UN: Israel’s cement ban prevents hundreds of Gaza families from rebuilding homes
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 30 Apr — Israel’s punitive ban on cement imports into the Gaza Strip has prevented hundreds of families from rebuilding their homes devastated by the 2014 war, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a press release Thursday. As a result of the debilitating cement scarcity and price increases, “organizations providing assistance have had to suspend cash assistance for house repairs to over 1,370 families,” OCHA reported. “In addition, payment to 1,550 families scheduled to start reconstruction are being delayed due to the lack of available cement.” The current shortage of cement has also suspended jobs for some 40,000 construction workers in the Gaza Strip, according to the Palestinian Contractors Union.
The Israeli authorities implemented the ban on April 3, following the discovery of a tunnel passing from the Gaza Strip into Israel — the first to be found since Israel’s devastating military offensive on the coastal enclave in 2014 — and accused Hamas of diverting construction materials from its intended legitimate beneficiaries. Israeli authorities have previously accused the Gaza Strip’s de facto ruling party Hamas of stealing reconstruction material to sell on the black market and use to build tunnels. However, according to OCHA, “Most of the previously entered shelter repair and reconstruction material has already been sold to beneficiaries.” A spokesperson for Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) told Ma’an last week the entry of construction materials into Gaza would be suspended “until the issue is addressed.” COGAT did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding new developments towards lifting the crippling ban.
Shipment of cement to international organizations has continued despite the private sector ban, with international projects receiving 2,000 tons of cement last week. However, this shipment pales in comparison to the average of 75,000 tons of cement that entered the Gaza Strip every month since October 2015, toward reconstruction of more than 171,000 units that were damaged or destroyed in the war…..
Violence / Detentions — West Bank, Jerusalem
Israeli forces shoot, injure Palestinian worker near Bethlehem separation wall
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 30 Apr — Israeli forces shot and injured a Palestinian worker on Saturday as he approached the separation wall near the village of Dar Salah east of Bethlehem in the southern occupied West Bank, according to local sources. Witnesses told Ma‘an that Muhammad Qashqeesh from Halhul near Hebron was shot in the foot. He was evacuated to Beit Jala public hospital in Bethlehem, where medics said he suffered from a moderate wound … Several Palestinian workers — who are denied work permits by Israel — use holes in the separation wall east of Bethlehem to cross into Israel. The section of Israel’s separation wall near the villages of Dar Salah, al-Khass, and al-Nuaman is secured only by chain fences, which makes it easier for workers to cross stealthily.
Israeli soldiers injure one Palestinian, kidnap three others, in Bethlehem
IMEMC 1 May — Israeli soldiers invaded, on Sunday at dawn, the al-‘Azza refugee camp, north of the West Bank city of Bethlehem, shot and injured one Palestinian, and kidnapped three others in the camp and in Beit Fajjar town, south of Bethlehem. Medical sources said the soldiers shot a young man, 22, with a live round in his thigh, after invading the refugee camp, and clashing with youngsters, who hurled stones at the invading forces. The wounded Palestinian suffered a moderate injury, and was moved to a local hospital for treatment. The soldiers also invaded and searched many homes in the refugee camp, and kidnapped a young man, identified as Mohammad Issa al-Barbari, 22.
In addition, several military vehicles invaded Beit al-Fajjar town, south of Bethlehem, broke into and searched many homes and kidnapped two Palestinians, identified as Amin Ali Thawabta, 17, and Mousa Yousef Deeriyya, 26. Eyewitnesses said the soldiers invaded the town from its eastern part, and were largely deployed around its mosque, before breaking into many homes and searching them.
Pictures: The occupation forces attack a funeral in Al-Rahmeh Gate Cemetery and injure dozens of Jerusalemites
Silwanic 30 Apr — Dozens of Jerusalemites were injured on Saturday afternoon with several bruises and suffocation after occupation forces raided Al-Rahmeh Gate Cemetery during the funeral of Jamal Mohammad Abbasi. Wadi Hilweh Information Center’s staff explained that occupation soldiers raided the cemetery located east of Al-Aqsa Mosque during the funeral of Jamal Mohammad Abbasi and attacked the participants with pepper gas, pushing and beating under the pretext of burying the deceased in an area confiscated by the Israeli Nature and Parks authority. During the raid, dozens of participants suffocated and were injured with bruises; some were transferred to medical centers for treatment. The participants were able to bury the deceased Abbasi in the tomb as the raid occurred towards the end of the funeral. The forces arrested 27-year old Naser Abbasi from inside the cemetery and also arrested photographer Saeed Rukon from the area of Herod’s Gate and confiscated hid camera under the pretext of filming in a prohibited area (inside the cemetery). The staff added that the forces surrounded the cemetery and prevented the participants from leaving for several minutes. After assaulting the participants and the cemetery’s sanctity, the soldiers raided the house of the deceased Abbasi in the neighborhood of Ein Al-Lozeh in Silwan and checked the IDs of young men.
Many Palestinians injured in Ni‘lin
IMEMC 2 May — Palestinian medical sources have reported, on Sunday at night, that several Palestinians were injured, after Israeli soldiers invaded Ni‘lin village, west of the central West Bank district of Ramallah. The soldiers said the soldiers fired live rounds, rubber-coated steel bullets and gas bombs at many Palestinians and their homes, causing several injuries. The invasion was carried out by several Israeli army vehicles, and while withdrawing, one military jeep apparently lost its way, before many youngsters started throwing stones and empty bottles at it. Shortly afterwards, several army jeeps returned to the town, and clashed with dozens of youngsters, approximately for three hours, before securing the withdrawal of the jeep that lost its way in one of the neighborhoods.
