In rare move, Hamas closes Gaza crossing over investigation into assassination
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 26 Mar — The Hamas-run Ministry of Interior in Gaza closed the Palestinian side of the Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel on Sunday morning, denying residents of the besieged coastal enclave passage in both directions, as local sources described a “state of alert” in Gaza with severe security measures being imposed across the small Palestinian territory. Spokesperson for the ministry Iyad al-Buzm said in a statement Sunday morning that the Erez crossing would remain closed until further notice in order for Gaza’s security serves to undertake “procedures” in response to the killing of 35-year-old Mazen Fuqahaa in Gaza City on Friday, which Hamas has branded as an assassination by Israel. Erez is the only land crossing between Gaza and Israel for the use of Palestinian civilians. While travel is heavily restricted by Israeli authorities as part of a crippling blockade on the coastal enclave in place since 2007, the Hamas-implemented closure came as a rare measure.
Al-Buzm added that the ministry would allow “humanitarian cases” to return home from Israel, but did not say whether humanitarian cases would be permitted to leave the blockaded Palestinian territory … Local sources reported “a state of alert” being implemented across Gaza later Sunday afternoon, with checkpoints being erected in the streets and entrances to towns and cities, and security officers thoroughly inspecting passing vehicles. Security officers were deployed heavily along Gaza’s eastern border, “in order to prevent Fuqahaa’s assassins from escaping through the border fence into Israel,” the sources added. Eyewitnesses also told Ma‘an that security officers were sailing off Gaza’s coastline and ordering fishermen to return to the shore, corroborating reports in Israeli media that Gaza’s authorities had sealed all borders, including its western sea border, which is patrolled daily by Israeli forces who often open fire on Palestinian fishermen. The reports also said that the Rafah border crossing that connects to Egypt, which Egyptian authorities only open on an occasional basis, would also remain closed if Egypt decided to open it. The only crossing that remained open was Kerem Shalom (Karm Abu Salem) between Israel and Gaza, where only commercial good are permitted to pass….
Palestinian former prisoner Mazen Fuquha assassinated in Gaza
Samidoun 25 Mar — Former Palestinian prisoner, released in the 2011 Wafa al-Ahrar prisoner exchange, Mazen Fuquha, was assassinated with four shots to the head with a silenced gun yesterday evening, 24 March, outside his home in Tal al-Hawa, south of Gaza City in the Gaza Strip, Palestine. Fuquha, 38, is from Tubas in the West Bank, and was forcibly displaced to Gaza after the prisoner exchange. Fuquha was well-known as a leader in Hamas, and was sentenced to nine life sentences before his release, accused of participation in the armed Palestinian resistance. His father spoke with Asra Voice radio station, and said that the Israeli occupation army had broken into the family home in Tubas on multiple occasions and threatened his son, demanding the father tell his son to stop his activity. Palestinian political parties and resistance factions condemned the killing of Fuquha and placed responsibility for the crime with the Israeli occupation forces. Internal security police in Gaza are investigating the killing and seeking evidence as to how the assassination was carried out. Khalil al-Hayya of Hamas said that “the only beneficiary of this assassination is the occupation; the martyr Fuquha had no quarrels with anyone.” The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine denounced the killing as a “cowardly crime” of the occupation that attempts to target Palestinian resistance, emphasizing the importance of protecting Palestinian fighters. The Islamic Jihad movement said in a statement that the assassination is a “treacherous crime on the agenda of the occupation and carrying the fingerprints of its terror.” Fuquha grew up in Tubas before attending An-Najah National University in Nablus, where he became involved with the Islamic Bloc and later the Hamas movement. He was arrested three times by Palestinian Authority security and by the Israeli occupation army on 5 August 2002 after a siege that lasted six hours….
Gaza security forces ease restrictions at Erez crossing amid manhunt
GAZA (Ma‘an) 27 Mar — After the Hamas-run Ministry of Interior closed off all of the Gaza Strip’s land and sea borders Sunday and imposed a fierce security crackdown across the besieged coastal enclave, the ministry has announced that certain cases would be permitted to exit through the Palestinian side of the Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing, the only land crossing for people between Gaza and Israel. The measures came amid ongoing investigations by security forces in Gaza into the killing of Hamas leader and former prisoner of Israel Mazen Fuqahaa in Gaza City on Friday, which Hamas has branded as an assassination by Israel. Interior Ministry spokesperson Iyad al-Buzm said in a statement that starting from Monday, until further notice, passage for medical patients, family members of Palestinian prisoners traveling to visit their relatives in Israeli prison, women of all ages, boys under the age of 15 and men above the age of 45, and three Palestinian Authority ministers will be allowed to leave the Gaza Strip through Erez, while entering Gaza from Israel would be allowed for all….
Hamas vows revenge at slain militant’s funeral in Gaza
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) 25 Mar — Thousands of Hamas supporters waving the movement’s green flag marched through the streets of Gaza Saturday for the funeral of a militant leader and high-profile former prisoner who was mysteriously shot dead, as the group’s leaders pledged retribution. Senior Hamas member Mazen Faqha was found shot dead at the entrance of his house in Gaza City late Friday … The funeral included many Hamas militants and leaders who vowed revenge for the killing. Hamas official Mahmoud Zahar called for a crackdown on collaborators, whom Hamas suspects did Israel’s bidding. “Certainly, they (Israel) have collaborating hands. We will cut these hands and necks,” he said. “Our means of revenge are multiple, our means of deterrence are multiple and we know very well the means of restoring rights.” Hamas typically executes those convicted of collaborating with Israel. The Israeli military had no comment.
Assassins of top Hamas militant arrived by sea, Gaza reports say
Haaretz 27 Mar by Jack Khoury — The gunmen who assassinated senior Hamas militant Mazen Fuqaha in Gaza City on Friday arrived by sea, unconfirmed reports from the coastal enclave said on Sunday. Hamas, who has blamed Israel in the assassination and vowed revenge, is being careful not to reveal any details about its investigation into the assassination, one of its senior military commanders said. Unconfirmed reports said that the assassins carefully collected any evidence of the killing, such as bullet cartridges, that could indicate their identities before immediately fleeing the scene….
Analysis: Hamas faces dilemma after accusing Israel of killing top militant in Gaza
Haaretz 27 Mar by Jack Khoury — Launching renewed hostilities against Israel now would derail plans for the group in the Gaza Strip — The assassination of Hamas military leader Mazen Fuqaha in the Gaza Strip on Friday poses a dilemma to the organization with regard to the nature and magnitude of its response. Hamas’ military wing, Iz al-Din al-Qassam, as well as political leaders of the group, have pledged to respond and pointed an accusing finger at Israel. As opposed to previous incidents, when Israel openly assassinated senior Hamas figures like Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, Yahya Ayyash and Ahmed Jabari, this time Israel was silent and did not claim direct responsibility. This leaves Hamas some room for restraint. An investigation has been launched into the killing and until its conclusion, the organization will not immediately respond. The fact that Hamas did not respond with rocket fire at Israel also clearly shows it does not intend to cross red lines and trigger a direct clash. Hamas understands that, under the circumstances, opening up a front against Israel can only cause damage – not only in terms of destruction of infrastructure and buildings, but also politically. Hamas is at the height of a reorganization….
