UN ‘disturbed’ by light sentence for Israeli soldier
AFP 24 Feb — An 18-month prison sentence for an Israeli soldier who shot dead a wounded Palestinian assailant is an “unacceptable” punishment for “an apparent extra-judicial killing”, the UN said Friday. United Nations human rights office spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani further charged the Jewish state with having “a chronic culture of impunity” regarding cases involving Israeli troops and Palestinians … “While the prosecution and conviction are very welcome steps towards accountability, the punishment… is difficult to reconcile with the intentional killing of an unarmed and prone individual,” she added. According to the rights office, more than 200 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli security forces in the West Bank since September 2015 and Azaria has been the only one to face trial. Israeli Prime Minister Benjami n Netanyahu on Thursday backed pardoning Azaria.
Opinion: Who needs The Hague when you have Israeli army justice? / Gideon Levy
Haaretz 23 Feb — There’s nothing more Israeli than this court that gives a soldier who killed a Palestinian in cold blood a sentence fit for a bicycle thief — …let’s welcome the Israel Defense Forces Theater, sitting as a military court. It’s the most authentic reflection of society, the country’s real High Court of Justice. It’s an epic production with dozens of extras; the reviews are flattering, and the audience goes wild. The costumes (IDF uniforms) are nothing special, and neither are the scenery, lighting and makeup – “absentee” property in Jaffa or a barracks in the Kirya (army headquarters), neon lights and metal benches. But the play is excellent – current and relevant, representative and indicative – and the ending is always predictable. There’s nothing more Israeli than this court, and nothing more authentic than its sentence in the case of soldier Elor Azaria. Once again, we have the cloak of self-righteousness, once again the deceit, once again the façade of due process, with a defense, a prosecution and summations. Once again, it’s the best show in town, and once again, the crying injustice is present without our feeling it, just the way Israelis like it … Azaria left the court as a national hero, in a country where everyone who kills an Arab is considered a hero and there are almost no heroes who didn’t kill Arabs. The court once again told Israelis what they most wanted to hear: Palestinian lives are dirt cheap; they’re on end-of-season sale. This is the same court that has judged hundreds of thousands of Palestinians with severity and cruelty over the decades of the occupation….
Five children who got longer sentences for throwing stones than Israeli soldier who shot incapacitated Palestinian dead
The Independent 22 Feb by Bethan McKernan — An 18-month jail sentence handed down to an Israel Defence Force (IDF) recruit for the killing of a wounded Palestinian has prompted for widespread criticism for its apparent leniency in light of the severity of his crime … The ruling was a landmark case insofar as no member of the IDF has been prosecuted for actions carried out in uniform in over 12 years. However, Palestinians and rights activists have widely criticised the sentencing as not severe enough … Al-Sharif’s father Yusri told reporters from his home in the West Bank that the family had never expected the Tel Aviv military court “show trial” to do the deceased man justice …
“The sentence he received is less than a Palestinian child gets for throwing stones.” The family’s comments are not hyperbole. In 2015, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet established a mandatory minimum penalty of four years in prison for those who “endanger human lives by throwing stones, fire-bombs and explosives”. The temporary measure, expected to last until 2018, came into force after an Israeli man died in a car crash linked to a stone-throwing incident. Under military law, Palestinian rights group Addameer says, throwing stones can be punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Just a handful of people imprisoned under the new stone-throwing legislation who were handed down longer sentences than Azaria, include five boys from east Jerusalem who were sentenced in March last year for throwing stones at cars: Saleh Ashraf Ishtayya, 16: three years and three months in prison; Muhammad Ahmad Jaber, 14: three years in prison; Murad Raed Alqam, 14: three years in prison; Muhammad Na‘el Tayeh, 17: two years and four months in prison; Zaid Ayed al-Taweel, 16: two years and four months in prison….
Video: Israeli pop legend sings for ‘hero’ who executed injured Palestinian
EI 22 Feb by Ali Abunimah — Amnesty International added its voice to the outrage over the slap on the wrist given to an Israeli army medic who executed a seriously injured Palestinian last March … Amnesty said Azarya’s sentence showed that Israelis who commit violations are “protected by the system”. “Hero of Israel” But in Israel, Azarya continues to be celebrated as a hero by many. The latest example is the jaunty ditty in the video at the top of this article performed by legendary Israeli pop star Ariel Zilber. Zilber also performed the song live to an appreciative crowd outside the courthouse where Azarya was sentenced on Tuesday. The lyrics, translated for The Electronic Intifada by Israel expert Dena Shunra, offer unequivocal support to Azarya. “Do not despair/Keep your head high,” Zilber begins. His lyrics also denounce the Israeli army’s top brass for supposedly, “Turning their back to the soldier on the battlefield.” “I hereby announce before the people, the community, that Elor’s trial is our trial, as well,” he sings. “Elor Azarya, you are the hero/And there are more soldiers like you,” Zilber sings, as the text on the screen declares: “Elor Azarya, Hero of Israel.”This [following] stanza appears to give religious justification to Azarya’s act and to incite more such killings: ….
Violence / Detentions — West Bank / Jerusalem
Palestinian child injured after remnant of Israeli military device explodes in Hebron
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 24 Feb — A 13-year-old Palestinian was injured on Friday after a device left over by Israeli forces exploded in an area in the southern part of the occupied West Bank district of Hebron. Medical sources in the Hebron governmental hospital told Ma‘an that Muhammad Salim Kaain suffered from injuries and burns, describing his wounds as medium. Security sources told Ma‘an that the device that had exploded was an Israeli military remnant. However, it was unclear what specific military device it was.
2 Palestinians, 1 Israeli soldier injured during clashes near Joseph’s Tomb
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 23 Feb — An Israeli soldier and two Palestinians were injured during clashes in the Balata refugee camp in the northern occupied West Bank on Thursday morning when hundreds of Israeli settlers performed religious rituals at Joseph’s Tomb under military protection. Palestinian security sources told Ma‘an that some 60 buses carrying an estimated 1,200 Israeli settlers escorted by soldiers arrived at Joseph’s Tomb at dawn, causing clashes to erupt between dozens of Palestinian youth and Israeli forces. The local youth reportedly threw rocks and empty bottles at soldiers who fired live bullets, stun grenades and tear gas. The sources added that Israeli forces detained three youths during the clashes, while two other Palestinians suffered from excessive tear gas inhalation. An Israeli army spokesperson confirmed to Ma‘an that three Palestinians were detained for allegedly being in the possession of a firebomb and knife during the clashes.
Meanwhile, the army spokesperson said than an Israeli soldier was wounded by an explosive device during a raid in Balata and sustained moderate wounds, but that the soldier was involved in a separate military operation in Balata unrelated to the visit to Joseph’s Tomb. 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.
Israeli forces suppress weekly marches in Kafr Qaddum, Bil‘in, and Ni‘lin
[with photos] BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 24 Feb — Israeli forces suppressed weekly marches in the occupied West Bank districts of Ramallah and Qalqiliya on Friday, as two Palestinians, including a child, were injured with rubber bullets, while tens of Palestinians suffered tear gas inhalation. In the village of Kafr Qaddum in Qalqiliya, two Palestinians, including a child, were injured with rubber-coated bullets as Israeli forces suppressed the village’s weekly march against Israeli settlements and the opening of the village’s main entrance which has been closed by Israeli forces for 14 years. Coordinator of the popular resistance in the village Murad Shteiwi said that Israeli forces fired tear gas canisters and rubber-coated bullets, injuring Muhammad Hilme, 11, in the neck with a rubber bullet and Abdullah Salim, 26, in the leg with a rubber bullet. Salim works as a photographer for the Israeli rights group B’Tselem. Shteiwi said that nine Palestinians had also suffered from tear gas inhalation. Shteiwi added that the clashes erupted when Israeli forces raided the village and “heavily fired” rubber bullets and tear gas canisters at protesters. He also noted that the march was launched with wide participation of Palestinians demanding an end to the nearly half century Israeli occupation, while voicing support for the Palestinian Authority (PA) which the he said was the “only legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.”….
