Israel closes Gaza crossing for final days of Passover
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 28 Apr — Israeli authorities closed the Kerem Shalom crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel from Thursday for the end of the Jewish holiday of Passover. Head of the PA’s Crossings and Border Department, Nathmi Mhanna, told Ma‘an the crossing would be sealed until Sunday with the exception of fuel entering the besieged enclave. Israel’s Ministry of Defense did not have immediate information on closures; however, Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri said an initial decision to impose a full closure on Palestinian movement in and out of both the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip over the weekend was later reversed. Despite the reversal, Palestinians have continued to face severe restrictions on movement in and out of the West Bank and blockaded Gaza Strip since the start of the Passover holiday …
The closure of Gaza this weekend is likely to prevent any entrance of much-needed cement that was scheduled to arrive via the crossing in an unprecedented move by the Israeli authorities. On Saturday, 2000 tons of cement entered the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom crossing, despite an ongoing ban by Israeli authorities on cement imports for the private sector. Further cement deliveries are expected over the coming week which would allow international organizations to continue reconstruction efforts to rebuild thousands of homes that were destroyed during the most recent assault on Gaza.
Violence / Detentions — West Bank / Jerusalem
Witnesses: Palestinian siblings posed no threat when shot dead
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 27 Apr — Witnesses to an alleged stab attempt on Israeli border police at a military checkpoint in the occupied West Bank Wednesday said two siblings shot dead during the incident posed no threat at the time the Israeli officer killed them. Witnesses told Ma‘an that 23-year-old Maram Salih Hassan Abu Ismail, five months pregnant, and her 16-year-old brother Ibrahim [Taha] were en route to Jerusalem when they took a path intended for vehicles, not pedestrians, into Qalandiya checkpoint near Ramallah. The two were apparently unable to understand Israeli officers yelling in Hebrew, and stopped walking. Witnesses said it appeared that Ibrahim attempted to grab his sister’s hand and move away from the officers, when they opened fire on her. Maram fell to the ground and when Ibrahim attempted to aid her, he was shot in his tracks. A Palestinian bus driver present at the scene, Muhammad Ahmad, told Ma‘an that the Israeli officer who opened fire on Maram was standing behind a cement block some 20 meters away from her at the time. The driver said it did not appear that Maram or her brother posed any threat when the officer shot them. Palestinian local and witness to the incident Ahmad Taha told Ma‘an that Israeli officers approached the two after they had been shot and had fallen to the ground before opening fire on them again “to ensure that they were dead,” adding that the officers “could have moved the two away without opening fire.” Taha alleged that the officers planted knives on the scene, photographs of which were distributed by Israeli police who said they had been in Maram and Ibrahim’s possession. The witness accounts collected following the incident contradict Israeli police reports that the officer opened fire after Maram threw a knife in their direction. Local sources said Maram was the mother of a six and four-year-old, and five months pregnant. She had reportedly obtained a permit from the Israeli authorities to enter Jerusalem for the first time when she was crossing on Wednesday … Maram and Ibrahim’s deaths come in the wake of mass criticism towards what has been termed Israel’s policy of “extrajudicial executions” towards Palestinians, which most recently came under spotlight after an Israeli soldier was caught on film shooting a prone Palestinian through the head from point blank range.
The woman who was killed by Israeli soldiers along with her brother was pregnant
[with photos of the two victims] IMEMC 28 Apr by Saed Bannoura — Palestinian medical sources confirmed that the Palestinian woman who was killed by Israeli army fire, on Wednesday, did not carry an explosive belt as the army claimed, but was instead five months pregnant, and “her only fault was walking the wrong route and not understanding Hebrew.” The Israeli police and army tried to come up with various allegations, including the usual claim of “carrying a knife,” and then tried to claim that she “was wearing an explosive belt,” while the only thing she “carried” was her fetus. The slain woman has been identified as Maram Saleh Abu Ismael, 24, a mother of two children; Sarah, 6, and Remas, 4. Her brother, Ibrahim Taha, only sixteen years of age, was also killed as he was walking with her, heading to Jerusalem, after she obtained for the first time a permit to enter the city. Contrary to the Israeli allegation that Maram “carried a knife,” and the second allegation of “carrying an explosive,” eyewitnesses said the two victims walked the wrong route while heading to the Qalandia terminal, as they took the route that is only used for vehicles, instead of the pedestrian path. The soldiers then started shouting in Hebrew, a language neither Maram nor her brother understood, and the woman just froze from fear before the soldiers started firing at her, and when her brother rushed to rescue her, the soldiers shot him too, and both were left to bleed to death. The two were tens of meters away from the soldiers, and contrary to military allegations, did not attempt to attack any soldier or officer. Ahmad Taha, an eyewitness from Jerusalem said that after the soldiers shot the pregnant woman and her brother, they retreated a few meters back, and fired several additional live rounds on them, “confirming the kill.” “There was no stabbing attempt, and no reason for the army to shoot, the soldiers shot them from a distance, and later fired more rounds to confirm the kill,” Ahmad said, “The soldiers then placed two knives next to the lifeless body of the pregnant woman, and shortly after that, the police published pictures showing three knives!” Mohammad Ahmad, a bus driver who witnessed the shooting, said an Israeli soldier, who standing behind a large concrete block, shot the woman from a distance of more than twenty meters. “Neither the woman, nor her brother, posed any threat to the lives of the soldiers,” Ahmad stated, “They were far away from the nearest soldier, and did not pose any threat to them – they just walked the wrong route.” The slain brother and his sister are from Qotna village, northwest of occupied Jerusalem; Maram is married and living with her husband and children in Beit Surik nearby village. It is worth mentioning that a Palestinian ambulance rushed to the scene, but the soldiers closed the entire area, and prevented them from approaching the two Palestinians, who eventually bled to death. More than an hour after the shooting, Israeli military medics placed the corpses of the two Palestinians in black bags, and took them away. One day before this fatal shooting, a Palestinian man in his sixties nearly faced the same deadly fate when he walked this same wrong route, but when the soldiers started shouting at him he understood them because he speaks and understand Hebrew very well.
Brother and sister slain at checkpoint were executed, Palestinians say
EI 27 Apr by Maureen Clare Murphy — Israeli forces killed a young woman and her 16-year-old brother at a military checkpoint on Wednesday and denied emergency medics access to the siblings. Israel claimed the pair were killed during an attempted attack on soldiers, but eyewitnesses disputed this version of events. Police told the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz that “the two were ordered to stop several times but continued to approach officers and guards stationed at a drive-through checkpoint not intended for pedestrians.” “According to the police, as the two approached, the woman’s hand was buried inside her bag and [the boy’s] hand was behind his back. The two eventually heeded the police’s call, stopping a short distance from the officers and turning away, but the woman then spun back around and pulled out the knife, throwing it directly at one of the officers. Police and security guards then shot the two,” the paper added. In a mobile phone video taken at the scene, an eyewitness describes the shooting of the boy after the slaying of the woman: “He touched the woman and then they shot him,” the eyewitness says, as additional shots ring out … –Medical care denied– The Palestine Red Crescent Society told Ma‘an that Israeli forces denied medics access to the woman and child. Video from the scene shows Israeli forces turning away a Palestine Red Crescent medic and preventing a cameraman from filming. A brother of Maram and Ismail told Haaretz that he doesn’t believe his sister intended to carry out an attack, saying that she was on her way to a doctor’s appointment when she was shot dead. “We have no details about what transpired and no one briefed us, but I don’t believe this whole terrorist attack story,” Hassan Taha said. “She was probably lost, or didn’t understand what was going on at the roadblock, and the soldiers shot her and my brother,” he added. An uncle of the siblings told media that the pair were killed “in cold blood.”
