Youth Against Settlements coordinator kidnapped by Israeli forces
IMEMC/Agencies 1 Mar — Israeli forces, Monday, once again abducted the coordinator for the Youth Against Settlements (YAS) movement, Issa Amr, after storming the commission’s headquarters in Hebron’s Old City district. Mohammad Azghir, a spokesman for YAS, told the PNN that forces took Issa Amr after storming the organization’s property; he was accused of incitement against Israel. According to Azghir, Amr’s arrest indicates the military’s intentional target on Palestinian popular resistance and its activists in Hebron, especially after the Open Al-Shuhada Street Campaign. He also pointed out that the growing partnership between YAS and international organizations are “infuriating the occupation and some Israeli politicians”, once that by abducting Amr again, the army expects to intimidate other activists, and to discourage them from continuing their activities, especially in Hebron.
Violence / Detentions — West Bank / Jerusalem
Israeli army kills one Palestinian, injures 17 others in Jerusalem
IMEMC/Agencies 1 Mar — Israeli Soldiers killed, overnight, one Palestinian and injured at least seven others, one seriously, after the army invaded Qalandia refugee camp, in the north [just east of?] of occupied Jerusalem. The invasion was initiated late at night, Monday, and lasted until dawn hours Tuesday. Media sources in the camp said dozens of Israeli military vehicles invaded the camp while military helicopters flew overhead. The invasion led to clashes between the soldiers and dozens of local youngsters, who hurled stones and empty bottles at them. Medical sources said one Palestinian, identified as Eyad Omar Sajdiyya, 22, was killed by an Israeli army sharpshooter. The slain Palestinian was a fourth-year journalism student at Al-Quds University and a member of the Qalandia Media Center. He died of his wounds in a Palestinian ambulance that was rushing him to the Palestine Medical Center, in Ramallah. Several Palestinians were also shot with live rounds; many others were shot with rubber-coated metal bullets, and dozens suffered the effects of tear gas inhalation. The clashes lasted for several hours, while undercover Israeli soldiers also infiltrated the camp, allegedly searching for two missing soldiers, after one of them sent a distress signal.
Israeli daily Haaretz said that prior to the massive invasion, a firebomb had struck and burnt an army vehicle in the camp, forcing the soldiers to leave their burning vehicle. One of them was incommunicado for one hour. The news agency reported that the initial army investigation found that two soldiers invaded the camp “by mistake,” before their vehicle was hit by stones and a firebomb; the two fled the burning vehicle, apparently in different directions, and that one of them hid in the courtyard of a Palestinian home, before calling for backup. The army was unable to contact the two soldiers for nearly one hour. Then hundreds of soldiers invaded the refugee camp and managed to locate and extricate the two soldiers. According to Haaretz, the slain Palestinian was killed during subsequent clashes in the camp, and that ten Israeli soldiers were injured.
The army said it will be investigating the incident, especially the reasons for invading the camp in the first place. Some Palestinian fighters also exchanged fire with the invading Israeli soldiers, after the army managed to extract the missing soldiers. In addition, the army prevented many Palestinian ambulances from entering the camp, and declared it a closed military zone. During the invasion, a Palestinian home near the refugee camp caught fire after the soldiers fired gas bombs, concussion grenades and live rounds, targeting the property and many nearby homes.
Palestinian killed as Israel uses Hannibal Directive in refugee camp
EI 1 Mar by Maureen Clare Murphy — A Palestinian was killed when Israeli forces deployed the so-called Hannibal Directive to extract two of its soldiers who had mistakenly entered Qalandiya refugee camp near the West Bank city of Ramallah overnight Monday. The Hannibal Directive is an Israeli military protocol authorizing massive firepower to prevent a captured soldier from being taken alive. “The initial investigation of the incident revealed that an army driver and squad commander from the Oketz unit entered the camp by mistake while using the Waze smartphone GPS navigational app,” the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz reported. “The two separated after their vehicle was attacked in the camp, with the whereabouts of one being unknown for more than an hour. The Hannibal procedure was invoked during the search for the missing soldier,” Haaretz added. Iyad Omar Sajadiyya, a 22-year-old journalism student, was killed during fierce confrontations that broke out when Israeli forces raided the camp to extricate the two soldiers. “Locals said that Palestinian gunmen held the two soldiers for three hours before an Israeli military helicopter evacuated them, although the Israeli army made no mention of gunmen,” the Ma‘an News Agency reported . . . Ten Israelis were reportedly injured during the raid and the two soldiers were extracted unharmed. The last time the Hannibal Directive was employed was in August 2014, during Israel’s massive assault on Gaza that summer. Dozens of Palestinian civilians were killed when Israeli forces aimed at locations where they believed a missing soldier might have been held. A joint investigation by Amnesty International and Forensic Architecture found “strong evidence” that Israel may have committed war crimes while attempting to kill its own soldier.
Qalandiya camp buries Palestinian shot dead in overnight raid
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 1 Mar — Residents of Qalandiya refugee camp on Monday morning buried 22-year-old Iyad Omar Sajadiyya, just hours after he was shot dead by Israeli forces during an overnight raid into the camp. Sajadiyya’s body was moved from the Palestine Medical Complex in Ramallah to his family home near Qalandiya. From there, it was taken to a local mosque for funeral rites, and then to the camp’s cemetery, where he was laid to rest. Mourners chanted slogans calling for revenge against Israel and for retaliation against “the Israeli occupation’s crimes against the Palestinian people.” “My only son Iyad died a martyr in sacrifice for Palestine,” Sajadiyya’s father, Omar, told reporters. “He wasn’t the first martyr, nor will he be the last.” He said his son had been popular in the camp, and expected to graduate from al-Quds Open University in Abu Dis this spring. All shops and stores in the camp remained closed after a halt to business was declared across the camp in mourning. Sajadiyya was shot dead overnight Monday during fierce clashes that broke out when Israeli forces raided the Qalandiya refugee camp in order to extract two soldiers.
Soldiers kill two Palestinians in Eli colony, near Nablus
IMEMC/Agencies 2 Mar — Israeli soldiers shot and killed, on Wednesday morning, two Palestinians in the Eli illegal Israeli settlement, south of the northern West Bank city of Nablus, allegedly after they attempted to stab a soldier. Israeli daily Haaretz said the soldier suffered a mild injury after being attacked by two Palestinians who infiltrated into the colony, and that the two were shot and killed by Israeli soldiers while attempting to flee the scene. The army said the two reportedly waited outside of a home in the settlement, carrying a knife and batons; a reserve Israeli soldier, in full military uniform, stepped out of the home before they attacked him. The settler-soldier suffered a mild injury. The soldier then stepped back into his home, and called for help, before the soldiers rushed to the scene and killed the two Palestinians. The army claimed that the soldiers located a knife near the soldier’s home, and also found a pistol outside the settlement, during a search campaign. The Palestinian Health Ministry said the two slain Palestinians have been identified Labeeb Khaldoun Azzam, 17, and Mohammad Hisham Zaghlawan, 17, from Qaryout village, south of Nablus. The two left their homes on Tuesday evening, and never returned; their families and other villagers looked for them all night long until they heard the news of their deaths.
Hundreds attend funeral of slain Palestinian-American teen
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 2 Mar — Hundreds of Palestinians from the Deir Dibwan neighborhood west of Ramallah on Wednesday attended the funeral of a Palestinian-American teenager who was shot dead by Israeli forces last month after allegedly attempting to carry out a stabbing. Mahmoud Muhammad Shaalan, 17, was killed on Feb. 26 after he allegedly attempted to stab an Israeli soldier stationed at a military checkpoint near the illegal settlement of Beit El. His body was returned the following day, but his funeral was delayed until his father could return from the US. Shaalan’s entire family had US citizenship. The funeral procession set off from the Palestine Medical Complex in Ramallah, making its way to the neighborhood of Deir Dibwan, where he was laid to rest in the local cemetery. Shaalan’s brother said he had returned to die in Palestine — “the place he always loved.” Following the alleged stabbing attack, the Palestinian Ministry of Health said his body was “riddled with bullets.” No Israelis were wounded, and Shaalan’s family has reportedly asked the US consulate in Jerusalem to open an investigation into the teenager’s death.
