UN calls on Israel to release administrative detainees amid mass hunger strike
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 21 Aug — The UN Coordinator for Humanitarian Assistance and Development Aid in the occupied Palestinian territory Robert Piper said he was “deeply concerned” about the declining health of hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners protesting their administrative detention, and called on Israel to release or charge all detainees “without delay.” “I am deeply concerned about the deteriorating health of Palestinian detainee Bilal Kayid, after 67 days of a hunger strike protesting his detention without charge or trial,” Piper said in the statement released by the UN agency on Saturday. “This is an egregious case, in which Mr. Kayid was placed on administrative detention on the day of his scheduled release after completing a 14.5 year prison sentence.” He highlighted the fact that some 100 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons across the country have since launched hunger strikes in solidarity with Kayid against administrative detention and prolonged solitary confinement, including prominent Palestinian journalist Omar Nazzal. “The number of administrative detainees is at an eight-year high. I reiterate the United Nations’ long-standing position that all administrative detainees — Palestinian or Israeli — should be charged or released without delay.”
Violence / Detentions — West Bank / Jerusalem
Israeli forces injure Palestinian with live fire, detain another in clashes near Nablus
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 21 Aug — Israeli forces detained one Palestinian and injured another Sunday at dawn during clashes in al-Fara‘a refugee camp in the northern occupied West Bank district of Tubas. Local sources told Ma‘an that violent clashes broke out after Israeli forces raided the camp, surrounded it and erected checkpoints at its entrances. Muath Abd al-Salam al-Aydi, 28, was detained during the raid, and Mahmoud Ali Walweel, 24, was injured with shrapnel from Israeli live fire in the chest and arm. Walweel, who reportedly needed a blood transfusion following his injury, was taken to Rafidiya hospital in the nearby city of Nablus for treatment. Israeli forces said in a statement that six pipe bombs were thrown at them during their “routine activity” in al-Fara‘a camp, to which they responded with live fire. The statement also confirmed one detention from al-Fara‘a camp. An Israeli army spokesperson could not confirm reports of soldiers erecting checkpoints at the entrances of the camp.
Israeli soldiers leave Palestinian’s home in shambles after seizing it as an outpost
Haaretz 19 Aug by Yotam Berger — Broken sinks, ripped upholstery and human refuse testament of soldiers’ stay in Sinjil home of expat Ahmad Alwan, who learned of massive damage after he was called by a neighbor. The IDF tries officer in charge, and offers to compensate Alwan — The Israeli army has promised to compensate a Palestinian family after soldiers who commandeered their home as a temporary outpost left behind massive damage. The home, in the West Bank town of Sinjil, belongs to Ahmad Alwan, who lives in the United States with his family. Neighbors say soldiers broke into the house in April and stayed there for a few weeks. When they left, all of the windows had been shattered, doors and furniture had been smashed, mattresses ripped up, piles of garbage were scattered throughout the house and household objects had evidently been used as toilets. The destruction was clearly deliberate. The unit commander, a second lieutenant, was tried and fined an undisclosed sum. Alwan was born in Sinjil before the Six-Day War. In the 1970s, while in his 20s, he moved to Chicago. He and his Palestinian wife, who have four children, visit their village every year. Alwan did not know that the house was used by soldiers until neighbors in Siljin told him about it. Zacharia Sadeh, a field worker for Rabbis for Human Rights, says that every year the Israeli military uses dozens of unoccupied Palestinian homes as temporary outposts. Soldiers are forbidden to cause damage to these homes, and in the Alwans’ home there was a lot of damage. In addition to that described above, upholstery was ripped up and the bathrooms were smashed, as was every sink in the house. “There is no explanation for what happened here. One cannot understand the mindset that led people to cause such destruction,” Alwan told Haaretz. He also found a torn Koran on the floor, he says.…
Al-Mayadeen reported to take further legal action after Israel closes case on police attack
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 20 Aug — Jerusalem-based journalist Hana Mahamid said Saturday that she would take further legal action after Israel’s Justice Ministry closed the case into an Israeli police officer who threw a stun grenade at her during clashes last October in occupied East Jerusalem. The Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department (Machash) closed the case because they claimed they were unable to identify the policeman responsible for shooting and injuring Mahamid in the face with a stun grenade on Oct. 5, 2015, due to the large number of officers in the area and the fact that grenades do not leave ballistic evidence like bullets do. The incident occurred when Mahamid was filming a report in the ‘Issawiya neighborhood of East Jerusalem during clashes between Israeli forces and local Palestinian youth gathered outside of the home of 19-year-old Fadi Alloun, who was shot dead by Israeli police the day prior, after he allegedly attempted to stab a group of Israelis — though witnesses said he had been walking home after performing dawn prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque. In a video of Mahamid covering the clashes for the Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen TV channel, she suddenly stops talking during a live report and begins screaming after being hit in the face with shrapnel. She was wearing a flak-jacket with “PRESS” marked clearly on both sides. She claims that Israeli forces fired a stun grenade directly at the Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen TV team. “Machash’s decision wasn’t surprising to me,” Mahamid told Ma‘an on Saturday, noting that Israeli authorities and the police investigations department in particular “do not carry out impartial and objective investigations.” The complaint had been filed on her behalf by Yousef Jabareen, a member of the Joint Arab List of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset. In late May, the Justice Ministry informed Jabareen that it was closing the case….
Rights groups appeal sham probe of teen’s slaying
EI 18 Aug by Maureen Clare Murphy — Palestinian rights groups are appealing an Israeli justice ministry decision to close an investigation into the shooting and killing of Mustafa Khatib, 17, in Jerusalem’s Old City last year. Israeli media reported at the time of the 12 October incident that Khatib was shot when he pulled out a knife and stabbed a paramilitary Border Police combatant who had asked him to take his hands out of his pockets. No police were reported injured during the incident. The Palestinian rights groups, Adalah and Addameer, say that not only was the justice ministry’s investigation incomplete, “it is not clear from the investigative materials if the officer involved was, in fact, even stabbed.” A number of serious flaws of the probe into the killing “convincingly suggest” that it “was conducted strictly for the sake of appearances,” Adalah stated. Security camera footage [below] shows police shooting Khatib in the back as he runs away from them. Israeli forces prevented anyone from reaching the scene and no medical assistance was offered to Khatib. Israel held the youth’s body for three months before transferring his remains to his family for burial. An autopsy initiated by the Khatib family’s lawyers – the police objected to an examination of the teen’s body – found that “the shots that killed Khatib were aimed at his upper body,” as the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz reported….
