‘Worst view in the world’: Banksy opens hotel overlooking Bethlehem wall
The Guardian 3 Mar by Emma Graham-Harrison in Bethlehem — The Walled Off hotel may sound utilitarian, even bleak. Its owner says it has “the worst view of any hotel in the world”, while its 10 rooms get just 25 minutes of direct sunlight a day. But, nestled against the controversial barrier wall separating Israel from the Palestinian territories, the West Bank’s answer to the Waldorf offers travellers something more elusive than any luxury destination. The lodging in Bethlehem is a hotel, museum, protest and gallery all in one, packed with the artworks and angry brilliance of its owner, British street artist Banksy….
Violence / Detentions — West Bank / Jerusalem
Kafr Qaddoum: Israeli soldiers shoot Palestinian journalist
[with photos] Popular Resistance Committee of Kafr Qaddoum 3 Mar — Today, at the weekly Friday protest in Kafr Qaddoum, a large number of Israeli Forces raided the village and fired large amounts of live ammunition, rubber coated steel bullets, stun grenades and teargas at Palestinian protesters. One journalist, from Palestine TV, was shot in the head with a rubber coated steel bullet. A group of masked Israeli soldiers also took his telephone, and deleted all of his pictures and videos from the demonstration. The journalist is alive, but will be hospitalized over the night. Later a large number of masked Israeli Forces raided the village, trying to arrest Palestinians, and entering the house of a Palestinian family, scaring the crying children.
The protest started with a march at 12.30, after the Friday noon prayer in the local mosque of Kafr Qaddoum. A large group of Palestinians, journalists, and a few Israeli and international activists marched from the mosque towards the closed road that used to connect Kafr Qaddoum with the large city of Nablus. After marching for around 30 meters, three Israeli Military jeeps and large numbers of Israeli forces arrived. They opened fire on the Palestinian protesters, who retreated back further into the village. Between 1 PM and 3 PM, Israeli forces continuously fired live ammunition, rubber-coated steel bullets, stun grenades and teargas at the Palestinian protesters. At several points, masked Israeli soldiers stormed the village, in an attempt to arrest the protesters. At one point, a large group of masked Israeli soldiers entered the house of a Palestinian family who were not participating in the demonstration. From outside the house, Palestinian children were heard screaming and crying, and Israeli soldiers were yelling intensely at the people inside the house. Ahmad [Shawer], a journalist from Palestine TV, was shot in the head by Israeli forces with a rubber coated steel bullet, and was bleeding heavily from his forehead. Israeli soldiers also took his private telephone, and deleted all of the pictures and videos he had made of Israeli soldiers firing live ammunition at Palestinian protesters. The journalist is now hospitalized, where he will stay under supervision over the night. A local organizer of the protest described the situation as the feeling of “… a real war, with constant bullets being fired from 1 PM to 3 PM. Children crying and screaming. The situation was so terrifying.” … For five years the people of Kafr Qaddum have been holding weekly demonstrations, protesting the closure of their main road to Nablus and the expansion of the illegal Israeli settlement of Kedumim, which surrounds the village. In 2003, the road was sealed permanently by an Israeli roadblock, extending the fifteen minute commute to Nablus to about forty minutes….
Non-violent demonstrators march to stolen water well in Nabi Saleh, where Israeli colonizers attack them
IMEMC 4 Mar — In Nabi Saleh village Friday, a group of Palestinian, Israeli and international peace activists held a non-violent march to the location of a water well which was seized by armed Israeli colonial militia fighters in the area. The demonstrators were then attacked by both Israeli soldiers and armed colonizers. Among those who participated in the protest were members of a delegation of US Veterans [Veterans for Peace], who wrote an extended account of their experience at the protest. They observed that the Israeli colonial militia members appeared to be most focused on attacking women, children, and people with cameras, while leaving the larger adult male veterans alone. A video of the incident [below] shows Israeli settler militia members rushing into a crowd of protesters and grabbing, pushing and beating people. Israeli soldiers, as if to provide backup for the violent assault, fire tear gas and concussion grenades at the demonstrators. Throughout the video, the international and Palestinian non-violent activists can be heard chanting “1-2-3-4 Occupation no more”. The Israeli settler militia members also push down the videographer at one point, as well as attacking another journalist wearing a bright vest labelled ‘PRESS’….
Non-violent protests in Bil‘in and Ni‘lin met by violence from Israeli troops
IMEMC 4 Mar — The weekly non-violent protests in the villages of Ni‘lin and Bil‘in, both near Ramallah, were met by the usual use of force by Israeli troops invading the villages. In Bil‘in, the protesters managed to march to the site of the Israeli Annexation Wall constructed on their stolen village land, separating local farmers from their land, where they were met by Israeli soldiers who fired tear gas canisters and rubber-coated steel bullets at the protesters. Medics treated the protesters on site, and none were reported to have been seriously injured.
One of the organizers of the weekly protests in Bil‘in, Hamde Abu Rahma, yesterday visited the newly installed 20 ft bronze 2 tonne Nelson Mandela statue in Ramallah, donated from Johannesburg South Africa. Mandela was an ardent supporter of the Palestinian cause and a champion for Middle East peace. One of Mandela’s famous quotes was this ….“We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.” Ramallah mayor Mussa Hadid said the statue “symbolizes the shared suffering” of the South African and Palestinian peoples.
In Ni‘lin, a similar protest took place Friday to the one in in Bil‘in, with Palestinian villagers, along with Israeli and international supporters, marching toward the location where Israeli authorities took over village land and constructed a massive Wall. However, they were unable to reach the site, because they were blocked by Israeli forces, who fired less-than-lethal weaponry toward the demonstrators.
VIDEO: Police filmed violently detaining suspect
Ynet 3 Mar by Hassan Shaalan — Police officers from Zikhron Ya’akov were filmed Tuesday violently arresting an Arab resident of Jisr az-Zarqa while conducting a search for illegal weapons. One of the officers was filmed striking the suspect in the head during the course of the arrest. The incident occurred Tuesday in Jisr az-Zarqa after police arrived to conduct a search for illegal weapons. According to the suspect, “The officers carried out a violent arrest. I was suffering from pain, but they didn’t care. Muhammad Jarban, a family member of the suspect, said, “The officers behaved irresponsibly. We don’t care that they conduct searches, but they should speak to us respectfully. When we asked about the circumstances of the search, they began to shout.” Jarban decided to document the incident and later said, “Unfortunately, the police arrested my nephew, who didn’t do anything. They used violence even though he wasn’t resisting. They suddenly grabbed him and one of the officers hit him in the head. They threw him on the ground without regard for his pain. The police left without finding anything.” Jisr az-Zarqa has been plagued by high levels of crime, which have led residents to complain that the police and government are indifferent to the conditions inside the village. Police issued a statement in response to the incident, saying, “It is appropriate considering the circumstances of the case and it will be reviewed by authorized parties and certainly not be based on partial, edited video which only presents an incomplete picture of events.”