PFLP holds symbolic funeral for member ‘assassinated’ in Bulgaria
[photos] GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 29 Feb — Hundreds of Palestinians gathered in the streets of Gaza City on Monday to hold a symbolic funeral for an escaped Palestinian prisoner believed to have been assassinated by Israel in the Palestinian embassy in Bulgaria last week. Palestinians gathered to pay their respects to Omar al-Nayif, a well-known member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), who was found dead inside the embassy on Friday. He sought refuge there late last year 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. The “funeral” was organized by the PFLP in Gaza, with many other factions in attendance. Hani al-Thawabta, an PFLP official in the Strip, said the “negligence” of the Palestinian Authority’s foreign ministry, as well as the embassy in Bulgaria, had led to al-Nayif’s death, and was “the major reason al-Nayif was assassinated.” Al-Thawabta told Ma‘an that “if the case was taken seriously and responsible actions were taken, Israeli intelligence would not have been able to reach al-Nayif.”
2 Israeli soldiers lightly injured in stabbing attack, suspects fled the scene
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 2 Mar — Two Israeli soldiers were stabbed and injured during “patrol” near Nablus in the northern occupied West Bank on Wednesday evening, an Israeli army spokesperson said. The spokesperson said the soldiers were stabbed and injured by “two assailants” who fled the scene. Israeli forces were searching the area. Hebrew media reported that the attackers “took the weapons” of the two soldiers, before fleeing the scene near the illegal Israeli settlement of Har Brakha. Medics did not initially provide the condition of the two injured soldiers, though Hebrew media reported their injuries as “light.”
Israeli forces impose closure on Nablus city following attack
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 3 Mar — Israeli forces closed all roads leaving Nablus city and shut the entrances to nearby villages after two Israeli soldiers were stabbed and injured in an attack near the Burin village in southern Nablus Wednesday evening, the Palestinian military liaison office said. The office said Israeli forces officially informed them that all roads leading out of the city would be closed, including Huwwara checkpoint, the major thoroughfare in the northern occupied West Bank. Traffic travelling northbound into Nablus remains open. Israeli forces also closed Elon Moreh street, Yitzhar street and the Jit crossroad to traffic traveling both ways. While Awarta checkpoint was initially closed off to all traffic, PA Lieutenant Usama Abu Arab told Ma‘an that the checkpoint was opened Wednesday morning. The Deir Sharaf, al-Bathan, Zaatara roads and Route 17 remained open. Following the attack, Palestinian security sources said Israeli forces raided the villages of Burin, Madama and ‘Iraq Burin until dawn as part of the forces’ operation overnight Wednesday. The sources said during the raids, Israeli forces detained four Palestinians identified as Islam Nasser Asous, Nael Dahshat Qadus, Malek Fateh Qadus and Saad Hussam Faqih. Surveillance cameras in the villages were also confiscated. The Israeli police said during the raids armed Palestinians opened fire at a police patrol in the area, though no injuries were reported.
Reports: Palestinian minor detained in Jericho after attacking Israeli officer
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 3 Mar — A Palestinian minor was detained after stabbing an Israeli police officer, lightly injuring him, near al-‘Ouja [or al‘Auja] village in the eastern occupied West Bank district of Jericho, Hebrew media reported. Reports said the Palestinian was immediately detained at scene. An Israeli army spokesperson said the incident was under Israeli police jurisdiction, but an Israeli police spokesperson could not be immediately contacted for comment.
Israel detains Palestinians allegedly behind Hebron shootings
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 29 Feb — The Israeli army said Monday it had detained two Palestinian brothers allegedly responsible for a series of shootings in Hebron in recent months that wounded four Israelis. The Israeli army said in a statement that brothers Nazar Faisal Muhammad Badi, 23, and Akram Faisal Muhammad Badi, 33, “confessed” to some five shootings in the southern occupied West Bank between November and early January. The army said the brothers had used an “improvised sniper rifle,” as well as another rifle, to carry out the shootings. According to the statement, the first shooting in Hebron’s Old City targeted Israeli settlers near the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron’s Old City. Firing from a building, they allegedly shot and wounded two settlers before then slipping into the nearby wedding of their cousin. In the following weeks, they allegedly carried out another three shootings. The first on Nov. 25 resulted in no injuries, while two others on Jan. 3 left an Israeli army cadet severely wounded and an Israeli soldier lightly injured, the statement said. Nazar was detained for questioning on Jan. 9, and his brother, Akram, allegedly later confessed “in order to avert suspicion from his brother.” According to the statement, Akram carried out one more shooting in Hebron that did not result in any injuries and afterwards hid the rifles in a quarry in southern Hebron, before turning himself in to the Israeli authorities. The Israeli army statement did not say when the two brothers would be tried. They will join thousands of Palestinians brought through the Israeli military court system every year. An annual military courts report documented in 2011 that Israeli military courts in the West Bank have a 99.74 percent conviction rate for Palestinians brought before them.
Soldiers kidnap eighteen Palestinians in the West Bank
IMEMC/Agencies 1 Mar — Israeli soldiers invaded, on Tuesday at dawn, a number of Palestinian districts, in different parts of the occupied West Bank, broke into many homes and kidnapped eighteen Palestinians. Media sources in the northern West Bank district of Jenin said the soldiers invaded Qabatia town, south of Jenin city, and kidnapped two Palestinians, identified as Ashraf Rajeh Zakarna, 28, and Mohammad Abdul-Mon’em Zakarna, 21. The soldiers violently searched their homes, causing excessive property damage, and interrogated their families, in addition to installing a roadblock on the southern entrance of the town, and searching olive orchards in the area while firing flares. In addition, the soldiers invaded the Qabatia town, south of Jenin, searched homes and kidnapped one Palestinian, identified as Nasser Mohammad Freij, 21. The army also invaded the northern West Bank city of Nablus, searched many homes, and a tailor shop belonging to members of Ayyad family, before confiscating several machines and furniture, and kidnapped two young men, identified as Mahmoud Anabtawi and Firas ash-Shayeb. In related news, a number of extremist Israeli colonizers assaulted Ayman Ahmad Bin Shamsa, from Beita town, south of Nablus, causing several cuts and bruises. They also attacked and wounded Mahmoud Suleiman Rezeq, from ‘Askar refugee camp, causing several injuries. (Continued)
Army kidnaps fifteen Palestinians in the West Bank
IMEMC/Agencies 2 Mar — Israeli soldiers have kidnapped, earlier on Wednesday, at least fifteen Palestinians, in various military invasions targeting different parts of the occupied West Bank, including Jerusalem. In occupied Jerusalem, the soldiers stormed and searched many homes, and kidnapped four Palestinians, including a child. The Wadi Hilweh Information Center in Silwan (Silwanic) has reported that the soldiers kidnapped Mahmoud Shaweesh, 15, from the Suwwana neighborhood, in Jerusalem. The soldiers also kidnapped Luay Abu al-Hummus, from his home in the al-’Eesawiyya town, in the center of Jerusalem, and violently searched the property, in addition to Ahmad al-Faqeeh and Mohammad al-Faqeeh, from their homes in Qotna town, northwest of Jerusalem. Silwanic said the soldiers shot al-Faqeeh before abducting him. (Continued)
Update: Soldiers kidnap eighteen Palestinians in the West Bank
IMEMC 3 Mar — The Palestinian Prisoners Society (PPS) has reported, Thursday, that Israeli soldiers have kidnapped eighteen Palestinians in various districts if the occupied West Bank, including in Jerusalem. The PPS said the soldiers invaded and searched homes in Burin town, in the northern West Bank district of Nablus, and kidnapped five Palestinians, identified as Nael Dahshat Qadous, Malek Fateh Qadous, Sa’ad ‘Aahed Qadous, Laith Omar Qadous and Islam Nasser Qadous. In Tulkarem, in the northern part of the West Bank, the soldiers kidnapped Mohammad Safareeni, in addition to Abdul-Latif Hasan Toba, 22, and his brother Mohammad, 19, after searching their homes. In Jenin, also in the northern part of the West Bank, the soldiers kidnapped Emad Ahmad Sabaghna, Yazeed Hosni Qar’awi, and Mwaffaq Rajeh Abulhasan. In the northern West Bank district of Qalqilia, the soldiers kidnapped Qussai Zakariyya ‘Adwan, 18, and Ghaleb Khaled Shbeita, 24. (Continued)
Israel still holding 9 Palestinian bodies, say rights groups
