Violence / Detentions
DCI Report: Children in West Bank face deadliest year of past decade
RAMALLAH (IMEMC/Agencies) 23 Dec — Israeli forces have killed 31 Palestinian children in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in 2016. This makes it the deadliest year of the past decade for West Bank children, according to Defense for Children International–Palestine research. An injury to the head from a rubber-coated metal bullet claimed the life of 15-year-old Faris Ziyad Atta al-Bayed on Friday after 69 days in a coma. Israeli soldiers shot him during clashes at the entrance of Jalazoun refugee camp, north of West Bank city of Ramallah, on October 15 … Accountability for shootings by Israeli forces is extremely rare. Only one incident since 2014 has resulted in an indictment. “Israeli forces have increasingly used excessive force to squash demonstrations since 2014,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Accountability Program director at DCIP. “Intentional lethal force now appears to be routinely used by Israeli forces, even in unjustified situations, with no accountability, putting more and more children at risk.” The deteriorating situation for children in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, resulted last week in the killing of a teenager and the serious injury of another. Israeli forces shot dead Ahmad Hazem Atta Zeidani, 17, on December 18 in the West Bank village of Beit Rima, northwest of Ramallah. He sustained a fatal gunshot wound to the chest, just after midnight, during violent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces, according to witnesses. On December 14, Fahmi Juweilis, 13, suffered a head injury from bullet shrapnel during clashes, in the Old City of Jerusalem, in which Israeli soldiers’ fired live ammunition, killing an alleged Palestinian attacker. Fahmi was returning home from his school, located in the Old City, when shrapnel from Israeli soldiers’ bullets struck the right side of his head. According to his mother, Israeli soldiers delayed medical care for her son, despite the seriousness of his injury. She also said soldiers interrogated her son about the alleged attack that had just taken place, before allowing an ambulance to transport him to ‘Isawiyya hospital. After receiving first aid treatment for a skull fracture and bleeding, Fahmi was transferred to Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital, where doctors performed two surgeries to extract shrapnel fragments lodged in his head. Between November 29 and December 12, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that Israeli forces injured 11 children in the context of clashes across Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. DCIP documented 81 Palestinian child injuries in 2016, the vast majority of which were at the hands of Israeli forces…..
Israeli forces suppress Palestinian funeral with live ammunition, tear gas
[with photos] HEBRON (Ma‘an) 24 Dec — Palestinians in the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron laid five Palestinians to rest on Saturday after their bodies were released by Israeli authorities the previous night, with mourners being met with live ammunition, tear gas, and rubber-coated steel bullets fired by Israeli forces. After Israeli authorities returned the bodies of nine Palestinians who were killed while committing or allegedly committing attacks, a number of funerals were held Friday evening across the occupied West Bank. In Hebron, preparations for the funerals of five Palestinians were still ongoing as of Saturday morning, and were held later in the afternoon.
In Beit Ummar, local activist Muhammad Ayyad Awad said Israeli soldiers stationed at the northern entrance to the town fired tear gas canisters at the crowds of mourners during the funeral for Khalid Ikhlayyil. The cemetery, he said, is only tens of meters away from the Israeli military post. In response, Palestinians youth hurled stones at the Israeli soldiers who fired more tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets, injuring a number of people. According to Awad, 11 Palestinians were hit with live ammunition and 10 others with rubber-coated steel bullets. He added that three Israeli soldiers were also hurt. Ambulances of the Palestinian Red Crescent Service evacuated the injured and treated several others on the scene. Awad highlighted that “the entire town of Beit Ummar — without exception” partook in Ikhlayyil’s funeral. The body, he said, was first carried to the town’s main mosque for a funeral prayer after mourners performed the midday prayer, then headed to the Martyr’s Cemetery where he was led to rest. Khalid Ahmad Elayyan Ikhlayyil, 23, was shot dead inside his private car in the al-Baqaa area in Beit Ummar on Oct. 30. Israeli forces alleged that he tried to run over a number of Israeli soldiers.
Separately, crowds took to the streets in Hebron to partake in the funeral of Ameer Jamal al-Rajabi, 17, and Muhannad Jameel al-Rajabi , 21, were shot by Israeli soldiers on Sep. 19 after they allegedly attempted to stab Israeli officers in the Old City of Hebron….
Elderly Syrian detainee from Golan dies in Israeli prison
IMEMC 26 Dec — The head of the Palestinian Detainees’ Committee Issa Qaraqe stated that an elderly Syrian detainee from the Israeli occupied Syrian Golan Heights died in detention under circumstances that remain unclear due to lack of information from the Israeli side. Qaraqe stated that the detainee, identified as As‘ad al-Wali, 70, was serving an eight-month sentence, after an Israeli court “convicted him of building a home without a permit.” The Detainees’ Committee said the al-Wali is from Mas‘ade town, in the Golan, and that his body was delivered to his family at the Safed Hospital. His funeral and burial ceremony will be held, Monday, in Mas‘ade. It is worth mentioning that al-Wali is a well-known leader and figure of the national movement in the occupied Golan Heights, and was imprisoned by Israeli in the seventies of the last century.
Palestinian youth injured with live fire during clashes near Joseph’s Tomb
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 26 Dec — A Palestinian youth was injured with live fire by Israeli forces during clashes Monday at dawn near the Balata refugee camp south of Nablus in the northern occupied West Bank, as hundreds of Israeli settlers visited Joseph’s Tomb, located near the refugee camp. Local sources told Ma‘an that Mahdi Dweikat, 20, was injured by live bullets in his foot, while others suffered from suffocation due to severe tear gas inhalation. Sources added that more than 15 buses, heavily escorted by armed Israeli forces, carrying Israeli settlers arrived at Joseph’s Tomb, where the settlers stayed and worshiped until early morning hours of Monday. An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma‘an that overnight the Israeli army escorted the entrance of Israeli worshipers to Joseph’s Tomb. “During the pilgrimage, several riots erupted while rioters hurled firebombs, rocks, and rolled burning tires at Israeli forces,” the spokesperson said. “Israeli forces identified a Palestinian hurling a fire bomb, and in response fired towards him. He was likely injured and evacuated to a hospital.” Joseph’s Tomb is located in Area A, the 18 percent of the West Bank officially under full PA control. However, Israeli forces regularly carry out military activities in Area A, in breach of the Oslo Accords. Joseph’s Tomb — revered by Jews, Muslims [who believe it is the tomb of a Sufi saint], Christians, and Samaritans — is the site of regular visits by Israelis, who are escorted by Israeli military forces to the area, often leading to clashes with local Palestinians.