Detainees’ Committee denounces Israeli abduction of wounded, disabled child in Bethlehem
IMEMC 2 Mar — The Palestinian Detainees and Ex-Detainees Committee issued a statement strongly denouncing the Israeli army’s abduction of a wounded Palestinian child, who previously lost one of his legs after the soldiers shot him with an expanding bullet. The committee stated that the child, Issa Adnan Abdul-Mo’ty, 14, from Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank, was abducted by the soldiers on Wednesday. On September 19, 2015, the child was shot by the soldiers with an internationally banned expanding bullet in his leg, prior to his abduction, and his wounded leg was later amputated at an Israeli hospital. After his leg was amputated following several surgeries that were unable to save it, the child was released, on September 29, 2015, on a 7000 Israeli shekels bail. The Committee stated that the re-arrest of the wounded child “is another crime added to the Israeli occupation’s dark history of violence and abuse against the Palestinian children,” and called for an immediate international intervention to end the escalating violations. “This detained child is a victim of Israel’s racist policies and decisions to use live fire against Palestinian children,” the Committee added, “Israel is not only using live and sniper fire, including expanding bullets against the children, it also insists on continuing the crime by abducting and imprisoning them.”
Palestinian youth detained near Ibrahimi Mosque for alleged knife possession
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 4 Mar — Israeli forces afternoon detained a young Palestinian man near the Ibrahimi Mosque in the southern occupied West Bank city of Hebron on Saturday afternoon, for allegedly hiding a knife under his clothes, according to an Israeli police spokesperson. Luba al-Samri said in a written statement in Arabic that a Palestinian man in his twenties was detained while he was walking towards Ibrahimi Mosque. However, local sources identified him as a teenager named Muhammad Ali Salim Ballut, from the town of Bani Naim east of Hebron. His exact age remained unknown. According to al-Samri, the unidentified young man had been inspected at the Israeli military checkpoint at the entrance to the mosque earlier Saturday morning, when Israeli soldiers did not find any “suspicious objects” on him. Upon his return to the mosque later in the day, “Israeli border guard officers inspected him a second time and found a knife under his clothes,” she said. Israeli forces have detained scores of Palestinians for allegedly being in possession of knives in recent months following a spate of alleged and actual small-scale knife attacks by Palestinians that surged in Fall 2015.
[IMEMC: In related news, approximately 50 extremist Israeli colonialist settlers from Yitzhar colony attacked Huwwara village from its eastern side. Scores of Palestinians from the town intercepted the assailants, and clashed with them, forcing them to retreat.]
Israeli soldiers abduct two Palestinians in Hebron
IMEMC 4 Mar — Israeli soldiers abducted, on Friday evening, two young Palestinian men in separate incidents in Hebron city in the southern part of the occupied West Bank, and installed a roadblock, completely blocking the city’s northern road. Media sources in Hebron said the soldiers abducted Mohammad al-Fakhouri, after stopping and repeatedly assaulting him at a roadblock, in the Old City, and took him to an unknown destination. In addition, the soldiers abducted Azmi Mohammad al-Qawasmi, 22, while working in Farsh al-Hawa area, in the western part of Hebron city. Furthermore, the soldiers installed a roadblock in the al-Hawawer area, north of Hebron, and prevented Palestinians from crossing, while searching and interrogating many of them.
Israeli forces detain 16 Palestinians, including 12-year-old boy, in overnight raids
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 2 Mar — Israeli forces detained at least 16 Palestinians, including a 12-year-old child, during overnight raids across the occupied West Bank between Wednesday and Thursday, Palestinian and Israeli sources said. The Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) said that seven Palestinians were detained in the Hebron district of the southern West Bank. The organization identified them as Amjad Qaisiya, Mansour Salim al-Qudsi, Omar Masalma, Farouq Hussein Masalma, Asif Hussein Shalash, Ali Amr Sweiti, and Anas Muhammad al-Zghir. Locals told Ma‘an that Sweiti, Omar, and Farouq Masalma were detained in the village of Beit ‘Awwa, while Shalash was detained in Dura, and al-Qudsi and al-Zghir were detained in Hebron city. An Israeli army spokesperson only confirmed the two detentions in Hebron city. The spokesperson could not immediately confirm whether the Qaisiya who was detained overnight was related to Saadi Qaisiya, who was killed by a settler on Wednesday at the illegal outpost of Havat More after allegedly carrying out a stabbing attack. In the Bethlehem district, PPS reported the detentions of four Palestinians, including Rami al-Ahmar, Ali Asaad, and Nael Abu Bakr. PPS added that Israeli forces detained 12-year-old Humam Ahmad Radi from Bethlehem’s ‘Aida refugee camp … Locals added that Israeli forces closed a printing shop in the Bethlehem-area Duheisha refugee camp for allegedly printing “inciting materials,” in the latest Israeli military operation against Palestinian print shops. In the central West Bank district of Jerusalem, PPS said Muhammad Habib al-Khatib, 17, was detained in Hizma, while Tamer Wajih Mansour and Ahmad Muhammad Bidwan were detained in Biddu….
Jordan rejects reported Israeli court ruling in favor of Jewish prayer at Al-Aqsa
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 2 Mar — The Jordanian government rejected on Thursday a recent Israeli magistrate court decision reportedly ruling that Jews should be permitted to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound — known to Jews as the Temple Mount — according to a Jordanian government source. On Tuesday, Palestinian news agency Wafa reported that an Israeli magistrate court in Jerusalem had ruled that Jews were permitted to pray at Al-Aqsa owing to the site’s importance to the religion. However, Israel’s Ministry of Justice was not immediately able to provide more information on the ruling or to comment on what the larger effect such a ruling would have on the longstanding status quo at Al-Aqsa, which prohibits Jewish worship. The Al-Aqsa compound, which sits just above the Western Wall plaza, houses both the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The third holiest site in Islam, it is also venerated as Judaism’s most holy place, as it sits where Jews believe the First and Second Temples once stood. While Jewish visitation is permitted to the compound, non-Muslim worship is prohibited according to an agreement signed between Israel and the Jordanian government after Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967. Despite this agreement, Israeli authorities regularly allow Jewish visitors to enter the site and carry out religious worship — often under armed guard. The compound is now administered by the Islamic Endowment, or Waqf, whose employees often face detention by Israeli forces while attempting to protect the site from provocative Israeli right-wing incursions onto the site and renovations in the compound attempted by Israel Antiquity Authorities (IAA). Jordan confirmed its rejection of Israeli violations at Muslim and Christian holy places in Jerusalem, adding that the court decision was in direct violation of recent UN decisions, referring to a UNESCO resolution passed last year which sharply criticized Israeli policies at the holy site …
Jordan also delivered a letter rejecting the court decision to the Israeli embassy in Amman on Wednesday, the source said, and demanded a halt to Israeli construction work being carried out in the Umayyad palaces near the southern wall of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. The letter highlighted the Jordanian government’s position that the renovations, which includes constructing wooden and cement paths in the eastern part of the Umayyad palaces and erecting a sign declaring the area a site for Jews, was an “aggression against land that fall under the jurisdiction of the Waqf administration in Jerusalem,” and noted that the Israeli actions were “an attempt to change the history of the area.”…
Many Palestinians and rights groups fear that right-wing groups calling for the destruction of the Al-Aqsa Mosque to make way for a third Jewish temple are gaining traction in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government.