Israeli soldiers attack Bil‘in’s weekly nonviolent protest
IMEMC 30 Apr by Saed Bannoura — Israeli soldiers assaulted, Friday, dozens of Palestinian, Israeli and international peaceful protesters holding the weekly procession against the Israeli Annexation Wall and colonies, in Bil‘in village, near the central West Bank city of Ramallah. Medical sources said the soldiers fired many gas bombs, concussion grenades and rubber-coated steel bullets, causing scores of protesters to suffer the effects of tear gas inhalation. Israeli gas bombs also caused several olive trees belonging to Rashid Mohammad Abu Rahma to burn, before the residents and firefighters rushed to extinguish the fire. The protesters marched from the center of the village carrying Palestinian and South African flags, celebrating Freedom Day (April 27), that marks the end of the apartheid regime in South Africa in 1994.
Israel: Private contractors, not police, killed Palestinian siblings at Jerusalem checkpoint
Haaretz 1 May by Nir Hasson — An initial investigation into an attempted knife attack by Palestinian siblings who were then shot dead in north Jerusalem last week revealed that the shooting was carried out by civilian security guards and not police forces. Since police weren’t the ones who fatally shot Maram Abu Ismayil, 23, and her brother Ibrahim Salah Tahah, 16, no probe was opened by Justice Ministry’s police investigation unit into the officers involved. The investigation into the incident revealed that a police officer who was stationed at the Qalandiyah checkpoint in north Jerusalem last Wednesday carried out a the proper arrest procedure, and as part of it fired shots in the air, but that the shooting at the siblings, one of which allegedly threw a knife at officers, was carried out by guards who stood nearby. Civilian security guards contracted by the Defense Ministry are regularly stationed alongside police officers, Border Police and IDF soldiers in all major checkpoints between Israel and the Palestinian territories. The guards usually don’t come in contact with the Palestinians moving through the checkpoints, but rather stand behind concrete shelters and cover the police officers and soldiers …
The police are refusing to make public the video showing the attempted knife attack. The Jerusalem Police said the video, if there was one, could not be made public because the incident was under investigation. However Haaretz checked and found that in a number of cases in the past the Police Spokesman’s Office had itself made public videos of similar incidences, even adding captions to explain what was happening and justifying the police actions.
Haaretz Editorial: Release the Qalandiyah video
2 May — The refusal of police to release footage of the incident only increases fear that a crime was committed when two Palestinians were shot by security guards — What happened at the Qalandiyah checkpoint last Wednesday can’t stay in Qalandiyah. The killing of Maram Abu Ismail, a 23-year-old mother of two small children, and her brother Ibrahim Taha, 16, who, according to the Justice Ministry department for the investigation of police officers, were shot by security guards at the checkpoint, raises questions and serious suspicions. The refusal of the police to release video footage from the security cameras at the scene – which they should have done immediately to remove any doubts – only increases the fear that a crime was committed at the north Jerusalem checkpoint. The police claim – that the video is needed for the investigation and cannot be released – contradicts their behavior in similar instances in the past, when police spokesmen hastened to release security camera footage when it served police purposes. The public has the right to know why and how the siblings were killed, and if it was indeed an unavoidable killing of assailants who threatened the lives of policemen and security guards at the checkpoint … The doubts and suspicions can only be dispelled by the footage from the checkpoint’s security cameras. That’s why the police must release it immediately. If the double killing was indeed necessitated by the circumstances, the police must prove this quickly. If this was another case of unnecessary execution, those responsible must be prosecuted.
IDF officer says attacked by Jewish settlers at outpost
Ynet 1 May by Roi Yanovsky & Yoav Zitun — An IDF officer filed a complaint with the police on Sunday, claiming he was attacked by Jewish settler youth when he arrived at the outpost of Khavat Gal near Hebron with his team to survey illegally-built structures. The officer, who serves as the Israeli Civil Administration’s infrastructure officer, said the attackers pushed him and called him a “gentile” and a “dog.” He was unharmed in the incident. A police patrol car arrived at the scene, and the Judea and Samaria District Police opened an investigation into the incident. No suspects have been arrested at this time….
In Hebron, the road to education is paved with fear
HEBRON (The National) 1 May by Ben Lynfield — Frequent harassment, accusations, and sometimes even physical abuse. The eighth-grade students at the Ibrahimiya School were quick to talk about the suffering they endure daily in Hebron – the tensest city in the occupied West Bank. Wearing a dark track suit, I J, 14, stood up and recounted an incident two months ago when he was stopped at an Israeli army checkpoint near the school. “The soldiers claimed I had a knife. One was pointing his gun at me and the other was searching me. I told him, let me go to school. He hit me. They made me pull my shirt up,” he said. “One of the soldiers searched my bag but didn’t find anything. They lay me on the ground with an M-16 pointed in my back. They detained me for a half-hour and then let me go to school.” Other pupils had similar stories to tell. One told of being stoned by an Israeli settler on his way to school. “I threw a stone back at him,” he said. The hazards of getting to school have become more acute in the past seven months during the latest wave of unrest in the West Bank and Jerusalem. They have taken a toll on attendance at Ibrahimiya, a school which takes in students from grade one to nine, and is run by the Palestinian Authority. The principal, Hasan Emar, said about 50 out of 300 pupils have transferred to schools closer to their homes since October, in the hopes of a safer trip to classes. There are six checkpoints with a one-kilometre radius of Ibrahimiya. Students coming from the north must pass three, those from the south one, from the east two. Access is closed from the west. The checkpoints, combined with the school’s proximity to enclaves of militant Israeli settlers, mean that Ibrahimiya has one of the most challenging learning environments in the West Bank, according to Yasser Salih, field director for the PA’s education ministry….
