Opinion: Arrest of Palestinians for potential terror attacks brings new meaning to ‘minority report’ / John Brown
Haaretz 24 Apr — 800 Palestinians have been arrested by Israeli and PA security forces as a result of a computerized program that tries to predict lone-wolf attacks based on social media posts. But how can you jail someone for a crime they haven’t committed? — Channel 10 reported earlier this month that the Israel Defense Forces and Shin Bet security service had arrested 400 Palestinians who were seen as lone-wolf terrorists. They were “arrested before they set out to carry out terror attacks.” The suspects were identified through the use of a computerized program that analyzed social media posts. The station’s military correspondent, Or Heller, attributed the drop in the number of terrorist attacks to the cyberprogram. What made the story even more bizarre was the fact that a few minutes earlier, journalist Ronen Bergman – who reported the story – had said the exact opposite: That despite the system’s existence, it was impossible to identify lone-wolf attackers. The Channel 10 report was followed by an item in Haaretz, which claimed the method had “significantly reduced” the number of terror attacks. But it hedged that claim and spoke of 400 detainees who had intended to carry out terror attacks, not that they were actively caught just before setting out to commit them. But what was lacking in these reports were the burning questions: How is it possible for Israeli security forces to arrest young Palestinians over things they have not done? How can they be convicted of a crime when they haven’t done anything? And how is it that such a dystopian TV report could appear without any criticism? Even if the system has managed to identify several suspects who may have planned to commit a terror act (that was not carried out), that certainly doesn’t amount to “significant” results that could begin to justify such a grave violation of hundreds of detainees’ human rights. Explaining the extent to which the approach is baseless and to which it violates any pretense of due process requires first explaining how such systems generally operate, and that there are Israeli companies working on such systems…. [long and informative article, behind a paywall, unfortunately]
Violence / Detentions — West Bank / Jerusalem / Negev
2 Palestinian children killed after Israeli ordnance explodes in Negev
NEGEV (Ma‘an) 25 Apr — Two Palestinian children were killed on Tuesday evening when Israeli ordnance exploded in the Abu Qeidar area of the unrecognized Bedouin village of al-Zarnouq in the Negev of southern Israel. Locals told Ma‘an that the device was left over from the Israeli army. The children were identified as 8-year-old Omar Ismail Abu Qweidar, and his 10-year-old cousin Muhammad Mahmoud Abu Qeidar. The children were declared dead at the scene of the explosion. Israeli police spokesperson Luba al-Samri confirmed the incident in a written statement, revealing that Omar was in fact just 6-and-a-half years old, and said that the two boys were playing with the ordnance when it exploded.
Israeli forces critically wound Palestinian boy in Nablus
Days of Palestine 26 Apr — The Israeli occupation forces critically wounded the boy’s cousin at the same place less than 24 hours ago — Israeli occupation forces critically wounded on Wednesday afternoon a Palestinian boy at Huwwara military checkpoint near West Bank city of Nablus. Eyewitnesses said that the Palestinian was walking to pass the checkpoint like any other people passing it. “Suddenly, we hear sound of gunfire,” one of the eyewitnesses said. “At first, we did not know where did it come from, but when we saw the boy falling on the ground, we knew that he was the target of the gunfire,” he added. Palestinian medical sources identified the boy as Saleh Omar Saleh, 16, from Balata Refugee Camp to the south of Nablus. Local sources said that Saleh is the cousin of 17-year-old boy Amjad Maher Jaafar, who was shot multiple times in the stomach by the Israeli occupation forces at the same location less than 24 hours earlier. Saleh was evacuated by the Israeli forces to Rabin Medical Centre in the central Israeli city of Petah Tikva, where Jaafar was also evacuated to on Tuesday, and remained in a difficult condition as of late Tuesday night. The Israeli media claimed the Saleh had a knife and intended to stab an Israeli soldier from those guarding the checkpoint. However, the eyewitnesses denied this and stressed that he was very far from the Israeli soldiers when he was targeted by the Israeli gunfire.
Palestinian severely wounded by settlers in West Bank
JENIN (PIC) 27 Apr — A Palestinian citizen was badly injured after a horde of Jewish settlers on Wednesday evening savagely beat him and caused damage to his car on a road west of Nablus in the West Bank. The victimized citizen was identified as Ali Qabha from Ya‘bad town, south of Jenin city. Local sources told the Palestinian Information Center (PIC) that settlers rallied on the road leading to Jenin near the illegal settlement of Shavei Shomron, which is not far from Deir Sharaf town in Nablus, intercepted Qabha as he was driving his car and physically attacked him. Qabha suffered severe bruises and fractures and managed to reach a hospital for medical assistance, while the settlers stayed on the road to commit more banditry acts, the sources added. His car also sustained extensive damage in the attack, the sources affirmed.
Israel to release body of slain Palestinian woman for burial
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 26 Apr — Israeli authorities are set to release the body of a slain Palestinian woman on Wednesday night for burial, nearly a month after she was killed by Israeli forces when attempting to carry out a stabbing attack in the Old City of occupied East Jerusalem. Siham Ratib Nimr, a 49-year-old resident of the northern East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras Khamis, was killed by Israeli police on March 29 after she attempted to stab police officers with a pair of scissors at the Old City’s Damascus Gate. No Israelis were injured in the case. Nimr was the mother of Mustafa Nimr, a 27-year-old Palestinian who was killed by Israeli forces “by mistake” in September during a night raid in the Jerusalem-area Shu‘faat refugee camp. Thaer Fasfous, the spokesman for the Fatah movement in the Shu‘faat refugee camp, said that Israeli authorities would release Nimr’s body after 10 p.m. on Wednesday and allow her to be buried at midnight in the cemetery of the village of ‘Anata in the occupied West Bank district of Jerusalem. Fasfous said that Nimr’s body would be released on the condition that she be buried immediately, that only 50 people be allowed to attend the funeral, and that her family pay a 20,000-shekel ($5,493) fine….
Israeli NGO gave thousands of dollars to killer of Palestinian teen
Haaretz 27 Apr — Israeli NGO Honenu has been providing thousands of dollars in grants to Jewish murderers and terrorists, including Yosef Ben-David, one of the killers of Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir, Channel 10 reported on Wednesday. Internal Honenu documents obtained by Channel 10 showed that the organization gave money to Meir Ettinger, the alleged leader of a Jewish terrorist group; Elad Sela, who as a soldier gave confidential information to settlers; the wives of Jewish terrorists Ami Popper and Jack Teite; as well as other prominent right-wing activists. Honenu bills itself as a legal aid organization and is tax exempt in Israel … In July 2014, 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir was abducted from the Jerusalem Arab neighborhood Shoafat near his home by three Israeli Jews – two minors and 29-year-old Yosef Ben-David. He was driven to the Jerusalem Forest, where he was beaten and burned alive. The state has officially recognized him as a terror victim. In May, Ben-David was sentenced to life in prison and an additional 20 years. He was convicted of murder, kidnapping for the purpose of murder and battery causing bodily harm after the court rejected his insanity plea. His two accomplices were also convicted of murder. One was sentenced to life in prison and the other to 21 years. Each minor was also forced to pay the Abu Khdeir family 30,000 shekels ($7,700) in compensation.