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israel is continuing to withhold the bodies of nine Palestinians shot dead by Israeli forces after allegedly carrying out attacks, human rights groups Addameer and Adalah said Tuesday, in what they called “a severe violation of international humanitarian law.” In a joint statement, the Palestinian Addameer and Israeli Adalah condemned the Israeli authorities for “the continued withholding of the bodies of nine deceased Palestinians, the longest of which has been held by Israel for over four months.” The groups said it was “a severe violation of international humanitarian law as well as international human rights law, including violations of the right to dignity, freedom of religion, and the right to practice culture.” They added: “The withholding of the bodies also greatly adds to the grief, anxiety and trauma of the families who are dealing with the loss of a loved one, and who are also being denied their cultural and religious rights to mourn and to bury them in accordance with their faith.” The two rights groups branded the practice “collective punishment” of the families. According to Islamic rites, the deceased should be buried before the next sunset following a death. The groups also said Israel’s practice of withholding bodies “obstructs the possibility of conducting an investigation concerning the circumstances of the alleged extrajudicial executions and a proper autopsy.” The statement said it appeared “many” of the Palestinians whose bodies Israel was holding had been “extra-judicially executed by Israeli forces during alleged attacks against Israelis, despite posing no danger.” Addameer and Adalah released the statement a day after Israel released the body of 26-year-old Mosab al-Ghazali to his family — 65 days after he was shot dead by Israeli forces following an alleged stabbing attempt in Jerusalem. Addameer’s Jerusalem lawyer Mohammad Mahmoud accused Israel of having breached the conditions of Ghazali’s release, returning his body completely frozen . . . They identified the Palestinians whose bodies are still being held as Thaer Abu Ghazaleh, Hasan Manasrah, Baha Alayan, Alaa Abu Jamal, Mutaz Eiwaisat, Mohammad Nimer, Omar Iskafi, Abed al-Muhsen Hassouneh, and Mohammad Abu Khalaf. [photos here from Silwanic]
One Palestinian family’s living nightmare
Haaretz 29 Feb by Amira Hass — The Suleiman family in Beit Ur al-Tahta no longer bothers to lock the door because soldiers looking for their son break in almost every night, to the deafening blasts of stun grenades — The dogs started barking about 40 minutes after midnight last Wednesday. The Suleiman family from the village of Beit Ur al-Tahta, southwest of Ramallah, stopped their conversation for a moment and listened. “Usually the dogs bark when the army shows up,” said one member of the family, and went to the window facing south. Not many cars were traveling at the time on broad, well-lit road Route 443, which was built on the land of their village and of other villages nearby. The highway is very close, a kilometer away, maybe less, but Palestinians are prohibited from using it. The barking of the dogs continued to shatter the silence. A few squealing tires joined in. Jihad Suleiman shook his head: It’s not an army jeep, he said decisively. A jeep’s diesel engine has a deeper rumble, explained the uncle. After 1 A.M. the barking intensified. “They must be here,” said the aunt, who had dropped in to visit. She meant the Israeli army. The rumble of a jeep was heard. The five or six members of the family and their guest became a bit tense and each of them wondered how many stun grenades the soldiers would throw at the house, what they would shatter and ruin this time, whether they would only break into the apartment of Halima, the mother, or also go to the next door apartment of her sister-in-law, how the family members would respond to the beating, curses, humiliation. But the uncle said: “They are not coming in one jeep but in a lot of them, and they’re fanning out between a number of houses.” For three weeks the nuclear and extended Suleiman family has been subject to a regime of military raids almost every night . . . While Israel Defense Forces soldiers conduct their search of the small apartment (two bedrooms, bathroom and kitchen), the family is ordered to remain in the living room, which contains a few old sofas; a low table that is moved when necessary to the center of the room; a few plastic chairs; a light fixture, with two of its bulbs turned off; family pictures and a large photograph of Yasser Arafat over the door. There is no reason to tidy up the mess the soldiers left behind in the boys’ bedroom, where the closets are. They will come back again, and each time they kick the iron door. They don’t wait for someone in the house to open it and immediately throw in stun grenades, which produce an earsplitting bang. Halima, a widow and mother of six, asks everyone to speak louder. Her hearing has been damaged by the blasts. The soldiers have broken the glass panel between the iron strips with a blow from a rifle; they have destroyed the door twice . . . The soldiers are looking for Halima’s oldest son, Ala’a. He was sentenced in 2007 to six years in prison for manufacturing and throwing firebombs and explosive devices on Route 443, and was released in 2011 as part of the good-will gestures made by Israel toward Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Recently he served another six months in prison. His mother does not know why they are searching for him now. (Continued)
Israel PM wants to expel attackers’ relatives to Gaza
AFP 2 Mar — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, under pressure over a five-month wave of violence, said Wednesday he wants to expel to Gaza relatives of Palestinian attackers involved in their assaults. Netanyahu asked the attorney general to examine the possibility of carrying out such expulsions, his office said, while rights groups immediately denounced the move. “Expelling family members of Palestinian terrorists who aided attacks to Gaza will lead to a significant decrease in terrorist attacks,” a spokesman for Netanyahu said on Twitter . . . Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has reportedly said previously that such expulsions would violate both Israeli and international law. Mandelblit was said to have made his recommendation after a member of Netanyahu’s cabinet who is also a political rival of the prime minister requested expelling relatives of attackers to Gaza or Syria. Sarit Michaeli, spokeswoman for Israeli rights group B’Tselem, said “it seems obvious that the prime minister is under a lot of pressure from the right now, from politicians accusing him of being soft against the wave of attacks.” “Any form of collective punishment is illegal and in this case the point is trying to punish the relatives of attacks who aren’t actually accused of anything,” she said. “This is a complete breach of international law and the Geneva Convention.” Legal analyst Moshe Negbi said he did not think the attorney general would agree to the proposal. Expulsions of those directly involved in attacks had occurred in the past under defence regulations dating back to British mandatory Palestine, said Negbi.
Prominent Israeli right-winger Glick enters Al-Aqsa after court ban lifted
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 1 Mar — Israeli right-winger Yehuda Glick was escorted under armed protection into the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, days after an Israeli court lifted an order barring his entry to the holy site. The director of the compound, Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani, told Ma‘an that Glick and his escorts entered the flashpoint area via the Moroccan Gate, in a move likely to provoke unrest. “When an extremist like Glick storms Al-Aqsa Mosque, this stirs up troubles and provokes Muslims. We hold the Israeli police responsible for that,” al-Kiswani said. He added that the Palestinian Ministry of Endowment “denounces and opposes entry of any [Israeli] settlers into Al-Aqsa Mosque.” An Israeli court last week dropped indictments against Glick 18 months after he reportedly assaulted a Palestinian woman while touring the holy site. 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. Despite the court ban placed on Glick from entering the site, he was escorted inside the compound by Israeli guards a handful of times last year. Following last week’s 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. The Dome of the Rock — located in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound — is the third holiest site in Islam, and is venerated as Judaism’s most holy place, as it sits where Jews believe the First and Second Temples once stood. [No, the Dome of the Rock itself is not the third holiest site in Islam, but al-Aqsa is – this includes the whole ‘Temple Mount’ or ‘Noble Sanctuary’ site, the Dome of the Rock shrine in the middle of the site, and the al-Aqsa (or al-Qibli) mosque on its south side.]
Prisoners / Court actions
46 Palestinian prisoners at Etzion jail to start open hunger strike
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 2 Mar — At least 46 Palestinian prisoners at Etzion jail will begin an open hunger strike on Thursday, demanding better living conditions, a lawyer with the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society said. Jacqueline Fararjeh said prisoners at Etzion jail are protesting the quality and quantity of food served to them, in addition to filthy living conditions, inadequate medical treatment and lack of regular access to showers. Fararjeh said some prisoners had not bathed in 15 days. While Fararjeh explained that Etzion jail is supposed to house Palestinians awaiting charges and trials, at least 11 Palestinians being held at the prison have been put under administrative detention, meaning they should be transferred from the facility, but have not due to the overcrowding at other prisons. The lawyer added that Etzion jail falls under Isreali military jurisdiction, not the central Israeli Prison Service, and is considered one of the worst detention centers at which Palestinian prisoners are held. Late last month, a lawyer with the Palestinian Authority’s Prisoners’ Affairs Committee, Hussien al-Sheikh, said Etzion was “flooded” from heavy rainfall . . . In addition to deteriorating living conditions in the jail, al-Sheikh documented cases of Israeli authorities insulting, beating and torturing prisoners during interrogations.