Gazan fishermen detained by Israel reported injured
GAZA (Ma‘an) 24 Mar –Two fishermen who were detained by Israeli forces on Thursday were reported injured on Friday, and were subsequently being treated in Israeli hospitals. Zakariya Bakr, the head of the fishermen committee, said that the detained fishermen, identified as Rajab Abu Mayala and Khader al-Saadi, were injured during their detentions, one of whom was reported as having serious injuries. However, Bakr did not specify which one was suffering from serious wounds or what kind of injuries the two sustained. The two were being held in Israeli hospitals and receiving medical care, he said. Gaza naval police said in a statement on Thursday that Israeli forces detained al-Saadi and Abu Mayala, both residents of the al-Shati refugee camp, while they were sailing three nautical miles from the shore of Gaza City. Gaza police added that Israeli forces also confiscated the fishermen’s boats and equipment at the time.
Israel releases Gazan fisherman after 10 months in prison
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 24 Mar — Israeli authorities on Friday released a Palestinian fisherman after serving a 10-month sentence in Israeli prison. Head of the Gaza Fishermen’s Union Zakariya Bakr told Ma‘an that Israeli forces released Ziyad Fahd Bakr at the Erez border crossing between Israel and the besieged coastal enclave. Though it remained unclear why Ziyad Bakr was sentenced to 10 months in prison, the Israeli army regularly detains and opens fire on unarmed Palestinian fishermen, shepherds, and farmers along the border areas if they approach Israel’s unilaterally declared “buffer zone,” which lies on both the land and sea sides of Gaza.
Israeli forces fire at Palestinian fishermen, agricultural lands in Gaza
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 26 Mar — Israeli forces opened fire along the border with the southern besieged Gaza Strip on two separate instances on Sunday morning, with no injuries being reported in either case. The Israeli navy’s gunboats opened fire at unarmed Palestinian fishing boats off the coast of the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Yunis, local sources said. Separately, Israeli troops opened fire at Palestinian agricultural lands east of al-Qarara in Khan Yunis.
Film review: Israeli bombs from the view of a Gaza ambulance crew
EI 25 Mar by Nora Parr — Gruff and skeptical, Abu Marzouq clearly does not want to be filmed. The ambulance driver is the reluctant protagonist of the first feature-length documentary by Gaza-based filmmaker Mohamed Jabaly. Ambulance follows a crew of paramedics led by Abu Marzouq during Israel’s 2014 bombardment of Gaza. The documentary, featured in the BBC Arabic Film Festival 2017 currently underway in London, is at once highly reflective and rough, unadulterated. Drawn from dozens of hours of footage recorded at innumerable sites of catastrophe, Ambulance unfolds in the same chronology as the war. This is no narrative that would be recognizable in a nightly newscast. Instead of answering circular and often problematic questions of who started what, Jabaly answers unasked questions, and shows the physical, psychological and social impacts of war. Ambulance begins with a list of statistics: 51 days, 18,000 homes destroyed, 500,000 people displaced. In Jabaly’s film these figures are given meaningful redefinitions. No longer an abstract number, “destroyed homes” become the bodies pulled out from beneath collapsed cement, and the anguished faces of family members as they learn the news that loved ones have been crushed. “They’re all gone” For Gaza’s emergency workers, the violence is personal. In one poignant scene, in the thick of bombardment, one of the young paramedics gets a call. Following protocol, he asks: how many in the house, can they move, who is missing. He hangs up and reports: “My uncle’s house was destroyed with 12 people inside.” Sitting next to the camera, he says a prayer and leans back into the ambulance seat. His face melts and grief takes over: “They’re all gone.” As ambulance crews rush to the Shuja‘iya neighborhood of Gaza City, viewers see displacement not as a fact, but as a process. The area was under intense shelling as its residents emerged from their homes into the streets to flee certain death, carrying mattresses, plastic bags, children….
In suspected preparation for strike on Gaza, Israel to hold largest aerial drills ever
IMEMC/Agencies 25 Mar — Likely preparing for another deadly offensive on Gaza, the Israeli air force is preparing for the largest ever and most complex military drills ever held, later this year. According to Israeli public radio, about 100 fighters, other aircraft and a few hundred soldiers and pilots, along with logistical support forces from the United States, Greece, Poland, France, Germany, India and Italy are expected to participate in the military exercise. Israeli radio said, according to Days of Palestine, that the air force squadrons will meet in Tel-Aviv during autumn, to carry out these joint exercises, for to maintain the readiness of the forces from the participating countries. Over the course of two weeks during the exercise, pilots will train to fight air battles, hit ground targets and avoid missiles. Lieutenant Colonel Richard Hecht, the Israeli Air Force’s chief of international affairs, said: “It will be a massive exercise; the biggest ever for the IAF. Seven nations plus Israel.” …Early this week, Israel called up 2,000 reserves and carried out large drills near the eastern borders of the Gaza Strip. Monitors insist that these massive and continuous drills likely come in line with Israeli efforts to prepare for a massive and deadly attack on the Gaza Strip.”….
Gaza under siege: The life and death of Ahmed Shubair
Al Jazeera 26 Mar by Belal Aldabbour & Ahmed Abdelall — Family mourns death of 17-year-old boy, after Israel refused to let him leave Gaza for an urgent medical procedure — Hassan Shubair is starkly matter-of-fact when asked about the fate of his son, 17-year-old Ahmed Shubair. “Instead of a high school diploma, my son received his death certificate,” Hassan told Al Jazeera. Ahmed, who was in his final year of school, died in mid-January from severe heart failure, joining a growing list of victims who have succumbed to death as a result of Israel’s siege on Gaza. His father, who works as a legal adviser in the economy ministry, noted Ahmed’s health had been in jeopardy since infancy. “From his very early days, Ahmed suffered from a faulty heart that required several major procedures and frequent visits to hospitals in Israel and the West Bank for follow-up,” Hassan said, noting that the procedures included a successful artificial heart valve implantation in 2007, after which Ahmed was able to lead a fairly normal life. “He loved swimming. The beach was his favourite getaway,” Amal, Ahmed’s mother, told Al Jazeera. “He was smart and excelled in class. His dream was to be able to help sick children with conditions like his, so he studied hard to be able to join medical school and, hopefully, to one day become a heart surgeon.” But in late 2015, Ahmed’s condition started to deteriorate. “My son’s heart was failing again, and doctors told us that he needed to replace the heart valve that he had installed nine years ago,” Amal said. Doctors at the Tel Hashomer Medical Centre in Jerusalem reached the same conclusion, and a date was set for the operation in early 2016. Ahmed and his mother went through the usual process of applying for permission to travel to Jerusalem through Erez. But the desperately needed clearance was not granted. Instead, in late February, Amal was summoned to Erez for an interview. She had little choice but to comply. After showing up at the specified time, Amal was presented with a difficult choice. “They [Israeli intelligence] told me that they were going to grant Ahmed access to medical treatment in exchange for my collaboration,” she said. “I said that I won’t help them take other people’s lives to save my son’s.”….
