestinian youths late Saturday threw Molotov cocktails at an Israeli control tower near the occupied West Bank village of Nabi Saleh north of Ramallah, setting it ablaze, locals said. Locals told Ma‘an that Israeli soldiers responded with flares and live ammunition. No injuries were reported. Israeli forces carried out a search raid of nearby homes after the incident and closed the main road leading into Nabi Saleh as well as nearby villages, checking vehicles . . . With less than a thousand residents, Nabi Saleh is one of the smaller villages in the occupied West Bank, however the community is often a flashpoint site, with clashes, night raids, closures and detentions carried out frequently by Israeli forces. Residents of Nabi Saleh have since 2009 held weekly protests against the confiscation the village’s land for the establishment and expansion of the illegal Halamish settlement.
Settlers beat farmer and son near Bethlehem
IMEMC/Agencies 19 Dec — Israeli settlers, Saturday morning, physically assaulted and briefly detained a Palestinian farmer and his son in Tuqu‘ town, southeast of Bethlehem, said a municipal source. WAFA correspondence reported head of Tuqu‘ local council, Taysir Abu Mefreh, as saying that ‘Ali Hmaid, 60, and his son, Eyad, in his 30s, were attacked by a number of settlers from Tekoa illegal settlement while they were plowing their land in Rakhma locality. Settlers reportedly briefly detained Ali and his son, forcing them to lie face down on the ground. They also seized their tractor. Tuqu‘, a town dating back to 1948, has a population of about 9,000 who originate from ‘Arab al-Ta‘amra. The town includes three other localities: Khirbet Ad Deir, Al Halkoom, and Khirbet Tuqu‘. According to the Tuqu‘ Town Profile published by the Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem, thirty percent of the town population work in agriculture. Workers in agriculture are classified as one of the vulnerable social groups in the town. The town population also depend on livestock for their livelihood . . . Following Israeli occupation in 1967, Israel confiscated 1,436 dunams belonging to the town for the construction of Tekoa, Mshoki Dargot and Mizpe Shalem settlements and six other settlement outposts. Tekoa settlement was established in 1977 on a total area of 1,071 dunams confiscated from the town. Settlers have frequently attacked Palestinians shepherds grazing their sheep on their land adjacent to the settlements and torched olive orchards.
Army turns home into military outpost by force of arms
JENIN (WAFA) 20 Dec – Israeli forces Sunday used excessive force while raiding and taking over a Palestinian house in the town of Ya‘bod to the southwest of Jenin, said a local official. Head of Ya‘bod municipality, Samer Abu Baker, told WAFA that armed soldiers raided the house of local Yehya Abu Shamleh, and prevented its occupants from leaving, after taking over the house by force of arms, sparking a heated argument between them. Forces reportedly terrorized the family members and fired in the air, as they turned the house into a military outpost in order to secure Israeli settlers’ movement in the area, particularly settlers from the nearby settlement of Mabo Dotan, built illegally on the town’s land. To be noted, this the third such attack carried out by the army against the abovementioned home. Later on Sunday, a number of locals suffocated after inhaling tear gas used against them by Israeli armed soldiers during clashes that erupted in the town.
Hundreds mourn 14-year-old after Israel returns body to family
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — Hundreds of Palestinians late Friday mourned in the funeral of 14-year-old Hadeel Wajih Awwad from the Qalandiya refugee camp whose body was held by Israeli authorities for nearly a month. Awwad was killed by Israeli forces and her 16-year-old cousin was shot and critically injured after they reportedly carried out a stab attack with scissors in West Jerusalem’s Mahaneh Yehuda market on Nov. 23. Video footage of the incident shows an Israeli security guard shooting the girls several times after they had both fallen to the ground. Awwad’s body was one of several to be withheld inside of Israel after Israel’s security cabinet announced in October that the bodies of Palestinians shot dead by Israeli forces after carrying out attacks on Israelis would no longer be returned to their families. Israeli officials delivered the teen’s body to Palestinian liaison officers at the Ofer detention center west of Ramallah. Her body was taken to the Palestine Medical Complex where it was examined by coroners, before being carried to her family home in Qalandiya refugee camp north of Ramallah. After relatives bid the young teen a final farewell, mourners then carried Awwad to a main mosque in the camp, where hundreds performed a funeral prayer before laying her body to rest in al-Shuhada (Martyrs) cemetery inside of the camp. The 14-year-old was the second child from the Awwad family to be buried in the cemetery, with her brother shot and killed by Israeli forces during clashes in the camp in 2013. She was one of nearly 30 Palestinians under the age of 18 to be killed since Oct. 1.
Funeral held for Palestinian shot in chest during Friday clashes
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 19 Dec — Palestinians from the town of Sinjil mourned Saturday in the funeral of Nashaat Jamal Asfour, 33, who succumbed to his wounds after being shot by Israeli forces on Friday. Asfour died hours after he was critically injured with an explosive bullet in the chest during clashes with Israeli forces, according to medics. A military funeral set off from the Palestine Medical Center in the city of Ramallah towards Sinjil, which lies around 21 kilometers northeast of the occupied West Bank city. Israeli forces reportedly prevented the passage of vehicles in the funeral procession from driving from Ramallah to Sinjil, except for Palestinian ambulances in the caravan. Mourners in Sinjil marched from Asfour’s family home towards the town’s mosque where they performed prayers before heading to the cemetery for burial. Shops in the nearby Ramallah and al-Bireh cities were closed on Saturday in mourning of Asfour’s death after national and Islamic forces announced a strike to take place from the morning until 12:00 p.m. The 33-year-old was the third Palestinian to die on Friday . . . Friday’s deaths brought the total number of Palestinians killed from direct confrontations with Israeli military forces and settlers since Oct. 1 to 126.
Negev martyr laid to rest
NEGEV (PIC) 20 Dec — Palestinians in the Negev participated in the funeral procession of Muhanad al-Aqabi on Sunday morning after the Israeli authorities finally delivered his body to his family. Sheikh of the Aqabi Tribe in the Negev in southern 1948 Palestine, Sheikh Said al-Aqabi said that the family refused some of the conditions for the delivery of his body and accepted others after which his body was handed over to his family at midnight Saturday. He pointed out that the Israeli authorities put the condition that no more than 50 persons should participate in the funeral of Muhanad. The Israeli authorities have been withholding the body of Muhanad since 18/10/2015 when he was killed by Israeli policemen after shooting and killing an Israeli policemen and a settler and wounding 11 others at the central bus station in Beersheba. The Israeli authorities have since then turned down several appeals by his family for the delivery of his body that culminated with protests and a general strike for Arab schools.
