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Israeli army fires tear gas and stun grenades into Ramallah hospital

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Violence / Detentions — West Bank / East Jerusalem / Israel

Israeli forces fire tear gas, bullets at Palestinian hospital in Ramallah
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 4 May — Israeli forces fired bullets, stun grenades, and tear gas at a Palestinian hospital in the central occupied West Bank city of Ramallah at dawn on Thursday, sparking condemnation from the Palestinian Authority (PA). Eyewitnesses told Ma‘an that Israeli soldiers fired live bullets and tear gas inside the Palestinian Medical Complex grounds for more than an hour early on Thursday morning, causing many patients, including children, to suffer from tear gas inhalation.
An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma‘an that during unspecified “overnight operational activities” in the nearby Qaddura refugee camp, Palestinians located inside the hospital grounds threw stones at Israeli soldiers. The spokesperson added that the soldiers used “crowd-control means” — which she said included rubber-coated steel bullets, stun grenades, and tear gas — and left the area after they “dispersed the crowd.” She went on to say that the army would review the case, “like most unusual incidents.”

Former Palestinian prisoner dies as a result of ‘medical negligence’ in Israeli custody
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 2 May — A former Palestinian prisoner died on Tuesday morning from medical complications he sustained during his time in Israeli custody, Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs head Issa Qaraqe told Ma‘an. Mazen Muhammad al-Mughrabi, a 45-year-old resident of the village of ‘Abwein in the central occupied West Bank district of Ramallah, died at the Palestine Medical Complex in Ramallah after suffering from kidney failure, Qaraqe said. Qaraqe said that al-Mughrabi, who was released from Israeli prison around two years ago after serving a five-year sentence, contracted kidney issues “as a result of medical negligence” while in Israeli custody. While earlier reports by local news outlets claimed that al-Mughrabi had been on hunger strike in solidarity with some 1,600 imprisoned Palestinian hunger strikers who entered their 16th day without food on Tuesday, Qaraqe told Ma‘an that al-Mughrabi had not been on hunger strike. However, Qaraqe said that al-Mughrabi had visited a sit-in tent in the city of Ramallah in solidarity with the hunger strikers. Rights groups have widely condemned Israel for a “deliberate policy of neglect” of Palestinian prisoners.

Funeral held for former prisoner who died from ‘medical negligence’ in Israeli custody
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 2 May — A funeral was held in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah on Tuesday for former Palestinian prisoner Mazen al-Mughrabi who died earlier in the day from medical complications sustained during his time in Israeli custody. Crowds set off from Ramallah’s old mosque to the cemetery in Ramallah’s industrial zone. Head of the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs Issa Qaraqe condemned the assaults, violations, and medical neglect Palestinian prisoners face in Israeli custody during the funeral.

Scores attend funeral in central West Bank of Palestinian killed by Israeli forces
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 1 May — Scores of mourners attended the funeral of slain Palestinian Suhaib Mashahra, who was killed by Israeli forces almost two weeks earlier after he hit an Israeli bus with his car, on Sunday afternoon. Mashahra was shot and killed at a junction near the illegal Israeli settlement of Gush Etzion in the southern occupied West Bank on April 19, after what Israeli forces claimed was a deliberate car-ramming. However, Mashahra’s family said during the funeral that their 21-year-old son wasn’t attempting to carry out an attack, saying that he was on his way to visit his brother in Hebron. Israeli authorities had released Mashahra’s body to the Palestinian Red Crescent on Friday for an autopsy and for preparations ahead of the funeral. The funeral march set off from the center of the village of Abu Dis in the Jerusalem district of the West Bank, before heading to Mashahra’s family home in the village of al-Sheikh for a final farewell. Mashahra was buried in the cemetery of the village of al-Sawahira al-Sharqiya.

Family banned from bidding farewell to youth slain by IOF
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (PIC) 4 May — No more than 20 Palestinians attended the funeral of 25-year-old Ibrahim Matar, killed by the Israeli army in mid-March, on Wednesday night. The Israeli occupation authorities (IOA) released Matar’s body after they closed off all access roads to al-Mujahideen Cemetery, in Bab al-Sahira, in Jerusalem’s Old City, and prevented hundreds of Matar’s family members and friends from marching in his funeral procession. The IOA released the body of the slain Palestinian youth Ibrahim Matar overnight on condition that no more than 20 persons attend his funeral, that his family pay 20,000 shekels as a guarantee, and that his body be handed over between 11:00 p.m. and 01:00 a.m.  Matar was killed by the Israeli occupation forces on March 13, 2017, after he was arrested and searched at a police station in Bab al-Asbat, in Jerusalem’s Old City. An Israeli officer fatally shot him on his way out of the detention center on claims that he attempted to carry out a stabbing attack. The family denied the allegations and said their son was heading to al-Aqsa Mosque to perform dawn prayers. The Israeli police claimed that two officers sustained light-to-moderate injuries in a stabbing attack carried out by Matar. The IOA further prevented Matar’s family from setting up a mourning tent in Jabal al-Mukabir, the casualty’s hometown. The bodies of six slain anti-occupation Palestinian youths are still withheld by the IOA.

Israeli settler rams 8-year-old Palestinian boy with car in Hebron area
HEBRON (Ma‘an) — A Palestinian child was hospitalized for a head injury after being deliberately hit by an Israeli settler driving in the town of Yatta in the southern occupied West Bank on Wednesday, according to witnesses. Locals told Ma‘an that that 8-year-old Laith Yousif Shatat was run over by an Israeli settler while the child was standing outside of his school, which is located on the main road in eastern Yatta. Shatat was taken to the al-Ahli Hospital in Hebron city. His condition remained unknown … Incidents involving Israeli settlers hitting Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territory are a relatively regular occurrence, and are usually treated by Israeli security forces as accidents, even in cases when witnesses claim the car rammings were deliberate.

Israeli forces shoot, injure Palestinian over alleged stabbing attack in Hebron
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 4 May — Israeli forces shot and injured a Palestinian in the southern occupied West Bank city of Hebron on Thursday morning after he allegedly attempted to stab a border police officer, Israeli police said. Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri said in a statement that a Palestinian resident of Hebron in his twenties tried to carry out a knife attack at a military checkpoint near the Ibrahimi Mosque, before Israeli forces shot and injured him. She said that the Palestinian was injured, and had been transferred to Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem for treatment, while remaining under police custody as part of an investigation into the incident. A spokesperson for Hadassah told Ma‘an that the Palestinian had arrived to the hospital shortly before 10 a.m. and was in light to moderate condition after having been shot in the waist. She added that the Palestinian youth was in a stable condition and conscious. A shaky video [below] recorded at the scene showed the Palestinian lying on the ground, covering his face with his hands. Al-Samri also stated that a toy gun and a toy bomb were found on the Palestinian. Al-Samri added that no Israelis were injured in the alleged attack. This is a developing story.

