Violence / Detentions — West Bank / Jerusalem
Palestinian on run from Israel ‘assassinated’ in Bulgaria
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 26 Feb — Escaped Palestinian prisoner Omar al-Nayif was found dead inside the headquarters of the Palestinian embassy in Bulgaria [Sofia] Friday, in what senior Palestinian officials and his family have said was an “assassination” carried out by Israel. Nayif, a 52-year-old man from Jenin, had been living in Bulgaria for years, but late last year sought refuge in the Palestinian embassy after Israel demanded his extradition so he could see out a life sentence over the killing of an Israeli in Jerusalem’s Old City in 1986. Palestinian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Taysir Jaradat told Ma‘an embassy staff found Nayif lying in the embassy’s garden covered in blood. He was rushed to hospital but died en route. Jaradat did not initially point any fingers, saying the ministry was investigating Nayif’s death, and President Mahmoud Abbas also quickly ordered an investigation into what he said was a crime. However, Issa Qaraqe, the head of the Palestinian Committee for Prisoners’ Affairs, quickly accused Israel’s overseas intelligence agency Mossad of being behind the death. He said it was an act of “international piracy” and demanded an international investigation into the death. Qaraqe noted that Nayif’s death came just one day after another former prisoner, Ayman Jaradat, was “assassinated” by unknown assailants in Jenin. Nayif’s family also branded his death an “assassination.” Nayif took refuge in the Palestinian embassy in Bulgaria shortly after Israel demanded that the Bulgarian justice ministry turn him over on Dec. 15, when Bulgarian police reportedly gave Nayif 72 hours to turn himself in. Nayif refused to turn himself into the Bulgarian authorities, considering the procedure illegal, according to the Palestinian Committee for Prisoners’ Affairs. The left-wing Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestinian, of which Nayif was a member, in a statement blamed his death on both Israel and Palestinian Authority officials, who met with Bulgarian counterparts earlier this week.
Family: PA shares blame in Bulgaria assassination
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 26 Feb — The family of Omar al-Nayif on Friday said they held the Palestinian Authority responsible for his reported assassination by Israel at the Palestinian embassy’s headquarters in Bulgaria. Ahmad al-Nayif told Ma‘an: “My brother was being directly and indirectly threatened by some individuals at the embassy — especially the ambassador — who demanded him to leave the embassy where he was taking cover after being threatened by Mossad,” referring to Israel’s overseas intelligence agency. Ahmad demanded the Palestinian Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Palestinian ambassador to Bulgaria be dismissed for not providing enough protection for al-Nayif.
Israeli army kills a Palestinian-American teen near Ramallah
IMEMC/Agencies 27 Feb — Israeli soldiers shot and killed, on Friday, a Palestinian-American teen from Deir Dibwan town, east of the central West Bank city of Ramallah . . . Palestinian medical sources said the slain child has been identified as Mahmoud Mohammad Ali Sha‘lan, 17, and that he was shot near the Beit El Israeli colony and security center, built on Palestinian lands, north of Ramallah. The army held the body of the slain teen, and handed it later to the Palestinian side, before it was moved to the Palestine Medical Center in Ramallah. Sha‘lan was shot with many live rounds to various parts of his body and was left to bleed to death. His funeral will likely be held Sunday after the Palestinian side conducts an autopsy in the forensic center of the al-Quds Abu Dis University. The slain teen is a Palestinian with American citizenship. The Israeli army is alleging that the Palestinian “was carrying a knife, and attempted to stab soldiers, but they shot him dead before he was able to reach them.”
Israel returns body of Palestinian American teen shot dead near Ramallah
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 27 Feb — The Israeli authorities late Friday returned the body of a Palestinian American teenager who was shot dead after he reportedly attempted to stab Israeli soldiers stationed at a military checkpoint north of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. The Palestinian Ministry of Civil Affairs said the body of 17-year-old Mahmoud Muhammad Ali Shaalan was returned to his family and taken to Palestine Medical Complex. Shaalan’s body is expected to undergo autopsy at the Institute for Forensic Medicine at al-Quds University. The body was returned hours after Shaalan was shot and killed by Israeli soldiers at a military checkpoint by the illegal Beit El settlement. No Israelis were injured during the alleged stab attempt. The Palestinian Ministry of Health said Shaalan’s body was “riddled with bullets.” Shaalan is from the village of Deir Dibwan east of Ramallah and also has American citizenship.
Israeli forces shoot 2 during raid on Hebron-area village
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 25 Feb — Israeli forces on Thursday raided the village of Safa north of Hebron in the occupied West Bank, shooting two Palestinians after clashes broke out. Muhammad Ayyad Awad , an activist from the nearby town of Beit Ummar, told Ma‘an that clashes erupted when Israeli military forces stormed the home of Safa resident Saqir Badir Minim. Soldiers reportedly deployed on the rooftop while searching the home, targeting neighboring houses with tear gas. Awad said Israeli military forces fired rubber-coated steel bullets at Palestinian residents who attempted to prevent their entrance to the area. A 25-year-old was shot in the right hand and another shot in the foot, Awad told Ma‘an, adding that both were evacuated for medical treatment
Dozens wounded as Israeli forces repress weekly Palestinian marches
[with photos] QALQILIYA (Ma‘an) 26 Feb — Dozens of Palestinians were wounded across the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip on Friday as Israeli forces repressed weekly demonstrations against the ongoing military occupation. A Palestinian youth was injured in the head by a tear gas canister and treated by medics on scene, while dozens were injured with rubber-coated steel bullets and suffered tear gas inhalation during a march in Kafr Qaddum. Murad Ishteiwi, a coordinator of the popular resistance committee of the northern West Bank village of Kafr Qaddum, said that Israeli forces raided the town right after the march set off, firing rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas Ishteiwi said that clashes erupted between youths and Israeli soldiers following the raid; youths threw rocks and empty bottles, while Israeli snipers were deployed between olive fields.
Meanwhile in Bil‘in near Ramallah, Israeli forces fired rubber-coated steel bullets, tear gas and stun grenades at protesters as they neared the separation wall, causing dozens to suffer from tear gas inhalation including Kuwaiti journalist Nayif Shahir, 45. A Kuwaiti delegation of journalists led by author Fajir al-Said had participated in the protest.
Palestinian injured in Ni‘lin weekly protest
IMEMC 26 Feb — One Palestinian was shot with a sponge-tipped bullet, Friday, and many suffered the effects of teargas inhalation, after Israeli soldiers assaulted the weekly nonviolent protest against the Annexation Wall and colonies, in Ni‘lin village, west of Ramallah. The soldiers invaded the village and fired several gas bombs and sponge-tipped bullets, wounding one Palestinian with a bullet in his shoulder, while many residents suffered the effects of teargas inhalation.
