Violence / Detentions — West Bank / Israel
Israeli troops ‘mistakenly’ kill Palestinian teenager
The Guardian 21 June by Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem — Military says 15-year-old died and four others were wounded in West Bank after soldiers mistook them for stone-throwers — Israeli troops have shot dead a 15-year-old Palestinian boy as he travelled home from a family outing, after opening fire in response to stone-throwing in which the boy had not been involved. A preliminary investigation by the Israeli military found that the car the boy was travelling in had been “mistakenly hit” as the soldiers chased Palestinian stone throwers who had injured an Israeli bus passenger and two tourists in another vehicle. The shooting near the village of Beit Sira [in the Ramallah district] was angrily condemned by the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah. The military said that at around 1am firebombs and rocks had been thrown and oil spilled on to the busy Route 443 between Jerusalem and Modi’in. The road, which is often used as an alternative route between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, cuts through the occupied West Bank where it is overlooked at points by Palestinian villages. The Palestinian Authority, who named the dead boy as Mahmoud Rafat Badran, from the village of Beit-Uhr-Eh-Tahta [Beit ‘Ur al-Tahta], said that three other Palestinians also injured were treated at a medical centre in Ramallah, and a fourth wounded person had been taken to Israel for treatment. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz quoted the boy’s father as saying that Rafat was traveling back with relatives, including the boy’s aunt, from a trip to a swimming pool in Beit Sira that had started after the fast-breaking Ramadan evening meal. The road they had taken goes through an underpass under Route 443, he said, adding: “As they approached the passage, a car stood on the bridge, next to a man with a gun who opened fire on the vehicle. As far as I could understand, some of the passengers jumped out of the vehicle and some remained inside, and were hit, including my son who was very seriously wounded and died a short time later. “This was indiscriminate gunfire with the intent to kill and I demand that this incident be judged by the world court,” Badran said … New measures pushed through last year by the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, gave the security forces much greater latitude to use live ammunition against Palestinians throwing stones and firebombs.
Palestinian teen was celebrating friends’ visit before being killed by army, survivor recounts
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 21 June — Five teenage Palestinian boys were on their way home after midnight Monday morning, after spending the evening at a swimming pool in the village of Beit Sira west of Ramallah, celebrating the recent arrival from Qatar of friends who were to spend the summer in their hometown of Beit ‘Ur al-Tahta. However, their fun came to a halt when an Israeli soldier began showering the car with live fire, killing 15-year-old Mahmoud Raafat Badran and seriously injuring four others, one of whom told Ma‘an about the development of events that led to the teenager’s death. One of the injured, Dawood Issam Abu Hassan, 16, told Ma‘an that they were “surprised by a man wearing black plain clothes who stepped out of a white Toyota and started to fire at them.” The soldier was later identified by Israeli media as being a member of the Kfir Brigade. Dawood said that he and another teenager in the car managed to run away from the vehicle after it was first hit, and hid under a bridge near the area to avoid more live fire. Meanwhile, Mahmoud received deadly gunshot wounds, and two brothers were also seriously wounded in the incident. Two of the wounded were identified to Ma‘an as Majdi Badran, 16, who was visiting from Qatar, and suffered from a chest injury; and Khaled Badran, who was in serious condition. According to Dawood, Israeli forces arrived quickly, and immediately began smashing the Palestinians’ vehicle, which had crashed into the guardrails. The parents of the boys who had recently arrived from Qatar told Ma‘an they were traveling in a car behind the car their sons were in, and were forced to witness the incident unfold in front of them, calling the attack an “Israeli crime.” Palestinian Red Crescent Society ambulances said Israeli soldiers prevented paramedics from reaching the wounded Palestinians for over an hour and a half. Mahmoud’s father works as an ambassador for the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Saudi Arabia for several years, and served a 15-year sentence in Israeli prisons until 1999….
PLO condemns ‘extrajudicial execution’ of teen; Israel blames ‘Palestinian incitement’
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 21 June — Palestinian leadership reacted to the “cold-blooded assassination” of a 15-year-old Palestinian early Tuesday morning by calling for an immediate UN-led investigation, while Israeli leadership reportedly blamed the incident on “incitement and Palestinian terror.” Mahmoud Rafat Badran and his family had been driving home from a swimming pool when Israeli forces showered their car with gunfire, killing Mahmoud, and seriously injuring his two brothers 16-year-old Amir and 17-year-old Hadi, as well as Daoud Abu Hassan, 16, and Majd Badran, 16.The Israeli army later admitted they “mistakenly” opened fire on the innocent bystanders after Palestinian youth were reportedly throwing stones at Israeli settler vehicles nearby. Israeli media initially reported that Mahmoud and his teenage companions were “terrorists.” Palestinian Red Crescent Society ambulances reportedly said that Israeli soldiers prevented paramedics from reaching the wounded Palestinians for over an hour and a half. A statement released hours after the incident by PLO General Secretary Saeb Erekat condemned the “brutal attack in the strongest terms.” “This cold-blooded assassination reaffirms our calls to the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, to initiate an immediate extensive investigation into Israeli extrajudicial killings of Palestinians; particularly children,” the statement read.
Israel returns body of 15-year-old Palestinian killed in Israeli army attack on car
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 22 June — Israeli authorities returned on Wednesday the body of Mahmoud Raafat Badran, 15, who was shot dead by Israeli forces a day earlier while driving back from the swimming pool with his friends in the central occupied West Bank. Mahmoud’s body was delivered to the Palestinian civil liaison at the Ofer detention center in Beituniya, and a Palestinian ambulance carried him to the Ramallah Governmental Hospital. Palestinian youths in the area chanted slogans demanding revenge for Mahmoud’s death, which the Israeli army called a “mistake.” Details regarding Mahmoud’s funeral remained unknown at the time of publication…
Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem slammed the shooting on Wednesday, saying it was “a direct result of military policy which enables, despite the official prohibition in the open-fire regulations, to use deadly fire even in cases where there is no threat to life and even when the soldiers have other, non-lethal, means at their disposal.”….
Funeral held for Palestinian shot by Israeli forces in Sair
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 20 June — Residents of Sair and its surrounding villages in the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron held a funeral Monday for 22-year-old Arif Sharif Jaradat, who died Sunday after succumbing to a live bullet wound he sustained last month when Israeli forces shot him. Participants in the funeral called for the support of international and human rights organizations for the Palestinian people, especially for those with disabilities, as Jaradat had Down Syndrome. The funeral procession started from al-Ahli hospital in Hebron, where Jaradat had been treated since he was evacuated from clashes in Sair on May 4. The procession continued towards his house, before heading to the village’s mosque, and finally to the “martyrs” cemetery in Sair where Jaradat was buried. It had initially been reported that Jaradat was shot in the back, though Palestinian media reported Sunday he was in fact shot in the abdomen, and the bullet exited through his back, when clashes erupted between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian youth after Israeli forces raided the village. The left-wing Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) released a statement Monday mourning the loss of Jaradat, saying “No matter his own struggles as a person with Down Syndrome,” Jaradat maintained a steadfast commitment to participating in protests and “resistance to the occupation forces which daily invade the village of Sair.”