‘It’s not very quiet there’ – invasion at al-Fawwar Refugee Camp (VIDEO)
Hebron Journals 19 Aug by ISM — Tuesday morning at 8:30 we received a call from Badee Dwaik, one of the coordinators of Human Rights Defenders, a Palestinian human rights group, about the unfolding situation in Al Fawwar refugee camp [near Hebron]. Around 2:00 that morning, hundreds of Israeli soldiers had invaded the village. Claiming they were looking for weapons, they went from home to home, searching each one. In homes that they searched, the soldiers destroyed furniture and made a mess. Their invasion caused clashes, as young Palestinian men and boys rushed out to confront them with rocks. As we drove close to the village, we could see a roadblock and multiple Israeli Army jeeps stationed and not letting any cars in. We saw a UN car and spoke to the drivers, they too were denied entry. X, my fellow activist, and myself, decided to try getting into the village. The soldiers at the roadblock stopped us and asked us who we were. Knowing that the UN were denied entry and that in greatest likelihood if they were denied entry then our group would face the same treatment, we told the soldiers we are tourists. One of them looked at us and asked “OK, but are you sure you want to go in? It’s not very quiet there”. We feigned ignorance and asked the soldier what is going on. He said he can’t tell us, but advised us not to go in. We said we would like to go in anyways. I resisted the urge to tell the soldier that the reason things were “not very quiet” in the village was because he and his comrades were attacking it.
As we entered into the village, we ran into a group of soldiers from Hebron. We knew each other well from previous encounters, especially settler tours and their forays into H1. They were very hostile and tried to stop us from filming, by blocking and attempting to grab my camera. They snapped at Palestinians to get into their homes or to keep moving. We could hear gunshots and sound bombs exploding in further areas of the village … A Palestinian family invited us to their house, and we observed from the rooftop as Israeli soldiers entered people’s houses. Groups about a dozen armed soldiers would enter through the door. Of course the families were not consulted. We visited a home that just about 15 minutes before was searched by the soldiers. We came to room after room of upturned furniture, clothes strewn over the floor, beds and tables flipped over. We witnessed a group of soldiers come into a home of a Palestinian family, a big dog with them … We witnessed a group of Israeli soldiers throw sound grenades and gas grenades at school-age Palestinian children who were throwing stones at them. They also pointed their guns at these kids, as well as at us, in an attempt to intimidate. The soldiers swore at the Palestinian family who allowed us to stand on their roof and observe, yelling “sharmuta” (whore) at them….
One killed and dozens wounded at a Palestinian refugee camp, all for two pistols
Haaretz 21 Aug by Amira Hass — Hundreds of Israeli soldiers raided the camp in the West Bank for 20 hours this week [Tuesday 16th], carrying out searches and finding little. They arrested three residents. Why? — Palestinians in the al-Fawwar refugee camp [near Hebron] conclude that the Israeli army’s raid this week was an exercise for soldiers. The gap is enormous, the residents believe, between the number of soldiers – three battalions, according to Israeli newspaper reports – and the raid’s meager results: two pistols found in house searches, a commando knife and military equipment like a canteen, flak jacket and helmet the troops probably forgot in previous raids. According to Israeli news reports, the raid’s goals included arresting wanted people or suspects. Two of the arrested are a father and son from the house where a pistol was found. The father is a garbage collector for Hebron. His wife says he found the gun years ago, and it’s broken…
-The camp- The land that UNRWA, the UN refugee agency, leased when it founded the camp in 1949 covers a bit more than a quarter square kilometer. Its houses, that climb up the mountainside, have become crowded over time. Over time more land was purchased around the camp, and more houses have been built on it. About 10,000 people live in the expanded camp, originating from 18 villages like Faluja, Iraq al-Manshiyya (today’s Kiryat Gat), Dawayima, Ajjur, Tal al-Safi, Beit Jibrin, Summil and Majlis...
-The raid- Camp residents don’t remember such a large number of soldiers. Hundreds, maybe a thousand, raided the place Tuesday at around 4 A.M. They didn’t enter in military vehicles but by foot, and not from the main entrance above Route 60 but from the mountain east of the camp, from the direction of the Beit Hagai settlement and from the southeast entrance. They set up in a few key areas. Afterward, some armored military vehicles and two bulldozers parked on the camp’s southern and western edges, blocking its entrances. The dirt road has been blocked since the area was placed under closure last month. When they entered the camp, the soldiers began invading the houses. Musa Abu Hashash, a B’Tselem field worker who is originally from the camp, entered it a few hours after the raid began. He has the names of 20 families upon whose homes the army set up observation and sniper posts. He believes there are more. Those soldiers stayed in those makeshift posts on top of people’s homes for many hours. Abu Hashash’s initial check found that the soldiers also conducted searches in dozens of homes, probably 100. When they went from house to house, they moved quickly, keeping to the walls and fences, and fired to provide cover.
-The casualties- Four Palestinian ambulances were in al-Fawwar’s main street. Some 50 volunteers of the camp’s local council, the Red Crescent and UNRWA put their own lives in danger when they carried the wounded on stretchers from camp alleyways below to the ambulances. Thirty-two wounded by live fire were brought for treatment to Hebron hospitals. One or two who were in more serious condition were taken to Ramallah. Fifteen lightly wounded (from rubber-tipped bullets and teargas) were treated on the spot. It was impossible to save Mohammed Abu Hashash, 18. He was killed at around 5 P.M., about 13 hours into the raid. He was shot at the entrance of his family’s home and wounded on the left side below his armpit. He fell, got up and fell again. The bleeding was internal.…
Rights groups: Israel’s new policy is to rearrest freed Palestinian prisoners
Haaretz 22 Aug by Jack Khoury — Israel is putting recently released prisoners on detention without trial or simply keeping due-to-be-released Palestinians in jail — Human rights organizations and supporters of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails warned over the weekend of what they claim is a new Israeli policy of using detention without trial to extend the prisoners’ incarceration. They say that prisoners are either being rearrested on administrative detention orders immediately following their release or are being kept in jail beyond the time that they would otherwise be due for release. The prisoners’ supporters said the policy became clearly apparent in recent weeks in the case of Bilal Kayed, who has been on hunger strike for nearly 70 days. On the final day of a 14-year sentence on a number of security offenses, he was informed that a new six-month administrative detention order had been issued against him. He has been on a hunger strike ever since. The Israeli government said in response that Kayed remains a security threat to Israel and that his rearrest is based on confidential evidence. Kayed’s lawyers said the only compromise that has been offered to Kayed is a proposal whereby he could leave prison if he agreed to stay out of the West Bank for four year. Kayed, who is from a village near Nablus in the West Bank, would not accept that offer, his lawyers said … In another case, which has not been publicized in the Israeli media, Iyad Alharimi of Bethlehem in the West Bank, who had served 14 years in prison, was rearrested based on an administrative detention order. He began a hunger strike on July 13 and is being held in the medical infirmary at the Ramle prison. Israeli authorities said he too remains a security threat, according to confidential evidence. In a third case,….