Several Palestinians injured in Hebron, Qalqiliya-area clashes with Israeli forces
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 3 May — Several Palestinians were injured on Wednesday in the Hebron and Qalqiliya districts of the occupied West Bank, as Israeli forces raided Palestinian homes, causing clashes to break out between locals and armed Israeli forces. In the Hebron district of the southern West Bank, at least three Palestinians were shot and injured with rubber-coated steel bullets during clashes with Israeli forces in the al-‘Arrub refugee camp. Medics of the Palestinian Red Crescent told Ma‘an that they had evacuated three young men to al-Ahli hospital and Hebron’s public hospital after they were hit with the rubber-coated steel bullets, specifying that one of the injured young men suffered from leg fracture, another was hit in the thigh, and the third was hit in the foot. According to the official Palestinian Authority (PA) Wafa news agency, clashes broke out after Israeli forces raided the camp for unknown reasons. Forces fired rubber-coated steel bullets and and tear gas at residents and their homes, resulting in the injury of the three youths, whose identities remained unknown, and the suffocation of several others as a result of the tear gas…
Separately, in Qalqiliya city, located in the northern West Bank, clashes erupted as Israeli forces raided the al-Murouj area for the second day in a row, allegedly in search of Palestinians from the area who had previously opened fire at Israeli soldiers, Wafa reported. Wafa quoted the director of Qalqiliya’s emergency medical center, Munther Nazzal, as saying that at least four Palestinians suffocated after inhaling tear gas fired by the forces. They were all treated at the scene. On Tuesday, according to Wafa, forces had stormed the al-Murouj area, raiding and searching dozens of homes and confiscating the surveillance cameras. Forces reportedly broke down doors and “wreaked havoc” in dozens of homes. No arrests were reported.

Israeli settler shot dead after allegedly attempting to stab Israeli forces at checkpoint
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israeli forces shot dead a 19-year-old Israeli settler, mistaking him for Palestinian, after the young man allegedly attempted to carry out a knife attack on Israeli soldiers Tuesday on the occupied East Jerusalem side of Israel’s Hizma checkpoint, which leads to the occupied West Bank. Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri said in an initial statement that a Palestinian attempted to cross “from Jerusalem to Palestinian lands,” and “apparently attempted to stab a security officer” at the military checkpoint. Israeli forces noticed the man approaching, and “immediately neutralized him without any injuries being reported among them,” she said, referring to the fact that no Israeli security guards were injured in the alleged attack, and failing to confirm in clear terms that the alleged assailant was shot. A short while later, al-Samri declared that the man succumbed to fatal gunshot injuries. However, Israeli police then revealed that the slain main was not in fact a Palestinian, but a 19-year-old Jewish Israeli from the illegal Pisgat Zeev settlement in occupied East Jerusalem, which is adjacent to the Hizma checkpoint … In the wake of Tuesday’s incident, director of the human rights organization al-Haq Shawan Jabarin argued that the killing exposed an Israeli policy of opening fire on Palestinians who do not pose a lethal threat, which is routinely followed by a fabricated statement from Israeli authorities claiming the victim had intended to carry out an attack. Eyewitnesses have also said in a number of cases that Israeli security forces planted knives on slain Palestinians to claim that they were acting in self-defense during an alleged stabbing attack. Official Palestinian news agency Wafa quoted Palestinian government spokesman Yusef al-Mahmoud as saying that the Hizma checkpoint shooting was “a clear indication of the falsehood of the Israeli narrative.”….

Opinion: The surest method of suicide / Gideon Levy
Haaretz 4 May — Every Israeli now knows what every Palestinian child knows: If you want to put an end to your agonized lives, go to the checkpoint —It was afternoon. The flyover had passed by, the outstanding soldiers had left the President’s Residence, even the World Bible Quiz winner had been announced. In the parks the meat was roasting on the barbecue. Soon they’d award the Israel Prize. Israel (fictitious name) wanted to die. He was 19. It’s not clear what he was doing the morning of Independence Day, but in the afternoon he clearly wanted to end his life. He wrote a farewell letter, left his house in Pisgat Zeev in East Jerusalem and walked to the nearest checkpoint with a knife in his hand. He wanted to commit suicide in the fastest, most infallible way. He didn’t want to get out of it alive or end up as a cripple. He wanted to die. So he walked to the electric fence separating his neighborhood from the occupied territories. This fence is called Hizmeh checkpoint. Israel (fictitious name) knew that, as with any electric fence, anyone who touches it dies. Just like the fence that crossed Germany, so with the electric fence called the Israel Defense Forces: You touch it, you die. There is no way of getting out alive. Israel knew there is no other place where his death wish would come true in a faster, more effective way than the Hizmeh checkpoint. Just brandish a knife – and die. Israel (fictitious name) approached the checkpoint, raised the knife and ran toward the soldiers. The electric fence did its job immediately. The IDF’s automatic soldiers shot him dead, unhesitatingly, without any unnecessary thought, question or delay. Quick, fatal, irreversible, without agony. Perfect. IDF soldiers made Israel’s Independence Day wish come true the way reality show producers make others’ dreams come true. The IDF is always at your service, young wannabe suicide victim, on Independence Day and all other days of the year….

Israeli forces suppress World Press Freedom Day march, detain 2 Palestinian journalists
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 3 May — Israeli forces suppressed a peaceful march organized by Palestinian journalists on World Press Freedom Day in front of Ofer prison in the central occupied West Bank district of Ramallah on Wednesday. Israeli forces used tear gas to suppress protesters, and detained journalists Ashraf al-Nibali and Amin Alariya during the march, which also stood in solidarity with hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners, who entered their 17th day without food on Wednesday.
On Sunday, Israeli forces injured 13 Palestinian journalists during the violent suppression of a peaceful sit-in in occupied East Jerusalem that was organized in solidarity with hunger-striking prisoners. Last month, Reporters Without Borders condemned Israeli forces for violating the rights of Palestinian and foreign journalists, particularly those that cover demonstrations, in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index compiled by the international press freedoms NGO….

Palestinian detained at Shu‘fat checkpoint for alleged stabbing attempt
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 3 May — Israeli forces detained a 21-year-old Palestinian at a military checkpoint outside of Shu‘fat refugee camp in occupied East Jerusalem midday Wednesday, with Israeli police claiming the young man attempted to carry out a knife attack on Israeli soldiers stationed there. Israeli police spokesperson Luba al-Samri said that the man approached the checkpoint coming from Shu‘fat refugee camp, and after Israeli forces manning the checkpoint instructed him show identification, “he took out a knife instead.” Israeli soldiers immediately detained the young man, who allegedly dropped the knife he was holding, and no one was injured, according to al-Samri. She said the 21-year-old was a resident of Shu‘fat refugee camp, which is located within Israel’s municipal boundaries of Jerusalem, but is encircled on three sides by Israel’s separation wall, forcing residents to pass through a congested military checkpoint to access the rest of Jerusalem where most claim residency status. Spokesperson for the Fatah movement in Shu‘fat refugee camp identified the detainee as Wissam al-Dibs.