Israeli settlers set fire to Palestinian vehicle in Huwwara
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 26 Apr — A group of Israeli settlers set fire to a Palestinian vehicle near the village of Huwwara south of Nablus in the early dawn hours of Wednesday, marking the latest incident in a string of violent settler attacks on Palestinians and their property in the area. An official who monitors settlement activity in the northern occupied West Bank, Ghassan Daghlas, told Ma‘an that surveillance cameras showed several Israeli settlers setting fire to a vehicle parked near a car wash in the village. The vehicle belonged to Mustafa al-Damidi, he said. Israeli police spokesperson Luba al-Samri wrote in a statement that “the Israeli side was notified” of the incident. She said Israeli army forces and forensic experts gathered evidence at the scene, and investigations were still ongoing. The Palestinian town of Huwwara is located only a few hundred meters away from the illegal Israeli settlement of Yitzhar, home to some of the occupied West Bank’s most notorious and aggressive Israeli settlers. Right-wing extremist settlers often carry out attacks on Palestinians and their property, known as “price tag attacks,” as revenge for attacks committed by Palestinians on Israeli forces. Hours before the arson attack, Israeli forces shot 17-year-old Amjad Maher Jaafar multiple times in the stomach after he allegedly attempted to commit a knife attack on Israeli soldiers at the Huwwara military checkpoint, with no Israelis being harmed in the alleged stabbing. The Palestinian teen was still in a difficult condition as of late Tuesday night. Over the weekend, settlers from Yitzhar committed two separate attacks on Palestinians in a single day. Daghlas said at the time that some 100 “extremist settlers” from Yitzhar stormed the village of ‘Urif that neighbors Huwwara, smashing windows and attempting to break into Palestinian homes. Israeli soldiers arrived at the scene to protect the settlers and violently dispersed the group of Palestinians who gathered to defend their homes. Four Palestinians were shot with rubber-coated steel bullets, one of whom was shot in the head. Later that afternoon, another mob of Israeli settlers attacked Palestinian homes in Huwwara with stones and sharp objects. Two Palestinians were hospitalized, including a 72-year-old woman….
Israeli soldiers assault Palestinian man at checkpoint ‘for no reason’
JENIN (Ma’an) 25 Apr — Israeli soldiers assaulted a young Palestinian man at an Israeli military checkpoint south of Jenin in the northern occupied West Bank, his father told Ma‘an on Tuesday. Fawzi al-Saadi told Ma‘an that Israeli soldiers stopped his son Ibrahim‘s car at a military checkpoint near the village of Misliya and started to beat him violently “for no reason,” causing multiple bruises and contusions. He added that the soldiers damaged the car and ripped upholstery on the seats.
3 Palestinians detained, several injured in Jerusalem-area clashes
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 26 Apr — Israeli forces injured three Palestinians and detained three others during clashes that erupted Wednesday afternoon between Palestinian youths and Israeli forces in occupied East Jerusalem’s Shu‘fat refugee camp. Spokesperson of the Fatah movement in the camp Thaer Fasfous told Ma‘an that large numbers of Israeli forces escorted by Jerusalem municipality crews raided Shufat and deployed in several streets throughout the camp. Fasfous said that Israeli forces fired rubber-coated bullets and tear gas at Palestinian youths “in a random manner,” while specifically targeting Palestinian students returning home from school. Israeli forces detained three Palestinians, while three others were injured with rubber-coated steel bullets. Dozens others suffered from severe tear gas inhalation. Clashes also erupted in the Jerusalem-area town of Abu Dis between Palestinians and Israeli forces, resulting in the injury of one Palestinian with a rubber-coated steel bullet.
Israeli forces detain 15-year-old Palestinian on his way home from school
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 26 Apr — Israeli forces detained a Palestinian teen on his way home from school on Wednesday afternoon in the southern occupied West Bank district of Bethlehem. The teen, a resident of the al-Duheisha refugee camp, was identified as 15-year-old Abd al-Nasser Lahham, the son of Ma‘an Network journalist Muhammad Abd al-Nabi Lahham. The teen was detained on the Jerusalem-Hebron road near the al-‘Azza refugee camp, which was the site of clashes Wednesday afternoon between local youth around the camp and Israeli forces stationed at the nearby illegal separation wall. It remained unclear if the teen was detained before or during the clashes.
Israeli forces detain Palestinian woman in Hebron, claiming she had a knife
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 26 Apr — Israeli forces detained a Palestinian woman at an Israeli military checkpoint in the Tel Rumeida area of Hebron’s Old City in the southern occupied West Bank around midday Wednesday, with the Israeli army claiming the woman had a knife. Imad Abu Shamsiyeh, a local activist in Tel Rumeida, said that Israeli soldiers detained a 20-year-old woman and took her to an Israeli police station for interrogation. An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma‘an that Israeli forces identified a suspect who was “armed with a knife” at the checkpoint near “a Jewish community,” referring to one of the many illegal Israeli settlements clustered in the area. After the women fled the scene and returned to her home, Israeli forces apprehended her there, the spokesperson said, adding that an “initial review of the investigation indicated the suspect intended to commit an attack.” However, the Israeli army did not confirm reports from Israeli media that claimed the woman confessed her intentions to carry out a stabbing attack due to “domestic issues” she was having with her husband….
One night’s arrests
Israeli soldiers abduct fifteen Palestinians in the West Bank
IMEMC 25 Apr — Israeli soldiers abducted, on Tuesday at dawn, at least fifteen Palestinians, including children, during massive invasions and violent searches of homes, in different parts of the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS) has reported. In Nablus governorate, in the northern part of the occupied West Bank, the soldiers abducted Mahmoud al-Jibaji, Mohammad al-Asmar, Jamil al-Aqra‘, Ezzeddin al-Aqra‘ and Ahmad Abed, from the New ‘Askar Refugee Camp, in addition to two other Palestinians from Huwwara town, south of Nablus city. The soldiers also invaded Hares village, in Salfit, in the northwestern part of the occupied West Bank, searched homes and abducted one Palestinian. Furthermore, several army vehicles invaded Beit Fajjar town, south of Bethlehem, before the soldiers searched homes and abducted Khaled Hussein Deeriyya, 17, and Sanad Amjad Taqatqa, only 15 years of age, who is a former political prisoner. The soldiers also invaded the Deheishe refugee camp, south of Bethlehem, searched homes and abducted a child, identified as Mohammad Eyad al-Masri, 13. In Hebron, in the southern part of the West Bank, the soldiers abducted Khalil Mosallam Khalaila, after breaking into his home, in Sammoa’ [Samu‘] town, south of the city, and violently searching it In addition, the soldiers abducted Islam Nimir from his home in the al-Am‘ari refugee camp, and two others in ‘Arik town and Um ash-Sharayet area, in the Ramallah and al-Biereh District, in the central West Bank.
Opinion: Maybe Israel stops paying benefits to IDF veterans? / Gideon Levy
Haaretz 26 Apr — The prime minister broke another Guinness world record for chutzpah when he said the Palestinian Authority must prove its commitment to peace by stopping paying benefits to the families of Palestinians who have been imprisoned or killed. The country that should be compensating most of these families for needlessly killing, paralyzing or imprisoning their relatives is seeking to ban the PA from doing so. The country whose violent occupation provoked the violent resistance, imprisoned hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and imposed draconian punishments upon them, whose soldiers’ fingers are quick on the trigger such that barely a day goes by without them causing unnecessary deaths and injuries – this of all countries, which is so generous with its own wounded, its own prisoners and bereaved – makes such a demand of the Palestinians. Can someone think of anything more insolent? Imagine Mahmoud Abbas demanding that Israel stop paying benefits to IDF widows as a test of its peaceful intentions. You of course have to ignore Benjamin Netanyahu’s changing pre-conditions and the ridiculous peace tests he imposes before he’ll deign to enter preliminary “negotiations without pre-conditions.” A grave assumption lies behind this approach: that Palestinians are inferior to us. What is permitted to us is forbidden to them. Our heroes are holy. Their heroes are criminals. The very comparison is scandalous. Nothing will be solved until this universe of twisted concepts is uprooted and we put ourselves in their place. The Palestinian prisoners are their prisoners of war, their national heroes, their dead are their martyrs. Could it be any other way? They are the people who sacrificed everything they had for a struggle no less holy than ours. If the PA is doing anything right, it’s the financial aid it’s giving to the surviving families and the prisoners….