Prisoners / Court actions
Israel releases 6 Birzeit University students
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 2 Mar — The Israeli Ofer military court decided on Thursday to release six Palestinian students from Birzeit University, the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) said in a statement. The students were identified as Ahmad Khader, Hasan Daraghmeh, Muhammad Iyad Zakarneh, and three girls – Miran al-Barghouthi, Bayan Safi and Zeinab al-Barghouthi. Israeli authorities had detained the students while taking part at an activity in solidarity with hunger-striking prisoners near Ofer on February 28, 2017.
Palestinians close Qalandiya road for the 4th day calling for release of 2 prisoners
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 2 Mar — Palestinian youths closed the Jerusalem-Ramallah road in the central occupied West Bank refugee camp of Qalandiya on Wednesday evening for the fourth day in a row. The road was closed in protest of the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) perceived inaction in the cases of Palestinian prisoners and Qalandiya residents Jamal Abu al-Leil and Raed Mteir. Abu al-Leil, 50, and Mteir, 47, declared hunger strikes on Feb. 16, after being imprisoned by Israel without charge or trial for one year under the widely condemned policy of administrative detention. Israeli authorities have issued six-month administrative detention orders for the two prisoners three times since they were detained. Abu al-Leil is a former member of Fatah’s revolutionary council, while Mteir is head of the Qalandiya youth center. Both had been previously detained by Israel several times. Mteir has since ended his hunger strike after 12 days without food, Palestinian prisoner solidarity network Samidoun reported on Tuesday, after reaching an agreement to be released in April 2017 without his administrative detention being renewed. The demonstrators in Qalandiya continued however to call for the PA to intervene and obtain Abu al-Leil and Mteir’s release, as they blocked the road using large dumpsters and burning rubber tires, causing traffic in the area.
Palestinians organize sit-in protest in solidarity with hunger-striking prisoners
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 2 Mar — A group of protesters on Thursday organized a sit-in in solidarity with hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners who have been protesting their administrative detention orders — Israel’s widely condemned policy of internment without charge or trial — in front of the offices for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Bethlehem in the southern occupied West Bank. Fayhaa Shalash, the wife of hunger-striking prisoner and journalist Muhammad al-Qiq who has been on hunger strike for 25 days, said during the sit-in that her husband has been suffering from difficult health conditions, adding that the sit-in was organized in order to highlight “the prisoners’ cause and support their hunger strike in front of people and the international community.” Al-Qiq, who lives in Ramallah and is originally from Dura in the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron, was released from prison in May last year after he refused food for a grueling 94 days — also in protest of his administrative detention at the time. However, al-Qiq was redetained in mid-January after he participated in a protest in the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem demanding the release of bodies of slain Palestinians held in Israeli custody. Al-Qiq’s previous imprisonment by Israel — widely condemned by the United Nations, Amnesty International, and other rights groups — and subsequent hunger strike cast a spotlight on Israel’s use of administrative detention, its arbitrary imprisonment of Palestinians, and the concerted targeting of Palestinian journalists.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs said in a statement on Thursday that hunger-striking prisoner Jamal Abu al-Leil, who has been on strike for 15 days also in protest of his administrative detention order, was being held in a tight cell in Israel’s Ashkelon prison, “lacking the simplest necessities of life, emptied of electrical appliances, covers and extra clothes leaving Abu al-Leil with nothing but the clothes he is wearing.” The statement added that Abu al-Leil has been suffering from severe head and stomachaches, dizziness and difficulties walking, as he continues only to consume water, refusing all vitamins and supplements. The statement pointed out that Abu al-Leil has lost 11 kilograms of his weight “but is persistent on continuing his strike to the end.”….
2 Palestinians imprisoned by Israel for quarter century
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 4 Mar — Two Palestinian prisoners with Israeli citizenship entered their 25th year in Israeli prisons on Friday and Saturday. Riyad al-Asqar, a researcher for the Palestine Prisoners’ Center for Studies, said that Muhammad Tawfiq Suleiman Jabbarin, 65, from Umm al-Fahm, was detained on March 3, 1992, while prisoner Yahiya Mustafa Muhammad Ighbariya, 48, from the village of al-Mushir was detained on March 4, 1992. Al-Ashqar said that Jabbarin is married and a father of four boys and five girls. One of his children died while in Israeli prison, al-Ashqar noted. At the time, Israeli authorities did not permit him to say goodbye to his son. Jabbarin was sentenced to three life sentences and an additional 15 years in prison after being charged with taking part in an attack which exploded a bus in Israel and killed several passengers. Al-Ashqar added that Ighbariya was also sentenced to three life sentences, and 15 years in prison, after being charged with carrying out an attack on the Gilad military camp, which killed three Israelis and injured four with knives. Ighbariya’s mother, Ruaqayya, died in June 2014 with the hope that her son would be released following Israel’s expected gradual release of prisoners in 2013 who were detained before the establishment of the Oslo peace agreements, as his name was included in a group of prisoners expected to be released following the release of three previous groups of Palestinian prisoners, according to al-Asghar. However, he was never released due to failed negotiations between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority (PA). According to the center, 14 Palestinian prisoners with Israeli citizenship have spent more than 20 years in Israeli prisons.
Jail postponed for Israeli soldier who killed Palestinian
TEL AVIV (AFP) 2 Mar by Stephen Weizman — A military court postponed on Thursday the jailing of an Israeli soldier convicted of shooting dead a wounded Palestinian, pending his appeal. Elor Azaria was sentenced by a military court on February 21 to 18 months in jail after an exceptional trial that captivated Israel and highlighted deep divisions in public opinion. He was due to begin his sentence on March 5, but an appeals court accepted the defence’s request to delay the sentence. “The imprisonment will be postponed until the result of the appeal,” appeals court judge Orly Markman said, adding that Azaria would be confined to base in the meantime. Defence attorney Yoram Sheftel said he would be ready to begin the appeal within six weeks. “I am rejoicing,” he said after the court ruling. Azaria appeared in court Thursday in full military uniform and smiling broadly….
One seriously; Israeli army injures two Palestinians in northern Gaza
IMEMC 4 Mar — Two Palestinians have been injured; one suffered a life-threatening injury, on Friday evening, after Israeli soldiers stationed in fortified military towers across the border fence opened fire at several Palestinians in their lands close to the border fence, in Beit Lahia in the northern part of the Gaza Strip. Medical sources in Gaza said the soldiers fired many live rounds, including sniper fire, at the Palestinians, seriously wounded one Palestinian with a bullet in his abdomen, while another Palestinian suffered a moderate injury in his right leg. Palestinian ambulances sped to the scene of the Israeli attack, and rushed the two Palestinians to the Indonesian Hospital, in northern Gaza. [Ma‘an: According to locals, both Palestinians were shot by an Israeli sniper stationed at the border between Gaza and Israel for an unknown reason.]
Also on Friday evening, the soldiers opened fire at Palestinian shepherds and their herds, in northern Gaza.