Palestinians, Israel soldiers clash in West Bank’s Hebron
AFP 24 Feb — Hundreds of Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli soldiers Friday in the powderkeg West Bank city of Hebron on the anniversary of a 1994 massacre carried out by a far-right Jewish settler. Soldiers fired tear gas and sound grenades to disperse the crowd as cannons doused them with stinking water, an AFP correspondent said. There was no immediate report of injuries. Jewish settlers, of whom 500 are entrenched in the centre of the city of around 200,000 Palestinians, hurled stones at the protesters. On February 25, 1994, settler Baruch Goldstein mowed down 29 Palestinians inside Hebron’s Cave of the Patriarchs, holy to Muslims and Jews alike, before being lynched. Palestinians have stepped up calls for the Israeli army to re-open a street near the Jewish settler enclave in the heart of the city that has been largely closed off to Palestinians for the past 23 years since the massacre.
Clashes erupt in ‘Issawiya following funeral of former Palestinian prisoner
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 25 Feb — Clashes erupted between Palestinian youths and Israeli forces in the neighborhood of ‘Issawiya in occupied East Jerusalem late on Friday, as Israeli police raided the area following the funeral of a former Palestinian prisoner, 24-year-old Muhammad Kayid Mahmoud, who had died in a car accident in Jericho on Friday. Member of the ‘Issawiya follow-up committee Muhammad Abu al-Hummus said that dozens of Israeli police raided the village, sealed its entrance for more than an hour, and raided the village’s cemetery and a mosque in the neighboring Obed neighborhood, which caused clashes to erupt in the area. Palestinian prisoner Mahmoud was detained several times by Israeli forces, the last of which was last week. He was released the following day after an Israeli magistrate court banned him from entering ‘Issawiya.
Locals said that Israeli authorities have also been carrying out random detention raids against the youth in ‘Issawiya since Tuesday, when resident and prisoner Muhammad Zeidan Mahmoud was released after spending 15 years in Israeli prisons only to be redetained immediately following the release. Israeli authorities also issued orders banning several released Palestinian detainees from the village for between three days to a week in an attempt to prevent celebrations during the anticipated release of Zeidan Mahmoud, locals said.
Israeli soldiers invade several stores near Jenin
IMEMC 24 Feb — Israeli soldiers invaded, on Thursday evening, several stores and shops in Barta‘a village, isolated behind the Annexation Wall, southwest of the northern West Bank city of Jenin, and confiscated large quantities of clothes from one of the shops. Local sources said the soldiers invaded the stores in the Central Merchants Market in Barta‘a, and confiscated large quantities of clothes from a shop owned by Mohammad Makhzoumi, who was also detained and moved to a police station in ‘Ara Valley area.
Shabak apologizes for false terror claim against Bedouin murdered by Israeli police
23 Feb by Richard Silverstein — The official police-government version of the tragic deaths of an Israeli Bedouin and policeman at Umm al Hiran last month is now coming apart at the seams. The above video features a translation of a TV news panel in which Maariv journalist, Kalman Liebeskind, reveals the shocking dysfunction of the operation which led to the deaths. A Shabak source has released an exclusive statement to me that not only contradicts the official version of events, but apologizes for the agency’s role in perpetuating it: “Though Shabak hasn’t issued any official statement, I – as an unofficial spokesman – apologize on behalf of the agency for hurrying to adopt (and to tell journalists) the version Roni Alsheikh told senior Shabak officials that day. ‘The Fox’ is highly esteemed within the agency…but as a police commander, apparently he is still inexperienced. I learned the lesson from this, and I hope he did too.” This is an extraordinary admission. Shabak almost never speaks as explicitly as this about mistakes or errors. It’s certainly easier to apologize about the mistakes of others (as it does here) than about one’s own. But still, Alsheikh is one of the Shabak’s own, as a former deputy director, and for it to distance itself from him and his police colleagues is unprecedented. Other media sources are now also coming forward to pick apart the official account of the tragedy. Tammy Riklis of HaOkets has uploaded a video of her interview of Yaqoub Abu Alqiyan’s nephew, Taysar Abu Alqiyan, who was an eyewitness to the murder. Her written account is here (Hebrew). Riklis will try to upload an English translation of it asap. In the meantime, I’ve included the original Hebrew version. In it, he says that around 5:30am, a massive force of IDF and police units arrived at the village. Taysar says that they arrived in full body armor as if they were prepared for a major battle. He notes there were also snipers stationed around the village, as if they were prepared either for armed resistance (preposterous since the Bedouin were not armed) or to kill anyone who resisted … If you think of the preposterous claims offered just after the killings that the Bedouin schoolteacher was in actuality an ISIS terrorist, it would make sense to devise such an outlandish theory in order to deflect from the serious command and control errors by forces in the field. This is also quite common in similar situations….
Israeli Bedouin stigmatized by terrorist narrative
Al-Monitor 24 Feb by Shlomi Eldar — Israeli Bedouin are concerned about being stereotyped as terrorists after Israeli officials made “irresponsible” statements following the death of a police officer — The Jan. 18 deaths of two men during home demolitions in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran continue to send shock waves through Israeli society. During a police operation to evacuate and demolish homes built illegally, Yakub Abu al-Kiyan ran over Erez Levi, a police officer, with his car. Levi died from his injuries and Abu al-Kiyan from being shot by police. After initial allegations that Abu al-Kiyan had deliberately struck Levi, the conclusion taking shape in the Department of Internal Affairs of the Israel Police is now that the incident was not a terrorist hit-and-run. In addition, Abu al-Kiyan was not a “despicable terrorist,” as Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich described him, or Islamic State (IS) member, as Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan alleged at the time. Erdan has not apologized, but has changed his tune somewhat, now saying that if an ongoing investigation concludes that there was no attack, it will be necessary to apologize to the family … Sami Amraneh, a social activist who lives in the Bedouin village of Segev Shalom, told Al-Monitor that the damage caused to the Bedouin population “by the irresponsible remarks of ministers, Knesset members and senior police officers is enormous. The mood among the people I work with has become very tense. Everyone has been influenced negatively by the reports [about the Bedouin]. People everywhere just stare at us.” Amraneh’s father spent 25 years in the Israel Defense Forces as a tracker. Amraneh said that he grew up in a home that took great care to instill a sense of loyalty to and love for the State of Israel, before adding, “But the mood has changed. We feel like an alien body in its midst … Abu al-Kiyan’s widow, Amal Abu Saad, told Al-Monitor that she now feels a certain sense of relief with her husband’s reputation being cleared. She lamented, however, “We are still without a roof over our heads. The children have no father. They have been doled out between a sister, a grandmother and neighbors. The older ones are sleeping in the village mosque.”….
Israeli forces detain 23 Palestinians in predawn West Bank raids
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 22 Feb — In predawn raids Wednesday across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, Israeli forces detained at least 23 Palestinians and seized three vehicles, according to Palestinian and Israeli sources. Scores of Israeli forces raided ‘Aida refugee camp in the southern occupied West Bank district of Bethlehem before dawn to detain one person, identified by locals as 20-year-old Muhammad Imad al-Azraq, after some 20 soldiers broke into and searched his family’s home, seizing his mobile phone, while some 20 other soldiers were stationed on the roof of the house … Also in the south, Israeli forces raided the town of Dura in the Hebron district and searched the house of legislative council member Nayif al-Rujoub, detained two Palestinians, and confiscated three vehicles. Locals said that Israeli forces raided and thoroughly searched al-Rujoub’s house before seizing his vehicle, while Israeli troops also raided and searched his office located elsewhere in Dura. Israeli soldiers also confiscated a vehicle belonging to Rizq al-Rujoub and a vehicle belonging to Imad Jadallah, both identified by locals as former prisoners. During the raid in Dura, Israeli forces detained two former prisoners after searching their houses. Locals identified the two as Youssif Abu Ras and Basel Dudin … In the northern occupied West Bank, Israeli forces raided the town of Beita and detained the mother of a shooting attack suspect, in addition to four other Palestinians. Secretary of the Fatah movement in Beita Bashar Khreiwish told Ma‘an that more than 15 Israeli military vehicles raided the western part of the village at around 1 a.m. Wednesday and detained 38-year-old Judeh Abu Mazen from her house. Abu Mazen is the mother of 19-year-old Sadeq Abu Mazen, who was detained on Feb. 9 for carrying out a shooting attack in the Israeli city of Petah Tikva that left six Israelis injured….