Israeli forces assault, detain human rights lawyer in Hebron
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 26 Feb — Israeli forces on Friday detained a director for the Independent Commission for Human Rights during a peaceful protest marking the 22nd anniversary of the Ibrahimi mosque massacre. The ICHR said in a statement that Israeli forces assaulted then detained Farid al-Atrash, a lawyer, in Hebron. The organization called the violence used against al-Atrash “a crime,” and said it was following up on the matter with lawyers and the Palestinian military liaison office in Hebron. Al-Atrash was participating in a protest commemorating the 22 years since extremist American-born Jew Baruch Goldstein opened fire at Muslim worshipers, killing 29 and injuring more than 120 in the Ibrahimi mosque in 1994. The demonstration also called for the re-opening of al-Shuhada street, which was shut down soon after the massacre.
Wreath-laying in commemoration of Ibrahimi Mosque massacre
[with photos] HEBRON, Occupied Palestine 25 Feb by ISM, al-Khalil Team — 25 February 2016 marks the 22nd anniversary of the 1994 Ibrahimi Mosque massacre in occupied al-Khalil (Hebron). In commemoration of the Palestinians killed in this massacre, the Hebron Defense Committee (HDC) organized a wreath-laying at the martyrs’ cemetery. Baruch Goldstein, an Israeli settler, walked into the Ibrahimi mosque on 25th February during the Ramadan noon-prayer and opened fire on the worshipers, executing 29 and injuring more than 120 Palestinians. In the direct aftermath of this massacre, Israeli forces started cracking down on Palestinian basic human rights, freedom of movement and freedom of worship. The Ibrahimi mosque was divided into two parts and a synagogue installed in one part with exclusive use for Israeli settlers from the illegal Israeli settlers in al-Khalil. The once bustling Palestinian market in Shuhada Street was closed to Palestinians, their shops forced to close and doors welded shut – and has now become known as ‘ghost town’. In order to remember and commemorate the Palestinians killed in the massacre, the Hebron Defense Committee, representatives of the families of the martyrs of the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre, the governor of Hebron amongst others attended the wreath-laying at the martyrs cemetery in al-Khalil, where those killed by Israeli forces and settlers are laid for their last rest. The representative of the families of those murdered in the Ibrahimi mosque massacre asked for more attention for the victims’ families. Whereas the grave of Baruch Goldstein in the biggest illegal settlement right on the outskirts of occupied al-Khalil, Kiryat Arba, has become a shrine that is worshiped by settlers not only from al-Khalil but throughout the occupied West Bank and Israel; the families of the Palestinian victims are asking for more attention. Instead, they are suffering from the Israeli forces’ violence, harassment and closures that are violently enforced on the whole Palestinian population in al-Khalil.
Israeli guard critically wounded in settlement stabbing
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 26 Feb — An Israeli security guard was critically wounded in a stabbing allegedly carried out by a Palestinian in the illegal Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim east of Jerusalem overnight Thursday. Israeli police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld said that at around 1:30 a.m., a Palestinian armed with a knife repeatedly stabbed the 48-year-old security guard inside a shopping mall in the settlement before fleeing the scene. The security guard was evacuated to Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem in critical condition. A spokesperson for the hospital said Friday that he had undergone hours of surgery lasting until 7 a.m. and his life remained at risk. Rosenfeld said Israeli forces were searching the area. Palestinian workers have been banned from entering the settlement until at least Sunday.
Army kidnaps two Palestinians in Hebron
IMEMC/Agencies 26 Feb — Israeli soldiers kidnapped, on Friday at dawn, two Palestinians in the southern West Bank city of Hebron, after invading their homes and searching them. The soldiers kidnapped Ezzeddin Zein and Luay Amro during extensive military searches that also targeted many homes, including the homes of a number of former political prisoners. The army also interrogated several Palestinians while searching their homes. In related news, several army vehicles invaded Doha town, west of Bethlehem, searched homes and summoned a young man, identified as Hamza Abdul-Razeq Hamza, for interrogation in the Gush Etzion military base.
Netanyahu: We failed to deport terrorists’ families
Ynet 25 Feb by Itamar Eichner & Amir Alon — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday lamented his inability to deport the families of terrorists, arguing that courts were misinterpreting the Geneva Conventions’ provisions regarding population transfers. “There is one thing we have not managed to do,” Netanyahu said at a Likud meeting in Ofakim. “We have not managed to bring about deportation of terrorists’ families. We cannot do this because the courts define this as a war crime. That is how it is defined in the Geneva Conventions, etc. The prime minister also discussed measures to deter terrorists. “The most important thing is demolition of houses,” he said. “We are demolishing houses, and we are discovering that this has a decent effect. I saw that it wasn’t moving and was taking time. There is too great a time gap, and therefore every Sunday after the government meeting, every Sunday without exceptions, for three weeks now, I summon all the relevant elements to me – the Justice Ministry, the IDF, the Shin Bet, and ask for a report about what happened. “The second thing,” said the prime minister, “is that we are going into the villages and neighborhoods that we once would not enter. We are working actively. We are closing towns and placing restrictions n movement, as well as revoking work permits.” Netanyahu also referred to occasional rocket fire from the Gaza Strip. “Take note, even if a rocket is fired mistakenly, a response always comes,” he said. “Did you notice? We once said that ‘trickles’ were all right. There are no trickles. There is an immediate response.”
5-year-old killed in Gaza as Israeli ordnance explodes
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 25 Feb — A Palestinian child was killed and another seriously injured after unexploded ordnance detonated in the Jabaliya area of the northern Gaza Strip. Medical sources told Ma‘an that five-year-old Suhayb Saqir was killed and his brother Musab, 6, was seriously injured in the explosion. Sources said the injured child was taken to the Indonesian Hospital in northern Gaza Strip for treatment.
Last summer five Palestinians were killed and over 30 injured when unexploded ordnance went off while rubble was being cleared from a destroyed house in Gaza. All of those killed were members of the same family. Over 7,000 [pieces of] unexploded ordnance were left throughout the Gaza Strip following the 2014 war between Israel and Palestinian militant groups, according to officials of the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the Palestinian territories (OCHA). Even before the most recent Israeli assault, unexploded ordnance from the 2008-9 and 2012 offensives was a major threat to Gazans.
3 Gazans wounded in IOF shooting
GAZA (PIC) 26 Feb — Three Palestinian youths were injured Friday afternoon after Israeli Occupation Forces opened fire at the eastern and southern borders of Gaza. Local sources affirmed that two young men were hit and injured when Israeli forces stationed at the border areas east of Gaza City opened fire at Palestinian protesters. Several others suffered effects of teargas inhalation, the sources added. The PIC news reporter earlier said that a Palestinian youngster was transferred to the European Hospital in Gaza after suffering a live shot injury. The injured young man was targeted by Israeli forces east of Khan Younis south of the besieged Strip.