50 Palestinians prevented from crossing Allenby this week, 31 detained
JERICHO (Ma‘an) 30 Apr — Israel prevented 50 Palestinians from traveling via the Allenby Bridge over the last week for alleged security reasons, while 31 were detained, according to a statement by the Palestinian police. The statement reported that the 31 Palestinians detained were wanted by the Israeli authorities and banned from entering or leaving via the bridge between the occupied West Bank and Jordan. Over 34,000 Palestinians traveled through the Allenby Bridge crossing this week. The Israeli authorities regularly detain Palestinians who attempt to cross the Allenby Bridge. Last week, a Palestinian journalist was detained while en route to Bosnia to attend a European Union for Journalists conference. His continued detention has been condemned by the international community. The Allenby Bridge is the only crossing Palestinians in the occupied West Bank can take to leave or enter Jordan, while most are forced to pass through the crossing for any overseas travel via the Amman international airport.
Israeli forces detain 6 Palestinians in West Bank raids
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 1 May — Israeli forces carried out overnights raids across the occupied Palestinian territory Sunday, detaining at least six Palestinians including a 13-year-old boy. Locals told Ma‘an that Israeli forces raided the southern occupied West Bank town of Beit Ummar north of Hebron and detained 13-year-old Jalal Nayif Sleibi and a young man identified as Ibrahim Yousif Awad. (Further to the north, Israeli forces raided the town of Beit Fajjar between Hebron and Bethlehem and detained two youths identified by their families as Mousa Deiriya and Amin Thawabta. In Bethlehem, locals and Palestinian security sources said Israeli forces raided al-‘Azza refugee camp in the city and detained Hamza Dadara and Muhammad al-Barbari.) Israeli forces also stormed the al-Ram and ‘Issawiya neighborhoods in occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank village of Beit Anan northwest of Jerusalem, Tulkarem in the north West Bank, as well as Nahhalin and Beit Sahour in the district of Bethlehem, with no detentions reports.
Israeli forces detain 3 Palestinians in West Bank raids
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 2 May – Israeli forces detained at least three Palestinians and confiscated a private car in predawn raids Monday across the occupied West Bank, according to Palestinian and Israeli sources. Locals told Ma‘an Israeli forces stormed three villages in the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron after midnight Sunday and detained three Palestinians from their homes. One raid targeted the village of Surif in Hebron, where Israeli forces detained Jamil Ghneimat after ransacking his home while his family was sleeping. Israeli forces also raided the village of Deir Samit and detained Shadi Riyad al-Huroub, locals said.
In the village of al-Shuyukh, Israeli forces ransacked a four-story residential building, searching for 41-year-old Walid Mahmoud al-Hasasna, a father of 12. Family members said Israeli forces inspected four apartments before they left at 4 a.m without being able to locate and detain al-Hasasna. Witnesses also said Israeli forces detained Muhammad Abd al-Rahim al-Halayka and confiscated a private car he owns.
Opinion: Hamas and the Irgun? How dare I compare the two… / B. Michael
Haaretz 2 May — For all those suffering from voluntary amnesia here are just a few of the Irgun’s highlights of Hamas-worthy violence — Thus spake Benjamin Netanyahu just hours after the explosion on April 18 of a bomb on a bus in Jerusalem, for which Hamas later claimed responsibility: “We will find whoever prepared this explosive device, we’ll get to whoever is behind them and we will settle accounts with these terrorists” — sharp, determined remarks. And where did the prime minister utter these resolute words? At a commemoration of the 85th anniversary of the establishment of years to the founding of the Irgun, or Etzel, the pre-state underground militia led by Menachem Begin. Unfortunately, Netanyahu neglected to specify which “terrorists” he meant: the ones whose 85th birthday he was celebrating, or the ones who blew up a bus earlier that day? But how could I dare to compare them. A few days later, Moshe Arens joined Netanyahu. In an op-ed (Haaretz, Apr. 26), he too displayed heaping portions of selective memory and active hypocrisy.
By way of jogging the memory of Arens and everyone else suffering from voluntary amnesia, below is a tiny sample, a drop in the enormous bucket of praiseworthy deeds carried out by the heroes of the Irgun and the Lehi (the militia once led by Yitzhak Shamir and known as the Stern Gang). All are from approved Revisionist sources: Nov. 14, 1937 — Irgun gunmen in Jerusalem carry out a “shooting attack,” killing two Arab pedestrians in Rehavia. Later, snipers fires at an Arab bus, killing three passengers and wounding eight. Bravo, Irgun! April 17, 1938 — For the first time (but not the last), the Irgun throws a bomb into an Arab cafe, with middling results: one person killed, six wounded. July 5, 1938 — A series of terror attacks on pedestrians in Jaffa, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Bombs and shooting at buses. The results improve: 11 Arabs die, 22 are wounded … Jan. 4, 1948 — A Lehi car bomb in Jaffa kills 70 Arabs. Jan. 7, 1948 — The Irgun tries to catch up to its “little brother” with a bomb at the Jaffa Gate of Jerusalem’s Old City. Only 24 Arabs killed…
If anyone, God forbid, still tries to compare the atrocities of Arab murderers with the glories of Jewish fighters (only since both committed totally identical deeds), we’ll explain once again that the difference between an Ishmaelite terrorist and a Jewish freedom fighter is the same as the difference between Jewish sidelocks and a Chinese queue. Even a child knows that a Jewish man’s payot are the pinnacle of beauty and purity whereas a Chinese pigtail is merely disgusting. There really is no comparison.