One night’s detentions
Israeli forces detain 20 Palestinians, including 9 minors, in raids
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 3 May — Israeli forces detained at least 20 Palestinians during predawn raids Wednesday, according to local sources the Israeli army, and Israeli police. An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma‘an that one Palestinian was detained in the southern occupied West Bank city of Hebron, and that three Palestinians were also detained in the town of Beit Fajjar, north of Hebron. Local sources told Ma‘an that the three detained in Beit Fajjar were teenage boys between 15 and 17 years old, identified as Ahmad Ziyad Deiriyeh, Yasser Zaid Deiriyeh, and Ahmad Sami Deiriyeh. Israeli forces raided and searched Palestinian homes in Beit Fajjar for more than two hours before detaining them, locals said.
Meanwhile, Israeli police conducted raids in occupied East Jerusalem and detained at least 16 Palestinians. In the Silwan neighborhood, local watchdog the Wadi Hilweh Information Center said six were detained, identified as Islam Ahmad al-Awar, 23, Majd Kamal al-Awar, 17, Muhammad Moussa Odeh, Ziad Ahmad al-Qaq, 24, his brother Fouad, 21, and Muhammad Ali Abu Tayeh, 22. Israeli police also detained five Palestinians in al-Tur (Mount of Olives), identified as Salman Nasser Abu al-Hawa, 16, Ali Muhammad Abu Jumaa, 17, Nassim Youssef Khweis, 15, Omar Barakat Khweis, 19, and Mahmoud Wael Abu Labas, 16. Israeli forces also detained Moussa Naji Odeh, 17, on Salah al-Din Street near the Old City, the information center reported.
Meanwhile, Israeli police spokesperson Luba al-Samri said in a statement that four Palestinians from Sur Bahir were detained overnight Tuesday, for being suspected of throwing rocks at two Israelis who entered the neighborhood two weeks ago. “On April 23, two Jewish merchants arrived in Sur Bahir in a car loaded with crates of eggs and were surrounded by dozens of people who threw stones at the vehicle, which sustained damages,” al-Samri wrote in the Arabic-language statement. The two Israelis then fled the scene. “As they attempted to escape, they hit parked cars, then fled their vehicle on foot, ran into a clinic for refuge, where they stayed until police came and rescued them,” she continued. When Israeli police arrived, locals pummeled the police vehicles with stones as well. After Israeli police questioned the Israeli merchants, it was revealed that they went to Sur Bahir “to make an illegal egg deal,” al-Samri said. The two were released and referred to the office of the Israeli Ministry of Agriculture for follow up procedures. In addition to the four Palestinians that were detained Tuesday, al-Samri said three others were detained for involvement in the incident earlier this week, and it was expected that more suspects would be arrested in the coming days.

Israeli military court begins hearing appeals on sentence of Elor Azarya/Content.aspx?id=776824
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 3 May — An Israeli military court started to hear appeals Wednesday morning regarding the case of Israeli soldier Elor Azarya, who was sentenced in February to 18 months in prison for the filmed, execution-style shooting of 21-year-old Abd al-Fattah al-Sharif. Prior to the sentencing, the case had already been denounced as a “show trial” for focusing on the case to distract from a wider culture of impunity for Israeli forces, as Azarya was charged with manslaughter for what was termed by rights groups as an “extrajudicial execution” and by the victim’s family as “cold-blooded murder.” Following the announcement of the 18-month sentence, the al-Sharif family said they were “not surprised” about the lenient sentence — noting that the soldier received less prison time than a Palestinian child would for throwing stones. Azarya’s defense team has appealed both the manslaughter conviction and the 18-month jail sentence for being too harsh, while the Israeli military prosecution has submitted an appeal to increase the sentence.

Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Settlements / Judaization

Israeli settlers reportedly destroy Palestinian-owned water well near Bethlehem
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 3 May — Israeli settlers destroyed a Palestinian-owned water well on Tuesday in the town of al-Khader south of Bethlehem in the southern occupied West Bank, according to official Palestinians news agency Wafa. Hasan Brijiyeh, a local activist from the separation wall and settlements’ committee in Bethlehem, told Wafa that a group of Israeli settlers destroyed the well under the protection of Israeli forces, identifying the owner of the well as Ahmad Ghnaim. The 100-square-meter well was built almost 250 years ago, according to the report, and is located near the illegal settlement outpost of Sde Boaz, built on Palestinian-owned land. Two weeks ago, Wafa reported that Israeli settlers from Sde Boaz razed privately owned Palestinian land in the Wadi al-Ghawit area in the western outskirts of al-Khader, and physically assaulted the Palestinian landowner. Sde Boaz, also known as Nevi Daniel North, was established in 2002 when settlers from the established illegal Nevi Daniel settlement took over a hilltop about 1.5 kilometers north of Nevi Daniel. Israeli settlers from Sde Boaz destroyed over 300 newly planted grape vines belonging to the Sbeihs in 2014.

Israeli forces level lands in Salfit-area village for alleged settlement expansion
SALFIT (Ma‘an) 2 May — Israeli forces on Tuesday leveled privately owned Palestinian lands in the village of Bruqin, west of Salfit in the central occupied West Bank. Resident of the village Hajj Abd al-Khaliq Sabrah, 85, told Ma‘an that Israeli forces leveled approximately 50 dunums (12.5 acres) of land in the Khallat al-Zaafaran and al-Harayiq areas of the village, which is owned by several villagers. “The Israeli occupation prevented us from cultivating the land because it’s near the industrial settlement Ariel. We used to plant it with wheat and barley and now bulldozers of the occupation are razing the land day and night,” Sabrah said, adding that he went to his land and protested against the ongoing earthworks, but was forced out by Israeli forces. Sabrah added that he is prepared to take the matter to court. Another landowner from the village, Ikrima Samara, told Ma‘an that of the 50 dunums razed on Tuesday, 20 dunums belonged to him. Samara highlighted that “the rest of the land” in the area is slated for confiscation. Mayor of Bruqin Said Allan said the ongoing land confiscations and earthworks were part of Israeli plans to enlarge illegal settlements in the area, specifically the nearby Ariel settlement. “We haven’t been officially notified of any land confiscation, and when we saw bulldozers leveling the land we went there and Israeli authorities told us that 72 dunums of land would be confiscated,” Allan said.

3 families homeless as Israeli forces raze Bethlehem homes to ground
BETHLEHEM (PIC) 4 May — The Israeli occupation forces (IOF) on Thursday morning knocked down three Palestinian homes in the west of Bethlehem province, in the southern occupied West Bank.  A PIC news correspondent said the occupation soldiers cordoned off Ein Jweiza area, in al-Walaja village, west of Bethlehem, shortly before a flock of bulldozers started the demolition of three homes owned by the Palestinian citizen Ibrahim Neiroukh and the two brothers Hamed and Raed Abu Sneina. The occupation soldiers ordered the families to evacuate their homes in no more than 10 minutes before they reduced the buildings to rubble. The demolition process targeted a two-story home covering 400 square meters and two apartments under construction, with an estimated area of 150 square meters each. Last week, the Israeli forces notified the demolition of the buildings and ordered the families to refer the matter to the court. However, the demolitions were carried out prior to the final court rule and under the pretext of unlicensed construction.

Israelis take to al-Aqsa Mosque on Israeli Independence Day
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 2 May — Groups of extremist Israelis under armed Israeli police escort took to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound Tuesday morning, as Israel marked its Independence Day — known to Palestinians as the Nakba, or “catastrophe” that saw some 750,000 Palestinians expelled from their lands on 1948, which is commemorated on May 15. Firas al-Dibs, the spokesperson for the Islamic Waqf — the religious trust responsible for managing the Al-Aqsa compound — told Ma‘an that at least 90 Israelis had entered the compound as of 9:30 a.m., highlighting that two Israeli border police officers, who were with a group of Israeli settlers, “performed a military salute while they were facing the Dome of the Rock.” Islamic Waqf director Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib said Israeli police allowed the groups into the compound, and turned a blind eye to those who performed religious rituals, which is in contravention of an agreement signed between Israel and the Jordanian government after Israel’s illegal occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967 that prohibits non-Muslim worship at the compound. Al-Khatib denounced Israeli police for being complicit with Israelis who violate the status quo at the site, and said that he personally warned policemen that the prayers were taking place.