Israel forces detain 19 Palestinians, ransack homes in West Bank raids
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 23 Feb – Israeli forces Thursday detained a total of 19 Palestinians and ransacked many Palestinian homes during predawn raids across the West Bank, said Palestine Prisoner’s Society. Israeli forces detained six Palestinians and ransacked several homes during a predawn raid that sparked clashes in ‘Aboud village, northwest of Ramallah. Two of the detainees were released several hours later after being interrogated. Meanwhile, Israeli forces detained three Palestinians after storming their homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of al-Thuri. They also raided Beit Duqqu, a town to the northwest of Jerusalem, detaining a Palestinian. In Hebron district, forces detained four Palestinians after storming their homes in Beit Ummar, north of the city. The detainees were reportedly taken to the Gush Etzion detention and interrogation center. Muhammad Awad, a local activist who monitors settlement activities, said soldiers stormed the town and dropped leaflets threatening residents of tough action against them if stones are hurled at Israeli settlers’ vehicles traveling nearby. In the northern West Bank, soldiers nabbed two Palestinians from ‘Askar refugee camp in Nablus district and another from Tulkarem. Elsewhere in the northern West Bank, soldiers raided Qabatiya, south of Jenin, detaining four Palestinians after storming their homes.
Prisoners / Court actions
Muhammad al-Qiq loses ability to walk amid ongoing hunger strike
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 24 Feb — Palestinian hunger striker Muhammad al-Qiq has lost his ability to walk due to extreme exhaustion after at least 18 days without food, his lawyer reported on Friday. Khalid Zabarqa said that al-Qiq was in a wheelchair during a recent visit to Israel’s Ramla prison hospital where the hunger striker is being kept after Israeli authorities transferred al-Qiq from Israel’s Jalama prison due to the deterioration of his health. Zabarqa noted that al-Qiq was suffering from constant coughing, weight loss, and a perpetual headache. He has also refused to undergo any medical checkups related to his hunger strike. Zabarqa added that the doctors said that al-Qiq could be suffering from uveitis in his left eye, while highlighting that the health of al-Qiq has been consistently worsening each day. Al-Qiq declared a hunger strike for the second time on Feb. 6 after being sentenced to administrative detention — an Israeli policy of internment without charge or trial based on undisclosed evidence and used almost exclusively against Palestinians….
Palestinians protest resentencing of longest-serving prisoner Nael Barghouti
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 23 Feb — A sit-in was organized on Wednesday evening in the occupied West Bank district of Ramallah in solidarity with Nael Barghouthi, the longest-serving Palestinian prisoner who was sentenced on Wednesday by an Israeli military court to life in prison with an additional 18-year sentence. The sit-in was organized by the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs and other faction leaders and officials, including secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative Mustafa Barghouthi and member of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Abu Saleh Hisham. Families of Palestinian prisoners in Israel, former prisoners, and activists also joined the demonstration. PPS said in a statement on Wednesday that the Israeli court had ruled that Barghouthi, 59, was to serve the remainder of his previous sentence received prior to his short-lived release in 2011 as part of a prisoner swap deal between Israel and the Hamas movement. Protesters held signs with slogans condemning the Israeli occupation and demanding the release of Barghouthi and all other prisoners who have been redetained by Israeli forces since being released in prisoner exchange deals with Israel….
Palestinian lawyer signs plea bargain as NGO slams ‘persecution of rights defenders’
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 23 Feb — A Palestinian lawyer signed a plea deal earlier this week in order to avoid a prison sentence for his alleged involvement with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), as his organization called the case the latest example of Israel’s “persecution of human rights defenders.” Anas Barghouthi, a lawyer for prisoners rights group Addameer, accepted a plea bargain on Sunday in order to forgo a prison sentence for allegedly being a member of PFLP and leading demonstrations against Israeli policies, NGO Amnesty International reported on Wednesday. Barghouthi has denied both charges. “The case exemplifies the persisting persecution of human rights defenders in the absence of any adequate evidence showing that they pose a security threat,” Addameer legal unit director Mahmoud Hassan told Ma‘an on Thursday, citing the “prolonged trial proceedings” and “excessive” bail. The plea bargain includes a 7,000-shekel ($1,892) fine, as well as a suspended sentence of 18 months in prison if Barghouthi is found to be involved with PFLP in the coming five years, and an eight-month suspended sentence if he participates in protests in the next three years….
Three tunnel workers killed, five injured in Gaza
IMEMC 25 Feb by Saed Bannoura — Palestinian medical sources have reported, Saturday, that three workers were killed, and five others were injured, after inhaling gas while working in a siege-busting tunnel, on the Egyptian border. The workers were conducting maintenance work in the tunnel, on the Egyptian border with Rafah, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, The slain workers have been identified as Abdullah Waleed an-Namooli, 23, Salama Suleiman Abu Shousha, 24, and Obeid Mohammad Soufi, 25. The three slain Palestinians, and the five wounded, were all moved to Abu Yousef an-Najjar Hospital, in Rafah. The tunnel they were trying to fix was destroyed by the Egyptian army, last Thursday, and was used for as a trade tunnel to smuggle goods and supplies to the besieged coastal region. Last week, rescue workers in Gaza located the corpse of a Palestinian under the rubble of a tunnel that was flooded by the Egyptian army. Hundreds of Palestinians have been killed in tunnels in the besieged coastal region; mostly after the Israeli army bombarded them, while many died in tunnel collapse accidents, electrocution, and several others died after the Egyptian army bombarded, or flooded, the tunnels. While some are members of Al-Qassam Brigades of Hamas, and other factions, most of the workers in the tunnels are not affiliated with any group, and resorted to work under very dangerous conditions to provide for their families amidst the ongoing deadly siege on the coastal region.
16-year-old Palestinian shot by Israeli forces in central Gaza Strip
GAZA (Ma‘an) 24 Feb — Israeli forces injured a 16-year-old Palestinian with live fire on Friday in the central Gaza Strip near the border between the besieged enclave and Israel. Spokesperson of the Ministry of Health Ashraf al-Qadra said that the Palestinian was shot by Israeli forces and injured in his right leg. His wounds were described as medium. Witnesses told Ma‘an that Israeli forces stationed at the border fence east of Maghazi refugee camp opened live ammunition on a group of Palestinian youth in the area, causing the injury to the minor.
Israeli navy opens fire on Gaza fishing boats
IMEMC 24 Feb — Israeli navy ships opened fire, earlier Friday, targeting several Palestinian fishing bats, in Palestinian territorial waters in three areas, in the southern and northern parts of the Gaza Strip. Eyewitnesses said the navy fired dozens of rounds at fishing boats in Palestinian waters off Rafah and Khan Younis, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, and in northern Gaza, causing damage and forcing the fishers back to shore.
