Hundreds mark 11th year of protest in Bil‘in
WEST BANK, Palestine (Al-Jazeera) 19 Feb by Nigel Wilson — Hundreds of protesters gathered in Bil‘in on Friday to mark 11 years of weekly demonstrations against the Israeli occupation and the separation wall there. Villagers congregated in the centre of Bil‘in after Friday prayers at the mosque, where they were joined by Palestinians from nearby towns, Israeli and international activists. Chanting anti-occupation slogans, the protesters marched through the village into its agricultural land and up to the separation wall. As the crowd approached the wall, Israeli soldiers fired volleys of tear gas canisters into the crowd. The soldiers later fired sponge tipped bullets at protesters, resulting in injuries to two Palestinians. Some of the crowd dispersed and some youths responded by flinging the tear-gas canisters back towards the soldiers. The episode lasted about an hour and a half, before the demonstrators returned to the village.
Israeli bulldozers first arrived in the village in February 2005, ready to construct a concrete wall between the Israeli West Bank settlement Modiin Illit and Bil‘in. The planned route of the wall would have cut the village off from around 1,950 dunams (1,950,000 sq metres) of its agricultural land. The plan would have amounted to around half of the village’s total land, which provided the main source of income for Bi‘lin. Villagers immediately protested against the Israeli military’s intentions to effectively annex the land, organising demonstrations and inviting international activists, including Israelis, to join them . . . Despite the weekly actions, where non-violence was preached and largely practised, the separation barrier was completed along its originally planned route in 2008. – Petition in court – Two years later, after a petition was filed by an Israeli nongovernmental organisation in conjunction with the villagers, Israel’s high court ruled that the route of the barrier was illegal and should be moved. The decision effectively won the village back around 650 dunams of land from the initial loss of 1,950 dunams. The barrier was moved in 2011, meaning that around 1,300 dunams of Bil‘in land remains behind the barrier today, on the side of the Israeli settlement . . . There have been painful setbacks along the way. Two of the village’s residents have been killed in the weekly demonstrations. In April 2009, Bassem Abu Rahmah was killed after he was shot in the chest directly with a tear-gas canister. Jawaher Abu Rahmah, Bassem’s sister, died as a result of tear gas inhalation in 2010 . . . Bil‘in has become an international symbol of the wider non-violent resistance movement in the occupied West Bank.
Watch: Palestinians mark 11 years of struggle against the wall
Activestills 19 Feb by Oren Ziv — 1-minute video and photos
Violence / Detentions — West Bank / Jerusalem
Palestinian shot dead after Jerusalem stabbing wounds 2 Israeli officers
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 19 Feb 10:11 am — A Palestinian was shot dead after stabbing and wounding two Israeli border police officers outside Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City on Friday morning, Israeli police said. Israeli police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld said the border police officers opened fire on the 20-year-old Palestinian after he drew a knife on them. Rosenfeld said the Palestinian was killed, while both officers were lightly wounded and evacuated to hospital. Members of Al-Jazeera’s TV crew present at the scene told Ma‘an that six Israeli officers on site surrounded the Palestinian and “fired almost 50 bullets” after he had already been shot twice and fallen to the ground. Israeli media sites published a photograph purportedly showing the Palestinian’s ID, which identified him as 20-year-old Muhammad Abu Khalaf from the town of Kafr ‘Aqab in northern East Jerusalem. Rosenfeld said the area was closed off and there was “heightened security in the area.”
Al Jazeera video: ‘Abu Khalaf was executed after soldiers had already incapacitated him’
IMEMC 19 Feb by Saed Bannoura — The Qatar-based Al-Jazeera crew in occupied Jerusalem said they witnessed Friday’s fatal shooting of a young Palestinian man, who was first shot with two live rounds, followed by dozens more shots after he was already injured and bleeding on the ground. The Al-Jazeera crew said the Palestinian stood behind some Israeli border police and tried to stab one of them, in Bab al-‘Amoud [Damascus Gate] in Jerusalem, before the soldiers shot him with two rounds. The Palestinian, Mohammad Abu Khalaf, 20 years of age, fell onto the ground bleeding and incapacitated, when six of the militarized police officers fired more than 50 rounds at him, killing him instantly. The soldiers then assaulted the journalists and forced them out of the area, before declaring it a closed military zone. “The scene was terrifying, we barely escaped with our lives,” Al-Jazeera anchor Elias Karram said, “The soldiers fired so many live rounds at this young man, they could have killed us all, every person who was there was in direct danger.” He added that he and his team were in Bab al-‘Amoud before the shooting, as they were filming a report for Al-Jazeera, and just as they finished the report, they witnessed the stabbing attempt, and the deadly shooting that followed. The Israeli border police said two of its soldiers were mildly wounded in the reported attack. “What happened was the execution of the young man,” Karram stated, “The border police officers lined-up and opened fire although they could have easily arrested the man, especially since he was already injured.”
Palestinian shot dead after alleged car attack near Ramallah
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 19 Feb 5:02 pm — A Palestinian was shot dead by Israeli forces on Friday after he allegedly attempted to ram them with his car in the occupied West Bank village of Silwad northeast of Ramallah. An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma‘an that “during violent riots, an assailant attempted to ram his vehicle into soldiers.” The military forces responded with live fire, killing the Palestinian on site, the spokesperson said. No Israelis were injured in the incident. The Palestinian was identified as Abed Raed Abdullah Hamad, although this was not initially confirmed. Around an hour before the attack, Hamad posted a photo of his mother and father on Facebook with a caption reading: “The two most beautiful [people] in the world, my soul remains with them. Dad, Mom, may God protect you, keep you safe, and keep you precious on this Friday. … Mom don’t cry over me, I need your prayers. Dad, may you be satisfied with me; you have brought up a man.”
Young Palestinian man killed by Israeli forces in Bethlehem-area clashes
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 19 Feb 7:18 pm — A young Palestinian man was shot and killed by Israeli forces during clashes in the occupied West Bank village of Beit Fajjar on Friday, the Palestinian Ministry of Health said. The Palestinian Authority ministry said Khaled Yousif Taqatqa, 21, was shot in clashes between the Israeli army and Palestinian protesters in the village south of Bethlehem, and died as a result of his injuries at the Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem. Taqatqa is the third Palestinian killed by Israeli security forces on Friday. The Palestinian Red Crescent was informed that Taqatqa had been injured, but was prevented by Israeli forces from reaching him on the scene, Red Crescent spokesperson Errab Foqoha told Ma‘an. An Israeli army spokesperson said they were looking into the report. Many villages in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem participate in weekly Friday protests. Israeli forces have received criticism for excessive use force as well as lethal methods of crowd control that often result in death or injury of protesters during these demonstrations. At least 11 Palestinians were reported injured by live bullets and rubber-coated steel bullets in protests in the West Bank and Gaza on Friday.
2 Palestinians shot after stab attack leaves 1 Israeli killed, 1 injured
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 18 Feb — Two 14-year-old Palestinians were shot and critically injured after carrying out a stab attack that left one Israeli killed and one injured in the Rami Levi supermarket located in the Shaare Benyamin industrial complex northwest of Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank. Israeli police spokesperson Luba al-Samri said that two Palestinians “infiltrated” the illegal Israeli settlement and entered the supermarket before stabbing the two Israelis, aged 17 and 21. Both Palestinians were shot and critically injured by an armed civilian present at the scene, al-Samri said. The police spokesperson initially reported both Palestinians dead. The 21-year-old Israeli died from stab wounds in the upper body and torso shortly after. The Israeli army later identified the man as Tuvia Weissman, an Israeli soldier and resident of the illegal Maale Mikhmas settlement. Local sources identified the Palestinians as Ayham Bassam Ibrahim Subih, and Omar Salim Rimawi, both 14-year-old residents of the Ramallah-area town of Beituniya. Israeli emergency medical service Magen David Adom said medics treated one Israeli in severe condition and another who was in moderate condition. The two were transferred to Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem.