Israel’s ‘mistaken identity’ embarrassments
Mondoweiss 21 June by Jonathan Ofir — Saturday night, an Israeli driver had a heart attack and lost control of his vehicle on busy Ben Yehuda street in Tel Aviv, ending up crashing into a restaurant and badly injuring two diners, who died shortly after from their wounds. According to the wife of one of the restaurant owners, Shoshana San, who was an eyewitness, the driver was believed by restaurant-goers and others to be a terrorist. “They thought that the driver was not a good person, they beat him. He was unconscious”, she is quoted saying in the Jerusalem Online article. Let me translate this coded Israeli language for everyone. “Not a good person” means a Palestinian terrorist. The witnesses thought that the car ramming was an intentional Palestinian terror attack, so although the driver was already unconscious, they “pulled him out of the car” as Israeli NRG noted (Hebrew) and lynched him whilst he was unconscious. Quite little seems to be said about this lynching. It is very toned down and mostly omitted in Israeli media coverage that I managed to glean in my search. Haaretz and Times of Israel, for example, reported about the accident on the day, stating that it wasn’t terror, and not mentioning the beating. “Six wounded; driver among the fatalities in incident unrelated to terrorism,” said Haaretz. .We can be sure, that if this case had been a case of Palestinian terror, we would hear about this with great detail. But the drama has been dispelled: it is not terror. But let us look at the Israeli violence in response to such “suspicions” of terror, where it is “mistaken identity”: On October 18th, an Eritrean refugee, Habtom Zerhom, was mistakenly thought to have been a terrorist after a shooting at the Beersheba main bus station. He was lynched and died from his wounds shortly after. A video of the incident is to be found in this article, and I warn of extremely graphic content….
Two Palestinian workers suffer fractures after Israeli soldiers assaulted them near Bethlehem
IMEMC 23 June — Palestinian medical sources have reported that two workers were injured, on Thursday morning, after Israeli soldiers assaulted them near Bethlehem, while trying to enter occupied Jerusalem for work. The sources said that the two workers are from the al-’Obeydiyya town, east of Bethlehem, and have been identified as Mohammad Jamil Radayda, 22, Jihad Jamal Radayda, 21. The soldiers chased and assaulted them in Wadi Abu al-Hummus area, near the al-Khas village, east of Bethlehem. The army claimed that the two workers were trying to enter Jerusalem without a permit. The two were repeatedly hit and kicked by the soldiers, and suffered various fractures, cuts and bruises to different parts of their bodies, and were transferred to Beit Jala governmental hospital, suffered moderate injuries. It is worth mentioning that the Wadi Abu al-Hummus area has become a site of repeated Israeli military assaults against dozens of workers, including some who were recently shot and injured.
Israeli forces injure 3 Palestinians during raid on Tulkarem-area refugee camp
TULKAREM (Ma‘an) 21 June — Israeli forces shot and injured three young Palestinian men when clashes erupted in the Nur Shams refugee camp in the northern occupied West Bank district of Tulkarem following predawn detention raids in the camp. Palestinian medical sources told Ma‘an that the three young Palestinians were taken to Thabit Thabit Hospital in Tulkarem after suffering from live gunshot wounds. One of the young men was shot in the back, and doctors say he is in serious condition. The other two are in moderate condition. Two were evacuated in a Palestinian Red Crescent Society ambulance, and the third was evacuated in a private car. Locals said clashes broke out after Israeli forces stormed the camp and broke into the house of Mahdi Fayyad and detained him. Witnesses told Ma‘an that Israeli forces opened heavy fire on Palestinian youth who were pelting Israeli military vehicles with stones.
Updated- PPS: ‘Israeli soldiers kidnap 31 Palestinians overnight and on Wednesday morning’
IMEMC 22 June — The Palestinian Prisoners Society (PPS) has reported that Israeli soldiers have kidnapped at least 30 Palestinians, including children, in different parts of the occupied West Bank, including occupied Jerusalem, in massive invasions of homes and communities, carried out overnight and on Wednesday morning. The PPS said the soldiers stormed and violently searched several homes in the central West Bank district of Ramallah and kidnapped eight Palestinians … In Jerusalem, the soldiers kidnapped seven Palestinians, including children, after storming and searching their homes … In the northern West Bank city of Nablus, the soldiers kidnapped two Palestinians, identified as Husam Zeid Hussein and Ahmad Awni Jaber … In Tulkarem, in the northern part of the occupied West Bank, the soldiers kidnapped six Palestinians … In Qalqilia, also in northern West Bank, the soldiers kidnapped three Palestinians … In Hebron, in the southern part of the West Bank, the soldiers kidnapped three Palestinians … In Bethlehem, the soldiers kidnapped two Palestinians, identified as Malek Akram Taqatqa, 18, and Bara’ Nabil Thawabta, 18. Updated from: Army kidnaps thirteen Palestinians in the West Bank [which has details of villages affected] ….
Families of slain Palestinians still held by Israel protest outside mortuary in Jaffa
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 21 June — Family members of slain Palestinians whose bodies are still held by Israeli authorities protested on Tuesday outside of Israel’s Abu Kabir Institute of Forensic Medicine in Jaffa, where the bodies are being stored, as they called Israel’s policy of withholding Palestinian bodies “a crime of torture for the dead and the living.” As parents held up signs emblazoned with the names of their children and the dates they were killed, the slain bodies, only a few meters away, lay inside locked refrigerators in Israel’s mortuary, withheld from their families since the day they were killed by Israeli forces. Ma‘an reporters witnessed demonstrators clutching signs that read “no to collective punishment” and “we want our children,” as others raised a white sheet etched with the names of all Palestinian bodies currently being held by Israel. The family members who attended the demonstration were mostly Palestinians with Israeli citizenship or East Jerusalem residency, as Palestinians from the occupied West Bank are not permitted to enter Israel or East Jerusalem before age 55 for men and age 50 for women. The head of the Palestinian follow-up committee in Israel, Muhammad Baraka, in addition to several Palestinian members of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, took part in the demonstration. “The policy of holding the bodies of killed Palestinians aims to take revenge on the martyr and his family and to break the will of [Palestinian] families,” Baraka told the crowd of demonstrators. The father of Bahaa Elayyan, a Palestinian shot dead during an alleged attack in October, also spoke at the protest: “Today we are standing near our martyred children and taking part in this sit-in, confirming [to the world] that we are one nation and that we were not divided by Israel.” Elayyan’s father said that months had passed since the families’ children were killed, without any information provided from medical, journalistic, or police reports that could confirm the narrative that was given to them by Israeli authorities following the killing of their children….