Lawyer: Israel to hand over bodies of Jerusalem Palestinians
[with photos] JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 19 Dec– Israeli authorities are expected to hand over the bodies of Palestinians from Jerusalem that were killed during attacks on Israeli military and civilians in recent months, a lawyer for a prisoners’ rights group said. Muhammad Mahmoud, lawyer for prisoners’ rights group Addameer, told Ma‘an that he met with Israeli intelligence officials in the Russian Compound police station in West Jerusalem who said that “positive news” could come regarding the return of the bodies. The officials did not specify at which time the bodies might be returned to their families, or how many would be turned over. The bodies of 13 Palestinians — including 4 minors — shot dead in Jerusalem since Oct. 8 were withheld after Israel’s security cabinet announced that bodies of Palestinians killed after carrying out attacks on Israelis would no longer be returned to their families. The decision was made on Oct. 13 in order to stem protests that frequently accompany the funerals of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces, a spokesperson for Israel’s Public Security Ministry said at the time. . . The 13 bodies of Jerusalemite Palestinians are among dozens of bodies that have yet to be returned, recently sparking protests across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. . .
Israel has for decades buried Palestinians who died during attacks on Israelis in “numbers cemeteries,” also referred to as “cemeteries for the enemy dead.” Around 262 bodies are believed to be be buried inside of Israel in nameless graves marked with numbers, not including 19 bodies of Palestinians which were buried inside of Israel during and after the 2014 Gaza war, as well as those held since October of this year.
Israeli killings and raids make for a dark Christmas at Bethlehem refugee camp
BETHLEHEM (The National) 19 Dec by Ben Lynfield — This Christmas season in Bethlehem, death, depression and anger are in the air at ‘Aida refugee camp, three kilometres from Nativity Church. ‘Aida, wedged between Israel’s West Bank separation barrier and an army checkpoint, has been a major flashpoint of clashes during the two-and-a-half-month-old wave of violence known in the Palestinian media as the haba shaabiya or popular rising. At least 126 Palestinians and 19 Israelis have been killed since the beginning of October, according to the Palestinian Ma‘an news agency. Five of the Palestinian dead were from the Bethlehem area and two from ‘Aida camp, including Abdul Rahman Shadi Obeidallah, 13, who camp residents say was killed by a sniper on October 5 as he stood in the street with friends. A senior army officer said he was killed “unintentionally” as he stood near the target of the gunfire during clashes. In the heart of the camp is a larger-than-life picture of the smiling, brown-eyed boy. “My soul will remain here, chasing the killer and motivating my classmates,” reads the inscription next to Obeidallah’s picture. At a shoe shop just inside the camp, salesman Mohammed Mashtayeh, 19, has Santa Claus slippers on display for the festive season, but no customers. He says frequent clashes have forced him to close for much of the past ten weeks and that fear of violence has scared people away even when the shop is open. . . .
Medics risk lives on front lines of West Bank clashes
RAMALLAH, occupied West Bank (19 Dec) by Jonathan Brown — Amid a wave of violence in Israel and Palestine, dozens of medics have been injured while trying to save others — A rubber-coated steel bullet slams into the side of Khalid Abu Qare’s ambulance, leaving a large dent. Clashes have broken out between Palestinian protesters and the Israeli army in front of Israel’s Ofer prison on the outskirts of Ramallah. Beyond a fog of tear gas, orange flames and black smoke from burning tires, a Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) ambulance crew is waiting to treat injured protesters. Abu Qare is among them. “Medical staff and ambulances are supposed to be protected under international law,” he told Al Jazeera, “but not everything that’s supposed to be happens in real life.” Abu Qare, 20, a full-time student at Birzeit University, is among 150 Palestinian PRCS volunteer medics in the West Bank who are trained to treat injured protesters during violent confrontations with Israeli security forces. The volunteer medics work on the frontlines of clashes, often risking their own lives to save others. “Since October, PRCS has been at emergency level,” said Abu Qare, who has been a volunteer with the society for six years. “So you have to be on standby 24 hours. You don’t know what will happen, but you have to be ready for anything.” . . . Under articles 20 and 21 of the fourth Geneva Convention, to which the state of Israel is a signatory, medical staff operating in occupied territories must be “respected and protected”. However, since 2000, 25 PRCS medical staff and volunteers have died on duty. Most recently, two staff died during Israel’s 2014 war on Gaza. . . .
Palestinian sisters cuffed, manhandled and beaten, for alleged traffic offense
Haaretz 20 Dec by Amira Hass — Two women, Israeli citizens from East Jerusalem, reveal what happened to them when they asked not to be unnecessarily detained at a checkpoint in Ma’aleh Adumim. The traffic report is signed by Yogev Pia, from Ma’aleh Adumim police station. The amount: 500 shekels ($128). Date: November 18. Offense: Obstructing traffic and refusal to move vehicle from the roadside. Place: Checkpoint at northern entrance to Ma’aleh Adumim. Time: 8:20 A.M. But the ticket was issued at around 12 noon, so what happened to the two sisters who received the ticket in the intervening hours? The story started early that morning when Dunia, 38, drove her younger sister Amal, 32 (not their real names), to the West Bank settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim to buy a few items for her hairdressing salon. The sisters were born in East Jerusalem and are Israeli citizens (their father had applied for and received citizenship before they were born). Dunia’s head is covered with a scarf, Amal’s hair gathered in a ponytail. Dunia works for a Palestinian-Israeli company in the Mishor Adumim industrial zone. Amal, who used to work in a hairdressing salon in Ma’aleh Adumim, recently opened her own salon in East Jerusalem. Both women are well known in the settlement, which they enter and leave regularly, and both speak fluent Hebrew. That morning, the female security guard at the settlement checkpoint didn’t suffice with checking the sisters’ ID cards and demanded that they wait by the side of the road. The sisters asked her to inspect the car but not to delay them for no reason, as they didn’t want to be late for a meeting. The guard apparently didn’t like their assertiveness and said she would call the police, the two said. “Call the police, we have no problem with that,” one of the sisters replied. All the while, cars drove by into the settlement without disturbance. When a police vehicle appeared and a policeman got out, they assumed at first it was a coincidence. Still, Amal got out of her car to explain to him what was going on, and they got the impression he understood they were being detained for no reason. But then a second policeman followed him out of the car with handcuffs. “Be quiet, don’t talk, you’re busted,” he told Amal, the sisters later recalled. He demanded that Amal hold her hands out to be manacled. She refused – because she didn’t understand why and because of the pain her arthritis was causing in her hands. A bus drove up and was about to enter the settlement. Sgt. Maj. Pia – the “violent cop,” as the sisters called him – grabbed Amal and threw her toward the bus, then grabbed her hands and cuffed them behind her back. “And then, I don’t know why, he started beating me on the back, arms and back of the neck. I cried and shouted,” Amal said . . . [Try here if you can’t access Haaretz to read the rest]
Israeli forces detain 25 Palestinians from across West Bank
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 21 Dec — Israeli forces detained 25 Palestinians from across the occupied West Bank late Sunday and early Monday, a prisoners’ group said. The Palestinian Prisoners’ Society said that 13 of those detained were from the Hebron district. [and 4 from Jerusalem, 3 from Tulkarem, 2 from Bir Nabala, 1 each from Duheisha Camp, Bethlehem, Jit and Silwad.]