Hamas TV channel builds Jerusalem set in Gaza
[with photos] KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip (AP) 24 Mar — Quiet on the set! Surrounded by militant training sites on uprooted Jewish settlement lands, the first movie set in the Gaza Strip is growing, depicting the history-rich, volatile alleyways of Jerusalem’s Old City. The set is the latest effort by the al-Aqsa channel, run by Gaza’s Islamic militant Hamas rulers, to kick-start its drama production in the territory and release another series slated to air in the month of Ramadan. In Gaza, filming footage of Jerusalem and other central locations from the conflict is a challenge. Gaza’s population of about 2 million live in mostly cramped conditions in the coastal sandy territory compared to the rugged mountain terrain of the West Bank, so crews have struggled to film the twisting ancient alleyways of Jerusalem’s Old City. And that is how the idea to create a set depicting Jerusalem was born … The series, Heaven’s Gate, shows “the steadfastness of Jerusalemites and their sticking to their land and properties in the face of Zionist settlement,” said the director, Zouhir al-Efrengi. Most of the film crew has never been to Jerusalem. They secured footage of Jerusalem and the West Bank separately….
Gaza circus schools juggle raising funds, training children
GAZA STRIP (Al-Monitor) 23 Mar by Hana Salah — In the densely populated neighborhood of Shaja‘iya in eastern Gaza City, several children gathered in front of the Gaza Circus School as they watched trainers teach circus arts to children. Only a few recreational areas exist in the Gaza Strip, and the school, which is the second of its kind in Gaza, is struggling to get a local license and develop its activities. Ever since he was a child, Ahmed Mushtaha, 29, has been passionate about circus arts, and since his graduation from the department of physical education at Al-Aqsa University in Gaza in 2008, he has been seeking to create a local team that teaches circus arts to children. In 2011, the Belgian Al-Jabal Foundation offered circus arts training to 15 young amateurs, including Mushtaha, to promote the establishment of a circus school in Gaza. In 2014, Mushtaha established the Gaza Circus School in a garage of roughly 180 square meters (1,937 square feet). Locally trained staff teach circus arts to groups of children between the ages of 8 and 15 using modest tools; a long piece of cloth is hung in the middle of the garage, where children are taught gymnastics and acrobatics with the use of limited sports equipment. Mushtaha explained that trainees only pay a nominal fee to cover the garage rent….
Violence / Detentions — West Bank / Jerusalem
Thousands mourn slain Palestinian teen in Ramallah’s al-Jalazun refugee camp
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 24 Mar — Thousands of Palestinians marched through the al-Jalazun refugee camp on Friday in the occupied West Bank district of Ramallah, for the funeral of 17-year-old Muhammad Mahmoud Ibrahim al-Hattab, who was shot to death on Thursday by Israeli forces. The funeral set off from the Palestine Medical Complex, where mourning Palestinians carried the slain body of al-Hattab on their shoulders and marched through the streets of the refugee camp before placing the body into an ambulance at the entrance of the camp. Thousands of mourners were waiting at the site of the ambulance. Al-Hattab’s body was transported to his family’s home, where his parents and two sisters paid their final farewells to the family’s only son. Al-Hattab’s mother fainted more than once, attempting to control her emotions as she held her son’s stiff body and kissed him. Mourners, carrying al-Hattab on their shoulders, marched towards the al-Jalazun mosque where funeral prayers were performed. Following prayers, the funeral procession led by the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the military wing of the Fatah movement, headed to the camp’s cemetery as gunshots were fired into the air. Mourners shouted slogans calling for revenge over the killing of al-Hattab and all other Palestinians killed by Israeli forces, particularly Palestinian children….
18-year-old Palestinian remains in critical condition after deadly shooting
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 27 Mar — One of three 18-year-old Palestinians remained in critical condition on Monday, a medical official told Ma‘an, after Israeli forces opened fire on them on Thursday in the central occupied West Bank, in a shooting that left another teenager dead. Ahmad Bitawi — the director of the Palestine Medical Complex in Ramallah where Jassem Nakhla, Muhammad Hattab, and Muhammad Nakhla are currently being treated — told Ma‘an that the all three of the young Palestinians were still in serious condition. However, he said that two of them had seen some improvement over the past few days, while the third remained in very critical condition. While Bitawi declined to identify which of the three was still hanging in the balance, he confirmed that one of the young Palestinians — who Palestinian social media news outlets identified as Jassem — had recently undergone surgery and was doing somewhat better. Israeli forces shot at the young men, all residents of the al-Jalazun refugee camp in the Ramallah district of the West Bank, in contested circumstances on Thursday, with 17-year-old Muhammad Mahmoud Ibrahim al-Hattab succumbing to his wounds that same evening after being shot in the chest and shoulder. Immediately following the attack, the Palestinian Ministry of Health described the health condition of the survivors, stating that Jassem Muhammad Nakhla had been shot in the head and foot, while Muhammad Hattab was shot in the abdomen, and Muhammad Moussa Nakhla was shot in the foot and shoulder. The ministry told Ma‘an that they did not have further information on the youths’ cases as of Monday.
Israeli forces injure several Palestinians, 5 with live fire, during anti-settlement protest
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 24 Mar — At least five Palestinians were injured with live fire, while seven others were injured with rubber-coated steel bullets by Israeli forces on Friday during what started out as a peaceful anti-settlement demonstration in the eastern Ramallah district of the central occupied West Bank. The clashes took place near the villages of Kafr Malik and al-Mughayyar, where residents of the villages were protesting the construction of an illegal Israeli settlement on the lands of the two villages. In addition to those injured by live fire and rubber bullets, dozens others suffered from severe tear gas inhalation. Among those who suffered from severe tear gas inhalation were multiple journalists, including AP photographer Nasser al-Shuyukhi, who fainted as a result. The march set off towards the lands threatened with confiscation, where Israeli settlers have set up an illegal outpost in anticipation of a new settlement. While Israeli forces fired at protesters, local youth threw stones at the armed soldiers.
Clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces in Beit Ummar
IMEMC/Agencies 25 Mar — A number of Palestinians were injured on Saturday, during clashes which broke out with Israeli occupation forces in the town of Beit Ummar, north of Hebron in the occupied West Bank, according to local sources. Mohammad Awad, a local activist, told WAFA that soldiers raided and ransacked a house and a bakery in the center of the town, prompting clashes with residents who confronted the forces with stones. Soldiers fired tear gas and stun grenades at residents and homes causing a number of suffocation cases, he said.