Israeli bulldozers level Palestinian lands near Gaza border with Israel
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 5 Mar — Israeli military vehicles and bulldozers crossed the border fence into the besieged Gaza Strip early Sunday morning east of the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis and leveled lands, witnesses told Ma‘an, with no gunfire was reported. The Israeli vehicles and bulldozers came from Israel’s Sofa military post. [photo shows what ‘leveling’ means]
Fire exchanged between Gaza and Israeli forces
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 2 Mar — Shots were fired from the besieged Gaza Strip at Israeli forces deployed near the border between the Palestinian territory and Israel on Thursday afternoon, shortly before Israeli forces targeted two alleged Hamas sites in the territory with a military aircraft and tank. An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma‘an that shots were fired from Gaza as Israeli forces were carrying out “routine activities” on the border. No injuries were reported. The spokesperson could not confirm to Ma‘an where the incident took place in Gaza or what constituted “routine activities” by Israeli forces around Gaza, which has been held under a devastating Israeli-imposed siege for a decade. Shortly after the incident, several Israeli forces targeted two alleged Hamas posts in the Gaza Strip. An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma‘an that an Israeli aircraft and tank targeted the two sites in response to the shots that were fired at Israeli military forces on the border. Witnesses said that six shells targeted a military site belonging to the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas. Israeli military planes were also flying above the targeted area at the time, witnesses added. No injuries have been reported.
Israeli soldiers invade Palestinian lands in Gaza
IMEMC 2 Mar — Israeli soldiers invaded, on Thursday morning, Palestinian agricultural lands near the border fence in the eastern and central parts of the besieged Gaza Strip, and bulldozed sections close to the fence. Eyewitnesses said four armored bulldozers, supported by several military vehicles, advanced a short distance into the lands, and started bulldozing them, while the soldiers fired live rounds.
In related news, Israeli navy ships fired several live rounds at fishing boats in Palestinian waters close to the shore in northern Gaza, while military helicopters flew over various parts of the coastal region.
Israeli forces detain 3 Palestinians after crossing Gaza border
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 3 Mar – Israeli forces on Friday detained three Palestinian youths after they “illegally” crossed the border fence from the northern Gaza Strip. Hebrew-language media reported that the three were able to cross the security fence in the northern Gaza Strip and were detained by Israeli forces deployed near the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon. The detainees were transferred for interrogation to the Israeli intelligence.
Egypt to open Rafah crossing from Monday to Wednesday
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 4 Mar — Egyptian authorities on Saturday evening announced that the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the besieged Gaza Strip would be opened in both directions on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, according to spokesman of Gaza’s crossings committee Hisham Udwan. The terminal was opened temporarily on Friday to allow a delegation of 150 youths from the coastal enclave to travel to Egypt, where they partook in a conference in the Red Sea coastal city Ain Sokhna, Udwan added. Since the beginning of the year, Egyptian authorities have opened the crossing in both direction twice, most recently in mid-February.
Hamas takes dozens of extremists to military courts
LONDON (Asharq al-Awsat) 2 Mar — Hamas affiliated security bodies took dozens of opponents belonging to extremist groups to military courts in an unprecedented step, said reliable sources, knowing that they are civilians and have no ties with Palestinian security bodies whether in Ramallah or Gaza. In the past days, more than 550 were transferred to summary military courts for accusations of launching missiles on Israel or manufacturing them. Families of the detainees complained that the trials were a matter of form to ensure resumption of their arrest by virtue of a legal item that permits the internal security body of Hamas to have the final decision in releasing detainees or not. Sources said the charges included alleged crimes that they were arrested for in the past, an indication of attempts by Hamas to keep them longer in detention. Hamas has been keeping hundreds of ISIS supporters for months and is still pursuing a number of wanted individuals including Nour Issa, a leader of Ahfad Sahaba that claimed responsibility of launching missiles from the strip lately. On her Facebook page, Issa’s sister, Nagham, posted that Hamas arrested her father and brother to put pressure on her wanted brother to surrender himself. Hamas’ campaign was launched after an agreement with Egypt to crack down on extremists and prevent them from fleeing to Sinai or cooperating with groups there. Sources reported that a number of detainees went on hunger strike, days ago, in a quest to exert pressure on Hamas. Also Wednesday, extremist groups in Gaza launched missiles on Israel for the same purpose.
A Gaza doctor beloved by Jews and Arabs is about to take the IDF to court for killing his daughters
The Forward 3 Mar by Donald Snyder — He was the beloved doctor of both Palestinians and Israeli Jews, the one who brought their children into the world. Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, the Gaza-based Palestinian obstetrician and gynecologist who was the first Palestinian physician from the occupied territories to receive an appointment at an Israeli hospital, still believes passionately in peace and co-existence between Palestinians and Israeli Jews. But now, Abuelaish is coming to a fateful moment in the long, drawn-out process of his lawsuit against the Israeli government for the Israeli army’s killing of his three daughters and a niece, and the severe wounding of another daughter during Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s 2009 military offensive in Gaza. The trial that will finally hear his case is set to start March 15. “There was no reason to kill my daughters and niece,” told the Forward during a recent interview. “They were innocent civilians, and international law prohibits killing noncombatants in a war.”….
Gaza: ‘Unlawful Combatants Law’ violates rights
JERUSALEM (Human Rights Watch) 1 Mar — Israel has been detaining Palestinian residents of Gaza under an obscure law that strips away meaningful judicial review and due process rights, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights and Human Rights Watch said today. Israel has detained 18 Palestinian residents of Gaza under the Internment of Unlawful Combatants Law since its 2005 disengagement with the Gaza Strip. A Beersheba district court on December 16, 2016, issued a second six-month renewal of the detention of Munir Hamada, the only person currently detained under the law. The court accepted the government’s determination that he was a threat based on a secret Israeli intelligence report that was not made available to Hamada’s counsel. Israel also continues to hold hundreds of Palestinians from the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Israel in a different form of administrative detention without charge … The Knesset enacted the Unlawful Combatants Law in 2002, in part to permit the prolonged detention without charge of two Lebanese nationals after the Supreme Court held in 2000 that the Israeli military could not hold Lebanese detainees solely as “bargaining chips” for the return of missing Israelis. But Israeli officials have since used the law to detain Palestinians from Gaza for renewable periods….
Rebuilding Gaza from its ashes
GAZA CITY (Al Jazeera) 4 Mar by Mersiha Gadzo — People initially laughed and told her she would fail, but 22-year-old civil engineering graduate Majd Masharawi persisted – and after more than a year of experimenting, she believes she has a solution for Gaza’s stalled reconstruction. Masharawi and her friend, Rawan Abdelatif, last year finished creating a type of brick that can be used to literally rebuild Gaza from its ashes. Green Cake is the world’s only brick that uses coal and wood ash as filler material instead of the usual sand and aggregate. It is stronger than an ordinary brick, yet half the weight and price … Green Cake’s cheap price and excellent quality has attracted local interest, but it has been difficult to promote internationally amid the siege. The women were supposed to compete in the finals of the MIT Arab Startup Competition in Saudi Arabia last year, but could not get permission to leave through the Erez checkpoint. “At the time I was very disappointed,” Masharawi said. “While we were presenting our idea on Skype, we lost connection, so we finished presenting over a phone call.” Testing the brick has entailed another set of challenges. While they could conduct local tests on its strength, absorption and gravity, there are no laboratories in Gaza to test out its durability and fire resistance, and to conduct a chemical analysis. “I told Rawan we have to try to send a prototype to the West Bank, but it’s not allowed,” Masharawi said. She received some good news last summer, after tying for first place out of 40 competitors in the Japan Gaza Innovation Challenge, which provides investment opportunities for projects that enhance living conditions in Gaza. Many people in Japan are already interested in supporting Green Cake, said the challenge’s founder, Fumiya Kamikawaji….