Israeli forces shoot at fishermen, enter Gaza border area
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 23 Feb — Israeli naval forces opened fire at Palestinian fishermen in the northern Gaza Strip on Thursday morning, while army bulldozers crossed the borderline of the besieged coastal enclave. Israeli army ships deployed off the coasts of Beit Lahiya and Gaza City fired in the direction of fishermen, locals told Ma‘an. No injuries were reported.
Meanwhile, four Israeli bulldozers escorted by drones flying overhead entered the central Gaza Strip east of Deir al-Balah on Thursday morning, witnesses told Ma‘an. The incidents took place two days after a Palestinian fisherman was shot in the back and critically injured while being detained by Israeli forces.
Israeli authorities refuse EU delegation entry into besieged Gaza Strip
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 22 Feb — A European parliament delegation that attempted to enter the besieged Gaza Strip to assess the residual damage of Israel’s 2014 military offensive was denied entry by Israeli authorities on Wednesday. According to a statement released by the European Parliament’s Delegation for relations with Palestine, Israeli authorities told the group that their entry was denied owing to the fact that only humanitarian workers and diplomats accredited by the Israeli government or the Palestinian Authority (PA) are allowed access to Gaza, which has been held under an Israeli military blockade for a decade. The statement noted that the delegation has been denied entry since 2011. The delegation’s statement decried the decision to refuse them access to Gaza, saying that the decision was based on “arbitrary grounds” and that the Israeli explanation was “unacceptable.” “We had hoped that that visit had ushered in a new more cooperative era, but this has not been the case… What is there to hide from us? Our positions are well-known,” the statement read … “On the ground in Gaza our aim is to assess the reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts to which the EU is the major donor. EU aid targets the promotion of employment and the poverty in Gaza. We are working to ensure the people in Gaza have access to basic necessities including potable drinking water, food, housing, and schools,” Sylikiotis added. According to the statement, the delegation included Sylikiotis and four members of the European parliament: Margrete Auken (Denmark), Brando Benifei (Italy), Ivo Vajgl (Slovenia), and Angela Vallina (Spain).
What EU shift in financial support policy means for Gaza
Al-Monitor 20 Feb by Adnan Abu Amer — The European Union contribution of 30 million euros to pay the salaries of Palestinian Authority civil servants in the Gaza Strip will be used to support families in need, which has angered Palestinians — It is no secret that the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) financial crisis is mounting with declining foreign support. This has prompted Mohammad Shtayyeh, a member of Fatah’s Central Committee and former minister of public works and housing, to confirm Feb. 13 that donors’ funding is decreasing and the PA’s financial crisis is ongoing. Shadi Othman, the communication and information officer at the European Commission in Jerusalem, said Feb. 3 that a new financial support policy for 2017 was adopted by the European Union, and that the EU contribution of 30 million euros ($32 million) that had gone to pay the salaries of PA civil servants in the Gaza Strip will be used to support families in need, provide job opportunities and fund development and infrastructure projects. On Feb. 7, the PA government replied in a statement that the new EU approach will further increase the budget deficit. It said that last year, Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah launched efforts to prevent the EU decision, but to no avail. According to the statement, this means that the PA’s financial burden will grow and the $39 million monthly budget deficit will increase….
Israel allows fuel into besieged Gaza Strip via Kerem Shalom crossing
GAZA (Ma‘an) 24 –- Israeli authorities opened the Karam Abu Salam (Kerem Shalom) crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip on Friday to allow the entry of fuel into the besieged enclave. Head of the gas committee in Gaza Samir Hamada told Ma‘an that Israeli authorities had decided to open Kerem Shalom crossing as Palestinian officials expected the entry of cooking gas and fuel into the territory. He said that 200,000 liters of gasoline and 120 tons of cooking gas would be pumped to companies operating in Gaza, while 400,000 liters of diesel fuel would be allocated to Gaza’s electricity company. Hamada noted that the cooking gas crisis in Gaza was caused by the lack of gas being pumped into Gaza, noting that authorities have implemented a new pump which is larger and will be able to transfer 400 tons of cooking gas on a daily basis….
Gaza police destroy 1 ton of unexploded ordnance
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 23 Feb — Palestinian police in the southern besieged Gaza Strip destroyed one ton of unexploded ordnance, an official told Ma‘an on Wednesday. According to Salim Madi, the head of the police’s explosives engineering department in the city of Rafah, an operation carried out north of the city destroyed a large number of unexploded Israeli rocket shells and grenades. Madi added that the explosive devices were dismantled and destroyed in accordance with international standards, in the presence of police General Manager Taysir al-Batsh, explosives engineering department head Imad al-Amsi, and Rafah police chief Jasser al-Mashwakhi. More than 7,000 [pieces of] unexploded ordnance were left throughout the Gaza Strip following the 2014 war between Israel and Palestinian militant groups, according to officials of the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the Palestinian territories (OCHA). A 2012 report published by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said that 111 civilians, 64 of them children, were casualties of unexploded ordnance between 2009 and 2012, reaching an average of four every month in 2012.
In Gaza, Syrians try to rebuild lives in ruins
AFP 24 Feb — When his family’s restaurant in Aleppo was crushed by bombs, Anas Qaterji had no choice but to flee war-torn Syria. He made his way to Turkey, then Egypt, before slipping into the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip though a tunnel under the border. Since his arrival in 2013, he has attempted to recreate life in the formerly prosperous Syrian economic capital by opening a restaurant identical to the one he left behind near the citadel of Aleppo. In Nusseirat Palestinian refugee camp, south of Gaza City, 29-year-old Qaterji was able to buy a 50-square-metre facility for $50,000 (47,000 euros). From Aleppo, he managed to salvage a 500-year-old wooden panel inscribed with Koranic verses, which now stands in the middle of the small restaurant of the huge Nusseirat camp, where nearly 160,000 refugees live in overcrowded conditions. Above traditional coffee pots and antique copper cups, a sign reads: “Restaurant Jar al-Qalaa 2: taking you to Aleppo”. “Here, everyone speaks about Aleppo. The Palestinians follow the Syrian news closely,” says Qaterji….
Hamas denies allegation that UNRWA employee was elected to Hamas leadership
JPost 24 Feb by Adam Rasgon — A senior Hamas official denied on Friday an allegation made by the Foreign Ministry that Suheil al-Hindi, a United Nations Relief Works Agency employee, was elected to the Hamas leadership in Gaza. “Suheil was not elected to any position nor did he participate in elections for any political party,” the senior Hamas official told The Jerusalem Post. “He has no position in Hamas.” The Hamas official’s comments followed the publication of a tweet by [Israeli] Foreign Ministry Spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon, which alleged that Hindi, a member of UNRWA’s education staff and the head of the UNRWA employees’ union in Gaza, was elected to the Hamas leadership.
Official UNRWA statement on Gaza neutrality issue
IMEMC/Agencies 24 Feb — Gaza Neutrality Issue – Statement by UNRWA Spokesperson, Chris Gunness – 23 February 2017 — Allegations have been circulating in conventional and social media networks about an UNRWA staff member being elected to political office in Gaza. As soon as the allegations came to UNRWA’s attention, the Agency undertook a preliminary investigation, including discussing the allegations with the staff member. Based on the due diligence carried out by the Agency to date, UNRWA has neither uncovered nor received evidence to contradict the staff member’s denial that he was elected to political office. Sohail Al-Hindi has rejected the news about his name appearing amongst the winning list of the Hamas political bureau in Gaza, saying: “I have no relation whatsoever with the issue”. In a deliberate and systematic way, UNRWA is tackling neutrality head on. All UNRWA staff are obligated to uphold the highest standards in terms of neutrality, independence and integrity in fulfilling the Agency’s mandate to provide services to Palestine refugees. These obligations and standards are established through the Area and International Staff Regulations and Rules. Staff members are prohibited from engaging in any political activity which is inconsistent or might adversely reflect upon the independence and impartiality required by their status … If any new allegations come to light, we will look into them immediately and thoroughly. There is more information about the range of activities we undertake to promote neutrality in relation to staff, installations, suppliers and beneficiaries at this link: https://www.unrwa.org/userfiles/2011033075942.pdf
What’s behind recent spate of abandoned newborns in Gaza?