Bil‘in weekly protest denounces death of teen killed by Israeli soldiers
IMEMC 25 Mar — Dozens of Palestinians, accompanied by Israeli and international peace activists, conducted Friday the weekly nonviolent procession in Bil‘in village, in the central West Bank district of Ramallah, against the Israeli Annexation Wall and colonies, and condemning the death of a Palestinian teen who was killed by the Israeli army near Ramallah, Thursday, while three other teens suffered serious injuries. The protesters marched from the center of the village, carrying Palestinian flags, and chanting for steadfastness, ongoing resistance until liberation and independence, and the release of all political prisoners. The protesters managed to reach the gate of the Annexation Wall separating the villagers from their orchards, and started banging on the gate, while chanting and denouncing the killing of Mohammad Mahmoud Ibrahim al-Hattab, 17, and the serious injuries of his friends Jassem Mohammad Nakhla, 18, Mohammad Mousa Nakhla, 18, and Mohammad Hattab, 18. They also chanted against the ongoing and escalating Israeli crimes and violations against the Palestinian people and their property in different parts of occupied Palestine. It is worth mentioning that German nationals visited the village, and met with the coordinator of the Popular Committee against the Wall and Colonies in Bil’in, Dr. Rateb Abu Rahma, along with several villagers and activists.
2 Palestinians injured after clashes erupt with Israeli forces north of Ramallah
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 27 Mar — Two Palestinians were shot and lightly injured by rubber-coated steel bullets on Monday morning, after violent clashes erupted between Israeli forces and Palestinian youth at Israel’s Atara military checkpoint north of Ramallah in the central occupied West Bank. The two were taken to the Palestine Medical Complex, where their injuries were described as minor.
VIDEO: Israeli soldiers harass and assault West Bank Palestinian girls
IMEMC/Agencies 26 Mar — Israeli forces were recently caught harassing and assaulting Palestinian girls as they were watching clashes between children and Israeli soldiers in the occupied West Bank. Israeli human rights group B’Tselem published a video, last week, showing the Israeli occupation soldiers also trying to kidnap one of the Palestinian girls. B’Tselem said, according to Days of Palestine, that a group of Palestinian boys and teens threw rocks at Israeli forces, who fired rubber-coated metal bullets and tear gas canisters at them, in addition to throwing stun grenades. “Seven women and girls from the extended Jaradat family stood outside one of the family’s homes watching the clashes,” the group stated. “Four Border Police jeeps arrived on the scene and the policemen who got out began pursuing the youths as they fled. The Jaradat girls also fled. “A videographer who came on the scene captured the end of the incident on video. The clip shows a masked Border Police officer gripping 13-year-old Khadijeh Jaradat by the arm, while a Border Police commanding officer pushed away her mother, who was trying to help her. “After the officer let go of Khadijeh, he was caught on video assaulting her cousin, 20-year-old Duha Badawi, beating her on the head.” Later on, “B’Tselem’s inquiries indicate that Siraj Jaradat, 28, fled with her 10-year-old cousin Samar to the latter’s home. Three of Samar’s sisters were home at that time: Hiba, 18, Shirin, 17 and Kifah, 11. The two closed the front yard’s iron gate behind them, went inside, and then heard loud banging at the front door. “Siraj and Hiba said that the police pounded on the door and kicked it until they broke the lock, and then came inside. “The women and girls, who were frightened by the officers, screamed and held on to each other. One of the officers approached Siraj, grabbed her by the shoulder, and pulled her out of the house. Siraj, who was screaming and crying, told the officer she had done nothing.” “B’Tselem said that after Ibrahim Jaradat, Khadijeh’s and Hiba’s father, had intervened and got the girls and his wife away, and after the Border Police commanding officer kept the officer from hitting Duha again, the officers left the village without making any arrests. “In the testimony, Duha gave on 21 January 2017, Hiba said she still had pain in her back, and other parts of her body, as a result of the officer’s assault.”….
3 Israelis arrested over stabbing, seriously wounding 19-year-old Palestinian
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 25 Mar — Israeli police arrested four Israelis who were accused of stabbing and seriously wounding a 19-year-old Palestinian citizen of Israel on Friday evening, according to an Israeli police spokeswoman, who claimed initial investigations indicated that the attack had criminal motives. Luba al-Samri said in a statement that the “Arab” victim was stabbed on the street in his hometown of Nahariya in northern Israel, and that four “Jewish suspects,” which included a teenager and three others between 20 and 45 years old, were being interrogated for their involvement in the attack. The Palestinian, who remained unidentified, was evacuated to the hospital for treatment of serious injuries, al-Samri said. Israeli police were expected to request to extend the remand of the four suspects on Saturday for further invitation in a case that al-Samri said “seemed to be purely criminal,” without elaborating.
Israeli forces detain 2 Palestinians in East Jerusalem
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 25 Mar — Israeli forces detained two Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem early Saturday morning after raiding their homes, according to a report from local watchdog the Wadi Hilweh Information Center. The report identified the two detainees as Amir Walid Bilbeisi, from the neighborhood of al-Sawaneh, and Abd al-Rahim Barbar from the Ras al-Amud area of Silwan. Meanwhile, the Center said Israeli police detained several Jerusalemite Palestinians, including minors, during raids on Friday afternoon, some of whom were identified as 17-year-old Issa Mohammad Jabari, 16-year-old Yazan Hisham Jabari, 14-year-old Siraj Eddin Marrish, Muhammad Shalabi, Ala Eddin Natsheh, 21-year-old Muhammad Abu Shousheh, and 21-year-old Hamzeh Melhes.
Israeli forces detain Palestinian south of Nablus after alleged stab attempt
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 27 Mar — The Israeli army claimed Monday morning to have thwarted an attempted stabbing against Israeli forces at Israel’s Huwwara military checkpoint south of Nablus in the northern occupied West Bank, with no injuries being reported. An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma‘an that a suspect attempted to stab Israeli forces at the checkpoint, which she referred to as Shomron Regional Brigade junction. Israeli forces were able to “subdue the attacker,” she said, without using force. She added that she was “not aware” of any injuries being sustained by Israeli forces, and could not confirm if a weapon was seized in the incident.