Israeli fighter jets perform mock raids over Gaza Strip
GAZA (WAFA) 20 Dec — Israeli warplanes Sunday evening performed several mock air raids over the Gaza Strip. WAFA’s correspondent said loud explosions were heard south, north and in the central Gaza Strip, due to a number of mock air strikes performed by Israeli (F-16) warplanes in Gaza’s skies. Israeli warplanes flew for hours on Sunday evening and launched light heat balloons.
Israeli navy continues to attack fisherman north of Gaza
GAZA (PIC) 19 Dec — The Israeli occupation navy on Saturday morning opened machinegun fire at Palestinian fishing boats off the shore of Beit Lahiya district, in the north of the Gaza Strip, with no reported casualties. Chief of the Palestinian fishermen syndicate Nazar Ayash told the Palestinian Information Center (PIC) that Israeli gunboats chased fishing boats and opened fire at them inside Gaza waters, with no reason.
Scores of Palestinians march in the funeral of Mahmoud Agha
GAZA (PIC) 20 Dec — Hundreds of Palestinians on Saturday marched in the funeral procession of 20-year-old Mahmoud al-Agha, who was killed the day before during clashes with Israeli soldiers east of Khan Younis in southern Gaza. His relatives and friends carried his casket through the streets of Khan Younis before burying him in the cemetery of Gaza City. Deputy head of Hamas’s political bureau Ismail Haneyya, who led the funeral prayer at Ahal Assunnah Mosque in Gaza, hailed in a speech before the mourners the bravery of Agha and the sacrifices of his family. Haneyya said that Gaza does only participate in al-Quds intifada (uprising) with marches and events but also with blood. The Hamas official called for actively supporting and taking part in the intifada in order to achieve the Palestinian people’s aspiration for freedom and victory. Mahmoud al-Agha was shot dead on Friday by Israeli soldiers during an angry protest against the occupation in a border area east of Khan Younis in Gaza. Al-Qassam Brigades of Hamas mourned in a press release the death of Agha and affirmed he was one of its fighters.
IOF arrests two Gazans near border fence
GAZA (PIC) 20 Dec — The Israeli occupation forces (IOF) on Saturday arrested two Palestinian men after they crossed the border between the besieged Gaza Strip and the 1948 occupied lands. Local sources said that Israeli soldiers rounded up two unarmed Palestinians after they infiltrated into an Israeli-controlled area near the perimeter fence, southeast of Gaza City. They added that the men were forced at gunpoint to strip their clothes and then herded together in handcuffs to an unknown destination. The tight blockade on Gaza has created a considerable unemployment problem in Gaza, prompting some young men to risk death or detention as they attempt to enter Israeli occupied territories in order to seek job opportunities.
Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem leads Mass in Gaza on last Sunday of Advent
[with VIDEO] Reuters 20 Dec — Jerusalem’s Latin Patriarch, Fuad Twal, arrived in Gaza on the last Sunday of Advent (December 20), marking the culmination of the festive season ahead of Christmas. Twal arrived at the Strip to visit local Christians who are unable to travel to Bethlehem for Christmas. Christians make up a minority of about 3,500 people out of Gaza’s 1.5 million mostly Muslim population. “We know that last year had many negative aspects. It had violence, displacement, hunger and pain. We hope the new year will be truly new with more justice, equality and national unity,” said Fuad Twal who later led mass in a Gaza city church.
After 2,000 years, Christians disappearing from Gaza
GAZA CITY (USA Today) 20 Dec by Matthew Vickery — Dim lighting and candles softly illuminate decorative tapestries as the smell of incense fills the air and the harmonic sound of hundreds singing in unison drifts onto a busy street next to an overflowing church on a wet and windy Sunday morning. Despite the packed pews at Gaza’s Church of St. Porphyrius just weeks before Christmas, Christianity is not booming here. Rather, the worshipers at the 1,600-year-old shrine believe they may be the last group of Christians in Gaza, where they have lived and prayed since the birth of Jesus. The ongoing Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip and the highest unemployment rate in the world are prompting Christians to leave the besieged area in droves, some using the holiday season to their advantage. Although Israel rarely grants permits to leave the Palestinian territory, dozens of Christians are allowed to visit Bethlehem and Jerusalem during Easter and Christmas, and some take the opportunity to never return home so they can start a new life elsewhere . . . “People might think we’re leaving because of Hamas, but no it’s because of … (Israeli) policies on Gaza,” Jaber Jilder, an official with the Greek Orthodox Church said . . . There are no jobs, especially after university,” Jilder said. “I hear this Christmas about 50 people will leave Gaza … but they won’t return.” “As soon as there is a way for me to leave I will go, and I want to send my sons outside if they get the chance,” he added . . . The Christian population in the West Bank has also been on the decline for similar reasons, said George Abueed, a Palestinian-Christian from Bethlehem.
On the frontline with the Palestinian Red Crescent
HeraldScotland 19 Dec by Matthew Vickery — Embedding with the Red Crescent’s central Gaza team, the Sunday Herald gained unparalleled access as they performed lifesaving duties at the often violent and deadly border clashes. Mundil and Shaban respond with lightening speed to the frantic call. With soldiers shooting, protestors scramble in an attempt to get to shelter, those who trip are scooped up by others as they run past – it’s not a place you want to stay immobile for long. Shot and in shock, Qusai Abu Faris at first lies silent and motionless on the waste-ground, before suddenly clutching at his right leg. Blood begins to soak through his jeans. Seconds before, Abu Faris had been throwing stones towards the direction of the Israeli soldiers. Along with around two dozen young Palestinians at the front of the protest, he had already stopped moving forward towards the chain-link border fence – two hundred metres from their gun-toting and uniformed peers appeared to be as far as he wanted to risk going. Twisting his back, Abu Faris turns to hold his second leg as well. “Quick, quick quick,” Shaban shouts as he assembles the stretcher, bundling the injured teenager onto the bright orange plastic within a matter of seconds. Abu Faris is just 15, but he’s been shot twice, once in each leg. Running towards an ambulance around fifty metres away, Mundil and Shaban try to keep themselves low as they carry the injured boy. Others around them – many helping to carry the stretcher as well – do the same. The soldiers fire is sporadic but hasn’t stopped. The waiting ambulance already has its siren wailing, the backdoors frantically opened by Hassan Attal, a full time medic with the Palestinian Red Crescent. Time is not on Abu Faris’ side. The bleeding in both legs is severe. The wound on his left leg is gaping, he’s been shot with a Dum-Dum bullet, an exploding bullet that consists of a 6mm metal head with an explosive inside that detonates on impact for maximum damage. The use of such bullets has in effect, been considered a war crime since the 1899 Hague Declaration and the International Criminal Court’s Rome Statute. . . unlike the occupied West Bank where protests don’t always result in Israeli live fire, the Gaza border clashes almost always start, continue, and end with live ammunition. Yet despite the violent and deadly nature of the clashes, coverage of events remains limited. “Of course we feel it unfair that the media reaction to what happens in the protests here is less than in the West Bank,” Shaban says. “And they [Israeli Army] are always more aggressive with us here.” Gaza residents like Shaban believe that with fewer eyes watching the protests in Gaza compared to the occupied West Bank, Israeli soldiers have orders to shoot from the outset.