Israeli settlers fly Israeli flag over Hebron’s Ibrahimi Mosque
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 1 May — Israeli settlers installed dozens of Israeli flags on the Ibrahimi Mosque in the southern occupied West Bank city of Hebron, in celebration of Israeli Independence Day, which coincides with the Palestinian Nakba, or “catastrophe,” which in 1948 saw some 750,000 Palestinians expelled from their lands. Sheikh Hifthi Abu Sneineh, the director of the mosque — which was the site of a massacre in 1994 when Baruch Goldstein, an American-born Israeli settler opened fire on and killed 29 Palestinians during morning prayers — told Ma‘an that Israeli settlers installed Israeli flags over the mosque “as an attempt to take over the mosque and turn it into a synagogue.” “As usual Israeli settlers attempt to impose their control during their Jewish holidays, but we will continue to expose their practices and violations conducted against this Islamic mosque that belongs to all Muslims around the world,” Abu Sneineh said. Abu Sneineh noted that Israeli forces had banned the adhan, the Muslim call to prayer, inside the Ibrahimi Mosque 66 times during April. He called upon all those who are able to increase their visitation to the mosque “to stop Israeli settlers’ violations and aggression.”

Israel chooses West Bank for memorial to controversial general
Haaretz 2 May by Ofer Aderet — Rehavam Ze’evi, assassinated during the second intifada when he was tourism minister, advocated ‘voluntary transfer’ of Palestinians from the West Bank — The government will spend about 43 million shekels ($12 million) to build and operate a memorial in the West Bank to assassinated cabinet minister Rehavam Ze’evi, the cabinet decided this week. Ze’evi, then tourism minister, was assassinated by a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in October 2001 during the second intifada. The cabinet resolution describes the memorial as a “tourist, educational and cultural” enterprise with a focus on knowledge of the Land of Israel and Israeli heritage. The memorial will also “link Samaria and the Jordan Valley to his legacy,” the document said, using the Hebrew term for the northern West BankBut the decision to memorialize Ze’evi has been controversial for many reasons in addition to his political views. These include a report last year by Channel 2 television’s investigative reporting program “Uvda,” which claimed that he sexually assaulted women and had ties with criminals.

How Arabs made Israel’s desert bloom more than 1,500 years ago
Haaretz 2 May by Ariel David — The tiny olive grove sits atop a dry canyon in the middle of the Negev desert, surrounded by barren hills and a few wisps of withering vegetation. Despite the parched setting, the ancient, gnarled trees are alive, their branches heavy with green leaves and ready to bear fruit. Researchers believe these few trees, located a handful of kilometers outside the ruins of the ancient Byzantine settlement of Shivta, grew there through no fluke of nature. They may be among the last living witnesses to a complex civilization that built prosperous towns and farmed the Negev during the Byzantine period, more than 15 centuries before Zionists started imagining they could make Israel’s desert bloom. Fresh research is shedding new light on these Byzantine desert dwellers – who were they? How did they shape their environment to such an extent? And why they ultimately, and quite mysteriously, abandon the lands they had fought for so hard? Researchers say these questions are key not just for historians but for any society, including modern Israel, that wishes to develop and grow sustainably in an extreme environment like the desert. “This was a complex society, so this question is very relevant to us, because the next time that the Negev was so densely settled was with Zionism and the creation of Israel,” says Haifa University archeologist Guy Bar-Oz. “It is very relevant for us to understand how they did it and what went wrong.”….

Closures / Restriction of movement

Israeli forces shut down Hebron in search of missing settlers later found in Jerusalem
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 3 May — Israeli authorities closed all entrances of Hebron city in the southern occupied West Bank early Wednesday in search of three Israeli settlers who had gone missing and were later found in Jerusalem. Palestinian security sources told Ma‘an that Israeli forces raided several buildings, stores, and houses on Bir al-Sabe street and the surrounding area, where they confiscated surveillance camera recordings. Israeli forces also confiscated surveillance camera recordings from areas surrounding the nearby Bab al-Zawiya area in central Hebron city. According to the Palestinian security sources, Israeli authorities reported that three settlers were missing in the Hebron area after entering Bir al-Sabe street from al-Shuhada street at around 2 a.m. Wednesday. The three settlers were later found in Jerusalem, and Israeli forces reopened the entrances of Hebron. An Israeli army spokesperson confirmed the reports, adding that the three settlers — who she said were teenagers — were “found safely in Jerusalem.” She did not immediately provide comment on the harsh security measures imposed on Palestinian locals amid the search, and said she would investigate the matter further.

Checkpoints for humiliation: a journal piece
HEBRON 4 Apr by ISM, al-Khalil Team — Earlier this month, an international woman was ordered to ‘take off her clothes’ after setting off the alarm whilst passing the metal detector at Shuhada checkpoint, occupied al-Khalil (Hebron). This is a personal journal of the events. Humiliation, harassment, intimidation – a daily occurrence for anyone required by the Israeli occupying forces to pass through Shuhada checkpoint to reach their home. This is how the Israeli occupation makes its presence felt and enforces its inhumanity, and it rarely comes as a surprise anymore. Still, when the metal detector alarm sounds and the soldier nonchalantly tells a woman to ‘take off her clothes’, she’s is taken aback: Who gave them the right to even ask something like that? Do they not have the tiniest bit of decency? Do they think that their automatic weapons – ready to shoot at any time – give them the right to make such a request? Inside the checkpoint – in a room closed to outside observation – heavily armed, stern-faced young soldiers ask a woman to undress. It is painfully apparent that this is not simply a bad joke. The small room begins to feel as though it’s getting smaller and smaller as  more soldiers begin to enter from outside and gather behind the bullet-proof glass. With all their buddies present for this show of power and superiority, one of them claims that it’s just for “security” – to ask a person to remove their clothing in plain view of heavily armed soldiers. It’s “just about security” when they tell you that, if you’re not willing to take off your clothes, you’re hiding a gun – all the while firmly gripping theirs. How dare a woman have the audacity not to immediately follow an occupying soldier’s orders? To even dare to call out their lack of decency? But occupation has never heard of human dignity. To the eyes of the occupation, having a number of male soldiers and surveillance cameras watch at arm’s length whilst a female soldier commands a woman to get undressed in a checkpoint is just another part of the routine treatment of the occupied population. Just another case of a heavily armed Israeli soldier ordering someone to do as he wishes as a show of power: a power bestowed upon him by a machine-gun and the knowledge of the unfaltering support and impunity – both social and military – behind his actions. When it is finally discovered to be the woman’s boots setting off the alarm (a daily and usually unproblematic occurrence) and no one cares to check the boots nor the woman’s bag, it is clear that the objective here is not security but humiliation.

