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Palestinian Authority moves forward with May elections in West Bank, Gaza will not take part in vote

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Commission publishes electoral lists and candidates, commencing election campaigns
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 29 Apr – The Central Elections Commission (CEC) Saturday published the final register of electoral lists and candidates competing in the May 13 local elections commencing as a result the election campaigns. In an official statement, the CEC said elections will be held in 145 councils in the West Bank where more than one electoral list was nominated. The total number of nominated lists in these localities is 536 with 4411 candidates competing for a total of 1561 council seats. The CEC has also announced that 181 localities had only one nominated electoral list in each, thus will win by acclamation on elections days. The number of candidates in these lists is 1683 representing the number of designated seats. There are also 65 localities which had incomplete nominated electoral lists and in which elections will not take place. The decision on the formation of local councils in such localities will be done through the cabinet. As the data of the register demonstrates, the total number of female candidates has reached 1584 representing 26% of the 6094 total number of candidates. With the publishing of the final lists and candidates, election campaigning activities also commended on Saturday and will continue for 13 days according to law and elections timeline, said the CEC. Local elections will be held in only the West Bank after Hamas, which controls Gaza, has decided to boycott the elections and ban them in the Gaza Strip.

Weekly report on Israeli human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territory (20-26 April 2017)
PCHR-GAZA 27 Apr — 15 Palestinian civilians, including an Israeli peace activist, were wounded in the West Bank. Among the wounded were 5 children and 2 women. The 2 women were wounded in occupied Jerusalem. Israeli forces continued to target the Gaza Strip border areas, but no casualties were reported. Israeli forces conducted 54 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank and 8 in occupied Jerusalem. 47 civilians, including 10 children, were arrested in the West Bank. 7 of them, including a child, were arrested in occupied Jerusalem. Israeli forces continued settlement activities in the West Bank. 5 commercial facilities at the western entrance to Ni‘lin village, west of Ramallah, were demolished. Settlers set fire to 3 cars in Hawarah village, south of Nablus, and attacked a family in the same village. Israeli forces continued to target the Palestinian fishermen in the Gaza Strip Sea. Israeli forces turned the West Bank into cantons and continued to impose the illegal closure on the Gaza Strip for the 10th year. Dozens of temporary checkpoints were established in the West Bank and others were re-established to obstruct the movement of Palestinian civilians. 10 civilians, including 4 children and a woman, were arrested at military checkpoints in the West Bank.

Palestine wins seven awards at Arab radio and TV festival in Tunis
TUNIS (WAFA) 29 Apr – Palestine radio and TV won seven awards at the Arab State Broadcasting Union’s 18th Arab Radio and TV Festival held in Tunis between April 25 and 28. Areen Imleh won a prize for her Palestine TV news report on Palestinian children passing through Israeli military checkpoints and revolving doors in Hebron. A program called Secrets about Jerusalem also, aired on Palestine TV, won a prize and the Palestinian TV station Musawa won a second prize for its talk shows. Ahmad Assaf, General Supervisor of official Palestinian Television and Radio Corporation and WAFA News and Information Agency, congratulated the winners saying it was a victory for Palestinian creativity in the private and public sectors. He contributed the awards to the prisoners in Israeli jails who have been on hunger strike for 13 consecutive days.

Palestine launches new museum to promote biodiversity
BETHLEHEM (Al-Monitor) 30 Apr by Aziza Nofal — The Palestine Museum of Natural History at Bethlehem University opened its doors to the public on April 12. The museum, located in the southern West Bank, is one of the first museums of its kind in Palestine and the Arab world. The museum’s officials aim to turn it into a major center for research, teaching and development in biodiversity in Palestine. Work on the museum began in 2014 when Mazin Qumsiyeh, the museum’s director and an expert on biodiversity, started to collect samples and scientific research from Palestine to identify and then categorize its natural biodiversity. Qumsiyeh told Al-Monitor that he came up with the idea for the museum a long time ago, but it was only after he found the needed resources to open it that he began to establish it in cooperation with Bethlehem University, where it is an extension of the university’s scientific and research program. The museum showcases samples of Palestine’s biodiversity among insects, animals and plants, and hopes to introduce this biodiversity to Palestinians to increase environmental awareness and to promote a culture of environmental sustainability. The museum’s biggest goals are to change human attitudes toward the environment and to encourage environmental preservation….

Palestinian Authority freezes financial support to PLO factions
MEMO 29 Apr — The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and other groups have said that the PLO has frozen the financial support allocations for the organisation’s member factions, Quds Press reported yesterday. “The PLO’s National Fund told the PFLP that it had frozen its financial allocations for one month,” PFLP political bureau member Rabah Mohana said, claiming that President Mahmoud Abbas was doing this to prove his counterterrorism credentials to Israel and the US. Mohana added: “Based on our experience with the late Yasser Arafat and the current Mahmoud Abbas, this suspension may last for more than one month and might be forever.” He described this decision as “shameful” and reflective of the “authoritarianism” of the PLO leadership. “This decision came as a result of American and Israeli pressure [for Abbas] to stop supporting terror…[Anyone who] resists the occupation is a terrorist.” Badran Jaber, another PFLP leader, said that the discussions about freezing the salaries had been ongoing for months before it took place. The discussions, Jaber said, were about American preconditions for the PA president’s visit to the United State. “This included cutting the salaries of the prisoners and families of the martyrs,” Jaber said.

Hamas leader in Gaza: Don’t expect anything from Trump
Haaretz 30 Apr by Jack Khoury — In advance of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington on Wednesday, senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh has cautioned against any expectations of progress from the meeting. “The forces of resistance are our power and respect and don’t expect to get anything from Trump,” declared Haniyeh on Sunday …  A day earlier, one of Abbas’ closest advisers told Haaretz that the Palestinian president believes there is a “historic opportunity” to reach a peace agreement under Trump’s leadership, and that he is looking forward to forging a “strategic partnership” with the new American president. At a press briefing at the White House in mid-April, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Trump and Abbas would discuss ways to revive the peace process and to ultimately find a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The two leaders spoke over the phone in March and agreed to meet and discuss ways to revive the peace process. The call was the first contact between them, coming after complaints by Palestinian officials that they had been unable to establish contact with the Trump administration. A senior Palestinian official said the conversation was positive and lasted 10 minutes. The official added that Trump told Abbas that he knows Abbas is committed to peace.

Jordan’s FM offers Israel security if it withdraws from West Bank
i24NEWS 29 Apr — Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said Arab countries would provide security for Israel if it withdraws from the West Bank, during a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Sputnik news agency reported on Saturday. “In order for Israel to live in peace with the Arabs, it is necessary for them to leave the territories occupied after 1967. So if this happens, the Arab countries will be ready to give security guarantees to Israel,” Safadi said. Safadi affirmed that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict was a key concern for the Middle East. “We consider the settlement of the Palestinian problem as a core of tensions in our region. That is why we definitely plan to create additional conditions for security and stability in our region and in the whole world,” he said.