Photos: Clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian youths in eastern Gaza
Demotix 18 Dec by Samar Abu Elouf — Clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian youths in eastern Gaza, near the site of Nahal Oz east Shijia neighbourhood. Soldiers fired live bullets at young people who responded by throwing stones.
Italy contributes over $2 million to Palestinian refugees in Gaza
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 19 Dec — The Italian government contributed 2.18 million euro ($ 2,390,351) to the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) in order to provide food assistance to refugees living in the besieged Gaza Strip, the agency said. UNRWA said in a statement that the donation came as the number of Palestinian refugees in need of food assistance in the coastal enclave has increased tenfold over the last 15 years, and is expected to increase up to 1 million in 2016.
Video: In Gaza, Syrian refugees face hardship and lack of recognition
GAZA CITY (NewsAsia) 19 Dec by Majd Al Waheidi, MediaCorp — Political indifference, bureaucratic hurdles and the realities of life in the Gaza Strip have left Syrian refugees with little hope in their new home. And most now are now looking for a way out to Europe — Abu al Abed al Attar was a successful businessman in the Syrian capital Damascus until he fled his home with his family and came to live in Gaza in July 2012. He left his extended family behind in the war-torn country. And now lives in southern Gaza near the Israel-Gaza border. But now he feels trapped. “My only hope is to get out of here because I’m a peaceful man,” he said. “I’m a civilian and not a militant. I hope to get out of here to Sweden, where I’m in contact with my friends. They live in peace and safety whereas I live in utmost misery.” Abu al Abed’s life here in Gaza is miserable, as he lost everything he had in Syria. Here, he lives with his family with no recognition from either the Hamas administration or the United Nations.Even his Syrian passport has now expired. “As a Syrian family in Gaza, nobody recognises us,” he said. “The identity card is only to identify the person. My children are not registered with Syrian documents.
Palestinian woman in Israeli custody ends hunger strike
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 20 Dec — A Palestinian woman jailed in Israel ended on Sunday an over two-week long hunger strike after Israel’s prison service pledged to meet her demands, a prisoners’ rights group said. The Palestinian Prisoners Center for Studies said that that 30-year-old Ihsan Hasan Dababsa, from the Hebron-area village of Nuba, began the strike after the prison service moved her from Hasharon to al-Damon prison [which also holds Israeli criminals]. Dababsa was transferred with several other women due to overcrowding of the Hasharon prison amid an ongoing arrest campaign taking place across the occupied Palestinian territory. The prisoner ended her strike after Israel’s prison service agreed to transfer her back to Hasharon by mid-January.
Palestinian prisoner in Ramla jail ‘may die at any moment’
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 19 Dec — Palestinian prisoner Bassam Ameen al-Sayeh, 43, from the occupied West Bank city of Nablus, is in serious health condition and “may die at any moment,” the Palestinian Minister of Prisoner Affairs said Saturday. Issa Qaraqe told Ma‘an that al-Sayah is being held in a medical clinic inside of the Ramla prison and suffers from both cancer and heart disease. The prisoner has recently had difficulty breathing, Qaraqe added. The minister urged Israel to release al-Sayah due to his poor health, holding Israel responsible for the detainee’s life. Al-Salah was detained on Oct. 8, 2015 and sentenced to 20 years in Israeli prison.
Child Hadeel … foiled the occupation attempts to indict her mother
PIC 18 Dec — The Jerusalemite mother, Sana Rajabi, 46, accompanied Wednesday morning (16/12/2015) her daughter Hadeel to Qishleh center in the old town of Jerusalem, as she was summoned for investigation for allegedly obstructing a police officer from doing his duty last August. During her interrogation in Qishleh police station, Hadeel Rajabi, 12, did not bow to the Israeli investigator’s threats of arrest if she did not “confess” against her mother. She said: “I will not care about the threats of the investigator, and I will continue to visit al-Aqsa Mosque and chant Takbeers in its courtyards”. “Lawyer Ramsey Ktellat of Qudsuna for Human Rights Institution commented on the interrogation of a little girl in this dangerous method saying: “The Israeli police practice of summoning children to condemn -through their testimonies- their parents, is very dangerous, and is an attempt for dispersal of families”. He stressed, “This is a new violation and a hideous practice carried out by the Israeli police and we reject it entirely.” Breaking the barrier of fear Sana Rajabi, a mother of nine children, is banned by a racist decision issued by the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) from praying at al-Aqsa Mosque for nearly two years, nevertheless, she insists on going to study the Quran daily at its doorstep with her fellow women who are unfairly prevented from praying at it by the Israeli occupation for more than four months
The forced transfer of Palestinian detainees – why it matters
+972 blog 19 Dec by Gerard Horton — International law is clear that prisoners should not be transferred outside of an occupied territory — both to allow their families access to them and to prevent forced population transfer. But that’s not all that’s at stake — Palestinian children detained in the Israeli military detention system should be held in facilities located in Palestine, as opposed to Israel, in accordance with international law, UNICEF recommended in its 2013 report, Children in Israeli Military Detention (2013). The latest figures released by the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) indicate that since UNICEF made this recommendation the percentage of Palestinian children being transferred to prison facilities inside Israel has actually gone up. To make matters worse, the military authorities have informed the UN agency that they have no intention of changing the policy. Does this matter? To answer the question – does it matter? – it is worth briefly considering the legal provisions that prohibit transfer and understand why they were thought necessary in the first place. . . .