Palestinian killed, two injured in northern Gaza explosion
GAZA (Ma‘an) 2 May – A Palestinian was killed and at least two others were injured on Monday in a mysterious explosion in the northern Gaza Strip. Medical sources told Ma‘an that the deceased and the two injured — in what was reportedly a work accident — were taken to the Indonesian Hospital. The al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of the Islamic Jihad movement, identified the deceased as 30-year-old resistance fighter Mazin Mohammad Lolo from Shujaiyya neighborhood. The statement referred to Lolo as “martyr who died on duty.” The cause of the blast was not immediately clear.
Palestinian injured by Israeli gunfire in Gaza
RAFAH (PIC) 1 May — … In Gaza, a young woman suffered a trauma and slight bruises when soldiers in the military post of Sofa, east of Rafah, opened fire close to her. Local sources reported seeing a girl falling to the ground near the border fence after soldiers fired a volley of bullets around her. They added that the soldiers prevented an ambulance crew from evacuating the girl for more than half an hour. The Palestinian police, for their part, conducted an investigation into the incident to know the reason for the presence of the girl in the area.
Israeli forces open fire on fishermen, level land in Gaza
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 2 May – Several Israeli military vehicles and bulldozers leveled lands inside the southern Gaza Strip Monday morning, as Israeli forces also opened fire on Palestinian fisherman in the northern Gaza Strip. Witnesses told Ma‘an that four armored military bulldozers and three digging machines escorted by Israeli military vehicles stormed the Gaza Strip buffer zone east of Rafah. The convoy entered through a gate in the security fence near the Sufa military base, and pulled back outside of Gaza territory shortly after the bulldozers carried out earthworks, witnesses said. In a separate incident, Israeli naval forces opened fire at Gaza fishermen off the coast of Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip. No casualties were reported.
Gaza’s fishermen risking Israeli bullets to bring home daily catch
GAZA (MEE) 30 Apr by Mohammed Omer — The number of fishermen working the waters off Gaza has fallen from 10,000 to 4,000 since the blockade was enforced a decade ago, according to Gaza’s syndicate of fishermen — Kamel Baker’s father taught him how to fish when he was just 10 years old. Now 55, Baker has been trawling the waters off the coast of Gaza ever since. “For 45 years I have been making my living this way,” Baker told MEE, sitting on the deck of his fishing boat, happily telling stories as he waited for a pot of coffee to brew. “We are close neighbours of the sea.” Born in al-Shati, Gaza’s poorest refugee camp, Baker talks wistfully about the “golden days” of Gaza’s fishing industry when he could earn up to 6,000 shekels ($1,590) a day – more than a doctor or engineer – and would have to turn back to port early because his nets were full. “We would eat fish for breakfast, lunch and dinner,” he recalled, as his 25-year-old son Talaat, one of the 15 crew members including Baker’s three sons and several related children, looked on and smiled. “Where are those days now, Daddy?” Talaat asked as one of his brothers steered the boat westward out of the harbour towards the setting sun. Most aboard the boat will go home with barely enough to feed their families. On a good night nowadays, Talaat might hope to take home a kilo of fish and about 50 shekels ($13) for his wife and one-year-old son … Israel recently increased the distance from the shore that Palestinian fishing boats are allowed to trawl from six to nine nautical miles … But fishermen say they are still regularly coming under fire from Israeli patrol boats well within the permitted fishing zone. As midnight approaches, the crew aboard Baker’s boat are sitting down to eat their supper when flashes of light appear on the sea and loud gunfire rings out, audible even above the noise of the boat’s generator. “It is the Israeli warships,” said Baker, everyone standing up as spotlights shine down on the boat and its crew. Earlier this month, Baker said, the fishermen had been allowed to venture further from shore towards the edge of the nine-mile limit where stocks are less depleted by over-fishing. Tonight he had spent an extra 500 shekels on fuel in the hope of a similarly successful trip, but as the Israeli naval vessel forces the boat back towards the coast he fears his investment will be lost….
Power supply in Gaza is reduced to 6 hours every 18 hours
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 2 May – Electricity grids for all districts in the Gaza Strip will only be providing power for six hour intervals followed by 12 hours without power, due to a problem with the Egyptian power lines, Gaza’s electricity company announced Monday morning. The company’s Public Information Officer Tariq Labad told Ma’an that Egypt promised to fix the problem as soon as possible. Labad added that once the Egyptian lines are fixed, electricity grids in the Gaza Strip will return to operating eight hours on, eight hours off, as usual. The Egyptian lines that provide electricity to the southern Gaza Strip contribute 20 megawatts. The Gaza Strip was left almost entirely without power during a number of days last month due to maintenance work on power lines from both Israel and Egypt as well as the ongoing tax disputes on fuel for the enclave’s near-defunct power station.
DFLP demands gov’t fully exempt Gaza power plant from taxes
GAZA (PIC) 30 Apr — The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) has said that the Palestinian government’s decision to give the Gaza power plant tax exemptions on fuel supplies of between 80 to 100 percent is an “insufficient step.” In a press release on Saturday, the DFLP demanded the government assume its responsibility fully towards Gaza and give the power plant 100-percent tax exemptions on its fuel needs in order to retain the eight-hour electricity program. It called for necessarily respecting what had been agreed upon by the electricity company, the energy authority and the national committee of the factions during their recent meeting in order to provide Gaza with its power needs.