Israel’s justice system blames the victims, and violent cops go unpunished
Haaretz 26 Dec by Amira Hass — Three Israeli civilians were brutally attacked by three other Israelis on November 30, 2013. The reason that the attack remains etched in the shocked memory of very few people is the simple fact that the victims were Bedouin from the southern town of Rahat and their attackers were policemen. Taleb Al-Touri and his sons Rauf and Nidal had joined a protest against the Prawer plan for the forced relocation of Negev Bedouin from their land. When the demonstration in the village of Hura turned violent, the three members of the Al-Touri family left the area, planning to go home. All of a sudden, they were attacked by a group of about 10 men wearing uniforms and helmets. The father and his sons had then made the mistake of a lifetime. Their assailants knocked them down, with their heads striking the ground. A stun grenade or sponge-tipped bullet exploded on Nidal’s back. They were kicked and dragged, with their hands cuffed behind their backs by plastic handcuffs. The uniformed men jumped on them. A soldier urinated in the father’s face; at one point he lost consciousness. While all this was happening to them, they should have taken out a pen and a pad of paper and politely said to their assailants: “Excuse me. What are your names, what are your ranks, what unit do you belong to and how many of you are there?” They are to be blamed for having failed to do so. And because of this failure, the Justice Ministry department that investigates police misconduct halted its inquiry into the complaint they had filed. That was in January 2014. In December 2014, their file was closed. Due to their manifestation of civic irresponsibility, Deputy Attorney General Yehuda Shefer had no choice but to deny their appeal against the decision to close the investigation, which was filed by attorney Eitay Mack and the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel. The filing of the appeal gave Mack a peek into the closed file concerning the investigation. It turns out that the ministry’s misconduct department had not even bothered to take steps to locate the unidentified policemen involved in the assault….
Unidentified gunman opens fire on Israeli settlement near Ramallah
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 25 Dec — An unidentified gunman opened fire from a passing vehicle near the illegal Israeli settlement of Beit El north of Ramallah in the central occupied West Bank Sunday morning, with no injuries reported, according to an Israeli army spokesperson. The spokesperson added that Israeli forces found several ammunition shells at the scene and were searching the area for the suspect or suspects.
Israeli forces ransack homes in Beit Ummar, detain minors in Beit Fajjar
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 25 Dec — Israeli forces stormed the southern occupied West Bank town of Beit Ummar and ransacked two homes early Sunday morning, according to local sources, a day after a funeral in the town for 23-year-old Khalid Ikhlayyil was violently suppressed by Israeli soldiers. Meanwhile, at least seven Palestinians, including minors, were detained in raids elsewhere in the West Bank. Local activist in Beit Ummar Muhammad Ayyad Awad told Ma‘an that Israeli troops ransacked the homes of Abd al-Hamid Muheisin Awad and Muhammad Kamil Zaaqiq and searched them thoroughly before dawn Sunday morning. Awad noted that police dogs were used in the inspection and that an Israeli intelligence officer interrogated the owners to uncover firearms. The Israeli soldiers left “serious damages” in both houses to the furniture, internal doors, and other items. Awad highlighted that floor tiles had also been ripped out. After more than an hour, Israeli troops left without seizing any weapons or detaining anyone, Awad said. An Israeli army spokesperson confirmed to Ma‘an that the search had been conducted, and also confirmed nobody had been detained and no weapons were uncovered…
Meanwhile, at least seven Palestinians were detained in overnight raids across the occupied West Bank. Locals told Ma‘an that Israeli forces raided the town of Beit Fajjar south of Bethlehem in the southern occupied West Bank overnight Saturday and Sunday morning and detained three teenage boys and a young man. Locals identified the detainees as Yazan Ahmad Thawabta, 15, Fadi Fayiz Taqatqa, 16, Anas Taqatqa, 15, and Mahdi Majid Taqatqa, 23. According to the Israeli army spokesperson, one Palestinian was detained in the Hebron area village of al-Dhahiriya and three in the village of Jalazun in the Ramallah district. In predawn raids Saturday night, Israeli forces detained a Palestinian in al-Zawiya in the northern occupied West Bank district of Salfit, according to the Israeli army.
Israeli forces detain 10 Palestinians, 2 minors, during overnight West Bank raids
[with photos] HEBRON (Ma‘an) 26 Dec — Israeli forces detained at least 10 Palestinians, including two minors, during overnight raids [Sunday-Monday] in the occupied West Bank, according to the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS).
Hebron: In the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron, Israeli forces detained Majid Tayser al-Titi from the al-‘Arrub refugee camp and Ismail Ahmad Hawamda from the village of al-Samu‘. Local sources in Hebron told Ma‘an that Israeli forces installed several checkpoints in the north and south of the district, stopping and searching Palestinian vehicles. In the Hebron area town of Beit Ummar, local activist Muhammad Ayyad Awad told Ma‘an that Israeli forces raided at dawn homes in the town, using dogs to search the homes and “terrify Palestinian citizens. “Awad said that Israeli forces searched the homes of Issa Mousa Rashid Awad, Zaid Awad, 35, and a small shop that sells cigarettes and tobacco. Forces used the dogs during the searches, which caused damages to the homes. Awad added that during the raid, Israeli forces summoned Issa Awad’s 22-year-old son, a former prisoner who spent two years in Israeli prison, for interrogation at the Gush Etzion military center. Awad said that Israeli forces also assaulted Zaid Awad as he tried to prevent the soldiers from entering his house, adding that Israeli soldiers beat him in front of his wife and children and allowed a police dog to attack him. The raid lasted for two hours before Israeli forces retreated, Awad added.