Egypt urges US to play ‘active’ Mideast peace role
CAIRO (AFP) 29 Apr — Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi on Saturday urged the United States to help restart negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, a statement from the presidency said. The statement came after El-Sisi met Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas who will meet US President Donald Trump in Washington on Wednesday for talks on reviving the stagnated Middle East peace process. El-Sisi said it was “important that the United States returns to play an active role in efforts to resume negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel,” the statement said. The two “agreed that the two-state solution is the only way to bring stability to the region,” it added. El-Sisi said a 2002 Arab peace initiative should be the basis for a comprehensive solution. The Saudi-led initiative offered normalized relations with Israel in exchange for resolving the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict. When Abbas meets Trump on Wednesday it will be the first encounter between the two men, but will follow a series of US contacts with the Palestinian leader.

Hamas to amend controversial charter in bid to ease ties
GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories (AFP) 29 Apr — Hamas is to unveil a new version of its controversial founding charter which called for the destruction of Israel in a bid to ease its international isolation, party officials said. Leaders of the Islamist movement have long spoken of the more limited aim of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip without explicitly setting it out in its charter. But after years of internal debate, the party leadership is to publish a supplementary charter at a conference in Qatar on Monday that will formally accept the idea of a state in the territories occupied by Israel in the Six-Day War of 1967. In a sop to hardliners within the movement, the original 1988 charter will not be dropped just supplemented, and there will be no recognition of Israel, as demanded by the international community. The new document will clearly present the objective of establishing a “sovereign Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital in the 1967 borders,” a senior Hamas official told AFP. “It does not constitute in any way a recognition of the Zionist entity,” the official added. Leading Hamas official Bassem Naim said the new document was the fruit of four years of discussion within the movement, which has fought three wars with Israel since it seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007. Another Hamas leader, Ahmed Yusef, told AFP the updated charter was “more moderate, more measured and would help protect us against accusations of racism, anti-Semitism and breaches of international law.” It will “differentiate between Jews as a religious community on the one hand, and the occupation and Zionist entity on the other,” he said…
The senior Hamas official who asked not to be identified said the new charter was also intended to give a boost to reconciliation efforts between the two factions, which still run rival administrations in the West Bank and Gaza. The new document defines the movement’s goals as “political and not religious,” easing its entry into the Palestine Liberation Organisation, headed by Abbas. It describes Hamas as a “Palestinian national liberation and resistance movement with religious references,” the official said. The new charter also abandons past references to the pan-national Muslim Brotherhood, to which it was closely linked when formed.

PFLP launches cyber attacks against Israelis ‘in solidarity with hunger strikers’
GAZA (Ma‘an) 30 Apr — The armed wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, said Sunday it has hacked scores of Israeli phones as part of a wider cyber attack operation in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli custody.  According to a statement in Arabic on the PFLP’s official website, Unit 67 of the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, which is part of the group’s electronic security team, launched a number of “intensive cyber attacks” on sites and accounts of Israeli individuals and institutions “affiliated to the Zionist government.” The PFLP statement claimed that the cyber attacks “caused disputes” between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and commanders of cyber units within Israel’s security agencies.
According to the Israeli news outlet The Jerusalem Post, officials from Israel’s security agency the Shin Bet, the national intelligence agency the Mossad, the Israeli Defense Ministry, and the Israeli army wrote a letter to Netanyahu, warning that the numerous powers given to the Cyber Defense Authority could impede the ability to thwart cyber attacks on Israel. Days later, Israeli media reported that the Cyber Defense Authority had thwarted a large-scale cyber attack targeting over 120 organizations in recent days, “in the form of malicious emails” that targeted various companies, government ministries, public institutions, and private individuals in academia and research. In response to reports that Israel’s Cyber Defense Authority threatened to retaliate through attacking Palestinian and Arab websites, the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades’ security team said: “We accept the challenge.”The team claimed to have previously hacked “multiple websites of the occupation” and that it obtained “important information in an ongoing attack defying the Zionist security and technology system.”

Guess which of these human rights Israel guarantees fo Palestinians
+972 Blog 29 Apr by Fady Khoury — The right to equality? The right to free movement in and out of the country? How about the right to freedom from arbitrary arrest and exile? Or the right to marriage and family? —  Everyone on Facebook is playing a game where they post nine concerts they’ve been to and one they haven’t. The idea is your friends have to guess which band you haven’t seen. I want to play too, but I’ve been to only two concerts in my life, both of which were Mashrou’ Leila’s. So I thought of a different way to play. Here are 10 human rights listed, among others, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Nine of these human rights are violated by Israel when it comes to Palestinians, and one is fully respected:
1. Right to Equality.
2. Right to Equality before the Law.
3. Right to Life, Liberty, Personal Security.
4. Freedom from Torture and Degrading Treatment.
5. Right to Remedy by Competent Tribunal.
6. Freedom from Arbitrary Arrest and Exile.
7. Right to Free Movement in and out of the Country.
8. Right to Marriage and Family.
9. Right to Own Property.
10. Right of Peaceful Assembly and Association.
Which one is the outlier here?  Look for the answer below….

Opinion: How an Israeli Arab marks Independence Day / Odeh Bisharat
Haaretz 30 Apr — What does the 20 percent do when the rest of the country celebrates the foundation of the Jewish state? This one looks for signs of hope — As a loyal citizen of Israel, I should be in mourning on Monday, which is Memorial Day for Israel’s fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism, even though in some of these wars Israeli soldiers killed thousands of Palestinians – then called infiltrators – as they tried to return to their homes. On Tuesday, on the other hand, Independence Day, I am supposed to take joy in the memory of the expulsion of my family from Kafr Ma‘alul, and the expulsion of about 800,000 of my people. And for the greater glory of Independence Day, I am supposed to dance with the national flag – that same flag which flew above the ruins of Kafr Ma‘alul after its surrender. And if I have any energy left, I’m supposed to sing the national anthem, “Hatikva,” which was probably sung by the fighters as they finished purifying yet another village of its Arab inhabitants. And if I decide, despite everything, to set aside the past and rejoice, I am supposed to do it by holding a barbecue, in the hope that reports of the hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails doesn’t ruin the appetite of our Jewish brothers.
This is how a wall is built, not a nation. A society that wants to connect all its various parts should stress the common denominators that link these groups. These are the basic rules of any normal country. In Israel, the ostensibly shared common denominator bypasses some 20 percent of the population, tramples on their tragedy and asks that they keep their memories to themselves, lest they disturb the joy of the victors outside. Isn’t it bizarre that in a country dotted with Jewish memorial sites, there is not a single memorial site for any of the roughly 500 Arab villages wiped out in 1948?
About a month ago, I was invited to an event marking the culmination of a project called Halas (a Hebrew acronym for “Living Together without Conflict or Violence”), initiated by the Ein Dor Archaeological Museum in northern Israel. Jewish and Arab junior high school students met for two years, learning how to live and create together, connected by both languages, Hebrew and Arabic.
And so, without anyone noticing, a Jewish-Arab flower is growing in our parched garden; a fresh flower, beautiful. “You can’t tell who’s Arab and who’s Jewish here,” says Eyal Betzer, head of the Jezreel Valley regional council. Yes, when people are equal, they look alike. When they feel that they belong, they can create wonderful things….