Israeli court sentences Palestinian teen to 10 years in prison for attempted stabbing
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 26 Apr — An Israeli court sentenced a 17-year-old Palestinian girl to 10 years in prison on Wednesday, after convicting her of attempted murder and knife possession. Malak Salman, a resident of occupied East Jerusalem, was convicted in February of attempting to stab an Israeli border police officer at the Damascus Gate entrance of the Old City of Jerusalem on Feb. 9, 2016, causing no injuries. Salman’s lawyer, Ramzi Kteilat, said that he would appeal the ruling at the Israeli Supreme Court. “Ten years is a brutal, unjust sentence that is against international law for a girl who is not yet an adult,” Kteilat said. Meanwhile, Salman’s mother, Fatina, said that her daughter “received the news smiling and with her head high.”
Salman’s sentencing is the latest in an Israeli crackdown on young Jerusalemite Palestinians, many of them women, who have been accused of involvement in attacks, while Israeli authorities have ordered lengthy prison sentences for Palestinians as young as 14 years old in both East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank. Some of the harsher sentences to be handed down in past months include a 35-year sentence to a 22-year-old Jerusalemite for allegedly assisting in a deadly stabbing attack, 16 years in prison for a 19-year-old Palestinian woman who was shot and injured while allegedly attempting to stab an Israeli settler, while a Palestinian youth was sentenced to 18 years in prison for allegedly throwing a rock at an Israeli vehicle that caused the death of an Israeli — representing the harshest sentence ever handed down for stone-throwing….
Israeli police close probe into officer who fatally shot 14-year-old girl
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 24 Apr — Israeli authorities have closed an internal investigation into the Israeli police officer who shot and killed a Palestinian teenage girl and injured another in a November 2015 stabbing attack, Israeli news website Ynet news reported on Monday. Ma‘an initially reported that the officer — who Ynet reported as a “sapper” — was a security guard. The officer shot and killed 14-year-old Hadil Wajih Awwad and injured 16-year-old Nurhan Awwad after the two girls attempted to stab passersby near a central Jerusalem market. Video footage at the time showed both girls running at a passerby, apparently waving scissors. The officer then comes to the scene brandishing a gun, at which point the girls continue to move forward with their scissors. The officer then shoots one of the girls to the ground while an Israeli passerby knocks the other over with a chair. The officer then runs up to the girl who was immobilized from being knocked with a chair, and shoots her at point blank range. Hadil Awwad died almost immediately, while her cousin Nurhan was seriously injured with two bullet wounds in her stomach. Hadil, a resident of the Ramallah-area Qalandiya refugee camp, was the sister of Mahmoud Awwad, who locals told Ma‘an died in 2013, several months after he was shot and injured during clashes with Israeli forces inside the refugee camp. According to Ynet, Israeli police and state attorney investigators “accepted the officer’s version that he felt his life and the lives of those around him were in danger, leaving him no choice but to respond to the threat immediately.” Ynet added that while the officer will not face criminal charges, “the investigative materials were transferred to the relevant authorities in the Israel police to consider professional ramifications.”….
Prisoners / Mass hunger strike
In Photos: Palestinians launch general strike in support of imprisoned hunger strikers
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 27 Apr — A general strike was held across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem on Thursday, as thousands of Palestinians shut down their shops and businesses in solidarity with some 1,500 Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike as part of the “Freedom and Dignity” strike, organized by imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi. The strike was held on the 11th day of the mass hunger strike, and precedes the Fatah movement’s calls for a Day of Rage on April 28, during which Palestinians are expected to clash with Israeli forces in order to show their solidarity with the Palestinian prisoners’ movement.
The usually bustling streets of cities, towns, villages, and refugee camps across the West Bank were nearly empty on Thursday, in a scene that several local Palestinians told Ma‘an were reminiscent of the First Intifada, which started in 1987, when Palestinians held general strikes as part of a civil disobedience campaign against Israeli forces. Shops, institutions, banks, and schools all closed in support of the hunger strikers….
On 10th day of hunger strike, some Palestinian prisoners begin refusing water
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 26 Apr — A number of hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners being held in solitary confinement began refusing water on Wednesday, as more than 1,500 Palestinians entered the 10th day of the mass “Freedom and Dignity” hunger strike.
According to the Media Committee for Palestinian Prisoners’ Hunger Strike — a joint committee formed by the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) and Palestinian Committee for Prisoners’ Affairs — a number of prisoners being held in solitary confinement in Ramla prisons had stopped drinking water to protest attempts by the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) to suppress the hunger strike. The committee identified one of the prisoners as Nasser Uweis. Head of the Palestinian Committee for Prisoners’ Affairs Issa Qaraqe released a statement Wednesday saying that IPS forces had “continued to escalate punitive measures” against prisoners, which started on the first day of the strike, with IPS forces transferring prisoners and leaders of the strike to solitary confinement, and preventing lawyers from visiting prisoners, particularly sick prisoners. According to Qaraqe, IPS officials have continued preventing prisoners — some of whom are refusing all forms of nutrition except salt and water — from accessing commissaries to purchase salt, provided prisoners with dirty sheets and covers, and carried out provocative search raids of prisoners rooms, and arbitrary transfers of prisoners.
Lawyers from the committee, Tamim Yunis and Yamin Zeidan, also announced that they had filed an appeal to an Israeli court in Haifa to allow them visit the longest-serving Palestinian prisoner, hunger striker Karim Yunis … Qaraqe added that officials from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) — which is in charge of coordinating with Israeli authorities to arrange family visitations for Palestinian prisoners — would be visiting prisoners on Thursday to check on their health conditions….
Hamas loses out as Palestinian hunger strike benefits Fatah
Al-Monitor 24 Apr by Daoud Kuttab — The decision by the Palestine Liberation Organization’s imprisoned leader Marwan Barghouti to lead a mass hunger strike is a political gamble that could pay off well if it succeeds. Some 1,500 prisoners held in Israeli jails, mostly belonging to the PLO secular factions, Fatah and left-wing groups, have refused to eat anything since April 17. The hunger strike comes on the eve of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s visit to Washington on May 3 and at a sensitive time between Abbas and the Hamas leadership in Gaza. The Palestinian president appears poised to put an end to the Gaza-West Bank division, even if it requires financial and other means of pressure on Hamas. For their part, the prisoners in Israeli jails belonging to Hamas were not enthusiastic about joining the hunger strike. Monjed Jado, the editor-in-chief of the Bethlehem-based Palestine News Network, told Al-Monitor that the vast majority of Hamas prisoners chose not to participate. “They don’t want to give any credit to Fatah and the PLO for making any tangible results, even though their demands are almost all humanitarian,” Jado said. Jado added that the majority of prisoners in Israeli jails are members of the PLO’s leading Fatah movement. “Of the 6,500 prisoners, about 57% belong to the Fatah movement and a smaller number belong to the left-wing PLO factions, which means that the supporters of Hamas in Israeli jails are no more than 30-35%,” Jado noted. While a small number of Hamas prisoners have indeed joined the hunger strike in a symbolic show of unity, the majority of the movement’s members didn’t. Jihad Abufalah, a producer with the London-based Al Hiwar TV, which is close to the Islamic movements, told Al-Monitor that Hamas prisoners have chosen to stay out of the strike. “There are about 2,000 Hamas prisoners and they have yet to decide whether or not to participate since the hunger strike is led by Fatah,” Abufalah said. Abufalah believes that if the decision not to join the hunger strike persists, it will further fuel the internal Palestinian division rather than heal the wounds between the two major Palestinian movements….