Israeli authorities release prominent ICHR lawyer
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 1 Mar — An Israeli court on Tuesday released a director for the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) who was detained last week during a peaceful protest marking the 22nd anniversary of the Ibrahimi mosque massacre, a lawyer with the ICHR said. Alaa Ghneimat said Israeli authorities released lawyer Farid al-Atrash on a 1,500 shekel ($385) bail. Al-Atrash was detained by Israeli forces during a protest on Feb. 29 commemorating the 22 years since American-born Israeli extremist Baruch Goldstein opened fire on Muslim worshipers in the Ibrahimi mosque in 1994, killing 29 and injuring more than 120. Following his detention, the ICHR said in a statement that Israeli forces assaulted al-Atrash before detaining him, and called the violence used against the lawyer “a crime.”
Israel sentences Palestinian journalist to 11 months for ‘incitement’
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 29 Feb — An Israeli military court on Monday sentenced a Palestinian journalist to 11 months in prison for alleged “incitement” against Israel’s military occupation, the Palestinian Prisoner Center for Studies said. The center said in a statement that Ahmad Hamed al-Betawi, a 35-year-old journalist from Nablus, received the prison sentence along with a 2,000 shekel ($510) fine from a military court in Ofer detention center. According to the statement, Betawi was first placed under house arrest for a period of three months in February 2014, during which he was allowed out of his home for only one hour every day. He was later released on bail, but arrested again in June 2015 for violating his bail conditions. During the arrest raid, the statement said, Israeli forces ransacked his home in eastern Nablus and confiscated his phones and computers. Since then, he has been held in the Ofer detention center west of Ramallah. The statement said his trial was repeatedly postponed before he was finally sentenced to 11 months behind bars. According to the prisoners’ center, Israel’s military prosecution accuses Betawi of incitement against Israel’s military occupation through his work as an editor with Quds Net News Agency. The statement said he was also charged with advocating Palestinian nationalistic causes, such as Palestinian prisoners’ rights.
14-year-old Palestinian sentenced to 18 months in prison for rock-throwing
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 3 Mar — The Israeli central court on Wednesday sentenced a 14-year-old Palestinian teen from Jerusalem to 18 months in prison for throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at an illegal Israeli settlement outpost, the teenager’s lawyer told Ma‘an. Muhammad Mahmoud said 14-year-old Jihad al-Jaabari would also have to pay a 5,000 shekel ($1,286) compensation fee to an Israeli settler. The boy’s lawyer said he plans to appeal the case in Israeli court. Mahmoud added that al-Jaabari was detained in November. Under Israeli law, minors as young as 14 years of age can be sentenced to time in adult prison. Though al-Jaabari was sentenced under Israel’s civil courts, according to prisoners’ rights group Addameer, around 700 Palestinian children are prosecuted every year through Israeli military courts. Addameer found that the most common charge levied against Palestinian children is stone throwing, a crime that is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
Gazan suffers burns after setting self on fire
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 2 Mar — A young Palestinian man set himself on fire in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday night, before he was saved by bystanders, witnesses told Ma‘an. The 22-year-old reportedly poured flammable liquid over himself before setting it alight. Bystanders then rushed to put out the flames. He was evacuated to the Nasser Medical Complex in Khan Younis, where he was treated for minor burns. Palestinian police in the beleaguered coastal enclave said they had opened an investigation into the incident. It was reported last year that there were signs the Gaza Strip was seeing an increase in suicides and suicide attempts, as residents found themselves overcome by the unique pressures of life there. While official figures are hard to come by, one source within the security services told AFP on condition of anonymity that the numbers were “frightening,” with cases on a “near-daily” basis.
Navy kidnaps 9 fishermen off Gaza coast
IMEMC/Agencies 29 Feb — The Israeli navy, on Monday, attacked and abducted nine Palestinian fishermen while they were on board two fishing boats offshore Gaza, according to local sources. Zakaria Bakr, a fisherman, told WAFA that Israeli naval boats attacked two fishing boats carrying nine Palestinian fishermen off Gaza. The navy then demanded, at gunpoint, the nine fishermen to swim towards the Israeli boats and detained them, before leading them to Ashdod seaport, in southern Israel, Bakr added. The navy also seized the two fishing boats and dragged them to Ashdod seaport, as well. The nine fishermen were identified as Majed Bakr, Fadi Bakr, Amran Bakr, Mohammad Ziyad Bakr, Khalil Bakr, Wafdi Bakr, Khamis Bakr, Yusri Akhsham, and Mohammad Nezar Bakr. This came only few hours after the navy opened heavy machine gunfire on fishermen’s boats while sailing within the same area, which caused damage to two boats. No injuries were reported among fishermen who apparently fled the scene.
Palestinian farmers attacked by Israeli troops in southern Gaza
IMEMC 2 Mar — A group of Israeli farmers were fired upon by Israeli troops in the Rafah region of southern Gaza on Tuesday. The farmers reported that Israeli troops stationed along the southern border of Gaza, where Gaza borders Egypt, began to fire live ammunition toward them as they were farming their land . . . During the past two weeks alone, Israeli troops have fired upon Palestinians in the Rafah “buffer zone” at least two dozen times, according to the United Nations. In the shooting incident on Tuesday, no farmers were injured, but they were forced to leave the area in the middle of their planting.
Israel denies Belgian lawmakers entry into Gaza
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 2 Mar — The Israeli authorities have denied a delegation of Belgian lawmakers entry into the blockaded Gaza Strip, in a decision the lawmakers decried as “unacceptable.” The delegation of six MPs, representing several Belgian political parties, said in a statement on Wednesday that they had arranged the visit for the day before with the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA. They had hoped to meet with civil society organizations and take field tours across the beleaguered enclave at the request of the Belgian parliament. However, the Israeli authorities refused to let them cross the border into the Gaza Strip. The delegation suggested that Israel might be attempting “to hide something,” and said they had informed the Belgian government of “the unacceptable situation.” The statement said: “Israel has no right to act in such way which violates international conventions.” . . . Earlier this year, Belgium pledged €2.45 million ($2.6 million) to UNRWA “in support of the agency’s services for Palestine refugees in the occupied Palestinian territory.” It adds to some $90 million Belgium has donated to the agency since 2007. The lawmakers reiterated in their statement that the Gaza Strip is an inseparable part of a Palestinian state.
Palestine: Significant progress made on UfM desalinization project in Gaza
enpi-info 2 Mar –bThe Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) has announced on its website that “significant progress” has been made on its desalination project for the Gaza Strip, after a final agreement was reached on the project’s financing plan on Monday 15 February 2016. The organisation states that “the large-scale desalination facility is aimed at addressing the water crisis in the Gaza Strip, where 95% of the water is not drinkable due to the over-pumping of the coastal aquifer, the only available water source in the Strip.” “On 15 February 2016, the UfM Secretariat organised a meeting in Brussels with the participation of government representatives from Palestine and Israel” and “representatives of both the European Commission and the Office of the Quartet to advance the implementation of the desalination facility project for the Gaza Strip, endorsed by the 43 Member States of the UfM”, the statement said. The UfM noted that “the Israeli Delegation confirmed its government’s political support for the project and its commitment to facilitate the construction of the facility” and “the Palestinian Delegation emphasised its readiness to take all necessary measures for the project’s implementation”.
Video: Did Israel target Gaza’s ambulances?