Mass prisoner hunger strike

50 Palestinian political leaders to join mass prisoner hunger strike in Israeli custody
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 3 May — Fifty leaders of the Palestinian prisoners’ movement from all major political factions pledged to join a mass hunger strike in Israeli prisons that entered its 17th day on Wednesday, the prisoners’ committee of the Palestinian National and Islamic Forces said in a statement. Some 1,500 Palestinian prisoners launched the strike on April 17, with scores of others joining in waves in the days since. The prisoners have only been consuming salt and water during the strike, without additives, vitamins, or other supplements. Among the 50 prisoners set to begin the strike on Thursday are Secretary-General of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) Ahmad Saadat, head of Hamas’ prisoners leadership committee Abbas al-Sayyid, and head of the Islamic Jihad’s prisoners supreme leadership committee Zayid Bseisi. The statement also called upon all Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territory and in the diaspora, as well as on all Arab and Muslim nations and international institutions to unite and support the prisoners’ struggle. Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Addameer said on Twitter on Wednesday that after 17 days of forgoing food, “standing up may become difficult or even impossible” for the hunger strikers — who are refusing food in demand of basic rights, such as an end to the denial of family visits, the right to access distance higher education, appropriate medical care and treatment, and an end to solitary confinement and imprisonment without charge or trial.

Three Jordanian detainees join hunger strike
IMEMC 3 May — As hundreds of Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli prisons continue their hunger strike for the seventeenth consecutive day, three Jordanian detainees joined the strike, the National Committee for Jordanian Detainees’ Affairs has reported. The committee stared that the three detainees who joined the strike are Riyad Saleh (abducted by the Israeli army in 2002 and sentenced to twenty years), Abdullah Abu Jaber (imprisoned since December 29, 2000, and sentenced to 20 years), and Rafat al-As’ous (imprisoned since 2002 and sentenced to 20 years). The committee added that the detainees in Israeli prisons are fighting a legitimate battle for their basic, internationally guaranteed, rights. The Jordanian al-Ghad newspaper said the detainees are aware of the life-threatening consequences of the hunger strike, but are determined to continue because they are fighting for basic, fundamental rights.

Gaza restaurants serve salt and water in solidarity with imprisoned hunger strikers
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 3 May — Hotels and restaurants in the Gaza Strip suspended serving meals and drinks on Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and instead served their customers a mixture of salt and water, in solidarity with hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners, who had been consuming the same mixture in Israeli prisons for 16 days as of Tuesday. Head of the Palestinian Committee for Restaurants, Hotels, and Tourist Services Salah Abu Hassireh told Ma‘an that the staff of fifty hotels and restaurants welcomed their customers wearing shirts reading “Salt and Water” and “Dignity is the Dessert,” referencing the slogan of the “Freedom and Dignity” hunger strike.

DFLP-affiliated hunger strikers set to refuse water if Israel ignores demands
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 2 May– Samer Issawi, one of the some 1,600 Palestinian prisoners currently on hunger strike in Israeli prisons and a representative for hunger strikers affiliated with the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), announced on Tuesday that DFLP-affiliated prisoners would begin refusing water on May 7 if the Israel Prison Service (IPS) continues to ignore the demands of the mass hunger strike. Issawi, who rose to national prominence for carrying out a 266-day hunger strike in 2012 and 2013, said the decision was made in agreement with other hunger strikers. Unlike Issawi’s 266-day strike, where the imprisoned Palestinian consumed vitamins in order to stabilize his health, Palestinians on the current strike, including Issawi, are only consuming water and salt. On Wednesday, a number of Palestinians held in solitary confinement in Israel’s Ramla prison also announced that they had begun refusing water. However, it was unclear if the prisoners have continued their refusal. Issawi also stated that the DFLP held Israel and IPS responsible for the lives of hunger-striking prisoners, “who are now facing “real danger,” noting in particular the case of Hamzeh Dirbas who was transferred to Israel’s Ramla prison clinic after his health deteriorated from undertaking the hunger strike.

Palestinian students plant olive trees in solidarity with hunger-striking prisoners
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 1 May — Several Palestinian student groups, international NGOs, and the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture planted more than 50 olive trees in the al-Jib village, east of Bethlehem in the southern occupied West Bank, in solidarity with some 1,600 Palestinian prisoners who entered their 15th day on hunger strike on Monday. Participants in the action tagged the names of hunger-striking prisoners on the planted trees in an act of solidarity. Head of the students union council at al-Quds Open University, Mutaz Mizher, added that the event was organized as part of a number activities that the council routinely conducts in different regions of the occupied West Bank near illegal Israeli settlements “to support Palestinians’ determination (to remain) on their lands.”

Incarceration is just a fact of Palestinian life / Ramzy Baroud
2 May – …The protests igniting across the occupied territories to support 1,500 hunger strikers are not merely an act of “solidarity” with the incarcerated and abused men and women who are demanding improvements to their conditions. Sadly, prison is the most obvious fact of Palestinian life; it is the status quo, the everyday reality. The prisoners held captive in Israeli jails are a depiction of the life of every Palestinian trapped behind walls, checkpoints, in refugee camps, in Gaza, in cantons in the West Bank, segregated Jerusalem, waiting to be let in, waiting to be let out, simply waiting. There are 6,500 prisoners in Israeli jails. This number includes hundreds of children, women, elected officials, journalists and administrative detainees, who are held with no charges, no due process. But these numbers hardly convey the reality that has transpired under Israeli occupation since 1967. According to prisoners’ rights group Addameer, more than 800,000 Palestinians have been imprisoned under military rule since Israel commenced its occupation of Palestinian territories in June 1967. That is 40 per cent of the entire male population of the occupied territories. Israeli jails are prisons within larger prisons. In times of protests and upheaval, especially during the uprisings of 1987-1993 and 2000-2005, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were subjected to prolonged military curfews, sometimes lasting weeks, even months. Under military curfews, people are not allowed to leave their homes, with little or no breaks to even purchase food. Not a single Palestinian who has lived (or is still living) through such conditions is alien to the experience of imprisonment….

Hunger strike: Former Palestinian prisoners of Israel describe what it’s really like in Israeli jails
Occupied West Bank (Mondoweiss) 1 May by Sheren Khalel — More than 1500 Palestinian prisoners entered their 14th day of hunger strike on Sunday … The Israeli Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan has stated that the strike will not lead to negotiations because “there is no reason to give [Palestinian prisoners] additional conditions in addition to what they already receive.” Palestinians who have spent time in Israeli prisons however, described to Mondoweiss inhumane treatment, and said the list of demands created by the hunger strikers are basic human rights … Mahmoud Abu Srour, a friend of Nasrallah’s who spent three years in Israeli prison starting in 2004 when he was 15 years old, was shot by Israeli forces in the leg during clashes when he was 12 years old. He was arrested three years later, but his leg had not fully healed and he was still going through rehabilitation treatment at the time. “I was shot with a large caliber bullet that went straight through my right thigh,” Abu Srour explained. “Three years later, I was still having problems with my leg, there was a lot of pain from the injury, but when I got to the prison I stopped receiving treatment for it because there were so many more serious cases in line. I didn’t want to push the subject and take someone’s place who needed more urgent care than I did.” Abu Srour explained that it takes months, sometimes even up to a year, for a prisoner to see a real doctor. Less severe cases can be treated at a prison clinic, but according to Abu Srour, prisoners were never sure the people inside the clinic were even medical professionals and treatment generally culminated to sleeping pills, pain medication and advice to drink more water. “Go compare any other prisons in the world, even the Israeli criminal prisons, to the way Palestinians are treated in Israeli jails — it’s unlike anything else,” he said. “The Palestinians in Israeli prisons are not charged as criminals, but we have less rights.”….