Jerusalem: According to PPS, Israeli forces detained seven Palestinians from the central occupied West Bank Jerusalem district. The detainees were identified as 13-year-old Muhannad Abu Assab, 15-year-old Yazan Abu Assab, Anas Darwish, Ahmad Darwish, Ahmad al-Elmi, Abdullah al-Elme and 24-year-old Imad Shmasna from Qatanna village northwest of Jerusalem.
Nablus: In the northern district of Nablus, Israeli forces detained Hatim Firas al-Zagha.
Separately, the Israeli army published a video on Monday that shows Israeli forces detaining four Palestinians that were throwing rocks at Israeli settler cars along route 55 in the occupied West Bank. The army did not publish the names of the detainees or the name of the exact location that the incident took place.
Israel besieges Bethlehem villages in search of stabbing suspect
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 24 Dec, updated 25 Dec — Israeli forces continued to crack down on Palestinian villages in the southern occupied West Bank town of Bethlehem on Saturday, in search for a man who allegedly stabbed and lightly injured a settler in the illegal Israeli settlement of Efrat southwest of Bethlehem Friday night. According to the Israeli army, a Palestinian infiltrated a settler home in Efrat, stabbed an Israeli man, and fled from the scene. According to Israeli media outlet Ynet, the 50-year-old man sustained light injuries in his back and neck. There was a heavy presence of Israeli soldiers in several areas across Bethlehem that continued into Saturday morning, with reports of clashes erupting between Palestinians and Israeli forces overnight Friday. Locals in the village of Wadi Rahhal — located just a hundred meters east of the Efrat settlement and also known as Khirbet Abdullah Ibrahim — told Ma‘an Friday that dozens of Israeli military vehicles stormed the village in the evening and conducted a house-to-house search, as Israeli helicopters hovered overhead. An eyewitness told Ma‘an via telephone on Saturday that while Israeli troops left Wadi Rahhal Saturday morning after searching the entire village, military checkpoints were installed at all roads connecting the village to Bethlehem and neighboring villages. Some residents, he said, were forced to commute to work on foot by hiking through fields due to the Israeli roadblocks. Israeli news sites also mentioned that Israeli forces set up checkpoints outside of the town of Beit Fajjar and the al-‘Arrub refugee camp a few kilometers further south.
Israeli forces install roadblocks on West Bank commuter road
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 25 Dec — Israeli forces closed two entrances to a main road connecting the central occupied West Bank district of Ramallah to Nablus in the north, locals told Ma‘an Sunday evening. Israeli military vehicles installed cement blocks at the entrance to the road in the Ramallah-area city of al-Bireh, as well as the entrance to the road at Jalazun refugee camp a few kilometers north. Palestinians residing in towns in northern and eastern Ramallah are now forced to take a longer, alternative route to reach their homes … Jalazun refugee camp and al-Bireh are located adjacent to the illegal Israeli settlement of Beit El. Earlier on Sunday, an unidentified gunman opened fire from a passing vehicle near the settlement, with no injuries reported, according to the Israeli army. Israel’s response to attacks and alleged attacks, such as arbitrary detentions and road closures, have been widely condemned by rights groups, who have said such measures amount to “collective punishment” and represent a clear violation of international law.
Prisoners / Court actions
19-year-old Palestinian girl sentenced to 16 years in prison, $20,000 fine
IMEMC 26 Dec — On Sunday, an Israeli court sentenced a Palestinian girl to a 16-year prison term for allegedly attempting to stab an Israeli settler in East Jerusalem in 2015. During the incident in question, she was shot 4 times and severely wounded by the Israeli settler, who claimed that he was acting “in self defense”. The settler has faced no charges for shooting 19-year old Shurouq Dwayyat. He claimed that the girl attempted to stab him, and that is why he shot her. But Dwayyat challenged the settler’s account of the incident, saying that she did not attempt to stab him, and that she was unarmed at the time that she was shot.[However, witnesses told Ma‘an that she had been assaulted by the Israeli settler and did not have any sharp objects on her at the time of the incident. Israeli media said at the time that the man sustained light injuries, while Shurouq was shot four times in her upper body, leaving her in serious condition.] Nevertheless, she was taken to prison after being treated at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, and has been in prison since that time. The sentence she received on Sunday will be in addition to the 14 months she has spent awaiting trial, and she will not receive any credit for time served.
Israeli court sets deadline for administrative detention of Palestinian prisoner
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 26 Dec — The Israeli Supreme Court on Monday decided that Palestinian prisoner Ammar Ibrahim Hamour, 28, should not remain in administrative detention — Israel’s widely condemned policy of detention without charge or trial — after mid June 2017. In a statement on Monday, The Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) quoted one of its lawyers Ahmad Safiyya as saying that the court decided that it will keep Hamour in administrative detention for four more months after he completes his current six-month administrative detention order, which will end in February 2017. Hamour, who is being held in an Israeli detention center in the Negev of southern Israel, is from the village of Jabaa in the Jenin district of the northern occupied West Bank. Israeli authorities have issued two six-month administrative detention orders against Hamour since he was initially detained by Israeli forces on Feb. 16. The 28-year-old began an open hunger strike last month in protest of his detention.