Israeli soldiers abduct eighteen Palestinians in the West Bank
IMEMC 27 Mar — Israeli soldiers abducted, overnight and earlier Monday, eighteen Palestinians, including a journalist and one woman, during invasions of homes and property in different parts of the occupied West Bank, mainly from Bethlehem and Tulkarem, the Palestinian Prisoners Society (PPS) said. The Bethlehem office of the PPS stated that the soldiers invaded and violently searched many homes in the district, and abducted six Palestinians, identified as ‘Ala Mohammad Taqatqa, Essam Mohammad Taqatqa, Monir Mohammad Taqatqa, Fayez Ali Deeriyya, Yahya Hashem Jado and ‘Ala Mohammad al-Hreimi. In Tulkarem, in the northern part of the West Bank, the soldiers abducted ‘Ala Khaled Ismael, 23, Ahmad Yousef Abu Harb, 34, Rafat Jamil Naseef, 50, and Hamza Yahya, 24. In Jenin and Qalqilia, also in northern West Bank, the soldiers abducted Mohammad Farouq ‘Aabed and a journalist identified as Ayyoub Ma’zouz Hassan, 30. In Ramallah, in the central West Bank, the soldiers abducted Jihad Sari Wahdan, Mo’taz Sameeh Wahdan and Zeid Samhan Wahdan. In Hebron, in the southern part of the West Bank, the soldiers abducted a woman identified as Tahani Jaber. In occupied East Jerusalem, the soldiers abducted two Palestinians, identified as Lu’ay Abu Sa‘ad and Salman Abu Mayyala; both guards of the Al-Aqsa Mosque who were taken prisoner from its courtyards.
On Monday at dawn, the soldiers invaded Kafr Ni‘ma village, west of Ramallah, before breaking into and searching the home of a Palestinian artist, identified as Osama Nazzal, and confiscated his caricatures.
Israeli soldiers install surveillance cameras in West Bank villages
IMEMC 26 Mar — Israeli soldiers and military engineers installed, Saturday, several surveillance cameras in and near villages in the occupied West Bank, in order, according to a military statement, to use them in uncovering and attempting to prevent Palestinian attacks against the soldiers and settlers. The soldiers installed several cameras on a main road near Janata [or Jannatah] village, east of Bethlehem, hundreds of meters away from a road used by soldiers and colonialist settlers, especially those heading to Teqoua illegal colony. The soldiers also installed surveillance cameras near Kifl Haris village, south of Nablus, in the northern part of the West Bank. Israel has hundreds of surveillance cameras on main roads and junctions in several areas of the occupied West Bank, as the roads are used by both the military army and colonist settlers, but this marks the first time that such cameras are actually installed inside Palestinian villages, not even used by the settlers. The Israeli army also increased its military deployments on roads where cameras have been installed, apparently in an effort to prevent attempts to destroy them.
Israeli forces impose restrictions on Palestinians at al-Aqsa following sit-in protest
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 24 Mar — Israeli forces imposed heightened movement restrictions at the gates of Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem after a sit-in was organized at the site following Friday prayers which demanded the release of slain Palestinian bodies withheld by the Israeli state. Head of media and public relations for the Islamic Endowment (Waqf) Firas Dibs said that Israeli forces had raided Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, while soldiers deployed at the gates of the holy site banned Palestinians from entering the area after the Dhuhur (afternoon) prayer. Dibs added that Israeli forces also searched all Palestinian youth “in a provocative manner” as they exited the compound following prayers and the subsequent sit-in. Witnesses told Ma‘an that Israeli forces stationed at the gate also detained an unspecified number of Palestinians and transported them to Israeli interrogation centers.
Israel authorities in Ktziot prison quash memorial for assassinated Hamas member
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 26 Mar –The Israel Prison Service (IPS) prevented Palestinian prisoners in Ktziot prison from organizing a mourning gathering for Mazen Fuqahaa, after the Shalit-deal prisoner and Hamas leader was killed in the Gaza Strip on Friday, in what Hamas has branded an assassination by Israel. The Gaza-based prisoners’ rights group Muhjat al-Quds Foundation said in a statement that IPS authorities dispersed a gathering held to commemorate Fuqahaa, and also prevented prisoners from organizing any activity in solidarity with him, according to a letter from prisoners in the Negev-region prison. The letter said prison authorities also placed Islamic Jihad-affiliated prisoner Jumaa Abdullah al-Tayih in solitary confinement, along with three other unidentified Hamas-affiliated prisoners. IPS also tried to move all Hamas and Islamic Jihad affiliated prisoners from Section 5 to Section 22 of the prison, “but they refused to move,” according to the statement.
Palestinian student seized by Israeli occupation, denied access to lawyer for 19 days
Samidoun 25 Mar — Palestinian student Kifah Quzmar, a Bir Zeit University student, has been imprisoned at the Moskobiyeh interrogation in Jerusalem for the past 19 days without charge; he has been consistently denied access to a lawyer. In a press release issued by Bir Zeit University, Kifah’s brother Majd Quzmar noted that Kifah had been seized when returning from a trip at the Karameh/Allenby crossing from Jordan on 7 March. His presence in Israeli detention was denied by intelligence agencies until the fourth day after his arrest. Quzmar’s lawyer, Anan Odeh, said that Quzmar was brought before an Israeli military court, ordering his detention extended until 27 March and banning him from receiving a visit from his lawyer; Odeh emphasized that Quzmar has been undergoing “severe and continuous pressure since his arrest” in 19 days of interrogation. Quzmar is majoring in business administration and is expected to graduate this summer. He was previously arrested in 2016 by the Palestinian Authority after he posted critical comments about the PA on Facebook, especially following the arrest of his friend Seif al-Idrissi. “Do you know why the mukhabarat [intelligence service] is a rotten agency? Because the entire PA is rotten,” wrote Quzmar at the time. He was released on bail one week after his arrest after widespread Palestinian and international responses to his arrest “I know every day as a Palestinian I feel I am being watched by the Israelis or the Palestinians,” said Quzmar, following his release.…
Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Settlements
Israel prevents Palestinians from accessing their land to make settlers ‘comfortable’
SALFIT (Ma‘an) 24 Mar — Israeli forces on Friday prevented Palestinians from accessing areas around the Wadi Qana valley [see here for B’Tselem’s description of the destruction of this beautiful place by settlers] west of the village of Deir Istiya in the central occupied West Bank district of Salfit, in order to create a “comfortable atmosphere” for Israeli settlers in the area. Member of the Deir Istiya municipality Nathmi Salman told Ma‘an that Israeli authorities had closed the entrance of Wadi Qana, preventing Palestinians from entering the area from 8 a.m to 3 p.m on Friday to provide a “comfortable atmosphere” for Israeli settlers from the nearby Karnei Shomron settlement who organized an annual “spring march” in the area. According to Salman, Israeli forces had put up signs in Hebrew reading “no entry” late Thursday and informed farmers that the area was closed by Israeli forces on Friday. Salman said that Israeli settlers arrived in the area early Friday with power generators and “entertainment equipment.”
Israel built 2630 illegal homes in West Bank last year
Al Jazeera 22 Mar — Israel built 2,630 illegal settler homes in the occupied West Bank in 2016, an increase of 40 percent compared with numbers from 2015. According to figures released by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday, construction was at its “second highest” in 15 years, falling slightly short of the 2,874 illegal homes built in 2013. Citing the official data, Peace Now – an anti-settlement NGO – said 14,017 units were started since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned to office in 2009, though settlement construction has continued under successive Israeli leaders. “The sharp increase in settlement construction sends a clear message to the Palestinians and to the international community that Israel is not interested in a two-state solution,” Peace Now said….