Right-wing protesters disrupt joint Israel-Palestinian Memorial Day ceremonies
[with video]1 May by Gili Cohen, Noa Shpigel & Haaretz — Right-wing protesters disrupted, heckled and even forced their way into joint Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day ceremonies held in Tel Aviv and in the north on Sunday night. In Tel Aviv, some 4,000 participated in the event, held to commemorate the lives lost on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and were attacked by members of a counter protest of several dozen right-wingers. In Kiryat Tivon, north of Haifa, about 150 people arrived for a similar ceremony in a local bookstore, but about 30 demonstrators, some of them masked, entered the bookstore as the event was due to begin and announced: “This evening won’t take place.” The alternative Memorial Day commemoration is organized by The Parents Circle Families Forum, an Israeli-Palestinian group of those who have lost family members in the conflict, along with Combatants for Peace, a group of former Israeli soldiers and Palestinians militants, and has been held for the past 12 years. The ceremony includes both Israeli and Palestinian speakers and is intended “to commemorate the memory of the victims of the conflict and the shared pain,” say organizers.

Opinion: An Israeli civil war is inevitable / Rogel Alpher
Haaretz 30 Apr — On Israel’s 69th Independence Day, the public is divided into two camps with no common ground. The annexation advocates want to perpetuate the occupation, annex the territories, deny the Palestinians who live there equal civil rights and strengthen the country’s Jewish character at the expense of its democratic character. Their vision is apartheid, fascism and God. The democrats seek an immediate end to the occupation. Ideologically, it is impossible to reconcile the two camps. Only one can triumph. Israel is now a zero-sum game. There is no point trying to prettify or obscure the situation. Since the annexation champions wield greater political power, Israel is steadily heading toward becoming a binational state in which the Palestinians in the territories live under an apartheid regime, and the Jews who wish to grant them full equal rights are persecuted, silenced and marked as traitors. On its 69th Independence Day, Israel is on a path to inevitable civil war. When a society is so riven between two conflicting ideas, the moment will come when the rival camps’ loyalty to their guiding ideas exceeds their loyalty to the state, whose reason for being is crumbling … In South Africa, the Afrikaners’ survival instincts made them grant full rights to the blacks just before civil war erupted. Maybe the same will happen here, too. One can hope. Maybe the weak, indifferent Israeli majority will wake up when it finds its head under the guillotine blade … And if this scenario sounds like a provocation that is detached from reality, you need to understand you are living in denial and your reality barometer is faulty. Israel is pursuing annexation, and annexation cannot end otherwise. The Palestinians will not accept Jordanian citizenship. The democrats will not decamp to Berlin. And the annexers won’t stop annexing, silencing criticism, weakening the Supreme Court and strengthening religion. A sad holiday.

President Trump proclaims May ‘Jewish American Heritage Month’
JPost  29 Apr — President Donald Trump declared May to be Jewish American Heritage Month in a press release Friday. “During Jewish American Heritage Month, we celebrate our nation’s strong American Jewish heritage, rooted in the ancient faith and traditions of the Jewish people,” Trump said. Trump mentioned that the Jewish people have left “an indelible mark on American culture” through an ethical code and tikkun olam, or repairing the world. He also stated that Jews came to America to escape persecution and violence, and that American Jews have stood for “human freedom, equality and dignity.” Trump said he plans to celebrate the connection between the Jewish people and the United States with his daughter, Ivanka, and his son-in law, Jared Kushner. “Now, therefore, I, Donald J. Trump, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 2017 as Jewish American Heritage Month. I call upon all Americans to celebrate the heritage and contributions of American Jews and to observe this month with appropriate programs, activities and ceremonies,” Trump said in closing.

US body on religious freedom rebuffed Palestinian Christians — and Zogby says group was ‘bullied’
Mondoweiss 28 Apr by Allison Deger — A religious freedom watchdog committee mandated by Congress rebuffed repeated appeals from Christian Palestinians to investigate Israel, James Zogby, an outgoing member of the committee, said on Wednesday. “In effect, we were bullied,” he concluded in a letter sent to his colleagues. Zogby is the director of the Arab American Institute and was appointed eight years ago to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) by President Obama. With less than three weeks left in his term, Zogby went public with his dissenting opinion to the religious committee’s decision to excuse Israel from an investigation. The count was close. “I had plenty of allies on the commission, just not enough,” Zogby said. “There were four Democrats who were supportive. We lost the vote of one who was afraid of the fact—as I said that we would be basically fighting not getting any work done—and I call that bullying.” … I decided then and I told my colleagues I would not go quietly into the night,” he continued. “That it didn’t serve Israel for us to be silent, that it didn’t serve of course the mission of religious freedom and in particular it didn’t serve the victims, the folks who can’t travel, who can’t marry, who can’t have families unified, or who are losing land, or who are losing rights, and after all if the commission can’t be responsive to its mission and to the violations of human rights, then what point is there?” USCIRF’s most recent vote came after it received three official requests from religious communities seeking an inquiry into Israel….

Violence / Detentions — West Bank / Jerusalem

4-year-old Palestinian hospitalized after hit and run by Israeli settlers in Hebron
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 30 Apr — An Israeli settler ran over a four-year-old Palestinian boy in the center of Hebron city in the southern occupied West Bank on Sunday and fled the scene, according to Palestinian security sources. Murad Samir al-Razam was treated for moderate injuries by the Palestinian Red Crescent before he was evacuated to the Hebron governmental hospital for further treatment. According to the security sources, the hit and run occurred in the center of Hebron city, near the illegal Israeli Ramat Yishai settlement adjacent to Tel Rumeida.

13 Palestinian journalists injured while attempting to cover Jerusalem sit-in
[with videos] BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 30 Apr — The Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate denounced the violent suppression of a peaceful sit-in in occupied East Jerusalem held Saturday afternoon, saying in a statement that the attack “will not prevent journalists from delivering Palestinians’ message to the world.” The group said in a statement Sunday morning that 13 Palestinian journalists were injured while attempting to cover the demonstration. Israeli police had forcibly evacuated a peaceful sit-in organized at the Damascus Gate entrance to the Old City, held to express support for approximately 1,500 Palestinian prisoners who have been on hunger strike in Israeli prisons for the past 14 days. After marching through the streets, chanting slogans in solidarity with the hunger strikers, demonstrators were chased by Israeli police on horseback, with Israeli police officers also ripping up and confiscating pictures of Palestinian prisoners that protesters were carrying. Some demonstrators also attempted to march towards Herod’s Gate and Salah al-Din street, but were stopped and suppressed by Israeli forces. Israeli forces detained four activists, identified by locals as Yassin Subieh, Luay Jaber, Suhaib Saiyam, and Amer al-Qawasmi, after they were physically and verbally assaulted by Israeli police officers, witnesses told Ma‘an. Israeli forces also assaulted at least 13 journalists in an attempt to stop them from covering the attacks on demonstrators, according to the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate. Among the injured was a reporter, Ahmad Gharabla, who was severely bruised on his chest after being assaulted by Israeli police on horseback, while Israeli police also beat Ammar Awad, a photographer, with the butts of their rifles. Footage published by the Jerusalem-based  news outlet al-Quds Network showed mounted police charging at demonstrators and journalists. According to the statement from the journalists’ syndicate, Israeli forces also confiscated cameras and other equipment from journalists at the rally….