Updates on Dawabshe and Khdeir arson murder cases
PA: Israeli forces brought suspect to ‘reenact’ deadly attack in Duma
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 20 Dec — Israeli forces and intelligence officers overnight Saturday brought a suspect accused of involvement in an arson attack on a Palestinian family to the village of Duma in order to “reenact” the fatal crime, a Palestinian Authority official said. Ghassan Daghlas, a PA official who monitors settlement activity in the northern occupied West Bank, told Ma‘an that locals in Duma saw Israeli forces arrive to the village around midnight. Forces remained in the area for around three hours during which locals reported that an Israeli settler brought by the forces “reenacted the crime” which killed three members of the Dawabsha family, Daghlas said. Investigations into the crime — labelled by international bodies and Israeli leadership as a terrorist attack — have been ongoing. Suspects belonging to a Jewish terror organization on July 31 set the home of the Dawabsha family ablaze, killing 18-month-old Ali Saad immediately. The infant’s parents, Riham and Saad, later died from severe burns.The only surviving member of the family was Ahmad, 4, who sustained serious burns. The majority of information regarding investigations into the attack remains under a gag-order by Israeli police, however news broke on Dec. 3 that several youths connected to Jewish extremist organizations had been arrested in November and held under administrative detention. Israel’s domestic security agency Shin Bet announced Sunday that progress had been made in the investigation, but no further details were disclosed, according to Israeli daily Haaretz.
Israeli intelligence source: Dawabshe terror suspects confess to Palestinian arson-murders
Tikun Olam 20 Dec by Richard Silverstein — Yet another suspect, Tzur Israel Bengusi, a notorious extremist from Kiryat Arba, has been arrested as a member of “The Rebellion” settler terror cell. His name and arrest are under gag order in Israel. He has been arrested previously and placed under restrictions by the Shabak for prior acts of violence. Israel has been awash in news and controversy about the four suspects in the Dawabsheh arson murders. Though their names are under gag order in Israel, I’ve reported all four of them here. Their lawyers and the terror support group, Honenu, have complained vigorously about alleged torture inflicted on their clients . . . Today, 1,000 settler supporters rallied in Jerusalem near Yoram Cohen’s home. Nearly 100 of them tried to physically storm the site, but were prevented by the police. In the many years I’ve written this blog I’ve never heard of protesters storming the home of any intelligence chief. To my recollection this is unprecedented and terribly brazen. It shows just how much the settler movement believes it has the political system in its pocket . . . Two different Israeli security sources inform me there’s been a major break in the case. At least one (and possibly more) of the suspects have not only confessed to the murders, but reconstructed the crime for investigators. Maan News also confirms that at least one suspect was brought to Duma to re-enact the crime for investigators. This is done generally after the suspect has confessed. Though all four were present at the scene of the crime (an eyewitness saw four individuals run from the home after it’d been torched), at least one (and possibly more) of them has refused to confess. To render its case stronger or even unassailable, interrogators are attempting to get all of them to confess.
Israeli court to rule on psych evaluation of defendant in Palestinian boy’s burning-alive murder
Haaretz 21 Dec by Nir Hasson — The Jerusalem District Court is to rule over the next few days whether to accept into evidence the psychiatric evaluation of the key suspect in the burning-alive murder of Mohammad Abu Khdeir, 16, in July of last year. The court made the decision on Sunday after a stormy hearing over the evaluation, which, unusually, was submitted to the court just a few days before it gave its verdict. Throughout the months-long trial, the defendant, Yosef Ben-David, refrained from communicating with the judges. His attorney, Asher Ohayon from the public defender’s office, said Ben-David did not communicate with him either. Ohayon agreed to the facts of the indictment – that Ben-David and his accomplices kidnapped, beat and burned Abu Khdeir alive – but argued that Ben-David was not responsible for his actions at the time of the murder and thus he should be acquitted. However, the lawyer did not submit a psychiatric evaluation to the court confirming this. From time to time the judges extended the deadline they had given Ohayon to submit the evaluation. Finally, a few days before the verdict, he gave the court an evaluation by a psychiatrist who does not work in Israel and who met with Ben-David in prison about six months ago. According to the evaluation, Ben-David is mentally ill and was not responsible for his actions at the time of the murder . . . In Sunday’s hearing the prosecutor, Uri Korb, asked the court to reject the defense’s request to submit the evaluation into evidence. . . .
Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing
Israel blocks entrances of Bedouin villages in Hebron
HEBRON (WAFA) 20 Dec – Israeli authorities Sunday blocked the roads leading to Masafer Yatta, a Bedouin congregation of about 19 small villages south of Hebron, with earth mounds, according to local sources. Rateb Jabour, coordinator of the Anti-Settlement Commission, told WAFA that an Israeli armed force broke into Hebron’s village of al-Majaz and raided schools and residential dwellings, in search of “illegal” construction materials. Forces reportedly conducted similar raid and search campaigns in Khirbet al-Taban and the nearby village of al-Fekhet, where they searched a school and summoned the janitor to appear for interrogation. Located in Area C of the West Bank, under full Israeli administrative and military control, the area has been subject to repeated Israeli violations by settlers. Operation Colomba, Nonviolent Peace Crops, has reported on multiple violations by the Israeli authorities in the area, including house demolitions, demolition of animal barns and other health facilities. The congregation is surrounded by four settlements – deemed illegal under international law – namely, Ma‘oun, Karmae’l, Yaqoub Dali, and Lifna. It has therefore been a frequent target of almost weekly attacks by Israeli Jewish settlers. Nearby Israeli military checkpoints and bypass roads allocated to Israeli settlers have restricted local Palestinians’ access to their land, workplaces and market.
Israeli forces prevent farmers from tending to their land in Hebron village
HEBRON (WAFA) 19 Dec — Israeli forces Saturday prevented Palestinian farmers from plowing their lands in Susiya area to the southeast of Yatta town, south of Hebron, said WAFA correspondent and a municipal source. WAFA correspondent reported that Israeli forces stormed Susiya village, and prevented farmers from plowing their 50 dunums of land, purportedly for being classified as a closed military zone. Head of Susiya Council, Jihad Nawaj‘a, noted that an Israeli court has previously ruled that this plot of land in particular and the land on which the nearby settlement of Susiya was built in 1982, were illegally seized from the Palestinian locals of Susiya, who already have Ottoman-era title deeds proving their ownership of the land. The local official noted that despite the court ruling and the title deeds, Israeli forces continue to prevent farmers from plowing and tending to their land.