Minor evicted from West Bank home heads South
JPost 22 June by Yonah Jeremy Bob — The IDF announced Wednesday that it had resolved a multi-day standoff with a 15-year-old right-wing activist who had been defying a ban against him being in the West Bank where his parents live. Although earlier Wednesday, the right-wing NGO Honeinu said that he would remain in his parents’ house, having nowhere else to go, the IDF said that a living space had been found for him in the South during the six months that he is banned from the West Bank. Previously the IDF had said that the minor is suspected of violence against Palestinians and public disturbances against the IDF. The minor received on May 31 administrative restraining orders to stay out of Judea and Samaria for six months and break contact with various other activists from IDF Central Command. A security source added that there are multiple indictments pending against the minor for actions which harm state security in the West Bank … Although the IDF has been issuing more restraining orders to right-wing activists to stay out of the West Bank in recent years, and especially following last July’s Duma Jewish terror attack, it is still rare for them to be issued against minors. The IDF explained late Monday that the restraining orders were issued after it received “classified, concrete and well-grounded information that the minor was involved in recent months in violent actions against Palestinians residents near Yitzhar and participated in disturbances against security forces.”
Right-wing Israelis tour Aqsa as Israel bans Fatah official from the compound
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 20 June — A group of right-wing Israelis toured the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound Monday morning, following an Israeli court decision to ban a Palestinian government official from the site for two months, amid an increase in Israeli “provocations” on the compound during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Witnesses and officials from the Islamic Endowment (Waqf) that control Al-Aqsa told Ma‘an that more than 60 Israelis toured the compounded escorted by six Israeli intelligence officers after entering the compound through the Moroccan gate. Meanwhile, Israeli police officers stationed outside of the compound prevented sahour meals — meals taken at dawn by those observing Ramadan who fast during the day — from reaching Muslim worshipers who spend the night inside the compound. Witnesses reported that a “heated argument” broke out between Palestinian worshipers and Israeli police officers. It was also revealed on Monday that Israeli authorities banned a senior leader of Fatah in occupied East Jerusalem from the Al-Aqsa Mosque for two months. Spokesperson for the Fatah movement in Jerusalem Raafat Ulayyan said in a statement that the Israeli court decision on Sunday to ban Awad al-Salayma from the mosque “reaffirms that Netanyahu’s terrorist government is [politically] bankrupt.” The spokesperson added that al-Salayma was detained for several hours before the decision to ban him was made…
The Waqf condemned Israeli authorities last week for the latest “provocations and harassment” taking place on the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound amid the holy month of Ramadan. The Waqf slammed Israel for their policy that “seeks to deprive the Waqf of their natural and historic right to run Al-Aqsa Mosque, and deprive Muslim worshipers their opportunity to pray in it.” The statement criticized the fact that Palestinians are being banned from the holy site during Ramadan, “at a time when Muslims look forward to dedicating their time to fasting, worshiping, and other spiritual activities in Al-Aqsa Mosque — one of the most sacred sites in Islam.”
Prisoners / Court actions
Israel hands life sentences to Palestinians accused in shooting, death of 2 settlers
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 22 June — An Israeli court sentenced four Palestinians to multiple lifetime imprisonment sentences each on Wednesday over their alleged involvement in the killing of two Israeli settlers in October. Locals told Ma‘an that Amjad al-Eiwi, Yahya al-Hajj Hamad, Karam al-Masri and Samir Qoussa each received two life sentences and an additional 30 years in prison. The court postponed sentencing for the other suspects in the case to July. Naama and Eitam Henkin, two residents of the illegal settlement of Nerya, were killed on Oct. 1, 2015 during a drive-by shooting between the illegal Israeli settlements of Itamar and Elon Moreh near Nablus in the northern West Bank, while their four young children were with them in the car. The attack resulted in widespread rioting by Israeli settlers and numerous attacks on Palestinian communities and their properties. In May, Israeli forces carried out a punitive demolition targeting a young Palestinian man accused of being involved in the attack, destroying a home belonging to the family of Zeid Amir. The Henkins’ death marked the beginning of a wave of unrest which has since swept across the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel, leading to the killing of more than 220 Palestinians and around 30 Israelis.
Israeli forces raid cells of PFLP prisoners following mass hunger strike
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 21 June– Officials of Israel’s prison service Tuesday stormed the cells of Palestinian prisoners affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) at Israel’s Rimon prison and searched their belongings, the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) said in a statement. Forces from Israel Prison Service’s special unit the Masada raided cells in three wards of the prison, and carried out punitive measures against PFLP-affiliated prisoners, including confiscating their electronic devices, according to PPS. The prison raids at Rimon prison came just a day after 65 PFLP prisoners announced a hunger strike at Israel’s Megiddo prison in protest of Israel’s recent decision to sentence PFLP-affiliated prisoner Bilal Kayid to six months of administrative detention — an Israeli policy of internment without charge or trial based on undisclosed evidence that even a detainee’s lawyer is barred from viewing. The sentence was handed down to Kayid last week by an Israeli court after he was expected to be released following the completion of 14-and-a-half-year prison sentence. Kayid declared an open hunger strike following the court’s decision, with PFLP-affiliated prisoners announcing a two-day hunger strike in solidarity with Kayid.
Israel demolishes home of Palestinian slain after carrying out deadly Jaffa attack
QALQILIYA (Ma‘an) 21 June — Israeli forces carried out a punitive home demolition Tuesday morning, targeting the family of a Palestinian who was shot dead by Israeli forces in March after he killed an American tourist and injured 10 Israelis in a stab attack in the Israeli city of Jaffa. Local sources told Ma‘an that a large number of Israeli military vehicles stormed the village of Hajja in the northern occupied West Bank at dawn, after which Israeli soldiers broke into the apartment of a three-story building and demolished its internal walls. The Israeli army later released a video of the demolition, which a spokesperson said had been carried out “in accordance with government directives” in response to the the stab attack carried out by Bashar Masalha. She added that she could not confirm whether the family had been in involved in or aware of Masalha’s plans to carry out the attack, or if any charges had been brought against the family in connection to the deadly incident … Masalha stabbed to death Taylor Force, an American tourist, and wounded some 10 other Israelis, five of them seriously, while running along a path near the port in the Israeli city of Jaffa on March 8. He was shot dead on the scene. Israel’s Justice Ministry was reportedly set to open an investigation into the killing after footage of the attack seemed to show initial shots fired subdued but did not kill Masalha, while a police volunteer then fatally shot and killed him. According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, bystanders in the video can be heard telling the volunteer “Give it to him in the head, don’t be afraid, give it to him in the head. Good, you’re a king.” ….