Palestinian anti-occupation fighter succumbs to wounds
GAZA (PIC) 4 May — A Palestinian resistance fighter was pronounced dead in Gaza on Thursday morning after he succumbed to wounds sustained in an accidental blast last week. 24-year-old Kamel Tayseer Kreika‘, from Saraya al-Quds resistance brigade, died of wounds inflicted by an accidental explosion during preparations carried out last week. Kreika’s family told the PIC that the casualty spent nearly one week in an intensive care unit, before he was pronounced dead. Saraya al-Quds, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad Movement, mourned Kreika‘, whom it said died while assisting the engineering team during a manufacturing process.

Another Gaza hospital reduces operations due to electricity crisis
MEMO 3 May — Kuwait Charity Specialised Hospital in Gaza began to reduce its services on Monday due to the severe shortage of electricity in the besieged Gaza Strip, a statement said. The statement noted that the hospital would turn off its generators for 14 hours every day and all day on Fridays. Adding that it would use alternative sources of power, such as solar energy, for urgent cases. According to the statement, surgical operations, dentistry and X-rays will only take place when the electricity is switched on. This will continue until the end of the electricity crisis.

Israeli army carries out a limited invasion into southern Gaza
IMEMC 3 May — Several armored Israeli military vehicles, including bulldozers, carried out, on Wednesday morning, a limited invasion into Palestinian lands in al-Fakhari town, east of Khan Younis, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip.  Eyewitnesses said the invasion was carried out by several tanks and four armored bulldozers, while military drones hovered overhead. The soldiers then bulldozed agricultural lands close to the border fence, installed sand hills and withdrew later. In related news, Israeli navy ships fired many live rounds at Palestinian fishing boats close to the shore, near the Nusseirat refugee camp, in central Gaza.

Israel eases restrictions on Gaza fishermen
GAZA CITY (AFP) 3 May — Israel said Wednesday it had eased restrictions on Gaza fishermen, allowing them to travel up to nine nautical miles off the coast of the blockaded territory instead of the previous six. COGAT, the Israeli defence ministry agency responsible for civilian affairs in the Palestinian territories, said in a statement the measure would last until the end of June. The measure was to enable the strip’s fishermen to maximise catches during the crucial summer fishing season, COGAT said. The new policy was to take effect at 1200 GMT on Wednesday, Mohammed al-Maqadma of the Palestinian office that coordinates with Israeli authorities said earlier. It will however only apply to the southern half of the Gaza Strip, he said. Nizar Ayash, head of the Gazan fishermen’s union, confirmed the change and said he hoped it would help alleviate difficult conditions for them. The size of the fishing zone has varied over the years, having been set at 20 nautical miles by the Oslo accords of the 1990s before being reduced by Israeli authorities. Around 4,000 fishermen work in Gaza, more than half of whom live below the poverty line. Mohamed Bakr, a fisherman in Gaza for more than 50 years, said the new measure was not enough. “At nine miles you can’t catch anything. There’s only sand,” he told AFP. COGAT said that a similar easing last year increased fishing earnings by 15 percent that year, or one million shekels ($277,000, 256,400 euros), compared to 2015, bringing total fishing revenues for 2016 to seven million shekels. Israel previously extended the fishing zone to up to nine miles for several months in 2016.

Human Rights Watch slams Hamas holding of 2 Israelis in Gaza
JERUSALEM (AP) 3 May — Human Rights Watch on Wednesday called on Gaza’s Hamas rulers to release two Israeli citizens with a history of mental illness believed to have been detained by the militants, saying their extended detention and isolation was “cruel and indefensible.” In a detailed report based on interviews with the men’s families and with Israeli and Palestinian officials, the New York-based group said Avera Mangistu and Hisham al-Sayed likely wandered into Gaza on foot and had no connection to hostilities between Israel and Gaza. Hamas has indirectly acknowledged holding them but will not provide confirmation until Israel releases dozens of its jailed members. Until they are released, HRW demanded Hamas treat the men humanely and allow them to communicate with family. “Hamas’s refusal to confirm its apparent prolonged detention of men with mental health conditions and no connection to the hostilities is cruel and indefensible,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW’s Middle East director. “No grievance or objective can justify holding people incommunicado and bartering over their fates.” Hamas is also believed to hold the remains of two Israeli soldiers killed in the 2014 Gaza war, but it refuses to divulge more information without its demands being met. Mangistu, 30, a Jewish Israeli of Ethiopian descent who lived in the southern coastal city of Ashkelon, entered Gaza by crossing a barbed wire fence near the beach in September 2014. Al-Sayed, 29, an Israeli-Arab of Bedouin descent from the Negev desert, was seen walking across the Gaza border in April 2015. HRW said both were found unfit to serve in the Israeli military and had been institutionalized several times because of mental illness. HRW said a third Israeli citizen, 19-year-old Jumaa Abu Ghanima, appears to have crossed into Gaza in July 2016, but it was not able to confirm this….

Hamas accepts Palestinian state with 1967 borders
Al Jazeera 3 May — Hamas has presented a new political document that accepts the formation of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, without recognising the statehood of Israel, and says that the conflict in Palestine is not a religious one. The positions were made official on Monday in Qatar’s capital, Doha, by Khaled Meshaal, the leader-in-exile of the Palestinian group that runs the besieged Gaza Strip. “Hamas rejects any idea except liberating the home soil entirely and completely, although it does not necessarily mean we recognise the Zionist entity or give up any of our Palestinian rights.” While Hamas’ 1988 founding charter called for the takeover of all of mandate Palestine, including present-day Israel, the new document says it will accept the 1967 borders as the basis for a Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital and the return of refugees to their homes … But it does not go as far as to fully recognise Israel and says Hamas does not relinquish its goal of “liberating all of Palestine” … The document also falls short of accepting the two-state solution that is assumed to be the end product of the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). It also clarifies that Hamas’ fight is with the “Zionist project”, not with the religion of Judaism, making a distinction between those who believe in Judaism and “Zionist Israeli citizens who occupy Palestinian lands”. It also sidesteps language in the group’s original charter that affirms its connections to the Muslim Brotherhood, and says that Hamas is a fully independent organisation….

Hamas security forces detain several Fatah leaders across Gaza Strip
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 3 May — Hamas security forces in Gaza arrested several leaders affiliated with the rival Fatah movement from the northern Gaza Strip, while several others were summoned over the past 24 hours across the besieged coastal enclave, according to a Wednesday report from the al-Mezan Center for Human Rights. The center reported that said internal security services in Gaza — which is governed by the Hamas movement — arrested Fatah leaders from different areas across the northern Gaza Strip, and detained them at a police station in the Jabaliya refugee camp to prevent a march that Fatah had called for on Wednesday.  The Fatah movement had planned a march to take place on Wednesday in support of Fatah leader and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners. The Fatah march was organized just one day after Hamas suspended schools and government offices to encourage people to take part in rallies, which involved Palestinians from across the political spectrum, in the Gaza Strip to express opposition to Abbas and the decade-long Israeli siege of the small Palestinian territory. Secretaries of the Fatah movement in Gaza had reportedly received calls from people who identified themselves as members of the Gaza security services, notifying them that activities by the Fatah movement were banned. According to al-Mezan, Hamas security forces obstructed the path of a vehicle transporting Fatah leaders Abdullah Abu al-Kas, Nael Abu Qamar and Amin Salman and arrested them on Tuesday…
In response, Fatah’s Central Committee released a statement warning that “the movement will protect its members and won’t allow Hamas to harm the national battle of freedom and dignity which the Palestinian people are fighting and which is led by the hero prisoners.” Accusing Hamas of attempting to undermine the hunger strike, the committee added that “we won’t stand aside and watch Hamas impeding the path of the prisoners’ movement and thwarting the achievements made in support of the movement.”… Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri wrote on his twitter account in response that the committee’s statement “turned facts upside down”. The Fatah movement, he added, instructed its supporters in Gaza “to take advantage” of the prisoners’ hunger strike “and take to the streets to show support to president Mahmoud Abbas ahead of his meeting with U.S president Donald Trump.”….