GAZA CITY (Al-Monitor) 23 Feb by Mohammed Othman — In three separate incidents on Jan. 27, Feb. 4 and Feb. 20, residents in Gaza found three nurslings with unknown parentage left in the streets in the center of Gaza City and in the north of the Gaza Strip. At the end of 2016, another child was found among the olive trees in a deserted region in central Gaza … Al-Monitor’s interviews took place before the third baby was found Feb. 20. The director of Mabarra Association that is specialized in caring for children with unknown parentage, Moumen Barakat, told Al-Monitor, “We have been handed two children with unknown parentage from the Palestinian police since the beginning of 2017. One was found in front of Al-Amal Institute for Orphans in Gaza City and the other in front of a mosque in the north of the Gaza Strip.” He added, “With the two nurslings who were recently found [on Jan. 27 and Feb. 4], Mabarra Association is now home to 15 children with unknown parentage. The association offers the children all services — from medical and psychological care to education — so that they can look after themselves after completing university education. Caretakers who play the role of mothers attend to the children’s needs.” … Barakat could not assert whether the children found in the streets were the fruits of illegitimate relations or poverty. Lawyer and rights activist Fatima Ashour agreed and said there could be many reasons why the children were left in the streets. It is difficult to confirm whether the children were born out of illegitimate relations or within a legitimate marriage but abandoned due to poverty brought upon by the decadelong blockade on the Gaza Strip….
Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Settlements
‘We’re home’: Descendants of the lost tribe arrive in Israel
Ynet 23 Feb by Gabi Neuman — For generations, thousands of the ‘Bnei Menashe’ tribe have been living in northeast India, maintaining Jewish traditions, as they see themselves as one of the Ten Lost Tribes; a hundred of them fulfilled their dream and immigrated to Israel over the weekend — Over the weekend, two groups of immigrants from Mizoram in northeast India arrived in Israel. They entered Ben Gurion Airport singing and dancing as they were warmly welcomed by family members they had not seen for many years. With tears in their eyes, about a hundred new immigrants from the tribe of “Bnei Menashe” excitedly clutched their blue Israeli Identification cards to their chests, and spoke of a two-thousand-year-old dream coming to fruition. Shlomit tearfully hugged her sister who she hadn’t seen in more than twenty years, and Sarah said, “I tried to get here for so long … now we’re finally here. It’s so wonderful.”… According to tradition transmitted from generation to generation, these are the descendants of the tribe of Manasseh—one of the ten tribes exiled from the Land of Israel at the end of the First Temple period.
UN decries Israel’s West Bank demolition order
Al Jazeera 22 Feb — The United Nations has raised concerns over a newly announced demolition plan in a Palestinian Bedouin village in the occupied West Bank that threatens dozens of buildings including a primary school. “This is unacceptable and it must stop,” Robert Piper, UN’s humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, said on Wednesday. Piper visited the village where the primary school is among 140 structures at risk of demolition. “Khan al-Ahmar is one of the most vulnerable communities in the West Bank struggling to maintain a minimum standard of living in the face of intense pressure from the Israeli authorities to move,” he said in a statement. Israeli officials have over the past week issued dozens of demolition orders threatening “nearly every structure” in a part of the village of Khan al-Ahmar, the UN said. Israel said the buildings were built without permits. The UN said such permits are all but impossible to obtain for Palestinians … Israel has occupied the West Bank for 50 years in violation of international law. A number of traditionally nomadic Bedouin communities are based east of Jerusalem, where rights groups fear demolitions could eventually clear the way for more construction of illegal Israeli settlements. This could partly divide the West Bank between north and south while further isolating the territory from Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians see as their future capital. The UN said there are 46 communities in the central West Bank at risk of forcible transfer, ousting approximately 7,000 residents … Since 1967, when Israel occupied the Palestinian territories, at least 48,000 Palestinian homes and housing structures have been demolished.
Palestinian lands in Salfit razed for settlement expansion
IMEMC/Agencies 24 Feb — Israeli forces, on Thursday morning, leveled Palestinian lands in Salfit city, northern occupied West Bank, for the purpose of settlement expansion. Palestinian farmers in Qarawat Bani Hassan and Deir Istiya, to the west of Salift, said that Israeli bulldozers have been leveling their land lots in an attempt to expand the adjacent (and illegal) Hafat Yair settlement outpost. PNN reports that, according to the Palestine Information Center (PIC), Israeli forces and settlers declared the razed area a “nature reserve”, preventing Palestinians from growing crops or reclaiming their private lands. “The Israeli occupation authorities have made use of the nature reserve pretext not to protect nature, as it might seem upon first glance, but rather to grab more land in favor of illegal settlement expansion, as has been the case with Havat Yathir illegal outpost,” researcher Khaled Maali warned. Maali added that occupation authorities and settlers have both been doing harm to the ecological system and damaging Salfit’s fauna and flora by uprooting olive trees and razing pastoral lands, as they pave the way for the construction of more illegal homes in the area.
Israel to demolish school, residential sheds, barns and a well near Hebron
IMEMC 23 Feb — Israeli soldiers invaded, Wednesday, several residential communities in Masafer Yatta area, south of the southern West Bank city of Hebron, and delivered demolition orders targeting a school, residential sheds and tents, barns, and a water well. Rateb al-Jabour, the coordinator of the Popular and National Committees in the southern part of the occupied West Bank, said the soldiers placed the demolition orders on the ground near the targeted buildings and structures. He added that the soldiers also photographed the structures from several directions, and that the orders only grant the residents three days to file appeals, which doesn’t give them enough time, especially due to the weekend. Jabour said the structures are owned by the families of Abu ‘Arram, Abu Sabha, al-Hamamda, an-Najajra, along with several other families. In addition, the soldiers demolished a 400 cubic meter well, owned by the an-Najajra family, in the Khashm ad-Daraj area.
Families removed from their homes to make room for Israeli military drill
NABLUS (WAFA) 22 Feb – Israeli forces Wednesday ordered all Palestinian residents of Khirbit Tana, east of Nablus in the occupied West Bank, to leave their homes to allow for military drill in that area, a local official said. Aref Hanini, mayor of the nearby town of Beit Furik, told WAFA that Israeli forces evicted 30 Palestinian families from Khirbit Tana and ordered them out of their homes between 5 in the morning until 5 in the afternoon. Khirbit Tana is located in Area C of the West Bank, which is under full Israeli military control. More than 300 Palestinians live in caves and other temporary structures.
State rejects plan to seal off homes
JPost 23 Feb by Tobah Lazaroff — The state on Wednesday rejected a plan to seal rather than destroy nine unauthorized homes in the Ofra settlement that were built on private Palestinian property. The High Court of Justice has ruled that the nine stone homes inside the settlement must be razed by March 5. The Ofra families have petitioned the High Court of Justice to seal the structures on the grounds that the Knesset’s passage of the settlements bill means that all such homes would be retroactively legalized, including theirs. Earlier this week, the judges on the case asked the state to clarify if, in fact, the new legislation that retroactively legalizes settler homes on private Palestinian property is applicable to the Ofra homes. The state said the legislation was not applicable in cases such as the nine Ofra homes where the High Court of Justice had already ruled that the homes must be razed. The state asked the court to respond quickly to the Ofra petition so it can move forward to meet the March 5 demolition date. Separately, the Palestinian landowners on whose property the Ofra homes were constructed, asked the High Court to reject the petition by the settlers. They issued their petition with the help of the Israeli nongovernmental organization Yesh Din and their attorneys Michael Sfard and Shlomy Zachary. In its statement to the court, Yesh Din said that the families moved into the homes after injunctions were issued and that they understood full well that the structures were on private Palestinian property. These are property lots that are very clearly registered to Palestinians, Yesh Din said.