14-year-old Palestinian attackers in serious but stable condition
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 17 Feb — Two 14-year-old Palestinians shot while carrying out a deadly stab attack in an illegal Israeli settlement northeast of Jerusalem are in serious but stable condition, a lawyer said Friday. Karim Ajwa, a lawyer for the Palestinian Authority’s Committee for Prisoners’ Affairs, told Ma‘an the boys were being held in separate hospitals in Jerusalem. Omar Rimawi, 14, is currently being treated at Hadassah Hospital’s Ein Kerem branch, and Ayham Subih, also 14, in Shaare Zedek Hospital. The PA committee said that Ajwa was expected to attend a Friday court hearing at Ofer detention center’s military court regarding both of their detention. Rimawi and Subih were shot by an armed Israeli civilian after stabbing two Israelis in the Rami Levi supermarket in the Shaare Benyamin industrial zone in the occupied West Bank on Thursday. The attack killed a 21-year-old off-duty Israeli soldier and left a 17-year-old in moderate condition. According to documentation of attacks by Israel’s domestic security agency Shin Bet, the 14-year-olds were the youngest Palestinians to kill an Israeli since a wave of unrest spread in October, Israeli media reported.
A young father and probably a good person, but like so many others, Palestinian and Israeli, caught in the consequences of the taking of another people’s land
WATCH: Wedding video of young Israeli terror victim compounds grief
JPost 19 Feb by Tovah Lazaroff — Tuvia Yanai Weissman, 21, did everything early. He married and became the father of a baby girl before he was stabbed to death in the aisles of a Rami Levy supermarket by two 14-year-old Palestinian terrorists . . . Weissman, an IDF sergeant in the Nahal Brigade and resident of the Ma’aleh Mikhmash settlement, will be buried at 8 a.m. on Friday morning in Jerusalem’s Mt. Herzl cemetery. A video of his storybook looking wedding almost two years ago has begun to circulate on social media since his death. To the background of love music, he can be seen placing the ring on his wife Yael’s finger and breaking a wine glass, as is traditional in Jewish weddings and dancing.
US condemns West Bank attack, death of US citizen: State Department
WASHINGTON (Reuters) 19 Feb — The United States condemned in the strongest possible terms on Friday an attack in the West Bank that resulted in the death of a U.S. citizen, the State Department said in a statement. The death of American Tuvya Weisman on Thursday underscores the need for all sides to reject violence, the statement said. (Reporting by Megan Cassella)
Israeli authorities return body of Palestinian killed in Silwad
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 19 Feb — Israeli authorities handed over on Friday the body of a Palestinian man killed earlier that day by Israeli forces during clashes in the occupied West Bank village of Silwad. The body of Abed Raed Abdullah Hamad, 20, was transferred to the Palestinian military liaison in the evening and taken to a West Bank hospital, hours after Hamad allegedly attempted to run over Israeli soldiers northeast of Ramallah. The military forces responded with live fire, killing the Palestinian on site, an Israeli army spokesperson said. No Israelis were injured in the incident.
How the Damascus Gate became the symbol of the intifada
Al-Monitor 19 Feb by Daoud Kuttab — When Washington Post Jerusalem bureau chief William Booth wanted to write a column about the recent violence in Jerusalem, he went to the most obvious location — Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate. There he found exactly whom he sought to interview, but he also found jittery Israeli security officers. What transpired Feb. 16 is detailed in a statement of protest by the Foreign Press Association (FPA) in Israel. That day, Booth and his newspaper’s West Bank correspondent, Sufian Taha, were interviewing Palestinians and Israelis outside Damascus Gate. Israeli soldiers stationed there were not pleased about this. “When Booth and Taha tried to interview some high school students on the steps opposite the gate, police waved them away. They then retreated to interview the teenagers under a tree. Shortly after, border police waved the two journalists over and asked them for their IDs,” the FPA statement read. “Although the journalists made it very clear that they were reporting a story for The Washington Post, police took them to a nearby police station, where they were held for about 40 minutes, then released. When they asked police why they had been held, police said they had suspected the journalists of ‘inciting’ Palestinians.” Damascus Gate has been the site of 11 violent confrontations between Palestinian protestors and Israeli security since Oct. 15, 2015, according to the Israeli Foreign Ministry. Nine Palestinians have been summarily killed in their attempts to stab Israelis there. In addition, an Israeli policewoman was killed and eight Israelis were injured. Palestinians have used live fire on at least two occasions at the gate. Azzam Soud, a well-known Palestinian writer whose stories are often set in Jerusalem, spoke to Al-Monitor about why so many incidents take place at Damascus Gate. “First, it is the [Old City’s] most important gate and the biggest,” he said. “Second, it is the closest gate to all the transportation coming from the north, and third, it is the most direct entrance to both Al-Aqsa Mosque and the famous Khan Ezzat souk, where goods of all sorts and forms can be found.” . . . Daniel Siedman, an Israeli researcher on Jerusalem, told Al-Monitor that Damascus Gate has becomes a “lighting rod” for attacks because of its accessibility and the presence of Israelis. “While it is used by Palestinians, it is also on the route of ultra-Orthodox worshippers and Old City settlers, which means a constant heavy police presence and a permanent target,” Siedman said. . . .
Soldiers invade al-Jalazoun and Kharbatha al-Misbah, in Ramallah
IMEMC 19 Feb — Israeli soldiers invaded, on Friday afternoon, the al-Jalazoun refugee camp, and Kharbatha al-Misbah village, in the central West Bank district of Ramallah, clashed with local youths, and fired live rounds, rubber-coated metal bullets, and gas bombs. Two Palestinian children were injured, and one was kidnapped. The clashes in al-Jalazoun initially started near Beit El colony, before extending into the main road of the refugee camp. The soldiers fired several live rounds, rubber-coated steel bullets and gas bombs, causing dozens of residents to suffer the effects of tear gas inhalation, especially after the army fired gas bombs at a few homes in the area of clashes. Local youngsters hurled stones and empty bottles on the invading vehicles, while many jeeps were trapped in the refugee camp before a few youths threw Molotov cocktails at them. Medical sources [said] the soldiers shot two Palestinian children with live rounds, and kidnapped one resident, at the main entrance of the refugee camp. The army also used a surveillance drone to document the clashes, and take pictures of the protesters.
The soldiers also invaded Kharbatha al-Misbah village, west of Ramallah, and fired live rounds, rubber-coated steel bullets and gas bombs, during clashes that erupted following the invasion. It is worth mentioning that the soldiers continued their occupation, for the fifth consecutive day, of two homes in the village, in addition to ongoing invasions into various neighborhoods and homes, and repeated inspection of ID cards. Locals complained that the soldiers frequently fire concussion grenades during late-night hours, as an act collective punishment meant to deprive them from sleeping peacefully.
Why is Israel raiding Palestinian universities?