Army kidnaps 12 Palestinians in Jerusalem
IMEMC 21 Aug — The Jerusalem office of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS) has reported that Israeli soldiers have kidnapped twelve Palestinians during extensive military invasions and searches of homes, in different parts of the occupied [Jerusalem] district. The PPS stated that the soldiers invaded, on Sunday at dawn, Hizma town, northeast of Jerusalem, and kidnapped two young Palestinian men, identified as Fayez Mohammad Sbeih and Luay Hani Sbeih. The soldiers also invaded the towns of al-‘Eesawiyya and Jabal al-Mokabber, and clashed with dozens of local youths who hurled stones and empty bottles at the military vehicles. Undercover soldiers also infiltrated into al-‘Eesawiyya and kidnapped three young men, identified as Mohammad Ashour Obeid, Ali Obeid and Mohammad Yousef Ateyya. Regular army units invaded the town and fired many gas bombs, concussion grenades, and rubber-coated steel bullets.
On Saturday evening, the army summoned six Palestinians for interrogation at the al-Maskobiyya interrogation center, west of Jerusalem, and abducted them just as they arrived there. They have been identified as Ali Oweisat, Fares Oweisat, Mahmoud Oweisat, Adnan Oleyyan, Mojahed Abda, and Obeida Abu Edheim.
On Sunday at dawn, the soldiers invaded several homes in the southern West Bank district of Hebron, and kidnapped two Palestinians, including a former political prisoner.
Israeli soldiers kidnap 17 Palestinians in the West Bank
IMEMC 21 Aug — The Palestinian Prisoners Society (PPS) has reported that Israeli soldiers kidnapped, overnight and on Sunday at dawn, seventeen Palestinians, including children, in different parts of the occupied West Bank. The Jerusalem office of the PPS said the soldiers invaded many homes, in different neighborhoods and towns, in the occupied district, and kidnapped ten Palestinians.[see article above].
The soldiers also invaded Jenin, in the northern part of the West Bank, violently searched a number of homes and kidnapped three Palestinians identified as Mohammad Fadi Sa‘adi, 16, Woroud Abdul-Hadi, and Dia Mazen Hattoub.
In Bethlehem, the soldiers invaded ‘Aida refugee camp, and kidnapped a child, identified as Yazan al-Kurd, only 12 years of age. Another Palestinian, identified as Moath al-‘Aaydi, was kidnapped in the al-Far‘a refugee camp, in Tubas, in central West Bank, while Mohammad Walweel was shot by the soldiers with a live round.
In addition, the soldiers kidnapped two Palestinians, identified as Moath Yousef Qaisiyya, 25, from his home in the ath-Thaheriyya town, and Hassan Adam Ekhlayyel, 20, from Beit Ummar, in the southern West Bank district of Hebron.
On 47th anniversary of arson attack, Palestinians highlight ongoing threats to Al-Aqsa
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 21 Aug — Palestinians on Sunday commemorated the 47th anniversary of an arson attack on the Al-Aqsa Mosque, as Palestinian officials highlighted that the Muslim holy site was still under threat today. On Aug. 21, 1969, an Australian Christian fundamentalist set fire to a pulpit [donated by Saladin in the year 1187] in the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem, aiming to bring about the second coming of Jesus Christ. In a press conference, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Sheikh Muhammad Hussein said that Israeli violations, which include detaining and killing Palestinians in the Al-Aqsa compound, allowing Israeli extremists to storm Al-Aqsa, and demolishing Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem were “another type of fire which keeps burning the Al-Aqsa mosque and the city of Jerusalem, and has been burning for 47 years.” Meanwhile, Palestinian governor of Jerusalem Adnan al-Husseini said that “the inability to solve the Palestinian issue until now hints at the dereliction towards the Palestinian cause and the lack of awareness of the dangers faced by the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the entire Palestinian cause.” In the besieged Gaza Strip, the Hamas and Islamic Jihad movements organized a sit-in to mark the anniversary, during which Islamic Jihad leader Ahmad al-Mudalal said that Palestinian “resistance will always be in an open battle against Israeli occupation until the liberation of the al-Aqsa Mosque.”….
Israeli court rejects appeal against home demolition of Palestinian attacker’s family
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 22 Aug — The family of Palestinian prisoner Muhammad Abd al-Majid Omaireh, who Israel accused of being an accomplice in a shooting attack last month which left one Israeli settler dead, said on Monday that an Israeli court decided to demolish their family home in the village of Dura in the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron. Members of the Omaireh family told Ma‘an that Israeli human rights group Hamoked submitted an appeal on behalf of the family after they were issued a punitive demolition order one month ago, but the Israeli court rejected the appeal. The appeal, they said, explained to the court that Omaireh’s family and his children who live in the house did not know he was planning to carry out an attack, and should therefore not be subjected to having their home destroyed. Israel accused Omaireh of carrying out a drive-by shooting on July 1 along with Muhammad al-Faqih, who was later killed by Israeli forces when they bombarded the house he was fortified in, on Route 60 between the illegal Israeli settlements of Beit Hagai and Otniel south of Hebron….
Israeli army raids Salfit, hands out demolition order of prisoner’s home
SALFIT (WAFA) 22 Aug – Israeli army forces Monday notified the family of a Palestinian prisoner of its intent to demolish the house in the city of Salfit. Local sources told WAFA Israeli troops raided the city and the house of Omar Aboushi, who has been in detention since May 30. The soldiers took measurements of his house before they handed the demolition order to the family. Meanwhile, Naim Shaqir, Al Zawiya Mayor told WAFA that Israeli forces raided the house of Abdul Rahman Radad, who was killed by Israeli soldiers, tampered with the house’s content and photographed it.