Prisoner released in the exchange rearrested, life sentences reinstated, says family
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 26 Dec – A Palestinian prisoner released in the 2011 exchange of prisoners with Israel was re-arrested on Monday and his former life term sentences reinstated, according to his family. The Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) said the family of former prisoner Nayef Radwan, from the village of Qibya in the Ramallah area, confirmed that the Israeli authorities arrested their son when he went to a hearing at Ofer military court. It said Radwan, who was serving two life terms plus 30 years when he was released in the exchange with Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit after serving 17 years in prison, went to Ofer near Ramallah for a hearing after the military prosecutor appealed a court order to release him after his re-arrest in 2014. Israel re-arrested a number of freed Palestinian prisoners in 2014, including Radwan, to avenge the abduction and killing of three Israelis in the West Bank by Hamas operatives. Many who were serving life terms had their former sentences reinstated. Radwan’s family said the court in 2014 ruled to release him on condition that he will not leave his home village and has to appear every Thursday at a police station to sign in as well as imposing a bail of $15,000 and commitment to appear in court whenever asked to do so. However, the family was surprised when it was informed that its son has been re-arrested and that he will remain in prison to serve his former two life terms plus 30 years sentence.
Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Settlements
In defiance of UN, Israel reportedly set to approve thousands of settler units
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 25 Dec — Days after the UN Security Council approved a resolution affirming the illegality of Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory and called for their construction to cease, reports emerged that Israel is set to approve thousands of new settler units in occupied East Jerusalem. The Local Planning and Building Committee of the Jerusalem municipality is expected to approve some 5,600 housing units in East Jerusalem for illegal settlements, the Hebrew version of daily newspaper Israel Hayom reported Sunday morning. According to Israel Hayom, the move came as a direct response to the UNSC resolution 2334, which passed with unanimous approval from 14 Council members, while the US abstained from voting. The reports said that the committee will approve 2,600 housing units in the East Jerusalem settlement of Gilo, 2,600 others in Givat HaMatos, and 400 units in the Ramat Shlomo settlement. In response to a request for comment on the reports, a spokesperson for the Jerusalem municipality only said: “Building Jerusalem is essential for the development of the city for the benefit of all residents, Jews and Arabs alike. The city will continue, with all of the tools at its disposal, to develop our capital in accordance with the city’s master plan and planning and construction laws.” Israel Hayom also quoted deputy mayor of Jerusalem Meir Turjuman as saying that he “did not care” about the United Nations or “any other entity that tries to dictate to us what to do in Jerusalem.” The deputy mayor also reportedly said he was looking forward to the incoming Donald Trump administration to “make up for the shortage in construction during Obama’s eight-year tenure.”….
PCHR welcomes UN resolution on Israeli settlements
PCHR Gaze 24 Dec — The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) welcomes the UN Security Council resolution yesterday condemning the Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). PCHR believes this is a significant resolution that has been waited for. Moreover, PCHR calls for a prompt and effective action to restore confidence in the rule of the law and put an end to the prolonged Israeli challenge and denial of the international law and to the inherent impunity enjoyed by Israel for decades. The Security Council adopted a resolution on Friday, 23 December 2016, demanding an end to Israeli settlement construction in the oPt. The resolution, put forward by New Zealand, Malaysia, Venezuela and Senegal, underlined that it would not recognize any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to occupied Jerusalem. This resolution was taken in view of the ongoing settlement activities implemented by Israel in the West Bank, including occupied Jerusalem, and on the verge of the 50th anniversary of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian and Arab territory in 1967 … The Security Council resolution yesterday put the Palestinian cause politically and legally back on track after 23 years of a dead peace process that has been employed by Israel to tighten its control on the oPt while the whole world is watching silently, especially the western countries that lost balance and sight, sacrificing the basic principles of the international law, including the international humanitarian and human rights laws….
Demolition notices served to 20 Palestinian-owned facilities in Yatta
IMEMC/Agencies 26 Dec — Israeli authorities, on Monday, served demolition threats to 20 Palestinian-owned facilities in the town of Yatta, southern Hebron Hills, for lack of building permits. The town is situated in area C of the occupied West Bank, which is under Israeli civil and military control. The residents of area C have always been subject to such threats, ending in demolition and displacement, as building permits are rarely ever issued to Palestinians, forcing them to build without one. Local activist Rateb Jabour affirmed, according to the PNN, that Israeli civil administration crews handed demolition notifications against 16 houses south of the town, in addition to a mosque and three solar units. The notified facilities were funded by international organizations. Jabour called for putting an end to Israel’s persistent demolition policy that has left hundreds of Palestinian families homeless, often in particularly cold weather.
Israeli guard: ‘Go from this land or I will kill you’
[with video] BURIN, Occupied West Bank (Al Jazeera) 26 Dec by Emily Mulder — The olive harvest has come and gone in the occupied West Bank village of Burin, where Palestinian farmer Nimer Tirawi says he has carried out last-ditch efforts to prevent an Israeli guard from the neighbouring Yitzhar settlement from taking over his fields and devastating his livelihood. Tirawi has been unable to complete his annual harvest for the past two years due to repeated death threats from the guard, he said. Last year, Tirawi said he was with his son on their farmland when the guard ran towards them. “He came with his weapon and said: ‘Go from this land or I will kill you,'” Tirawi told Al Jazeera. When Tirawi refused to leave, he said the guard left and returned shortly afterwards, along with some 20 settlers who began to physically assault him by hitting, kicking and throwing stones. Like the majority of farmland owned by Palestinians in Burin, Tirawi’s land lies in Area C, the 60 percent of the West Bank that is under full Israeli military and administrative control. Tirawi has documentation of land ownership, but can access it only on certain days pending approval from Israeli authorities. Sitting in front of his home near a settler-only road that separates him from parts of his land, Tirawi explained the metamorphosis that Burin has gone through since Yitzhar was built in the early 1980s. Initially established as an Israeli military base in 1983, Yitzhar’s outskirts have since become home to five illegal outposts. More than 2,500 dunams (2.5sq km) of land belonging to Burin residents have been confiscated by Israel for settlements, military bases and settler-only roads in the area. Threats have led Tirawi to fear that his land, around four kilometres from Yitzhar’s Israeli-recognised municipal border, will eventually be appropriated for Israeli use too.