Israeli forces injure 2 Palestinian journalists in demo by Ofer
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 26 Apr — Israeli forces injured two Palestinian journalists during a demonstration held Tuesday outside of Ofer prison near Ramallah demanding that Israel release recently detained journalist Omar Nazzal, eyewitnesses told Ma‘an. A Reuters cameraman identified as Said Huwary was injured during the demonstration, in addition to a reporter from Roya TV Channel, Hafez Abu Sabra, who was injured by shrapnel from stun grenades launched by Israeli forces at demonstrators. The peaceful march was organized by the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate to demand the release of Nazzal, a well-known journalist and Syndicate board member, who was detained on Saturday before crossing the Allenby bridge from the West Bank into Jordan to attend a European Federation of Journalist conference in Bosnia. Nazzal is reportedly being held in Ofer prison due to his alleged affiliation to left-wing Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
Army injures a Palestinian teen in Nablus
IMEMC/Agencies 28 Apr — Israeli soldiers and several settlers invaded on Thursday at dawn the northern West Bank city of Nablus, leading to clashes with dozens of local youths; one teen was shot with a live round. Media sources in Nablus said the soldiers shot Ahmad Adel Mas’oud, 17, with a live round in his thigh. The sources added that many Palestinians received treatment for the effects of tear gas inhalation. The clashes took place after dozens of soldiers, and settlers, invaded Nablus city, and headed towards “Joseph Tomb”, east of Nablus. The Israeli military allows Jews to visit as part of organized pilgrimages, despite the shrine being located in area A, which is under full Palestinian Authority control under the Oslo Agreements, and prohibit Muslims from worshiping on the site. Ultra-orthodox and nationalist Jews regularly try to visit the shrine without approval, as many Jews believe the tomb to be the final resting place of the biblical figure in the Old Testament.
Armed forces escort settlers to West Bank holy sites, clashes erupt
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 28 Apr — Israeli forces escorted groups of Israelis to holy sites located in Palestinian towns across the occupied West Bank causing clashes to erupt early Thursday, as tensions remained heightened during the ongoing Jewish holiday. Palestinian security sources told Ma‘an that hundreds of Israeli settlers arrived in over 15 buses at Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus around midnight. Located in the Palestinian city of Nablus, Israeli military forces who secured the area for the settlers’ entrance clashed with Palestinian youths near the holy site, firing tear gas and stun grenades as youth threw stones and empty bottles. No injuries were reported …
Meanwhile, just outside the Bethlehem-area village of al-Khader, municipality head Isaac Sbeih told Ma‘an that some 70 Israeli settlers alongside Israeli soldiers entered Solomon’s Pools. Hundreds of Israelis have traveled across the occupied Palestinian territory under armed protection during this year’s Passover holiday, often to sites located in Area A, areas of the West Bank that are supposed to be under full Palestinian jurisdiction according to the Oslo Accords.
Israeli army kidnaps two underage siblings in Jerusalem
IMEMC 25 Apr — Israeli soldiers kidnapped, late on Sunday at night, two underage siblings, after invading and violently searching their home, in Silwan town, in occupied Jerusalem. The soldiers also invaded the Schools Street, in al-Khader town, south of Bethlehem. The Wadi Hilweh Information Center in Silwan (Silwanic) said many soldiers stormed the home of Yousef Abu Diab, in Ein al-Louza neighborhood, and kidnapped his two children, identified as Mo’taz, 15, and Mohammad, 17. Silwanic added that dozens of soldiers invaded the neighborhood, and clashed with local youngsters, who hurled stones and empty bottles on them, while the army fired many rubber-coated steel bullets, gas bombs and concussion grenades. The youngsters also used fireworks against the invading Israeli army vehicles, Silwanic said, and added that the soldiers assaulted the two kidnapped siblings, causing various cuts and bruises. On Monday morning, the soldiers kidnapped one Palestinian in the southern West Bank city of Hebron, and confiscated gold and cash from an invaded home in Beit Ummar town, north of Hebron … In the West Bank district of Bethlehem, the soldiers invaded the School Streets, in the al-Khader town, south of Bethlehem city, and tried to invade some schools. The teachers managed to accompany many students from the center of the town to their schools, with the help of volunteers from international churches.
PPS: ‘Israeli soldiers kidnap ten Palestinians in the West Bank’
IMEMC 28 Apr by Saed Bannoura — The Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS) has reported that Israeli soldiers kidnapped, on Thursday at dawn, at least ten Palestinians in different parts of the occupied West Bank, including Jerusalem. The PPS said dozens of soldiers invaded various Palestinian communities in the Ramallah and al-Biereh District, in central West Bank, and kidnapped six Palestinians, after storming their homes and searching them, causing property damage. The kidnapped have been identified as Waleed Sameh Rimawi, 37, Ramadan Hussein Ata, 31, Amro Yamen Qarabsa, 20, Ahmad Najeeb Mafarja, 55, Saed Abu al-Baha’ and Hussein Abu Kweik. The soldiers also kidnapped Ahmad Adnan Erheil, 25, from Kafr Dan village, near the northern West Bank city of Jenin, after stopping him at the Za‘tara military roadblock, south of Nablus. The PPS also said that the soldiers invaded, and searched, Palestinian homes in Shiokh village, in the southern West Bank district of Hebron, and kidnapped Mohammad Yousef al-Warasna, 18 … It is worth mentioning that, on Thursday evening, the soldiers kidnapped three Palestinians, including a child, and released them later after interrogating them. The child is only nine years of age, identified as Mohammad at-Taweel, from Silwan town. He was kidnapped near his home in the ath-Thoury neighborhood in Silwan, and was moved to a police station for interrogation, allegedly for “hurling stones at police and army cars.” The soldiers allowed a neighbor to accompany the child, before his mother and aunt rushed to the interrogation center, and secured his unconditional release after the police also questioned his mother.