EI 29 Feb by Charlotte Silver — A new documentary shows the devastation Israel’s 2014 bombardment of Gaza caused to medical and rescue teams. In the documentary, which can be viewed at the top of this page, three medics recall incidents during which their colleagues came under attack. In total, 11 ambulance drivers and civil defense workers were killed during Israel’s 51 days of aerial bombing and ground invasion. Twenty-four ambulances and 70 medical facilities were damaged or destroyed. In many cases, ambulances and facilities appear to have been directly targeted despite having provided their coordinates to the Israeli army. The documentary was produced by Al Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza . . . “International law is crystal clear concerning its inviolable protection of health facilities and workers, including ambulances,” Abu Rahma says in the documentary, noting that Palestinian ambulances are well marked in colors agreed [on] with Israel. Al Mezan submitted complaints to the Israeli authorities demanding a credible investigation into what appear to be targeted attacks on medical facilities and personnel. The Israeli military has opened two investigations into the killing of ambulance drivers in separate attacks on 25 July 2014. However, to date only one instance of an apparent direct attack on a medical facility has prompted the military to open a criminal file. That case was only opened after media reports exposed the deliberate shelling of a clinic in the Shujaiya neighborhood of Gaza City. (Continued)
Gaza audiences enjoy first night out at the movies in 20 years
GAZA (Reuters) 29 Feb by Nidal Al-Mughrabi — Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are enjoying their first night out at the movies since political tensions led to the torching of cinemas in the enclave 20 years ago. Hollywood blockbusters have yet to return and Hamas Islamists, who now rule Gaza, are looking out for anything they consider immodest. Nevertheless, the projectors are rolling again, in a newly-opened cinema whose shows have been limited so far to films about the Palestinian struggle for statehood. About 150 people took their seats last week in the Red Crescent Society hall, usually a venue for celebrations or traditional performances, to watch “Oversized Coat”. The 2013 film by Jordan-based Palestinian director Nawras Abu Saleh examines Palestinian life between 1987 and 2011, a period of failed peace efforts and two anti-Israeli uprisings. Tickets cost 10 shekels ($2.50) each. In the audience, Alaa Abu Qassem, a Gaza student who had never been to the movies before, reveled in the new experience. “I am very happy,” said Qassem, just a toddler when the last of Gaza’s cinemas were burned to the ground during fighting between rival Palestinian factions. “But where is the popcorn?” Cinema once flourished in Gaza. Back in the 1950s, when Egypt ran the enclave, residents used to frequent movie houses to watch Arab, Western and Asian films. Those cinemas were set on fire in 1987 when the first Palestinian uprising erupted. All were repaired, but were torched again during internal violence in 1996 . . . At Thursday’s event, audience members said that while movies highlighting the Palestinian struggle were fine, they also wanted to watch Egyptian films and Western features with action stars like Tom Cruise or Sylvester Stallone.
Virtual reality doc takes you through a mother’s grief in Gaza
Creatorsproject 2 Mar by Kevin Holmes — Virtual reality is a great medium for evoking empathy and relating personal stories, and as such, it’s a medium that’s been embraced by no less than the United Nations. The organization, along with virtual reality production company, Vrse.works, has released a series of powerful documentaries using VR filmmaking and storytelling. The films are able to immerse the viewer into worlds they only read about or see on the news. The films have charted the plight of men, women, and children inside a Syrian refufee camp in Jordan, related the story of an ebola survivor in the slums of Liberia’s captial, and in the latest, explore the hardships of life in Gaza. My Mother’s Wing was created by UN advisor Gabo Arora, who worked on the other two films, along with Vrse.works’ Ari Palitz and Chris Milk, and produced by Samantha Storr and Patrick Milling Smith. The idea is to show the “challenges and heartbreak of living on the Gaza strip.” . . . “On the surface, My Mother’s Wing is about a woman coping with the loss of her two children after an Israeli air strike bombed a UN school,” Vrse.works co-founder, Patrick Milling Smith, says in the press release. “She attends support groups, spends more time with her remaining children, and frets over their psychological fragility. Beneath the surface, however, it is about identifying the factors that contribute to cycles of violence, and how to disrupt them. The mission of our VR series with the UN is to create awareness and empathy for these situations and events. Shooting this film in Gaza feels like a watershed moment in VR. Giving people access to one of the most cut off, polarizing and politized places in the world is important. Our hope is that this film can also be about healing and hope. A mother’s story is universal.”
Gaza debates whether women must be accompanied by male chaperone during driving lessons
AFP 1 Mar — Local media were filled Monday with reports on the latest move in Gaza, controlled by the Islamist movement Hamas, to fall in line with Muslim tenets that women in public be accompanied by a husband or male family member. A Gaza City police spokesman, in a statement, denied that the decision on chaperons for driving lessons was already the law, although “warnings and instructions” had indeed been issued. Rami Matar, an instructor for the past five years, hailed the measure as “a positive decision” for both parties. “It’s also reassuring for us, the instructors,” he told AFP, explaining that initial lessons often took place in isolated areas to avoid the heavy traffic jams of Gaza City. His school, Al-Awail, has hired a female instructor for women learners if they so request — one of only half a dozen in the entire Israeli-blockaded territory. “If I had to be taught by a man, I’d prefer to have someone accompany me,” said Tamara Abu Afash, who is having her lessons with a female instructor. But Nisrine, 19, said she had no problem taking instructions from a man, Suheil al-Bayed, who runs another driving school, Al-Kifah. A third of his customers are women, said Bayed, who saw no need for chaperons, especially as instructors have to pass a “morality test” as part of the process to acquire a licence. Gaza’s rulers have tried but failed several times to impose conservative tenets on women, such as banning them from smoking water-pipes in public. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world which bans women drivers.
Israel court endorses demolition of Palestinian martyr’s home
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (PIC) 1 Mar — Israeli Supreme Court endorsed on Monday the demolition of the house of the Palestinian martyr Ibrahim Eskafi, 23, from al-Khalil in the southern West Bank. Martyr Eskafi carried out, on November 04, 2015, an anti-occupation hit-and-run operation near Halhoul town in al-Khalil. One Israeli soldier was killed and another was injured in the operation. Israeli forces shot him dead inside his car. Radio Israel said that the house will be destroyed from the inside only. The inside walls will be razed and the house will be closed and no demolition date was announced, the radio added.
Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Judaization
School among ‘dozens’ of structures demolished by Israel north of Nablus
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 2 Mar — Israeli forces on Wednesday morning demolished “dozens” of structures in the hamlet of Khirbet Tana northeast of Nablus, including houses, barns, and the hamlet’s sole school, a local official told Ma‘an. Munadil Hanani, a member of the local committee of Beit Furik near Nablus, said that Israeli bulldozers under Israeli army escort had stormed Khirbet Tana on Beit Furik’s outskirts and demolished every structure there. These included Khirbet Tana’s sole school, Hanani said, a building consisting of movable caravans donated by a European organization. He said it had been equipped with state-of-the-art facilities, and had been attended by 26 local children from grades one to four. Hanani said Israeli forces also demolished residential homes, dozens of sheep barns, and a number of other agricultural structures in the hamlet. He said that the homes were mostly built from tin, plastic, wood, and stone. He added that Khirbet Tana’s population is around 275. The only structure left untouched was an ancient shrine which serves as a mosque for the hamlet’s residents. Last month, Israeli rights group B’Tselem warned of a “new wave” of Israeli home demolitions in the occupied Palestinian territory, saying the Israeli authorities appeared to “have stepped up efforts to expel Palestinian communities from vast areas in the West Bank.”
Israel dismantles Dutch-funded West Bank farming project
NLTIMES 29 Feb by Janene Peters — The Israeli army dismantled a Dutch-funded project on the West Bank of the Jordan river. The project is an agricultural project in which the Netherlands put 10 million euros, Israel correspondent Jan Franke told BNR. The project involved teaching Palestinians how to use the land for growing their crops. The entire project, including tools and sheds, was dismantled. According to diplomats, the dismantling was done as revenge – Israel is upset that the EU wants to put special labels on products from Israeli settlements. Not much can be done against the Israeli’s decision to dismantle the project, Franke said to the broadcaster. “There are many EU aid projects on the West Bank.” he said. “And essentially all the projects and and initiatives exist at the mercy of the Israeli army. They have the control there. If they say: ‘We are going to dismantle, this is not allowed’, then you stand there empty-handed.”