After initial scare, Israel arrests three Palestinians looking for work
[with map] JPost 27 Feb by Noam Amir/Maariv Hashavua — Israeli security forces took three Palestinians who had illegally entered the country in search of work into custody early Saturday morning after initially fearing that they had intended to carry out a terrorist attack. The three men’s entry into the area alarmed the security forces to the point where authorities implored residents of towns and villages near the Gaza frontier to remain in their homes. Fearing unlawful infiltration by Palestinians, authorities closed off a major highway, Route 232, leading in and out of the Eshkol regional council. After security services conducted a sweep of the area, they discovered three Palestinian labor migrants and took them into custody. The task of securing the area is made more difficult by the heavy fog that has blanketed the region in the last 24 hours.
Hamas: Don’t want war with Israel, tunnels are defensive
Reuters 25 Feb — A senior leader of the Islamist group Hamas said the Palestinian movement was not seeking a new war with Israel and insisted a network of tunnels it is digging, some of which have reached into Israel in the past, was “defensive.” Speaking to members of the Foreign Press Association in Gaza, Mahmoud al-Zahar, a medical doctor seen by many as a hardliner, suggested the prospects of reconciliation with the rival Fatah party of President Mahmoud Abbas were slim, despite years of international efforts to forge unity. “I think nobody here in the region is looking for a war,” said Zahar, 71, who has survived two Israeli assassination attempts, one of which, in 2003, killed his son.”We are not looking for any confrontation with Israel, but if they are going to launch an aggression we have to defend ourselves,” he told reporters late on Wednesday . . . Asked why Hamas was building tunnels, Zahar said they were defensive and suggested they were nothing against the might of the US-supplied Israeli military. “You are speaking about tunnels? You are not speaking about F-35 (fighter planes)? You are not speaking about the nuclear bomb in Israel… The tunnels are a matter of self-defense,” he said.
IDF intel chief warns despair in Gaza could explode toward Israel
Times of Israel 24 Feb — The Gaza Strip’s worsening humanitarian situation could lead to a conflagration with Israel, the Israeli military’s intelligence chief warned Tuesday. IDF Military Intelligence chief Herzl Halevi told the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee: “The humanitarian condition in Gaza is progressively deteriorating, and if it blows up, it’ll be in Israel’s direction.” Halevi said the reconstruction of Gaza following 2014’s war between Hamas and Israel was moving very slowly. The Strip’s rehabilitation, he said, was a key factor in preventing further conflict. He agreed with a 2015 UN report that said Gaza could be uninhabitable by 2020 if its economy is not quickly strengthened. That report placed much of the blame for the situation on Israel’s blockade on the enclave. He noted that despite the difficult situation in Gaza, Hamas continues to be uninterested in war with Israel at this time, and is making efforts to control other factions in the territory to prevent them from heating up the border. Halevi told lawmakers that economic improvement in Gaza would also help stabilize tensions in the West Bank.
Uncertainty reigns over Israeli plans for Gaza seaport
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 25 Feb — Uncertainty reigned this week following reports Israel has reopened discussions looking into the possibility of constructing a seaport off the coast of the beleaguered Gaza Strip. Israeli daily Haaretz reported Thursday that senior Israeli officials have met in recent weeks to study various proposals, including one that would see an artificial island built off the Gazan coast, connected to land by a 4.5-kilometer bridge, and under full Israeli security control. In Ramallah, Fatah officials called on Gaza’s de facto leaders Hamas to clarify their position on a new seaport, denouncing any plans that would see such a port placed under Israeli control. Fatah spokesperson Osama al-Qawasmi said in a statement: “Hamas’ silence about the discussions causes Fatah to pose this question: how is it possible for Hamas to agree on a seaport controlled by Israel but refuse to hand over control of the Rafah crossing to the Palestinian Authority?” His comments referred to a dispute between the two rival factions late last year when the Fatah-dominated PA attempted unsuccessfully to take control of the Gaza Strip’s southern land crossing into Egypt. Turning to the seaport proposals, Qawasmi reiterated Fatah’s opposition to any attempts by Israel to politically cut off the Gaza Strip from the occupied West Bank. The possibility of a seaport off the Gaza coast has been mentioned at various points over the last year and a half as part of Hamas’ bid to secure a long-term truce with Israel in the aftermath of 2014’s deadly war. However, indirect talks between Israel and Hamas have been viewed with suspicion by the PA, which fears Israel is planning to redefine the Gaza Strip as a political entity separate from the West Bank. The PA has not held authority in Gaza in nearly a decade.
According to Haaretz, Israeli officials reopened discussions on a seaport due to the severe downturn in Gaza’s economy in an attempt to prevent future conflict with the coastal enclave, which has already seen three devastating wars in six years. However, Haaretz reported that while a number of Israeli military officials support the proposals, they would likely be prevented by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon who disagree with the plans. The seaport would not necessarily mean an end to Israel’s crippling nine-year blockade of Gaza, which is viewed by many as the chief obstacle to Gaza’s economic development.
Israel denies reports it okayed Gaza seaport in talks with Turkey
JPost 26 Feb by Yasser Okbi/ Maariv Hashavua — The top Israeli official in charge of liaising between the government and the Palestinian territories told a Saudi news site on Friday that there are no discussions between Jerusalem and Ankara on the building of a seaport in the Gaza Strip. Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the coordinator of government activities in the territories (COGAT), told Elaph that reports quoting Hamas and Turkish officials to the effect that Israel had agreed to the building of a Gaza seaport were false. Mordechai said that if and when Israel did agree to the construction and operation of a seaport in Gaza, it would only be as part of understandings reached with the Palestinian Authority . . . The Saudi news site reported that talks between Israel and Turkey are continuing. Jerusalem is reportedly presenting the Turks with new conditions, including a demand that the government in Ankara expel Hamas officials from the country. Israel is also reportedly refusing Turkey’s demand that it ease up on the Gaza blockade. The report states that Turkey has shown greater willingness to compromise with Israel due to its desire to purchase Israeli natural gas.
Egyptian power line to Rafah disconnected due to technical issue
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 27 Feb — An Egyptian power line providing electricity to the Gaza Strip’s Rafah district was disconnected due to a technical problem on Saturday morning, officials said. Muhammad Thabit, a public information officer for Gaza’s electricity company, told Ma‘an that the Egyptian authorities notified the company that a grid had failed due to technical issues, without providing further information. Gaza’s over 1.8 million residents struggle with constant power shortages in the besieged enclave.