Israeli soldier jailed for pointing loaded gun at Arab passerby in Jerusalem
Haaretz 26 Apr by Gili Cohen — A soldier from an ultra-Orthodox Israeli army unit received a 17-day sentence on Sunday after he cocked his rifle and pointed it at an Arab civilian in Jerusalem’s Old City, while off duty and not in uniform. The IDF spokesperson’s office said that his gun had been loaded and ready to fire [when] he cocked it and pointed it at an Arab passerby. Israeli police officers detained the soldier, who told them he had not been threatened. The soldier faced court martial by the commander of the Netzah Yehuda Battalion, Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Uri Levy, who punished him for an illegal use of his weapon … The incident is only the last in a series of violent incidents involving soldiers of the same Kfir Brigade over the past two months. Two weeks ago two Kfir soldiers were court-martialed for confiscating and burning a Palestinian flag. One of them, the squad commander, was relieved of his command and received a 20-day sentence. The other was grounded to base for 28 days. In early April, a platoon commander and an enlisted man from the brigade’s Netzah Yehuda Battalion were arrested in their base in the West Bank. Elor Azaria, the soldier who shot a wounded and prone Palestinian to death in Hebron, also serves in the Kfir Brigade. In February, five Netzah Yehuda soldiers were indicted for abusing Palestinian detainees. One was demoted and jailed for nine months, and another received a seven-month sentence in a plea bargain. In one of the abuse cases, soldiers beat a Palestinian detainee in the head and gave him electric shocks with a medical instrument.
Palestinian astrophysicist detained in West Bank
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 26 Apr — Israeli forces reportedly detained well-known Palestinian astrophysicist Imad Barghouthi, a Palestinian solidarity group said on Tuesday. Samidoun reported that Barghouthi was detained by Israeli forces on Sunday at the Nabi Saleh checkpoint in the occupied West Bank. An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma‘an they did not have immediate information on the issue. Barghouthi, a 53-year-old father of five, is a professor of theoretical space plasma physics at the Al-Quds University in the occupied East Jerusalem town of Abu Dis. Barghouthi previously taught and did research at universities in the United States, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, France, Germany, and Sweden. He notably worked on a NASA-funded project on “the effect of wave-particle interactions on ion outflow at high latitudes” on a postgraduate scholarship. The scientist had previously been detained in late 2014 as he was trying to cross into Jordan on his way to attend a conference in the United Arab Emirates. His lawyer said at the time that Barghouthi’s detention was due to his stance on the devastating Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip earlier that year, which killed more than 2,000 Palestinians. He was held in administrative detention for a month and a half before being released amid uproar in the international scientific community….
IOF soldiers enter Beit Fajjar town by mistake
BETHLEHEM (PIC) 26 Apr — An Israeli military vehicle entered “by mistake” Beit Fajar town south of Bethlehem before being evacuated on Tuesday night, Israeli media sources said. According to the sources, the military vehicles came under stone-throwing attack when they mistakenly drove into the town, sparking clashes with locals. The military vehicle’s windows were smashed during the incident. The soldiers used navigation app Waze to withdraw from the town. The incident is the second of its kind within a few months, when three soldiers were evacuated after they “mistakenly” entered Qalandia refugee camp.
8 Israelis evacuated by Israeli police for violations at Al-Aqsa
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 26 Apr — Israeli police on Tuesday assaulted guards stationed at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and evacuated eight right-wing Israelis amid increased tensions around the flashpoint site during the Jewish Passover holiday. Witnesses told Ma‘an that nearly 130 Jewish Israelis raided the Al-Aqsa compound under armed guard via the Moroccan gate in occupied East Jerusalem’s Old City. Guards protecting the flashpoint site attempted to intervene when members of the group began performing religious rituals, in contravention to longstanding agreements between Jordan and Israel regarding the holy site, at which point Israeli forces assaulted the guards, witnesses said. Israeli police spokesperson Luba al-Samri said eight right-wing Jews in total “violated the rules and regulations” stipulated for non-Muslim visitors during the visit and were evacuated from the site. The tour was the most recent to take place in occupied East Jerusalem’s Old City where the Al-Aqsa compound is located. The area was placed under heightened security by the Israeli authorities as police attempted to quash potential unrest that often erupts during religious holidays. Ahead of Passover, right-wing Israeli groups called for Jewish followers to carry out sacrifices at Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. A number of Israelis have been evacuated or detained from the site since for violating a longstanding agreement between Israel and the Jordanians that prohibited non-Muslim worship at Al-Aqsa. Visits by such groups, many of whom call for the destruction of Al-Aqsa to make way for the Third Temple, stoke tensions among Palestinian Muslims who view the move as a major threat to their right to worship at the site and a reflection of Israel’s ongoing military occupation of East Jerusalem. At least 70 Palestinians were banned from Al-Aqsa this month in what critics say was in preparation for increased visitation by Jewish right-wingers to the site….
Chaos continues at Al-Aqsa, 5 Israelis evacuated
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 17 Apr — Chaos continued at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem Wednesday when five Israelis were evacuated for violating visitation rules as hundreds toured the area for Passover. Witnesses told Ma‘an that a group of over a hundred right-wing Israelis entered the mosque compound via the Dung Gate, four of whom performed religious rituals in violation of longstanding agreements regarding worship at the site. The four proceeded to sing and dance near Chain Gate before being stopped by Al-Aqsa guards who chanted “Allahu Akbar”at the group, witnesses said. Israeli police intervened and escorted the Israeli worshipers from the compound. Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri said five Israelis including a minor were evacuated by police after violating visitation rules. The five were among over 700 foreigners and non-Muslims to tour the compound Wednesday, 530 of whom were tourists, al-Samri added.
Jordan warns Israel of ‘consequences’ over Aqsa violations
AMMAN (Ma‘an) 25 Apr — The Jordanian government on Sunday warned Israel of “serious consequences” after a string of Israeli violations were reported at Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem during the holiday season of Passover. Jordanian government spokesperson Mohammad al-Momani in response to alleged violations said: “Israeli violations by Israeli troops and settlers against Al-Aqsa are against all the international law and agreements and that may lead to very dangerous and huge consequences.” In the statement al-Momani urged the Israeli authorities to stop all violations against Palestinians and allow their right to worship at the holy site.
Israeli army closes entrance of Hebron emergency center with concrete blocks
IMEMC 25 Apr — Israeli soldiers closed, on Monday morning, the main entrance of the Hebron Emergency Center, run by the Hebron Health Committees, by placing concrete blocks, completely sealing it, and deployed dozens of soldiers on its rooftop. Dr. Ramzi Abu Yousef, director of the Health Work Committees (HWC) in Hebron, said many soldiers occupied the center’s rooftop, and turned it into a military base. Abu Yousef warned of the consequences of this violation, especially since the center receives hundreds of patients on a daily basis, and added that the center provides its medical services to more than 60.000 Palestinians/ “For years now, the center has been subject to frequent Israeli military violations, including many invasions, and the soldiers even fired gas bombs at it,” Abu Yousef said, “They also repeatedly sprayed it with waste-water mixed with chemicals, in addition to harassing the patients and their families, and the various measures restricting their freedom of movement.” The HWC voiced an urgent appeal to various human right groups to intervene, and provide the needed protection to Palestinian health centers, in addition to pressuring Israel into halting its serious violations..