Al Jazeera releases documentary into death of Hamas drone engineer
Ynet 1 May by Roi Kais & Elior Levy — Al Jazeera broadcast a new [Arabic-language] documentary Sunday detailing new revelations about the assassination of Hamas’ drone engineer, Mohammad al-Zawahri, last December in Tunisia. The documentary featured interviews with officials from the drone unit of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, where al-Zawahri had been a key member since his recruitment to the organization in 2006. “The UAV project was only in the early stages when he joined the military wing. His participation led to a breakthough,” said a masked man identified only as “Abu Ahmed.” … The documentary showed several images and videos of al-Zawahri operating the UAVs while in the Gaza Strip. The editor of the documentary, Tamer al-Mishal, a former Al Jazeera correspondent in Gaza known to be close to Hamas’ military wing, confirmed that al-Zawahri had also been tasked with producing unmanned nautical vehicles for Hamas … According to the report, two foreign nationals carried out the assassination.  Currently, three Tunisian citizens have been arrested in connection to the killing, identified as Salam a-Saadawi, Sami al-Malin and journalist Maha Hamouda, who was recruited to produce a film about aviation that al-Zawahri was supposed to collaborate on. The report claims that the three were recruited by a man named “Johann” from Austria, who set up two straw companies through which to recruit additional people….,7340,L-4956134,00.html

Other news

Thousands of Palestinians commemorate Nakba in annual ‘March of Return’
[many photos] BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 2 May — Thousands of Palestinians participated in the “March of Return” in Israel on Tuesday, which set off from the destroyed Palestinian village of al-Kabri to the western Galilee in commemoration of the Palestinian Nakba, “catastrophe.” Protesters waved Palestinian flags and repeated slogans calling for the Right of Return, which refers to UN resolution 194 guaranteeing Palestinian refugees displaced in 1948 the right to return to their lands in what is now Israel … The march, which has been held for 18 consecutive years, is aimed at highlighting the internationally recognized right of Palestinians who remain refugees or internally displaced to return to their homes and villages in Israel. Each year, the march is launched from a site of a Palestinian village destroyed by Israeli forces in 1948.The March of Return is usually held on Israel’s Independence Day to commemorate the Nakba, referring to the mass expulsion of Palestinians from their homes and villages during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war that established the state of Israel. The official commemoration of the Nakba is held on May 15 and is observed by millions of Palestinians and rights activists around the world. Some 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from their lands in 1948 and were scattered across refugee camps in the occupied West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Today, there are over five million Palestinian refugees who remain displaced from their original homes and villages following the mass expulsion that occurred almost 70 years ago.

‘Media awareness campaign’ launched ahead of local West Bank elections
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 2 May — The Palestinian Authority’s Central Elections Committee (CEC) launched a media awareness campaign on Tuesday, regarding the highly disputed upcoming local elections to be held in the occupied West Bank on May 13.  The CEC released a statement saying that various “awareness messages” have been disseminated across all districts of the West Bank through newspapers, TV and radio spots, billboards, and social media, in addition to “field awareness activities” conducted by the CEC’s field supervisors. The statement noted that all print and audio visual material that was produced took into consideration the needs of persons with disabilities and the illiterate, highlighting that the CEC published 5,000 brochures in braille and various brochures in illustrative pictures on how to vote. While the elections process continued to move forward, a number of Palestinian political factions have continued to boycott the elections, including the Hamas movement, Islamic Jihad, and the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

AFP photojournalist wins top Arab media prize
DUBAI (AFP) 3 May — A Palestinian photographer with AFP, Jaafar Ashtiyeh, has won the prize for best photograph at an annual Arab journalism awards ceremony held in Dubai. Ashtiyeh won the Arab Journalism Award for his coverage of clashes in the village of Kfar Qaddum on the occupied West Bank between Palestinians and Israeli forces on March 4, 2016. The award was handed out at the closing session of the regional Arab Media Forum conference Tuesday night. Ashtiyeh’s photograph shows a man huddled over a child to pick him up from the ground, as an Israeli soldier stands pointing his rifle in the background. Ashtiyeh also won an honorable mention at the NPPA awards in the United States for another picture of the same incident.

In home of Israel’s first female shari‘a judge, husband does the cooking
Haaretz 3 May by Judy Maltz — Hana Mansour-Khatib made history last week when she became the first woman in Israel ever appointed a judge, or qadi, to a Muslim religious court. Among those not surprised by the news was one man who has been tracking her achievements for many years. “When my father called to congratulate me,” she recounted this week, in her first wide-ranging interview, “he said he had predicted this all along.” … Last Thursday a committee headed by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked appointed four new judges, including Mansour-Khatib, to the Muslim religious courts. The four were chosen from a pool of 11 candidates that included women for the first time. Three women competed for the qadi positions, but Mansour-Khatib was the only one of them to be confirmed. Arab women’s organizations had been fighting for this moment for more than 20 years. A few years ago, victory seemed imminent when a bill mandating the appointment of female judges to sharia courts (as Muslim courts are known) was submitted to the Knesset. It was ultimately defeated, though, because of opposition from members of the ultra-Orthodox parties, who feared setting a precedent for Jewish religious courts. Women are still not allowed to serve as judges, or dayanim, in Jewish religious courts, and it does not seem likely that this will change anytime in the near future. In Israel, all matters of marriage and divorce fall under the mandate of religious courts.
To be considered by the judicial appointments committee, Mansour-Khatib, like all the other candidates, had to pass a very tough written exam, and she spent the better part of the past few years preparing for it. “It took a real toll on me, and at some point, I no longer had time to cook for my family,” she says, “so my husband Fouad took over in the kitchen.” … Advocates for religious freedom have long maintained there is no justification for maintaining Jewish and Muslim religious courts – a relic of the British Mandate period – in modern Israeli society. Marriage and divorce disputes, they say, should be handled in the civil courts. Mansour-Khatib disagrees. “I don’t know much about Jewish religious law, but I do know that Muslim religious law is definitely supportive of women’s rights and that Muslim women receive much better protection under shari‘a law,” she says. Israel is not the first country to have women appointed as judges in its shari‘a courts. In the Palestinian Authority alone, three already serve in such positions.

Abbas says talks with Trump positive, if short on specifics
RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) 3 May — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says his first meeting with President Donald Trump left him hopeful and he thinks the U.S. can play an important role as mediator between Palestinians and Israelis. Abbas says he and Trump did not discuss details. Abbas told reporters late Wednesday that “so far we didn’t talk about a mechanism, but the contacts between us and the Americans began and will continue.” There have been no serious negotiations on terms for a Palestinian state alongside Israel since gaps widened with the 2009 election of Benjamin Netanyahu as Israel’s prime minister. Trump said Wednesday he’s optimistic about prospects for a deal, but offered no specifics.Abbas said that “what is needed is to bring the two parties together” and that he is ready to meet with Netanyahu.