Arab League urges ICRC to intervene on Palestinian prisoners
AFP 26 Apr — Arab League chief Ahmed Abul Gheit on Wednesday urged the International Committee of the Red Cross to intervene with Israeli authorities to halt their “abuse” of Palestinian prisoners. Abul Gheit sent a letter to ICRC president Peter Maurer requesting “the committee (ICRC) urgently intervene with Israeli authorities to stop the various abuses being committed against those prisoners of war”, the Arab League said. The move came as 1,500 Palestinian prisoners entered the 10th day of a hunger strike over demands ranging from improved medical care to greater access to telephone calls. The detainees, led by popular leader Marwan Barghouti, launched the hunger strike on April 17. Abul Gheit’s letter is part of contacts “with international actors to stop violations against Palestinian prisoners of war in Israeli prisons”, the League said in a statement. He called for the ICRC to demand Israel “ensure treating Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike according to norms and standards set in international humanitarian law”. The Arab League chief sent a similar letter on Tuesday to United Nations secretary general Antonio Guterres.
Beita municipality to take on 1-day hunger strike in solidarity with prisoners
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 26 Apr — Employees of the Beita municipality, a village south of Nablus city in the northern occupied West Bank, declared on Wednesday that they would go on a 24-hour hunger strike in solidarity with some 1,500 Palestinian prisoners who have been on hunger strike for 10 days. Beita Mayor Wassef Mualla told Ma‘an that all members and employees of the municipality would be striking for 24 hours starting Thursday morning, “in order to deliver a powerful and clear message to all Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons that we are with them in their strike until they gain all their legitimate rights.” Mualla called upon all Palestinians to take concrete steps to show solidarity with the Palestinian prisoners, who are protesting the torture, ill treatment, and medical neglect of prisoners at the hands of Israeli authorities, as well as Israel’s widespread use of administrative detention — internment without trial or charges….
Video: Gaza marches to honor Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike
PressTV 25 Apr — Palestinians in Gaza have held a rally to show their support for hundreds of prisoners in Israeli jails who have been refusing food and water for over a week now. The mass hunger-strike has been gaining momentum with more prisoners joining the action that seeks to draw the world’s attention to harsh detention conditions at Israeli prisons. Our correspondent Ashraf has more details in the following story from Gaza.
Talking Politics: Barghouti will not bring salvation
Challenge 26 Apr by Yacov Ben Efrat — The Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strike led by Marwan Barghouti has global repercussions. The Israeli political-security cabinet discussed the issue in light of the strike’s potential to ignite widespread unrest in the West Bank and sever the “idyllic” security cooperation between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israel. Marwan Barghouti is identified with Fatah. Undoubtedly he has personal political ambitions, but the list of demands he gave the Prisons Service as a condition for ending the hunger strike reflects the demands of all political prisoners. They are hostages of the Israeli government: Israel uses prison conditions as a bargaining chip against Hamas and sometimes even against Abu Mazen. This strike is unlike others we have known. It bears a strong personal imprint, and Barghouti’s status and prestige are linked to the prisoners’ demands. Success would be an achievement not only for all Palestinian prisoners, but for Barghouti himself. He planned it, leads it, and is raising awareness of it among the public. The fact that the New York Times published a letter by Barghouti emphasizes the strike’s political nature. It is being waged against the backdrop of a twofold internal Palestinian rift: the rift within the ruling Fatah movement and the rift between Fatah and Hamas (or, we can say, between Ramallah and Gaza). Thus, the demands of the hunger strikers are subordinate to internal political conflicts, which overshadow all other issues including the ongoing struggle against the Israeli occupation. In contrast to the Israeli claim, Marwan Barghouti is not a terrorist. Like Jibril Rajoub, Mohammad Dahlan and many other young [Barghouti is 57] leaders on the PA payroll, he is a political activist who rose through the ranks of Fatah. But he is a long way from being Nelson Mandela. His imprisonment and his ideological path do not unite all prisoners or the Palestinian people behind him … After 50 years of occupation and the denial of basic human rights, Israel has no moral right to sit in judgment on Palestinian prisoners while depriving them of decent conditions and the respect due to them as human beings. The people of Israel must know that there will not be one day of quiet as long as there remains even one political prisoner. As long as Palestinian prisoners have no hope for freedom, there is no hope for peace. What lies at the root of this hunger strike is not the right to a public telephone and academic studies within prison walls, but the future and fate of both the Israeli and the Palestinian peoples….
Palestinian Authority to stop funding Israeli-supplied electricity to Hamas-controlled Gaza
Haaretz 27 Apr by Barak Ravid & Jack Khoury — This is the first significant step PA has taken to pressure Hamas in the enclave; for its residents to continue receiving power, international or private agencies will have to cover the costs — The Palestinian Authority notified Israel on Thursday that it will stop paying for the electricity Israel provides to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, effective immediately. The PA told the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, that it will immediately stop paying for the electricity Israel provides the Gaza strip, Mordechai’s bureau said. The coordinator’s bureau stated that Israel provides Gaza with electricity through ten transmission lines that carry 125 megawatts. This amounts to 30 percent of the power required by the Strip, at an estimated cost of 40 million shekels ($11 million) a month. Israel subtracts this amount from the taxes it collects for the Palestinian Authority. A 24-hour electricity supply to Gaza requires the production of 400 megawatts. In addition, the monthly cost of fuel purchased by the Authority for the operation of Gaza’s power station is estimated at 50 million shekels including taxes.
Gaza has been experiencing severe power shortages for some time, with power restricted to only a few hours a day. The announcement by the Palestinian Authority means that in order to continue receiving power from Israel or purchasing fuel for the power station, international or private agencies will have to cover the costs. The announcement, informing Israel about the cut in funding, is part of the serious internal confrontation between the Authority and Hamas over controlling the Gaza Strip. A halt to Israel’s supply of electricity due to the Authority’s decision could dramatically exacerbate the power crisis in Gaza, which is already dire….
Hamas in Gaza says it won’t be cowed by Abbas’ threats
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) 26 Apr by Mohammed Daraghmeh — Gaza’s ruling Hamas will not be cowed by threatened funding cuts, a senior leader said Wednesday, signaling escalating tensions between the militants and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas has threatened to take “unprecedented” financial steps to force Hamas to cede control in Gaza, a territory it seized from his forces in 2007. Reconciliation attempts between rival governments in the West Bank and Gaza have failed. The renewed push to regain a foothold in Gaza comes ahead of Abbas’ meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House next week. Abbas is under pressure to show that he represents all Palestinians, including those in Gaza. Khalil al-Haya, the second highest ranking Hamas leader in Gaza, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Abbas will fail “if he tries to make Gaza kneel or expects to win our loyalty by force.” He spoke as Abbas met with top officials from his Fatah movement in the West Bank on Wednesday evening to consider further wage and subsidy cuts for Gaza. In an initial step, Abbas had reduced by one-third the salaries of tens of thousands of employees of the pre-Hamas government in Gaza who had been paid for the last decade, on condition that they stay home. The ongoing salary payments had been intended to ensure loyalty to Abbas, but inadvertently also propped up Hamas by injecting cash into Gaza’s fragile economy … Al-Haya warned in an interview that further pressure on Gaza would backfire. “You can’t punish the one who lives in tough conditions,” al-Haya said. “Gaza is an explosive barrel and he (Abbas) cannot press this barrel more. If he does, it’s going to explode in his face and in all directions.”….