Israel raids Beit Ummar, sprays houses with sewage
[with video] MEMO 29 Apr — Israeli forces again raided the village of Beit Ummar in the West Bank yesterday [Friday?], with video footage seemingly showing Israeli forces using a water pump to spray sewage [most likely the artificial ‘Skunk’ liquid] over the houses of Palestinians. This comes after several Palestinians suffered from severe tear gas inhalation last Sunday after Israeli troops stormed the outskirts of the southern occupied West Bank village of Beit Ummar. The footage shows what appears to be a modified military vehicle being used to spray sewage over houses belonging to Palestinians. Israeli soldiers can be seen standing on the rooftops of Palestinian homes, indicating that they stormed and temporarily took possession of these houses. The raid came after hundreds of Palestinians began marching following Friday prayers in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners who have started a mass hunger strike to protest Israeli prison conditions. Israeli forces then attacked the march, leading to clashes with local youths that caused at least nine of them to suffer wounds during the attack. Palestinians threw rocks and bottles at Israeli military vehicles in retaliation, and at least six Palestinian youths were shot with rubber coated bullets….

Palestinians suffocate as Israeli army attacks homes north of Hebron with tear gas
HEBRON (WAFA) 29 Apr – Israeli forces Saturday fired tear gas canisters toward Palestinian homes in the town of Beit Ummar to the north of Hebron, leading to several suffocation cases among the residents, according to a local activist. Media activist in Beit Ummar, Mohammad Awad, told WAFA Israeli soldiers fired warning shots into the air and tear gas canisters toward Palestinians’ homes, causing many to suffocate. They were all treated at the scene. Moreover, forces fired tear gas canisters toward a car while passengers were still inside, causing all four passengers, including two females, to suffocate. Forces reportedly took the keys of the car and forced the passengers to stay inside before targeting it with tear gas. The passengers were able to exit the car through the windows and were treated at the scene.

Israeli gas bombs burn solidarity tent near Nablus
IMEMC 1 May — Israeli soldiers invaded, on Sunday at night, Sebastia town, northwest of Nablus, in the northern part of the occupied West Bank, and fired many gas bombs and concussion grenades at a solidarity tent, in support of the hunger striking detainees, causing it to burn. Media sources in Nablus said many army jeeps invaded the town, and directly headed toward the solidarity tent, where hundreds of Palestinians gather daily in a vigil for the detainees, ongoing with the hunger strike they started two weeks ago, demanding basic rights. They added that the Israeli attack did not lead to casualties, but caused a massive fire in the tent. The attack led to clashes between many Palestinian youths, who hurled stones and empty bottles on the military vehicles, and the soldiers who fired many gas bombs, causing several Palestinians to suffer the effects of teargas inhalation.

Photos: Israeli forces use plastic bullets against Palestinian protesters

MEMO 29 Apr — Israeli forces move to disperse protests in response to the building of Jewish-only settlements in the village of Kafr Qaddum, occupied Nablus

2 Palestinians injured after Israelis from Nablus-area settlement continue attacks
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 29 Apr — Extremist Israelis from the illegal Yitzhar settlement in the northern occupied West Bank district of Nablus attacked Palestinian residents in the village of ‘Urif on Saturday, sparking further clashes between Palestinians locals and the Israeli army forces that raided the area to protect the settlers. Ghassan Daghlas, an official who monitors settlement activity in the northern West Bank told Ma‘an that dozens of Israeli settlers from the illegal Yitzhar settlement, located just a few hundred meters from ‘Urif, attacked several homes in the northeastern part of the village. According to Daghlas, local Munir al-Nuri was injured with rocks thrown by the settlers, while 55-year-old Taysir al-Safdeh was shot and injured in the leg by a rubber-coated steel fired by Israeli soldiers. An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma‘an that Israeli forces used “crowd control” methods to suppress the clashes, without elaborating further, and described the incident as a “violent dispute between Palestinians and Israelis” who were “mutually throwing rocks at each other.” The spokesperson initially said that no injuries were reported, but later told Ma‘an that the Israeli army was aware that one Palestinian was injured during the “dispute.” However she could not say whether the injury was sustained from being attacked by Israeli settlers or by Israeli soldiers. The incident came as the latest in a string of violent settler attacks in the area under the the protection of Israeli soldiers, with the Israeli army consistently describing the attacks as a mutual exchange of stone throwing inside the Palestinian communities….

Police prevent left-wing rally at outpost against settler violence
Times of Israel 28 Apr by Jacob Magid — 250 activists, including 3 Meretz MKs, barred from reaching Baladim, scene of attacks last week; forced to hold protest at Michmash Junction — Police stopped over 250 left-wing activists, including three Knesset members, from reaching a West Bank outpost as part of a protest against settler violence on Friday morning. The demonstrators, led by Meretz MKs Zehava Galon, Michal Rozin and Issawi Frej, planned to march from the West Bank settlement of Kochav HaShahar to the nearby Baladim outpost, where settler violence was filmed last week, but their four buses were stopped en route by police and soldiers who told them the area had been declared a closed military zone. Barred from reaching Kochav HaShachar, northeast of Ramallah, the buses unloaded at Michmash Junction, where activists stood at the roadside waving Palestinian and other flags and banners. After 30 minutes, police allowed the rally to proceed on foot for an additional mile, still short of its intended destination … Friday’s demonstration was organized by a coalition of left-wing NGOs that called on law enforcement authorities to prevent settler violence and also to dismantle outposts in the Jordan Valley Among the groups taking part in Friday’s protest were members of Peace Now, Meretz, Ta’ayush, Combatants for Peace, Machsom Watch and Standing Together …  Meretz leader Galon accused the Israeli authorities of “turning a blind eye to the pogroms perpetrated by settlers against IDF soldiers, Palestinians and left-wing activists.”

Israeli settlers block main highway near central West Bank village
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 30 Apr — A group of Israeli settlers blocked the main highway between the occupied West Bank cities of Ramallah and Nablus on Sunday afternoon under Israeli police and military protection, locals told Ma‘an. Residents of the village of Sinjil in the Ramallah district said that dozens of settlers, accompanied by large numbers of Israeli army and police forces, blocked off the road near the entrance of the village. The locals said that the settlers were there after some Israeli vehicles were damaged by stone-throwing near Sinjil on Friday. They added that Israeli forces then stormed Sinjil and detained a number of young men, also confiscating 12 undocumented vehicles.