Over three weeks after Amona evacuation, violent protesters remain free
JPost 22 Feb by Eliyahu Kamisher & Udi Shaham — Thirteen protesters were arrested during the evacuation and charged with disturbing the peace — More than three weeks after police clashed with violent protesters during the evacuation of the hilltop outpost of Amona, there have been no additional arrests or indictments. Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan warned February 5 that protesters who employed violence against security personnel during the February 1-2 court-ordered evacuation of the West Bank outpost would be arrested and face serious charges. In an interview with Channel 2 Erdan called the suspects “hooligans” and said police would review video from the incident to identify those who allegedly attacked officers. Nevertheless, despite the supposed existence of video evidence, Shlomit Bakshi, a Judea and Samaria police spokeswoman, said Monday no additional arrests have been made. “The investigation is ongoing,” she added. Yesh Atid MK Mickey Levy, a former Jerusalem District police chief, criticized the force as being hesitant in making arrests and issuing indictments. “We all saw the blatant violence by dozens of teenagers against policemen in the synagogue evacuation in Amona,” Levy said in a statement provided to The Jerusalem Post. “If they have not yet been indicted, it is outrageous. It is impossible that extraneous considerations would lead to a situation where police are attacked and the attackers are not put on trial.” … Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On claimed that law-enforcement authorities treat Jews and Arabs differently and are weak when it comes to enforcing the law against settlers. “When it comes to [Israeli] Beduin they first shoot and then ask questions,” Gal- On said in a statement. “But, with the settlers, they put forth their best efforts and show empathy so the evacuation will be considerate and humane. It is not enough that our soldiers are guarding the settlers in the occupied territories and some of them even lose their lives for them; now they find out that getting beaten up by the settlers is something that can be overlooked.”….
Reports: Israeli Supreme Court rules in favor of punitive demolition of slain Palestinian’s home
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 23 Feb — The Israeli Supreme Court on Thursday ruled in favor of the punitive demolition of the home of slain Palestinian Fadi Ahmad al-Qunbar in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabal al-Mukabbir, Hebrew-language news sites reported. Al-Qunbar was shot dead by Israeli forces last month after he drove into a group of Israeli soldiers in an illegal Israeli settlement in occupied East Jerusalem, killing four soldiers. Al-Qunbar’s relatives, who have repeatedly denied having advanced knowledge of any plans to carry out an attack, were delivered notices shortly after the attack in early January, saying that there Jerusalem residencies were being punitively revoked by the Israeli government. The court said in Thursday’s order that “based on provided evidences, it was clear that the family was fully aware of their son’s intention to commit the attack and we have reached a decision to allow the demolition of their house as a reasonable punishment.” Al-Qunbar’s family will be left homeless by Israel’s policy of punitive home demolition, which has been widely condemned as an act of collective punishment and illegal under international law. Israeli leaders also called for the family to be expelled to the besieged Gaza Strip or exiled to war-torn Syria in the wake of the attack.
The Jerusalem municipality has reportedly approved plans to establish a new settlement in the neighborhood, on the site of al-Qunbar’s home, according to Israel’s Channel 10. In addition to the pending demolition of al-Qunbar’s home, Israel stepped up demolitions of other homes in the area in the wake of the attack, with Israeli human rights group B’Tselem reporting that Israeli authorities had handed 40 demolition notices in Jabal al-Mukabbir between January 8, when the attack took place, and January 11.
Restriction of movement / Closures
Israel blocks entrance to village in Nablus area
NABLUS (WAFA) 25 Feb – The Israeli army Saturday blocked the entrance to the village of Osarin, south of Nablus in the occupied West Bank, interrupting movement of cars in and out of the village, Palestinian security sources said. They told WAFA that the army blocked the road with dirt mounds. No reason was given for the closure other than it was believed to be part of Israel’s collective punishment policy against the Palestinians when the entire community is punished if rocks are thrown at Israeli settlers’ cars in the vicinity. The road to the village was closed in 2000 to be reopened in mid-2012.
Israeli forces tear up permits of Palestinians at army checkpoint
JENIN (WAFA) 23 Feb – Israeli soldiers manning a checkpoint outside Jenin in the north of the West Bank Thursday tore up army-issued permits for 110 Palestinians when they were trying to cross Jalama checkpoint, north of Jenin, into Israel, said an official. Chairman of Jenin Chamber of Commerce and Industry Hesham Masad said Israeli troops tore up the permits of Palestinians that would allow them to enter Israel claiming their permits were not valid for workers, but rather for business people. Masad said he believes this step was intended to make it more difficult for Palestinians attempting to enter Israel looking for work and to destroy the livelihoods of thousands of families. He said the permits were revoked from poor Palestinians, slamming this step as part of the Israeli policy of collective punishment that would incur heavy damages on workers.
Separately, Israeli forces punitively revoked the entry permits of 15 Palestinians during a predawn raid into Beit Ummar, north of Hebron, claiming their children hurl stones at settlers’ vehicles.
Israel closes Jerusalem-area Palestinian boys’ school for ‘incitement’
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 23 Feb — Israeli authorities on Thursday closed a Palestinian elementary school for boys in the town of Sur Bahir in the central occupied West Bank Jerusalem district over alleged “incitement.” Head of the school Luay Jamal Bkirat told Ma‘an that Israeli intelligence officials summoned him and the school’s financial manager Nasser Hamed for interrogation at an Israeli police station, where they were then told to their surprise that the Israeli police would be shutting down the school over “incitement in the schools’ materials.” Bkirat denied the claims, saying that the al-Nukhba school “is teaching the Palestinian curriculum used in all schools in Jerusalem and that no one of the faculty has ever been summoned for interrogation before over incitement.” He added that the school — which serves 250 boys from kindergarten to grade six — was opened last year and gained a temporary operating license from the Jerusalem municipality, and that the license was revoked in November for unknown reasons.
Bkirat condemned the decision and said that he “will conduct procedures to stop this decision which aims to destroy education.” … The Times of Israel reported that the school was shut down for being a “Hamas front,” after “a months-long joint probe by the Education Ministry, Jerusalem Police and the Shin Bet [internal security agency].” Israeli authorities from the education ministry claimed the school was established by Hamas with the aim of teaching “content that undermines the sovereignty of Israel,” and that the school’s aims were “consistent with the ideology of the terror organization, which calls for the destruction of Israel,” the Times of Israel said.
Israel denies work visa to Human Rights Watch official
JERUSALEM (AP) 24 Feb by Josef Federman — Israeli authorities have rejected a request from Human Rights Watch to grant a work permit to its regional director, accusing the group of engaging in Palestinian “propaganda,” the group said Friday. The decision was Israel’s latest step against human rights groups and other advocacy organizations that it accuses of bias against the Jewish state. Israel’s Interior Ministry issued its ruling this week, some six months after Human Rights Watch asked for permission for its New York-based Israel and Palestine director, Omar Shakir, to be able to work in the country. In a letter dated Monday, the ministry said the group’s reports “have engaged in politics in the service of Palestinian propaganda, while falsely raising the banner of “human rights.” The decision, it said, was based on a recommendation from Israel’s Foreign Ministry. Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon called Human Rights Watch a “blatantly hostile anti-Israeli organization whose reports have the sole purpose of harming Israel with no consideration whatsoever for the truth or reality.” He said “there is no reason” to give a visa to a person or organization that wants to hurt the country. “We are not masochists and there is no reason we should keep doing that,” he said. He said the decision was connected solely to the group’s activities and had nothing to do with the ethnicity of Shakir, a U.S. citizen of Iraqi descent. Shakir, a Stanford-educated lawyer, has also done work on human rights in Egypt, Pakistan and at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, according to his biography.The New York-based group monitors human rights in over 90 countries, including nations throughout the Middle East….