200 Gazans travel to Jerusalem to pray at Al-Aqsa mosque
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 26 Feb — Two hundred Palestinians from the Gaza Strip headed to Jerusalem via the Erez crossing on Friday to pray at the Al-Aqsa mosque. An official at the Palestinian liaison told Ma‘an that 200 worshipers above the age of 60 headed early in the morning to perform Friday prayers at the mosque. Sources added that worshipers would return to the Gaza Strip right after Friday prayers. Friday’s weekly visit was part of an ongoing agreement following the 2014 Gaza war, allowing 200 Gazans over the age of 60 to attend Friday prayers at the mosque compound before returning to Gaza immediately afterward.
Israeli navy opens fire on fishing boats in Gaza waters
IMEMC/Agencies 25 Feb — Israeli navy ships opened fire, on Thursday morning, on several Palestinian fishing boats, only four nautical miles away from the Gaza shore, causing damage. The navy fired several rounds of live ammunition, hitting some boats, causing damage, and forcing the fishers back to the shore, in fear of additional assaults and escalation. The attack is part of daily violations targeting the fishers in the besieged and improvised coastal region. On Wednesday, the navy fired live rounds targeting many Palestinian fishing boats, in central Gaza, causing damage.
Egyptian construction threatens to obliterate Rafah’s beaches
RAFAH, Gaza Strip (Al-Monitor) 25 Feb by Mohammed Othman — Rafah’s municipality used aerial photos of the city’s coast from Google Earth to show the erosion of more than 12 meters (39 feet) of its coast as of 2014, the result of Egypt’s construction of a groin on the Egyptian side of Rafah in 2010. The director of the Health and Environment Department for Rafah municipality, Usama Abu Nokira, told Al-Monitor, “A groin is a curved marine structure on the shoreline or a deep coastal outlet. It may be natural or artificial and protects a port or a shoreline from erosion. However, it has several negative consequences, as it increases beach erosion [elsewhere] and causes water advances toward residential areas.” Abu Nokira said, “The groin was constructed by Egypt 1,900 meters [1.2 miles] into the Egyptian border, and it extends about 300 meters into the sea. Sandy sediments have accumulated to the south of this groin, which led to severe erosion of the coast of the Palestinian town of Rafah. The seawater advanced deep into the residential area, and if we compare the aerial photos from before the establishment of the groin and after its establishment between 2010 and 2014, it shows that Rafah’s shoreline has been bitten off by 12 meters, which means its area decreased from 66 meters to 54. This is a frightening proportion, and we expect that — according to this corrosion ratio we see in photos — corrosion between 2014 and 2016 will exceed 6 meters.” According to Abu Nokira, Rafah’s coastline will be fully eroded as it is carved away and advancing seawater will submerge the residents’ homes in the next 10 years. (Cont.)
Hamas civil servants begin strike over unpaid salaries
GAZA (Ma‘an) 25 Feb — Civil servants hired by the Gaza Strip’s de facto Hamas leaders implemented a strike on Thursday across all Gazan ministries and public institutions to protest unpaid salaries. The employees, who originally announced plans for the strike on Tuesday, have not been regularly paid since the formation of a unity government in 2014, although Hamas struggled to pay their salaries regularly even before that. Schools, courts, medical and government institutions were closed in protest, with employees demanding Palestinian officials from the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, who have been meeting in Doha for reconciliation discussions, find a “radical solution” for their salary crisis. A spokesperson for the employees’ union, Muhammad Siyam, said during a press conference that the general strike in Gaza includes all the institutions and health care facilities, with the exception of emergency medical functions. He added that the general strike is a “message” to all Palestinian authorities, both in the West Bank and Gaza, that reconciliation will not be achieved until the salary crisis is resolved. The employees’ status has been one of the major points of dispute between the two rival factions,
Reuters reporter detained by Hamas officials in Gaza
JPost 25 Feb by Tovah Lazaroff — Incident takes place two weeks after Israel Police detained a reporter from “The Washington Post” along with an Arab colleague in Jerusalem — Hamas briefly detained Reuters bureau chief in Israel Luke Baker on Thursday after stopping him as he walked on the Gaza beach taking photographs. “At a certain point a guy came over in a suit and said [in English], ‘Please come with me,’” said Baker. He took Baker to a building where he was introduced to a man who identified himself as a major in the Hamas security forces. Baker and the Hamas major then sat in a shady spot in the courtyard of the building drinking tea and coffee for half an hour, while the officer quizzed him about his two-day Gaza trip.
Cut off from PA aid, relatives of slain in Gaza face destitution
EI 26 Feb by Isra Saleh el-Namey — Hanadi al-Qayid looked tired. The 45-year-old lost two of her children when fighter jets shelled her home in the central Gaza Strip city of Deir al-Balah during Israel’s assault in the summer of 2014. Now she attends a regular sit-in demonstration outside a branch of the Palestinian Authority office responsible for the welfare of the families of the dead and wounded. Relatives of the martyrs, are they are known, gather weekly in Gaza City to protest the decision to suspend the payment of allowances to families of the those slain by Israel in 2014 . . . The problem is a consequence of the division between Fatah and Hamas, the West Bank and Gaza. It is established in Palestinian Liberation Organization law that families of those slain and injured during the struggle for the Palestinian cause should receive regular financial assistance regardless of political leanings. Yet Palestinians in Gaza, which has been run by Hamas since 2007, often face difficulties in claiming their allowances . . . “The PA cannot blame financial difficulties only when it comes to Gaza’s martyrs. It pays what equals to $500 for every martyr that has fallen in the West Bank during the current uprising,” al-Birawi said. “That is totally unjustified. We all know that the PA has huge sums that can help the thousands in Gaza who have lost their breadwinners.” (Continued)
Prisoners / Court actions
Al-Qiq ends 94-day hunger strike after deal struck with Israel
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 26 Feb by Killian Redden — Imprisoned Palestinian hunger-striker Muhammad al-Qiq on Friday ended a grueling 94-day hunger strike that has brought him close to death after his lawyers struck an eleventh hour deal with the Israeli authorities. Qadura Fares, the head of the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society, told Ma‘an that while Israel had not agreed to al-Qiq’s immediate release, a “compromise” had been reached. Israel’s six-month administrative detention sentence against al-Qiq will not be renewed, while his lawyers managed to push the date of his release to May 21, he said. The date will mark exactly six months since al-Qiq was detained from his home in Ramallah on Nov. 21, as opposed to six months from the date he was sentenced on Dec. 17. “The military order will be the last one,” Fares said. He added that al-Qiq would also be allowed visits from his family, including his wife, two children, and father. Israel has also agreed to transfer the hunger-striker to any hospital in Israel, although Fares said they had not agreed to transfer him to a hospital in the occupied Palestinian territory. He said al-Qiq was now accepting medical treatment and was allowing doctors in HaEmek Medical Center, where he has been held for most of his hunger strike, to examine him. The Israeli army confirmed al-Qiq’s current sentence would end on May 21, although it said the situation would then “be examined to determine whether there is new information or security circumstances which require extending detention.” A spokesperson for Israel’s prison authorities was unable to comment on the deal, which she said had been negotiated solely by the army.