Despite systematic impunity granted by Israel’s military and police to Israelis who execute attacks on Palestinians and their property, Israeli human rights organisation Yesh Din has been attempting to hold this guard accountable. The guard in question, whose name Yesh Din could not disclose for legal reasons, is a Civilian Security Coordinator (CSC), appointed by fellow settlers to protect the settlement on behalf of the army. Yesh Din filed a complaint in December 2015 to General Adviser of Judea and Samaria (West Bank) Colonel Doron Ben-Barak on behalf of Tirawi and two other Burin residents who reported criminal offences by the guard during last year’s harvest. Exchanges that took place in the ensuing months laid bare what the group argues is Israel’s systematic refusal to effectively investigate or prosecute CSC transgressions….
Israel wrecks 18 Palestinian structures for every one it licenses in West Bank’s Area C
Haaretz 27 Dec by Yotam Berger — Since 2014, Israel has demolished 18 times as many structures as it permitted the Palestinians to build in Area C of the West Bank, where Israel has both civilian and military control, Civil Administration data show. The data also show a partial enforcement of demolition orders in the West Bank, against both Palestinians or Israelis building illegally. According to the data released at the request of the NGO Bimkom – Planners for Planning Rights, a group identified with the left, between 2014 and 2016 Palestinians requested 1,253 building permits in Area C – 440 in 2014, 385 in 2015 and 428 in 2016. Only 53 of these requests were approved. In 2014 only nine building permits were issued, in 2015, seven, while in 2016 there was a steep increase, an a total of 37 permits were issued through June. During that same period, 2,141 demolition orders were given for Palestinian structures in Area C – 832 in 2014, 875 in 2015, and through June of this year, 434. Less than half of these orders, 983, have been carried out so far. Nevertheless, far more structures have been demolished than new structures were approved … “These demolitions can affect tens of thousands of people,” said Alon Cohen-Lifshitz, Bimkom’s Area C coordinator. “Two thousand orders can be relevant to 3,000 structures, and each structure can house between four and 15 people.”….
Israeli forces open fire at Palestinian farmers in Gaza
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 25 Dec — Israeli forces opened fire at Palestinian farmlands east of Khan Yunis in the southern besieged Gaza Strip Sunday morning as farmers attempted to tend to their land, witnesses told Ma‘an. According to the witnesses, Israeli soldiers stationed in watchtowers near the border fence east of the town of Khuza‘a fired gunshots while Palestinian farmers were trying to reach their lands. No injuries were reported. An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an in response to a request for comment that after “suspects reached the border area with Israel, forces fired warning shots into the air and the suspects left the area.”
Israel to spray pesticides along Gaza border
MEMO 26 Dec — The Palestinian ministry of agriculture has warned local people that the Israeli occupation authorities are going to spray pesticides along the Gaza border between 25 December and 5 January. The ministry’s statement was reported by a number of media outlets. “This is an annual Israeli activity which takes place at the end of the year to get rid of unneeded grass in this farming strip along the border,” the General Director of the Ministry of Agriculture in Gaza, Younis Al-Zaytouniyeh, told Quds Press. He noted that the Israeli pesticides have a negative effect on Palestinian crops. This sometimes causes huge losses for Palestinian farmers in the besieged territory. Last year, he explained, most of the crops near the border were damaged. The office of the International Committee of the Red Cross in the Gaza Strip informed the ministry of agriculture about the Israeli plan to spray the pesticides.
After years of conflict, Egypt eases pressure on Gaza
RAFAH, Gaza Strip (AP) 27 Dec by Fares Akram — For most of the past decade, Egypt has been a quiet partner with Israel in a blockade on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip that has stifled the economy and largely blocked its 2 million people from moving in and out of the territory. But after a three-year crackdown, there are signs that Egypt is easing the pressure in a step to repair its shattered ties with the Islamic militant group. In recent months, Cairo has increased the number of people allowed to exit through the Rafah border crossing, Gaza’s main gateway to the outside world. It also has begun to allow Gaza to import commercial goods through Rafah for the first time since 2013 and sent public signals that it is interested in improving relations. “There is a ball of hope that was thrown by Egypt,” said Ashraf Jomaa, a Gaza community leader who has taken part in recent meetings with Egyptian officials to discuss the changing ties. “The question is how we, the Palestinians, shall catch that ball and develop the hope.” The changes, while still in their infancy, mark a significant departure from what has been a tough Egyptian crackdown since the military ousted its then-president, Mohammed Morsi, in 2013. Hamas, an offshoot of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, enjoyed close relations with him and quickly fell into disfavor with the new government. Under President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the former military chief who ousted Morsi, Egypt all but destroyed a once-thriving network of cross-border smuggling tunnels used by Hamas — robbing the group of its main economic lifeline and a key source of weapons. Targeting Islamic militant groups in Egypt’s northern Sinai Desert, it also destroyed hundreds of homes in the volatile border area to create a “sterile zone.” Egypt’s state-run media have repeatedly accused Hamas of collaborating with militants in Egypt, a charge the group denies. The crackdown has had a devastating effect on both sides of the border…
But Egypt’s recent turnaround has begun to bring some relief. In the past six months alone, Rafah crossing has been opened more than 40 days, compared to just 26 in all of 2015, allowing thousands of people to leave for jobs, medical care, family visits and studies abroad. Last month, it allowed a top Hamas leader, Ismail Haniyeh, to travel abroad for the first time since Morsi was toppled. In addition, it allowed a Malaysian official to enter Gaza to meet with Hamas officials. In another first, it allowed cargo to be shipped into Gaza through Rafah, including 40 new cars, painting materials and tar. In recent months, Egypt has invited three delegations of businessmen, academics, community leaders and journalists from Gaza for semiofficial conferences in Cairo. Participants said the issue of creating a trade zone between Gaza and Egypt was raised. Hamas has begun paving a patch of land on the Palestinian side of the crossing for what local media say will be an area to contain more imports from Egypt. At a recent meeting, Egyptian officials said they were interested in “opening a new chapter” with Gaza, said one official, who was not allowed to be identified under the briefing guidelines. “We are still evaluating the situation, and this is a long dialogue until we reach better relations.”….