Israel extends Gaza fishing zone for Ramadan and due to ‘abundance of fish’
GAZA (Ma‘an) 20 June — Israeli authorities decided on Sunday to temporarily expand the designated fishing zone off the coast of the Gaza Strip to nine nautical miles, the head of Gaza’s Fishermen Union told Ma‘an. The decision is remain effective until June 26, after which the zone will presumably be reduced back to six miles. It was not immediately clear if the extension applied only to the southern Gaza Strip as similar previous decisions have, or to the entirety of the coast. Israel extended the zone to nine miles for some parts of the Gaza Strip on April 3 before reducing it again to six miles June 6….
Israeli navy opens fire at Palestinian fishermen
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 22 June — Israeli army boats opened fire at Palestinian fishermen off the coast of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip late Wednesday, Palestinian sources said. Zakariya Bakr, the head of Gaza’s fishermen committee, told Ma‘an that Israeli boats opened fire in the direction of fishermen four nautical miles off the coast of Khan Yunis, well within the designated fishing zone. Bakr added that no injuries were reported.
Israeli forces detain head of NGO office in Gaza
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 22 June — Humanitarian organization World Vision International said on Wednesday that Israeli forces had detained the head of the organization’s office in the Gaza Strip, Muhammad al-Halabi, as he attempted to return to the besieged enclave via the Erez crossing a week earlier, the group said in a statement. World Vision International said it was following up on al-Halabi’s detention and was in contact with legal sources and diplomatic officials in order to facilitate his release. Al-Halabi’s family told Ma‘an that they had lost contact with their son on June 15 as he was heading back into the Gaza Strip, adding that they had not received any information regarding his detention since.
Egyptian army destroys four tunnel terminals near Gaza border
MEMO 22 June — The Egyptian army announced yesterday that it destroyed four tunnel terminals near its borders with the Gaza Strip, Felesteen newspaper reported. Spokesman of the Egyptian Army, Brigadier General Mahmoud Samir wrote on Facebook: “During the time between June 9 and 17, border guard forces in cooperation with the military engineers revealed and destroyed four tunnel terminals along the northern Sinai borders [the borders with Gaza].” Meanwhile, Samir said that the Egyptian security services and other specialist sectors arranged the entry of 1,342 trucks loaded with commodities into the Gaza Strip via the Kerem Shalom Crossing between Gaza and Israel. Last year, the Egyptian army began injecting sea water inside the soil along the Gaza border in an attempt to destroy the tunnels which have been used for smuggling food, medical supplies and other necessary commodities to the besieged coastal enclave.
Gaza garbage puts public health at risk
GAZA STRIP (EI) 21 June by Isra Saleh el-Namey — The view from Omayma Nasser’s home is getting uglier. Huge heaps of waste — collected and thrown in an ad hoc landfill not a kilometer from her home in the Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza — dominate the view. “The sight is killing me,” the 37-year-old mother of six said. The overpowering stench is acutely nauseating, especially in the summer: “The smells waft over earlier in the mornings than at any other time of the year.” The rubbish mounds also attract hungry animals, including stray dogs that terrify children and parents alike. Nasser’s children refuse to go to school unless their father escorts them past the notorious landfill. But the sight, pungency and inconvenience are just the noticeable effects experienced by those who live around what are increasingly common ad hoc landfills in residential areas in Gaza that officials say they simply have no choice but to create. Far more pressing are the potential health risks. Due to a lack of resources, waste in Gaza is rarely sorted. Domestic, industrial, agricultural and medical waste can all be mixed in landfills, say experts. When these are burned, poisonous and sometimes carcinogenic fumes are released that pose a health hazard to those nearby. And with no proper waste management facilities and limited space, garbage is encroaching on neighborhoods….
Israeli forces destroy suspected explosive device near Gaza border
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 22 June — Israeli troops excavated and destroyed a suspected explosive device found near the border with the blockaded Gaza Strip, witnesses told Ma‘an on Wednesday. The witnesses said that they saw Israeli soldiers operating along the borderline east of the village of Abasan near Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip. Shortly after that, a large explosion was heard, which witnesses said they believed was due to soldiers destroying an explosive device which had been planted near the border.
Candid camera TV show comes to Gaza
GAZA CITY (Al-Monitor) 22 June by Iyad Qatrawi — As they shouted “I want to commit suicide, I want to set myself ablaze,” two young men set fire to themselves in central Gaza City June 6, in protest against the poor living conditions and economic hardship they face. They immediately drew the attention of passers-by who rushed to the scene to extinguish the fire. In an incident on June 1, 2014, the same young men were severely beaten by citizens after they wore the uniform of electricity bill collectors and switched off the power to homes whose occupants they said had failed to settle their electricity bills. The two incidents were part of sketches by comedians Momen Shwaikh from the Shajaiya refugee camp and Thaer Abu Zubaydah from Bureij camp filmed with a hidden camera for a TV show called “Tawel Balak” (“Take It Easy”). Over the last five years, thousands of Gazans have been watching the TV show, which is written and presented by Shwaikh and produced by Palestinian TV channel Alkitab. The show aims to address many of the issues and problems facing the Palestinian community in Gaza through satire. Shwaikh not only makes the viewers laugh, but he is also able to play on people’s emotions by stressing the importance to help the poor, bring joy to children and focus on the sense of belonging to the nation and the Palestinian flag….
Gaza’s women use the internet to sell homemade meals
GAZA CITY (Al-Monitor) 21 June by Entsar Abu Jahal — Palestinian women in the Gaza Strip who master the art of cooking prepare in their own small kitchens large quantities of food and meet customers’ requests as efficiently as restaurants. The women are creating online profiles offering to cook and deliver meals to customers in exchange for a price based on the cost of each meal and the effort it takes to prepare it. The orders are placed one or two days ahead so the women can get the ingredients and prepare the meal for the agreed delivery time. The women show off their skills and compete for customers by posting photos online of the meals they cook, such as Umm Said who created the Facebook page “Original Mandi Kitchen.”….