Al-Monitor 19 Feb by Ahmad Melhem — The Palestinian academic community hopes to internationally shame Israel for its raids on universities and disruption of education in the West Bank. During the current uprising in the West Bank, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) stormed two Palestinian universities: Birzeit University near Ramallah on Jan. 11 and Al-Quds University at Abu Dis in East Jerusalem on Jan. 29. The IDF attacked the Birzeit student council building and left a great deal of havoc behind. They confiscated computers and destroyed furniture. They also seized office supplies and four student lockers. At Al-Quds University, the IDF raided the student blocs’ offices, tampered with their contents and confiscated computers. They broke into the Dawa and Fundamentals of Religion Faculty building, where they vandalized the students’ club and seized cultural activities and services materials and tools. In October, the IDF had conducted several successive incursions into Palestine Technical University at Kadoorie in Tulkarem. They clashed with students within the university premises and fired tear gas canisters and rubber bullets at them. That raid followed nearby, but off-university, clashes between young Palestinians and the IDF occurred near the Israeli Geshuri agrochemicals factory. The security forces tracked down the students involved in the incident. “The Israeli army is attacking universities within the scope of an Israeli systematic scheme designed to eradicate the Palestinian identity and tame the Palestinian young generation’s libertarianism by disrupting the educational process,” Palestinian Minister of Education and Higher Education Sabri Saidam told Al-Monitor. In a Jan. 11 statement, the IDF said it raided Birzeit University to confiscate Hamas propaganda materials, calling the materials “inflammatory.” The Israeli army considers “incitement” to be the main reason behind the escalation of the current uprising. (Continued)
Israeli forces detain 15 Palestinians across the West Bank
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 18 Feb — Israeli forces detained at least 15 Palestinians across the West Bank overnight Wednesday and into Thursday morning, locals and the Israeli army said. Locals said Israeli forces detained a Palestinian woman identified as Enas Elias Muhammad Burhan al-Jabri, 19, in the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron, after Israeli forces reportedly found a knife on the woman. An Israeli army spokesperson could not confirm the incident, but added that one Palestinian had been detained in Hebron overnight Wednesday. Locals identified the detainee as Louy Basel Shadeed from Dura village. Locals said clashes broke out in Dura village as well as nearby Halhul village, as Israeli forces raided the areas. No detentions were reported in Halhul, though locals said Israeli forces raided the house of Palestinian prisoner of Israel Maher al-Hashlmoun in the village, and took 15,000 shekels ($3,843) from the home. In the northern district of Tulkarem, Israeli forces detained three Palestinians identified as Ahamd Hassan Rayhan, Muhammad Zayton and Alaa Mazen Zeidan . . . In the neighboring district of Salfit, Israeli forces detained at least three more Palestinians from Deir Istiya village. The three were identified as Jihad Abdul-Karim Abdullah, 21, Mustafa Dawood Abdullah, 18, and Karam Radi Abdullah, 18. In the southern Bethlehem district, locals said Israeli forces detained a Palestinian identified as Muhammad Ali Najajrah, 20 . . . In the northern district of Qalqilya, the spokesperson said three Palestinians had been detained. In Ramallah’s al-Qubeiba village, Israeli forces detained Yousef Abdul-Hafiz Maali, 15, and Mahmoud Ali Hamouda, 15, locals said.
5 Palestinians detained in predawn raids
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 19 Feb — Five Palestinians were detained by Israeli military forces during predawn detention raids across the occupied West Bank on Friday, the Israeli army said. An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma‘an that two Palestinians were detained near Jenin, one near Tulkarem, one near Ramallah, and one in Hebron. All of those detained were suspected of involvement in illegal activity, the spokesperson added.
DCI: 49 children killed by Israeli forces since October
IMEMC/Agencies 19 Feb — Defence for Children International-Palestine, on Tuesday, accused the Israeli army of willfully killing Palestinian children in the occupied Palestinian territories, QudsNet reported. Since the start of October, Israeli forces have killed more than 180 Palestinians including 49 children. According to Middle East Monitor, the organisation said: “Repeated killing and shooting of children by Israeli army, and preventing paramedics from offering medical aid to them is considered a form of extrajudicial killing.” “Evasion from punishment” encourages Israeli soldiers to kill Palestinian children, noting that no “real” investigations are opened in the cases where Palestinians have been killed. An official from the group reiterated that the official Israeli political echelon gave the army the green light to kill Palestinian children, after the latest ratification of laws governing the use of arms. (PNN)
‘Call me a terrorist, but I’m no different from Israeli troops defending their homeland’
Haaretz 19 Feb by Gideon Levy & Alex Levac — Some thoughts on the true source of incitement against and hatred of Israelis from a Palestinian who spent 23 years in jail for killing one — As we make our way down a narrow, dark alley barely wide enough to walk through, on the way to the house of mourning, Najah Mohammed Muqbel bends over to pick up a few spent cartridges. “You see, this is the material that incites our children,” he says. In 1990, Muqbel was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Yaakov Shalom in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ein Karem. Released after 23 years, he is now a key activist in Fatah, talking on the movement’s behalf in West Bank schools. “We do not want to die and we do not send our children to die,” he says, before we enter the small, cramped home of Omar Madi, a teenager who was killed last week by Israeli soldiers in the Al-‘Arroub refugee camp. “No father wants his child to die. But sometimes our children make decisions that are bigger than their age.” . . . The bereaved parents, Naama and Yusuf Madi, and their 10 remaining children huddle in the house. Anguish is etched on the face of the father, a hardscrabble laborer of 52, employed by the Bethlehem Municipality . . . “They [the soldiers] murdered him in cold blood,” one of the teen’s brothers says. “They have no pity for the old or for the young,” their mother adds. “What reason do the soldiers have to walk around the camp every day,” the dead boy’s father asks, and then answers himself: “They come so the children will throw stones at them and then they can kill them.” . . . “We used to think that the killing of children was a ‘mistake.’ Now, [Muqbel] explained, “we believe that there is an IDF policy to kill children, to execute our children. After all, a child’s body shows that he is a child. The soldier knows he is a child. If you think that this is a message that will help you, you are wrong. These children are a new generation of hatred. Not incitement, not Abu Mazen [i.e., Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas], not Hamas – the true source of incitement is the behavior of the Israeli soldier and whoever gives him his orders.” [An alternate source for this article can be found here.]
Video: Palestinians in West Bank become collateral victims of knife attacks
MSN 18 Feb with Melissa Bell — This week, we see how months of violence between Palestinians and Israelis is resulting in harsher living conditions for Palestinians in the West Bank.
Israeli military closes road, bans Palestinians following deadly attack
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 19 Feb — The Israeli military closed a main thoroughfare north of Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank following a deadly stab attack carried out in a nearby settlement, where Palestinian entry was also prohibited, the Israeli army said Friday. An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma‘an that a section of route 60 running between Qalandiya checkpoint and the illegal Adam settlement, also known as Geva Benyamin, was closed to all vehicles. The military also placed a ban on all Palestinian entry into the Shaare Benyamin industrial zone, with the exception of laborers who carry permits to work in the area. The “security measures” were implemented in line with a “situation assessment” of the area after an attack took place in Shaare Benyamin Thursday evening, the spokesperson added. The industrial zone lies on route 60 around two kilometers north of the Geva Benyamin settlement. Friday’s road closure begins following the settlement heading west, cutting off a number of Palestinian towns and villages from Qalandiya and the economic hub of Ramallah. The Qalandiya checkpoint is a main access point for Palestinians with proper permits to pass from the occupied West Bank into occupied East Jerusalem.The closure of main roads — primarily to Palestinians — has been customary practice by the Israeli military since a wave of unrest swept the occupied Palestinian territory in October. Earlier this month, Israeli forces sealed the Bethlehem-area village of Nahhalin for six consecutive days after an Israeli settler was stabbed and injured by a suspect said to have fled towards the village. The closure blockaded 10,500 Palestinian residents who were prevented from moving in or out of the village, barring exceptional humanitarian cases. The move “severely disrupted” access to services and workplaces, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Prisoners / Court actions
UPDATE: Al-Qeeq denied family visits; Birzeit, workers’ union rally in solidarity
IMEMC/Agencies 19 Feb — Four Palestinians on hunger strike over administrative detention — The Detainees and ex-Detainees Committee announced, Friday, that Israeli security is still refusing to allow hunger striking journalist Mohammad al-Qeeq’s family the right to visit with him. The committee said that the decision violates the latest Israeli Supreme Court ruling which permitted his family to visit him in Affula Hospital. The family has been trying to see him, as his health condition has been rapidly deteriorating over the past couple of days. Mohammad has been staging his strike for a total of 86 days, now. After suffering severe convulsions on Wednesday night, al-Qeeq lost the ability to breath, hear, see or speak until the morning. The committee contacted the Civil Affairs Department at the Civil Administration Office, but, so far, the answer is still “No.” According to WAFA Palestinian News and Info Agency, al-Qeeq’s family said, Thursday, that they wouldn’t object to transferring him to a hospital in Jerusalem, as long it is a Palestinian hospital, because they do not trust Israeli hospitals . . . Four Palestinian administrative detainees in Israeli jails are currently hunger-striking in protest of being detained without a charge or trial, according to the Palestinian Prisoners Society (PPS), a prisoner support group. PPS said that, beside the case of al-Qeeq, two other detainees, Mohammad al-Muhur from Jenin and Rabee Jibril from Bethlehem, have been on hunger strike for 64 days and eight days respectively, also in protest of being detained based on secret information, without a charge or trial. A fourth detainee, Samer al-Issawi from Jerusalem, himself a former hunger-striking icon, has also been on hunger strike for five days in solidarity with al-Qeeq, PPS added.