EU strongly protests Israeli settlers’ ‘smear campaign’ against ambassador
[includes video (Hebrew)] Haaretz 29 Feb by Barak Ravid — The European Union has strongly protested a campaign by a new settler organization against its ambassador to Jerusalem Lars Faaborg-Andersen. In a meeting with Israel’s ambassador to EU institutions in Brussels, David Waltzer, on Monday, senior EU officials demanded that Israel condemn what they called the “smear campaign” against Faaborg-Andersen at the very highest levels. The campaign, which was revealed Channel 10 TV on Sunday night, is organized by the Jerusalem Periphery Forum, a newly established organization comprising settlements adjacent to the road leading from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea (Route 1.) Under the slogan “Curbing Andersen,” the campaign includes a video distributed over social networks in which the ambassador is compared to Hannibal Lecter, the serial killer from the film “Silence of the Lambs.” The video claims that the ambassador is undermining Israel’s sovereignty and assisting terror through the EU-funded temporary housing provided to homeless Palestinians and Bedouin in the area of Route 1 . . . The EU stressed that, “According to its obligations under international humanitarian law it’s actually Israel’s own responsibility as the Occupying Power to cater for the basic needs of the population in question. Failing that Israel has the duty to agree to and facilitate international relief schemes and grant unimpeded access for humanitarian assistance.”
The risk of building while Bedouin
+972 Blog 29 Feb by Michal Rotem — According to a recent court ruling, only Bedouin need to be concerned about illegal construction. Israeli Jews, it turns out, are immune to home demolitions — The Be’er Sheva Magistrates Court recently overturned an indictment against a Jewish Israeli for building three guest houses without a permit, due to “abuse of process.” In short, the defendant argued that enforcement had been selective, since the entire nearby Jewish community of Azuz — located in Israel’s Negev Desert — had been built without permits in the same area in which the defendant operates his guest rooms. He also argued that yet another site in the area was built without permits. The court accepted his argument and annulled the indictment. -Enforcement against a ‘distinct population’- There are several unrecognized Bedouin villages within Ramat Negev Regional Council’s jurisdiction, including Abda, al-Bajar, Wadi Ariha and Nafha, where government authorities have been actively enforcing building and construction laws. The residents have reported that inspectors arrive on a daily basis, pressuring residents to demolish structures themselves or issuing demolition orders .Authorities have already demolished many homes in these unrecognized villages. When the Interior Ministry’s director of the southern district’s enforcement unit, Oren Gabai, testified at the trial, he said that building and construction laws are actually being enforced within the regional council. They are simply not enforced when it comes to Jewish residents.
Pictures . . . Silwan: The occupation demolishes a house and injures 5
SILWAN, Jerusalem (SILWANIC) 1 Mar — The occupation municipality’s bulldozers demolished on Tuesday morning a residential house in the neighborhood of Wad Yasoul in Silwan under the pretext of building without a permit. Wadi Hilweh Information Center was informed that the occupation forces raided Wad Yasoul around 5 a.m. and were deployed in the neighborhood and closed the roads leading to it while occupation soldiers along with police dogs raided the house of the late Yousef Abed Sumrein which is still under construction; after searching the house the bulldozer was brought to execute the demolition . . . Shweiki added that the family of Sumrein consists of 8 individuals (his wife and 7 children where the oldest is 20 and youngest is 3); one of Yousef’s sons is under arrest. . . . Occupation soldiers assaulted the neighbors during the raid and fired rubber bullets towards them and also sprayed them with pepper gas to prevent them from approaching the “area of demolition”. Shweiki also explained that 5 young men were injured with rubber[-coated steel] bullets, burns and suffocation. They are: Mohammad Yousef Sumrein (rubber bullet in the chest), Ahmad Awad (rubber bullet in the shoulder), Abu Yousef Sumrein, Khaled Shweiki and Izz Sumrein suffocated due to pepper gas. The Information Center was also informed that Mohammad Yousef Sumrein suffered broken ribs and bruises in the lung after being directly targeted with a rubber bullet in the chest.
Demolishing an under-construction building in the village of Al-Tur
SILWAN, Jerusalem (SILWANIC) 2 Mar — The occupation municipality’s bulldozers demolished on Wednesday morning an under-construction residential building in the village of Al-Tur east of the Old City of Jerusalem under the pretext of building without a permit. Wadi Hilweh Information Center was informed that the municipality’s bulldozers demolished an under-construction residential building in the village of Al-Tur without prior notice. The building consists of three floors where each floor is 240 square meters and consists of two apartments; construction started nearly four months ago.
Israeli army returns Palestinian land in ‘extremely unusual’ move
MEE/Agencies 2 Mar — The Israeli army is to return West Bank land it requisitioned nearly 40 years ago to its Palestinian owners in what a human rights group called an “extremely unusual” move. Israeli rights group Yesh Din said that the army had taken the decision to surrender control of the land after it petitioned the High Court late last year. The decision, which spares the army a potentially lengthy court case, will see more than 420 acres of what used to be valuable farmland restored to its original owners, Yesh Din said. The land, which had been seized for military purposes in the 1970s and 1980s, had ceased to be used by the army.
The largest of the claims involves 170 hectares of land in the village of Jalud in the northern West Bank. Control of other tracts of land near the city of Ramallah will also be transferred. “These are lands that have been seized nearly 40 years ago,” Yesh Din spokesman Gilad Grossman told AFP. “Palestinian farmers rely on their land. For them to be able to return to these lands, maybe they can improve their lives.” Grossman called on the army to give up other land that it had seized but was no longer using. “We shouldn’t have to go to court every time,” he said . . . Jalud village council leader Abdullah Hamed welcomed the army’s decision to surrender control but said villagers were still waiting for a second decision allowing them to actually return to their land. He said that before it was confiscated, the land had supported up to 1,000 people.
The occupation municipality removes murals in the neighborhood of Wadi Hilweh in Silwan
[photos] SILWAN, Jerusalem (SILWANIC) 1 Mar — Occupation municipality’s crews along with Israeli forces removed on Sunday some murals drawn on the walls of the neighborhood of Wadi Hilweh in Silwan. Wadi Hilweh Information Center explained that the municipality’s contractor along with some workers and Israeli forces raided the neighborhood of Wadi Hilweh with some painting tools and removed “murals” drawn on the walls claiming that settlers were annoyed by the drawings and that they have filed an official complaint to the municipality. The center added that the municipality removed the murals of “victory sign and Palestinian flag” while the locals confronted them and prevented them from removing the rest of the murals that were drawn last August. The center also pointed out that the drawings were chosen based upon the desire of the residents of the neighborhood of Wadi Hilweh which is targeted the most by the occupation forces and settlement organizations since it is the closest to the southern wall of Al-Aqsa Mosque. It is noteworthy that the occupation municipality placed some murals at the entrance of Wadi Hilweh in an attempt to present it as a “Jewish neighborhood for settlers.” Palestinian flags, the slogan of “I Love You Silwan”, the right to return and “Handala” also covered several walls in the neighborhood. A picture of the late Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish, was also drawn and some of his poems that emphasize on protecting the land and steadfastness were also written.
Bill on tap to forbid Israel’s muezzins from using public address systems
Haaretz 3 Mar by Jonathan Lis — The Ministerial Committee for Legislation will decide Sunday whether to support a bill that would forbid muezzins from using mosques’ public address systems to call their worshipers to prayer. Although the bill has wide support in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition, the legislation is not expected to pass. In recent years repeated efforts to pass similar bills have failed. “Freedom of religion does not have to be a factor undermining quality of life,” said the bill’s backers. The legislation was initiated by MK Moti Yogev (Habayit Hayehudi) and is supported by other Knesset members from his party, along with MKs Miki Zohar and Nurit Koren of Likud and Merav Ben Ari of Kulanu. “Hundreds of thousands of Israelis – in the Galilee, the Negev, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv-Jaffa and other areas in the center of the country – experience regular daily suffering from the noise resulting from the muezzin calls in the mosques,” the bill’s explanatory notes say.