Families of Palestinian prisoners protest against Israeli prison conditions
GAZA (Ma‘an) 26 Dec — Several families of Palestinian prisoners organized on Monday a protest in front of the office of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in the Gaza Strip, protesting against the treatment of their family members by Israeli authorities in prison. Among the policies the families protested was the Israel Prison Service’s (IPS) procedures in winter time, during which time the families said IPS does not provide prisoners with adequate heating to shield prisoners from the cold. A delegation of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) also participated in the protest, with former DFLP-affiliated prisoner Jaber al-Hasanat speaking at the protest, saying that despite the bad conditions Palestinian prisoners endure in Israeli jails, they still maintain high spirits. Al-Hasanat, who was released last Thursday after spending eight years in Israeli prison, stressed that Israeli authorities “will not be able to break Palestinian prisoners’ determination” and that Palestinian prisoners will continue their struggle until they are released.
UNRWA to distribute $3.2 million to 651 families in Gaza
GAZA (Ma‘an) 26 Dec — The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the UN agency responsible for providing services to some five million Palestinian refugees in the Middle East, declared on Monday that it will provide 651 Palestinian families in the Gaza Strip with $3.2 million for reconstructing their homes that were destroyed by the last Israeli offensive in 2014. In a statement released on Monday, UNRWA said that 651 families from different districts in Gaza will be able to claim the financial aid through local banks during the coming week. The statement added that the reconstruction of destroyed homes in Gaza is UNRWA’s major priority, and that the group “will stay committed to support families affected by Israeli aggression.” The near decade-long Israeli blockade of the coastal enclave has impeded the capacity to repair Gaza’s damaged infrastructure in the wake of the devastating Israeli offensive in 2014.
Palestinians celebrate Christmas Eve in Bethlehem
[Video, nice photos] BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 24 Dec — Palestinians marked the occasion of Christmas Eve on Saturday morning in the southern occupied West Bank town of Bethlehem, which is traditionally held as the birthplace of Jesus Christ. A parade lead by the Latin Patriarch of Palestine, Jordan, and the Holy Land Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, who is also the Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem, are set to arrive in Bethlehem in the afternoon and will be officially received at the Nativity Church in Bethlehem’s Manger Square. Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah are also expected to arrive in Bethlehem later Saturday to partake in Midnight Mass. [This is the Catholic Christmas – the Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic churches will celebrate Jan 6 and 7.]
President Abbas arrives in Bethlehem to join Christmas celebrations
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 24 Dec – Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas arrived in the city of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank on Saturday evening to attend midnight mass on Christmas Eve. Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, along with a number of ministers, lawmakers and mayors of Bethlehem, Beit Jala, and Beit Sahour, were present at an official reception held at the presidential residency in Bethlehem near the al-Duheisha refugee camp. Abbas and his escorts were expected to parade to the Nativity Church later in the night to attend Christmas celebration and the midnight mass. On Friday, Abbas released a Christmas message to the public, saying that “Despite the Israeli occupation, our presence in our homeland and the preservation of our cultural and national heritage are the most important form of resistance in the face of the darkness of a foreign colonialist occupying power.” He described Christmas as “a Palestinian call for hope and justice,” which is “a unique message that we have been carrying generation after generation, as a precious treasure that began in Palestine and is celebrated all over the world. We are about to mark 50 years of Israeli occupation, the longest military occupation in modern history,” he wrote in his statement, highlighting that despite Bethlehem’s religious and historical significance, the town “has not been spared the brutality exercised by decades of humiliation, colonization and Apartheid. Jesus’ place of birth is a city now surrounded by 18 illegal Israeli settlements and divided by the illegal Annexation Wall, including the latest illegal Israeli steps to construct the Wall at the Cremisan Valley. Israeli occupation policies have cut Bethlehem’s connection with Jerusalem, both an integral part of the occupied State of Palestine, for the first time in 2000 years of Christianity.”
Christmas comes to Bethlehem
BETHLEHEM, West Bank (Al-Monitor) 23 Dec by Aziza Nofat — Since Dec. 3, the day the Christmas tree was lit, Palestinians and tourists from all over the world have been flocking to Bethlehem, where Christmas celebrations are not limited to Christians but involve all Palestinians. Locals and foreigners have been gathering day and night in Manger Square since the tree was lit. While street vendors sell lupini beans, corn and Christmas cookies, children run around the tree and adults take pictures and selfies in front of it. Shatha Hamad traveled from Ramallah to Bethlehem with her three children to see the tree. She told Al-Monitor that the days before Christmas are less crowded than Christmas Day, and that the children can play freely and enjoy the Christmas spirit. She said, “We wait for this occasion every year; there is no happier time. [Bethlehem] turns into a city of light where streets, buildings and shops are decorated and a large tree is lit.” Although the city of Ramallah, where Hamad lives, lit its tree Dec. 4, the atmosphere is different in Bethlehem. Hamad added, “I make sure to respect the religious meaning of the occasion. We aren’t Christians, but we believe that Jesus is our prophet, and this piece of land where he was born is our home. This is what I’m trying to teach my children.” Vera Baboun, the head of the Bethlehem municipality, said in the speech she delivered during the tree lighting event in Manger Square that these celebrations send a message to the world that Palestine and its people are still dreaming of living, staying and rejoicing on their land … The municipality and the Ministry of Tourism decorated the tree in the color gold this year; the last two years, the tree was decorated with the colors of the Palestinian flag. This year, decorations are not limited to Manger Square. The road between Jerusalem and the Church of the Nativity, which is where the Apostolic Patriarchate representative convoy will be received on Christmas Eve, has been decorated with golden lights. In 2015, celebrations were limited to the tree lighting out of respect for the victims of the Jerusalem intifada….