Israel carries out 50 strikes against Gaza, five Palestinians injured
IMEMC 22 Aug — The Israeli Air Force carried out, Sunday, at least fifty military strikes wounding five Palestinians in different parts of the Gaza Strip, reportedly after a shell was fired earlier from Gaza into an open area in Sderot in the Negev. Two of the targeted areas in the besieged Gaza Strip are said to be camps run by the al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas. The Israeli strikes also targeted the Agricultural College and farmlands in Beit Hanoun, in the northern part of the Gaza Strip, in addition to hitting two sites run by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and the al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad. The army also fired several artillery shells into open areas, and agricultural lands in different parts of the besieged and impoverished coastal region. On Sunday evening, the army bombarded Beit Hanoun, in the northern part of the coastal region, and the Sudaniyya area, northwest of Gaza, wounding three Palestinians, The Israeli army claimed that it struck Hamas sites in retaliation to shells fired into Sderot, and held Hamas fully responsible for the escalation.
Israel hits dozens of Hamas targets in response to rocket fire, IDF official says
Haaretz 22 Aug by Gili Cohen & Jack Khoury — Dozens of Israeli air and artillery strikes hit the Gaza Strip overnight on Monday, reportedly wounding five Palestinians, after a rocket fired from the coastal territory struck between two houses in the southern Israeli town of Sderot. A senior IDF official said the army largely targeted what they described as Hamas “infrastructure”, in an attack they called “rare” in comparison to IDF actions since a Gaza war of two year ago. “The attacks were out of the ordinary, but there is no intention to escalate the situation,” the army official told Haaretz. Reuters reported that multiple air strikes hit at least 30 sites in Gaza belonging to Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other militant groups. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said though that “Israel’s escalation is an attempt to create a new equation in the Gaza Strip. Israel’s aggression won’t break the will of the Palestinian people.” There were no casualties from the rocket in Sderot, which shook up a town that has been mostly calm since a 2014 ceasefire after a summertime Gaza war. An organization in Gaza called Ahfad al-Sahaba-Aknaf Bayt al-Maqdis, affiliated with Salafist groups that identify with ISIS, claimed responsibility for the rocket fire. The group has been known to fire rockets in the past as a challenge to Hamas, the Islamist organization that governs in Gaza. Israel responded with airstrikes and tank fire. The IDF said the air force struck “a number” of Hamas targets, while Palestinian eyewitnesses reported that an Israeli tank fired six shells at a water storage facility….
IDF continues pounding Hamas targets into night
Ynet 22 Aug — The IDF is reported to have continued a combined air and artillery assault on Hamas targets in Gaza Sunday night in retaliation for rockets fired from the Strip into Sderot earlier on Sunday afternoon. According to the Palestinian report, the strikes were carried out by the Israel Air Force and Israeli artillery units on a Hamas military wing position in Beit Hanoun in the north Gaza Strip, from which the rocket was launched earlier on Sunday afternoon. The report indicates that one of the targets was a military outpost belonging to Hamas’s security apparatus. Moreover, the report claimed that a 17-year-old Palestinian boy was lightly wounded during the retaliatory attacks, along with three other children suffering from shock. The response of the IDF signals a departure from the norm as it usually retaliates once during the hours immediately following the rocket fire or the night after. While the reports were not originally officially verified by the IDF late Sunday night, explosions were heard by residents of Israeli towns bordering the Gaza Strip. Guy, a resident of Sderot said, “There is a feeling of pressure and fear. We hope everything is going to be ok.” Later, the IDF released a statement accounting for the continued attacks: “The IDF attacks are in response to the rocket fire into Israeli territory. The rocket fire constitutes a threat to the security of Israel and a strike against the State of Israel’s sovereignty,” the statement read. “The Hamas terror organization is the sovereign power in the Gaza Strip and it is therefore responsible for all terror activities emanating from it.” Tensions mounted after a Code Red rocket alert was sounded in Sderot and Sha’ar Hanegev just before 2:30pm on Sunday. Shortly afterwards, an explosion was heard, and a rocket was found between two residential houses in Sderot. There were no injuries or damage, though forces were immediately dispatched to the area.
Israeli forces detain fishermen off northern Gaza coast
GAZA (Ma‘an) 21 Aug — Israeli navy boats opened fire at Palestinian fishermen in northern Gaza Strip and detained two fishermen on Sunday. The spokesman for the Union of Agricultural Work Committees Zakariya Bakr told Ma‘an that Israeli forces opened fire at fishing boats off the northern coast of Gaza Strip and detained Sharif al-Sultan and Muhammad al-Sultan.
Gaza takes pineapple test
GAZA CITY (Al-Monitor) 21 Aug by Entsar Abu Jahal — Gaza’s Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) believes it is necessary to support farmers and to achieve a minimum of self-sufficiency in agricultural crops, and so it is applying a policy of crop diversification, especially of those that are most profitable. On Aug. 2, the UAWC announced that it will start an experiment to grow pineapples in the Khan Yunis governorate for the first time in the Gaza Strip, and that if successful the land allocated for the cultivation of pineapples will be expanded. After the announcement, academics at agriculture and environment faculties called for an economic feasibility study of this experiment to be conduced before applying the crop diversification policy because Gaza suffers from a severe water crisis and a shortage of agricultural areas….
11 years on, have Gazans failed to invest in liberated areas?
GAZA CITY (Al-Monitor) 21 Aug by Mohammed Othman — More than a decade after Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip, the liberated lands remain mostly empty, with analysts urging the Palestinian Land Authority to optimize the use and cultivation of these lands — The last Israeli soldiers withdrew from the Gaza Strip on Sept. 11, 2005, as per the Israeli disengagement plan, which was set forth and started by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Aug. 15 of that year. The Palestinians dubbed the plan the “unilateral withdrawal,” as Israeli soldiers were redeployed on the border of Gaza. The Israeli army withdrew from more than 15,000 dunums (roughly 3,700 acres) of land it had occupied during the Six-Day War and the occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 1967. Gaza has a population of nearly 2 million people in an area of no more than 365 square kilometers (141 square miles). Meanwhile, the former 25 Israeli settlements in Gaza — which Palestinians call “the liberated areas” — constituted additional territory, after Palestinians had been deprived of that land for 38 years under the Israeli occupation. The pertinent question, however, is how Palestinians might take advantage of and invest in these liberated areas. When traveling to the former Israeli settlements across the Gaza Strip, one sees largely untapped areas, save for a few residential projects carried out by international institutions, even though the Israeli withdrawal took place over a decade ago….