Child with special needs visits journalist Qeiq in hospital
RAMALLAH (PIC) 26 Feb — A Palestinian child with special needs on Thursday evening visited hunger-striking journalist Mohamed al-Qeiq in HaEmek hospital in Afula city to express his solidarity with him. The Palestinian commission of detainees and ex-detainees said that 14-year-old Ahmed Jabbarin, from Umm al-Fahm city, insisted on entering the room of journalist Qeiq to see him and stayed with him for several hours in solidarity with him. The father of the child told the commission’s lawyer Hanan al-Khatib that his son insistently asked to take him to see Qeiq in hospital. Lawyer Khatib, for her part, said that another child with special needs called Musaab Mahamid has been on hunger strike for 10 days in solidarity with Qeiq.
A 12-year-old Palestinian inmate languishing in Israeli prison
Haaretz 27 Feb by Gideon Levy & Alex Levac — Her bed is empty. Only her furry friends – teddy bear, bunny rabbit and kitty cat – are lying on it now. For the past two-and-a-half weeks, D. hasn’t been sleeping in her bed. She is doing time in Hasharon Prison. At the age of 12, and just two-and-a-half months over the age of criminal responsibility, she’s probably the youngest inmate languishing in the Israeli prison system. Her parents have so far been prohibited from visiting her. D. was sentenced in a plea bargain to a prison term of four-and-a-half months. The charges: attempting to cause death with intent and being in possession of a knife. Still, she was lucky. If the armed civilian security guard who confronted her hadn’t been restrained and brave, in contrast to the soldiers and policemen who empty their magazines in similar situations – D. would have been shot to death like all the other young people wielding knives. Her parents, too, understand that their daughter was spared a far crueler fate . . . The house stands on the western slopes of Halhul, north of Hebron. There’s an iPad that displays a photograph of D. after she was handcuffed and made to lie down on the road by the guard, who suspected that she was carrying a knife. That was on the morning of the February 9. According to D.’s parents, Umm Rashid and Ismail al-Wawi, nothing in her behavior that morning suggested what would happen after her mother gave her pocket money and she set off for school. The school is about 200 meters from the house, but it turns out that D. had other plans that morning. She walked toward the settlement of Karmei Tzur, some two or three kilometers away. When she approached the barrier at the entrance to the settlement, the guard’s suspicions were aroused. He ordered her to kneel and she obeyed. He noticed a protruding object beneath her clothing and told her to get up and take it out; it was a knife. According to her mother, the knife – which she has seen in a photograph – did not come from the house. D. was arrested, interrogated and within a few days placed on trial in the Judea Juvenile Military Court. Ismail, 53, is a construction worker who is employed in building the rail line for the fast train to Jerusalem. His work permit was of the highest category, entitling him to sleep in Israel. But it was immediately revoked because of his daughter’s action, and his world fell apart. (Continued)
Israel imprisons Palestinian tour guide
EI 25 Feb by Ryan Rodrick Beiler — Palestinian tour guide and youth organizer Daoud al-Ghoul was sentenced to 18 months in prison last week. An Israeli court convicted him of membership in a prohibited organization. Sources close to al-Ghoul told The Electronic Intifada that he was accused of being a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a Marxist political party banned by Israel. Al-Ghoul had already spent months in jail before last week’s trial and sentencing. In June last year, he was called in for questioning at the Israeli interrogation center in Jerusalem known as the Russian Compound and subsequently arrested. That came after a months-long order banning him from Jerusalem, the city of his birth and lifelong residence . . . Al-Ghoul likened the orders to administrative detention, Israel’s practice of indefinitely imprisoning Palestinians without charge or trial. “We don’t have any information,” al-Ghoul told Middle East Eye at the time of his expulsion. “The Israeli police are saying it was a secret file. And in the Israeli file they tell me they are saying that I am a danger to the Israeli state.” . . . Prior to his expulsion and arrest, al-Ghoul was a grassroots youth organizer for the Health Work Committees. In May 2015, the Israeli authorities raided the group’s offices in the Shuafat neighborhood of East Jerusalem, seized computers and issued a closure order accusing the health and development organization of “terrorist activities.” Since 1990, the group provided medical exams, preventative screenings, health education and vaccinations to Palestinian students in dozens of schools in Jerusalem. Al-Ghoul also worked as a tour guide with an activist’s perspective. (Continued)
Report claims torture during interrogation
Ynet 24 Feb by Elior Levy — Two NGOs release testimony of 116 Palestinian security detainees who complained of harsh prison conditions, deprivation of sleep and food, and use of violence; Shin Bet says report is distorted and biased — The B’Tselem and HaMoked NGOs on Wednesday issued a draft report containing testimony from 116 Palestinian security detainees accusing Israel of extremely harsh conditions, including deprivation of sleep and food . . . The testimonies suggest that the harsh detention conditions are an integral part of the interrogation itself, and the authors state that the goal is to weaken the prisoner’s body and spirit, in parallel with the questioning in interrogation rooms. According to the report, this combination is abuse that in some cases amounted to torture, and is used systematically against Palestinian detainees in Shikma Prison in violation of international law and the High Court of Justice ruling that banned the use of torture during interrogation. The testimonies include multiple reports of a policy that includes violence and humiliation during detention, inhumane conditions in crowded and filthy facilities, cutting off a detainee from the outside world while causing loss of orientation, decreased amounts and inferior quality of food, exposure to extreme heat and cold, prolonged handcuffing to the interrogation chair at various painful angles and postures, long-term sleep deprivation, threats, curses, shouts and insults. (Continued)
Court drops charges of Aqsa assault against rightist Yehuda Glick
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 26 Feb — An Israeli court on Thursday dropped indictments against right-wing Israeli activist Yehuda Glick, 18 months after he reportedly assaulted a Palestinian woman at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. The decision will likely void a ruling banning Glick from entering the compound, enabling the controversial figure to renew tours for Israelis at the flashpoint site, according to Israeli media reports. The court reportedly said the testimony of 67-year-old Palestinian Ziva Badarna — who said she was physically attacked by Glick in August 2014 — had been fabricated. Following the ruling, Glick said he “had to face a war in the court,” where he was “fighting against a system meant to protect him, but which was actually working hand in hand with our worst enemies.” He also pledged to continue visiting the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound as part of his religious duties. Glick came to prominence for leading groups of rightist Israelis into the mosque compound for worship, in contravention of an agreement between Israel and the Islamic endowment since 1967 that prohibits non-Muslim prayer in the compound. He has been heavily involved with the Temple Institute, an organization dedicated to building the Third Jewish Temple in the place of the Dome of the Rock.