PPS: ‘Israeli soldiers abduct 30 Palestinians in the West Bank’
IMEMC 30 Apr — The Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS) has reported that Israeli soldiers abducted, on Monday at dawn, at least thirty Palestinians in different parts of the occupied West Bank, including seventeen in the al-‘Eesawiyya town, in East Jerusalem. The Hebron office of the PPS, in the southern part of the West Bank, said the soldiers invaded Ethna [Idhna] town, southwest of the city, searched and ransacked many homes, and abducted Yousef Ali Awad, Ra’ed Mitleq Abu Jheishe, Mohammad Abdul-Karim Farajallah, Fadi Halim Esleimiyya, Nash’at Fadel Esleimiyya, Firas Hasan Marar, from Hebron’s southern area … Furthermore, the soldiers invaded and searched many homes in Jenin refugee camp, in the northern West Bank governorate of Jenin, and abducted three Palestinians, identified as Mosallam Sa‘id Masarwa, 18, Monir Ahmad Salama, 21, and ‘Ameed Ibrahim ‘Ersan, 20. Medical sources said one Palestinian, identified as Wi’am Hannoun, suffered moderate-to-severe wounds when the soldiers shot him with live rounds in his leg, after the army opened fire on Palestinians, protesting the invasion into Jenin refugee camp
In Bethlehem, the soldiers abducted two Palestinians from Doha town; one of them has been identified as Mohammad Hasan Ajamiyya. In occupied Jerusalem, dozens of soldiers and security officers invaded the al-‘Eesawiyya town, surrounded its neighborhoods, and violently searched dozens of homes before abducting seventeen Palestinians …  Mohammad Abu al-Hummus, a member of the Follow-up Committee in al-‘Eesawiyya, said the town has been subject to daily invasions and violent searches of homes, cars and stores, while police officers also ticketed dozens of Palestinians without any cause or reason. The soldiers also removed the protest tent that was installed in solidarity with the hunger striking detainees in Israeli prisons, installed many roadblocks, and have been occupying many rooftops, using them as monitoring towers and firing posts.
In addition, several army jeeps invaded Aseera ash-Shemaliyya town, north of Nablus, in the northern part of the West Bank, before the soldiers searched homes and abducted Mo’men Sabah, while another Palestinian, identified as Osama Yameen, was abducted from his home in Tal village, southwest of Nablus. Both abducted Palestinians are students of the Najah National University, in Nablus city. Furthermore, the soldiers invaded and searched homes in the al-‘Ein refugee camp, west of Nablus, and abducted Rabea’ Khaled. One Palestinian, identified as As‘ad Mataheel, was abducted from his home in the al-Makhfeyya neighborhood, in Nablus city, and another Palestinian, who remained unidentified until the time of this report, was abducted from his home in Nablus’s Old City.

‘Freedom and Dignity’ hunger strike

Palestinian prisoners held by Israel enter 2nd week of mass hunger strike
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 30 Apr — Some 1,500 Palestinian prisoners out of approximately 6,300 Palestinians held by Israel entered the 14th day of an open-ended hunger strike on Sunday, with Israeli prison authorities ramping up punitive measures in an attempt to pressure prisoners to break their strikes — as the health of hunger strikers continued to decline.
The media committee for the “Freedom and Dignity strike,” formed by the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs and the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS), announced that preliminary efforts to start negotiations between hunger strikers and the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) began Saturday. According to the committee, IPS said negotiations would be based on the condition that they exclude Marwan Barghouthi, a prominent imprisoned member of the Fatah movement who is leading the strike. Head of PPS Qaddura Fares insisted that Israeli authorities involve Barghouthi. “A straight line is the shortest distance between two points,” he said. Fares urged the Palestinian people to remain determined in the battle to achieve the hunger strike’s demands, which include bringing an end to the torture, ill treatment, and medical neglect of Palestinians prisoners by Israel. In response to a request for comment, IPS spokesperson Hana Herbst denied that IPS would be involved with any negotiations, saying: “The Israel Prison Service manages prisoners and their living conditions and does not negotiate with prisoners.”
The media committee also reported Sunday that IPS forces assaulted hunger-striking prisoner Nasser Uweis, who is held in a solitary confinement cell in Ramla prison.  Uweis was sentenced to life in prison in 2002.Meanwhile, IPS has continued suppressive measures against hunger striking prisoners, notably moving Karim Yunis, the longest-serving Palestinian prisoner, from a solitary confinement cell in al-Jalama prison in Haifa — where he was placed on the first day of the hunger strike — to a solitary confinement cell in Gilboa prison in Nazareth some 50 kilometers away…
The media committee said that IPS has continued to ban lawyers from visiting Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike, except at Ofer prison in the central occupied West Bank district of Ramallah and Ashkelon prison in southern Israel.
A hearing has been scheduled at the Israeli Supreme Court for May 3, following a petition submitted by lawyers to secure their right to visit the hunger-striking detainees, according to the committee…
Following a visit to Ofer prison, lawyer Luay Akka from the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs said that hunger strikers were still being subjected to daily raids in the early dawn hours, with IPS officers also attempting to conduct strip searches on hunger-striking prisoners. Akka said that IPS forces were confiscating salt that hunger strikers have been using to balance their health amid the strike, and that prison officers have also been taunting prisoners by placing food in front of them, which Akka denounced as “psychological torture.” IPS spokesperson Hana Herbst responded to the accusation, saying that “prison staffs offer the prisoners meals and some of the hunger strikers choose to eat,” claiming that the practice has lowered the number of hunger striking prisoners to under 1,000 — despite reports [Arabic] indicating that the strike’s participants had risen to 1,700…
Meanwhile, the media committee said that the medical conditions of hunger strikers were on a steady decline, reporting symptoms such as severe pains throughout their bodies, severe headaches, and continued weight loss.
After Akka visited hunger striking prisoners Fadi Abu Eita, Luay al-Mansi, Sharar Mansour, and Ahmad al-Sharabati in Ofer prison on Saturday, they informed the lawyer that the health of ten hunger strikers had severely deteriorated, one of whom had fainted and was taken to the prison’s clinic….

Palestinians rally in West Bank, Gaza in support of hunger-striking prisoners
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 30 Apr — As more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners entered the second week of an open-ended hunger strike in Israeli prisons, Palestinians across the occupied territory and activists abroad continued to hold demonstrations in solidarity with the hunger strikers. A sit-in was held on Sunday in the central occupied West Bank city of Ramallah, organized by employees of Palestinian telecom companies Jawwal and Paltel. Participants held signs supporting prisoners and chanted slogans calling on Palestinians to support prisoners in their struggle. Executive manager of Paltel Ammar al-Aker affirmed that the daily solidarity demonstrations sent an important message to the prisoners who are “fighting a battle against the Israeli occupation to gain basic rights guaranteed by international law.” Head of Jawwal’s employee union Abdallah Daghlas said that the aim of the sit-in was to show prisoners they were not alone in their struggle, and to convey the prisoners’ demand for dignity to the world. One participant of the demonstration told Ma‘an that the sit-in was “just a modest form of solidarity, and that Palestinian prisoners deserve so much more.”
On Saturday, local organizations in ‘Aida refugee camp in the southern occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem held a festival in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike, which included a dabka dance performance by the al-Rowwad Society. The event was attended by residents of the camp, relatives of Palestinian prisoners, representative of the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs Hassan Abd al-Rabbu, and Bethlehem Mufti Abd al-Majid Atta. Atta said that the festival was held beside Israel’s separation wall “to send a message to the Israeli occupation,” as an Israeli army base lies just beyond the wall next to the camp.
During a rally in Gaza City on Saturday night, held in protest of the ongoing Israeli siege of the coastal enclave, Hamas politburo member Mahmoud al-Zahar expressed his support for Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike. “We are with you. Your hunger is our hunger, and your pain is our pain. Go forward in confronting your enemy,” al-Zahar said, speaking before tens of thousands of Palestinians at the Palestinian Legislative Council office in Gaza. The official also affirmed Hamas’ commitment to free all Palestinian political prisoners, vowing that “the resistance will not rest until prisoners are freed.”….