Hunger-striking prisoner Mahmoud Balboul evacuated to hospital
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 21 Aug — Hunger-striking Palestinian prisoner Mahmoud Balboul was evacuated to the Assaf Harofeh hospital on Sunday, the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs said. In a statement, the committee said that Balboul suffered from fatigue, severe pains, dizziness and his weight dropped seriously after 49 days on hunger strike. Mahmoud Balboul and his elder brother Muhammad have been on hunger strike since early July to protest being held in administrative detention — internment without trial or charges — by Israel. Muhammad Balboul, who has been on strike for 52 days, was moved to the al-Ramla hospital on Friday after his health seriously deteriorated. Muhammad and Mahmoud were detained on June 9 and sentenced to administrative detention just two months after Israeli forces detained their 14-year-old sister Nuran at the 300 Checkpoint in Bethlehem after accusing her of possessing a knife. An Israeli military court decided earlier this month to confirm the administrative detention sentences of the brothers, after rejecting an appeal by the committee’s lawyers to reduce the sentence. Muhammad, a dentist, was sentenced to six months of administrative detention, while Mahmoud, a Master’s student at al-Quds University, was sentenced to five months.
Committee: Hunger-striking prisoners’ deteriorating health an ‘Israeli crime’
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 21 Aug — Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs Director Issa Qaraqe told the Palestinian Authority’s Mawtiny radio station on Sunday that Palestinian hunger-striking prisoners were facing “life-threatening situations” in Israeli prisons. According to Qaraqe, tensions in Israeli prisons where prisoners are hunger striking have been escalating, as a result of what he said was the Israeli Prison Service’s (IPS) “practices of putting Palestinian prisoners under pressure instead of responding to their demands,” something he deemed “an Israeli crime.” Qaraqe added that the case of Bilal Kayid, who has been on hunger strike for 68 days in protest of his administrative detention order, was especially disconcerting given his current health situation. Though Kayid is currently being held in Israel’s Barzilai Medical Center, Qaraqe said that the IPS might transfer him to another hospital soon as a result of his serious health deterioration. Qaraqe also expressed his opinion that the recent transfer of other hunger strikers like the Balboul brothers and Ayyad al-Hremi, were a direct result of IPS “aggression” in Israeli prisons….
Land, property, resources, heritage theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Settlements
WATCH: Far from the public eye, Palestinian villages are being dried out
Israeli Social TV 19 Aug — Qarawat Bani Hassan, a Palestinian village in the West Bank, [has suffered from a] water shortage since Israel’s national water company decided to reduce its supply. This past July, Israeli activists visited the village and heard first-hand how the residents cope.
Call for intervention to prevent permanent damage to Hebron’s Ibrahimi Mosque
IMEMC/Agencies 20 Aug — For more than a month, Israeli authorities have planned and began the implementation of a new and permanent checkpoint structure, with other permanent buildings, on the historic grounds of the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron’s Old City district. According to the PNN, their plans (as seen below) reveal that vast damage will be done to the historic grounds of this cultural heritage site. The plans include the removal of stones from the site, which is more than 2,000 years old. These plans will permanently damage the historical mosque and the aesthetic fabric of the area. This is seen as an unprecedented attack on a historical site of this nature, in Hebron. Although Palestinian authorities have filed objections to the military orders for these plans, the work has resumed. From what is known of the plans, the intent is to install two large buildings (as outlined in red below) on the grounds of the holy site. The two large buildings are not consistent with normal security checkpoints. The oversized structures are seen as obtrusive and unnecessary. Normal checkpoints are meant to be temporary minimal structures installed during a military occupation. However, the plans reveal Israeli intentions to establish a permanent presence at the site, and develop large structures for reasons other than “security”. Actual work on the grounds of the historic Ibrahimi Mosque being carried out by Israeli military forces can be seen in the pictures below. The Hebron Rehabilitation Committee deplores what they deem as an assault on this Palestinian national cultural site. The plans to alter the historic site, which is protected under international law, are in violation of various humanitarian and human rights laws, including the Geneva Conventions, and are tantamount to war crimes. Urgent intervention is requested from human rights organizations, cultural heritage protection workers, diplomats, foreign governments, UN agencies and other intermediaries….
Palestinian family of 7 in Hebron hills faces imminent displacement by Israel
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 21 Aug — Seven Palestinians face imminent displacement after Israeli forces delivered a demolition warrant for their home on Sunday, which is located inside the official village limits of al-Tuwani in the vulnerable Southern Hebron Hills region of the occupied West Bank. Al-Tuwani village council head Nasser al-Adra told Ma‘an that Israeli forces notified Kamil Mousa al-Rabai and his family for a second time that their 120-square-meter house would be demolished. The warrant said that the house would be demolished in seven days, according to al-Adra. “This would be the first time Israeli forces demolish a house located within the official community master plan,” al-Adra told Ma‘an. “This new policy is a dangerous escalation against al-Tuwani and its neighboring villages and hamlets.” Separately, Israeli forces also escorted bulldozers which closed the road between al-Tuwani and the village of al-Maqfara to its immediate south. In response to an inquiry, a spokesperson for Israel’s Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), which is responsible for implementing Israeli government policy in the occupied West Bank, did not comment on the the road closures.
For first time in decade, Israel plans to expand Jewish settlement in Hebron
Haaretz 22 Aug by Yotam Berger — Israel plans to expand the Jewish settlement in Hebron for the first time in over a decade, even if the extension would only be small, sources familiar with the plan say. The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories would only say that “authorities in the area are examining returning some of the land for civilian use,” referring to the Mitkanim outpost. “However, plans for civilian building have not yet been submitted or approved.” Earlier this year the Defense Ministry issued a planning permit for several housing units for Jews in city’s H2 area, which is under full Israeli control. The units are to be built on land that belongs to the military’s Mitkanim outpost. A special team has been planning the settlement’s expansion in recent months. The planning is at an early stage, so it has not gone through the bureaucratic pipeline ahead of construction. Sources familiar with the plan said the land envisioned for the new housing only allowed for a handful of homes. Israeli sources say the land is private property that belonged to Jews before the establishment of the state in 1948. Settlers in Hebron agree … Peace Now and other groups on the left disagree.“There is an attempt here to overturn a High Court decision that forbade building settlements on land seized for military use,” said Peace Now’s Hagit Ofran. “The settlement in Hebron is the most extreme and callous of all, and the Netanyahu government is trampling legal standards to build a settlement exactly where the occupation and separation are the most callous and severe,” she said….