Israeli court extends remand of 14-year-old Palestinian attackers
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 25 Feb — An Israeli court on Thursday extended the remand of two 14-year-old Palestinians who were shot while carrying out a deadly stabbing in an illegal Israeli settlement northeast of Jerusalem earlier this month. Jad Qadamania, a lawyer with the Palestinian Committee for Prisoners’ Affairs, told Ma‘an the court ruled to keep the two children, Ayham Subih and Omar Rimawi, in Israel’s Shaare Zedek and Hadassah hospitals, respectively, for at least another eight days. The children did not attend the court hearing on account of their poor condition, he said. 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.
IOF rolls into Qabatiya, threatens to demolish prisoner’s home
JENIN (PIC) 25 Feb — The Israeli occupation forces (IOF) at dawn Friday rolled into Jenin’s southern town of Qabatiya and wreaked havoc on the home of a Palestinian prisoner, before they threatened to demolish it. A PIC journalist quoted local sources as stating that the occupation troops rummaged into the home of the newly arrested detainee Bilal Ahmad Abu Zeid before they took measurements of the building and threatened to knock it down. The IOF soldiers reportedly cracked down on the detainee’s family and sparked a state of panic among children and women. The Israeli occupation authority has accused Abu Zeid of helping three Palestinian youths to enter Occupied Jerusalem and carry out an anti-occupation shooting attack in Bab al-Amoud area in early February.
Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Settlers
Israel accused of using trickery to snatch refugee lands
ACRE, Israel (MEE) 25 Feb by Jonathan Cook — Palestinian leaders in Israel have warned that they suspect the Israeli government is behind recent efforts to trick the families of refugees from the 1948 war into signing away the rights to their lands. The alert has been issued to an estimated 300,000 Palestinian citizens of Israel descended from refugees who were forced out of their villages during the 1948 war but remained inside the new Israeli state’s borders. Palestinians refer to the dispossession of their homeland as the Nakba – the word for “catastrophe” in Arabic. Experts say that Israel has been working to pressure refugees into selling the title to their lands for decades as a way to undermine a Palestinian right of return, one of the key demands in any peace agreement. “Israel has a strong interest in reducing the number of refugees with a claim on these lands so that in the event of an agreement the issue of a Palestinian right of return is weakened,” said Hillel Cohen, a researcher on the Palestinian refugee issue at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. “Israel hopes to be able to say to the international community, ‘But the refugees sold their land – where can they return to?’” Khaled Suleiman, aged 64 and from the Israeli coastal city of Acre, told Middle East Eye his family was among those approached by lawyers trying to persuade them to sell . . . Suleiman said he was shocked to discover that a lawyer – from within the Palestinian minority – had approached his nephew trying to pressure him into selling to the government the family’s lands. The lawyer led his nephew to believe that he had one last chance to win compensation and that the deadline would expire at the end of next month. “These people are worse than crooks,” Suleiman told MEE. “We sent him packing.” Suleiman and dozens of other families approached in recent months have been left wondering why the lawyers sought them out now and how they know so much about them. “He knew about how much land we owned in 1948, where our plots were located, and how to find us,” he said. Palestinian leaders in Israel strongly suspect they know the answer. Hana Swaid, a former Palestinian member of the Israeli parliament who now heads an organisation dealing with land issues, told MEE the Israeli government’s fingerprints were all over the lawyers’ scheme. “These lawyers have access to official lists of absentee property that are extremely difficult to get hold of. Someone is clearly helping them – and you don’t need to look far to understand who it is.”
Israeli soldiers prevent renovations in Hebron’s Old City, detain 2
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 25 Feb — Israeli forces on Thursday stopped workers from renovating a Palestinian home in the Old City of Hebron, assaulting and detaining two, locals said. Owner of the home Nidal al-Uwaiwi told Ma‘an that soldiers “attacked a group of laborers” and prevented them from renovating his home, located on Abraham Avenue in the center of the Old City. Al-Uwaiwi identified the detainees as Palestinian architect Baraa Dufash and laborer Yusif Abu Aker, adding that Israeli soldiers detained the two on the grounds that they were “disturbing settlers.”
PM condemns Israel’s ‘deliberate’ destruction of EU-funded structures
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 25 Feb — Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah on Thursday condemned Israel’s “deliberate” destruction of EU-funded structures in the occupied Palestinian territory, as he called on the international community to take action. “Israel must be held accountable for its deliberate targeting of EU-funded humanitarian aid structures built for the Bedouin communities in Area C,” the prime minister said in a statement. He accused Israel of destroying EU-funded structures “in an apparent retaliation for the EU guidelines on indication of origin products from Israeli settlements.” He called for an “immediate intervention by the international community to put an end to the destruction of Palestinian-owned property in Area C,” referring to more than 60 percent of the occupied West Bank where Israel has full military and civil control. Recent weeks have seen a dramatic surge in home demolitions carried out by Israeli forces, with nearly 500 Palestinians left homeless since the beginning of the year. Among the homes and structures destroyed were a number provided by the EU. Hamdallah’s office drew particular attention to the demolition last week of an elementary school in the Abu Nuwwar Bedouin community east of Jerusalem, which was funded by France. Israeli rights group B’Tselem, meanwhile, has highlighted a number of other cases of structures provided by the EU being torn down, and Israeli media reported earlier this month that the EU may seek compensation from Israel for donated structures demolished in the E1 corridor.
Israel issues 9 home demolition orders in Jerusalem-area village
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 25 Feb — Israeli forces on Wednesday issued nine home demolition orders to residents in the occupied East Jerusalem village of al-‘Issawiya, a local follow-up committee member said. Muhammad Abu al-Hummus told Ma‘an that Israeli forces issued the home demolitions in the Abu Riyala area of the village, telling residents their homes would be demolished due to lack of permits. Abu al-Hummus said some of the homes issued demolition orders were built more than 40 years ago, and accused Israeli authorities of using permit laws to dole out “collective punishment” on Palestinians in Jerusalem. According to Abu al-Hummus, Israeli forces arrived in the area earlier that day and took the names and identity numbers from a number of residents in the village without providing a clear reason.
Jewish settlers organize anti-Arab march south of al-Khalil
AL-KHALIL (PIC) 25 Feb — Extremist Jewish settlers on Wednesday afternoon organized a march inciting against the Palestinians in the Masafer Yatta area, south of al-Khalil city. Anti-settlement activist Rateb al-Jabour told the Palestinian Information Center (PIC) that dozens of fanatic settlers escorted by police forces marched en masse towards Palestinian homes in al-Fakhit and al-Majaz in Masafer Yatta as they were chanting anti-Arab slurs. The settlers carried Jewish religious flags and chanted slogans calling for killing Arabs and claiming Palestine as Israel’s land, according to Jabour. The activist warned that providing protection for such marches would lead to an increase in settlers’ attacks against the Palestinians and their property.