Gaza parkour performer seriously injured after fall
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 30 Apr — A Palestinian parkour performer from the Gaza Strip was seriously injured on Friday during a demonstration, the Palestinian Ministry of Health said on Saturday. Muhammad Zakkut suffered from injuries and fractures all over his body when he fell while performing parkour for a Ma‘an news report in the southern Gaza Strip town of Khan Yunis, Health Minister Jawad Awwad said in a statement. Awwad added that the traceur — as parkour performers are known — would be treated in the Israeli Ichilov hospital in Tel Aviv due to the seriousness of his injuries. Awwad noted that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had personally given instructions to do whatever was needed to treat Zakkut. Parkour, a martial art involving the navigation of urban landscapes which emerged in France in the 1990s, has gained prominence in the besieged Gaza Strip, as the damage caused by repeated Israeli military offensives in the small Palestinian territory provide numerous adequate material for the pursuit of the sport.
Prisoners / Court actions
4 Palestinians continue hunger strikes in protest of administrative detention
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 30 Apr — Four Palestinian prisoners continued their hunger strike on Saturday in protest of their administrative detention in the face of increasing pressure by Israeli prison authorities, with some experiencing severe health complications, Palestinian radio station Sawt al-Asra reported. Hunger-striker Sami Janazreh, 43, from al-Fawwar refugee camp near Hebron, entered the 59th day of his hunger strike. He suffers from a heart condition and low blood pressure, and has suffered seizures and other complications since the end of March … Fuad Rabah Shukri Assi, 30, from Beit Liqya near Ramallah, continued his hunger strike for the 28th day after Israeli authorities extended his administrative detention for an additional six months. Israeli prison authorities have reportedly pressured Assi to end his hunger strike by searching his cell every two hours, allowing him one one visit per day to the toilet, confiscating all of his electronics, seizing his clothes, and only allowing him one hour in the prison yard. Muhammad Jamal Mafarja, 28, also from Beit Liqya, entered the 28th day of his hunger strike, initially declared on April 3 in protest of his 16-month administrative detention. He was detained in December 2014, nine months after being released from prison. Majdi Safwat Yasin, 33, a lawyer and Swedish national from the village of Anin near Jenin, entered the seventh day of his strike, declared after being detained on his way to Sweden by Israeli authorities at the Allenby Bridge crossing.
Gaza man indicted for Hamas militant activity, operating smuggling tunnel
Ynet 1 May by Ilana Curiel — A Hamas operative from Gaza was indicted on state security endangering charges on Sunday at the Be’er Sheva District Court. Midhat bin-Fauzi Abu Snima, 24, who was arrested over a month ago, faces 18 charges, including contact with a foreign agent, conspiring to commit murder, attempted murder, conspiring to pass along sensitive information to the enemy with the intention to harm state security, undergoing illegal military training, membership and activity in an unlawful organization, and several weapons offenses….
BDS / Aid
Palestinians call for boycott of genocide conference in Jerusalem
EI 27 Apr by Rania Khalek — The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel has called for a boycott of this year’s conference of the International Network of Genocide Scholars (INoGS) in Jerusalem. PACBI says that INoGS should not be holding its meeting on stolen Palestinian land in partnership with Israeli academic institutions that are complicit in Israel’s military occupation … The conference is scheduled to take place from 26 to 29 July at Hebrew University’s Mount Scopus campus, some of which was constructed on land that Israel illegally expropriated from Palestinians in East Jerusalem after Israel militarily occupied the West Bank in 1967….
Opinion: Boycott is the only way to stop the Israeli occupation / Gideon Levy
Haaretz 1 May — Haaretz Editor-in-Chief Aluf Benn calls on us not to get too enthusiastic about the effects of a boycott of Israel (Haaretz, April 28). I agree with him, but even if we are not enthusiastic about it we have no choice but to recognize that boycott, divestment and sanctions is the only game in town, the last hope for the change that Benn also wants. This is the only means to stop Israel from persisting in its crimes. The only alternative is bloodshed, which no one wants. Sanctions and boycott are the most non-violent, legitimate means there are (Israel constantly preaches to the world to use them against its enemies) and have been proven effective. Even people who share Benn’s reservations, and I share some of his doubts, must concede that he doesn’t offer a more certain alternative. His proposal for the left to establish a base of domestic support for its positions is hopeless considering the brainwashing, ignorance, blindness, the good life, lack of opposition and increasing extremism of Israeli society. Because this is a criminal situation, which must not be allowed to persist, we cannot leave it alone until public opinion has the good grace to change. It will never do so of its own accord, it has no reason to do so as long as it is not paying for its crimes and being punished for them. People who claim this have reached a new height of Israeli chutzpah: to allow tyranny, abuse and oppression to go on in the name of democracy … Benn believes that a boycott will make Israel harden its position. The past has shown that the opposite is true. Israel has always made the few concessions it did after it paid a heavy price, or in the face of an overt threat … The first response to the boycott will be the one Benn describes: Masada, banding together, taking a harder line. But in the blink of an eye the questions will start mounting, followed by protest. Israelis of 2016 are not built to live in Sparta, not even in Cuba, to drive around in cars from the 1950s and stand in long lines for meat in order to keep the settlement of Esh Kadosh in existence. They will sell Elkana to keep Varna, and that’s a good thing. And if that leaves Elkana in a single democratic state, even better. Marwan Barghouti as prime minister of a democratic government doesn’t scare me, Benn….