Palestinians gather at sit-in tent in Bethlehem in support of hunger strikers
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 29 Apr — Palestinians in the southern occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem continued solidarity activities on the 13th day of a mass hunger strike in Israeli prisons on Saturday, as sit-in tents have been established across the occupied West Bank in solidarity with the prisoners. A sit-in was held in Manger Square, adjacent to the Nativity Church, where Palestinians gathered to express their support to the some 1,500 Palestinians participating in the “Freedom and Dignity” strike — initially organized by Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi. Head of the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs Issa Qaraqe stressed during the demonstration that solidarity activities in support of the Palestinian hunger strikers would continue, as he called upon Palestinians to take part in a solidarity march that would take place at Nelson Mandela Square in Ramallah city on May 3….

Palestinian highlight prisoners’ strike with ‘Salt Water Challenge’
CNN 28 Apr by Nadeem Muaddi — Palestinians across the world are posting videos of themselves on social media drinking salt water, as part of a new online challenge intended to draw attention to Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli prisons.
The Salt Water Challenge, as it’s called, asks supporters of the hunger strike to express their solidarity in a video before mixing salt in a glass of water and drinking it. Similar to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that went viral in 2014, participants then challenge friends to do the same. The challenge involves saltwater because that’s what the hunger strikers are drinking to stabilize their health while abstaining from food … The Salt Water Challenge appears to have been started by Barghouti’s son, Aarab Marwan Barghouti, who on Wednesday posted a video of himself on social media drinking salt water … Among those he challenged was “Arab Idol” winner Mohammed Assaf, who responded in kind — helping the online campaign to go viral. “I challenge everyone, all honorable people wherever they may be, to take on this challenge in solidarity with our heroic detainees until they gain their freedom,” Assaf said in his video. Palestinians from across the Middle East, Europe and North American quickly followed suit with videos of their own. While most spoke in Arabic, others took up the challenge in English, French and other languages.

Shi‘a leader to fast for 3 days in solidarity with Palestinian hunger strikers
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 29 Apr — The influential Iraqi Shi‘a cleric Muqtada al-Sadir reportedly announced on Saturday that he would fast for three days in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners who have been on hunger strike in Israeli prison for the past 13 days.  Russia’s state-run news network RT published a letter purportedly written by al-Sadir, addressed to “the free Palestinians in the darkness of the Israeli terrorist state prisons.” Al-Sadir said that he wanted to express his solidarity with Palestinian prisoners and detainees languishing in prison cells “that hide the sun of freedom and mute the voice of righteousness.” “You, the people of the stone revolution, the knife revolution, and the prison revolution will be victorious, and we will triumph with you. May God be with you wherever you are,” the letter reportedly said, referring to young Palestinians who throw rocks at Israeli forces as a form of protest against the Israeli occupation, and to a trend of small-scale knife attacks on Israeli forces that peaked in the Fall of 2015.

Abbas meets with families of Palestinian hunger strikers in Ramallah
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) 28 Apr — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met with a delegation of Palestinian families of hunger-striking prisoners in the presidency headquarters in Ramallah in the central occupied West Bank on Friday, as clashes and protests erupted across the Palestinian territory marking the 12th day of the “Freedom and Dignity” mass hunger strike.  Abbas assured the families that the Palestinian Authority (PA) has been making calls with different international authorities to exert pressure on the Israeli government to respond to the demands of the prisoners. Abbas noted that the prisoners’ cause is a priority for the Palestinian leadership and called upon all people in Palestine and around the world to support the hunger strikers.
Abbas also encouraged the families to continue organizing popular demonstrations and efforts to save the lives of their imprisoned sons and relatives. Secretary-General of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Saeb Erekat, Fatah deputy head Mahmoud al-Aloul, General-Secretary of the presidency al-Taiyeb Abd al-Rahim, head of the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs Issa Qaraqe, member of the Fatah central committee Azzam al-Ahmad, and Head of the Palestinian intelligence Majid Faraj all attended the meeting.

Restriction of movement

225 Palestinians barred from entering Israeli for joint Memorial Day ceremony
Haaretz 29 Apr by Gili Cohen — Army suspends all permits, including those for participants in joint Israeli-Palestinian memorial ceremony, after stabbing attack in Tel Aviv — Over 200 Palestinians did not receive Israeli entry permits in order to participate in an annual joint memorial ceremony with bereaved Israeli families, due to a terror attack perpetrated by a Palestinian in Tel Aviv on Sunday. For the past 12 years, The Parents Circle Families Forum, an Israeli-Palestinian organization for those who have lost family members to the conflict, along with Combatants for Peace, have held an alternative Memorial Day ceremony which has been attended by thousands of people. The ceremony includes both Israeli and Palestinian speakers and is intended “to commemorate the memory of the victims of the conflict and the shared pain,” say organizers. The event will be held on Monday evening, the beginning of Memorial Day in Israel, at the Shlomo Group Arena next to the Tel Aviv Convention Center. As of now, it seems that the 225 Palestinian participants will not be able to attend. The Israel Defense Forces’ coordinator of government activities in the territories, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, decided to cancel the entry permits requested by the event’s organizers after Sunday’s stabbing attack, in which an 18-year-old resident of Nablus in the West Bank stabbed four Israelis in Tel Aviv, lightly injuring them. The alleged terrorist had a one-day Israeli entry permit, issued at the request of Natural Peace Tours, a travel and tourism agency for Palestinians based in Tel Aviv-Jaffa. The tours are intended to improve relations between Israelis and Palestinians … The two groups organizing the ceremony called on Mordechai and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman to grant permits to the Palestinians so they could attend the ceremony. “The Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day ceremony is one of the few events in Israel that succeeds in bringing Israelis and Palestinians together on one stage and providing a public message on behalf of peace,” said Combatants for Peace.

Visitors not welcome: Israel taking border control to new extremes with tourist bans
Haaretz 30 Apr by Judy Maltz — Israeli hostel owners and operators noticed recently they were all suddenly confronting a similar problem: Foreign visitors who had booked rooms but never showed up were notifying them the following day that they had been turned away at Ben-Gurion International Airport. These no-shows did not receive an explanation from Border Police for the decision to deny them entry into Israel. “I can only speculate why they were sent back,” says Maoz Inon, a founder and member of ILH-Israel Hostels, a network of dozens of lodging facilities that cater to independent travelers. “But what I can say is that this is a brand new phenomenon. For those of us who work so incredibly hard to persuade travelers to visit Israel, it’s the equivalent of the government poking sticks in our wheels.” Hostel owners are not the only ones feeling the pinch. Last week, the Border Control Department at the Interior Ministry notified tour group operators that, as of mid-May, they would be prohibited from taking travelers for overnight stays in the West Bank. Unless they signed a form pledging to refrain from sleeping in the West Bank, the directive said, they would not be granted permission to bring overseas groups to Israel. Under pressure from tour group operators, the Interior Ministry retracted the order, but only temporarily. In response to a request for clarification from Haaretz, a ministry spokeswoman said, “The draft of the letter that was sent out included some errors, and in the next few days, after the interior minister revisits the issue, we will be sending out a corrected version.” By preventing overnight stays in Bethlehem – a major destination for Christian pilgrimage tours to the Holy Land – this directive could deal a deadly blow to the industry. Yossi Fatael, chief executive of the Israel Incoming Tour Operators Association, says an estimated 1 million tourist nights are spent in the West Bank city every year … Add to this the brand new law that would deny entry to foreign nationals who have expressed public support for a boycott of Israel, and it almost looks like an organized government campaign to keep certain tourists out – or at least make them think twice about whether they really want to come….