Kibbutz movement to celebrate 50 years of settlements in Golan
JTA 25 Mar — Left-wing members of the kibbutz movement are protesting the organization’s sponsorship of an event celebrating 50 years of settlement on the Golan Heights, which the critics say is occupied territory. Several members of the left-leaning Meretz party who belong to the movement wrote an open letter last week expressing their disapproval of the plan to hold an event in the near future celebrating the anniversary in the Golan Heights, the NRG news site reported Friday. Israel conquered the area in 1967 from Syria, which used its elevated position to routinely shell Israeli settlements in the Galilee, and annexed it in 1981. However, it is internationally regarded as occupied, including by the United States, and claimed by Bashar Assad, the president of Syria. His army controls only 25 percent of the internationally recognized land mass of his country since the eruption in 2011 of a still-raging civil war that has killed approximately 400,000 people. The war has put on hold efforts to facilitate an agreement between Syria and Israel on the future of the strategically important Golan. In their open letter to the leadership of the kibbutz movement, the document’s eight authors from kibbutzim across Israel acknowledged that at present, “there is no one to return the territory to.” However, they added, “recognizing this reality is no pretext for celebrating occupation.” The secretary of the movement, Nir Meir, dismissed the letter … Settlement in the Golan was never controversial, and the attempts to generate controversy are irrelevant now that Syria has ceased to exist and there is no partner on the other side.
Israel’s false narrative on land swaps
Al Jazeera 26 Mar by Ben White — The idea of future land swaps has been used to justify expanding Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, analysts say. Experts deny the suggestion by pro-Israeli groups that land swaps are some kind of magic formula for achieving a viable two-state solution — When Israeli opposition leader and Labour Party chairman Isaac Herzog published a plan for kick-starting the peace process last month, one of his stated goals was to “save the settlement blocs” – areas of the West Bank where Israel has built clusters of settlements, including larger towns. Settlement blocs are often referred to by politicians and pundits alike, but there is no common understanding about precisely what the term means. “From Israel’s point of view, I think the term is intentionally vague and amorphous,” Daniel Levy, president of the US/Middle East Project think-tank, told Al Jazeera …In negotiations over the past two decades, Israel has demanded that West Bank settlement blocs become part of Israeli territory in any final deal, typically as part of a land swap in which certain areas within Israel become part of a future Palestinian state. But on the rare occasions when talks have reached the details stage, there have been significant hurdles. “The blocs encompass large swaths of land and, depending on the negotiators, can often be 10 or more percent of the West Bank,” Diana Buttu, a lawyer and former adviser to Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) negotiators, told Al Jazeera. Palestinian maps presented in various rounds of negotiations have allowed Israel to annex some two or three percent of the occupied West Bank. The best Israeli offer, territorially speaking, came via Ehud Olmert in 2008 – 6.5 percent, at close to a one-to-one swap – but that was when he was already a lame-duck prime minister. Nor is it just about percentages: Olmert’s proposed territorial swaps, for example, raised important questions for Palestinian negotiators, who claimed that swapping out settlements such as Ariel, Maale Adumim and others would “prejudice contiguity, water aquifers and the viability of Palestine”. “No Israeli government to date has accepted the Palestinian stipulation that land swaps be fully equal in size and ‘quality’,” veteran Israeli negotiator Michael Herzog acknowledged….
Whose ‘ethnic cleansing’? Israel’s appropriation of the Palestinian narrative
IMEMC/Agencies 26 Mar by Dina Matar — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently claimed, in a video posted on his Facebook page, that the Palestinian demand to dismantle illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) constitutes an act of “ethnic cleansing” against Israeli Jewish settlers. The term, which was originally used as a euphemism during the Serbian campaign against Bosnians, soon came to describe extreme violent practices, mass killings, and forced displacement during conflict and war. It has also been used by many scholars as well as in public discourse to refer to Zionist practices against the Palestinian population in the lead-up to and during the Nakba of 1948. These practices include the destruction of more than 500 Palestinian villages and the expulsion of approximately 730,000 Palestinians from their homes. Netanyahu’s application of the term to Israeli settlers garnered more than a million views on his Facebook page, and drew millions more via the video’s recirculation across social media platforms. It shocked many analysts, created a tense debate in the international media, and brought condemnation from the likes of then-UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, who called it “unacceptable and outrageous.” Yet such rhetoric, albeit more incendiary than usual, is but the latest instance of an Israeli strategy of appropriating a narrative of victimhood in order to shore up public support….
Video: Israeli factories damaging Palestinian farms
26 Mar — Since the beginning of the year, some 60 new Israeli companies have moved into the occupied West Bank, according to local media reports. But Palestinians say that, as more factories open, the increased pollution destroys their farmland. Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan reports from Tulkarm.
Palestinian family coerced to tear down their roof in Beit Hanina
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 25 Mar — A Palestinian in the Beit Hanina neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem tore down the roof of his own house on Saturday, in compliance with an order from Israel’s Jerusalem municipality that said the roof was constructed without the required building license. Yousif Bukhtan told Ma‘an that the walls of his 60-square-meter house had been built several years ago, and the roof was added three years ago. He said that the Jerusalem municipality had warned that if he didn’t demolish the roof by the end of March, he would be forced to pay the exorbitant fine typically imposed by Israeli authorities when municipality crews carry out demolitions. In Bukhtan’s case, if he had refused to carry out the demolition himself, the municipality’s crews would have likely razed the entire house to the ground, he said. A spokesperson for the Jerusalem municipality had previously told Ma’an that “self demolitions occur when house owners heed legal notices and court rulings and remove building code violations independently…” Last month, seven Palestinians, including five children, were left homeless as a result of an Israeli-enforced demolition in Beit Hanina, when Israeli forces assaulted the owner at gunpoint, according to the family.
Israel orders Palestinian families in Jordan Valley to evacuate homes for military drills
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 26 Mar — Israeli forces notified several Palestinian families in the northern Jordan Valley region of the occupied West Bank on Sunday that they would have to evacuate their homes on Wednesday to make way for Israeli military training exercises, official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported. Aref Daraghmeh, who monitors settlement activities and Israeli violations, told Wafa that Israeli forces ordered more than 10 Palestinian families in the Ras al-Ahmar area northeast of Tubas to leave their homes starting at 5 p.m. Wednesday until 5 a.m. on Thursday. Meanwhile, Israeli media reported on Sunday that the Israeli army had announced that military drills were set to take place in several areas of the occupied West Bank this week between Sunday and Thursday … Rights groups have said that Israeli military training zones, known as a “firing zones,” are used as a pretext to fully annex portions of the occupied West Bank. Nearly 20 percent of the occupied West Bank has been declared “firing zones” since the 1970s, but according to the UN, nearly 80 percent of these areas are not in fact used for military training. However, when military training does take place, Israel forces families to leave their homes for hours or days at a time until the drill is over. Communities that find themselves inside declared “firing zones” face a high risk of losing their livelihoods, homes, and schools.