VIDEO: Gaza’s healthcare crumbling under Israeli siege
GAZA, Palestine (Al Jazeera) 5 Mar — – Israel‘s continued siege of Gaza is having an effect on medical services. People who live in the region have to rely on charity or international aid. But even that is in short supply. The Ministry of Health says the siege alone is responsible for the dire healthcare situation. Reported by Imran Khan
VIDEO: Gaza’s only female comedian faces challenges
GAZA STRIP 4 Mar — The only female comedy actress in Gaza is an internet sensation in the region. But Reham al-Kahlout says it is not easy for other women to join her on stage because society in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territory is increasingly conservative. “My family was facing huge pressure from friends and relatives to urge me to stop,” she said. “At first, my dad was bothered by all this. Then, in the end, he said if [that is] what you want to do and it’s not shameful, then you have my full support.” Kahlout currently works with a group of actors based in Gaza. But she dreams of going to Egypt, where she believes more opportunities are available for aspiring comedians. However, that would only be possible if Egypt reopens its borders with Gaza, since Israel‘s blockade makes it difficult for young people to travel. Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith reports from the Gaza Strip.
Hamas won’t let Gaza dad call baby Mahmoud Abbas
Times of Israel 2 Mar — Hamas authorities reportedly prevented a Gazan father from naming his baby after the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, saying the name was “forbidden” in Gaza. Gaza resident Fayiz Badran, 32, wanted to name his newborn after Abbas due to his “love and appreciation” for the president, the Palestinian news site Wattan24, affiliated with Abbas’s Fatah party, reported Thursday. However, when Badran recently took his baby to Hamas’s interior ministry headquarters in the north of the enclave, authorities told him the name Mahmoud Abbas is “rejected and forbidden in the Gaza Strip.” According to the report, Badran said the authorities told him he could name his son either Abbas or Mahmoud, but not both together. Badran, who the report noted is an employee of the PA, reportedly remains steadfast in his quest to name his child after the PA president. Hamas ousted Abbas’ Fatah party from Gaza in 2007 and numerous attempts to reconcile the rival parties have failed. The Gazan father accused Hamas of hypocrisy, claiming that in recent days the authorities in Gaza had allowed children to be named after Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, former Hamas spiritual leader Ahmad Yassin, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Settlements / Apartheid
Over 12,000 Palestinians in limbo, 15 years after ‘temporary’ Israeli statust
Haaretz 4 Mar by Nir Hasson — Emergency order creates impenetrable bureaucratic barrier between Palestinians of East Jerusalem and Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip — The 1-year-old son of Taysir al-Asmar, who lives in Jerusalem’s Old City, was born with a serious brain defect. He is hospitalized in Jerusalem’s Herzog Hospital, at the western end of the city, but Asmar is not allowed to drive there to visit him. In fact, Asmar is not allowed to have a driver’s license – and if he takes the bus, he could end up being detained by the police. Asmar is just one of the more than 12,000 people living in fear and uncertainty due to the law prohibiting family unification when the family members in question are Palestinian. Next month will mark 15 years since the initial government decision (later replaced by an “emergency order” – the Citizenship and Entry into Israel law that is renewed annually) that has built an almost impenetrable bureaucratic barrier between the Palestinians of East Jerusalem and Israel in general and Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The law has been legally justified citing security needs, but demographic goals have also been mentioned – in other words, limiting the Arab population within Israel. Thousands of people living in the territories who are married to Israeli citizens or permanent residents, and their children, have found themselves trapped in an impossible bureaucratic limbo by this law, with no change in sight. Last week, both the Knesset and High Court of Justice held hearings on the law. As expected, it was left in place. The Knesset will discuss the matter in another six months, while Supreme Court President Miriam Naor hinted to the petitioners that they withdraw their petition to the High Court. Of the 12,500 people in the process of family unification, 10,000 are currently without status. This means, among other things, that they cannot go to school or work; until only a few years ago, they could not even obtain health insurance.…
Susya continues to await demolition as Israeli government hesitates
SUSYA, Occupied Palestine 3 Mar by ISM, al-Khalil Team — The village of Susya in the south Hebron hills is still waiting for news of its imminent demolition at the hands of the Israeli military. On Sunday 26th the Israeli court was expecting the government to make clear its plans to execute the existing demolition order, but the government asked for another 48 hours of delay. Yesterday as that 48 hours came to an end the government again asked for 48 hours to make up its mind. Meanwhile the villagers of Susya wait daily for what is nearly certain to be a demolition at some point. There are two reasons for the delays. The first is simple and happens all over Palestine: delays play into the sense of uncertainty and tension that Palestinians are placed under. Some villages and houses have been living under demolition orders for years. The second is more complex: Susya is one of the most successful villages in Palestine in harnessing international support against the continuing persecution they face from the Israeli government. Until the arrival of Trump in the White House this winter, demolishing Susya would have brought down the disapproval of the international community and the US on the Israeli government, and that pressure is still strong. However, the government is under equal or greater pressure from the settlers in the region to demolish the village, which inconveniently stands between the ‘Jewish archeological site’ of Susya (which used to be the village) and the illegal settlement of Susya. And the current Israeli administration requires the votes of the most right wing settler parties to maintain a majority in the Knesset. Meanwhile, the villagers of Susya stand in the middle of this battle, calling in all the support they can globally and locally. But the ultimate outcome of this fight lies outside their hands and will involve the loss of homes and livelihoods this spring and summer.
Israeli forces demolish Palestinian home in Kafr Qasim without prior notice
NEGEV (Ma‘an) 2 Mar — Israeli bulldozers demolished an under-construction house owned by a Palestinian citizen of Israel in the central Israeli town of Kafr Qasim on Thursday morning. Israeli police raided the home of Ramzi Bin Bari and prevented anyone from entering, while Israeli bulldozers demolished it. According to locals, the demolition was carried out because the building lacked difficult to obtain Israeli-issued building permits. Bin Bari had recently moved to the town, locals added. Despite attempts by residents to prevent the demolition, Israeli bulldozers continued until the house was completely destroyed. Bin Bari told Ma‘an that his case was still being discussed in Israeli courts in an attempt to gain a permit for the property. He added that he had not received a demolition order for the property, and was shocked when Israeli bulldozers came to demolish his house. Another Palestinian home was demolished in Kafr Qasim on Sunday, also without prior notice according to the homeowner.
Israeli police raid Umm al-Hiran as residents fear more demolitions on horizon
NEGEV (Ma‘an) 2 Mar — Israeli police forces raided the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in the Negev region of southern Israel on Thursday afternoon, in what residents feared was preparation for the delivery of more demolition orders against homes in the village. Local sources told Ma‘an that residents have been expecting Israeli police to deliver demolition orders to remaining homes in the village ever since the January demolition raid in which a Bedouin resident and a police officer were killed and 12 homes were demolished. Local committee head Raed Abu al-Qian told Ma‘an that Israeli police and Israeli government officials toured the village and several homes, seemingly in preparation for a raid. “Israeli attacks and demolitions will not scare us, but still I call upon the Arab public and leaders to intervene to make a better future for our children. I call upon everyone to not make Umm al-Hiran an easy prey for the monsters,” al-Qian said.