Palestinian doctors train in Canada to help sick kids back home
TORONTO, Canada (MEE) 30 Apr by Jillian D’Amours — Palestinian Healthy Child Fellowship seeks to provide Palestinian doctors with specialised paediatric training, raise level of care in West Bank, Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem — When Amir Atawna returns to Hebron in July, he will be one of only four Palestinian physicians specially trained to care for premature babies. Atawna has spent almost two years as a fellow at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, training with the best in neonatal health care. It’s an area of paediatrics that the doctor says is lacking in Palestine – and one he hopes to improve upon his return. “The main mortality rates among children [are] in the newborn period, due to prematurity itself,” he told Middle East Eye at the cafeteria at Sick Kids, as the hospital is commonly known. “We need this specialty to improve.” Atawna, 33, came to Canada in July 2014 to participate in the Palestinian Healthy Child Fellowship, which seeks to provide Palestinian doctors with specialised paediatric training, and in turn, raise the level of care in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. Atawna, who did his residency in paediatrics at Al Makassed hospital in East Jerusalem, said that while about five in 1,000 babies die when born prematurely in Israel, that number is four times higher in Palestine, at 20 deaths per 1,000 births … Dr. Rand Askalan, a Palestinian doctor who came to Canada in 1995, launched the fellowship program for Palestinian paediatric doctors six years ago after noticing a gap in services in the West Bank. Both Askalan’s parents fled Nablus, in the West Bank, during the war of 1967. She returned to the West Bank in 2002, during the height of the Second Intifada, with a group of volunteer doctors. At the time, she had just finished medical school at the University of Toronto and was in her first year of paediatric neurology at Sick Kids Hospital. Askalan navigated Israeli checkpoints and closures to provide primary health care to Palestinians in the West Bank, many of whom were living under strict, Israeli army-imposed curfews and had no access to medical care. “We went to villages where they hadn’t seen doctors for months … It was terrible,” she said. “All the villages were under curfew. We had every day to negotiate our way with the Israeli army to enter the villages, despite the fact that our cars were very well-designated as [being from] a Canadian medical mission.” That experience stayed with her, and when she returned to Canada, she began fundraising to bring Palestinian children to Toronto for treatment.
Palestinians mark May Day amid high unemployment and harsh working conditions
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 1 May — As the world marks International Workers’ Day (May Day), laborers in the Palestinian territory continue to suffer from soaring unemployment, poverty, and other dire working conditions. The average unemployment rate in the Palestinian territory was 26 percent in 2015: in the occupied West Bank, unemployment stood at 17 percent, compared to a staggering 41 percent in the besieged Gaza Strip, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS). Trade unions in the Gaza Strip estimate unemployment there has reached 60 percent. PCBS estimates some 336,000 are unemployed in the West Bank, while 193,000 are unemployed in the Gaza Strip. Participation of men in the Palestinian labor force was approximately four times higher than the participation of women in 2015. At a 60 percent unemployment rate, women in the Gaza Strip were the most vulnerable demographic across the Palestinian territory. Approximately 36 percent of wage employees in the private sector received less than the minimum wage in the Palestinian territory over 2015. Workers in the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron were particularly vulnerable to earning less than minimum wage, where the average monthly salary was 986 shekels ($263.75), compared to the minimum of 1,450 shekels ($387.85)….
IN PHOTOS: Holy Fire ceremony in Jerusalem draws thousands
AP 30 Apr — Eastern Orthodox Christians gather around Jesus’ tomb inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to celebrate Christ’s resurrection — Thousands of Christians gathered in Jerusalem on Saturday for an ancient fire ceremony that celebrates Jesus’ resurrection. In a ritual dating back at least 1,200 years, they crowded into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Christian tradition holds that Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected. During the annual ceremony, top Eastern Orthodox clerics enter the Edicule, the small chamber marking the site of Jesus’ tomb. They then emerge to reveal candles said to be miraculously lit with “holy fire” as a message to the faithful from heaven. The details of the flame’s source are a closely guarded secret. Roman Catholics and Protestants marked Easter in March, in accordance with the Gregorian calendar. Eastern Orthodox churches celebrate Easter this week using the older Julian calendar.
Opinion: Barack Obama’s West Bank strongman: Mahmoud Abbas / Grant Rumley
Newsweek 1 May — Amid all the preparations for a French-led conference on Israeli-Palestinian peace in the next year, Western officials continue to turn a blind eye to the increasingly autocratic tendencies of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. In the past year alone, Abbas has cracked down on journalists, teachers, and political rivals without serious rebuke from Europe or the U.S. Indeed, Western leaders have only two apparent demands for the Palestinian leader: continue to maintain security coordination with Israel, and pay lip service to the moribund peace process. So long as Abbas continues to check these boxes—and his recent interview on Israeli television confirmed he would—his Western flank is secure. Abbas knows this all too well. Since the collapse of the U.S.-led peace negotiations in 2014, he has tested the limits of Western leniency. As the Obama administration withdrew from the day-to-day slog of Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking, Abbas gradually tightened his hold on Palestinian civil society. He is now 11 years into a four-year term, with no sign of stepping down … Abbas’s critics should know by now that resistance to his rule is futile. When a member of his own Fatah party accused one of his ministers of corruption last month, Abbas issued a warrant for her arrest. The parliamentarian, Najat Abu Bakr, then sought refuge for two weeks in the parliament building until senior party leaders intervened. Similarly, when a member of his own Fatah party challenged him over peace process tactics in 2013, Abbas simply replaced him with his intelligence chief. When the No. 2 official in the Abbas-led Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) challenged him last summer, Abbas fired him and appointed his long-time peace negotiator Saeb Erekat to the position. When two other political parties in the West Bank—the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP)—challenged him earlier this month, Abbas slashed their funding. And when the governor of Nablus criticized the PA’s leadership earlier this week, Abbas fired him.