UN: Israel didn’t comply with UN call to stop settlements
UNITED NATIONS (AP) 25 Mar by Edith M. Lederer — Israel took no steps to comply with a Security Council call to stop all settlement activity in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, and instead authorized “a high rate” of settlement expansions in violation of international law, the United Nations said Friday. U.N. envoy Nickolay Mladenov told the council the large number of settlement announcements and legislation action by Israel indicate “a clear intent to continue expanding the settlement enterprise in the occupied Palestinian territory.” He was delivering the first report to the council on implementation of the resolution it adopted in December condemning Israeli settlements as a “flagrant violation” of international law. The resolution was a striking rupture with past practice by President Barack Obama who had the U.S. abstain rather than veto the measure as president-elect Donald Trump demanded. The resolution didn’t impose sanctions on Israel, so the council isn’t called on to take any action. But it does enshrine the world’s disapproval of the settlements. Mladenov, the U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, reiterated that the United Nations “considers all settlement activities to be illegal under international law and one of the main obstacles to peace.” He called “the January spike” in illegal settlement announcements by Israel “deeply concerning.”….
Settler leader: Population growth is end of 2-state solution
JERUSALEM (AP) 26 Mar by Josef Federman — The number of Israeli settlers living in the West Bank has soared by nearly one-quarter over the past five years to over 420,000 people, a prominent settler leader said Sunday, presenting new population figures that he said put to rest the internationally backed idea of a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians. Yaakov Katz issued his report as the Israeli government is locked in negotiations with the Trump administration over understandings that are expected to include some curbs on settlement construction. “We are talking about a situation that is unchangeable,” he said Sunday. “It’s very important to know the numbers, and the numbers are growing.” According to Katz, the settler population hit 420,899 on Jan. 1, up 3.6 percent from 406,332 people a year earlier and a 23-percent increase from 342,414 at the beginning of 2012. Katz said the numbers were based on data from the Interior Ministry that have not yet been made public. The ministry, which oversees the country’s population registry, had no comment. But Peace Now, an anti-settlement watchdog group, said the numbers appeared reasonable. The figures are being published on a new website sponsored by Bet El Institutions, a settler organization that counts members of President Donald Trump’s inner circle among its supporters. Katz’s figures did not include settlement construction in east Jerusalem, where more than 200,000 Israelis now live.
Palestinian refugees – Lebanon
Lebanon’s Ain al-Hilweh remains tense as death roll rises to 3 Palestinians
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 25 Mar — After two Palestinians were killed and at least four others were injured in clashes in Lebanon’s Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp between Thursday and Friday, renewed violence Friday evening left another Palestinian dead. Lebanon’s National News Agency (NNA) reported that Palestinian refugee Ibrahim Hussein died of wounds he sustained during an armed “personal dispute” in the Jabal-al-Halib area inside the camp. Members of the Fatah movement later reportedly caught the perpetrator, identified by NNA as Jihad Abdul Mohti, and handed him over to Lebanese army intelligence authorities Saturday morning, NNA reported that the security situation in Ain al-Hilweh remained tense, and that all social, educational, and medical institutions associated with UNRWA were closed for business, as streets were empty and citizens apprehensive of sniper fire.
Late last month, armed violence in the refugee camp left an 18- and 12-year-old Palestinian dead, while at least eight others were injured — including a pregnant woman….
Why did PFLP suspend participation in local elections?
RAMALLAH (Al-Monitor) 23 Mar by Ahmad Melhem — The Palestinian municipal elections in the West Bank, scheduled for May 13, were dealt yet another blow when the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) suspended its participation March 13. This comes following Hamas’ opposition to the elections, which will not be held in the Gaza Strip, as Hamas rejected the Palestinian High Court’s ruling on Jan. 31 to amend the electoral law. The PFLP stance came in protest against what it described as the “Palestinian security services’ crime of suppressing a peaceful protest in front of the Courts Complex in the Ramallah and al-Bireh governorate” on March 12. The PFLP said its stance is a condemnation of the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) trial of Basil al-Araj, before he was killed by Israeli security forces March 5, and attacking protesters with tear gas and batons. Their stance was also designed to denounce “the PA and security services failing to draw lessons from these assaults.” Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, in his capacity as minister of interior as well, decided March 13 to form a committee for an inquiry into the Ramallah incident headed by Undersecretary of the Interior Ministry Mohamed Mansour. The committee, which has yet to complete its task, includes the membership of Ammar Dweik, the head of the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights, and Palestinian Bar Association Chairman Hussein Shabana. The PFLP, however, did not perceive the committee to be sufficient, and stressed “the need to apologize to the Palestinian people and take serious steps, such as the suspension of those responsible for [crushing the protest] from work, until the committee completes its investigation.”….
PA arrests Palestinian journalists in the West Bank
MEMO 22 Mar — The Palestinian Authority (PA) is carrying out an “unprecedented” and “illegal” campaign against Palestinian journalists in the occupied West Bank, Palestinian news website Arabs48.com reported on Tuesday. As part of the campaign, the news site said that the PA’s intelligence services summoned journalist Sameh Manasreh from Tulkarm on Sunday after he had taken part in the funeral of Palestinian activist Basel Al-Araj, who was killed by Israeli forces earlier this month. Manasreh was locked in the headquarters of the intelligence services for a couple of hours and released in the evening. He was asked to report to the same agency the next day. The PA also arrested another journalist, Luay Shalaldeh, and investigated him for four days. After he was released, he said that he was investigated for taking part in public activities. On Monday, the intelligence services also summoned Qutaiba Qasim from Bethlehem and questioned him for several hours. He was released and asked to return the next day. The Palestinian Journalists Association (PJA) condemned the security campaign yesterday that it says targeted Palestinian journalists, with the aim of undermining their right to freely collect and impart information. “The continuous hunting and arrests of Palestinian journalists and threats against them is a violation of their rights,” a statement by the PJA said, noting that the PA threatens and arrests any journalists who report narratives about incidents which is different than its own narrative….
Palestinian police detain 3 ‘dangerous fugitives’ in Hebron
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 26 Mar — Palestinian police on Sunday said they arrested three “dangerous fugitives” in the Hebron district of the southern occupied West Bank, according to a police spokesperson. Luay Irzeiqat said in the written statement that two of the “wanted” men were arrested inside a house in the Jabal Juhar neighborhood of Hebron city, an area under full Israeli military control, and that a third was arrested in the Zeif area in southern Hebron. Irzeiqat described the suspects, who remained unidentified, as “three of the most dangerous fugitives (in the occupied West Bank), who stand accused of 60 different crimes including theft, fraud, shooting, and terrifying citizens.” The arrests came amid a security crackdown by Palestinian security forces to seize weapons and detain “wanted criminals” across the West Bank, as part of the Palestinian Authority’s security coordination with Israel, which has been denounced by critics as a “revolving door policy” of funneling Palestinians from PA jails into Israeli prisons….