Egyptian power lines break down, worsening electricity crisis in Gaza
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 25 Apr — All Egyptian electricity lines feeding the southern Gaza Strip broke down Monday evening, Gaza’s electricity company said, creating further shortages for the besieged Palestinian territory, which has already been suffering from severe electricity crises. Before the latest failure in the Egyptian lines, Gaza’s electricity company had been struggling to provide residents with power, with recent damages temporarily reducing supplies to four hours a day. When operational, Egyptian lines provide the southern Gaza Strip with 23 megawatts of electricity, nearly 15 percent of coastal enclave’s electricity supply, according to the electricity company. The Gaza Strip’s sole power plant has been shut down since April 16, after fuel supplied by Qatar and Turkey ran out.
Gaza power cuts causing humanitarian crisis: World Bank
JERUSALEM (AFP) 27 Apr — Constant fuel shortages and insufficient infrastructure have brought about a “humanitarian crisis” for Palestinians in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, the World Bank said on Thursday. In a report ahead of an international donor conference next week, it said Thursday that foreign aid alone cannot rescue the stagnant Palestinian economy without practical changes and Israeli cooperation. Gaza’s sole electricity plant frequently runs out of fuel for its generators and rations power supplies to as little as four hours per day … “During summer and winter peaks the scarce electricity supply is increasingly rationed to four hours during daytime,” the report quotes the bank’s West Bank and Gaza director Marina Wes as saying. “Recently, this situation has become the norm leaving Gazans without electricity during most of the day. This has created a humanitarian crisis for Gaza’s two million people.” The shortages hit hospitals, clinics, water supply and other vital services, as well as household needs, she said. Protests broke out in January over the power cuts, which the Gaza health ministry warned could have “dangerous consequences” for patients. “The PA needs to address reforms to ensure that payment obligations to electricity suppliers are met as this will encourage the needed private generation investment,” the bank said. “This is particularly important in Gaza to allow the construction of a high-voltage line from Israel to contribute to the relief of the energy crisis.”
5-year-old girl dies in Gaza after Israel denies her access to medical treatment
IMEMC 26 Apr — The al-Mezan Center for Human Rights has issued a statement strongly denouncing the death of a Palestinian child, from the besieged Gaza Strip, after Israel refused to allow her to transfer out of the walled-in enclave, despite her serious health condition resulting from a metabolism disorder. Al-Mezan said the family received a referral to treat the child at the al-Makassed Hospital, in occupied East Jerusalem, and were supposed to travel through the Erez terminal. But Israeli authorities kept denying the applications for permits to leave Gaza. The child, Aya Ghaleb Abu Mitleq, 5, from Abasan al-Kabeera town, east of Khan Younis, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, has been suffering from serious health complications before the family managed to get a referral to al-Makassed Hospital. The family got two appointments for the child; the first was supposed to be on February 02, 2017, but Israel did not even respond to their application for a permit to allow them to cross Erez terminal and head to occupied Jerusalem, despite repeated attempts b the family to get a response to their application. The second missed appointment was supposed to be on March 19, 2017, and the third was scheduled for April 27, 2017. But again, Israeli authorities kept ignoring the repeated permit applications. The child suffered another serious health complication, and was instantly hospitalized at Nasser Hospital, in Khan Younis, where she died on April 17, 2017.
Al-Mezan stated that three Palestinians have died under similar circumstances since the beginning of this year, and that Israel has only been approving approximately 20% of permit applications in the first quarter of this year, similar to 2016. Al-Mezan said that the ongoing Israeli violations, and the deadly siege, are serious breaches of International Law, the Fourth Geneva Convention, and every related human rights and international treaty, which all guarantee medical treatment for those who need it. It stated that Article #2/38 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 clearly says that occupying powers must not only allow all patients access to hospitals and medical centers, but also provide them with the professional treatment it grants its own citizens….
Life under siege: Stolen childhood
PCHR-Gaza 23 Apr — “My dream was to have a normal childhood and to live in freedom, prosperity and good health”, Hani Bassam Qdieh emphasizes as he starts talking about his life. Hani is a 21-year-old Khan Yunis resident and the oldest of his brothers and sisters. He started suffering at the age of 5 when he was diagnosed with cancer in the respiratory system and otitis media. As the medical facilities in the Gaza Strip cannot accommodate the advanced treatment that his condition requires, his case was transferred to Assuta hospital in Tel Aviv in 2016. Until now, his exit permit for medical treatment has been rejected by the occupying power for security reasons. Hani received both chemotherapy and radiology in Hadasa hospital in Jerusalem in 2005, as a result of which damage occurred in his right facial nerve, which he suffers from until the present day … Approximately one year ago, the doctors decided that Hani should do an atomic [nuclear?] scan of the tumor area before a big surgery in order to determine how spread the tumor is and plan the surgery and treatment accordingly. “The doctors told me that I need ongoing medical follow up and a surgery in a specialized hospital on the seventh nerve on my face where the tumor is located”, Hani explains. Due to the unavailability of this treatment in the Gaza Strip and West Bank hospitals, Hani’s case was transferred to Assuta hospital in Tel Aviv. The doctors scheduled seven appointments between 15 August 2016 and 27 February 2017 and the family has relentlessly been trying to get exit permits for their son’s medical treatment from the Israeli authorities. On 25 September 2016, Hani was summoned by the Israeli security services and interrogated for hours. The Israeli officer questioned him about his disease and medical condition and also about his family members and people living in his neighborhood….
Palestinian fishermen demand lifting naval blockade on Gaza
GAZA (PIC) 26 Apr — The Palestinian Fishermen Syndicate in Gaza demanded on Wednesday expanding the fishing area approved by the Israeli occupation authorities in the Gaza Sea from 6 to 20 miles in accordance with the previous international agreements.
During a protest against the blockade, Nizar Ayyash, the head of the Syndicate, called on the international community to pressure Israel to stop its practices against the Palestinian fishermen including arrests, shootings, and confiscation of their boats. Ayyash said that the blockade which has been imposed on the Gaza Strip for 10 years affected the fishing profession which is a source of livelihood for 4,000 fishermen who are breadwinners of more than 50,000 people. Dozens of fishermen participated in the protest at the Gaza seaport and raised banners calling for lifting the naval blockade on Gaza and expanding the fishing area.
Israeli navy opens fire at unarmed Palestinian fishermen off Gaza
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 26 Apr — Israeli navy boats opened fire at Palestinian fishing boats off the coast of Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip early Wednesday morning, forcing the fishermen to head back to shore “in fear for their lives,” witnesses told Ma‘an.
No injuries were reported
Israeli tank opens fire at Deir al-Balah in Gaza
DEIR AL-BALAH (WAFA) 27 Apr – An Israeli tank fired two shells and opened fire at Deir al-Balah, in the central Gaza Strip, causing damage but no injuries, according to WAFA correspondent. The Israeli military claimed that the shelling came after an Israeli military vehicle came under attack on the border with the Gaza Strip.