Palestinians forced to close shops in Hebron for Israeli Passover visits
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 26 Apr — Palestinian shop owners were forced to close their storefronts in Hebron Tuesday as Israeli politicians called for the annexation of the occupied city during visits by thousands of right-wing Israelis for Passover. Hebron local and prominent activist Issa Amro told Ma‘an that Israeli forces instructed shopkeepers in both the H1 and H2 areas of Hebron to remain closed. Amro said that by forcing shops to close in H1 — the area of the city under jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority — Israeli authorities were supporting right-wing Israelis aiming to push Palestinian locals from the city. “They want to make it look [to Israeli settlers] like Palestinians don’t live here,” Amro said. The closures of shops in H1 is likely to come as a detriment to shop owners’ livelihoods, while road closures typically implemented by Israeli forces during the visits will impede the freedom of movement of Palestinians throughout the Hebron district, Amro added. The H2 area, under full Israeli military control, continued under lockdown as the Ibrahimi Mosque — known to Jews as the Cave of Patriarchs — was sealed to Palestinian Muslims for the second consecutive day as Israelis visited holy sites in and around the Old City, Amro said. Amro told Ma‘an that large groups of Israelis visiting the area under armed protection on Monday launched verbal abuse at Palestinian locals, and several Palestinian families refused to leave their homes out of fear of violence from the groups.
Prisoners / Court actions
Israeli court indicts settlers suspected of crimes against Palestinians
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 25 Apr — An Israeli court indicted on Monday seven right-wing Israeli extremists believed to belong to a “Jewish terror ring” targeting Palestinians, Israeli media reported. At least seven right-wing Israelis, including a soldier, were arrested earlier this month after being suspected of belonging to a ring which committed a number of anti-Palestinian acts dating as far back as 2008. Israeli newspaper Haaretz identified the soldier on Monday as Yisrael Shendrofi, 19. The other suspects have been identified as the soldier’s brother Pinhas Shendrofi, 22, Itamar Ben Aharon, Michael Kaplan, and Shneor Dana. Two minors allegedly involved in the ring have not been identified. Prosecutors have asked that three of the suspects be held in prison and three others be placed under house arrest, Haaretz reported. The publication added that the soldier and the minors had been found in possession of large quantities of ammunition, including grenades and an M-16 rifle, noting that the three had not been charged for all the acts that they confessed to when they were first arrested. Upon their arrest, the suspects confessed to attacking an elderly Palestinian farmer in June with rods and pepper spray, as well as hurling Molotov cocktails and tear gas canisters at Palestinian homes in November and December. They also admitted to torching Palestinian cars and tagging racist slogans such as “death to Arabs” on Palestinian property. The ring members said they were in part “inspired by the Duma arson attack,” a police statement said at the time, in reference to a deadly attack in the northern West Bank village of Duma in July by extremist Israeli settlers, which killed an 18-month-old baby and his parents.
Sharp rise in the number of Palestinian children in prison
Haaretz 24 Apr by Sharon Pulwer — The number of Palestinian minors being held in Israeli prisons has soared following the wave of violence that started last October. Figures submitted by the Israel Prison Service show that the number of Palestinian minors imprisoned for security-related offenses rose from 170 last September to 438 in February. Some 54 percent of the prisoners, 238, are in custody until the end of the legal process against them. Seven have been detained without being charged, including one who is not yet 16. Human rights groups say that locking up minors infringes on their rights and increases the chances of their returning to violence or terrorist activity. While no Palestinian youths younger than 14 were held in prison last September, by February five were incarcerated, including one girl. The number of prisoners aged 16-18 rose from 143 to 324, while the number of prisoners aged 14-16 rose from 27 to 98. The figures show the growing involvement of girls in violent activity. While only one Palestinian girl was serving a prison sentence in September, 12 girls were in prison by February, including one younger than 14 and six others who were detained until the end of legal proceedings.
Israeli forces detain 2 Palestinian fishermen off Gaza coast
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 26 Apr — Israeli forces detained two Palestinian fishermen off the coast of the northern Gaza Strip on Tuesday, the Gaza fishermen committee said. The head of the Gaza fishermen committee, Zakariya Bakr, told Ma‘an that Israeli naval forces opened fire at fishing boats off the coast of Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip. Bakr added that Israeli forces then detained fishermen Aahed Ziyad Zayid and Munis al-Abed Zayid and confiscated their boats before taking them to an unknown location. No injuries were reported in the incident, Bakr said. An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma‘an they were looking into the reports. Earlier on Tuesday, witnesses told Ma‘an that Israeli naval forces fired live ammunition at fishermen working off the coast of al-Zahra area of central Gaza, without causing any injuries.
Army uproots Palestinian farmlands east of Gaza
IMEMC 26 Apr — On Tuesday morning, several Israeli army vehicles, and bulldozers, invaded Palestinian agricultural lands, east of Gaza city, and uprooted them, in addition to firing live rounds and smoke bombs. The Palestinian News & Info Agency (WAFA) said three Israeli tanks and three armored bulldozers advanced approximately 150 meters into Palestinian farmlands, and uprooted them. WAFA added that the army vehicles came from “Nahal Oz” military base, across the border fence, east of the Sheja‘eyya neighborhood, east of Gaza city. The soldiers also demolished a concrete wall, near the Karni Crossing, east of Gaza city, and fired smoke bombs in addition to several live rounds.
Israeli bulldozers level lands in eastern Gaza Strip
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 27 Apr — Israeli bulldozers leveled land east of al-Bureji refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip Wednesday morning after crossing through the border fence, witnesses said. Witnesses told Ma’an that four armored bulldozers escorted by Israeli military vehicles crossed the border fence between Israel and the besieged enclave before leveling land on the Palestinian side of the border, leaving shortly after. No gunfire or injuries were reported.
IOA to allow in cement for Gaza projects
GAZA (PIC) 26 Apr — The contractors union in Gaza said that the Israeli occupation authority (IOA) would start to allow shipments of construction cement into the Strip early next week. In press remarks to the Palestinian Information Center (PIC) on Monday, head of the union Osama Kahil stated that pledges were made in this regard following efforts made by the Palestinian ministry of civil affairs. Kahil added that these cement shipments, which would be used for specific projects, were supposed to arrive in Gaza last week, but the IOA postponed their entry until next week. He pointed out that Turkish, US, German and Qatari institutions recently received some truckloads of cement for their projects in the Strip. However, the IOA has not decided yet to allow in cement for civilians, factories and merchants, according to him.
Temporary solution reached for Gaza electricity crisis amid tax dispute
GAZA (Ma‘an) 28 Apr — Palestinian officials announced Wednesday the Gaza Strip will be exempted from paying fuel tax this summer, marking temporary resolution to ongoing tax disputes that have deepened an electricity crisis in the besieged enclave. Palestinian official Jamil Mizhir told Ma‘an that several meetings were held with Palestinian Minister of Labor Mamoun Abu Shahla before the Palestinian leadership decided that Gaza would receive exemption from 80 to 100 percent of the fuel tax starting May 1 until the end of the summer. Mizhir said the exemption was not a permanent solution, but would guarantee Gaza eight hours of electricity per day from the besieged strip’s sole power plant. The Gaza Strip was left almost entirely without power during a number of days over the past month due to maintenance work on power lines by both Israel and Egypt as well as the ongoing tax disputes on fuel for the enclave’s near-defunct power station. The dispute falls between Gaza’s electricity company and the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority Ministry of Finance over taxes on fuel used by the station. Muhammad Thabit, a spokesman for Gaza’s electricity company, told Ma‘an last month that starting this year, the PA ministry had cut its subsidies for Gaza’s fuel costs by nearly 50 percent….