Family appeals for releasing its child from jail
NABLUS (PIC) 30 Apr — The family of 13-year-old Ahmed Maskawi, from Balata refugee camp in Nablus, has appealed to human rights groups to intervene with the Palestinian Authority (PA) preventive security apparatus to release its son. The family told the Palestinian Information Center (PIC) that all efforts to have its son released failed, pointing out that he has been in detention for about 59 days. According to the family, the security authorities claim that the absence of a current mayor for Nablus prevent them from releasing Maskawi, who is detained for alleged Facebook remarks. The father said that his son is a school student and his presence in detention would deprive him of his exams.
US adopts lethal Israeli tactic to ‘protect’ civilians
EI 29 Apr by Rania Khalek — The US military has adopted an Israeli procedure known as “roof-knocking” in its war on Islamic State, also known as ISIS or Daesh, adding yet another failed Israeli tactic to its counterterrorism toolkit. Roof-knocking entails striking the roof or upper story of a home or building with a mortar shell or missile prior to bombing it with even bigger munitions, in a supposed effort to warn civilians inside that they should evacuate. Israel used this tactic to absolve itself of liability for killing civilians in Gaza. But human rights investigators found the tactic to be ineffective and at times deadly to the very civilians it was allegedly supposed to protect. Two years later, however, the US is copying it. Air Force Major-General Peter Gersten, deputy commander for operations and intelligence for the anti-ISIS coalition, told reporters on Tuesday that the US employed Israel’s roof-knocking tactic in the killing of an alleged ISIS financial operative in Mosul, Iraq, in early April. The ISIS “finance emir,” as Gersten called him, “was the major distributor of funds to Daesh fighters,” which raises questions about the lawfulness of targeting a person for death while they’re not engaged in combat….
Analysis: What does US use of roof-knocking mean for ICC view of Israel’s use of it?
JPost 1 May by Yonah Jeremy Bob — Since January 2015, the ICC has been reviewing the legality of Israel’s approach to targeting and alleged war crimes relating to the 2014 Gaza war. There is a new front on the ongoing debate about the legality of Israel’s tactic of “knocking on roofs,” its effectiveness as a warning to civilians before an attack, and the International Criminal Court’s decision on the issue. Roof-knocking is designed to be a second-round and final warning to civilians to leave a targeted premises if they ignore a first warning, such as a telephone call. In the Israeli version of the tactic, a missile is then fired at the roof of the targeted building in order to produce a loud “knock” on the roof, without actually exploding. Since January 2015, the ICC has been reviewing the legality of Israel’s approach to targeting and alleged war crimes relating to the 2014 Gaza war (Operation Protective Edge). Last week, the US announced that it used the tactic to try to clear Iraqi civilians from an ISIS site for storing funds, making it the second country to adopt it. US Air Force Maj.-Gen. Peter Gersten said that the IDF’s use of the tactic had inspired the US to try it … Will the US adoption of the tactic be enough to shield the IDF’s use of it from criticism by the ICC? Neither the IDF nor the Foreign Ministry would comment on the issue, appearing to want the news to speak for itself. Unfortunately for the IDF, until now major players have mostly sounded off against the tactic. Both the 2009 UNHRC Goldstone Report and the 2015 UNHRC McGowan-Davis Report deemed the tactic ineffective as a warning and possibly even illegal. Those reports and critics from the human rights community have said that the tactic often confuses civilians into not leaving or returning to their residences too soon instead of saving them. In a well-known case in the 2014 war, a group of civilians evacuated after a roof-knocking warning, waited outside for a few minutes and then returned, thinking it was a false alarm, only to return too early and be killed by the missile strike. In fact, the same result occurred when the US used the tactic in Iraq, leading to questions about whether the US will use it again….
Eurovision organizers apologize, change nothing
Ynet 1 May — Following the leaked flag-policy uproar, the EBU released a statement apologizing for hurting feelings and uploaded a new flag policy, under which the Palestinian flag remains banned — Following the leak of document that banned the Palestinian flag, amongst others, from the Eurovision Song Contest on May 14, the organizers have apologized and released a revised wording of the policy. However, the new document continues to ban the same flags. The original firestorm-provoking document was posted on the website of Global Arena, Eurovision 2016’s Stockholm venue. As only the flags of Eurovision-participating countries, UN member states, and the EU, only with rainbow flags, were permitted, all others, particularly those of disputed territories, were banned. The document included a list of examples, and residents of the Basque Country and Kosovo took umbrage with their flags appearing above the ISIS flag (which was marked as ‘strictly prohibited’). The PLO even wrote to the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), Eurovision’s organizers, demanding an apology. … The flag policy explains in a preamble that it exists “to ensure the Eurovision Song Contest remains a non-political event.”