Negotiations continue for release of Palestinian hunger striker
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 20 Feb — Negotiations have continued between Palestinian and Israeli officials over hunger-striking Palestinian journalist Muhammad al-Qiq, head of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society said Saturday. Qadura Fares told Ma‘an that Palestinian officials involved in the talks hoped to reach a compromise that would be accepted by al-Qiq and his family by tomorrow. Fares added that there was “no guarantee” an agreement would be reached and said al-Qiq’s health remained in “serious danger.” News of the ongoing negotiations came as al-Qiq entered day 88 on hunger-strike against his administrative detention without charge or trial by Israel. The 33-year-old father of two has continued to refuse essential minerals and is only drinking water. Evidence reportedly connecting al-Qiq to the Hamas movement is still being withheld from his lawyers. Political affiliation with the majority of Palestinian parties can be considered a “security offense” by Israeli authorities, and is often used as rationale for the detention of Palestinians. Members of al-Qiq’s family told Ma’an during the earlier stages of his strike that they believe he is being held due to his work as a journalist . . . The duration of al-Qiq’s strike has surpassed that of strikes launched by Palestinian prisoners Khader Adnan and Muhammad Allan last year, whose refusal to eat eventually brought their release by Israel.
Shocking footage of Palestinian journalist’s hunger strike
Daily Mail 15 Feb — Disturbing video shows the emaciated 33-year-old writhing in pain in a hospital in northern Israel, 86 days after he began his hunger strike
Journalists, prisoners stand in solidarity with hunger-striking al-Qiq
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 19 Feb — Palestinian prisoners and journalists held separate rallies on Thursday in solidarity with hunger-striking Palestinian journalist Muhammad al-Qiq, sources said. In Israel’s Eshel prison, Palestinian prisoners reportedly held in Section 10 of the jail in a “day of disobedience,” banging on jail doors and screaming in solidarity with al-Qiq, who has been on an open-ended hunger strike for 86 days. Israeli forces in response put prisoners in Section 10 on lockdown. In the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron, dozens of journalists took the streets also marking their solidarity with al-Qiq. Journalists, members of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society, the PA Committee for Prisoners’ Affairs, Palestinian teachers and a number of political factions were in attendance.
Israeli court criticized for ruling on near-death Palestinian hunger striker
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Prominent Israeli rights group B’Tselem on Thursday criticized a ruling by Israel’s High Court of Justice on Palestinian hunger striker Muhammad al-Qiq as a “new low in the instrumentalist approach to human beings.” In a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Executive Director of the group Hagai Elad called for the immediate release of the 33-year-old journalist as he entered day 86 on strike against his administrative detention without charge or trial. Eyad slammed the rationale used by Israeli justices to reject a request by al-Qiq transferred to a Palestinian hospital in Ramallah, which reportedly argued that if the detainee was released, efforts to detain him in the future would “endanger soldiers’ lives.” “This sort of argument obviously cannot justify continuing to hold al-Qiq in HaEmek Hospital contrary to his express wishes. The fact that the court accepted this argument says more about the justices than about the reasonableness of the claim,” Eyad said. The director of the rights group said such argument was testament to “the long history” of High Court justices as “serving as a rubber stamp for administrative detention orders.” . . . Al-Qiq’s lawyers have yet to see “secret” evidence that the journalist is reportedly being held for, and have repeatedly failed to reach agreements for his release . . . Israel has negotiated in cases of hunger strikes launched by Palestinian prisoners in the past out of fear that prisoners’ deaths could spark unrest, but Palestinian Prisoners’ Society head Qadura Fares told Ma‘an last month that Israel had “nothing to lose” by failing to release al-Qiq before his death.
Israeli right-wing activist convicted of sedition for writing manual for Jewish terrorists
Haaretz 20 Feb by Chaim Levinson — Right-wing activist Moshe Orbach was convicted Thursday of sedition for writing the handbook “Kingdom of Evil” on how to establish a Jewish terrorist cell. “The document was harsh and extremist, and was entirely organized incitement to criminal activity,” Judge Menahem Mizrahi ruled. He did not yet set a date for sentencing. Orbach, who is listed as living in the ultra-Orthodox town Bnei Brak near Tel Aviv, had been ordered to stay out of the West Bank a number of times. In the past he was arrested on suspicions of committing arson at a church in Latrun near Jerusalem, but was released due to a lack of evidence. The Shin Bet security service said it had intelligence showing that Orbach was a member of a group called the Rebellion that aimed to stoke violence in the West Bank and bring down the Israeli government. Orbach was arrested in July after a thumb drive was found in his car containing the handbook. The long document calls for violent acts and explains how to kill. It includes a scenario for setting a house on fire with the residents still inside, as happened later in the Palestinian village of Duma, where four members of the Dawabsheh family were killed. Orbach denied the charges, saying that he did not write the document, that it did not call for a rebellion and that he never intended to have it published. But based on the testimony of computer experts, the judge ruled that Orbach wrote and edited it 30 times over four months. He called Orbach an evasive and dissembling witness.
Gaza man succumbs to his wounds after setting self on fire
GAZA (Ma‘an) 19 Feb — A Palestinian died of wounds he sustained last week after setting himself on fire in the Gaza Strip, medical sources announced on Friday evening. The man, identified only by his initials as I.A., suffered from severe burns after attempting suicide by pouring flammable material on himself and setting himself ablaze at the Bani Suheila roundabout in the southern Gaza town of Khan Yunis . He was taken to the Nasir hospital for treatment, only to succumb to his wounds days later. The reasons behind the man’s suicide were unknown, but the Gaza Strip has seen a surge in suicides due to the increasingly unbearable living conditions in the besieged enclave. It is impossible to obtain official figures on the number of suicides in the Gaza Strip due to the taboo nature of the topic. However, a source within the security services told AFP in September that the number of cases was “frightening,” saying there were suicide attempts on a “near-daily” basis.
Are unpaid salaries driving Gazans to suicide?
GAZA CITY (Al-Monitor) 18 Feb by Asmaa al-Ghoul — The crisis over unpaid wages has already pushed several in Gaza to commit suicide, a trend that seems unlikely to be reversed soon — Rizk Abu Sitta climbed up to the top of the Radio Israa tower above the Dahdouh building facing Al-Azhar University in Gaza City Feb. 9. Though some observers at first thought he was a worker performing a repair, he was trying to commit suicide. Hundreds of people gathered to watch the young man standing between the iron bars on the top of the tower. Police officers also joined the crowd and prevented people from going up to the rooftop. One of the workers at the radio station told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “One of the building residents told us that there was a man on top of our tower, thinking that he was one of our employees. We immediately cut off the power to the transmission tower and informed the security services.” . . . Abu Sitta was standing between the bars, not moving a muscle, covering his face with his hands. The man seemed to be well aware of the danger he had put himself in, and his grip on the iron bars showed that he was reluctant to let go. His cousin Hussam told Al-Monitor, “We are calling his cell phone but he is not answering me or his mother. He is desperate because of the dire economic conditions, and his salary has been cut off for several years now.” Abu Sitta lives in Khan Yunis, in the south of the Gaza Strip. As a member of the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) security services, he is supposed to paid by the Ramallah government. He is an only child. His father was killed and his mother was once detained in an Israeli prison. His mother, Fatima Abu Bakra, was sitting under the tower crying. “Please, people, tell me my son is fine,” she said . . . Abu Sitta was finally talked out of his decision to kill himself after Fatah official Ibrahim Abu Naja went up and confirmed to him that Abbas will make sure that he will be paid . . . The dire living conditions in Gaza have driven many people to despair. SInce the beginning of this year, six others have attempted suicide [that we know of], and four of them have died.