Palestinian family awaits demolition of their home after appeal rejected in Israeli court
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 4 Mar — For the past two days, a Palestinian family in the neighborhood of Sur Bahir in occupied East Jerusalem has been anticipating the worst after an Israeli magistrate’s court rejected their appeal against a demolition order on their home issued Thursday. Ashraf Fawaqa told Ma‘an that he had attempted to obtain an Israeli building license for six years following the construction of his home. He had to pay more than 200,000 shekels ($54,102) for various costs associated with postponing and extending Israeli demolition orders during this time, he said. Fawaqa added that the Israel’s Jerusalem municipality had decided to carry out the demolition at the start of last month without allowing any more postponements. However, after appealing to the court, he was able to extend the demolition until March 2, while paying a postponement fee of 30,000 shekels ($8,115), in addition to court fees. The court, however, rejected the appeal and approved the municipality’s decision to demolish the house on Thursday. Fawaqa said that their lawyer had requested that the demolition be postponed for several months owing to the fact that his wife had just given birth four days ago. The lawyer also presented evidence to the court showing the effort the family had put into obtaining permits for the house. Nonetheless, the judge decided that the family should pay 30,000 shekels ($8,115) in demolition fees for Israeli crews that would carry out the demolition over the coming days. According to Fawaqa, the judge did not provide a specific date. He added that the municipality had also previously imposed a fine on the family of 60,000 shekels ($16,230) which they had already paid. Fawaqa noted that his house was 100 square meters, which six family members currently reside in, including Fawaqa, his wife, and their four children. The oldest child is eight years old, while the youngest is just four days old.
Reports: Right-wing Israeli MK’s settlement home likely built on private Palestinian land
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 3 Mar — Reports emerged from Israeli media on Thursday alleging that the settlement home of an ultra right-wing Israeli lawmaker, who had a significant role in pushing the recently passed “Regularization law,” was likely built on privately-owned Palestinian land in the northern occupied West Bank settlement of Qedumim, in the Qalqiliya district. The house, belonging to deputy speaker of Israel’s parliament Bezalel Smotrich of the right-wing Jewish Home party, stands just on the edge of Israeli designated “state lands” in the settlement, and falls on what is likely privately owned Palestinian land, Israeli daily Haaretz reported. However, as a result of the contested outpost Regularization bill — which according to Haaretz was being pushed by a number of Israeli MK’s, including Smotrich — Smotrich’s house will likely be retroactively legalized. The bill granted official Israeli governmental recognition to more than a dozen illegal settlement outposts in the occupied West Bank established on private Palestinian lands, so long as they were built in “good faith” — without knowledge that the land upon which it was built was privately owned by Palestinians….
Evicted Amona residents launch hunger strike
Times of Israel 2 Mar — Residents of the recently demolished West Bank outpost of Amona on Thursday launched a hunger strike to protest the government’s failure so far to fulfill its pledge to build a new settlement for the evacuated hilltop community. Organizers said hunger-striking residents would remain outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Jerusalem residence until their illegal outpost was replaced with a new West Bank community in accordance with a deal they struck with the government ahead of the court-ordered evacuation of Amona in January … Under an agreement signed with the government ahead of the evacuation, the residents were allowed to pick a new site to rebuild their community, which would be the first state-sanctioned new settlement to be built in decades. The residents of Amona voted to move to the Geulat Tzion unauthorized outpost, located in the Shiloh settlement bloc. While Amona was built on privately owned Palestinian land, Geulat Tzion lies on a state-owned plot. According to the deal, the new settlement was to be set up within two months. On February 19, Netanyahu reportedly told members of the security cabinet that the government may have to renege on the pledge to set up the new West Bank settlement, following a request by US President Donald Trump to “hold back” on settlement construction.
Vote on bill to annex West Bank settlement postponed at Netanyahu’s request
Haaretz 3 Mar by Jonathan Lis — Israeli lawmakers have decided to postpone Sunday’s planned vote on a bill to annex the West Bank settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim, following a request by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The bill calls for applying Israeli law to Ma’aleh Adumim, near Jerusalem, and will also include a clause annexing the controversial E-1 area, as a result of its inclusion in the settlement’s municipal boundaries. The bill’s sponsor, MK Yoav Kish (Likud), and Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi), who together head the Knesset’s Land of Israel caucus, said Friday morning that the postponement was carried out due to a request by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and that they intend to raise the matter at the next Ministerial Committee for Legislation meeting. This latest postponement wasn’t the first time Netanyahu foiled discussion of the bill. On the eve of his trip to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington last month, he prevented the bill from reaching the committee, for fear it would harm relations with the new U.S. administration … The area in question is 12 square kilometers (4.6 square miles) northwest of Ma’aleh Adumim. The international community, especially previous U.S. administrations, has objected to its annexation as it will cut the north of the West Bank from its south and make it impossible to establish a contiguous Palestinian state.
Fufi’s story: An Israeli general’s lone mission in the West Bank
Lawfareblog 2 Mar by Benjamin Wittes — “We did not achieve the goal,” Fufi says. I am sitting in a lounge in an upscale Jerusalem hotel in December with an Israeli reserve general named Dov Sedaka, listening as he tells me the story of his two-year effort to negotiate with West Bank Bedouin tribes to get them to move out of squalid migratory camps and into villages with infrastructure and services. Sedaka may seem, at first glance anyway, like the last person you’d expect to have a passion for improving the lives of West Bank Bedouin. His name follows my weird rule of Israeli male nicknames, for one thing: The more badass someone’s military career has been, the more likely that person is to have some highly-diminutive nickname that sounds like the moniker of a stuffed animal or a Disney character. Sedaka was a member of Israel’s famed Sayeret Matkal special forces unit, for which he did all sorts of missions he still doesn’t talk about. He also served as the head of the Israeli Civil Administration of the Occupied Territories during the Second Intifada. He’s the real deal. Yet he’s universally known throughout Israel and the Palestinian territories as ‘Fufi’ … Fufi’s done a lot of peace work over the years. But recently, he’s been focused on the Bedouin, the nomadic tribal Arabs who live in countries across the region. Fufi cares about the issue a lot and talks about it with evident emotion. There are several reasons for this. In his capacity as an Israeli officer who helped run an occupation that he hates, he dealt with Bedouin communities in the West Bank over a long period of time. And that, he says, would be reason enough. But there’s a personal element too: Fufi also has half-Bedouin grandchildren …
There’s a real debate to be had between modernizers and those would accept the poverty of the Bedouins’ traditional subsistence lifestyle. It is, of course, not illegitimate to prefer poverty and a nomadic lifestyle to a settled life with running water. The Bedouin have a deep cultural bias against a settled lifestyle. And the fact that many of those Bedouin who have settled are now in crime-ridden, impoverished towns with no jobs does not make settlement especially enticing….