Egypt’s president says 1-kilometer buffer zone with Gaza ‘does not suffice’
i24NEWS 26 Apr — The current buffer zone between the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip may need to be expanded, Egypt’s president said on Tuesday. The one-kilometer security border area separating Egypt and the coastal enclave “does not suffice,” said President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, after the Egyptian army discovered 35-meter-deep and three-kilometer-long tunnels linking the besieged strip to Egypt. Vehicles had been able to traverse the tunnels, according to Egypt’s Al-Wafd newspaper. Al-Sisi announced the planned changes while participating in a youth panel in the city of Ismailia. The president also announced plans to compensate residents of border-town Rafah, who have had to vacate their homes in order to expand the buffer zone. Israel and Egypt have maintained a blockade over the Gaza Strip since 2007, following Islamist Hamas’ victory in elections. Due to the restrictions, it is very difficult for people to transit and for merchandise to be exchanged. With the blockade, Gazans have resorted to constructing makeshift tunnels in order to import and export basic goods, along with acquiring weaponry to be used against Israel. The current buffer zone has been pumped with water from the Mediterranean Sea in order to collapse the tunnels. Israel also maintains a 300-meter buffer zone on its side, to prevent Hamas from building tunnels through which to commit terrorist acts. Egypt’s expanded buffer zone with Gaza comes at a time when terrorism has ravaged the neighboring Sinai peninsula. The Islamic State has established a beachhead in the sparsely-populated Sinai, from which it attacks Egyptian soldiers and fires missiles at Israel.
Detainee died in ambiguous circumstances requiring serious action to reform detention facilities and prisons
PCHR-Gaza 26 Apr — On Tuesday morning, 25 April 2017, the Ministry of Interior in Gaza pronounced a detained person (M. B.) (43), from Khan Yunis, dead in Deir al-Balah detention facility. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) demands the Attorney General himself to follow up the investigation and publish its results. Preliminary indications show that the death circumstances were not normal. Moreover, PCHR calls upon the Ministry of Interior, Attorney General and Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) members to take a serious action to reform detention facilities in conformity with the relevant international standards. Commenting on the incident in a statement posted on the Ministry’s website, Eyad al-Bozom, spokesperson of the Ministry of Interior, said, “… The detainee ]…[ was found in his room as a dead body when other inmates in the same room tried to wake him up. He was taken to the hospital and his body was examined at the forensic section that found out traces of a rope on his neck. According to this, an investigation was open into the incident to identify the death circumstances.” Al-Bozom explained, “The deceased had been detained on grounds of a criminal charge since 15 February 2016….”
PCHR believes that the Ministry of Interior’s statement was brief and is not commensurate with the importance of the case. Besides, the statement is paradoxical in a manner, raising many questions. Finding traces of a rope on the neck of the deceased and finding him dead in the place where he used to sleep show the death was likely not normal and negates the possibility of committing suicide. It is further unreasonable that a crime whether suicide or something else had been committed in a detention cell and the inmates in the same room had no idea about it. This contradicts with the part of the story that his inmates found him dead when they tried to wake him up according to the Ministry of Interior’s narrative….
2 Palestinians injured in ‘resistance post’ accident in Gaza
GAZA (Ma‘an) 26 Apr — Two Palestinians were injured in an accident in a “resistance post” in the besieged Gaza Strip on Wednesday. Gaza Ministry of Health spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra told Ma‘an that one of the Palestinians was critically injured, while the second was moderately wounded, without providing further details.
Photo Essay: ‘Poor man’s kebab’ is Gaza’s most treasured food
GAZA STRIP (EI) 24 Apr — Text by Mousa Tawfiq, a journalist based in Gaza and photos by Mohammed Asad, a photojournalist based in Gaza — Its ingredients may be humble, but falafel enjoys a high status in Gaza. The basic recipe calls for chickpeas, parsley and onions to be coarsely ground in a food processor before garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, coriander and paprika are added. The paste is rested for a couple of hours and then baking soda is mixed in. The falafel paste is formed into patties and fried. Falafel is the most popular dish and falafel restaurants are ubiquitous across besieged Gaza. Delicious, cheap and rich in protein, falafel is known as “the poor man’s kebab” in the Strip….
Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Settlements / Apartheid
PLO condemns Israeli plans to build 10,000 settlement units in occupied East Jerusalem
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 26 Apr – The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Wednesday condemned Israeli plans to build 10,000 settlement units in Qalandia, in occupied East Jerusalem. PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi strongly condemned the decision put forward by the Israeli Ministry of Housing and the West Jerusalem municipality, describing it as an affront to the international community and a violation of international law. “This decision is a deliberate affront to the international community, a flagrant violation of international law, and a direct blow to peace,” she said in a statement. “Israel’s persistent attempts to expand its illegal settlement enterprise are a blatant mockery of the global rule of law and international norms. Clearly, such an announcement is part of the Israeli government’s plans to annex all of Jerusalem, to erase the Palestinian presence in the city, and to destroy the territorial and demographic contiguity of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem),” she said. Ashrawi said the decision attempts to pre-empt the upcoming visit of President Mahmoud Abbas to Washington and his planned meeting with his US counterpart Donald Trump. It is evident that Israel is rushing to create facts on the ground before the Abbas-Trump meeting, planned for May 3, she said. “The two-state solution is a longstanding policy of the American administration, and Israel should not be given a free hand to subvert U.S. and international efforts to achieve this solution,” stressed the PLO official….
Israel fast-tracks plan to take over ‘highly sensitive’ area near Al-Aqsa
[with map] BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 25 Apr — The Israeli government has fast-tracked a controversial plan to take over a plot of land in a “highly sensitive area” — some 300 meters away from Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem’s Old City — for the purposes of establishing a visitor center, according to Israeli NGO Peace Now. According to a statement from the group, Israel’s Jerusalem municipality deposited the plan for public review Monday, seeking to confiscate 1,300 square meters of space in “a highly sensitive (area), located at the heart of the historical basin of Jerusalem,” which is in the Jewish Cemetery on the Mount of Olives, and adjacent to the Ras al-Amud mosque. “Dragged by settler organizations, the Israeli government is willing to go out of its way to approve this sensitive plan through a highly unusual procedure,” the statement said, stressing that establishing the visitor center so near to a mosque and the Old City in the current political context, “is to play with fire.” “A visitor center in this sensitive area will have far reaching implications on the future of the two-state solution and the possibility for a compromise in Jerusalem,” Peace Now warned. Israel’s Jerusalem Development Authority (JDA) avoided the usual channels in advancing the project, through only seeking approval from the Local Planning Committee, which is a political body within the Jerusalem municipality and comprised of elected members, according to Peace Now … The group went on to warn of the “increased presence of Israelis as tourists in the Palestinian areas of Jerusalem — while ignoring the complexity and the importance of these same sites to other cultures and other nations — is another type of settlement, with far-reaching implications not only for daily life in East Jerusalem but also on the future of the conflict and the possibility to reach a compromise in Jerusalem.”….
Water network in Jordan Valley village destroyed
TUBAS (WAFA) 27 Apr – Israeli forces destroyed on Thursday the water network of the village of Bardala, east of Tubas in northern Jordan Valley, according to WAFA correspondent. He said two Israeli bulldozers backed by a military escort destroyed the water pipes villagers used to get water for home use and to irrigate their land and crops. The demolition came by surprise and without prior warning. No reason was given for it.