Israel opens construction tenders for the expansion of illegal Maale Adumim settlement
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 20 Aug — The Israeli Land Authority (ILA) and the Maale Adumim Economic Development Company on Saturday opened four tenders for leasing land, establishing a hotel, and constructing a park in the illegal Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim, according to Israeli media. Two tenders were published to lease land for renewable 49-year contracts, while the others were for building a hotel and park near the industrial zone of the settlement, according the Israeli newspaper Kol Hair. The six-story hotel will reportedly be the first in the settlement, and is planned to be built over 2,300 square meters. It will also be located near the mall. A park taking over 100 dunams (25 acres) of land is planned to the east of the industrial zone to serve the residents of Maale Adumim. Maale Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel said in a statement that the industrial zone was expected to double its capacity over the next decade, Kol Hair reported. Maale Adumim, located just seven kilometers east of Jerusalem, is the third largest settlement in population size, encompassing a large swath of land deep inside the occupied West Bank. Many Israelis consider it an Israeli city which would remain under Israeli control in any final status agreement reached with Palestinians as part of a two-state solution. According to a poll published last month by the Land of Israel caucus in the Knesset, 78 percent of Israeli citizens were in favor of annexing the settlement, which the caucus believes would just be the first step before annexing the entirety of the Area C, the 60 percent of the West Bank already under full Israeli civil and military control….
Celtic face UEFA charge over Palestine flag display
Al Jazeera Sport 20 Aug — Dozens of Palestine flags were displayed during Scottish club’s 5-2 win over Israeli opponents Hapoel Beer-Sheva — Europe’s football governing body UEFA have opened disciplinary proceedings against Celtic after a section of their support displayed Palestine flags during Wednesday’s Champions League play-off first leg against Hapoel Beer-Sheva of Israel. UEFA said Scottish club Celtic had been charged for displays of an “illicit banner” and added: “This case will be dealt with by the UEFA Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body on 22 September.” The UEFA rule in question forbids the use of “gestures, words, objects or any other means to transmit any message that is not fit for a sports event, particularly messages that are of a political, ideological, religious, offensive or provocative nature”. Dozens of Palestine flags were displayed during Celtic’s 5-2 first-leg win, many of them in the new safe standing section at Parkhead. Many Celtic fans have long identified with left-wing causes, among them the Palestinian struggle. “It’s [got] to do with the sense that the Irish Catholics in Scotland have of being underdogs over several generations,” Scottish historian Tom Devine told Al Jazeera. “There is a strong sense of history among that community, even though it’s now third-, fourth- and fifth-generation Irish.” Celtic were fined about £16,000 ($20,900) two years ago after a Palestine flag was displayed at a Champions League qualifier against KR Reykjavik of Iceland….
Celtic fans raise £26k in charity bid to match UEFA fine
The Scotsman 22 Aug — Celtic fans have raised more than £26,000 in 24 hours as part of a bid to match a UEFA fine for waving Palestinian flags at the recent Champions League play-off clash with Israeli side Hapoel Beer-Sheva. And big-hearted fans from other clubs, including Rangers and Benfica, as well as non-football fans, have also contributed to the cause. The appeal, set up by the Green Brigade under the headline #MatchTheFineforPalestine, was initially set up to raise £15,000 but the target has since doubled after a glut of donations in the first seven hours saw more than £14,000 contributed. A message on the site brands the decision by UEFA to fine Celtic over the flag display as ‘petty and politically partisan.’ The message continues: “We are determined to make a positive contribution to the game and today launch a campaign to #matchthefineforpalestine. “We aim to raise £15,000 which will be split 50/50 between Medical Aid Palestine (MAP) and to the Lajee Centre, a Palestinian creative cultural children’s centre in ‘Aida Refugee Camp, Bethlehem. Part of the money raised will go towards setting up a football team at the Lajee Centre, with the aim of entering the team in the Bethlehem Youth League. Centre coordinator Salah Ajarma has suggested that the team will be named ‘Aida Celtic’ to recognise the support of Celtic fans. Ajarm added: “It will mean so much to our young people to be part of an official team, to have boots and strips and to represent the camp wearing the colours of our friends. Aida Celtic will be a source of pride for all in Aida.” Celtic will likely learn how much the club has been fined on September 22. The previous fine the club received for fans waving Palestinian flags at a match was £15,000 – hence the initial target of the appeal.
Scots drive to put Israel ‘s West Bank wall on the Google Nat as fall-out from Celtic fans’ Palestinian flag protest simmers
Herald Scotland 21 Aug — An international push to make Google show Israel’s illegal wall around Palestinian territory on its Maps service will be launched this week by a Scottish MEP. The SNP’s Alyn Smith will launch the #showthewall petition in partnership with the global activism network Avaaaz, which has 44m members in 194 countries. Smith, who sits on the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, said the absence of the so-called ‘separation barrier’ from Google Maps appeared ‘deliberate and excessive.’ Started in 2002 after a wave of suicide attacks by Palestinian militants, the wall is the largest infrastructure project in Israel’s history, and will run to around 440 miles when finished, twice the length of the 1949 armistice ‘green line’ between Israel and the West Bank. Deviating around Israeli settlements and East Jerusalem, it has isolated around 10 per cent of West Bank territory, cutting off thousands of Palestinians from their land and families. In 2004 the International Court of Justice ruled the wall was illegal. But despite its scale and importance, the wall and its numerous checkpoints are not marked on Google Maps and are virtually absent from Google Street View. A 1997 US law banning the release of detailed satellite imagery of Israel also means Google Earth’s view of the country is at too low a resolution to see the barrier….