How a Gaza Christian became a blind Muslim’s eyes
GAZA CITY 20 June by Ali Dolah — The man constantly checked his watch as he stood at the entrance to the Borno Mosque in the center of Gaza City. Anyone coming across him couldn’t help but wonder why he wasn’t praying inside with the others. Why did he keep checking his watch? For whom or what was he waiting? Then a man wearing dark glasses exited the mosque. The man at the door guided him and helped him put on his shoes. Al-Monitor asked after the two men and found that the one by the door is a Christian who regularly waits there to assist his blind Muslim friend. Kamal Tarzi, 55, known as Abu Elias, has stuck by his Muslim friend, the 45-year-old pharmacist Hatem Khreis since Khreis lost his sight preparing a prescription five years ago. Tarzi says he is Khreis’ best friend and eyes. “Hatem and I have been friends for 15 years, and we have been through joy and pain,” Tarzi told Al-Monitor. . .
Israeli minister suggests offshore seaport for Gaza
JERUSALEM (AP) 20 June — Israel’s transportation minister said Monday he is pushing for the construction of an “artificial island” off the coast of Hamas-ruled Gaza, saying it will alleviate economic hardship in the blockaded coastal strip and reconnect it to the rest of the world. The Palestinians have greeted the plan with skepticism, however, concerned that its real aim is to further sever Gaza from the West Bank. Yisrael Katz said his plan calls for an eight square kilometer (three square mile) island linked to Gaza by a five-kilometer (three-mile) bridge. He said the island, estimated to cost $5 billion, would include a seaport and perhaps a future airport. Israel would supervise security but it would otherwise be run by Palestinians and the international community. Katz, a top deputy of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said Israel had no objection to easing the Gaza blockade as long as its security needs are met. “I do not think it is right to lock up two million people without any connection to the world,” Katz said in a briefing with foreign reporters. “Israel has no interest to make life harder for the population there. But because of security concerns we can’t build an airport or seaport in Gaza.” Israel destroyed Gaza’s airport during the second Palestinian uprising. Gaza City has a small seaport that is not large enough to handle container ships and is mainly used by fishermen … Katz said the island would be in international waters and could provide economic independence to Palestinians while allowing Israel to still vet security … Husam Zumlot, an aide to Abbas, panned the idea as “dubious” and “politically motivated,” saying it would lead to “the final severing of Gaza from the rest of the occupied territory of the state of Palestine.”
Land, property, resources theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing
Israel’s cabinet paves way for widespread demolition of Palestinian homes in Israel
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 20 June — The Israeli cabinet approved a new budget Sunday that would see an Israeli state entity established to supervise the planning and construction of Palestinian communities inside Israel, paving the way for widespread demolition of Palestinian homes built without the required permits. The resolution was presented by Israel’s government as a much needed boost in law enforcement for the underserved communities, putting billions of shekels in funding on the table for Palestinian communities that agree to crack down on building violations in their municipalities. The decision has been condemned as a move to further formalize the systematic rejection of building permits for Palestinians that forces them to build illegally, which has been a de facto policy in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory for years. As a result, the proposed legislation puts more than 10,000 Palestinian residents in a number of communities in Israel at risk of having their homes demolished, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz. According to Haaretz, representatives of Palestinian communities in Israel reacted to the decision with outrage, and said they would refuse to cooperate with the new system and would not be “the government’s wrecking ball in Arab towns.” The approved plan will transfer decision-making power regarding construction and planning away from regional councils to local committees monitored by a new national enforcement unit. The unit is expected to enforce the demolition of illegally constructed houses when the local committees “fail” to do so. The Israeli government will reportedly allocate 22 million shekels (about $5.7 million) a year — in addition to a one-time state subsidy of 5 million shekels — toward the state body. Head of the Joint List in Israel’s Knesset Ayman Odeh slammed the decision, saying: “At one meeting they (the cabinet) decide to pass a million-shekel budget to deepen the occupation and the settlements at the expense of the rest of the people. At another they approve a shocking plan that clearly sets its sights on the Arab public.” “The plan steps up home demolitions instead of finding housing solutions. It tries to create pressure, of borderline legality, to make local governments hurt their own people,” Haaretz quoted Odeh as saying … According to rights group Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the Israeli government issues building permits in line with discriminatory state policy enacted to increase the Jewish population, while neglecting local Palestinians. Israeli Palestinian rights group Adalah says that only 4.6 percent of new homes built in Israel are in Palestinian towns and villages, even though Palestinians make up over 20 percent of the population.
Israeli lawyer uses inside knowledge against settler group
JERUSALEM (AP) 21 June — A few years ago, Mohammad Abu Ta’a discovered that some storage trailers had disappeared from a plot of land in Jerusalem belonging to his family. Then, the family received a letter informing them they were now trespassers. When the Palestinian landowner contacted Israeli land authorities, he was told the government had expropriated the land and handed it over to a leading organization that oversees Jewish settlement building in the West Bank. That group, Amana, is now building its new headquarters on the land. Abu Ta’a is fighting back to expose the shadowy land grab. But he is doing it in an unusual way — enlisting the services of an Israeli lawyer who spent 16 years as a municipal civil servant approving expropriations of Palestinian land in Jerusalem. The lawyer, Stephen Berman, left his post as legal adviser to the Jerusalem municipality’s real estate department and went into private practice in 2003. He is now using his inside knowledge of the system to expose what he says is the settler group’s illegitimate property grab. “This was my job, doing this stuff,” the U.S.-born Berman told The Associated Press, recounting from behind his paper-littered desk the expropriations he used to approve. “That was their lack of luck.” Unlike some Israeli lawyers who fight for Palestinian rights in court, Berman is not an activist for the Palestinian cause. Shortly before he took on this case, he represented a Jewish settlement project in east Jerusalem. “I don’t care who the law serves,” he said. “I care what the law is.” Following a paper trail of old maps and land registry documents, Berman said he uncovered how Israeli civil servants, stretching back decades, abused their power to seize control of the tiny but attractive triangle of real estate from the Abu Ta’a family in east Jerusalem and give it to Amana, a 40-year-old organization that spearheads the construction of Jewish settlements in east Jerusalem and the West Bank. The organization, which has been investigated multiple times for fraudulent real estate deals, has helped plan and build numerous government-sanctioned Jewish settlements and unauthorized outposts ….