Restriction of movement
Palestinians remove roadblock restricting movements of villagers near Tulkarm
SAFA [Shufa?], Occupied Palestine 18 Dec by ISM, Tulkarm Team — Yesterday, on the 18th of December, residents of Shufa village removed a roadblock that was imposed on them last week as a collective punishment. The soldiers announced that the road will remain open from the 19th of December. During the last week’s closure of the Tulkarm district, Israeli forces placed a road block between the two villages Shufa and Esba Shufa. As a result, residents of Shufa had to drive 32 kilometers in order to get to Tulkarm city, instead of just 4 km . . . Since last week, the water pipe that provides Shufa with water has been cut. Earlier this autumn, Israeli settlers entered the village of Shufa in a bus and started building a roadblock with stones and branches, threatening villagers and throwing stones towards houses. Villagers are very concerned by the expansion of the existing illegal settlement of Avnei Hefetz, as well as the newly built illegal Hahar outpost next to Shufa. The illegal Hahar outpost, with the potential of growing to a big settler-city, will link the illegal Avnei Hefetz settlement with the bigger, illegal Enav settlement. Villagers are already being carefully monitored by Israeli soldiers and their surveillance cameras. Many farmers are denied access to their farm, even if it is located next to the village. Neighboring villages have had problems with trash being dumped by settlers on their land . . . .
Army briefly detains teachers, seizes their car near Hebron
HEBRON (WAFA) 20 Dec — Israeli army Sunday intercepted a car carrying teachers in a small village to the east of Yatta in southern Hebron, and briefly detained them after seizing their car, according to local sources. Rateb Jabour, coordinator of the Anti-Settlement Commission, said Israeli soldiers briefly detained teachers and seized their car, as they were passing by the town of Yatta in Hebron district on their way back home from a nearby school. Forces further imposed a fine of NIS 1000, amounting to over $250, on the driver. The Israeli military used the pretext of entering a closed military zone near the village to justify the brief detention of the teachers and the confiscation of their car. According to The Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU), ‘At any given time, there are hundreds of obstacles to Palestinian movement in the West Bank […]. Checkpoints, roadblocks and other obstacles prevent Palestinian students and teachers from freely accessing educational institutions, as does the illegal West Bank wall that Israel is building.’
Boycott / Divestment / Sanctions
Spanish university boycotts Israel
IMEMC/Agencies 20 Dec — The deanship at the Central University of Barcelona (UAB) announced the official boycott of Israel, with the cut of all kinds of communication and relations with the Israeli universities and institutions which are related directly or indirectly to the occupation . . . In Spain, the BDS movement was formed in 2007, and promotes many activities with regard to the facilitation of solidarity and awareness. The movement acts effectively against Israeli lobbying through business, cultural and academic sanctions, and has harvested many achievements in these areas. The Canary Islands adopted the boycott of Israel two weeks ago, during a visit by Ambassador of the State of Palestine in Spain, Kefah Odeh, in celebration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people. Seville and dozens of other Spanish cities have adopted the boycott movement in support of the Palestinian cause, and the BDS activities.
Brazil resists confirming right wing settler leader as Israel envoy
JTA 18 Dec — Brazil is refusing to confirm Dani Dayan, who was named as Israeli ambassador to the country. Citing an unnamed senior Brazilian official, the Times of Israel reported Thursday that Brazil plans not to respond to Israel’s request for confirmation in hopes that the Jewish state will eventually name another ambassador. Dayan, a native of Argentina, led the Yesha Council, a group representing Israel’s West Bank settlements, for six years. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff in September expressed discomfort with his appointment, saying it would signal “support for the settlement enterprise.” According to the Times of Israel, Brazil is refusing to confirm Dayan not just because of his involvement with the settlements, but also because it is unhappy that Netanyahu announced the appointment before informing Brazilian officials that the current ambassador planned to quit. Israeli Foreign Ministry officials declined to comment on the record. Privately, some dismissed Brazil’s snub, saying Dayan would eventually be confirmed, while others said Israel would likely name a replacement.
Other news and opinion
Ban Ki-moon says wave of violence in Israel and the West Bank ‘bred from decades of Israeli occupation’
The Independent 19 Dec by Lizzie Dearden — . . . In a message delivered to a United Nations conference on Palestinian issues and Jerusalem, the Secretary-General urged all sides to stop the violence that has left more than 130 people dead in less than three months . . . Mr Ban said the violence cannot be stopped by increased security measures alone and called on Israeli security forces to ensure a “calibrated use of force”. Admitting that the prospect of a two-state solution and end to occupation in the near future looks dim, he added: “The anger we are witnessing is bred from nearly five decades of Israeli occupation. “It is the result of fear, humiliation, frustration and mistrust. It has been fed by the wounds of decades of bloody conflict, which will take a long time to heal. “Palestinian youth in particular are tired of broken promises and they see no light at the end of the tunnel. “This is at heart a political conflict that will require serious negotiations by parties willing to make the necessary compromises.” Mr Ban’s statement was met with an angry response from the Israeli government, which dismissed the Jakarta conference held by the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation on the Question of Jerusalem.
Erdoğan meets Hamas leader Meshaal in İstanbul, sources say
Today’s Zaman 19 Dec — President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met with Khaled Meshaal, the leader of Palestinian militant group Hamas, on Saturday in İstanbul, presidential sources said, a day after Israel and Turkey said they were close to patching up a five-year political rift. A source from Erdoğan’s office said Meshaal “briefed Erdoğan on the latest developments in the region,” without giving further details. Islamist Hamas controls the Gaza Strip. Israeli officials said late on Thursday a deal with Turkey was struck to normalize ties following high-level bilateral talks in Switzerland. Turkish officials said a final agreement was yet to be sealed, but that given the progress it would not be too long. Israel’s once-strong ties to Turkey soured in 2010 when Israeli commandos killed eight Turkish and one Turkish-American activist when storming the Mavi Marmara, a ship in a convoy seeking to break an Israeli naval blockade of the Palestinian territory of Gaza. Turkey had demanded Israel apologize over the assault, pay compensation and lift the Gaza blockade. For Israel, limiting Hamas activity in Turkey has been key. Under the preliminary deal between the two countries, Saleh al-Aruori, a senior leader in the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas who has been living in Turkey, would be barred from the country, the Israeli official had said.
Palestinian killed in Egypt’s Sinai [Rafah]
CAIRO (Ma‘an) 19 Dec — A Palestinian man was shot dead Friday in Egypt’s northern Sinai Peninsula district, Egyptian security sources said. The security sources told Ma‘an that Eyhab Hamdan Marzouq al-Shaer, 25, was shot in al-Shallafa neighborhood of Rafah city. Locals reportedly found his body and took it to a public hospital before Egyptian security arrived. The sources believed that al-Shaer was likely shot by militants from the Sinai Province group, but did not give further details and the circumstances of his death remain unclear.
Palestinian telecom giant Paltec faces charge for ‘illegal fees’
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 19 Dec — The Palestinian court of cassation ruled that the monthly subscription fees imposed on customers by Palestinian telecommunications company Paltel are illegal and null, a lawyer told Ma‘an Saturday. The court had ruled on Nov. 16, 2015 in favor of a lawyer from Bethlehem, Tamer al-Hroub, who had filed a complaint against the company in 2005. The court said that the fees of 28 shekels ($7) per month have no legal basis as Palestinian law does not allow telecommunication companies to request or collect these fees. The court order obligates the company to return fees to customers who paid them for their subscription period . . . Paltel in response said that the November order by the court of cassation only regards an individual case and not the illegality of the fees in general.