Other news and analysis
Poll shows that most Israelis, Palestinians still seek peace
JERUSALEM (AP) 22 Aug — A new poll of Israelis and Palestinians released on Monday found that a slim majority on both sides still favor a peace settlement establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel, despite years of conflict and deadlock in negotiations. The results of the joint poll may provide some small signs of encouragement when peace prospects appear bleak. The last round of negotiations broke down two years ago, and a resumption of talks, much less progress between the sides, at this point seems unlikely. Tamar Hermann, an Israeli political scientist who conducted the survey with Palestinian pollster Khalil Shikaki, said that under the current circumstances, the results were “not amazingly encouraging,” but also “not discouraging.”
“It showed there is still some basis for optimism with the right leadership,” she said. “Right now I don’t see on the horizon a leader on either side willing or capable of using this as a springboard for intensifying the negotiations. But it’s not impossible.” The poll found that 51 percent of Palestinians and 59 percent of Israelis still support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On the Israeli side, 53 percent of Jews support the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. Among Israel’s Arab minority, the number is much higher, at 87 percent. Conversely, just 34 percent of Palestinians and 20 percent of Israelis support the idea of a single shared state where they are both citizens with equal rights. After two decades of failed peace efforts, and nearly a year of low-level violence, distrust is strong. The poll found that 89 percent of Palestinians feel Israeli Jews are untrustworthy, while 68 percent of Israeli Jews held similar opinions toward the Palestinians. It also found that 65 percent of Israelis fear Palestinians. In contrast, just 45 percent of Palestinians fear Israelis….
Egypt’s Sisi says Putin read to host Mideast peace talks
AFP 22 Aug — Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said his Russian counterpart and close ally Vladimir Putin wants to host an Israeli-Palestinian summit to revive peace talks, in an interview published Monday. Sisi told state newspaper editors that he believed Israel was increasingly convinced of the need for a peace deal, saying it was a “positive sign.” But Palestinian infighting between the Islamist Hamas rulers of Gaza and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah in the West Bank remained an obstacle, he said in the interview. Talks between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Abbas have been suspended since 2014, despite a push by Washington and France to resume the peace process. Sisi, who is seen as having good ties with both Israel and Abbas’s Palestinian Authority, has also been pushing for a resumption of negotiations. “Putin has told me that he is ready to receive both (Abbas) and Netanyahu in Moscow to carry out direct talks to find a solution and solve the issue,” Sisi said….
On Muslim holiday, Israel’s Knesset plans hearings on Arab issues
Haaretz 21 Aug by Jonathan Lis — Next month committees will discuss work accidents in the construction industry and changes to the party funding law, the NGO The Abraham Fund says — Knesset committees are expected to hold hearings on Israeli-Arab issues on a Muslim holiday next month, preventing Muslim and Druze MKs from taking part. An Arab-Jewish coexistence group, the Abraham Fund, has appealed to have the dates of the meetings changed. ‘Id al-Adha – the Feast of the Sacrifice – will fall between September 11 and 14 this year; the Knesset will still be in summer recess but some committees will hold meetings on urgent matters. The Abraham Fund says that during these days there will be discussions on work accidents in the construction industry and changes to the party funding law. Amnon Beeri-Sulitzeanu and Thabet Abu Rass, the fund’s co-CEOs, have asked Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and the committee heads to postpone the meetings….
Is Abbas using Christians to keep Hamas from power? / Ahmad Abu Amer
GAZA CITY (Al-Monitor) 19 Aug — A presidential decree has sparked controversy in requiring that Christians head nine municipal councils — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas issued a decree July 31 increasing the quota for Christians in local governing councils in the provinces of Ramallah and Bethlehem and in a number of villages around the two provinces. The four-article presidential decree listed nine local councils in the West Bank where the new quota allocated to Christians would exceed the quota assigned to Muslims. Article 1 of the decree specifies that Christians shall have 5-10 seats on the affected local councils, while Muslims will have 2-7 seats. The total number of seats ranges from 9 to 15, according to the province or village. Article 2 asserts that the heads of the nine local councils — which have the largest number of Christians in the Palestinian territories — must be from the Christian community. The decree stirred controversy among Palestinians, in particular questions about its timing, given that it followed Hamas’ announcement of its intention to take part in the local council elections. In addition, it appeared to violate electoral law concerning the appointment of the heads of local councils….
3 Nablus residents detained after deadly shooting of Palestinian security officers
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 21 Aug — Palestinian security forces detained three Nablus residents accused of being involved in a shooting on Thursday which left two security officers killed and two others injured, the governor of the northern occupied West Bank city of Nablus, Akram Rujoub, said Sunday morning. Two Palestinians were also killed by security forces in the manhunt that ensued following the shooting. Rujoub told Ma‘an that the suspects were caught in a raid on the Old City of Nablus around dawn on Saturday. During the raid, Palestinian security forces seized automatic weapons and ammunition which were purchased inside Israel. Palestinian security forces spokesman Adnan Dmeiri said in a news conference in Ramallah on Sunday that security forces would continue their crackdown in the Old City of Nablus until “the phenomenon of illegal weapon possession is brought to an end.” Dmeiri said that Palestinian security forces found firearms, ammunition, and anti-tank missiles in Nablus’ Old City, which he said were obtained from Israel.
Family demands answers after two police and two alleged gunmen killed in West Bank
MEE 19 Aug — The family of a man killed by Palestinian security forces on Friday morning accused authorities of summarily executing him, after clashes on Thursday night and into Friday killed four people. The four men, two of whom were members of the Palestinian security forces, were killed on Thursday night and Friday morning after a night of shooting during raids aimed at seizing illegal weapons, Palestinian officials said. The violence erupted on Thursday evening after officers entered Nablus’s Old City, a densely populated warren of alleyways that was one of the flashpoints of the second Palestinian uprising between 2000 and 2005. The shooting was still continuing on Friday morning, security forces spokesman Adnan al-Damiri said. The funeral of one of the police officers killed, Mahmoud Tirayra, was held on Friday afternoon in his hometown of Bani Naim. Nablus governor Akram Rajub said that two alleged gunmen were also killed, both of whom he said were on a police wanted list. Local media named the two dead alleged gunmen as Khalid al-Aghbar and Ali Halawa. Aghbar’s family on Friday morning accused Palestinian security forces of “summarily executing” their relative, demanding that his body be returned to them immediately for an independent autopsy to be carried out. In a statement released to the media, the family praised PA president Mahmoud Abbas, prime minister Rami Hamdallah and the security forces, sending condolences to the families of the officers killed in what they called the “tragic” events on Thursday and into Friday. However, the family denied that Khalid – who was previously imprisoned in an Israeli jail – had been wanted by the Palestinian security services. They said eyewitnesses had informed them that he was captured alive, contradicting official statements saying he was killed in an exchange of fire. The family demanded “the immediate formation of an independent investigatory panel to uncover the truth” about what had happened, stressing their trust in authorities to carry this out….