Palestinian family resists eviction: ‘I will not leave’
JERUSALEM (Al Jazeera) 23 June by Nigel Wilson — An Israeli court has ordered Mazen Qerish to vacate the home where his family has lived for eight decades — Mazen Qerish, 58, should have been busy preparing for the holy month of Ramadan. Instead, he woke up earlier this month facing eviction from the Jerusalem home where his family has lived for generations. Following a protracted legal battle to remain in the house, the family’s final appeal against the eviction was rejected by an Israeli court on May 30, giving him two days to leave his home and imposing a fine of 200,000 shekels ($50,000). “We don’t have a second home. There is nowhere else for us to go,” said Mazen, whose family has lived in this building in al-Saadiyeh neighbourhood, near al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City, since 1936. Mazen’s grandfather originally rented the property from a Palestinian landlord. But in 1987, the landlord sold the property to a third party linked to the ultra-nationalist Ateret Cohanim organisation. The group, which works to promote Jewish settlement in occupied East Jerusalem, has backed a legal campaign to evict the family. The first court battle lasted from 1996 to 2003, and the Qerish family won after it was established that they were “protected tenants” and could not be forced out, Mazen told Al Jazeera. Their protected status was valid for three generations after the Israeli military occupied the eastern half of Jerusalem in 1967. However, when Mazen’s mother died in 2009, she was considered by the court to be the last member of the third generation, meaning the family lost its status as protected tenants. In July 2010, Israeli settlers seized a number of units within the larger family home while most of the family members were attending a wedding, Mazen told Al Jazeera. He was home at the time, and recalled settlers entering the property after midnight.…
Opinion: Israel incapable of telling truth about water it steals from Palestinians / Amira Hass
Haaretz 22 June — Water is the only issue in which Israel (still) finds it difficult to defend its discriminatory, oppressive and destructive policy with pretexts of security and God — Israeli spokespeople have three answers ready to pull out when they respond to questions on the water shortage in West Bank Palestinian towns – which stands out starkly compared to the hydrological smugness of the settlements: 1) The Palestinian water system is old, so it suffers from water loss; 2) the Palestinians steal water from each other, and from the Israelis; and 3) in general, Israel has in its great generosity doubled the amount of water it supplies to the Palestinians, compared to what was called for in the Oslo Accords. “Supplies,” the spokespeople will write in their responses. They will never say Israel sells the Palestinians 64 million cubic meters of water a year instead of the 31 million cubic meters agreed to in the Oslo Accords. Accords that were signed in 1994, and that were supposed to come to an end in 1999. They will not say that Israel sells the Palestinians water that it first stole from them … With the Oslo Accords, Israel imposed an outrageous, racist, arrogant and brutal division of water sources in the West Bank: 80 percent for Israelis (on both sides of the Green Line), and 20 percent for the Palestinians (from wells drilled before 1967, which the Palestinians continued to operate; from the Mekorot water company; from future wells to be drilled in the eastern basin of the mountain aquifer; from agricultural wells and springs. Many of the springs, by the way, dried out because of Israeli deep wells, or because the settlers took them over. The ways of theft know no bounds.) Twenty percent is actually good, because now only about 14 percent of the water from the mountain aquifer is accessible to Palestinians in the West Bank….
Palestine’s ‘prayer for rain’: How Israel uses water as a weapon of war / Ramzy Baroud
Ma‘an 22 June — Entire communities in the West Bank either have no access to water or have had their water supply reduced almost by half. This alarming development has been taking place for weeks, since Israel’s national water company, ‘Mekorot’, decided to cut off — or significantly reduce — its water supply to Jenin, Salfit and many villages around Nablus, among other regions. Israel has been ‘waging a water war’ against Palestinians, according to Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah. The irony is that the water provided by ‘Mekorot’ is actually Palestinian water, usurped from West Bank aquifers. While Israelis, including illegal West Bank settlements, use the vast majority of it, Palestinians are sold their own water back at high prices. By shutting down the water supply at a time when Israeli officials are planning to export essentially Palestinian water, Israel is once more utilizing water as a form of collective punishment. This is hardly new. I still remember the trepidation in my parents’ voices whenever they feared that the water supply was reaching a dangerously low level. It was almost a daily discussion at home. Whenever clashes erupted between stone-throwing children and Israeli occupation forces on the outskirts of the refugee camp, we always, instinctively, rushed to fill up the few water buckets and bottles we had scattered around the house. This was the case during the First Palestinian Intifada, or uprising, which erupted in 1987 throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Whenever clashes erupted, one of the initial actions carried out by the Israeli Civil Administration — a less ominous title for the offices of the Israeli occupation army — was to collectively punish the whole population of whichever refugee camp rose up in rebellion. The steps the Israeli army took became redundant, although grew more vengeful with time: a strict military curfew (meaning the shutting down of the entire area and the confinement of all residents to their homes under the threat of death); cutting off electricity and shutting off the water supply….
Settlers crowd-fund construction of illegal outpost on Palestinian land
+972 blog 21 June by Noam Rotem & John Brown* — The Israeli military demolished several structures in a settlement outpost called “Givat Gal,” built illegally on private Palestinian land near Hebron earlier this month. During the demolition, settlers attacked soldiers and police officers with stones, for which two of them have since been indicted. A few days after the demolition, settlers from Givat Gal launched a crowd-funding campaign to raise money to illegally re-building the demolished homes. The campaign, which was hosted on Israeli website “Headstart,” had raised nearly NIS 20,000 ($5,000) of its NIS 60,000 ($15,500) goal at the time of this report….
What’s a few extra millions for the settlements?
Haaretz 21 June by Zvi Bar’el — The settlements exist because of all the Israelis who are willing to continue to pay the taxes that finance the settlers and to be their hostages — The dust settled quickly on the “storm” that erupted after the government last week approved the transfer of $18.6 million to the settlements, a minuscule grant for the Jews living in Palestinian exile. Once again we heard the usual outcry against shortchanging the Israeli periphery, as compared to the largesse showered on the settlers, and once again there were demands that the money be invested in Israel rather than the territories. That’s what happens every time the money of Israeli citizens makes its way beyond the Green Line. But what are $18.6 million compared to the approximately $338 million a year in tax exemptions that the settlements receive as national priority areas? Or compared to the $148 million they receive as extra annual support (according to the figures of the Center for Political Economics)? “Small gifts,” all in all.…
Britain ‘concerned’ by Israel’s decision to construct new settlement building in Jerusalem
IMEMC 23 June — The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office issued a statement, Wednesday, expressing “its concern” regarding the latest Israeli decision to construct a new settlement building on Palestinian lands, in Silwan town, in occupied Jerusalem. In its statement, the Office said it was concerned by the latest decision of Jerusalem’s Municipality in which it approved the construction of a new four-story building for Jewish settlers in Silwan Palestinian town. It added that the new approved building was located in an area where the settler population is growing, while the Palestinians are facing constant displacement, evictions and demolitions targeting their homes and property. A spokesperson of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office said that Britain is also concerned by the Israeli government’s approval of an additional £12 million for settlement activities, adding that all settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are illegal under international law. The spokesperson added that this decision represents another obstacle to peace, in addition to furthering the region away from the two-state solution.