Palestinian refugees – Syria, Jordan
The Syrian refugees of Gaza
Al Jazeera interactive by Creede Newton Photos by Lara Aburamadan — On a bustling Gaza street lined with restaurants, juice vendors and shawarma stands, one facade immediately catches the eye: A large, modernist black cube sits atop the entrance to Syriana – Arabic for ‘our Syria’. “The rest should be here soon,” says Wareef Kaseem Hamdeo, the visibly tired chef and proprietor of the restaurant, as he sits down for his first break of the day. It is early afternoon and he has been here since early morning. [Some are from Palestinian refugee camps in Syria, others are Syrian].
Jordan’s mixed plans for its Palestinian ‘guests’
AMMAN (MEE) 25 Feb by David Hearst — By discriminating against Gazans, Jordan’s authorities divide refugees as a way to subdue more than 2.4mn Palestinians living in the kingdom — . . . Four years ago, the government issued a decree stating that foreign workers – of whom Jordan has many – should pay for a work permit every year. The Palestinians took no notice. The government often passes laws it does not enact. But that changed when it announced last month that the law applied retrospectively to Palestinian refugees from Gaza, a group that does not have Jordanian citizenship. Not only did they have to apply for this permit, authorities said, but they now had to pay for the last four years as well. Overnight 160,000 Palestinians, the majority of whom had been in Jordan since the 1967 war, were no longer being seen by the Jordanian government as refugees, even though they were registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA). Some 70 percent of Gazans in Jordan were born there but they would now be considered as foreign workers. In theory, they could be deported, like Egyptians, Yemenis and Libyans. But where to? The decree created an instant scandal. It is not as if Gazans had many rights to start with. Unlike Palestinians from the West Bank, Jordan considers Gaza pre-67 as Egyptian territory. In Jordan, Gazans cannot get a national ID number and a passport. They are barred from working in the public sector. Whole industries in the private sector are also off limits: finance, banking, tourism. For all other work, special permission has to be obtained from the security services. Even a highly coveted qualification like a certificate in education, a pharmacy or an engineering degree cannot secure you employment. Gazans cannot be a member of a trade union or open a GP practice. This means they get cheap, unskilled manual work, in agriculture (most of Jordan is desert) or construction, if they get any work at all. – Harsh reality in Jarash camp – The least welcome of Jordan’s Palestinian refugees end up in a camp in the mountains of Jarash, over 60 kilometres north of the capital. Jarash’s distress could be glimpsed from the hills above it. Between 35,000 and 40,000 people lived in little more than a square kilometre under tin roofs or plastic sheeting held in place by loose bricks. When it snows, charity workers go from house to house with metal staves to prop up the collapsing structures but Jarash is not for the faint hearted in any climate. (Continued)
PCHR weekly report on Israeli human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territory (18-24 February)
PCHR-Gaza 25 Feb — Israeli forces continued to use excessive force in the oPt 4 Palestinian civilians, including a child, were killed in the West Bank. One of them was killed in occupied Jerusalem. 21 Palestinian civilians, including 6 children and a photojournalist, were wounded in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israeli forces continued to target the border areas along the Gaza Strip, but no casualties were reported. House demolitions continued on grounds of collective punishment. 2 houses in Tarousa and Deir Samet villages in Hebron were demolished. Israeli forces conducted 75 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank and a limited one in the southern Gaza Strip. 86 Palestinian civilians, including 19 children, were arrested. 19 of them, including 12 children, were arrested in occupied Jerusalem; while 13 others, including a child, were arrested during their participation in peaceful protests. (Continued)
Palestinians demand UN assess the environmental impact of recent Gaza wars
JPost 25 Feb by Maayan Groisman — The Palestinian delegation to the UN Environment Program submitted a draft resolution on Wednesday, demanding the UN conduct an assessment of the environmental impact of the recent wars that took place in Gaza, Palestinian media reported on Thursday. The draft resolution was submitted by the vice president of the Palestinian Environment Quality Authority and the Palestinian representative to the UN Environment Program during a meeting of the program that took place in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. The draft resolution, which is also signed by the Arab League, demands the UN Environment Program send a group of experts to the Gaza Strip to conduct an assessment of the environmental impact of the recent wars in Gaza, and especially the wars that took place in 2012 and 2014. After being submitted, the resolution was put up for discussion at the Environmental Program’s committee of permanent representatives in order to reach an agreed version. In the event that the parties do not reach an agreement, the draft resolution will be put to a vote at the program’s next meeting in Nairobi in May. The Palestinian delegation rejected attempts to integrate the Palestinian draft resolution into other draft resolutions that are more general and do not apply to the Palestinian territories specifically. The delegation also emphasized that the resolution it submitted is not a political resolution, as some parties tried to paint it, but an environmental one.
Israel to transfer NIS 500 million in withheld taxes to Palestinians
Ynet 25 Feb by Nahum Barnea — Israel has decided to take a series of steps meant to help improve the economic situation of the Palestinian Authority, including the transfer of NIS 500 million in withheld tax money. Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, after consulting with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, has also decided to issue thousands of additional work permits for Palestinians to work in Israel, as well as reduce commissions Israel charges from the Palestinians. Kahlon shares the defense establishment’s assessment that the way to mitigate the recent wave of violence is by improving the Palestinians’ economic situation and creating hope on the Palestinian street. He also believes that taking positive economic measures towards the Palestinians will be well received among Western powers. Palestinian Finance and Planning Minister Shukry Bishara met with Kahlon last week and warned him the PA was on the verge of economic collapse. According to Bishara, the PA’s deficit was at NIS 1.5 billion. The NIS 500 million Israel is planning to transfer to the Palestinians, tax money it collected on behalf of the PA and has so far withheld, could help cover a third of the deficit and allow the PA to pay teachers and providers. On Wednesday, Kahlon met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and presented him with the measures he decided on. Netanyahu did not object, as these steps are in line with commitments the prime minister made to US Secretary of State John Kerry and with other measures the government is supposed to decide on.