‘Gaza, this uninhabitable planet . . . I want to run away from this madness’
Dissident Voice 18 Feb by Stuart Littlewood — Amal (means ‘hope’) is a young wife and mother of three in Gaza. She is university educated and her English is excellent. As I’ve said before, Palestinians – especially the ladies – are very keen on education and do their utmost to get the best they can in difficult circumstances . . . In her latest letter she apologises for not writing sooner . . . “Youth in Gaza is helpless and hopeless, has no trust or faith in anything or any change. Yesterday a young man burnt himself and another one called Hamada ended his life by hanging. He wrote a few words that he is already dead and went away. Another young man also hanged himself three days ago. In Gaza; you may suicide or die suddenly. I knew tens of young men ageing between 20-30 died recently of heart attacks. Silent tears in their eyes are the worst type and even the prayers of their mothers can’t relieve their accumulated problems. It is new phenomena here that you go to bed at night and don’t get up again. Or you may die of chronic disease or cancer. Uncontrolled use of pesticides and the pollutants of weapons during the wars leave 130 new detection of cancer monthly and this is the tip of the iceberg. I want to run away from this madness. And I know that hundreds of thousands of Gazans want to leave as well. . . .”
Video: 10-year-old victim of Israeli/Egyptian siege on Gaza
[with photos] IMEMC 19 Feb by Saed Bannoura — The Israeli and Egyptian siege imposed on the impoverished and war-torn Gaza Strip on Thursday claimed the life of Marah Diab, 10, who suffered from kidney failure for the past six years. Marah was supposed to be transferred to a hospital outside of the coastal region, but for six years, the Israeli siege, along with the border closure and restrictions on the Egyptian side, prevented her transfer for more advanced medical treatment. Medical sources in Gaza said the child needed a kidney transplant, and that none of her family members were a match for this procedure. In addition, the siege on Gaza, and repeated bombings by the Israeli military, have largely disabled medical centers in the Gaza Strip. “Repeated dialysis has exhausted her fragile and small body,” her father said, “She started suffering from other issues, such as hormone deficiency, significantly impacting her muscles, skin and blood, even disabling her ability to move.” Hundreds of Palestinians, including dozens of children, have died due to the deadly siege on the coastal region. Most of these were denied proper medical treatment, or prevented from transferring to medical centers outside of Gaza.
And one child who was luckier:
13-year-old Mohammed from Gaza gets a new lease on life
Ynet 18 Feb — Thanks to voluntary work of Israeli-based organization Save a Child’s Heart, doctors at Wolfson Medical Center in Holon [Israel] implant pulmonary valve that would improve Mohammed Abu Jazer’s quality of life and help him avoid open-heart surgeries — Thirteen-year-old Mohammed Abu Jazer from Gaza got a new lease on life last month thanks to the voluntary work of Israeli-based humanitarian organization Save a Child’s Heart. Mohammed, one of seven siblings, goes to the 7th grade, but finds it hard to keep pace with his peers due to his health condition. He is a fan of Real Madrid and would have loved to play soccer himself, but he ties easily. Meanwhile he plays computer games and dreams of going to university like his older siblings. Last month he took a major step on the way to fulfill his dreams when he underwent a successful pulmonary valve transcatheter implantation at the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon. (Continued)
3 children injured in explosion of ordnance in Gaza
GAZA (PIC) 18 Feb — Three young brothers were injured Thursday evening in an explosion of ordnance in Beit Hanoun town north of the Gaza Strip. The three injured were immediately taken to hospital for treatment, while police forces rushed to the area and opened an investigation into the incident, local sources said. Earlier last month, UNRWA revealed that 70% of explosive remnants of Israel’s war on Gaza in 2014 are estimated to remain in the Gaza Strip and pose a threat to the population of Gaza. One year after the summer hostilities of 2014, more than 7,000 explosive remnants of Israel’s summer war are estimated to remain in the Gaza Strip, according to UNRWA’s report. “Since the beginning of 2014 summer’s hostilities, 16 people have been killed and 90 wounded, including 38 children, due to contact with these unexploded remnants,” the report said.
Gaza: Military opens fire towards civilians east of Maghazi
IMEMC/Agencies 19 Feb — Israeli forces opened fire on Thursday, towards the houses and lands of Palestinian farmers to the east of Maghazi refugee camp, in the central Gaza Strip. Eyewitnesses reported, according to Al Ray, that the military opened heavy fire towards the lands of farmers who were close to the military location of Abo Safeya, as well as nearby homes east of the camp.
No casualties reported.
Gaza is laboratory for US-Mexico border tunnel warfare
Electronic Intifada 17 Feb by Rania Khalek — Israel is eliminating one of the only means of self-defense and survival for Palestinians in Gaza while priming the Israeli public for the next war — No longer content with suffocating Gaza by air, land and sea, Israel is expanding its blockade below ground with a new tunnel warfare system. The US government is bankrolling the project to the tune of $120 million, with hopes of installing the technology at the US border with Mexico. The anti-tunnel system is part of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts to transform Israel into a giant fortress. Last week, while touring the wall Israel is building at its boundary with Jordan, Netanyahu announced his plan to wall Israel off entirely to keep out Palestinians and Arabs from neighboring countries, whom he likened to animals. “In our neighborhood, we need to protect ourselves from wild beasts” by surrounding “the entire state of Israel with a fence, a barrier,” he said. And the US is using it as an opportunity to outsource its own border militarization objectives. – Terror tunnel hysteria – Israelis are characterizing the new technology as an underground Iron Dome, after the US-subsidized missile defense system designed to intercept rockets fired from Gaza before they hit the ground. Despite serious doubts about Iron Dome’s effectiveness, Israelis believe it works. So in effect, it shields them, at least psychologically, from the consequences of ghettoizing and imprisoning 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza. The anti-tunnel system has a similar objective. For years Israeli officials have whipped up fears about Palestinian predators popping out of so-called “terror tunnels” burrowed underneath Israeli bedrooms, backyards and schools with the intention of killing innocent families. – No basis in reality – Despite having no basis in reality, such claims were used to legitimize Israel’s 2014 war on Gaza, which killed more than 2,200 Palestinians, including 551 children. The independent UN Human Rights Council inquiry into the war confirmed that “during the period under examination, the tunnels were only used to conduct attacks directed at IDF [Israeli army] positions in Israel in the vicinity of the Green Line, which are legitimate military targets.” (Continued)
Hamas leader: Cameras, sensors found in tunnel collapse probe
Ynet 19 Feb by Elior Levy — Hamas’s military wing located last week underground cameras and sensor meant to expose the terror group’s network of attack tunnels and militant activities inside them, senior Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh said on Friday, regarding an investigation launched by the group into several tunnel collapses in recent weeks. Haniyeh used conciliatory rhetoric in his weekly Friday speech. “A new war on Gaza does not appear to be on the horizon, but Gaza has gained a system of deterrence, which doesn’t mean it has a balance of terror.” He noted that Israel has been practicing defensive maneuvers, which he claimed was evidence that the IDF does not intend to embark on a new round of conflict in Gaza. Haniyeh further said that a breakthrough had occurred in talks between Israel and Turkey regarding the creation of a seaport in Gaza. Palestinian media outlets and Hamas reported several tunnel collapses over the past month. More than ten Hamas operatives have died in the collapses, prompting the group to vow it would launch an investigation. In early February, the IDF was spotted using engineering equipment to drill the ground near the Gaza border. Meanwhile, it has also begun installing classified technological systems for locating tunnels. Fears have grown among Gaza border residents in recent weeks following residents’ reports of drilling noises. Despite the ongoing reports, no attack tunnels have been found during the past year of searches.
Gaza bombing targets home of Shiite leader
JERUSALEM (AFP) 19 Feb — A bomb attack targeted the home of a leader of a Palestinian Shiite Muslim movement in the Gaza Strip Friday, causing damage but no injuries, the group and security sources said. The pre-dawn blast caused extensive damage at the home of Sheikh Hisham Salem, his Al-Sabirin group said in a statement. Shiite Muslims are a tiny minority among Palestinians who are almost exclusively Sunni Muslims or Christians. Al-Sabirin, which says it is supported by Iran, accused “the occupier (Israel) and its collaborators.” The Israeli army declined to comment on the allegations . . . Hamas, a Sunni movement, seems to want to avoid conflict with Al-Sabirin, although there is no significant Shiite community in Gaza. Shortly after the explosion, Gazan security forces went to the scene and opened an investigation to find the perpetrators, security sources said . . . Al-Sabirin was formed in 2014 by Hisham Salem, a former member of Islamic Jihad — another Islamist group that also takes inspiration from the Shiite Iranian revolution but which is itself Sunni.