Jimmy Carter to Obama: Before you leave office, recognize Palestine
CNN 29 Nov by Julia Manchester — Former President Jimmy Carter is calling on the Obama administration to recognize Palestinian statehood before leaving office January 20. Carter, who is strong proponent for Palestinian rights and a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians, praised the Obama administration in a New York Times op-ed out Monday for its support for a “negotiated end to the conflict based on two states,” but warned this work could be undone with an incoming Republican administration. “I am convinced that the United States can still shape the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before a change in presidents, but time is very short, ” Carter wrote. “The simple but vital step this administration must take before its term expires on Jan. 20 is to grant American diplomatic recognition to the state of Palestine.” The former President also called for the UN Security Council to pass a resolution “laying out the parameters for resolving the conflict….
Erekat: Security Council decision will be followed by other steps
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 26 Dec – The vote on Friday at the Security Council that condemned Israeli settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories will be followed by other steps, including taking Israel to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and other UN agencies, Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) said on Monday. Erekat said in an interview with WAFA that the response to Israel’s arrogant behavior that includes settlement construction, killing, detentions and siege will be by taking a number of steps including asking the ICC to inspect all kinds of Israeli crimes, foremost settlements. He said the whole world, including the five permanent members of the Security Council and particularly the United States, have said it very clearly that the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian land and what has resulted from it are illegal and constitute war crime. “The Palestinian leadership will build on this and take steps in response to the arrogance and crimes Israel persists in committing,” he said. Erekat said the Palestinian leadership will call on Switzerland in its capacity as the host country of the Geneva Conventions to call for a meeting of the signatory states to take the necessary steps to bring to a halt the crimes Israel is committing in the occupied Palestinian land and particularly in East Jerusalem….
Israel fears American, French initiative in Paris conference before Obama leaves office
Haaretz 26 Dec by Barak Ravid — Jerusalem concerned that foreign ministers’ meeting in Paris, scheduled for January 15, will result in a Security Council vote on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process —Israel fears that the United States and France want to advance another move on the Israeli-Palestinian issue before the Obama administration wraps up its term. A senior official in Jerusalem said that during Sunday’s security cabinet meeting, ministers were presented with an assessment that during the international foreign ministers’ meeting scheduled for January 15 in Paris as part of the French peace initiative, a series of decisions on the peace process will be made. These will immediately be brought to the UN Security Council for a vote and will be adopted there before January 20. The move presented to the ministers led Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to tell the Likud ministers during their subsequent meeting that Friday’s vote in the Security Council on the settlements was not the end of the story and that there are liable to be other steps taken by the international community, the official added. Representatives of the Foreign Ministry, the National Security Council and others who attended the security cabinet meeting presented information indicating that the trend in talks between France, the U.S. and other countries in preparation for the foreign ministers’ meeting tended toward advancing such a move, he added….
Opinion: UN resolution is a breath of hope in sea of darkness and despair / Gideon Levy
Haaretz 26 Dec — It’s now even more crystal clear: The world thinks the settlements are a crime. All the settlements and all the world — On November 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly voted to establish a Jewish state (alongside an Arab state) in the Land of Israel. Sixty-nine years later, on December 23, 2016, the UN Security Council voted to try to save it. Resolution 2334 that was approved Friday is a gust of good news, a breath of hope in the sea of darkness and despair of recent years. Just when it seemed that everything was going downhill – the deepening occupation increasingly supported by America, with Europe galloping to the right – along came a Hanukkah resolution that lights a thin candle. When it seemed that the evil ones would remain victorious, along came New Zealand and three other countries and gave the world a Christmas gift … We of course must ask U.S. President Barack Obama in fury: Now you’re doing something? And we must ask the world in frustration: What about actions? But it’s impossible to ignore the Security Council decision that rules that all the settlements are illegal by nature. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can call back his ambassadors, while his right-hand minister Yuval Steinitz can shriek that the resolution is “unfair.” (He has a sense of humor.) And opposition leader Isaac Herzog can babble that “we need to fight the decision with all means.” But there isn’t a person in the world with a conscience who won’t rejoice over the resolution….
Opinion: What did the UN Security Council resolution leave out? / Tania Hary
JPost 26 Dec — The writer is the executive director of Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, an Israeli human rights organization. She is both an Israeli and American citizen — Those interested in shoring up stability and preserving any hope of reaching a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would do well to recognize Gaza’s isolation … Continued and perhaps indefinite rule over the West Bank is made possible by maintaining the isolation of Gaza and its now two million residents. The desire to maintain a demographic balance in favor of a Jewish majority depends on “removing” the residents of Gaza from the calculation. Or as David Friedman, President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for ambassador to Israel, put it bluntly: “The evacuation of Gaza had one salutary effect: it took two million Arabs out of the equation.” Members of Israel’s government and Friedman have done us the favor of articulating what was already happening through restrictive access policy on the ground … The divide created between the West Bank and Gaza is no coincidence and not related to legitimate security concerns only, of which there are certainly many. Rather, there is a political vision that seeks to fragment the Palestinian territory and thus undermines the rights dependent on access – the right to family life, to livelihood, to education and yes, also to self-determination. Restrictions on travel are too far-reaching to be explained by security concerns alone and they precede Hamas’s takeover of Gaza, often cited as a justification for the closure….