USAID announces the opening of the Deir Sha’ar Pipeline
HEBRON Governorate, West Bank 17 Dec — Today, at a ceremony in Halhoul, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Palestinian Water Authority announced the opening of the new Deir Sha’ar pipeline. The new pipeline will serve as the backbone of the southern West Bank’s water infrastructure and the majority of water reaching the region will flow through it. The Deir Sha’ar pipeline improves access to a reliable supply of potable water for 200,000 Palestinians, including residents of Halhoul, Hebron City, Al-Arrub Camp, Beit Ummar, Bani Naim, and Yatta in the Hebron Governorate. This $16.5 million two year project is one of USAID’s largest water sector investments in the last ten years in the West Bank. Attending the ceremony were Prime Minister, Rami Hamdallah; Hebron Governor, Kamel Hemeid; Head of the Palestinian Water Authority, Mazen Ghoneem; and USAID West Bank and Gaza Mission Director, Dave Harden . . . Among the immediate benefits of the new pipeline is a drastic reduction of water losses. Prior to USAID’s intervention, residents of the region suffered chronic water shortages and supply interruptions due to water losses from the pipeline. . . .
Israel compiled ‘long file’ on journalist it deported
EI 18 Dec by Adri Nieuwhof — Israel’s Government Press Office appears to be building up files on international journalists who criticize the oppression faced by Palestinians. The conduct of this surveillance has been revealed by German journalist Martin Lejeune who has been deported from Tel Aviv. Lejeune was held for 14 hours in Ben Gurion airport last week, during which time he was told that Israel considers him “a threat to the national security.” Lejeune had covered Israel’s 51-day attack on Gaza in the summer of 2014. Although Israeli police and officials refused to discuss the reasons for his detention and subsequent deportation with his lawyer, Lejeune was told that he was being denied entry to Israel because he had been on a ship destined for Gaza earlier this year. Mohamed El-Khatib, a Palestinian with German citizenship who was helping Lejeune with research, was initially allowed to pass through security and travel to Jerusalem. However, when El-Khatib returned to the airport, both men were deported. One day before his trip, Lejeune received an email from the Israeli Government Press Office, stating that his application for a press card had been denied. The message from Ron Paz, a senior member of staff in the press office, stated that it had “evidence indicating you are a pro-Palestinian activist, rather than a journalist.”
Why it’s time to wake up to the occupation / Akiva Eldar
Al-Monitor 17 Dec — The murder of the Dawabsha family was not the actual trigger of the current wave of violence, but another link in the long chain of incitement and hatred generated by the Israeli occupation — “What do you want from me?” retorted Shahar Ayalon, former Israel Police commander of the West Bank, when I asked him some 10 years ago why the police were unable to lay their hands on Jewish criminals from one of the outposts in the Hebron hills who were harassing their Palestinian neighbors on a daily basis. “Ask those who looked the other way when these guys invaded this hill. Ask those who paved the road to the outpost. Ask those who put up the poles to provide them with lighting, hooked them up to the electric grid and pay their utility bills. Ask who pays for their security.” The “those” to which he refers was clear: successive Israeli governments. Provisions for these settlers show up as official line items in the budget and in the resolutions of the Knesset’s Finance Committee. The Palestinians are well aware of the distorted reality in which the Israeli government is sloppy, at best, about enforcing the law against Jewish criminals, and at worst, encourages them. This was the case even before the Douma attack. It is no different today, and there are no signs of a change for the better in the foreseeable future. In fact, the signs point to the contrary. Despite some assessments that the Douma attack and what appears to have been a careless investigation were the causes of the current wave of terrorism, instead of lowering the flames, the political leadership fanned them. Ministers, Knesset members, senior police officials and other public figures publicly called for hurting or shooting those committing or suspected of committing knifings. The mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, encouraged his city’s residents to take up arms. (Continued)
Israel: Breaking the witness
MEE 19 Dec by Meron Rapoport — Though now under bitter attack, Breaking the Silence has failed to change the public discourse in Israel concerning the occupation — . . . Breaking the Silence was formed 11 years ago after a group of ex-soldiers gathered to tell their unpleasant stories on how the occupation looks like through the eyes of the occupiers: from petty harassments to alleged intentional extrajudicial killings of Palestinian citizens or militiamen. Over the years they have collected testimonies from more than 1,000 soldiers and published some well-documented and incriminating reports. Yet it seems that their main goal – to make Israelis aware of the moral price to be paid for the continued occupation and control of millions of Palestinians and to encourage Israelis to put an end to this occupation – has failed. By and large, the Israeli public has either ignored these reports or tagged their authors as “anti-Israelis,” receiving money from foreign governments such as the European Union, Norway and others in order to smear Israel’s image abroad or even worse, to tie the hands of Israeli soldiers and officers in their fight against “Israel’s enemies” by threatening to report them as war criminals to international judiciary bodies. Iz Tirzu’s clip merely summarized these feelings in a very crude way. So why is Breaking the Silence being put under the grill now? There is no simple answer. Breaking the Silence is usually accused by Israeli politicians and in the Israeli media of committing three wrongs: being unreliable, approaching the international public instead of speaking to the public at home, and publishing their claims of human rights violations instead of reporting them to the proper investigating bodies in the army. The first accusation is largely unfounded. No major fault has been found in the more than 1,000 testimonies made public. The second accusation echoes well in Israeli society. Many Jewish Israelis are convinced that if Israeli newspapers such as Haaretz or human rights organizations such as Breaking the Silence or B’tselem did not tell their version on Israel’s doings in the occupied territories, international public would support Israel. It was therefore easy to view the activists who appeared on Im Tirzu’s clip as agents in this alleged smearing campaign. Yet the third accusation, according to which Breaking the Silence should file its complaints before the proper judicial bodies instead of going public with them, is maybe the most dangerous. It implies that issues concerning the implications of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza should be put outside the framework of political and civil discussion in Israel. This approach is a threat to any democratic society. . . .