After Palestinian takes gold in Rio for Jordan, Israelis claim his roots are ‘Israeli’
Mondoweiss 21 Aug by Allison Deger — After Palestinian Ahmed Abu Ghosh won Jordan’s first-ever Olympic gold medal in Rio on Friday for the men’s 68-kg Taekwondo event, claims that the athlete’s roots in the Jerusalem area are “Israeli,” and that his family “relocated” or “moved” to Jordan decades ago have followed. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported the Olympian’s heritage as from an “Israeli-Arab village,” while i24 referred to the Palestinian hamlet as an “Arab majority town.” “The Olympic medalist’s grandparents moved from the village to Jordan decades ago,” reported Israel’s Ynet News. Haaretz wrote, “The gold-medalist’s grandparents relocated from Abu Gosh decades ago to Jordan.” Abu Ghosh was born in Jordan, but his grandparents hailed from a Palestinian village that is their namesake, Abu Ghosh. The town’s local council was not immediately available to confirm the circumstances in which the medalist’s family left. But “relocated”? It is likely they were refugees among the 750,000 Palestinians who were expelled or fled during Israel’s 1948 war. Palestinian outlets reported that Abu Ghosh was raised in a refugee camp for Palestinians, al-Nasser, near Jordan’s capital. But this detail of his family’s displacement was omitted from Israeli news coverage … One Palestinian official took to social media to lash out at the presentation of the Olympian’s family history. “I’ve noticed that several Israeli media outlets and Hasbara surrogates are in denial that Ahmad Abugaush is Palestinian in origin and hails from the village of Abu Ghosh, West of Jerusalem…I mean now they had stolen the land and appropriated the ‘Khuumus’ they also want to claim the gold medal?” spokesperson for the Palestinian Authority Jamal Dajani wrote on Facebook.….
Olympic-size Israeli lies / Asa Winstanley
MEMO 18 Aug — Israel rarely fails to take opportunities in international fora to present itself as a “normal” state just like any other. “Brand Israel” propaganda regularly indulges in such distractions in order to distract the world media from the realities of its crimes. Since these are legion, great effort must be expended. Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip are illegal under international law, as well as being immoral by any reasonable definition. Palestinians in the West Bank live under direct military occupation, with a repressive system of checkpoints, movement restrictions, colonial Jewish settlements which they are banned from living in and arbitrary military diktat as a system of laws. Israeli colonists living in the same areas on the other hand are subjected to Israeli civilian law. Thus, the Palestinians in the West Bank can be factually said to live under a system of apartheid, as defined in various United Nations definitions of the word (which were never restricted to South Africa alone). And so, while there are many parallels between the current reality of Israeli apartheid and the late South African apartheid regime (as well as some key differences) defining the Israeli occupation regime as “apartheid” is a simple factual question, not merely an analogy. More fundamentally, Israel’s foundation was achieved only by literally wiping another nation – Palestine – off the map. Fanatical armed Zionist gangs expelled some 750,000 Palestinians by force, slaughtering thousands of them. The refugees have never been permitted to return home till this day – the greatest injustice of this conflict. Furthermore, since its inception on the ashes of Palestine and on top of the mass graves of the Palestinians, Israel has initiated wars with every single one of its neighbours, and conducts similar acts of aggression every few years. Such fundamental facts are left by the wayside when Israeli propaganda gets into gear. One of the latest examples was an incident between the Israeli and Lebanese Olympics teams. Despite there reportedly being plenty of buses laid on to transport each team from their accommodation to the stadium where they would compete, the Israeli team apparently insisted on boarding the Lebanese team’s bus. The head of the Lebanese delegation reportedly said he could see the Israelis were “were trying to force their way through and were looking for trouble” and so he blocked the door and barred them from entering. The Israeli team had a rather different account of what happened, and such media reports as there were generally took their lead from the Israeli point of view. Regardless, there’s no question that the way Israeli officials then exploited the incident was entirely cynical. The height of this hypocrisy were the words of their sports minister Miri Regev, who claimed the incident was an example of anti-Semitism and “the worst kind of racism”. Considering that Israel has invaded Lebanon several times (most recently during the war of aggression in 2006) killing tens of thousands of Lebanese people, as well as Palestinian refugees (mostly civilians) it is no surprise that that Lebanese athletes wanted to steer clear of the Israelis in Rio….
Israeli Arab Paralympian takes pride representing Jewish state in Rio
JPost 21 Aug by Allon Sinai — Goalball team captain uses sound to locate and score goals — Elham Mhamid doesn’t take her responsibility lightly. Neither does she take her handicap too seriously. The 26-year-old from Umm el-Fahm worked hard to become captain of the Israeli women’s goalball team. She also happens to be legally blind, suffering from achromatopsia, a hereditary disorder characterized by decreased vision, light sensitivity and a complete inability to see color. She takes great pride in representing Israel in international competitions. And no competition is bigger for her than next month’s Paralympics in Rio. “For me being captain comes with a lot of pride and responsibility and I think I deserve this responsibility,” Mhamid told The Jerusalem Post. “I will do everything to make my country, my relatives and the Arab sector proud, showing that there is no difference between all of us and that we can live together.” … Mhamid, who is studying for her master’s degree in drama therapy at the Kibbutzim College of Education (Oranim) in Tel Aviv, said there was initial tension between her and Jewish members of the team, but that quickly faded. “It was difficult at the start,” she admitted. “I only began learning Hebrew when I was 18 and didn’t know the culture. I was even scared of soldiers. They also didn’t understand my culture. We slowly began to get to know each other and everything worked out. Now I feel that I really belong. I love everyone and they love me.” … Despite not being able to relate to “Hatikva,” Mhamid is desperate to hear it in Rio. “Any way you look at it, the national anthem doesn’t relate to me. Nevertheless, I still get emotional hearing it when I’m on the top of the podium and I see the flag,” she said. “I would like the national anthem to relate to me one day. I’m part of this country. I belong here. That should be a given.”….