After appeal by leading writers, major US literary festival will proceed without Israeli government sponsorship
NEW YORK (Adalah-NY) 23 Feb — Human rights advocates welcome the decision by PEN America to hold PEN’s annual World Voices literary festival without funding from the Israeli government. The decision followed a campaign and a call supported by leading literary figures asking the organization to reject Israeli government sponsorship. PEN America accepted Israeli government support for the World Voices Festival four of the previous five years, and despite writers’ opposition in 2016. The leading US free expression and literary organization announced its program last week for the May 2017 World Voices Festival in New York….
REVEALED: UK universities told to ‘manage’ Palestinian activism
MEE 22 Feb by Simon Hooper — British university staff are being advised to “risk-assess and manage” events on campus relating to “contentious” issues including Palestine and criticism of Western foreign policy in the Middle East in order to demonstrate their compliance with the government’s Prevent counter-extremism strategy. Critics fear that the guidance, which is contained in an online training presentation, is already stifling free speech and political expression, with one institution, the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), on Tuesday cancelling an event organised by a Friends of Palestine society because of concerns that it would not be “balanced” … “Vocal support for Palestine”, “Opposition to Israeli settlements in Gaza”, “Criticism of wars in the Middle East” and “Opposition to Prevent” are included in a list of “contentious topics” in the presentation on a website, Safe Campus Communities, created for university staff to help them fulfil their Prevent Duty obligations. Since 2015, the Prevent Duty has required public sector workers by law to “have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism”.
Weekly report on Israeli human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territory (16-22 February 2017)
PCHR-Gaza 23 Feb — Three Palestinian civilians were wounded, including a child, in the West Bank. Israeli forces continued to target Palestinian fishermen in the Gaza Sea. 5 fishermen were arrested, one of whom was wounded, and their boat was confiscated in the northern Gaza Strip. Israeli forces conducted 65 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. 72 civilians, including 10 children and 4 women, were arrested in the West Bank. 18 of them, including 7 children and 3 women, were arrested in occupied Jerusalem. Israeli forces continued their efforts to create Jewish majority in occupied East Jerusalem. A residential house was demolished in a Bedouin Community in al-Khan al-Ahmar area and another house in Beit Hanina. Shweiki and Qara’in families self-demolished their houses in Silwan and al-Mukaber Mount villages to avoids demolition costs. Israeli forces continued their settlement activities in the West Bank A waterline was uprooted in the Northern Jordan Valley. Israeli forces turned the West Bank into cantons and continued to impose the illegal closure on the Gaza Strip for the 10th year Dozens of temporary checkpoints were established in the West Bank and others were re-established to obstruct the movement of Palestinian civilians. 7 Palestinian civilians were arrested at military checkpoints. [details follow]
Abbas, in Lebanon, says country’s Palestinian factions committed to security
BEIRUT (AP) 24 Feb — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas began a three-day visit to Beirut on Thursday, saying Palestinian factions were committed to preserving security in refugee camps around Lebanon. Abbas arrived in the afternoon in the first visit to Lebanon by a president since President Michel Aoun was elected in October. He will meet in the coming days with other top Lebanese officials, including the prime minister and parliament speaker. Lebanon is home to some 400,000 refugees, mainly in 12 crowded Palestinian refugee camps. Abbas read a statement after his meeting with Aoun, saying that Palestinians stand against terrorism in all its forms. “Our people in Lebanon have confirmed that they will preserve security and stability in the camps and here I assert that commitment of all Palestinian factions with this vision,” he said. He added that the Palestinians, like the Lebanese, are opposed to all forms of terrorism. Over the past months, dozens of wanted people who were taking shelter in the refugee camp of Ein el-Hilweh in southern Lebanon have handed themselves over to Lebanese authorities. Ein el-Hilweh is notorious for its lawlessness and is home to some extremists who sympathize with the Islamic State group and al-Qaeda….
Voter registration for Palestinian municipal elections postponed by a week
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 22 Feb — The Palestinian Authority (PA) Central Elections Commission (CEC) announced on Wednesday that it was postponing voter registration for municipal elections by a week, as discussions were still ongoing to include the Gaza Strip in the electoral process. The postponement of the voter registration process — initially scheduled to begin on Feb. 25 — was due to a decision having yet to be taken over the inclusion of the besieged Gaza Strip in the upcoming elections. The Fatah-dominated PA had announced at the end of last month that local elections would be scheduled for May 13 in both the West Bank and Gaza. However, Hamas, the de facto ruling party of Gaza, and the Islamic Jihad movement promptly rejected the plan, saying that elections should only take place after the more than decade-long rivalry between Hamas and Fatah comes to an end and reconciliation is achieved….
PA bans Palestinian lawmaker from leaving West Bank
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 22 Feb — A member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) was denied entry into Jordan from the occupied West Bank via the Allenby Bridge by Palestinian Authority (PA) checkpoint authorities on Wednesday. Najat Abu Bakr told Ma‘an that the PA crossings authority in Jericho had informed her that she was banned from leaving the West Bank. She was on her way to Lebanon to attend a ceremony in which she was expected to be honored as the most respected lawmaker in the Arab world. Abu Bakr was among four Fatah-affiliated Palestinian lawmakers that had their parliamentary immunity revoked by PA President Mahmoud Abbas last year. Following the decision, Fatah parliamentary members held a meeting with the Hamas-dominated PLC in the besieged Gaza Strip for the first time since 2007 and declared the decision illegal and unconstitutional. The move was quickly condemned as a political maneuver to maintain the leader’s control over the PA government and squelch his political rivals amid mounting unpopularity for Abbas’ more than a decade-long domination of Palestinian politics.
PA court sentences 3 Palestinians to prison for trading Israeli settlement products
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 22 Feb — A Palestinian Authority (PA) court in the southern occupied West Bank district of Bethlehem sentenced three Palestinian merchants to two years in prison on Wednesday after being found guilty of trading commodities produced in illegal Israeli settlements, in the first ruling of its kind in the Palestinian territory. In a statement released by the general prosecution for the Palestinian Authority (PA), the three were found guilty of violating a 2010 bill which prohibits trading products from Israel’s illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory. The three merchants were also being forced to pay around $14,000 in fines for the violation.
3 Palestinian policemen injured after being run over by illegal car
TULKAREM (Ma‘an) 24 Feb — Three Palestinian policemen were injured on Friday after being ran over by an illegal car while setting up a checkpoint to investigate cars in the village of Bal‘a in the occupied West Bank district of Tulkarem as part of an ongoing crackdown on stolen vehicles and Israeli-registered vehicles being driven by Palestinians with West Bank IDs. Medical sources told Ma‘an that Palestian Red Crescent ambulances transferred the injured policemen to the Thabet Thabet governmental hospital, and noted that they had suffered from bruises and fractures. Palestinian police spokesperson Luay Irziqat told Ma‘an that during an official mission for Palestinian police in Bal‘a to detect illegal cars and catch wanted Palestinians, the policemen were surprised when they saw a car speeding towards them. Irziqat added that the police had chased the car and detained the driver, adding that he would be interrogated and all legal procedures would be adhered to. He added that a number of wanted Palestinians were detained and several illegal vehicles were seized during the police mission in Bal‘a.
Foreign Ministry says Netanyahu’s statements in Australia invitation to violence
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 23 Feb – Statements Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made in Australia during which he expressed support for a Palestinian autonomous rule instead of an independent state is an invitation to violence, the Palestinian Foreign Ministry warned on Thursday.It said in a statement that Netanyahu has closed the door to the two-state solution and negotiations and opened it wide to extremism. Netanyahu’s statements, which the Foreign Ministry described as provocative, “puts an end to the culture of peace and shuts the door to negotiations, while opening it wide to violent extremism in the region,” it said. The Foreign Ministry called on all countries, particularly the United States, which kept silent toward such statements, to openly declare their position from Israeli attempts to drop the two-state solution. It said if Israel continues to advocate this position of no state for the Palestinians, which it said is a blatant challenge to the international will that supports a negotiated settlement based on two states, it will lead the Palestinians “to reconsider the mutual recognition between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel.”