Punitive demolitions

Life under occupation: House demolitions in East Jerusalem
PCHR-GAZA 30 Apr — …House demolitions in East Jerusalem frequently take place under the pretext of Palestinian residents not having acquired building permits from the Jerusalem Municipality or as a collective punishment of families of Palestinians who are claimed to have carried out attacks against Israeli soldiers or settlers. Mohammed Allain is a 62-year old resident of East Jerusalem and a lawyer who not only deals with cases of house demolitions on a professional level, but who is also personally affected by Israel’s collective punishment policies. “I am now talking as a father and not as a lawyer”, Mohammed emphasizes as he starts to tell his story. On 15 October 2015, Mohammed’s 22-year old son, Bahaa, who was an artist and a popular youth activist in East Jerusalem, went missing. When the Israeli police ordered Mohammed to the station the day after, the father was informed that his son had tried to attack Israeli soldiers, in reaction to which he had been killed. “I did not believe that my son would do that and I wanted to see proof for the attack, but the Israelis did not provide me with any. I also demanded to see my dead son’s body, but the Israeli police refused. They punished us parents in the worst possible way by leaving us in doubt about the whereabouts of our son for 10 months”, Mohammed describes. At the time, 150 bodies of dead Palestinians were kept by the occupying power, largely outside of freezers, which eventually leads to the decay of the bodies. To fight against this inhumane measure and for his own son’s remains, Mohammed found a committee to challenge the Israeli police in front of the courts. When he finally received Bahaa’s mortal remains in September 2016, everything the family wanted was to bury their son and say their good-byes. However, the Israeli forces only allowed 10 family members to participate in the funeral, with a large number of Israeli soldiers being present.
“As if the major punishment of killing my son, leaving us in doubt about it and disrespecting us by keeping the body was not enough, 10 days after the Israeli police informed us about Bahaa’s death, we received a command under Emergency Law Nr. 17 to destroy our house”, Mohammed explains. The family was given three days to object to the command, which would make 8 people homeless, in the Israeli military courts. The objection did not change the decision of the occupying forces and when Mohammed reached out to the Israeli Supreme Court, claiming that the house demolition would be a collective punishment violating international law, the Supreme Court decided in favor of the occupying power in December 2015. Only a few days later, the family’s house was completely destroyed and their residents forced to sleep in a tent in front of their former home, during winter time. “We are not allowed to rebuild and the Israeli police regularly monitors that we don’t do so. I had to rent an apartment for 1,200 USD per month and I don’t feel at home in the new house. The Israelis took my son and they took my home with all the memories I kept in it”, Mohammed reiterates….


Israeli forces detain 2 Palestinian fishermen, level lands in Gaza
GAZA (Ma‘an) 30 Apr — Israeli naval forces detained two Palestinian fishermen after opening fire on their fishing boats off the coast of the besieged Gaza Strip on Sunday morning, while Israeli military bulldozers also staged a limited incursion inside the small Palestinian territory, locals sources told Ma‘an  Witnesses said that Israeli naval forces detained Shabaan and Muhammad Abu Raiyala after chasing their fishing boats and opening fire at them off the coast of Gaza City.
Separately, four Israeli military bulldozers crossed tens of meters past the border lines into Palestinian lands in the town of al-Qarara south of Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip, and started leveling lands as Israeli reconnaissance drones flew overhead.

PHOTOS: Palestinians in Gaza head to the coast
MEMO 30 Apr by Mohammed Asad — Children are seen playing on the beach to help cool off as the electricity crisis continues to worsen, on 29 April in Gaza.

RAF renovates 200 homes of families in Gaza
The Peninsula (Qatar) 30 Apr — Sheikh Thani bin Abdullah Foundation for Humanitarian Services (RAF) has renovated 200 homes of Palestinian families destroyed in the last Israeli war in Gaza. The project of phase-1 costs $915,000. It was implemented in Rafah, Deir Al Balah, Al Daraj and Al Tuffah districts, North Gaza Governorate, Gaza Governorate, Khan Yunis Governorate and Rafah Governorate. The renovation project aims at maintaining a total of 300 homes at a cost of QR6.5m. The project was financed by donors — citizens and expatriates in Qatar. More than 2,100 Palestinians will benefit from the project. The beneficiaries are poor people whose homes were destroyed partially or totally during the war. RAF’s local partner in Gaza LifeWay Association is implementing the project. A survey was conducted by the Association in collaboration with three other local humanitarian and charity organisation to list the most deserving people for the project. Phase-1 project that included 200 homes destroyed about 40 percent has been completed. The project of phase-II will start soon to renovate the remaining 100 homes. The phase-II project coasts $870,000 … About 4,600 families are displaced without shelters. 45,000 families are living in tents and makeshift homes.

UN says there is ‘urgent need’ to address crisis in Gaza in latest report
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 1 May — In a report issued ahead of a United Nations meeting to discuss the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO) released a report on Monday warning of the “urgent need” to address the worsening situation in the besieged Gaza Strip, as well as the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process. UNSCO raised the alarm regarding “the urgent need to resolve the deepening political rift between Gaza and the West Bank” pitting the Hamas and Fatah movements, the respective ruling parties in the besieged coastal enclave and the occupied West Bank, against one another, in a reported made public ahead of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) biannual meeting in Belgium on Thursday. The UN body warned that the nearly decade-long tensions between the two political parties, which have further soured in recent months, “threaten(ed) the erosion of the achievements of the Palestinian state-building effort.”
Numerous attempts have been made in the past to reconcile Hamas and Fatah since they came into violent conflict in 2007, shortly after Hamas’ 2006 victory in general elections held in the Gaza Strip. However, Palestinian leadership has repeatedly failed to follow through on promises of reconciliations, as both movements have frequently blamed each other for numerous political failures….