Following UN vote, Lieberman calls to end non-security coordination with PA
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 26 Dec — Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman ordered the termination of all non-security related coordination with the Palestinian Authority (PA) on Sunday in response to the UN Security Council adoption of a resolution demanding Israel end all settlement building activity, according to Israeli media. The Jerusalem Post cited sources from Israel’s Ministry of Defense on Sunday saying that Lieberman gave the order to Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Unit (COGAT) — the agency responsible for implementing the Israeli government’s policies in the occupied Palestinian territory. Israeli news website Arutz Sheva reported that Lieberman “forbade” senior Israeli army officials from contacting PA representatives. A spokesperson from the Ministry of Defense was not immediately available for comment.
Naftali Bennett calls for annexation of West Bank in response to UN resolution
JERUSALEM (JTA) 25 Dec — An Israeli government minister called for the annexation of parts of the West Bank in response to the passing of a United Nations resolution taking Israel to task for continued building in the settlements. Naftali Bennett, Israel’s education minister and head of the right-wing Jewish Home party, in a statement Sunday morning at the Western Wall said that “no resolution can change the fact that this land, Jerusalem, is our capital. And no people can be a conqueror in their own land. That’s why this resolution, like many of the earlier resolutions, will be thrown into the dustbin of history.” He called on Israel to “reevaluate its approach” of giving up territory and supporting the formation of a Palestinian state. “We thought this approach would gain us sympathy from the world, but instead we got tens of thousands of missiles from Gaza, thousands of Israelis murdered on the streets and one condemnation after another,” Bennett said. He added: “It’s time to decide between two alternatives: surrendering our land, or sovereignty. We’ve tried surrendering our land, it didn’t work; it is time for sovereignty.” Bennett announced in the statement that he would take steps to apply Israeli law to Judea and Samaria, the Hebrew names for the areas of the West Bank. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday called on lawmakers to not publicly discuss annexation, saying that President Barack Obama may have other actions prepared to take against Israel on the Palestinian issue before he leaves office in three weeks….
Senegal defends its UN Israeli settlement vote
DAKAR (AFP) 25 Dec – Senegal on Sunday defended its vote at the UN Security Council to halt Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory, after Israel decided to recall its ambassador to Dakar and to suspend its aid programme. “Senegal’s position must be saluted. The international community hails Senegal’s stance, especially the Muslim nations,” government spokesman Seydou Guèye said in a statement carried by national television. “Senegal abided by its diplomatic vision. Since 1975, Senegal has been a member of the (UN) Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People,” Guèye said. Asked about Israel’s suspension of all its aid programmes in the west African nation, the spokesman said the government had not yet been officially informed of the decision. “When it is informed of such a decision, it will issue a response,” Guèye said. He did not comment on Israel’s move to recall its ambassador to Dakar.
Japan provides $80,000 to replace water pipeline in al-Shawawrah
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 22 Dec – Japan’s representative to the Palestinian Authority, Takeshi Okubo, signed on Wednesday a grant contract for one Grassroots Human Security Project (GGP) with a representative of al-Shawawrah village council, according to a press release. The grant agreement, signed at the Representative Office of Japan in Ramallah, amounts to $80,498. Shawawrah village council will use the funds to replace 2,450 meters of 2 inches water pipelines in the village. This project aims at securing sufficient tap water supply for about 2,743 direct beneficiaries and two main schools of 490 students and teachers. Okubo congratulated al-Shawawrah village council and wished them success in their project. He emphasized Japan’s firm commitment of supporting Palestinian people from human security perspective as well as the importance of implementing social and economic development projects needed for Palestinian communities. Since 1993 the Government of Japan has extended its official development assistance amounting to approximately $1.7 billion, to the Palestinians. GGP projects have been formulated in collaboration with the Palestinian Authority through Ministry of Finance and Planning since 2010.
Israeli Arab legislator to be held another day in phone-smuggling case
Haaretz 26 Dec by Yaniv Kubovich — An Israeli court has extended the detention of MK Basel Ghattas (Joint List) by 24 hours so that the police can further question the legislator suspected of criminal conspiracy and providing materials to a terror group. The police had requested four more days. Ghattas was arrested Thursday after he agreed that his parliamentary immunity be lifted. He has been filmed bringing a package to two convicted Palestinian security prisoners in Ketziot Prison; the package turned out to be holding smartphones and documents. Ghattas says he believed the package contained books. On Sunday evening, the police searched Ghattas’ offices in the Knesset, with the permission of Speaker Yuli Edelstein. It was the first time such permission had been granted since 1979. Ghattas’ home was also searched, while Edelstein has ordered Ghattas’ office locked to prevent any evidence from being removed or destroyed. Edelstein also decided, based on the opinion of Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon, that Ghattas would not vote in the Knesset as long as he was under arrest. For this stretch, the opposition will thus have one less vote in the 120-seat parliament. During the hearing on extending his detention, Ghattas said he did not wish to hold a confrontation with the person who gave him the package or the prisoners he had met with, out of fears he would incriminate them….
Israeli TV regulators ban ad for calling out racism, homophobia
IMEMC/Agencies 25 Dec — The Second Authority for Television and Radio (SATR), a public body that supervises Israeli commercial television and radio stations, banned a public service announcement by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) called “Human rights: Because without [them] I’m not Equal,” Haartez reports. In the advertisement, well-known Israelis speak to the camera about what human rights mean to them. Two statements in the clip were ruled objectionable by SATR. The first is when Palestinian-Israeli singer and actress Mira Awad tells the camera “it is permitted to speak Arabic without fear.” The second occurs when Titi Aynow, the first black Miss Israel, and Daphni Leef, an Israeli artist and activist, say together that they want, “the right to choose and marry whoever I want… Even if I’m gay.” SATR called the clip’s support for speaking Arabic “problematic.” Gay marriage, it ruled, is a “political, social, public or economic matter” in “public dispute.” The authority banned the ad from being aired for these reasons. ACRI has sent a letter to SATR saying the decision curtails freedom of expression. ACRI will go to court if the decision is not overturned….