Bombs and blockade make Gaza’s floods worse
EI 17 Feb by Isra Saleh al-Namey — Two thousand hens died on Qandil Lawalha’s poultry farm after it was hit by a storm. That was more than half of all the hens he owned. Located in Rafah, a city near Gaza’s border with Egypt, the farm had previously been shelled by Israel during the summer of 2014. “I did not get any kind of support or compensation after the war and had to manage my work by myself,” Lawalha said. “Now I have to start over once again.” Lawalha depends on the income from his farm to take care of his seven children and his elderly parents. The extreme weather has meant that he had to endure lengthy power failures. “I was not able to keep the farm warm, and then the water seeped into it,” he said. Many of the hens froze to death. During January, Gaza suffered from heavy rains, winds of up to 80 km or 50 miles per hour and freezing temperatures. The losses which the storm caused will be felt for some time . . . Taher Abu Hamad, a director of Gaza’s agriculture ministry, said that the week-long storm resulted in losses for farmers of more than $1 million. “More than 12,000 hens died,” he said. “That constitutes 5 percent of all hens raised in the Strip. And a thousand acres of farmland were damaged during the storm.” . . . Farmers were by no means the only ones affected by the extreme weather. Town-dwellers struggled to cope with flooding, too. Usama Abu Nuqira, a civil defense officer in Rafah, worked alongside 17 colleagues to evacuate people from many apartment blocks. Their work was made more difficult by how Gaza has not been able to properly recover from Israel’s major attack during the summer of 2014 and from the ongoing consequences of the siege Israel imposed on the Strip in 2007. At the beginning of the rainy season — in November 2015 — the United Nations monitoring group OCHA warned that Gaza was vulnerable to flooding. OCHA highlighted how Israel was preventing the importation of pumps needed to deal with heavy rainfall. Israel categorizes many such pumps as “dual use” — claiming that they have both military and civilian applications. (Continued)
Letter from families of the abducted four to Mladenov
GAZA (PIC) 18 Feb — The families of the four abducted Palestinians at noon Wednesday handed a letter to the United Nations envoy for peace process Nicolay Mladenov. Abdul Dayem Abu Lebdeh, uncle of one of the kidnapped and the spokesman of the families of the abductees, addressed, in a sit-in, Mladenov saying, “We hope the United Nations will work on finding our abducted sons who have been kidnapped for six months while travelling via Rafah border crossing”. Abu Lebdeh said, in an exclusive statement to the PIC, that the families of the kidnapped four had already addressed international and human rights institutions including the UN about their sons, but they did not receive any response. Anonymous people abducted the four Gazan youths: Abdul Dayem Abu Lebdeh, Hussein al-Zebdeh, Abdullah Abu Al-Jabeen, and Yaser Zannoun. They were travelling for medical treatment and study abroad via Rafah border crossing with Egypt. No details on their fate or about who kidnapped them have been revealed yet.
Pulling buses with his teeth, Gaza’s Jason Statham
DEIR EL-BALAH, Gaza Strip (AFP) 19 Feb by Adel Zaanoun — 20-year-old Mohammed Baraka’s amateur stunts are generating a buzz among Palestinians on social media — The idea of pulling a 12-ton bus seems a crazy one, and Mohammed Baraka takes a few minutes to prepare himself with his family and friends. Only 20 years old, Baraka is far from a professional muscleman — in fact he is a second-year student in tourism and hotels at the Palestine Technical College in Deir el-Balah, his hometown in the Gaza Strip. But he has become something of a local hero, with his feats posted on Facebook and shared widely among Palestinians in Gaza and elsewhere. Baraka now dreams of leaving the blockaded territory and becoming a global star. His strength has earned him the nickname “Gaza’s Samson” . . . But Baraka prefers to be called “Gaza’s Jason” after his favorite movie star, British action film hero Jason Statham. For his trick, Baraka uses his teeth while strapped into a harness to heave at a 20-person bus until it moves. Next he pulls a 50-seater bus. The bus driver, Mahmud, looks astounded. “I thought he was joking, this is madness,” he says.
Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing
Israel steps up demolitions in West Bank
MEMO 19 Feb — Data indicates that the Israeli Civil Administration has noticeably stepped up its demolition of large Palestinian buildings in Area C of the West Bank since the beginning of the year, which a particular rise during the first half of February. A report by Amira Hass in Israel’s Haaretz newspaper indicated that in the past few weeks, 293 large buildings were demolished compared to the 447 large buildings that were demolished over the course of 2015. Based on this information, the Israeli authorities are demolishing an average of 49 large buildings every week, compared to last year’s average of 9 a week. The demolition operations during this year included at least 93 residential buildings, leaving 480 people homeless, including 220 children. According to the report, the Ministerial Committee on Settlement Affairs, led by Jewish Home’s Moti Yogev, is pressuring the representatives of the Civil Administration to pick up the pace on demolitions and the evacuation of Palestinians from Area C. They have also been focusing on demolishing buildings funded by international organisations, especially European organisations. According to the text of a closed session held in August, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Yoav Mordechai, stated that an immediate demolition order will be issued against any “illegal and European funded building” and a letter of protest sent to the embassy of the funding country. According to figures from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 104 buildings funded by European countries have been demolished over the past few weeks, while the number of those demolished or confiscated in 2015 was 108. This suggests a 230 percent increase in the demolition rate.
UN: Over 400 Palestinians displaced by Israel in 6 weeks
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 18 Feb — Over 400 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank have been displaced due to Israeli demolitions during the first six weeks of this year, a senior UN official said Wednesday. Coordinator for Humanitarian and UN Development Activities for the occupied Palestinian territory Robert Piper in a statement called the number of demolitions “alarming.” The number of Palestinians displaced in 2016 is already equivalent to over half of the total number displaced in all of 2015, the official said. Piper called on Israel to immediately halt all demolitions in the occupied West Bank, which he said were in violation of international law. “Most of the demolitions in the West Bank take place on the spurious legal grounds that Palestinians do not possess building permits,” Piper said. “But, in Area C, official Israeli figures indicate only 1.5 percent of Palestinian permit applications are approved in any case. So what legal options are left for a law-abiding Palestinian?” The UN documented 283 homes and other structures destroyed, dismantled, or confiscated between Jan. 1 and Feb. 15, many of which were located in the Jordan Valley. The measures displaced 404 Palestinians, including 219 children. Another 1,150 Palestinians were also affected after losing structures related to their source of income, according to the UN. The destruction was focused in 41 locations, many in Palestinian Bedouin or herder communities in Area C, the over 60 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli military control.
Israel demolishes Bedouin home in unrecognized Negev village
BEERSHEBA (Ma‘an) 18 Feb — Israeli forces on Thursday demolished a home in the Bedouin village of Wadi al-Niam in the Negev, locals said. Village resident Rafat abu Ayesh told Ma‘an that the forces along with Israeli excavators closed the area surrounding the village before tearing down the home. Residents added that Israeli excavators two days prior had destroyed agricultural crops belonging to the al-Farawna family in the Bedouin village of Shaqib al-Salam, also located in the Negev. Shaqib al-Salam is one of a number of towns created by the Israeli government in the Negev in an effort to permanently settle nomadic Bedouin communities that lived across the Negev prior to the establishment of Israel. Wadi al-Niam, where Thursday’s demolition was carried out, is one of at least 35 Bedouin communities never recognized by Israel and as a result denied basic services and rights, despite being citizens of Israel. Tens of thousands of Bedouins living in the Negev face ongoing displacement . . . Israeli authorities last summer began plans to build a Jewish-only town on the land of the Negev village of Umm al-Hiran, in what Knesset member Taleb Abu Arar described as a racist move by the state.