Palestinian refugees – Syria, Lebanon
ISIS executes four Palestinian refugees, orders execution of anyone who raises Palestinian flag
IMEMC 4 Mar — Fighters of ISIS terrorist organization in Syria, occupying large areas of the al-Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus, have executed, among others, four Palestinian refugees, and issued orders to its gunmen to execute any person who raises a Palestinian flag. One of the executed refugees has been identified as Mohammad Nassar, while another was from Oleyyan family, and two others from Tayha family. Also, ISIS ordered the execution of any person who raises a Palestinian flag in areas controlled by the terrorist group. This is not the first time that ISIS destroys and removes Palestinian flags and symbols; in 2016, its gunmen removed and destroyed posters of the late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, and in various cases burnt and stepped on Palestinian flags. In 2015, ISIS fighters managed to invade and occupy large areas of al-Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp, in collaboration with fighters of Nosra terrorist organization.
Palestinian leadership plans to ‘force out’ wanted Lebanese out of Ain al-Hilweh
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 2 Mar — Palestinian leaders in Lebanon demanded that all wanted men who are not Palestinian leave Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp, according to a statement released on Thursday. Recent armed violence in the Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon left an 18- and a 12-year-old Palestinian dead on Tuesday, while at least eight others were injured — including a pregnant woman. Clashes began anew Monday evening, when a bomb detonated in front of a call center inside the camp, breaking a “cautious calm” that had prevailed after Palestinian factions reached a ceasefire agreement Sunday night to halt violent clashes that erupted over the weekend. Palestinian faction leaders said they had agreed during a meeting at the Palestinian embassy in Beirut to demand that all wanted men immediately leave the camp, while reiterating their commitment to security and stability in Palestinian refugee camps across Lebanon, particularly in Ain al-Hilweh. The faction leaders also stressed that they would continue conducting efforts with Lebanese authorities in order to curb issues with Palestinians wanted by authorities, adding that they would not tolerate anyone who threatens the security situation or harms the Palestinian relationship with Lebanon. Meanwhile, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) secretary Fathi Abu al-Aradat said on Thursday that an agreement had been established in collaboration with the Lebanese government to turn in wanted Lebanese hiding in Ain al-Hilweh. Al-Aradat said that Palestinian forces in the camp would “force out” any wanted Lebanese from the camp and turn them in to Lebanese security forces…..
The month in pictures: February 2017
Electronic Intifada 3 March
Weekly report on Israeli human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territory (23 Feb – 1 Mar 2017)
PCHR-Gaza 2 Mar — A Palestinian civilian was killed by Israeli settlers, south of Hebron. 6 civilians, including 3 children and a young woman, were wounded in the West Bank, while a child was wounded in the Gaza Strip. Israeli warplanes carried out 8 airstrikes, launching 23 missiles against civil objects and military sites belonging to the Palestinian armed groups. A civilian and three Palestinian officers in the Gaza Interior Ministry were wounded. Military training sites sustained material damages while 6 other houses and a mosque sustained minor damages. Israeli forces continued to target the border areas in the Gaza Strip, but no casualties were reported. Israeli forces continued to target Palestinian fishermen in the Gaza Sea. Israeli forces conducted 66 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank and two limited ones were conducted in the central and southern Gaza Strip. 47 civilians, including 4 children and 3 young women, were arrested in the West Bank. 6 of them, including 3 young women, were arrested during a protest organized by the Birzeit university students in the vicinity of ‘Ofer Prison, west of Ramallah. Israeli forces continued their efforts to create Jewish majority in occupied East Jerusalem. A residential building in al-‘Issawiyah was demolished, rendering 14 individuals, including 4 children, homeless. 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, including 3 children and girl, were arrested at military checkpoints.
Report: Israeli forces detained 420 Palestinians in February
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 4 Mar — Israeli forces detained 420 Palestinians during the month of February, including 70 minors and 22 women and girls, according to a statement released on Saturday by the Palestinian Prisoners’ Center for Studies. The center said in its monthly report that 12 of the detentions were carried out in the besieged Gaza Strip, including five fishermen whose boats were destroyed by Israeli forces before their detention, two who were detained at the Beit Hanoun crossing, and five who were detained after Israel alleged they attempted to cross the border fence between the besieged enclave and Israel. A journalist was also among the detainees, identified by the center as Humam Muhammad Hantash from the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron. He was sentenced to Israel’s widely condemned policy of administrative detention — imprisonment without charge or trial based on undisclosed evidence. The center added that 88 administrative detention orders were issued by Israeli courts in the same period, 23 of which were issued for the first time, while 65 were renewed orders. Meanwhile, 32 administrative detention orders were issued against Palestinians from Hebron … According to Addameer, as of January, 6,500 Palestinians were being held in Israeli prisons, 536 of whom were being held under administrative detention.
Israeli-Palestinian meeting planned over Palestinian work permits in Israel
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 2 Mar — A meeting is expected to be held in mid-March between Palestinian and Israeli officials to develop new policies on Israel’s issuance of work permits to Palestinians, aiming to improve work conditions for Palestinian workers in Israel, the Palestinian deputy minister of labor told Ma‘an on Wednesday. Nasser al-Qatami said that the ministry had presented several suggestions to Israeli authorities concerning issues with work permits, adding that Israel had approved some of the suggestions, which were expected to be confirmed during the meeting this month. According to al-Qatami, the suggestions which have received preliminary approval included: improving the procedures at Israeli checkpoints between the occupied West Bank and Israel in 2018, consisting of a budget of 350 million shekels ($94,810,534); eliminating the “middlemen” who take advantage of Palestinians by requiring large payments for Israeli work permits and replacing them with labor offices in the West Bank tasked with permit management; allowing all employers in Israel to issue an unlimited number of permits to Palestinian workers; allowing Palestinian workers to move freely inside Israel; and extending the duration of “job-searching” permits from one to two weeks.
Al-Qatami noted that Palestinian workers who had already received permits would have them renewed in accordance with the new procedures. He also highlighted that the work permits would include construction, agriculture, and industry sector employment, while Palestinian merchants would receive their permits from Palestinian labor offices to maintain their right to work in Israel.
He encouraged all Palestinian workers who want work permits to head to Palestinian labor offices in order to register their information. Tens of thousands of Palestinians seek work inside Israel and its illegal settlements due to high unemployment rates in the occupied Palestinian territory, where the nearly half-century Israeli military occupation has stifled economic growth. While the Palestinian Ministry of Labor estimates that some 200,0000 Palestinians work in Israel, Israeli statistics only report 110,000 Palestinian workers, al-Qatami said….
Palestinian president hosts Arab Idol winner in Ramallah
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 4 Mar — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas hosted winner of the Arab Idol singing competition Yaqoub Shahin in his office in Ramallah on Saturday, when the president congratulated Shahin, who last week became the second Palestinian to claim the title since the popular TV contest premiered in 2011. Abbas expressed his pride over Shahin’s victory, saying that he believed art “is a an important tool in conveying a message to the whole world on behalf of the Palestinian people and their longing for freedom,” according to a statement released by the president’s office. The president said that Shahin’s win was “proof that Palestinian youth are creative and distinguished,” and that the Palestinian people have the right to be free and independent in their own state. After the meeting, the 23-year-old singer visited the tomb of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. “Thank God I was able to bring happiness to my people who have been suffering for years and are still suffering,” he said. Shahin, a Syriac-Palestinian and member of Bethlehem’s small community of Assyrians, competed against fellow Palestinian Amir Dandan and Yemeni national Ammar Muhammad in the final round of the pan-Arab singing contest’s fourth season. It was the first time in the program’s history that two of the remaining three finalists were from the same national background.