Israeli Apartheid Week launches in Palestine
[with map] GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 1 Mar — Organizers opened the 2016 Israel Apartheid Week in the the occupied Palestinian territory on Tuesday, marking the 12th occurrence of the annual international event. The head of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign in Gaza, Haidar Eid, told Ma‘an that the events were particularly significant this year due to the record number of cities across the world participating In Gaza, the week opened with words by Palestinian writer Ibrahim Nasrallah and the former United Nations special rapporteur on Palestinian human rights Richard Falk. Eid pointed out that more than 200 cities around the world are commemorating the week in March this year, in addition to celebrating the accomplishments of the Palestinian BDS campaign. Eid called upon Palestinians everywhere to take part in activities of the Israeli Apartheid Week to send a clear message to the international community and Israel that Palestinian resistance will continue until “basic rights that are pledged by the international legitimacy are achieved.” He added that the Israeli Apartheid Week would continue until March 10 in Palestine and South Africa, while other regions have other schedules throughout March as follows: UK: February 22-28 Europe: February 29-March 7 Middle East: March 6-26 US: various, including March 27-April 3 Latin America: April 10-24 Canada: various throughout March, check with local organisers
The right to boycott is non-negotiable
+972 mag 2 Mar by Amjad Iraqi — Regardless of one’s views of BDS, it is ridiculous that one should have to tell self-proclaimed ‘democracies’ that the right to boycott is a basic civil right, not a punishable crime — Last week, over 120 people attended a conference in Nazareth on the subject of “BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) and ‘48 Palestinians (citizens living inside Israel’s 1948 borders).” Although the discussions were lively, many participants were cautious with their choice of words: Israel’s Anti-Boycott Law – which allows groups and citizens to be sued for calling for a boycott of Israeli institutions, including settlements – cast a heavy shadow over the event. The anxiety of discussing the subject of boycott would have seemed an implausible scenario a decade ago. Boycotts, we always learned, are a legitimate method of political expression, praised in our history books and modern politics as an example of how nonviolence can be more powerful, moral, and strategic in advancing human rights struggles around the world. Now, in a corrupt twist, the very countries that purport to uphold civil rights have become the main forces undermining them. In recent months (and years), governments and local authorities in the USA, France, the UK, and others have advanced new laws, administrative decisions, and behind-the-scenes pressures to stem the rising tide of BDS activities – simply because they are being applied against Israel.
SodaStream lays off last Palestinian workers after permit row
AFP 29 Feb — CEO Daniel Birnbaum says dismissal of 74 Palestinian workers is not BDS Movement’s fault, but that of the Israeli gov’t, which refuses to grant them work permits — Israeli drinks firm SodaStream laid off its last Palestinian workers Monday and lashed out at the government for refusing to grant them work permits after it relocated from the West Bank to southern Israel. The company, which manufactures a device for making fizzy drinks at home, announced in late 2014 it was closing the West Bank plant following a boycott campaign that included targeting Hollywood actress Scarlett Johansson after she advertised its product. The plant, located in a Jewish West Bank settlement, closed in October last year, laying off more than 500 Palestinians, and then relocated inside Israel. The movement known as BDS campaigns against Israel over its presence in the West Bank and pressured SodaStream to move out of the Palestinian territory. Mahmoud Nawajaa, the BDS coordinator in the West Bank town of Ramallah, called the loss of the Palestinian jobs at SodaStream “part of the price that should be paid in the process of ending the occupation.” At the time, 74 experienced Palestinian workers moved with the company which also hired hundreds of Israelis. The Palestinian staff, many of whom had worked at the company for years, have been caught in a permit battle between the firm and Israeli authorities. On Monday, they boarded buses to leave the plant in the southern Israeli town of Levahim for the last time, many visibly emotional, as company officials expressed outrage. The movement known as BDS campaigns against Israel over its presence in the West Bank and pressured SodaStream to move out of the Palestinian territory. The Israeli government refused to grant the 74 Palestinians work permits beyond the end of February, according to the company . . . At a march to protest the government’s decision on Monday, a few hundred SodaStream employees formed a peace sign at the company’s Lehavim factory. Palestinian employees were then loaded onto buses for the last time to be taken into the West Bank. “There is no hope in Palestine. There is little work.” Bassel Salhaya said he had no plan for future employment in the West Bank. “We were together 12 hours a day, more than I see my wife and son,” he said. “We became like brothers.”
SodaStream CEO slams government disregard for human dignity over Palestinian work permits
JPost 29 Feb by Niv Elis — Birnbaum says government decision to let dozens of work permits expire sends children to hunger, gives ammunition to BDS — SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum reacted with palpable frustration and anger Monday to the government’s decision to let work permits for 74 of his Palestinian employees lapse. “I had dozens of discussions with nearly every ministry and minister and clerk that could possibly have a part in this saga,” he told The Jerusalem Post, saying he made little headway with the Prime Minister’s Office and the Economy, Finance, Public Security, Interior and Foreign ministries, or the police. SodaStream built its Lehavim plant, which employs around 1,200 workers of all stripes, to replace its plant in the West Bank industrial zone of Mishor Adumim near Ma’aleh Adumim, which closed last autumn. Some 500 Palestinians lost their jobs in that closure, but 74 who had families were given permits to work in Israel. Birnbaum said he has been working on the permit issue for a year and a half, expressing outrage that the government would allow the permits to lapse, especially given the large numbers of other legal and illegal Palestinian workers in the country. Each of his workers, he said, supported an average of 10 other people with their income, including children, but was unlikely to find equally good work at home. “I cannot believe that a Jewish administration would ask me to send children to their hunger,” he said. “This has been the most difficult and sad day of my life. I’m the son of a Holocaust survivor. I cannot watch this disregard for human dignity.” An official in the Prime Minister’s Office refused to elaborate on its earlier position, which stated that the government favors Israeli workers over foreign workers, but would do its best to help support the factory . . . On Monday afternoon, hundreds of SodaStream workers parted from their Palestinian colleagues, linking arms in a symbol of unity. “We’re heartened by all the support that everyone has shown us, but in the end, when I get up tomorrow, I won’t have a job to go to,” said Yasin Abu Ateek, a 29-year-old father of two from Sawahrah, near Ma’aleh Adumim, who has been working at SoadStream for six years. Though Birnbaum walked back earlier threats to close the plant if the permits did not come through, he said he was determined to find solutions for the outgoing workers, who have been employed with him for six years. “I don’t need to close the whole plant, I need to close one department and move it to Ramallah,” he said.
Palestinian refugees – Saudi Arabia
A Palestinian refugee in Saudi Arabia : 50 years of lost dreams
MEE 29 Feb by Sarah Aziza — . . . My father and I are indulging a common passion: time travel. Our destination: 1968. We’ve set our course for al-Sahifa district, a run-down neighbourhood in the older part of town, where we plan to visit my father’s first “real” home. My father, Ziyad, arrived in Saudi Arabia at age seven, after the tumult of the Six Day War pushed his family out of their refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. Here, my father started second grade and my grandfather kept his family fed through a slew of odd jobs – street peddler, shoe seller, contractor and grocer . . . as we retrace my father’s childhood steps down the narrow, debris-strewn walkway, I know in some ways this is a good-bye. After nearly 50 years, my father is giving up on Saudi Arabia. “I’m tired,” he tells me, often, these days. After decades in the kingdom, he’s still a “temporary resident,” ineligible for public services and at the mercy of Saudi sponsors. He’s tired of the effort and expense required to maintain his six- to 12-month permit (iqama), the closest thing to permanency a non-Saudi can hope for in this country. Most of all, though, he has grown weary of being told, in both subtle and explicit terms, that he’ll never really belong. “I wanted to be a part of this country, I really tried,” he says. In his school yearbook, grainy photos show him in the traditional Saudi thobe and ghutra. He grew up playing football with Saudi neighbours in the trapezoid-shaped dirt patch outside his building. One of his teammates went on to play professionally; my father qualified, too, but was denied a spot -“Saudis only.” My father’s next dream was more practical – he wanted to become a pilot. Several of his peers would go on to do just that, but my father’s lack of citizenship would exclude him from the government-subsidised training programme. (Continued)
PA leaders meet with Israel, threaten to end security coordination
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 3 Mar — A delegation from the Palestinian Authority (PA) officially warned Israeli authorities several days ago that the Palestinian government would end its security coordination with Israel if the state did not “commit to past agreements,” a member of the PLO executive committee told Ma‘an. Wassel Abu Youssef said the head of PA Intelligence Majed Faraj, as well as the Palestinian Minister of Civil Affairs Hussein al-Sheikh and head of PA preventive security Ziyad Hab al-Reeh, met with an Israeli security delegation to deliver the warning. The PA delegation informed their Israeli counterparts that the PLO Central Council came to an official decision to work towards ending security coordination with Israel if the “current situation” were to continue, Abu Youssef said. Abu Youssef stressed that Palestinian leadership does not fear the consequences of ending security coordination, as Israel is already “carrying out an open war against Palestinians.” He added that the decision to end security coordination has the support of other Arab countries. Abu Youssef said PA leaderships expects to be contacted by Israeli authorities trying to challenge the Palestinian government and to pressure the PA to reconsider its stance.