Israeli report: More than 400,000 settlers in West Bank
MEMO 19 Feb — The number of settlers living in 128 illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, excluding Jerusalem, has reached 406,302, an Israeli report revealed. The report, issued by former Member of the Knesset Yaakov Katz, suggested that the Israeli settlements are distributed amongst 11 settlement blocs, the largest of which is located in the Jordan Valley, while the most densely populated is the Benjamin settlement bloc. The Benjamin bloc consists of nearly 26 illegal Israeli settlements and its population is over 83,000 settlers according to the most recent figures for 2015. There are 27 Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley, with over 8,100 settlers. The report showed that the past two years witnessed a 4.4 per cent increase in the number of settlers in the West Bank, in addition to the 350,000 settlers who have settled in the 20 settlement blocs in occupied East Jerusalem. According to the report, the number of settlers in the occupied West Bank will reached 1.2 million by 2036.
Palestinian road construction sparks fear of infiltration to settlement
Ynet 16 Feb by Elisha Ben Kimon — Residents of the West Bank settlement Leshem have expressed concern of Palestinian infrastructure work done right by the town’s fence, saying the road being paved there illegally would allow for easy access to possible terrorists to Leshem. The infrastructure work involves paving a road connecting two West Bank towns, and even though the Civil Administration declared the work illegal and ordered that it be stopped, activity near Leshem’s fences go on, with residents fearing infiltration and terror attacks. “We knew they were working, but suddenly we find that they’re very close,” Leshem council leader Aryeh Segel said on Tuesday. “We hear the workers talking amongst themselves. The distance from there to infiltrating the settlement and escaping is short. This is a significant security risk. Leshem is in the western Samaria region near Pedu’el. On its north side is the village of Rafat, and the settlers claim that workers come from there. In the past, the Regavim NGO contacted the Civil Administration about the road paving and it was stopped, but since then the Palestinians have resumed building, this time closer to the fence.
Israel prepares to fight boycott activists online
AP 18 Feb — Gov’t allots $26 million to fight BDS movement; Israel is using its world-leading expertise in cyber security to take on the growing threat of the global pro-Palestinian boycott movement — The government has recently allotted nearly $26 million in this year’s budget to combat what it sees as worldwide efforts to delegitimize the Jewish state’s right to exist. Some of the funds are earmarked for Israeli tech companies, many of them headed by former military intelligence officers, for digital initiatives aimed at gathering intelligence on activist groups and countering their efforts. “I want to create a community of fighters,” said Sima Vaknin-Gil, the director general of the Ministry for Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy, to Israeli tech developers at a forum last month dedicated to the topic. Among the government officials involved in the efforts are some of Israel’s top secret-keepers, including Sima Shine, a former top official in the Mossad spy agency, and Vaknin-Gil, who recently retired as the chief military censor responsible for gag orders on state secrets . . . Vaknin-Gil said her ministry is encouraging initiatives to expose the funding and curb the activities of anti-Israel activists, as well as campaigns to “flood the Internet” with content that puts a positive face on Israel. She said some of these actions will not be publicly identified with the government, but that the ministry will not fund unethical or illegal digital initiatives . . . Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the BDS movement, said “quite a few web pages” that BDS websites linked to have mysteriously disappeared from the Internet. “We assume Israel’s cyber sabotage is ongoing, but we are quite pleased that its detrimental impact on the global BDS movement has been dismal so far,” he said. (Continued)
Combating BDS Act of 2016 – an analysis by Lawrence Davidson
Intifada-Palestine Feb — Part I – Congress Moves against BDS It was bound to happen – an attempt by the U.S. Congress to sanction the attacks on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement already taking place in some states and municipalities. The strategy is to legitimize an increasingly standard approach to undermining the boycott of Israel, an approach wherein the investment of any state funds, including pension funds, in any business or organization that boycotts the Zionist state is forbidden. Bipartisan pairs of senators – Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) – and Congressional Representatives – Robert Dold (R-IL) and Juan Vargas (D-CA) – introduced into both houses the“Combating BDS Act of 2016” (S.2531 and H.R.4514). We can be sure that all four of them are doing this at the coordinated behest of Zionist special interests to which they are financially tied. In other words, acting in their official capacity, their behavior on things that touch on Israel-Palestine is a payback for money and other forms of assistance offered by the Zionists to facilitate the politicians’ elections and reelections. Sadly, this is the way the U.S. campaign system works. Unless you are very wealthy, you are constantly scrounging for money. Under such circumstances one’s pathway to success is made easier if you don’t know the difference between ethics and your elbow. Our four sponsors of the “Combating BDS Act” would, of course, deny any such tainted motives. (Continued)
Palestinian refugees – Lebanon
Are we on the verge of a Palestinian exodus to Europe?
MEMO 18 Feb by Yvonne Ridley — A Palestinian exodus from the Middle East to Europe is being predicted as tensions between refugees in Lebanon reach breaking point. Nearly two million Syrians have fled their war torn country for neighbouring Lebanon with many moving in to the already overcrowded UN camps built for Palestinian refugees. The Palestinians, barred from dozens of jobs, professions and executive positions in Lebanon beyond the camp boundaries, have eked out a hand-to-mouth existence for decades while relying on the kindness of charities, welfare institutions and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, known simply as UNRWA. Simmering frustrations in the narrow streets of the camps are palpable. There is widespread talk among the Palestinian youth that the only answer to their problems lies in the hazardous journey to Europe which has already cost the lives of many refugees from other lands. Jamal Ali told me that he has given his blessing to both his sons as they prepare to make the journey across the Mediterranean Sea. It has taken many months to help fund his boys and it will still cost much more to pay the extortionate fees of up to $20,000 demanded by people smugglers . . . Since the arrival of the Syrians, the Palestinian refugees feel that what little hope they had has been lost. “They’ve taken our jobs and although UNRWA is supposed to be for Palestinians only, the Syrians are benefiting from the services and moving in to the camps. The situation is impossible.” He doesn’t know how he can tell his son that he has to stay in Lebanon. (Continued)
Palestinian refugees in Lebanon close UNRWA’s offices
BEIRUT (PIC) 18 Feb — Palestinian refugees in Lebanon closed off UNRWA’s offices in different areas in Lebanon as well as the bus stations leading to UNRWA’s main headquarters in Beirut. These protest moves, organized over almost two months, came in response to UNRWA’s policy of reducing its services on many levels especially the serious deduction of services in medical treatment. Palestinian refugees closed the main office of UNRWA for two days in the current week and for the fourth time in three weeks.
PCHR Weekly Report: Israeli troops kill 6 Palestinian civilians, including 3 children, this week [11-17 Feb]
PCHR-Gaza 19 Feb — 56 Palestinian civilians, including 13 children and a woman, were wounded in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israeli forces conducted 81 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank and a limited one in the central Gaza Strip. During the invasions, 76 Palestinian civilians, including 19 children, were abducted. Twenty-one of them, including 14 children, were abducted in occupied Jerusalem and its suburbs. 7 Palestinian civilians, including 3 children, were abducted in the central and southern Gaza Strip while trying to cross through the border fence into Israel to look for work. Israeli attacks in the West Bank: In the West Bank, Israeli forces killed 6 Palestinian civilians, including 3 children and a young woman, and wounded 46 others, including 11 children. Forty-three of them were hit with live bullets and 3 others were hit with rubber-coated metal bullets. Among the wounded were 42 civilians, who were wounded during an Israeli incursion into al-Am’ari refugee camp in al-Bireh, in the central West Bank, to carry out arrests. . . . Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip: In the Gaza Strip, Israeli forces wounded 10 Palestinian civilians, including 2 children; 9 of whom were wounded during a protest along the border fence, east of al-Shaja’iya neighbourhood, east of Gaza City. In addition, a civilian was wounded during a protest near the annexation wall, east of al-Bureij refugee camp, in the central Gaza Strip. Three of them were hit with live bullets, 6 others were hit with rubber-coated metal bullets and one was hit by a tear gas canister to the face. [Full report here]
Security staff cost PA 30% of overall budget
MEMO 19 Feb — The security agencies deplete nearly a third of the PA’s spending costs according to reports examined by Al-Resalah newspaper. This is seen to be an indication of the magnitude of attention and care provided to the security sector, especially in light of PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s sanctification of the security coordination, which he believes is the essence of the relationship with the Israeli occupation. The number of security agency members, its structure, and the bill for their salaries, bonuses and spending, especially with regards to miscellaneous items, the use of vehicles and petrol are all ambiguous. There are no public reports of this, but some reports obtained by Al-Resalah showed that the salaries paid by the PA to its employees in the civil and military sectors amount to 54 per cent of its total annual spending. The security sector’s spending reached over 30 per cent of the PA’s annual budget last year. Al-Resalah was able to compare the figures from 2011 and 2014 and found that in 2011 there were 65,750 military employees, 43 per cent of the total number of PA staff. This dropped to 64,680 in 2014.