Abbas receives German ‘Hope for Peace’ prize amid growing Palestinian discontent
DORTMUND (Ma‘an) 26 Mar — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas received a special “Hope for Peace” prize at the Steiger Award ceremony in Germany on Saturday. The Steiger Award said on its website that it had chosen to hand the prize to Abbas as a “clear signal” vis-à-vis the stagnating Israeli-Palestinian peace process. In a speech during the ceremony in the German city of Dortmund, Abbas said that the Palestinian Authority (PA), which he heads, had created a committee to “maintain and support tolerance and coexistence” between Palestinians and Israelis, with the goal of achieving a two-state solution based on pre-1967 borders with East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital. Abbas stated that the Palestinian struggle against Israel was not anti-Semitic, “but rather against occupation which controls our people and land,” restating his respect for Judaism. Abbas added that the PA stood against “terrorism, violence, and extremism in our region and in the world, regardless of its source or its types.” Hamas, the de facto ruling party in the besieged Gaza Strip, denounced on Sunday Abbas’ statements in Germany regarding a two-state solution, saying that the PA president’s stance on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict only laid claim to 22 percent of historical Palestine for the creation of a Palestinian state….
Israeli police refuse to grant permit for annual Nakba march
Haaretz 23 Mar by Jack Khoury — The police are refusing to approve the annual March of Return that commemorates the Nakba (“catastrophe,” as Palestinians refer to the founding of the State of Israel), which was scheduled for early May. For 18 years the march has been held in parallel with Israel’s Independence Day celebrations, but this year the police said they would not have enough resources to secure the event due to the holiday. The Association for Protecting the Rights of the Uprooted in Israel, which organizes the march, said their permit was denied because politicians were exerting pressure on the police. The association holds the event annually on the grounds of one of the Arab villages that was destroyed in 1948. Last month the association approached the Nahariya police and asked for permission to hold the march on the lands of the village of Al-Kabri, adjacent to Kibbutz Kabri, a few kilometers east of the city. Association representatives and Nahariya police officers toured the planned route of the march two weeks ago and agreed on the police requirements, which made the refusal this week even more surprising. “We’re sure there’s a political motive,” said attorney Wessam Areed, who submitted the request for the permit. “We will insist on our right to mark the event and will commit to all the conditions to assure the wellbeing and security of the marchers.” Areed noted that the association had always meticulously adhered to all the requirements, and that various police station commanders had sent letters commending it for maintaining public order….
Muslim family holds the key to Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem
GAZA CITY (Al-Monitor) 26 Mar by Ahmed al-Komi — Following Muslim leader Saladin’s conquest of the city of Jerusalem in A.D. 1187, a dispute broke out between the different Christian denominations about the rightful owner of the key to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This prompted Saladin to order the key to the church to be retained by the Ghodayya Hashemite family, which hails from the city of Jerusalem in Palestine. According to historical accounts, the Muslim family was entrusted with the key upon the agreement of all Christian denominations at the time. Ever since, a member of the Ghodayya family opens and closes the gate and guards the church every day. Adib Joudeh al-Husseini al-Ghodayya, the current custodian of the church key and holder of the Holy Sepulchre Seal, told Al-Monitor that Saladin entrusted Christians with safeguarding Jerusalem, following the example of Caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab, as a way to preserve the Christian religious monuments….
Palestinians want tourists to spend time on the West Bank
BloombergBW 23 Mar by Jonathan Ferziger & Fadwa Hodali — And now a message from the Palestinian Authority: Walk in the footsteps of Jesus, enjoy some savory hummus and stuffed grape leaves, and please, please, please spend the night. If you squint, you might not see the watchtowers, barbed wire, and rifle-toting Israeli soldiers. The Palestinian government is making a push to attract tourists to Bethlehem, Jericho, Hebron, and other historic religious sites — going so far as to call Jesus “the first Palestinian.” While tourism to Israel has steadily increased in recent years, Palestinian-controlled lands — which include many of the major Biblical sites — have seen scant benefit as Israel maintains a tight military grip over the West Bank. Sure, there’s an annual rush to Bethlehem at Christmas. But even then, most visitors come on day trips to check out Manger Square and the Church of the Nativity, spending little time — or cash. Archaeological jewels such as the Khirbet Bal‘ama water tunnel near Jenin and the Sebastia Roman colonnade outside Nablus get scarce traffic. And the new, white-marble Yasser Arafat museum in Ramallah? On a recent weekday afternoon, it had just three visitors. Although political tensions make it tough to attract tourists, Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, envisions sunbathing and spas on the Dead Sea, bike trails through the Jordan Valley, and Christians flocking to Bethlehem year-round. “If we had an independent state, it would be magnificent,” he says….
With eye toward Trump, Arab leaders to seek consensus
DEAD SEA, Jordan (AP) 26 Mar by Karin Laub & Mohammed Daraghmeh — With an eye toward Washington, leaders of a fractured and conflict-ridden Arab world hold their annual summit this week, seeking common positions and possible leverage as President Donald Trump weighs his approach toward the region. From their hotel on the Dead Sea, they have a view of the Israeli-occupied West Bank on the opposite shore — a visual reminder of the stalled Palestinian quest for statehood, an issue that host Jordan says will take center stage this year. Here is a look ahead. WHO’S ATTENDING? Jordan’s King Abdullah II plays host. Key participants include King Salman of Saudi Arabia, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres and Staffan de Mistura, the U.N. and Arab League envoy for Syria, are coming, along with U.S. and Russian envoys. The leadership summit is scheduled for Wednesday. Syria’s seat will remain empty. President Bashar Assad hasn’t been invited to an Arab summit since his country was suspended from the 22-member Arab League in late 2011, several months after an uprising against him turned into a civil war. PALESTINE ON THE HORIZON? The leaders are to reaffirm a Saudi-led peace plan that offers Israel full relations with dozens of Arab and Muslim states in exchange for its withdrawal from lands captured in 1967. The Arab Peace Initiative, which would pave the way for a Palestinian state in east Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, was first proposed in 2002. This week, the summit is being asked to endorse the plan “as is,” a request promoted by Abbas, who says reopening it to negotiations would further weaken the Palestinians….
Appeals court won’t allow suit against Palestinian Authority
WASHINGTON (AP) 24 Mar — A federal appeals court says the families of Jewish worshipers who were killed or wounded during a 2011 attack in the West Bank can’t sue the Palestinian Authority for damages in U.S. courts. The decision Friday upheld a lower court ruling to dismiss the case. The attack by a Palestinian security guard killed Ben-Yosef Livnat, an Israeli citizen, and wounded Americans Yitzhak Safra and Natan Safra. The worshipers had come to pray at a site known as Joseph’s Tomb without authorization. The families sued under the federal Anti-terrorism Act, saying the shooting took place at the behest of the Palestinian Authority and was directed at the U.S. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said there was no evidence the attack targeted the U.S.