Front-page article in ‘NYT’ exposes the lie that wall is a security barrier
Mondoweiss 21 June by James North & Philip Weiss — The New York Times today has a top-of-the-front-page article about tens of thousands of Palestinians managing to get over or through “what Israelis call the security barrier” to work without papers inside Israel. It is a vivid account of smuggling workers into Israel from Palestine. On the one hand, the article by James Glanz and Rami Nazzal, marks real progress: the Times is showing that the wall is not really a security barrier — 55,000 Palestinians legally pass through it and 30-60,000 illegally. If Palestinians really want to kill Israelis, the wall is no obstacle at all. The article makes clear that only the tiniest fraction of those who come in to Israel come in to attack; 99.9999 percent come to work. Thus the article exposes the lie that the wall has stopped attacks on Israelis. There are no attacks because Palestinians are choosing by and large not to resort to violence to counter the occupation. And the two societies are interdependent. So why the wall? That’s the big flaw in the article. It doesn’t address the political purposes of the wall: to grab as much Palestinian land with maximum Jews on it. The wall travels for most of its course to the east of the Green Line, taking Palestinian territory and protecting illegal Israeli settlements/colonies to its west. It is a de facto apartheid border….
The Israeli government and social media
Israel plans law against using Facebook for ‘terror’
AFP 22 June — Israel’s justice and internal security ministers on Wednesday announced plans to propose legislation banning the use of Facebook to advance “terror” and outlawing incitement from the Internet. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan said in a joint statement they had met earlier in the day with senior Facebook executives who were informed of their intention. Shaked and Erdan said the legislation would aim to make it illegal to publish “offensive content” such as “encouraging terror attacks, shaming, insulting public officials and slandering. Internet giants such as Facebook and Google could be held accountable, they said. In their meeting with the executives, they sought the removal of inciting content within 24 hours, as Facebook does in the European Union, said the statement. This would be backed by a law that blocks concent inciting “terror” and ensures its “complete removal, similar to laws in Australia and France.” Israel maintains that online content has played a significant role in fueling a wave of Palestinian attacks that broke out in October 2015..
Facebook and the Israeli government cozy up
IMEMC/Agencies 20 June — Facebook, in present-day Israel, has hired Jordana Cutler as its head of Policy and Communications. Cutler is a longtime senior advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and chief of staff to Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer. According to the Alternative Information Center in Beit Sahour, Israeli Public Security, Strategic Affairs and Information Minister Gilad Erdan congratulated Cutler on her appointment, last week, at the Hezliya conference, an Israeli security and national policy meeting. “There has been an advance in dialogue between the State of Israel and Facebook,” he acknowledged. He added, “Facebook realizes that it has a responsibility to monitor its platform and remove content. I hope it will be regulated for good.” Cutler’s appointment indicates a burgeoning partnership between the Israeli government and Facebook. Considering Israel’s propensity to arrest Palestinians for Facebook posts and its endeavors to silence the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, such collaboration is cause for concern … The Israeli government allocated $26 million for 2016 to launch cyber warfare to “dismantle the infrastructure” of the BDS movement. The BDS National Committee surmises that Israel is behind cyber attacks meant to shut down its website….
Israel prosecutes a Palestinian poet over YouTube poem
KIRYAT ONO, Israel (Al Jazeera) 20 June by Nigel Wilson — With a flick of her wrist, Dareen Tatour turned a page in her notebook, smoothed the paper and began reading aloud in a slow, steady cadence.Dareen Tatour is among dozens of Palestinians arrested by Israel for incitement allegations over social media posts. “The charges are like pieces of clothing. They brought me these clothes and forced me to wear them, from my toes to my head,” she said, before bursting into excited laughter at the novelty of her work being translated into English. The lines are from A Poet Behind Bars, a piece that Tatour wrote in an Israeli prison in November 2015 after being charged with incitement to violence and supporting a “terrorist” organisation. Tatour, a Palestinian poet, has since had ample time to work on new material – both during her three-month jail term and, more recently, while under house arrest in the Israeli city of Kiryat Ono, far from her hometown of Reine. “I have been writing a lot about my arrest and everything that happened to me,” Tatour told Al Jazeera. Tatour’s ordeal began in the early hours of October 11, when she was alerted by the frightened shouts of her parents. She did not know why at the time, but Israeli police had come to her family home to arrest her. Fifteen days and multiple interrogations later, Tatour says she was presented with the allegations against her, some of which were related to a Facebook post….
Other news, opinion
Four out of five East Jerusalemites live in poverty, a sharp rise over past years
Haatetz 22 June by Nir Hasson — Separation wall cited as key reason for growing impoverishment, along with the upsurge in violence and lack of welfare benefits — Eighty-two percent of East Jerusalem residents lived under the poverty line in 2014, a sharp increase from previous years, according to the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies. In comparison, the poverty rate for Israel as a whole is 22 percent, the rate for Jerusalem as a whole is 48 percent. In 2013, the poverty rate recorded in East Jerusalem was 76 percent, JIIS said. The poverty rate among East Jerusalem children in 2014 was even higher, at 86.6 percent … In 2006, the poverty rate in East Jerusalem was only 66 percent – 16 percentage points lower. Many people familiar with East Jerusalem say the main reason for the deterioration was the construction of the separation fence, which cut Jerusalem off from the West Bank, in the middle of the previous decade. That caused severe harm to businesses that relied on customers from the West Bank, and also raised the cost of living because there were no more cheap imports from the West Bank….
In Pictures: Acre’s tambourine man revives the sound of suhoor
ACRE, Israel (The National) 21 June — Michel Ayoub begins each day at 2am, stepping on to the cobbled streets of Acre’s old city with tambourine in hand, awakening Muslims for Ramadan. His role as the city’s “mosaharaty” is a traditional one during the holy month, but Mr Ayoub is by no means a traditional holder of the position. He is Christian. The 39 year old sees no contradiction in that, and neither do the Muslim residents of this ancient city in north-western Israel, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. “We are the same family,” says Mr Ayoub, who wears traditional Levantine dress as he meanders the alleyways, a kaffiyeh draped over his shoulders, baggy sirwal trousers held around his waist with an embroidered belt, a black-and-white turban tied around his head. “There is only one God and there is no difference between Christians and Muslims.” His voice rings out as he chants, piercing the silence of the empty streets decorated with traditional colourful lamps for Ramadan. “You, sleeping ones, there is one eternal God,” he chants. Houses begin to light up one by one. Some stick their heads out of their windows to greet him and tell him they have heard the call, awakening them for the suhoor. Acre’s population of more than 50,000 includes Jews, Muslims, Christians and Baha’is. It has been continuously inhabited since the Phoenician period, which began around 1500BC.