Hundreds march in Tel Aviv against growing right-wing incitement
+972 mag 20 Dec by Haggai Matar, Photos by Oren Ziv / Activestills.org — Over a thousand Israelis marched Saturday night in Tel Aviv to demonstrate against incitement and occupation, and in support of Israeli human rights organizations, peace, equality, and social justice. The protest was organized by the group “Omdim Beyachad” (Standing Together) in response to the recent incitement by far-right group Im Tirzu and government ministers against Breaking the Silence and other human rights organizations last week . . . Two separate counter-protests also took place, which included swearing at left-wing protesters and calling out “Kahane lives.” Likud MK Oren Hazan, who previously tried to deceive Breaking the Silence by submitting a fake testimony, was one of the participants. One right-wing protestor threw a bottle at the march and was arrested. Representatives of Israel’s peace camp, including Peace Now stalwart Yariv Oppenheimer, MK Dov Khenin (Joint List), MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz) and Breaking the Silence’s Executive Director Yuli Novak, spoke at the Rabin monument. “The incitement and threats do not stop with human rights organizations or the Left, they reach the President,” said Oppenheimer, in reference to the campaign of incitement against President Reuven Rivlin taking place since he participated in the Haaretz conference in New York last week, where members of Breaking the Silence also spoke. “We are in a struggle for Israeli democracy and we have no choice but to win.” . . . Novak, who was welcomed with thunderous applause, lauded the many soldiers who have broken their silence over the past week — following attacks by the Right — and described what they went through during their service in the occupied territories. “This situation is not predetermined. We are a generation that was born into the occupation, we are the generation that can end it,” she said.
Israel assassinates senior Hezbollah leader in Syria
IMEMC 20 Dec — The Israeli Air Force assassinated, on Saturday at night, the former political prisoner and senior Hezbollah leader, Samir al-Kuntar, in an air strike in the Jermana area of the Syrian capital Damascus. The Hezbollah party in Lebanon said the Israeli Air Force violated Syrian air space at around 10:30 at night, and fired five missiles into a residential building, killing six people, including al-Kuntar, and wounding at least twelve others. Initial reports were first unconfirmed, but his brother later announced on his Twitter account the confirmed death of al-Kuntar. Samir al-Kuntar spent 29 years in Israeli prisons, and was released on July 16 2008, under a prisoner-swap agreement reached through negotiation between Hezbollah and the Israeli government through a third party . . . Israel held al-Kuntar responsible for the April 22nd 1979 attack that led to the death of four Israelis: a police officer, an Israeli civilian and his 4-year-old daughter, while the man’s other daughter, 2, was accidentally suffocated by her mother, while trying to keep her quiet. The attackers allegedly kidnapped the family in Nahariya and took them to a beach, then tried to load their hostages on a rubber boat. Israeli police decided to attack with full force instead of attempting to negotiate, and the father of the family and a police officer were killed. The 4-year old was killed when her head hit a rock during the scuffle . . . After capturing al-Kuntar, an Israeli court sentenced him to five life-terms, Upon his release in the prisoner swap deal, he returned to Lebanon and joined Hezbollah, then went on to live in Syria.
Rockets hit northern Israel day after Israeli airstrike in Damascus
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 20 Dec – Sirens sounded Sunday before three rockets landed in open areas in northern Israel, Israel’s army said. The Israeli army said that forces were searching the area following the attack. No damage or injuries were reported. The Israeli military responded with artillery fire into Lebanon, Israeli media reported, despite no group having officially claimed the rocket attacks . . . Lebanese security officials reportedly said to local media that the rockets launched into Israel were transported from Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon and launched by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine movement in “symbolic retaliation” for Kuntar’s death, according to Israeli daily Haaretz.
Palestinian refugee pianist given Beethoven Prize
Al Jazeera 19 Dec Patrick Strickland — A Palestinian refugee who gained international notoriety after a video of him playing a piano amid the destruction in a Damascus refugee camp went viral has been given a prestigious human rights award in Germany. Ayham Ahmad, a 27-year-old from the Yarmouk refugee camp, was granted the International Beethoven Prize for Human Rights, Peace, Inclusion and the Fight Against Poverty on Friday night at a ceremony in Bonn, according to the German daily Deutsche Welle. Videos of Ahmad began to spread throughout social media in 2014, as the situation for the remaining Palestinian refugees in Yarmouk continued to deteriorate rapidly. The videos depicted him surrounded by collapsed homes and rubble-filled streets as he played on an old, decrepit piano. In some clips, residents of the embattled camp joined him and sang along. In September, Ahmad fled Yarmouk and took the perilous boat journey from Turkey to a Greek island. From there, he eventually made it to Germany. [much more about Yarmouk follows]
Final curtain looms for historic Palestinian theatre
OCCUPIED EAST JERUSALEM (Al Jazeera) 18 Dec by Ylenia Gostoli — The future of the Palestinian National Theatre is fraught with uncertainty as the organisation struggles with declining audiences and high operating costs. Located in the American Colony neighbourhood of East Jerusalem, the theatre – also known as el-Hakawati, meaning “storyteller” – has amassed a debt of more than $150,000, according to director Amer Khalil. Earlier this month, supporters and a crowd-funding campaign helped to raise $14,000, providing Hakawati with a stay of execution after an insurance company sued the theatre over unpaid bills. But as Palestinian cultural life has shifted to Ramallah amid increasingly draconian restrictions on freedom of movement for Palestinians throughout the occupied West Bank, it is not clear how much longer Hakawati will be able to stay afloat. “Running a Palestinian cultural centre in Jerusalem is really difficult,” Khalil told Al Jazeera. “Here with the Israeli government and municipality, we pay taxes but we don’t want their funding. We are in East Jerusalem; this is the Palestinian National Theatre. We don’t agree with the government and their policies. They are occupation for us.” . . . “Legally, since the Oslo Accords, we are not allowed to get support from the Palestinian Authority either,” Khalil said, referencing a part of the agreement that bars the Palestinian Authority (PA) from establishing any activities in Jerusalem. “Oslo somehow started to put an end to an unfinished dream.” . . . More recently, in June 2013, an eight-day puppet festival was cancelled at the theatre after Israel’s public security minister claimed it had received funding from the Palestinian Authority without authorisation. The children’s show had been running for 18 years. . . .
The Palestinian: From the Idol to the allegory / Hamid Dabashi
Al Jazeera 19 Dec — Palestinian cinema is blessed by some of the most gifted filmmakers anywhere in the world — In the course of this year’s Ajyal Youth Film Festival in Doha, Qatar, I was in the joyous company of two dear friends and towering Palestinian filmmakers, Elia Suleiman and Hany Abu-Assad. The occasion of this gathering was the premiere of Abu-Assad’s new film, The Idol, where the director had come to share his recent feature with an almost entirely Arab audience, in the context of a festival primarily targeting young viewers . . . In his most recent film, The Idol, Abu-Assad turns his attention to the now globally celebrated Palestinian singer Mohammed Assaf, who became widely loved in the course of his Arab Idol adventure . . . In the capable hands of Abu-Assad, Mohammed Assaf’s story turns from the simple life of a talented young man from humble origins catapulted to global fame into an allegory of the Palestinian nation rising with grace and in defiance from the ruins of its colonial occupation, theft, and destruction by Israel.