Israeli forces demolish structures near Jenin, Ramallah
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israeli authorities reportedly demolished multiple Palestinian-owned structures and leveled Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank in two separate incidents on Tuesday. Official Palestinian news Agency Wafa reported that Israeli forces demolished seven structures in the town of Ni‘lin in the central occupied West Bank district of Ramallah.Deputy Mayor in Ni‘lin Abdul Hafiz Musleh told Wafa that Israeli forces raided the town at 3 a.m. and demolished the structures, which were being used to sell food products. According to the report, the structures were demolished for being located too close to an Israeli military post.
Separately, Israeli forces bulldozed structures and land at the entrance to village of ‘Arraba in the northern West Bank district of Jenin, after four Palestinian families were ordered to leave the area, Wafa reported. Muhammad Abu Hantash, owner of a local ceramics store, told Wafa that Israeli soldiers raided the area and ordered the residents, who also raise livestock there, to leave for alleged security reasons. After razing the area, Israeli forces blocked it off with cement blocks to prevent locals from accessing the site, Wafa reported.
Meanwhile, the news agency said that Palestinians in the village of Jubbet al-Dhib were notified that an elementary school under construction in the town was slated for demolition by Israel’s Civil Administration, which enforces Israeli policies in the occupied Palestinian territory.
Israeli forces seize 60 tons of wood, demolish structure neat Jenin
JENIN (WAFA) 26 Apr – Israeli forces Wednesday seized 60 tons of wood and demolished a structure in the town of Ya‘bad, southwest of the city of Jenin in the occupied West Bank, local sources said. Kayed Abu Baker, member of the coal industry , told WAFA that Israeli forces raided an area in Ya‘bad where coal is produced and manufactured, seized 60 tons of wood owned by Rafiq Zaid and Mahmoud Abu Baker, and demolished a coal production shop that belongs to Abu Baker. The forces brought trucks to load the wood, which was taken to an unknown destination, and a bulldozer to demolish the shop. Israel has been waging a war against coal industry in the Ya‘bad area claiming it pollutes the environment and causes health problems.
Israeli settlers raze private Palestinian land near Bethlehem
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 24 Apr — Israeli settlers razed privately owned Palestinian land in the Wadi al-Ghawit area in the western outskirts of al-Khader in the southern occupied West Bank district of Bethlehem on Monday, according to locals. Official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported that the Palestinian owner of the land in question, Ibrahim Sbeih, was physically assaulted by the settlers. Locals said that Israelis from the illegal settlement outpost Sde Boaz leveled 10 dunams (2.5 acres) of agricultural land owned by Sbeih, who said he had not been officially notified by Israeli authorities that the land was slated for confiscation. It remained unclear whether the land in question, which had been planted with almond trees and grapevines, was leveled with bulldozers or by other means. Sbeih told Wafa he had legal documents to prove his ownership of the land….
Israeli settlers set 100 olive trees on fire in Bethlehem-area village
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 25 Apr — Israeli settlers reportedly set ablaze some 100 olive trees on Tuesday belonging to Palestinians in the village of Beit Tamir in the southern occupied West Bank district of Bethlehem, according to Palestinian news agency Wafa. Hassan Brijiyeh, a member of the village’s anti-settlement committee, was quoted by Wafa as saying that Israeli settlers set the olive trees on fire in a five dunam (1 acre) plot of land, which was reportedly located near an Israeli outpost — considered illegal under both Israeli and international law. The land belongs to Mubarak and Muhammad Zawahreh, Wafa reported.
Israeli authorities demolish Bedouin village in Negev
NEGEV (Ma‘an) 25 Apr — Israeli forces demolished the Bedouin village of al-‘Araqib in the Negev region of southern Israel for the 112th time since 2010 on Tuesday morning, and for the fourth time this year. “Forces of demolition and ruin” stormed the village, which is “unrecognized” by Israel, and razed its makeshift homes to the ground, al-‘Araqib local committee member Aziz Sayyah told Ma‘an. He said large number of Israeli police officers escorted Israeli Interior Ministry bulldozers that tore down the houses. The last time Israeli forces razed homes in al-‘Araqib was only weeks ago, on April 5, according to Israeli news site Arab 48….
Former Israeli late night host Assaf Harel joins Haaretz
Haaretz 26 Apr — Former Israeli late-night comedy show host Assaf Harel is joining Haaretz with new monologues in May. Harel’s final monologue on his show “Good Night With Asaf Harel” was a searing indictment of Israeli government’s policy that went viral on social media. In the video, Harel castigates Israelis for ignoring the occupation and claims that Israel is an apartheid state.
PA forces arrest 3 university students over political views
RAMALLAH (PIC) 27 Apr — The Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces arrested Thursday three university students over their political affiliation, while two political detainees continue their hunger strike in PA jails. The three detained students were identified as Musab Bader, from Ramallah, the ex-detainee Assid Mari, from Salfit, and Mustafa Darwish, from Nablus. Meanwhile, the political prisoner Mohamed Aqra continued his hunger strike for the 38th consecutive day and the ex-prisoner Qassem Suwi for the eighth day in protest against their illegal detention in PA jails. Along the same line, the university student Izz al-Din Freihat declared a hunger strike in PA jails protesting against his continued detention for 40 days without any legal basis. Dozens of Palestinian ex-prisoners and university students are held in PA jails over their political affiliation.
Israel bans tour groups from staying in West Bank, then backtracks
Haaretz 26 Apr by Gili Melnitcki — Tour agencies are awaiting clarification, fearing such a directive would hurt Christian groups that spend the night in Bethlehem — The Interior Ministry instructed several tour companies not to take groups of foreign tourists into the West Bank, and then temporarily retracted the order in the face of criticism. Several Israeli travel agencies that deal with foreign tourists reported receiving a letter from the Interior Ministry’s Population and Immigration Authority this week, instructing them to commit not to take tourists to the Palestinian Authority effective May 15. This would mean that tourists would not be able to spend the night in Bethlehem. However, the ministry froze the order. Interior Minister Aryeh Deri is expected to examine the matter and publish a clarification within a few days … The directive apparently stems from security considerations, and various sources said that Shin Bet security service officials were involved in drafting it, given previous incidents and suspicions that potential terrorists were traveling with groups of tourists … Many groups who come to see the Christian religious sites choose to stay overnight in Bethlehem due to the high cost of lodging in Jerusalem.
“Even though it’s not clear how this would be implemented, the meaning of a letter like this is the end of incoming tourism from India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and eastern European countries like Poland, Slovakia and Ukraine,” said a travel agent who has been in the field for more than 20 years. All the tourists who visit Israel and sleep in Bethlehem are doing that primarily to reduce costs.” … The diplomatic aspect will be even more problematic,” said Yehuda Leibovitz, who markets tours to groups. If Israel is perceived as limiting tourism to Palestinian areas and blocking groups from spending the night there, that could harm coexistence, he said … An estimated 1 million tourist nights are spent in Bethlehem every year, including overnights by independent travelers … Leibovitz pointed out that a significant number of hotels have been built in Bethlehem over the last few years, and that the city has more than doubled its number of hotel rooms. Most are 3-star hotels that charge about $22 to $25 per person a night, which is 25% to 50% of what a three-star hotel in Jerusalem costs.