How Israel is ‘turning Palestinians into Zionists’ / Jonathan Cook
JERUSALEM (Al Jazeera) 18 Feb — Israel is to put financial pressure on Palestinian schools in occupied East Jerusalem in an effort to make them switch over to an Israeli-controlled curriculum, according to local activists and officials. Almost all of East Jerusalem’s schools currently use a syllabus developed by the Palestinian Authority, a Palestinian government-in-waiting created in the mid-1990s by the Oslo accords. Before that, they relied on the Jordanian curriculum. Palestinian officials have slammed the move, warning that it is part of intensified efforts by Israel to disconnect East Jerusalem from the neighbouring West Bank and entrench its control over the 300,000 Palestinians in the city. Peace efforts have long been premised on Israel ending its occupation of East Jerusalem and recognising the city as the capital of a future Palestinian state. “This attack on our curriculum is part of Israel’s war on Palestinian identity,” Sabri Saidam, the Palestinian education minister, told Al Jazeera. “Israel is working to consolidate its illegal occupation.” Israel tried to impose the Israeli curriculum when it first occupied East Jerusalem in 1967, but was forced to relent after parents and pupils staged months of strikes and protests. Civil rights groups, meanwhile, fear Palestinian schools will have little choice but to submit to the Israeli scheme if they do not want to face further budget cuts in an East Jerusalem education system already chronically underfunded by Israel. Palestinian pupils, local activists say, will be presented with a curriculum that denies their history and identity, and places a strong emphasis on Israel’s official position that all of Jerusalem is its “eternal, unified capital”. “We don’t want our children to be told that al-Aqsa is not our holy place, that the Palestinian flag is not our flag, that the land belongs to the settlers, and that Ariel Sharon is a hero,” said Hatem Khweis, a spokesman for the Union of Parents’ Committees, a Palestinian group campaigning for improved education in East Jerusalem.
Israeli police announce raid on 2 organizations on suspicion of ties to Islamic Movement
MEMO 19 Feb — Israeli police have said that on Thursday their forces raided two organisations in the cities of Haifa and Umm Al-Fahm on suspicion that their activities serve the Islamic Movement’s interests. Police spokeswoman Luba El-Simari told Arab media in a written statement, a copy of which was sent to Anadolu Agency, that the raids were conducted in the context of implementing a decision to ban the northern branch of the Islamic Movement. Simari added that there are suspicions that the two organisations have ties to “illegal” and “outlawed” entities, but did not name the organisations. Last November, the Israeli government banned the Islamic Movement’s northern branch, which is headed by Sheikh Raed Salah, also shutting down non-profit organizations and movements that police believed operated on behalf of the group. An Anadolu correspondent reported that a large number of Israeli police and intelligence officers raided the offices of Yusuf al-Seddiq Organisation for Prisoners’ Affairs in Umm Al-Fahm City, Al-Sadaka al-Garya organisation in Nazareth and Zahrat al-Carmel in Haifa. According to the correspondent, Israeli soldiers prevented citizens and journalists from entering the buildings, before confiscating the contents of them and closing them. They also arrested Firas Omry, director of Yusuf al-Seddiq Organisation for Prisoners’ Affairs. Sadaka al-Garya is an organisation working to provide support to private sector organisations in Nazareth, while Zahrat al-Carmel provides assistance to the poor in Haifa.
PA, teachers’ union reach agreement to end strike
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 18 Feb — The Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian Teachers’ Union in the occupied West Bank on Thursday reached an agreement ending weeks of strikes demanding the guarantee of teachers’ rights. In a meeting between Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, union representative Ahmad Sahwil, and Education Minister Sabri Saydam, the PA and the union agreed on a five-point plan for paying money owed to teachers before the end of 2016. Government spokesman Yousif Mahmoud told Ma‘an that the meeting resolved the ongoing crisis between the two bodies, ending the teachers’ strike. PA security forces on Wednesday detained 22 Palestinian teachers who had taken part in the strike, including two principals. The overnight detentions came after an estimated 20,000 Palestinian teachers demonstrated in Ramallah on Tuesday to call for the implementation of an 2013 agreement guaranteeing teachers’ rights. Most schools in the occupied West Bank shut down completely in protest, while other establishments closed before noon, as teachers gathered in front of the PA cabinet headquarters to demonstrate.
No access to education for Bedouin children with disabilities
Electronic Intifada 17 Feb by Alia Al Ghussain — Lack of resources due to Israel’s institutionalized discrimination means no classrooms for many students. Sami Mgerh worries about his son’s education. Hearing and speech impaired, the 8-year-old needs functional support at school. But none is forthcoming. “I tried to find a class suitable for him,” said Mgerh, an attorney. “I was told that it did not exist. There is no support. There is no money.” Mgerh’s is not a special case. The Bedouin town of Shaqib al-Salam, or Segev Shalom, in the southern Naqab region, is — unlike many other such towns in Israel — officially recognized and was government-planned. However, like so many members of their community, the Bedouin residents of Shaqib al-Salam are subjected to institutionalized neglect from the Israeli government. The town of some 7,700 people is home to 13 children with disabilities, who are missing out on their education due to a lack of resources. For all children in the community, there is a complete lack of educational frameworks for pupils in grades 1-3. The absence of suitable educational facilities, such as specialized teachers, assistance services and psychological services, for children with disabilities means that many families from the town prefer not to send their children to school at all . . . Palestinian Bedouin are the most disadvantaged segment of Israeli society and the poorest community in the country. Less than half of children aged 3 to 4 living in government-planned towns, such as Shaqib al-Salam, and the more common unrecognized villages, have access to adequate educational facilities. (Continued)
UN, partner agencies open first child-friendly spaces in West Bank refugee camp
UNITED NATIONS (Xinhua) 17 Feb – The first ever child-friendly spaces were inaugurated Wednesday in ‘Aida refugee camp in the West Bank’s town of Bethlehem by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and the Lajee Center, a community-based grassroots creative cultural center. The new spaces — a football pitch and a playground — have been made possible with a generous contribution from the UN Office on Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP) and will provide the children of ‘Aida camp with a rare opportunity to play within a very challenging environment . . . The inauguration came after several months of increased violence around ‘Aida camp, with almost daily confrontations between Israeli security forces and Palestinians. From Oct. 1, 2015 to Feb. 11, 2016, UNRWA recorded 93 incursions by Israeli forces into ‘Aida camp, and more than 512 Palestine refugees, including 61 minors, were injured.
Bank Hapoalim nervous about dealing with Palestinian banks
YERUSHALAYIM/JERUSALEM (Hamodia) 19 Feb by Shimon B. Lifkin — Bank Hapoalim has informed the Finance Ministry that it will have to stop doing business with its Palestinian counterparts unless Israel provides it with protection from legal action in the event that funds transferred to Palestinian banks were used for terrorist activities. Bank officials recently came to the conclusion that Hapoalim would be exposed to lawsuits, in particular by foreign authorities involved in U.S. criminal lawsuits. They decided that the prudent thing would be to suspend ties with the Palestinians unless the Israeli government grants them indemnity against such claims. Many foreign banks prefer to use the Israelis as an intermediary to dealing directly with the Palestinian banks. Bank Discount may be similarly exposed. So far, the Finance Ministry has not been responsive to Hapoalim’s concern, insisting that such risk does not, in fact, exist. In addition, security forces object that unilateral action by the Israeli banks would severely harm the Palestinian economy, precarious in any case.