Germany-Israel military cooperation despite political kerfuffle
Ynet 1 May by Yoav Zitun & Eldad Beck — Although relations between the offices of Merkel and Netanyahu are strained, the security relationship with Germany is Israel’s most important after the US — The Israeli-German relationship experienced problems over the weekend as it ran over a political pothole. The German weekly Der Spiegel published that the German government was weighing the possibility of withdrawing from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s obligations to maintain Israel’s security and right to exist as Germany’s top priority. Senior politicians from the governing parties told the weekly that the German government has the impression that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is taking advantage of Germany’s obligations to Israel and that his government’s current policies in the West Bank are making finding a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict more difficult without contributing to the preservation of Israel’s Jewish and democratic character … In exchange for its financial contributions, the German government apparently expected to receive better treatment by Netanyahu and a larger influence on his policies. According to Der Spiegel, it did not receive this….
German official denies report on foreign policy shift on Israel
BERLIN (Reuters) 1 May — A German government official denied on Sunday a magazine report which said Berlin might end its unconditional support for Israel due to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s increasing frustration with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policies. Germany has for decades felt duty bound to support Israel because of the murder of six million Jews by the Nazis in the Holocaust … Asked to comment on the report, a government official told Reuters: “The guidelines of German Middle East policy have not changed.” … A spokeswoman for Merkel declined to comment and referred to the government’s regular news conference on Monday.
Turkey will reconcile with Israel if Gaza gets electricity and water: Davutoglu
124NEWS 1 May — Turkey will ink a reconciliation deal with Israel in the near future provided its demands for Israel to solve Gaza’s electricity and water shortages, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in Doha on Friday. Davutoglu’s comments, reported in Haaretz, are the latest indicator that the long-gestating détente between the two countries is inching forward to a resolution. “With God’s help it will be resolved,” Davutoglu said, while noting that all but a few small issues had been resolved. Davutoglu also met Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal while in Doha, Haaretz reports. Israel and Turkey are still at odds over the former’s demands that Hamas’ military headquarters in Istanbul be shut down. A senior official in Jerusalem said that the two sides would likely meet again in mid-May for the next round of talks, although could not give a date, Haaretz says.
Palestinians angry with the Asian Football Confederation
AFP 30 Apr — One month after 9 Arab Israeli soccer players were refused entry to Lebanon for a match, the AFC declared them the losers and fined them $20,000 — The Palestinian Football Association on Saturday denounced the Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) decision to declare as losers a Palestinian team who had several players unable to enter Lebanon for a soccer game in the AFC Cup. The match was supposed to take place on March 9 between the Palestinian soccer team Shabab Al-Thahriyeh from near Hebron and the Syrian team Al-Wahda. Because of the ongoing war in Syria and restrictions imposed on Syrians who want to travel to the Palestinian territories, the game was organized in Lebanon. On March 5, the Shabab Al-Thahriyeh delegation arrived at the Beirut airport, but more than half the players were sent to Jordan because of their Israeli passports. Israel and Lebanon remain technically in a state of war, and Beirut forbids entry to its territory by the bearers of Israeli identity papers and bars its residents from traveling to Israel.On Friday, the AFC’s disciplinary committee ruled that “The club from Thahriyeh was responsible for the match’s cancellation.”….
Two human rights defenders from Occupied Palestine navigate the politics of Capitol Hill
AlterNet 27 Apr by Max Blumenthal — What can happen when you try to educate Congress about Israel’s escalating human rights abuses — This month, two front line human rights defenders in occupied Palestine, Palestine Center for Human Rights (PCHR) founder Raji Sourani and Al Haq founder Shawan Jabarin, embarked on a speaking tour in New York City and Washington DC. Following their appearance at Columbia University, where they spoke at an event organized by the Center for Constitutional Rights, I met Sourani and Jabarin at a private event in Washington DC. The two had come to town for a series of meetings in Congress, including with one of the most knowledgeable foreign policy staffers. Sourani and Jabarin’s first meeting took place at the Senate Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations in the office of Tim Rieser, a longtime aide to Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy. Considered a champion of human rights inside Congress, Rieser is the brains behind the so-called Leahy Law which restricts US arms sales to serial human rights-abusing nations. In March, Leahy joined ten members of Congress in signing a letter demanding the Obama administration investigate Israel and the Egyptian military junta for “gross violations of human rights.” According to a DC based human rights activist who escorted Sourani and Jabarin to Rieser’s office, the two had hoped to gain a sense of whether the Leahy Law would be enforced, but received only informal recommendations … Jabarin and Sourani were given the cold shoulder by the Obama administration, however. A State Department staffer agreed to meet with them, but phoned back two hours later to cancel without explanation. The treatment hardly came as a shock after years of disappointment with Western governments.
From a stateless Palestinian refugee to signers of the ‘Leahy letter’ in the US Congress
DV 27 Apr by Paul Larudee — The following letters are from 22-year-old Amena Ashkar and 86-year-old Mariam Fathalla, stateless Palestinians from the refugee camps in Lebanon. They are addressed to the eleven Congressional signers of the “Leahy letter”, asking secretary of State John Kerry to report on Israeli and Egyptian violations of human rights. Amena and Mariam personally took the letters on April 26, 2016, to members of the US Congress and their staffers. In at least one case, this act brought tears to the eyes of a staffer. “Dear [title] [name],I know that you asked John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, to report to you about gross human rights violations committed by Israel. My entire life is the result of such violations, so I would like to report to you about it. I was born in a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, as were my parents and some of my grandparents. My family and the families of millions of Palestinians in refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Palestine were expelled in 1948, a crime that continues until today. This expulsion has a name. You call it ethnic cleansing or genocide. We call it al-Nakba (the Catastrophe). I was born in Lebanon, but I do not have Lebanese citizenship because I am not Lebanese, and Israel does not let me return to my home in Palestine. I am stateless and have no citizenship in any country….”