FIFA poised to offer Israel 6-month deal to kill off its six West Bank teams
Inside World Football 24 Apr by Andrew Warshaw — The FIFA committee charged with resolving the increasingly intractable Israeli-Palestinian issue looks set to postpone a final ruling once again by giving Israel six months to discontinue playing matches in the occupied West Bank – or face possible sanctions. The highly respected Israeli newspaper Haaretz says it has seen a draft of the committee’s report to next month’s FIFA Congress recommending the six-month deadline before any final decision is made about suspending the six Israeli teams in question or even kicking Israel out of FIFA altogether. The Palestine Football Association has long maintained that the presence of the six Israeli clubs on its territory is in breach of FIFA statutes. Israel counters that this is inapplicable since the Palestinians do not have permanent borders. Last week Israel reportedly stepped up its diplomatic efforts to foil a Palestinian initiative within FIFA by mandating its overseas embassies to try and gain international support in order to stave off a vote at the Congress in Bahrain. At the same time Israel Football Association chairman Ofer Eini apparently sent a letter to FIFA’s general secretary, Fatma Samoura, asking the Palestinians to remove the issue of the settlement teams from both the FIFA Council meeting, in Manama, Bahrain, on May 9, and the full Congress, which convenes in the same city 24 hours later. Whether that will work is questionable….
Two boxers to represent Palestine at the Asian boxing championships
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 26 Apr – Two boxers are getting ready to represent Palestine at the Asian Confederation Men’s Elite Boxing Championships (ASBC), which will commence on April 30 in the Uzbek capital Tashkent, according to a statement by the Palestine Boxing Federation (PBF). It said Qasem Abu Dabaat, who will compete in the 75 kilogram weight, and Ahmad Harara, in the 69 weight, from the West Bank and Gaza Strip respectively, will represent Palestine at the ASBC. They will travel with the coach of the national boxing team Nader Jayyousi. PBF head, Fawzi Asafreh, said he hopes the Palestine team will win in the Asia games to qualify for the International Boxing Association (AIBA) World Boxing Championships which is scheduled to be held in Germany on August 25 in spite of the scarcity of funds. The Palestinian team will leave home on Friday heading to Uzbekistan, said Jayyousi. The boxing event is Abu Dabaat’s first international competition while Harara has played several games and won a bronze medal in Morocco in 2014, and also played in China and Brazil.
Trump expected to increase aid to West Bank, Gaza in 2018 budget plans
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 25 Apr — While the Trump administration is preparing to drastically cut United States foreign aid to numerous countries, the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip are set to receive a slight increase in US funding in the administration’s proposed internal budget. Documents released by the Foreign Policy magazine show that Trump’s 2018 budget would slash assistance to developing countries by more than one-third. However, the West Bank and Gaza would see an increase of US foreign aid by 4.5 percent, which would provide up to $215 million of American aid during 2018 .. .Earlier this year, Trump’s administration reportedly froze the $221 million dollars that former president Barack Obama had released to the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the final hours of his presidency, with the US state department later transferring the funds to humanitarian organizations operating in the Palestinian territory.
UK refuses to apologize for Balfour Declaration, Palestinians threaten to sue
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 25 Apr — The Palestinian ambassador to the UK said on Tuesday that the UK would not apologize for the Balfour Declaration, which contributed to the establishment of an Israeli state, as the 100th commemoration of the signing of the document is marked this year. Palestinian Ambassador Manuel Hassassian conveyed the news to Voice of Palestine radio that the UK government has officially refused an apology for the 1917 document which supported establishing a Jewish state on what would become British Mandate Palestine. Hassassian also confirmed that the UK would hold celebrations, along with the Israeli government, during the centennial anniversary of the document on Nov. 2, despite Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas urging the UK not to celebrate the document during the recent Arab Summit in Jordan and encouraging the government to officially apologize to Palestinians instead. Palestinian leaders have continued to issue threats of suing the UK government over the declaration, with Hassassian reportedly saying that there were a “number of attorneys in the UK” who have already begun taking steps to sue the government….
Netanyahu snubs German foreign minister in NGO row
JERUSALEM (AFP) 25 Apr by Laurent Lozano — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cancelled talks on Tuesday with Germany’s foreign minister in a rare move after the visiting diplomat declined to call off meetings with rights groups critical of Israel’s government. Netanyahu’s meeting with Sigmar Gabriel was cancelled after the German diplomat decided to go ahead with talks with Israeli rights groups Breaking The Silence and B’Tselem. Gabriel held a joint meeting with the rights groups in the evening, a spokesman for B’Tselem told AFP, without giving further details. Breaking The Silence seeks to document alleged Israeli military abuses in the Palestinian territories, while B’Tselem has worked on a range of issues and has strongly opposed Israeli settlement building. Cancelling the meeting was a rare step, but in line with the current right-wing government’s stance against groups it accuses of having political agendas and of unfairly tarnishing Israel … Gabriel told journalists in Jerusalem that he regretted Netanyahu’s decision, but also said that he did not think it would badly impact relations between the two countries. “This does not mean the breaking of diplomatic relations. We need to keep this a little bit in perspective.”….
Merkel spokesman backs German minister in Israel visit spat
BERLIN (AP) 26 Apr — German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman backed the country’s foreign minister on Wednesday in a spat over his meeting with a rights group in Israel, saying that it must be possible to meet critical organizations in a democracy. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu abruptly canceled planned talks Tuesday with visiting Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel over his meeting with Breaking the Silence, a group critical of Israeli military actions in the West Bank. Netanyahu said he won’t see visiting diplomats who meet groups “that slander (Israeli) soldiers and seek to put our soldiers on trial as war criminals.” Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert said the chancellor considers it “regrettable” that the meeting with the Israeli premier didn’t happen. “In a democracy it should be possible for foreign visitors to speak without problems to critical representatives of civil society,” Seibert told reporters in Berlin, noting that the chancellor herself regularly meets non-governmental organizations on foreign trips … Amnesty International said it was “concerned” by Netanyahu’s decision to “boycott officials who meet with organizations that are acting against his policy.” This is yet another mean of delegitimizing human rights organizations,” the group said in a statement.
B’Tselem to Netanyahu: We will not take orders or succumb to pressure
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 26 Apr — After German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel met with Israeli human rights groups Tuesday night, in defiance of an ultimatum by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who asked the diplomat to cancel the meetings, B’Tselem — one of the organizations Gabriel met with — affirmed that it would not succumb to pressure from Netanyahu and reiterated its opposition to the Israeli occupation … In a press release published late Tuesday evening, B’Tselem addressed Netanyahu, saying that “civil society will not take orders or succumb to pressure. We will go on opposing the injustices of the occupation until it becomes a thing of the past.” The human rights organization reiterated their firm opposition to the 50-year-old Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory, which “the Israeli prime minister and most of his colleagues in both the coalition and opposition parties” had no intention of ending, and called upon the international community to hold Israel accountable for its violations. “As long as it does not meet the minimum conditions of democracy, Israel cannot enjoy the privileges that go with being a card-carrying member of the club of democratic countries. There must be a price to pay for continued military control of another people while thumbing one’s nose at basic moral values and international law,” B’Tselem said….
US says leftist groups under fire from Netanyahu are ‘vital part of functioning democracy’
WASHINGTON (Haaretz) 27 Apr by Amir Tibon — U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said on Wednesday during his daily press briefing that human rights groups such as Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem are an important part of “any functioning civil society.” Toner made the comment in reply to a question about Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decision earlier this week to cancel his meeting with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel because the latter met with representatives of the two organizations … “I don’t think it’s necessarily for us to speak to who the prime minister of Israel decides to meet with,” Toner said. “He’s free to meet with whomever he wishes. More broadly about this group, I think we would regard it as important that any functioning civil society has these types of groups and the diverse viewpoints. That’s a vital part of any functioning democracy. But I’m not going to speak to his decision.”….