Dahlan sends message with Palestinian youth conference
CAIRO (Al-Monitor) 24 Feb by Mohammed Othman — By organizing a youth conference in Cairo, dismissed Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan sought to assert his strong position as statesman to potentially replace President Mahmoud Abbas — The Democratic Reformist Current, a Fatah current formed in opposition to President Mahmoud Abbas’ policies, held a youth conference in Cairo on Feb. 15-16 under the title “Palestinian youth drawing future map.” Around 500 young Palestinians and leaders from the current came from Egypt, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Lebanon and Europe to discuss the issues facing the Palestinian youth in general and address the youth’s political and social participation. Ibrahim Arafat, a member of the conference’s preparatory committee who came from Gaza, told Al-Monitor that the conference aimed to convey several messages, notably highlighting the role of Palestinian youth in society as well as the role of the reformist current within Fatah….
Palestinian diaspora gathers for ‘a common vision’
Al Jazeera 24 Feb — Representatives of Palestinian communities in the diaspora are due to hold their first ever international gathering in Istanbul over the weekend. Entitled “the Palestinians Abroad conference”, the gathering aims to rally Palestinians worldwide around a common vision for the future of the Palestinian national project and to shift to a rights-based struggle, according to organisers. “The conference aims to ensure the continuity of the principles that have all along informed the Palestinian national struggle in response to the Zionist movement’s expansive presence in the country since the early 20th century,” said Ziyad al Aloul, the spokesman for the conference. According to the Ramallah-based Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, there are more than 12 million Palestinians in the world. Half of them live within historic Palestine. The remaining six million live in the surrounding Arab countries, Europe, South and North America.
The woman who washes the dead
LESBOS, Greece (Al Jazeera) 23 Feb by Fahrinisa Oswald — The story of two women – a Palestinian Bedouin and a Syrian refugee – as one prepares the other for burial — In the large one-room container in the quiet cemetery of Kato Tritos, a small town several kilometres from the capital of Lesbos, Warda Alkenawy prepares for the ritual body washing. The 35-year-old Palestinian Bedouin from Herat, Israel, is a social worker and accidental washer of the dead who has been on the island since September 2015 – at the height of the mass influx of refugees. Before her lie the bodies of Ghalia Abdi and her two young children, Zanaf and Walat. They were Kurds from Syria, and, like hundreds of thousands of others, were fleeing for their lives. Only their lives ended somewhere in the Aegean, between Turkey and Greece. Now they are here, on Warda’s wooden washing table. There are two wooden tables inside the container room, one with slats for the water to run through. A long hose hangs from a single faucet, and a heavy white coffin sits pushed up against the wall. The white cloth used for shrouding the bodies is folded inside a small plastic bag at the foot of one table. Soon, Warda will remove the cloth and place it over Ghalia’s body. She will wash the body through the cloth, maintaining Ghalia’s privacy at all times. Shadia Abdi, Ghalia’s younger sister, who had fled to Greece three months before Ghalia, will help her. As the crisis continued over the autumn and into winter, the number of female refugees making the journey to Europe rose sharply. So did the number of women who died….
Palestinians face intense online hate from Israelis, say campaigners
NAZARETH, Israel (MEE) 25 Feb by Jonathan Cook — Israel’s 1.7 million Palestinian citizens are facing a tidal wave of incitement and hate speech on social media, including from government ministers, community leaders have warned. They say the increasingly hostile political climate in Israel is stoking violence from the police and street gangs and has laid the ground for a recent raft of legislative proposals many Palestinians consider racist. The alert comes as a group of Palestinian lawyers demand that Israel’s attorney general investigates Gilad Erdan, the internal security minister, for alleged incitement to racism. Adalah, a legal group for Israel’s Palestinian minority, highlighted statements from Erdan blaming Palestinian citizens for “arson terrorism” last November after forest fires swept the country, despite their having been no prosecutions. “Israel has experienced arson terrorism, and I won’t let anyone sweep this fact under the rug,” he wrote on Facebook in December. “Why does it seem unrealistic that Arabs would attempt to harm Jews?” Adalah alleged Erdan’s comments were part of a wider government strategy to portray Palestinian citizens, about 20 percent of Israel’s population, as a “fifth column”….
Another US-Israeli parallel? Breaking up families for no good reason
Middle East Eye 21 Feb 2017 – Like Israel’s law blocking certain family reunifications, Trump’s immigration ban treats entire families, friends and colleagues as enemies — The policies pursued by Trump and Netanyahu separate and break apart families, friends and professional colleagues. Their advocacy of separation is based on a dangerous ideology which perceives the “other” – primarily Muslims and Arabs – as a national security threat based solely on their ethnic or religious affiliation. This ideology, which does not distinguish between citizens and non-citizens, targets these “others” solely because of who they are. Proponents of this approach are able to justify even overtly racist actions such as Trump’s recent executive order banning Muslim citizens of seven countries from entering the US, implying that all of these countries’ citizens pose a threat to American national security. While this executive order targets non-US citizens, it directly affects the families, friends and colleagues of American citizens and categorises them all as “enemies” … It is not by chance that the American and Israeli leaders are promoting a common policy based on an “enemy” doctrine which implements blanket bans on people entering their respective nations, based strictly on ethnic or religious background. The Israeli government passed a “temporary law” in 2003 which bans the entry of Palestinians from occupied Palestinian territories for the purposes of family unification with spouses who are Palestinian citizens and residents of Israel. In 2007, that same law was expanded to include citizens and residents of countries defined as “enemy states”: Syria, Iraq, Iran and Lebanon and any other country perceived by Israel to be a national security threat. This law currently affects 8,000-10,000 Palestinian families with non-citizen spouses….
Exclusive: Trump likes two-state solution, but says he will leave it up to Israelis, Palestinians
WASHINGTON (Reuters) 24 Feb by Steve Holland — U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday he likes the concept of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, expressing his preference on the issue for the first time since sparking international criticism for appearing to back away from the longstanding bedrock of Middle East policy. But in an interview with Reuters, Trump stopped short of reasserting a U.S. commitment to eventual Palestinian statehood and instead said again that he would be “satisfied with whatever makes both parties happy.” Trump’s comments put a new twist on a statement he made at a Feb. 15 joint news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggesting that his administration would no longer insist on the creation of an independent Palestinian state as part of any future peace accord. It could also send a signal to both sides, as well as the international community, that the principle that has long underpinned U.S.-led peace diplomacy will not be discarded if the Trump administration moves forward, as he has promised, with an initiative to restart long-stalled peace efforts….
Unlike colleagues, Michigan congressman embraces town halls
BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (AP) 24 Feb — A Michigan congressman is embracing the town halls that many of his Republican counterparts have avoided as people lash out at President Donald Trump’s early actions and the planned repeal of the federal health care law. “It’s my duty to be here,” Rep. Justin Amash, 36, said Thursday after taking pointed questions for 90 minutes during a raucous session inside a gymnasium in Battle Creek, 110 miles west of Detroit … The events are earning Amash, one of Trump’s most prominent GOP critics, some respect from angry Democrats who vehemently oppose many of the congressman’s stances but credit him for listening to his constituents rather than ducking them … The son of a Palestinian refugee father and a Syrian immigrant mother, Amash said both of his parents would have been banned from the U.S. under Trump’s travel ban that he has deemed “unlawful.” He was the only House Republican to vote against the one-time exemption for retired Marine Gen. James Mattis to become secretary of defense….