Palestinians set municipal elections for October 8
RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) 21 June — The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank has called for municipal elections to be held October 8, but it is unclear whether the Islamic militant group Hamas will participate. The authority, headed by Western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas, announced the election date Tuesday. Hamas, which boycotted the last elections in 2012, could not immediately be reached for comment. Palestinians last held a general election in 2006, when Hamas won a majority in parliament. Failed attempts by Hamas and Abbas’ Fatah party to share power led to violence that resulted in Hamas taking over Gaza the following year. Repeated reconciliation attempts since then have failed. If Hamas were to participate, the elections would be seen as a referendum on Abbas, who has been in power since 2005.
Israel PM to meet Kerry in Rome on Palestinians
AFP 22 June — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet US Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday in Rome to discuss stalled peace efforts with the Palestinians, US and Israeli officials said. An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Netanyahu and Kerry would tackle “issues relating to security and peace.” US State Department spokesman John Kirby said several issues would be on the agenda, but observers have noted that the meeting comes ahead of a report by the Quartet on the peace process. This diplomatic contact group — the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia — is expected to be critical of Israeli policies in the occupied West Bank….
20 Congress members send Obama letter requesting protection of Palestinian children from Israeli abuses
Salon 22 June by Ben Norton — Twenty Congress members have called on President Obama to take action to protect the rights of Palestinian children. The lawmakers sent the president a letter on June 20, urging him to appoint a “special envoy for Palestinian youth” in order to monitor the Israeli government’s violation of Palestinian children’s human rights. The letter (embedded below), notes that Palestinian children are “growing up under military occupation with very few opportunities to improve their lives.” The letter describes the occupation as “an unimaginably difficult and at times hopeless environment,” where children “live under the constant fear of arrest detention and violence at the hands of the Israeli military.”….
Israeli defense minister makes low-key Pentagon visit
AFP 20 June — US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Monday met controversial hardline Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman for the first time, the Pentagon said, offering few details about the visit. “They have had a good conversation,” said a senior US defense official with knowledge of the meeting. It was Lieberman’s first foreign visit since being sworn in on May 30. It comes with the United States and Israel in the process of negotiating a new 10-year defense aid pact to replace the current one, which expires in 2018 and grants the Jewish state more than $3 billion per year … On Wednesday, Lieberman is due to attend a ceremony in Dallas marking the development of US defense firm Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter jet, which Israel is purchasing, and tour a factory of Israeli weapons manufacturer Elbit Systems. Israel has so far ordered a total of 33 F-35s and will be the only country in the Middle East to have the jet, which the US military is just beginning to use after years of delays and technical problems. A Pentagon statement said Carter and Lieberman had “reaffirmed the strength of the US-Israeli defense relationship and the United States’ unwavering commitment to Israel’s security.”
Turkey will continue to meet with Hamas, Turkish foreign minister says
ANKARA (Reuters) 22 June (Reporting by Gulsen Solaker and Ece Toksabay; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Humeyra Pamuk) — Turkey will continue to meet with Palestinian group Hamas in its efforts to promote a long-lasting peace in the region, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday, adding the meetings were not an obstacle in the normalisation of ties with Israel. Turkey and Israel have said they are close to patching up a six-year-old political rift caused when Israeli commandos killed 10 Turkish activists while storming the Mavi Marmara, a ship in a convoy seeking to break an Israeli naval blockade of the Palestinian territory of Gaza. Turkey has demanded Israel apologise, pay compensation and lift the Gaza blockade. For Israel, limiting Hamas activity in Turkey has been key.
In Jerusalem’s cramped Old City, Christians feel the squeeze
JERUSALEM (Reuters) 21 June by Jad Sleiman — When hundreds of Jewish nationalists marched through the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City this month, waving banners and chanting songs in what has become an annual ritual, it wasn’t only Muslims watching warily. Christians were, too. Religious tension is nothing new in a city that has been the home of three faiths for centuries. But the outlook for the Christian minority, squeezed inside the ancient walls of the Old City and caught in the midst of a months-long wave of violence involving Muslims targeting Jews, has seldom looked tougher. While the Muslim population rises steadily, now making up 75 percent of the 38,000 residents in the city’s alleys, and the Jews increasingly make their presence felt via the annual march and their settlements beyond the Jewish Quarter, the number of Christians has not risen in 50 years, hovering around 7,000. “If a thousand Muslims leave Jerusalem, that’s one thing,” said Jamal Khader, head of the Latin Patriarchate Seminary near Bethlehem. “But if a thousand Christians leave, you threaten the identity of Jerusalem as a city of multiple faiths.” … SQUEEZED OUT In the narrow, cobbled streets of their quarter, Christian families have been running arts and souvenir shops for generations, earning money from the steady flow of religious and other tourists who flock to sites like the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the site where Jesus is believed to have been buried. With the surge in violence that Jerusalem and surrounding areas have experienced since last October, tourism has become more erratic. Anecdotally, locals and tour guides say visitor numbers have dropped off sharply, hurting trade. Residents like Youseph Shbeita, 35, the third generation owner of a religious icon shop near the Holy Sepulchre, are determined to hang on, seeing no option. But they can understand why younger Christians would want to leave. “When you’re in the minority, you have to go with the flow,” he said, expressing a sense of responsibility for trying to preserve a Christian presence in the city where Jesus preached. “We just hope for calm, always for calm.” ….
Israel considers its demographic time bomb
The National 21 June by Jonathan Cook — In a little-noticed move last week, Israeli defence minister Avigdor Lieberman barred an official close to Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas from entering Israel. Mohammed Madani is accused of “subversive activity” and “political terror”. His crimes, as defined by Mr Lieberman, are worth pondering. They suggest that Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians may be rooted less in security issues and more in European colonialism. In his role as chair of the Palestinian committee for interaction with Israeli society, Mr Madani had understandably used his visits to Israel to meet Israeli Jews – but he chose the wrong kind. He tried to open a dialogue with what are known in Israel as Mizrahim, Israelis descended from the Jews who emigrated from Arab states following Israel’s creation in 1948. Today these Arab Jews comprise about half of Israel’s population. Mr Abbas is known to be keen to forge ties with them. Most of the country’s rulers identify as European Jews, or Ashkenazim. From the outset, this European elite distrusted the Arab Jews, seeing them as a “backward” population that might undermine Israel’s claim to be an outpost in the Middle East of the “civilised” west. But more specifically the Ashkenazim feared that one day the Arab Jews might make a political alliance with the native population, the Palestinians. Then the Ashkenazim would be outnumbered. The Mizrahim, who came from countries as diverse as Morocco and Iraq, had a lot more in common with Palestinians than they did with the recently arrived Europeans.Originally, Israel’s founders had intended not to include the Arab Jews in their nation-building project. They were forced to reconsider only because Hitler’s genocide in Europe deprived them of sufficient numbers of “civilised” Jews….