Israel’s fix for dangerous Gaza route will only worsen matters
Al-Monitor 27 Apr by Shlomi Eldar — Instead of widening the dangerous old road leading to the vital Kerem Shalom Crossing, Israeli Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz has decided to limit the operating hours of trucks bringing provisions into Gaza — Israeli Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz succumbed to the pressure from residents of the Eshkol region surrounding Gaza. Katz decided that starting May 2 truck traffic will be prohibited in the mornings and afternoons on Route 232, the only available road to transport food and other merchandise into the Gaza Strip. This decision is expected to impact the activity of the Kerem Shalom crossing, the only lifeline for Gaza since Egypt sealed most of the smuggling tunnels on its border with Gaza. According to a source in the Civil Administration, about 1,000 trucks bearing supplies travel on Route 232 every day on their way to the Kerem Shalom crossing, where the annual trade amounts to close to 5 billion shekels ($1.3 billion) … After Hamas’ takeover of Gaza, for security reasons, Israel expanded the Kerem Shalom checkpoint for commercial traffic, but was not wise enough to develop suitable infrastructure for the enormous flow of trucks that has overwhelmed the old and narrow road. In recent years, Route 232 has become a nightmare for the Israeli localities surrounding Gaza. There are traffic accidents on it almost every day, some of them fatal. Residents of the region have raised an outcry against the dangerous road and the trucks….
Fatah movement in Gaza suspends 9 members
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 27 Apr — The Fatah movement in the Gaza Strip permanently suspended nine members who allegedly attacked the home of a prominent Fatah leader, the groups said Wednesday. The nine were booted from the party after attacking on April 16 the home of Abdullah Abu Samahdaneh, a member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council and the Supreme Leadership Committee, as well as a governor of the central district of the Gaza Strip, Fatah said in a press release. The nine also reportedly opened fire on Abu Samahdaneh’s private vehicle. The movement, without identifying those who had been suspended, said the decision had been made on April 24.
Unemployment rate in Gaza reaches 60%
MEMO 25 Apr — Sixty per cent of the population of Gaza is unemployed, while 70 per cent live in poverty, QudsNet reported yesterday. Secretary-General of the General Federation of Palestine’s Trades Unions in Gaza (GFPTU), Sami Al-Amassi, said: “Palestinian workers … live in accumulated suffering caused by the Israeli occupation which tightens the siege, closes crossings and bans the entry of raw materials.” “Palestinian workers in Gaza have been experiencing the worst reality for ten years,” he said, warning of “disastrous” living standards under the Israeli policy of tightening the siege. Al-Amassi called for Egypt to open the Rafah Crossing to allow the entry of basic essentials. He also called for the Arab states, the United Nations and everyone with a “conscience” to put pressure on the Israeli occupation in order to lift the siege. Regarding the role of the Palestinian Unity Government, Al-Amassi said: “Since the first day it was formed, it has never offered a single work opportunity for any of the unemployed workers, who received only illusive promises announced by the Labour Minister Mamoun Abu Shahla.” He called working conditions to be improved, including increasing the minimum wage, noting that staff work for long hours on low wages in a clear violation of the Labour Law. Internal Palestinian divisions must be eliminated in order to reprioritise the agenda, he said.
Poll: Support for knife attacks higher in Gaza than West Bank amid bleak political outlook
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 26 Apr — Palestinian youth in the Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank have widely disparate opinions on the ongoing wave of attacks by Palestinians, while all showed a dwindling of support for the two-state solution as a majority of youth continued to view political negotiations as an ineffective tool for resolving the conflict, a new poll revealed. A poll recently released by the Jerusalem Media and Communication Center (JMCC) showed that 47 percent of Palestinian youth in the West Bank support knife attacks, only a 3 percent increase compared with a poll from March by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PCSR). However, the JMCC poll found that 79 percent of youth in the Gaza Strip support the continuation of the attacks, revealing a clear dissonance between the views of youth in the occupied Palestinian territory. The poll also found significantly more support for the current unrest among youth in Gaza than in the West Bank, with 67 percent and 40 percent of respondents respectively believing that the ongoing uprising in the occupied territory positively serves the Palestinian cause.
As for popular support for the two-state solution, the poll reveals an overall decrease in the number of youth from across the Palestinian territory who support a two-state solution, declining from 51 percent in March, as reported by PCSR, to 43 percent.
Getting hitched in the Strip: Gazan marriages on the up!
Albawaba 27 Apr — Despite the sharp deterioration in economic conditions in the Gaza Strip, the number of marriages there increased in 2015 by 4,650 (28.8 per cent) making the largest annual increase since the Sharia courts were set up in the coastal enclave, said a senior Gaza official. According to Dr Hassan Al Jojo, who heads the Sharia Supreme Council and head of the Higher Sharia Court in the strip, a total of 20,778 marriage contracts have been conducted in the Gaza Strip in 2015 compared to 16,128 marriage contracts conducted the previous year (2014). He said the second highest number of marriage contracts was reported in 2009 when 18,571 contracts were conducted in the coastal strip. Although economic problems supposed to lead to deterioration in marital relationships and increase risk for divorces, a total of 3,281 (15.8 per cent) divorce cases were registered in Gaza Strip in 2015 compared to 17.9 per cent in the previous year with 2.1 per cent decrease in the divorce rate. Commenting on the divorce rate in Gaza Strip, Al Jojo said that overusing and misusing Facebook and other social networks have caused a considerable number of relationships to fall apart leading to divorce. “Scores of divorce cases have been registered in Gaza Strip for misusing and overusing Facebook and other social networks by either the man or the woman,” he said in a statement. “Social media is a double-edged sword that affects Gaza just the way it does affect the rest of the world especially when it is misused or overused.”
Punitive demolitions / Collateral damage
Massive collective punishment: homes of 149 Palestinians suspected of no wrongdoing demolished since Oct. 2015; hundreds more under threat
[with photos] B’Tselem 21 Apr — Since October 2015, Israel has stepped up use of house demolitions as a way to punish the families of Palestinians who perpetrated attacks against Israelis or are suspected of perpetrating or aiding such attacks. Since then, the authorities have demolished or fully or partially sealed 37 apartments. Fourteen of these apartments were not under demolition orders and were damaged simply because of their proximity to apartments slated for demolition. As a result of this large-scale punitive action, 149 people, 65 of them minors, have lost their homes … In addition, since December 2015, the military has taken measurements of 66 other homes in which relatives of individuals suspected of perpetrating or aiding attacks on Israelis live. Most surveys were conducted late at night immediately following the attack. Currently, 339 individuals, including 128 minors, are living under threat of demolition as a result of these surveys. The automatic surveying of homes is carried out after almost every attack, regardless of the outcome or of the fact that since October 2015, homes were actually demolished only in cases in which the attackers killed Israeli civilians or members of the security forces. The sole exception is the partial sealing of the apartment of Mu’taz Hijazi, based on an order issued in November 2014 after Hijazi shot Israeli Yehuda Glick. This knee-jerk surveying of family homes leaves hundreds of people in a state of uncertainty and fear, often lasting several months, with nowhere to turn….
Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Settlements
Senior Israeli politicians visiting Hebron urge annexation of West Bank
MEMO 26 Apr — Senior Israeli politicians in the ruling coalition government called for the annexation of the Occupied West Bank, during a Passover event in Hebron on Monday. According to reports, “tens of thousands” of Israelis, including lawmakers and rabbis, visited Hebron on the third day of the Passover festival. Those in attendance included Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben Dahan, Deputy Minister of Regional Cooperation Ayoub Kara, and Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi David Lau. During speeches, deputy minister and Jewish Home parliamentarian Ben-Dahan declared: “We have to impose Israeli law in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank].” He added: “We have returned to our land, so that we will never again have to leave it.” Hebron lies inside the West Bank, under Israeli military occupation since 1967. Over the last 49 years, more than 200 settlements have been established across the territory, in contravention of international law. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked described the issue of the Hebron settlers not as one of “real estate”, but “rather an ideological act driven by love for the Jewish people and their land.” Likud MK Oren Hazan, meanwhile, reportedly urged Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu to expand the settler population in Hebron. “The time has come to populate Hebron,” he told the crowds, “just as the time has come to populate every hilltop in Judea and Samaria and in all of Israel.”
Settlers celebrate new housing project to double size of Mevo Dotan settlement
JPost 27 Apr by Tovah Lazaroff — The Mevo Dotan settlement held a cornerstone laying ceremony on Tuesday for a project of 89 homes that will double the size of the small community. Only 330 people lived in the in northern Samaria community, some 8 km. over the pre-1967 line, in 2014, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics. Settlers estimate that some 90 families currently reside there. Mevo Dotan is considered an isolated settlement as it is outside the West Bank security barrier. Under the 2005 disengagement, four settlements in that area were destroyed; Sa-Nur, Homesh, Ganim and Kadim, Yossi Dagan, head of the Samaria Regional Council, said. He himself was evacuated from Sa-Nur. At the time, he said, people were eulogizing the other communities in northern Samaria such as Mevo Dotan, assuming that they would also be evacuated. Dagan added that since then the settlements in that area have grown in population. “Now we are laying the cornerstone for a new neighborhood, that will double the size of the community,” he said. The new construction, as well as the thousands of visitors who came to northern Samaria for the ceremony and other holiday festivities, were a “true victory” for the settlement movement, Dagan said. According to the Samaria Regional Council, the project has all the necessary approvals for construction to begin as soon as the building contractors are ready.
Israeli forces escort settlers into Area A village
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 26 Apr — Israeli settlers were escorted by armed military forces into the Palestinian village of al-Karmil in the southern occupied West Bank district of Yatta on Tuesday to visit a local park in direct violation of peace agreements, locals said. The head of Yatta’s city council, Mousa Makhamrah, told Ma‘an that dozens of Israelis arrived from nearby illegal settlements to perform religious rituals at an ancient pool in the area. Al-Karmil’s park is located under full Palestinian jurisdiction in Area A, and Makhamrah warned that Israeli entrance into the area marked a grave breach of Palestinian sovereignty. The council head added that Israelis have frequented the park several times in past years, and called on Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah to support the municipality in maintaining the park for Palestinian use. The park — restored by the Palestinian municipality in 2011 — is typically visited by settlers during the Passover holiday, often by way of the Susiya Tour and Study Center which describes the pool as the historical site of the Biblical settlement of Carmel, according to rights group B’Tselem. Such visits are generally approved by and coordinated with Israeli authorities. Last year, Israeli soldiers expelled Palestinians from the pool in order to allow settlers to swim and have exclusive use of the park.
Palestinian refugees — Syria
‘When I die, bury me in Palestine’: The journey of a refugee from Syria
Muftah 26 Apr by Charlie Hoyle — Ahmad Younes and his family are safe for now, but they never know when their situation might change. As part of the recent EU-Turkey deal on refugees, Ahmad and his mother could face deportation if they do not receive asylum in the United Kingdom, the country where they have lived since fleeing Syria’s Yarmouk refugee camp nearly two years ago. Ahmad’s story is one of thousands of harrowing tales of displacement and survival. Since 2011, 110,000 Palestinians, like Ahmad and his family, have been estimated to have left Syria. Caught between rival armed groups and subjected to mass starvation and blockades, Palestinian refugees are one of the most vulnerable groups fleeing the brutal Syrian conflict. It is a situation that highlights the perpetual statelessness of Palestinian refugees, who have lived for decades in thirty-one UN-run refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria after being displaced from what is now Israel in 1948. The story of Ahmad and his family’s escape from Syria has been highlighted by Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP), a British NGO that provides healthcare to Palestinian refugees across the Middle East. Leaving with just the clothes on their backs, Ahmad’s mother, sister, and niece traveled by boat, train, and walked on foot for days without food or water to reach Europe. During the boat journey, which was twelve days long, his family lived off moldy bread and severely restricted water supplies. Beaten by police of different nationalities, and exploited by criminal gangs and smugglers, they eventually made it from Turkey to Italy. Nearly a year later, Ahmad made the same perilous journey, spending months in the notorious Calais refugee camp in France before arriving in the UK. His sister and six-year-old niece had received asylum by the time he arrived, while he and his mother remain in legal limbo. For Palestinian refugees, like Ahmad and his mother, facing deportation from Europe is yet another reminder of their displacement from Palestine. While Palestinians are afforded different rights and opportunities by different countries, what remains constant among most is a yearning to return to the land from which they were expelled. While living in the Calais refugee camp, Ahmad made a large sign reflecting these deeply held feelings, a poignant illustration of the pain of exile and the hope of return. It read: “When I die bury me in Palestine and write on my grave that I am not a refugee anymore.”
BDS / Solidarity / Aid
Did Israel’s reaction to BDS drive movement’s growth?
Al-Monitor 27 Apr by Ben Caspit — Former Ambassador Gideon Meir argues that Israel has engaged itself in a high-profile battle against the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, turning it from an insignificant organization into a powerful force — In recent years, the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement has morphed into a new demon that threatens the Jewish state. Once a toothless, marginal group, BDS — which acts to boycott and ostracize Israel — has become one of the most substantial threats to the future of the state. In an attempt to fight the phenomenon, the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper held an international conference in Jerusalem March 28. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu devotes space to it in his speeches and activities and the government has appointed a special minister (Home Security, Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy Minister Gilad Erdan) to focus on fighting BDS and even allocated about 100 million Israeli shekels ($25 million) for this effort. Any self-respecting Israeli politician will lecture, write, speak or participate in rallies and gatherings against the BDS threat. Israeli politicians vie to make the most combative statements against BDS….