How Israel outsources torture to its Palestinian subcontractor
+972 blog 25 Feb by Hagar Shezaf — When the Palestinian Authority does Israel’s dirty work, is it any surprise that so many Palestinians no longer differentiate between the two? — As the latest wave of violence erupted, I drove to cover a demonstration in the West Bank city of Al-Bireh, adjacent to Ramallah. During one of my interviews, a 20-year-old man told me he and the rest of the protesters were rising up against the “regime.” “Which regime?” we asked. “Both — they are the same thing,” he said as he laughed and ran away. The notion that the Palestinian Authority and Israel are one and the same repeated itself during interviews with many political activists in the West Bank. Security coordination between Israel and the PA has been at the heart of public debate in both the West Bank and Israel over the past few months. From Mahmoud Abbas’ threats to put an end to coordination to the position taken by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), according to which the PA does all it can to suppress West Bank protests, it seems that this is one of the central political issues in Palestinian society today. A new report by Israeli human rights organizations B’Tselem and Hamoked, which details alleged abuse and torture of Palestinian detainees in the Shin Bet’s “Shikma” interrogation facility, gives us another glimpse into this security coordination. According to the report, one-third (39) of the Palestinian detainees interviewed for the report were arrested by Palestinian security forces prior to their arrest and interrogation by Israel’s Shin Bet. Twenty-six of the detainees told the organizations that the Shin Bet was in possession of Palestinian Authority interrogation records, of which 22 said that Israeli interrogators told them explicitly that the PA had handed those records over to the Shin Bet. (Continued)
Iran to financially aid families of Jerusalem Intifada’s martyrs
TEHRAN (PIC) 25 Feb — The Iranian ambassador to Lebanon Mohammad Fathali announced, in a press conference held in Beirut on Wednesday, offering financial aid to the families of Palestinian martyrs and owners of demolished homes during Jerusalem Intifada. The website of al-Manar TV satellite channel quoted Fathali as saying that his country will allocate seven thousand dollars to each martyr’s family and thirty thousand dollars to each of the families whose homes were demolished by Israeli forces during the uprising. The ambassador affirmed his country’s backing to the Palestinian people’s struggle toward liberation and independence.
Palestinian-American activist wins re-trial on immigration charges
IMEMC 26 Feb by Celine Hagbard — Rasmea Odeh,, a Chicago-based Palestinian-American activist, had immigration fraud charges against her vacated by the U.S. Court of Appeals on Thursday. Odeh and her supporters have long claimed that the case against her was politically motivated, since she is an outspoken supporter of Palestinian human rights. The case will now return to the court where she was initially convicted, but in the new trial she will be allowed to present testimony about her past torture and trauma. In her initial trial she was forbidden from presenting any information about her imprisonment, torture and abuse by the Israeli military. Odeh has lived for decades in the US, where she has been such a valued and loved community member and organizer. She served for years as associate director at the Arab American Action Network in Chicago, Illinois. She was convicted of immigration fraud in 2014 for failing to disclose a 1969 arrest and conviction in an Israeli military court on her U.S. immigration and naturalization documents. Odeh had been subjected to torture, including rape, by Israeli interrogators, and forced to sign a false confession. According to Odeh and her lawyers, the U.S. government knew, at the time of her entry, about her experience as a political prisoner, as this was the reason she came to the U.S. But decades later, the government charged her with failing to note on her immigration application that she had served time in an Israeli prison. Following Thursday’s decision to vacate her conviction, the Center for Constitutional Rights issued a statement saying, “The court’s decision presents a great victory to anti-torture advocates and survivors of torture.” [Continued]
Qaraqe urges PA to find, punish those responsible for former prisoner’s murder
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 25 Feb — Following the murder of a Palestinian security officer and former prisoner of Israel on Wednesday, the head of the Palestinian Committee for Prisoners’ Affairs called for the Palestinian Authority to better protect former Palestinian prisoners. Issa Qaraqe said the killing of Ayman Jaradat, a brigadier general in the Palestinian National Security forces and a former prisoner who was released from Israeli custody after 20 years in the 2011 Gilad Shalit deal, was a “slap in the face for the cause of Palestinian prisoners and their battle for freedom and dignity.” Jaradat was shot and killed in the northern occupied West Bank town of Silat al-Harithiya in the Jenin district by unidentified gunmen on Wednesday afternoon. While a suspect has yet to be identified, the Fatah movement in a statement on Wednesday said Jaradat may have been murdered because he was accused of involvement in the killing of a “suspected collaborator with the Israeli occupation.”Qaraqe said his murder was an insult to the “free will and steadfastness” of all Palestinian prisoners of Israel, and urged the PA to “protect former prisoners” and “punish” those who killed Jaradat
PA troops arrest activist Zakarneh
RAMALLAH (PIC) 25 Feb — The Palestinian Authority (PA) forces arrested on Wednesday evening the Civil Servants Union head, Bassem Zakarneh, after they ravaged his family home in the Central West Bank province of Ramallah. The arrest was carried out shortly after a decision by PA forced Zakarneh into early retirement from his position as a Director-General at the Ministry of Public Works. Over recent months reports have been released that Zakarneh, who had served as a member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, has been banned from appearing on PA official mass media against the backdrop of a crisis rocking the Civil Servants Union, dissolved by Abbas one year ago. Zakarneh had been arrested at the time and released afterwards. Sources from the Fatah movement expressed their shock over the abduction of Zakarneh, which according to them makes part of a campaign targeting Abbas opponents in the party. Speaking in a statement posted on her Facebook page, Zakarneh’s wife said her husband was arrested against the backdrop of his latest statements in which he criticized the PA’s suppression of the teachers’ strike.
US-Israeli war games simulate unprecedented rocket fire
Ynet 25 Feb by Yoav Zitun — Over 3,000 troops — 1,500 Israeli Air Force (IAF) officers and pilots, along with 1,700 American soldiers from the US European Command — will on Sunday begin the main part of the Juniper Cobra 16 joint military exercise held every two years. Most of the month-long exercise involves advanced computer simulations carried out in war rooms, except for a number of missile interception Israel will conduct towards the end. Eight such exercises have been held since 2001. This year, David’s Sling interceptors are to participate in addition to the Iron Dome and Arrow 2 systems for the first time. David’s Sling, designed to act as a layer of protection that fills a gap between Iron Dome and Arrow 2, will intercept medium- to long-range rockets, and is supposed to become operational in the coming year. The Americans have brought with them their advanced air defense systems – the THAAD, the Aegis and the Patriot interceptors. The IAF refused to elaborate on the scenarios being simulated, but noted that all potential threats are being taken into account. Among these are Hamas’s and Hezbollah’s rockets and missiles, heavy mortar bombs, long-range rockets, precision missiles stationed in southern Lebanon, hundreds of drones in the Gaza Strip and Iran’s Shahab ballistic missiles.
Bani Naim via the Jerusalem Wilderness
Siraj Center 25 Feb — If you have never walked through a desert, this is a great time of the year to do so! Weather conditions are mild – perfect for a hike from the Jerusalem Wilderness to the mountainous region of Bani Naim. The Rashayda Desert is south of Bethlehem, where you will come across Bedouins, who welcome visitors, offering them a resting place and hot cup of herbal tea sometimes, before continuing their journey through the desert. The Bedouin Community of the Reshayda in the Jerusalem Wilderness is struggling for its existence on its ancestral lands, which lie in Area C, which is under the Israeli authority, and therefore, has no investment or development. Aware of the threat to the Bedouins’ existence, the Masar Ibrahim al Khalil (the Abraham Path in Palestine) and the Siraj Center have included the Rashayda Wilderness as the starting point for its Bani Naim one-day hike. (Continued)