A Toast to Taybeh // The Palestinian winery that’s going global – but staying local
Haaretz 2 Mar by Shakked Auerbach — After successfully trying their hand at beer brewing, the Khoury family hopes their winery will invoke the same pride in their West Bank community — A long line of cars snaked through the narrow, hilly lanes of the West Bank town of Taybeh last Friday. The cool air of this Palestinian Christian community overlooking Jericho filled with cigarette smoke in the smoking corner where young men wearing suits and kaffiyehs were gathered … “This is the second festival we’re holding,” said the founder of Taybeh Winery, Nadim Khoury. “We started two years ago, but last year we couldn’t hold the event because of the political situation in the area. This year is calm, so we thought it’s a good time to do it again.” Khoury regales visitors with the New Testament story of the wedding in Cana in Galilee where Jesus performed his first miracle of changing water into wine. “Wine was a part of this region as far back as Jesus’ day. Many families in Taybeh make their own wine in the summer and drink it in the winter. We thought that we should open the first boutique winery in Palestine,” he said. The Khoury family controls the largest business in this town of some 2,000, and oversees the Taybeh Brewery, which they founded in 1994, shortly after the Oslo Accords were signed. The business almost shut down during the second intifada, but revived. The cold shoulder it received from traditional Muslim society made way for pride in the Palestinian beer that won international success. Khoury hopes the same thing will happen with the winery, established three years ago….
Palestinian bank to open in Israeli-controlled area of West Bank
The Media Line 3 Mar — A new Palestinian bank is set to be opened on the Israeli side of the West Bank border in the Palestinian village of Al-Ram, which will offer services to Palestinians in east Jerusalem — The National Bank, a private Palestinian bank, will open a branch in the Palestinian village of Al-Ram, on the Israeli side of the security barrier that Israel has built in and around the West Bank. It will be the first Palestinian bank in this part of the West Bank, and will enable Palestinians in the area to managed their finances without traveling to either Ramallah or to Jerusalem. he bank is being built in Area C, the 60 percent of the West Bank that is under sole Israeli control. Hardliners in Israel have called for Israel to annex all or part of this area, and a bill to annex the Jewish settlement of Ma’ale Adumim is set to come before the Knesset next week. Getting the required Israeli and Palestinian permits was not an easy task.“None of us knew or understood the full nature of the legal procedures and steps that needed to be taken at the beginning of this journey,” Ahmad Haj Hassan, the general manager of The National Bank (TNB) told The Media Line. It took two years to get needed permits from both Israel and the Palestinian Authority … Al-Ram is a town of about 50,000 just outside Jerusalem’s municipal borders. About half of the residents have Jerusalem ID cards, which enable them to enter Jerusalem freely. “Serving marginalized communities within Jerusalem, especially women and youth, is a primary goal for TNB,” Hassan said. “Our goal is to reach every Palestinian wherever he or she may be.” … Travel to the West Bank can be complicated. Hassan, who was recently profiled as one of the 50 most important bankers in the Middle East according to the magazine Global Finance, says that establishing the new branch will help Palestinians avoid the daily logistical nightmares of crossing borders and Israeli security checkpoints….
Majority of Palestinians believe equality between men and women has improved
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 2 Mar – Majority of the Palestinian people believe that equality between men and woman in Palestinian society had improved over the past 10 years, according to an opinion poll published Thursday. The poll by the Jerusalem Media and Communication Centre (JMCC), published in cooperation with the German Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, found out that 47.4% of those polled – with no notable difference between men and women respondents – said that equality between men and women in Palestinian society had improved over the past 10 years. Nevertheless, 12.8% of respondents said the level of equality had declined, with a larger number of respondents from Gaza, 19.6%, said equality had declined. The poll found out that 48% of respondents said police adopt a fair policy towards women; the majority of these respondents, 52.5%, in the West Bank with 40.3% in Gaza. Moreover, the majority, 61.1%, said they believed that police deal appropriately with battered women while 22.4% said they deal inappropriately with them. A much higher percentage of women in Gaza, 33.6%, felt that the police deal inappropriately with battered women – in contrast, 15.6% of respondents in the West Bank felt the same way. The largest percentage of those polled, 42.5%, said they would support laws based on Islamic Sharia as opposed to 14.7% who said they should be based on civil law. The poll showed that women leaned more towards adopting laws based on Islamic Sharia, with 45.1% in support as opposed to 39.8% of men. The majority of those polled, 83.8%, said they opposed the marriage of girls under the age of 18 while 16.1% said they supported it. Likewise, the majority of respondents, 69.3%, said they opposed multiple wives while 30.6% said they supported it. It should be noted that 42.4% of polled men said they supported multiple wives while 80.4% of women opposed it. Furthermore, the majority of those polled, 64.6%, said they do not shake hands with the other sex, the majority of these being women. As to why, the majority of those polled, 84.1%, said they do not shake hands with the other sex for religious reasons while 14.7% said for social reasons pertaining to traditions and habits
Arab drivers demand action over Muhammad insult
Ynet 2 Mar by Hassan Shaalan — Arab bus drivers from the Metropoline Public Transportation Company are demanding that a company dispatcher be fired for making offensive comments about the Muslim prophet Muhammad. Drivers are threatening to disrupt transportation operations within the company if their demands are not met. In the meantime, management has decided to temporarily suspend the dispatcher until the end of a hearing and investigation into the matter …In light of the event, the CEO of Metropoline penned a letter to drivers saying, “We will have zero tolerance for racial abuse. As an enlightened society, where we have employees of different national groups, we believe that equal rights should be given to everyone regardless of their country of origin, religion and gender. “Therefore, it was decided to put a stop to this employee’s administrative responsibilities immediately until an investigation as demanded by law is finished.”
US delegation in Israel to study relocation of embassy to Jerusalem
JPost 4 Mar by Tovah Lazaroff — Palestinian and Jordanian leaders have warned the US that moving the embassy could spark violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories, as well as in the Middle East region as a whole — An official United States delegation led by Congressman Ron DeSantis (R-FL) is briefly visiting Israel on Saturday and Sunday to study the possibility of relocating the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. “The delegation is in Jerusalem to learn firsthand what it will mean to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” said Ruth Lieberman, a friend of DeSantis and a political advisor in Israel. “Its leadership intends to return to Congress with a report and a deeper understanding of what to expect, and of some of the decisions that have to be made as well,” Lieberman said. DeSantis chairs the subcommittee for National Security for the US House Oversight Committee. The delegation will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli political leaders during their visit. US President Donald Trump had promised to relocate the embassy during his campaign for the White House. But since his January 20th inauguration, his lukewarm statements about the matter led many to speculate that he would not make good on his pledge. The delegation’s visit is the first sign that there might be some movement on the issue.