Trump vows to broker Israeli-Palestinian peace, offers no new policies
WASHINGTON (Reuters) 3 May by Jeff Mason and Matt Spetalnick — President Donald Trump vowed on Wednesday to do “whatever is necessary” to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians as he hosted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House, but gave no sign of how he could revive long-stalled negotiations. In their first meeting, Trump pressed Abbas to do more to stop “incitement to violence” against Israelis and, according to the White House, urged him in private to halt payments to families of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, a demand long pressed by Israel. Even as Trump boldly predicted he would achieve peace where other presidents had failed, he stopped short of explicitly recommitting his administration to a two-state solution to the decades-old conflict, a long-standing foundation of U.S. policy. Some Palestinians said they were disappointed by the omission. Despite what many experts see as a long-shot bid, Trump told Abbas: “I will do whatever is necessary. … I would love to be a mediator or an arbitrator or a facilitator, and we will get this done.” Abbas reasserted the goal of a Palestinian state, saying it must have East Jerusalem as its capital with the borders that existed before the 1967 Middle East war. Most Israelis want all of Jerusalem as their capital and reject a full return to 1967 borderlines as a threat to their security….

Hamas depicts Abbas as sellout in meeting with Trump
Haaretz 4 May by Elhanan Miller — A poignant caricature published by Hamas daily al-Resalah on Wednesday depicted U.S. President Donald Trump as the Statue of Liberty. At its feet, a miserable looking Mahmoud Abbas kneels, begging in his underwear. Palestinian press coverage of Trump’s meeting with President Abbas on Wednesday reflected the deep political divide between Fatah and Hamas. The two factions forged a unity government three years ago, but never settled their ideological differences. “After meeting Trump, Abbas will either succumb or be besieged,” read the headline of an opinion article by al-Resalah columnist Muhammad Ballour. “PA President Mahmoud Abbas deserves a medal of bravery if he surprises all observers of the Palestinian-Israeli scene by displaying a modicum of steadfastness on Palestinian principles, in the face of dollar king and dear friend of Israel, U.S. President Donald Trump,” wrote Ballour on the paper’s website. “The Trump-Abbas meeting raises the level of danger to the Palestinian cause to code orange, since in all likelihood Trump will try to impose diktats on Abbas reflecting Israeli aspirations,” he added. A less sarcastic article in the same newspaper noted that Trump completely avoided using the term “Palestinian state” during his 15-minute press conference with Abbas.
Yasser Zaatreh, a Gaza-based journalist and political pundit with over a quarter of a million followers on twitter, live-tweeted the event. “Trump is astonished by what he calls ‘the level of coordination between Israeli and Palestinian leaders,’” he commented with frustration. “It is indeed astonishing. Unprecedented cooperation in the history of national liberation movements!”  Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for Hamas, attacked Abbas’ very legitimacy to travel to the White House. “No one authorized Mahmoud Abbas to represent the Palestinian people and all the positions that he has made don’t obligate anyone,” he tweeted. “We reject Abbas’ statement that all final-status issues are solvable because these are national rights for all Palestinians.”

Pence: Israel embassy move under ‘serious consideration’
WASHINGTON (AP) 2 May by Darlene Superville — President Donald Trump is giving “serious consideration” to moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, Vice President Mike Pence said Tuesday, the day before a scheduled White House visit by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Trump is also “personally committed” to becoming the U.S. president who finally ends the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Pence said. Moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem is a politically charged act that would anger Palestinians who want east Jerusalem, which was captured in 1967, as a future capital and part of their sovereign territory. Such a move would also distance the U.S. from most of the international community, including its closest allies in Western Europe and the Arab world. Trump had pledged during the presidential campaign to move the embassy, if elected. The White House says the idea is still under discussion. “The president of the United States, as we speak, is giving serious consideration into moving the American embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” Pence said, uttering his biggest applause line during remarks at the Israel Independence Day Commemoration event in an ornate room in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House….

Israel criticizes UN cultural agency resolution on Jerusalem
JERUSALEM (AP) 2 May — Israel’s prime minister on Tuesday accused UNESCO of diminishing Jewish ties to Jerusalem after the U.N. cultural agency passed a resolution criticizing Israeli excavations in the city’s Israeli-annexed eastern sector as a violation of international law. Israel considers the entire city to be its capital, including east Jerusalem, which it captured in the 1967 Mideast war. Most of the international community considers east Jerusalem to be occupied territory, a view reaffirmed in December by the U.N. Security Council. In Tuesday’s resolution, the U.N. agency calls on Israel to cease “persistent excavations, tunneling, works and projects” in east Jerusalem, particularly the walled Old City, which is home to sites sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims. Such activities by an occupying power are illegal under international law, said the resolution, which had been tabled by several Arab countries. The resolution affirmed the importance of the Old City and its walls to the three monotheistic religions. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Jews have a special bond to the city. “There is no other people in the world for whom Jerusalem is as holy and important as for the Jewish people,” Netanyahu said in a speech at the International Bible Quiz in Jerusalem on Tuesday, Israel’s Independence Day. He said UNESCO is “trying to deny this simple truth.”….

Haaretz editorial: Combatants for hate
3 May — Israel’s refusal to allow 225 Palestinians into the country to attend a joint Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day ceremony shows the government will do anything to dehumanize ‘the other’ — …This could have been a marginal, almost moonstruck event, one strange and alien to the current national mood. But just as it raised Breaking the Silence to the level of an existential threat to the state, the government will do anything it can to prevent anyone from recognizing that there are human beings on the other side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and among them are people who have been robbed of the most precious thing of all by these 50 years of conflict. The Palestinians who sought to enter Israel wanted to sit in the same room with parents whose soldier sons had been killed, with bereaved families from the occupying nation. The devastation of losing a child is identical for all human beings simply because they are human beings. But this message isn’t allowed entry into Israel. The only Palestinians who are allowed to enter Israelis’ consciousness are terrorists, murderers and suicidal fanatics. The government has an interest in maintaining this outlook, which assumes that there is no partner and no Palestinian people, only terrorists. Anyone who dares think otherwise remains beyond the pale….

Two in five Americans back sanctions on Israel — poll
EI 3 May by Ali Abunimah — Two in five Americans back economic sanctions or more serious actions against Israel over its continued construction of settlements on occupied Palestinian land, a crime under international law, a new poll has found. Among Democrats, a clear majority – 56 percent – backs economic sanctions or tougher actions. The poll produced other remarkable findings that underline growing public opposition to unquestioning support for Israel in the United States. Commissioned by professors Shibley Telhami and Stella Rouse of the University of Maryland and conducted by the firm Nielsen Scarborough, the survey asked more than 2,000 respondents their views on key foreign policy issues. More than half – 54 percent – say the US should be even-handed, leaning neither towards the Israelis or Palestinians, a figure that shoots up to 72 percent among Democrats. Right now, 57 percent of respondents overall see the US leaning more towards Israel. Americans are also very open-minded towards a one-state solution encompassing all of present-day Israel, the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Overall, 37 percent of Americans favor a two-state solution, but 31 percent say they would prefer “a single democratic state in which both Jews and Arabs are full and equal citizens, covering all of what is now Israel and the Palestinian territories.” Only 9 percent prefer Israel annexing all of the occupied territories without giving Palestinians full rights, and another 15 percent say they favor the status quo of indefinite military occupation…. (listserv) (archive)

About Kate

American; political science major, M.A.; former ISM volunteer in the West Bank

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