University of Chile’s Law Faculty students vote ‘yes’ for BDS
BDS Movement 27 Apr — In a referendum held on Monday, 64% of the Law students at the University of Chile voted for cutting the university’s ties with Israeli universities involved in violating Palestinian human rights. In addition, 56% of the students voted that activities involving Israeli officials or state funding should not take place at the Law Faculty. One week after holding a successful Israeli Apartheid Week, BDS UChile – a broad student coalition for BDS at the University of Chile – celebrated the referendum results: “This shows that BDS is right and it has strength, and that our comrades understand perfectly what the Israeli colonization process is and how the Israeli apartheid policies are imposed against the Palestinian people on a daily basis”. Close to one thousand students participated in the referendum, which took place together with the elections for the Law faculty students’ representatives….
Dutch representatives complete rehabilitation of Hebron-area pools
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 25 Apr — Representatives from the Netherlands this week completed rehabilitation of historical pools located near Hebron’s al-‘Arroub refugee camp, which are expected to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Officials from the Netherlands Representative Office in the occupied Palestinian territories said the rehabilitation of the al-‘Arroub pool, known as Birkhet al-Shatt, would provide some 50 local farmers with water storage to be used for agricultural purposes. The Dutch representatives said at the unveiling of rehabilitated pools that their government carried out the project with the aim of assisting Palestinians devastated by discriminatory policies carried out by Israel in Area C of the West Bank, which allocates Palestinian resources to Israeli settlers while stripping locals of access to their own resources. The representatives said that by providing farmers water storage for their farmland, they were less likely to lose their private land to Israeli confiscation, which has seen a massive increase this year. Historically connected to Solomon’s pools south of Bethlehem, the pool near al-‘Arroub had been empty since 1977 before being renovated. Solomon’s pools consist of three large cisterns — each more than 100 meters long — that used to be part of an ancient aqueduct system connected to Jerusalem.
UN to meet on May 6 on protections of Palestinian civilians
UNITED NATIONS (AP) 27 Apr — The UN Security Council will hold an informal meeting on May 6 on the protection of Palestinian civilians, an issue the Palestinians have pressed for decades and say is more needed now than ever. Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour said four council members — Egypt, Senegal, Venezuela and Malaysia — are organizing the meeting which will hear briefings from a legal scholar, an Amnesty International representative and others. Last October, the UN sent the council a study on precedents in addressing the protection of civilians in conflicts around the world. Mansour told reporters Wednesday that the meeting is a first step toward action that the Security Council must take.”Our desire is to find any form of protection to protect our people from the brutality of this occupation,” he said.
Hamas slams PA. Fatha on delay in UN resolution against settlements
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 27 Apr — The Hamas movement on Tuesday berated the Palestinian Authority leadership and Fatah party for a decision to postpone the submission of a resolution against illegal Israeli settlements to the UN Security Council. Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri in a statement lamented that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas pulled back from presenting the much anticipated resolution in New York last week, and called on the PA and Fatah to “stop their careless toying with the Palestinian cause.” “The only way out of the current national impasse is if the PA showed political will to reconcile with its national partners and not with the Israeli occupation,” Abu Zuhri said, demanding the PA halt unilateral actions on the international front.
Palestinian president discharges Nablus governor
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 27 Apr — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday discharged Nablus governor Akram Rajoub, in what he said was likely due to internal political disputes in the Fatah party. The former governor told Ma‘an that he received a phone call from Abbas’ office notifying him of his dismissal. Rajoub initially said he had “no idea” regarding the potential reason behind the decision, but said he would comply with the order. Rajoub wrote on social media following his dismissal that he may have been discharged due to internal political disputes taking place inside the PA’s ruling party Fatah, and prided his performance during his term as governor. “I have always sided with citizens and never against them…I have never stolen from the public, nor have I taken advantage of my position for private gains…my principles and my attitudes can’t be argued and I will never back down on any nationalistic or political opinion,” Rajoub wrote. Palestinian media speculated the dismissal may have come after Rajoub criticized the PA on social media.
Abbas inaugurates statue of Nelson Mandela in Ramallah
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 26 Apr — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas inaugurated a statue of late South African leader Nelson Mandela on Tuesday afternoon in the central occupied West Bank city of Ramallah. The square where the statue was installed in the al-Tira neighborhood will officially be renamed Mandela Square. Palestinian state news agency WAFA reported that Johannesburg Mayor Parks Tau and the head of the South African mission to Palestine, Ashraf Suleiman, attended the ceremony. Several Palestinian officials were also present. Hailing the “distinguished relationship” between Ramallah and Johannesburg, Ramallah Mayor Mousa Hadid claimed during the ceremony that the statue was “the first statue South Africa built outside its borders.” The statue was also a reflection of the South African government’s appreciation of the Palestinian people and their lengthy struggle for freedom and independence, Hadid added. Hadid said that Israeli authorities had withheld the statue, releasing it only days before the inauguration … A globally revered figure, Mandela holds a special place in Palestinian society for his stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians,” Mandela, who died in 2013 at 95 years old, famously said in 1997. [Note also that Marwan Barghouthi, jailed for life by Israel, is often mentioned as a possible successor to Abbas, and has been called ‘the Palestinian Mandela’]
Arab MK calls for end to PA, renewal of Palestinian nationalism
Ynet 26 Apr by Hassan Shaalan & Eitan Goldstein — Balad MK Haneen Zoabi calls for the removal of PA president Abbas, and reiterates that Balad is part of Palestinian cause, not left wing Israeli politics — Joint List MK Haneen Zoabi has called for a change in the Palestinian Authority leadership and an end to its security coordination with Israel, the al-Quds al-Arabi website reported. During a Balad party panel in Nazareth discussing Palestinian unity, Zoabi reportedly accused the Palestinian Authority’s officials of behaving like thugs and hooligans. The panel was held under the auspices of the Musarat center based in Ramallah and was attended by members of the Mada el-Carmel center based in Haifa, along with various academics and politicians from the West Bank .Zoabi praised the Palestinians for ridding themselves of the “delusion that an Israeli peace partner exists,” and called for self-reliance. She also called on Palestinians in general and the Palestinian youth movement in particular to redirected their efforts to the fight for national liberation. She argued that the Palestinian Authority is happy with, and benefits from, the current status quo, and therefore is against the youth movements’ efforts towards national liberation….
Hamas bloc wins student vote in Birzeit University elections
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 28 Apr — A student bloc of the Hamas movement on Wednesday came out on top in the closely followed elections at Birzeit University in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah. Following debates between factions vying for the student vote, the pro-Hamas al-Wafaa Islamic bloc claimed victory after gaining 25 seats, with the Yasser Arafat bloc of the Fatah movement trailing behind with 21 seats. The bloc representing Leftist movement Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine for its part came out with five seats, while other leftist parties including the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Palestinian People’s Party did not receive enough votes to garner a seat. Voter turnout was reported as 76 percent of the student body. The Islamic bloc last year won elections for the first time since 2007 at the historically staunchly pro-Fatah campus, taking observers by surprise. As this year marked ten years since the last national elections, university elections are seen as important indicators of public opinion by political commentators in Palestine and Birzeit is considered to be the most important campus in the yearly political contests.