Palestinian MKs may ‘quit’ if bill passed allowing Knesset to expel them
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 29 Feb — The head of the Joint Arab List, Ayman Odeh, warned Monday that he and other Palestinian members of the Israeli Knesset may resign if a controversial bill allowing the Knesset to expel lawmakers is passed next week. The draft bill, which was approved by the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on Monday, could see lawmakers suspended from their duties if voted for by 90 MKs — three-quarters of Israel’s lawmakers. Palestinian MKs have slammed the bill, which they say is directed solely against them. The bill was submitted to the constitutional committee after the Knesset’s Ethics Committee suspended MKs Hanin Zoabi, Basel Ghattas and Jamal Zahalqa from their duties for several months after they visited the families of Palestinians who were killed while attacking Israelis. During the Knesset’s constitutional committee session on Monday, Odeh said the Knesset was “plotting” against Palestinian citizens of Israel, and if the bill was passed into law, Palestinian MKs would “quit the Knesset and leave it to the Jews alone.” . . . Odeh said Palestinian MKs had visited the families of slain Palestinian attackers for “official” purposes, and the visit should have been respected as such. He said Palestinian lawmakers were “elected by our people, not by the right wing in Israel.” Palestinian MK Ahmad Tibi reiterated Odeh’s threat that the entire Joint List could “quit” if the Knesset passed the bill, which he said was a legislative equivalent of the right-wing slogan “death to Arabs.” Tibi added that “Arab MKs have not caused bloodshed,” as opposed to “those whose hands are stained with blood and are openly proud of that fact,” referring specifically to the right-wing Jewish Home’s Naftali Bennet, who has in the past boasted about killing Palestinians.
Thousands of Palestinian teachers demonstrate across West Bank
[many photos] BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 1 Mar — Palestinian teachers organised sit-in protests across the occupied West Bank on Tuesday, as a teachers strike calling on the Palestinian Authority to guarantee their rights entered its 16th consecutive day. The demonstrations came as the Palestinian government threatened to take administrative and legal procedures against teachers if they did not commit to returning to work on Wednesday. During the government weekly meeting, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said the government had a “responsibility” for students’ future and needed to push to solve the conflict with the teachers, as most schools across the West Bank have been shut down because of the strike. The government called upon the Minister of Education to extend the current school year in public schools to make up for the closures. The government’s latest initiative included paying teachers a 2.5 percent raise that would be applicable to January salaries onward. Teachers said that PA security forces set up a number of checkpoints across the West Bank to prevent them from reaching demonstration sites. “I was traveling to Hebron to take part in a sit-in strike outside the Hebron’s governor’s office, and Palestinian security denied me entry,” a teacher, who requested anonymity, told Ma‘an. PA security sources told Ma‘an that the checkpoints around the southern city were “not to deny teachers entry to Hebron,” but there to “ambush fugitives.” They said at least one drug dealer was arrested at the checkpoints.
Palestinian teacher attacked amid tensions over teachers’ strike
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 2 Mar — A Palestinian teacher in Hebron was attacked with pepper spray on Wednesday morning, in what she said may have been linked to her participation in a national teachers’ protest calling for the guarantee of teachers’ rights. Nadia Abu Eisha told Ma‘an she was heading to her school on Wednesday morning when a car stopped nearby and a bearded man exited. “He threatened and insulted me, and then attacked me with pepper spray,” she said. “I found water in the area, so I washed my face, and went to the hospital immediately.” Palestinian police said they had received her complaint, and would be opening an investigation to identify the assailant. Abu Eisha said she had received “many threats” on Facebook and on her phone over her support for a Palestinian teachers’ protest against the Palestinian Authority. She said she would continue to support the teachers until they secure their full rights, and the threats only gave her the “motivation to go on and support the teachers’ demands.”
Birzeit announces completion of $2 million science department renovations
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 1 Mar — Birzeit University announced the completion of a two-year long renovation project funded by the United Arab Emirates Red Crescent Society on Tuesday. The university in the central occupied West Bank district of Ramallah said in a statement that the $2 million project, which targeted the labs at the mechanical engineering, mechatronics and civil engineering departments had been completed, thanks to UAE funds donated in 2014. The project also worked to improve the labs in the chemistry, biology and physics departments, in addition to “enhancing the efficiency” of the university’s computer center.
Israeli conscientious objector sentenced to third stint in jail
+972mag 1 Mar by Haggai Matar — Israeli conscientious objector Tair Kaminer was sentenced on Monday to another 30 days in military prison for refusing to enlist in the IDF. This is Kaminer’s third sentence; she has sat a total of 45 days in jail. In early January, she informed the army that she would refuse to serve because of her opposition to the occupation, and was sentenced to 20 days in the women’s military prison. After being released, Kaminer will be made to the induction base where she will be required to enlist once again. Should she refuse, she will be sentenced to another stint in jail. This process repeats itself ad nauseam until the army decides to officially discharge her. Over the past few years, a number of conscientious objectors have been sentenced up to 10 times in this way. Kaminer, 19, recently finished a year of national service with the Israeli Scouts (“Tzofim”) in the southern development town of Sderot. There she volunteered with children who suffer from trauma due to multiple wars in Gaza and continual rocket fire on the city.
Video: Chicago Jew gets called Hitler for supporting Palestinian rights
EI 1 Mar by Rania Khalek — Jewish activists have been kicked out of an Illinois synagogue for supporting Palestinian rights. On Sunday, a conference on how to combat the growing boycott, divestment and sanctions movement was held at Temple Beth-El, in Northbrook, a suburb of Chicago. During a panel discussion, Michael Deheeger, a 32-year-old member of Jewish Voice for Peace-Chicago, interrupted the speakers, expressing his support for Palestinian rights. The mostly older audience responded with a staggering degree of hostility. Deheeger compared the audience to racist whites in the Jim Crow South. “It was a throwback to pictures I’ve seen of white protesters in the South trying to uphold segregation,” he told The Electronic Intifada. Three other activists had disrupted the conference before Deheeger – video of their action is below. “If there had been one person after me, I don’t know what would have happened,” he said. -“Unhinged”- In the video at the top of this post, Deheeger, who is filming, can be heard repeatedly declaring, “I am Jewish, I support Palestinian human rights.” As Deheeger is carted out by police, camera in hand, one enraged person after another jumps out of their seat to taunt and curse at him. “You support killing Jews!” says one man. “Get the fuck out of here!” says another. Near the end, a woman shouts, “Hitler! Hitler!” “They were so unhinged,” Deheeger said. “One guy even came up and punched me in the arm.” The rage is striking given that Deheeger’s statement was hardly controversial. He was simply stating that Palestinians are people worthy of human rights. “I’m not even sure if they see us as people any more when we stand up and do this stuff,” he added, referring to the hatred for anti-Zionist Jews espoused by Zionists who remain deeply invested in Israel’s colonial project. “They see us as race traitors.” “It really just highlighted the amount of racism and violence that’s intertwined with the issue of Israel and Palestine in the Jewish community. And it’s passed down to kids,” said Deheeger, recalling his own support for Zionism when he was still in high school. JVP-Chicago disrupted the event, said Deheeger, to show that “all these organizations claiming to represent American Jews and conflating anti-Zionism and criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism – they don’t speak for us.”
EU releases 252 million euros in aid for Palestinians
BRUSSELS (AFP) 1 Mar — The EU on Tuesday released 252.5 million euros ($274 million) in aid to support the Palestinian Authority’s health and education programmes and offer services to Palestinian refugees in the Middle East. The European Commission, the executive of the 28-nation bloc, released the aid as it tries to help Palestinian institutions become more accountable and democratic to prepare them for running a future Palestinian state. “Today the European Commission has approved a 252.5 million euro assistance package for Palestine,” the commission said, adding it was the first part of its 2016 aid package. “Through this package, the EU supports the daily lives of Palestinians in the fields of education and health, protecting the poorest families,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said, adding Palestinian refugees in the region would be given access to essential services.