Israeli court cancels bids won by Palestinian contractors
AFULA (PIC) 26 Apr — An Israeli court canceled construction bids in Afula city in 1948 Occupied Palestine after Palestinian contractors had won the tenders. The Israeli court decision outraged Palestinians in 1948 Occupied Palestine and perceived it as evidence on Israeli racism against Arabs. MK Ahmad al-Tibi along with MK Usama al-Saadi described the decision as shameful and racist. They underlined in a statement that the court’s decision answers the demands of Israeli extremists who keep calling for expelling Arabs from Afula city.
Prominent Palestinian human rights defenders conclude historic two-week trip to United States
PCHR-Gaza 26 Apr — Two of Palestine’s most prominent human rights defenders – Raji Sourani from the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights and Shawan Jabarin from Al Haq – just concluded a two-week tour in the United States that provided an extraordinary opportunity for U.S. audiences to get a first-hand account of the situation in occupied Palestine. Sourani and Jabarin presented in detail the caustic effects of the nearly 50-year Israeli occupation on the lives of Palestinians, in both Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the extraordinary efforts that they and so many other sectors of Palestinian society undertake to preserve and protect Palestinian human rights and to deter future crimes against Palestinian civilians through pursuit of accountability for serious international law violations … More than a year of planning – and twice postponed due to challenges arising from U.S. imposed travel restrictions and the nine-year closure of Gaza which makes it impossible for Sourani to leave Gaza at will – the human rights defenders took full advantage of the opportunity to engage directly with American audiences, and spoke at eight public events in New York, Boston, and Washington, D.C. at law schools, think tanks and public fora; held a press conference at the UN and met with national and international journalists; hosted an interactive webinar with student groups across the country; met with numerous missions to the United Nations and U.N. officials; and spent some time on Capitol Hill, notably meeting with Representative John Lewis. Unfortunately, but maybe not surprisingly, the State Department did not take advantage of the presence of these two world-renowned human rights defenders in Washington, despite meeting requests.
US senators urge more aid for Israel, current $3B not enough
telesur 25 Apr — At least 83 U.S. senators wrote a letter to U.S. President Obama urging him to increase military aid to Israel to up to US$4.5 billion. More than 80 percent of the U.S. Senate have signed a letter urging President Barack Obama to quickly reach an agreement on a new defense aid package for Israel worth more than the current US$3 billion per year. Eight-three of the 100 senators signed the letter, led by Republican Lindsey Graham and Democrat Chris Coons. Senator Ted Cruz, a 2016 presidential candidate, was one of the 51 Republicans on board. The Senate’s Democratic White House hopeful, Bernie Sanders, was not among the 32 Democrats. “In light of Israel’s dramatically rising defense challenges, we stand ready to support a substantially enhanced new long-term agreement to help provide Israel the resources it requires to defend itself and preserve its qualitative military edge,” said the letter, which was seen by Reuters. The funding is intended to boost Israel’s military and allow it to maintain a technological advantage over its Arab neighbors. It did not provide a figure for the suggested aid. Israel wants $4 billion to $4.5 billion in aid in a new agreement to replace the current memorandum of understanding, or MOU, which expires in 2018.
Israeli army sets off huge fire by destroying munitions containing phosphorus
Haaretz 28 Apr by Almog Ben Zikri & Gili Cohen — The IDF blew up old munitions that contained phosphorus in the south last week, causing a conflagration that covered 150 dunams (37 acres) of wooded and agricultural land, Israel Radio reported. A military spokesman said Wednesday the military police were investigating and had contacted fire officials in the area. A senior fire official in Ashkelon, Yigal Zohar, said the army blew up about five tons of explosives in the Lachish area, causing a fire that lightly damaged a number of houses in a nearby moshav, an agricultural community. After the initial flames were extinguished, firefighters had to return to the site several times to put out new fires. They then discovered that some of the munitions contained phosphorus. “When phosphorous ammunition comes into contact with oxygen it ignites spontaneously. This forced us to deal with those flames for three days,” Zohar said, adding that the army had not adhered to safety requirements like cordoning off the area of the explosion….
In Photos: Palestinian medics treat earthquake victims in Ecuador
BETHLEHEM- (Ma‘an) 25 Apr — A Palestinian medical team arrived at the destroyed city of Portoviejo last week to help treat the victims of a deadly earthquake that hit Ecuador on April 16. The team provided medical treatment, including surgeries, the Palestinian Ministry of Health said in a statement Monday … On behalf of President of Ecuador Rafael Correa, Guevara expressed appreciation for the Palestinian medical team, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and Palestinian Minister of Health Jawad Awwad for the quick response in sending the medical team to help the Ecuadorean earthquake victims. The Palestinian delegation consisted of a medical team of 15 doctors and surgeons and a media team.
Did the Arabs betray Palestine? / Ramzy Baroud
Palestine Chronicle 27 Apr — ….In Egypt, a chasm still exists between the government, whose behavior is based on political urgency and self-preservation, and a people who, despite a decided anti-Palestinian campaign in various media, are as ever determined to reject normalization with Israel until Palestine is free. Unlike the well-financed media circus that has demonized Gaza in recent years, the likes of Hajah Zainab have very few platforms where they can openly express their solidarity with the Palestinians. In my case, I was lucky enough to run into the aging custodian who cried for Palestine and her only son all those years ago. Nevertheless, that very character, Zainab, was reincarnated in my path of travel, time and again … Hajah Zainab is also Algeria, all of Algeria. When the Palestinian national football team met their Algerian counterparts last February, a strange, unprecedented phenomenon transpired that left many puzzled. The Algerian fans, some of the most ardent lovers of football anywhere, cheered for the Palestinians, non-stop. And when the Palestinian team scored a goal, it was if the bleachers were lit on fire. The crowded stadium exploded with a trancing chant for Palestine and Palestine alone. So, did the Arabs betray Palestine? … There has to be a clear political demarcation of the word ‘Arabs.’ Arabs can be unelected governments as much as they can be a kindly old woman earning two dollars a day in some dirty Cairo hotel. Arabs are emboldened elites who care only about their own privilege and wealth while neither Palestine nor their own nations matter, but also multitudes of peoples, diverse, unique, empowered, oppressed, who happen at this point in history to be consumed with their own survival and fight for freedom. The latter ‘Arabs’ never betrayed Palestine; they willingly fought and died for it when they had the chance. Most likely, Hajah Zainab is long dead now. But millions more like her still exist and they, too, long for a free Palestine, as they continue to seek their own freedom and salvation.
Rabai al-Madhoun wins International prize for Arabic fiction
The Guardian 27 Apr by Alison Flood — ‘Arabic Booker’ goes to Destinies, a novel that ‘invents a new fictional form’ to depict Palestinian experience — A novel exploring Palestinian life in exile and occupation that has been praised for inventing a “new fictional form” has won the $50,000 (£34,000) International prize for Arabic fiction. Rabai al-Madhoun’s Destinies: Concerto of the Holocaust and the Nakba is written in four parts, each representing a concerto movement. The narrative spans the Holocaust, the Palestinian exodus from Israel in 1948, and the Palestinian right to return. Speaking for the prize’s judging panel, Emirati poet and academic Amina Thiban said it “invents a new fictional form in order to address the Palestinian issue, with questions of identity underpinned by a very human perspective on the struggle”….