In Gaza, only the people suffer
Al Arabiya 29 Apr by Fawaz Turki — …The two million souls who inhabit this impoverished, densely populated strip of land, now universally recognized, not altogether hyperbolically, as “the biggest open-air prison in the world,” have to endure another hardship in their lives — a wholesale electricity cut-off. The reason? An on-going dispute between leaders of Hamas and the Palestinian National Authority, with the latter recently informing Israel that they will stop payments for electricity that it supplies to the lone power plant in Gaza, until Hamas fully cedes control over the strip … Imagine your food perishing because your refrigerator is not working. Senior citizens with heart problems, who live on the sixth floor of a high-rise building, having to climb to the sixth floor to get home. Families unable to do the laundry because their washers and driers are inoperative. Students unable to do their homework in the dark. Factories that have to lay off workers, and stop producing consumer goods, because their machinery is idle. Municipalities unable to supply services such as potable water to people’s homes, or to efficiently treat human waste. Hospitals canceling critically needed surgeries. And the rest of it. Still, the PNA will not budge. Its message to Hamas is clear: Relinquish control of Gaza, or you’ll be made to pay. But, wait, the cost of this mess — a mess that is unnecessary, petty and pointless, given the fact that the Hamas-Fatah brouhaha derives not from religious doctrine or political objectives, but from a dispute over which of the two groups should have the bigger power profile in the Palestinian struggle — will be shouldered by ordinary folks who just want to go about living their ordinary lives, that is, to the extent that people can live “ordinary lives” in a hellish place like Gaza, a place where people must endure a blockade that restricts the movement of people and goods, often on an Israeli soldier’s whim.

Saving Gaza’s marriages
KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip (Al Jazeera) 29 Apr by Fedaa al-Qedra — Ahmed Abu Sido was racing against time to prepare for his recent wedding, after receiving a last-minute “marriage grant” that saved him from postponing the ceremony. At his father’s home in Khan Younis in southern Gaza, Abu Sido briskly painted his bedroom in between drawing up a list of invitees. The 27-year-old barber had delayed his wedding several times, amid the financial hardships that affect all aspects of daily life for Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip. “I can’t afford to get married at this age relying on myself, as my daily income does not exceed 20 shekels [$5], so I turned to one of the marriage facilitation institutions, which provided me with an opportunity to pay in comfortable installments,” Abu Sido told Al Jazeera, noting that even a stripped-down wedding ceremony typically cost at least $5,000. “I do not have this amount and I will never have it.” The deteriorating economic situation in Gaza has opened the door for these types of marriage facilitation organisations, which offer methods of financing weddings for those who cannot afford to pay up front. Thanks to deals offered by al-Shahd Social Corporation, Abu Sido was able to save $2,000, and he will be paying off the rest of his $3,000 loan in installments over two years, with a 10 percent interest rate. The difficult living conditions in Gaza have been blamed for preventing hundreds of marriages in the territory. Unemployment in Gaza exceeds 40 percent, the highest rate in the world, while nearly 80 percent of the population receives social assistance. Despite Gaza’s ballooning population, the number of marriages in the territory dropped by 7 percent last year, to 19,248 from 20,778 in 2015, according to Hasan al-Juju, chairman of the Supreme Council of Islamic Judiciary. The number of divorce cases simultaneously rose, to 3,188 from 2,627 the previous year. The main causes of divorce in Gaza stem from the political and economic challenges of life there, Juju said….

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

Israel resumes construction of illegal separation wall near al-Walajah
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 30 Apr — Israeli authorities resumed construction of the illegal separation wall in the southern occupied West Bank district of Bethlehem after a three-year hiatus, official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported on Saturday. Wafa quoted Hassan Brijiya, an activist with the Bethlehem-area committee against Israeli settlements and the separation wall, as saying that Israeli authorities had placed a four-meter high barbed wire fence in the Ain Jweiza area northwest of the village of al-Walaja. Israeli newspaper Haaretz corroborated the information, adding that construction of the illegal separation wall — also known as the annexation or apartheid wall — had been frozen in the al-Walaja area three years ago following legal battles and protests denouncing the move as causing huge damages to the landscape and archaeological heritage in the area. However, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that Israeli authorities could proceed with construction of the wall in the area. It remained unclear, however, why the move was occurring now …
Residents of al-Walaja have already lost over three-quarters of their lands since Israel was established in 1948, when most of the village’s residents became refugees. During Israel’s illegal occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank in 1967, 50 percent of al-Walaja’s lands were annexed to the Jerusalem municipality. Israel’s separation wall encircles al-Walaja, the hometown of slain Palestinian activist Basel al-Araj, and swathes of land have been reappropriated by the Israeli government for the construction and expansion of the illegal Israeli settlements of Gilo, Har Gilo, and Givat Yael. The Israeli government has also planned to confiscate hundreds of acres from al-Walaja for the establishment of a national park. In December, reports emerged that Israeli authorities were planning on moving a military checkpoint in the area, blocking off Palestinian access to a natural spring in al-Walaja known as Ain al-Haniyeh, and isolating  several hundred acres of privately owned Palestinian land in the outskirts of the village. The village’s council head Abd al-Rahman Abu al-Tin said during a press briefing in May 2016 that “if and when the wall is completed, it will turn the village into a prison.”

Israel’s archaeological digs force entire Jerusalem family out of their home
Palestine Monitor 26 Apr by Zann H. — “We are all very afraid, especially when we sleep at night, for fear that the ceiling will collapse on us,” says Jehan Aweidah, a mother of five children.  The cracks found on the floor, the walls and ceilings of the Aweideh family who reside about 200 metres away from the archaeological site of the so-called ‘City of David’ have started to enlarge and worsen at an alarming rate. The ‘City of David’ lies at the heart of the Wadi Hilweh area in Silwan,a neighbourhood in occupied East Jerusalem, whose annexation by Israel has never been recognised by the international community. Located just a short walk from the Dung Gate of the Old City of Jerusalem, theAl- Aqsa compound and the dome of the Al Aqsa Mosque give a vantage point over the neighbourhood of Wadi Hilweh.  According to the Wadi Hilweh committee, since the discovery of this archaeological site in 2007, the Israeli authorities have persistently undertaken excavations with scant regard for the safety and fundamental integrity of the houses and shops of the Palestinians in the area.
Home to approximately 4,000 residents where Palestinians form the majority of the population, some Jewish settlers have also moved into Wadi Hilweh. According to Yonathan Mizrahi, the director of Emek Shaveh, an Israeli NGO working to prevent the politicization of archaeology in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, “I think that for a long time there is an attempt to ‘Judaize’ Silwan. There is a joint effort of the settlers and the authorities to increase Israeli presence in the village and to emphasise whatever looks or is understood as a Jewish ancient site or find.”  Israeli human rights group B’Tselem states that the site of the ‘City of David’ has been overseen by El-Ad (acronym for ‘To the City of David’ in Hebrew), an Israeli NGO. It is the only national park in Israel to be run by an organisation whose purpose is to foster ‘a particular ideology’. El-Ad manages the visitor centre of the ‘City of David’ and funds excavations in the Wadi Hilweh neighbourhood. Moreover, it is also involved in relocating Jewish settlers by procuring houses and land in Silwan, with the target of “strengthening the Jewish bond to Jerusalem”. Since the 1990s, El-Ad and other organisations have succeeded in placing more than 60 Jewish settler families in Silwan, according to B’Tselem. “About 50 homes are affected to various degree due to the excavations. They don’t dig under [the settlers’] houses, only Arab ones. They want to make a complex and tunnels below,” says Jehan. Nihad Siyam, who works at the Silwan-based Wadi Hilweh Information Centre, was able to get hold of the blueprints of the tunnels underneath the houses which showed the Israeli occupation authorities’ aim to build commercial facilities, an information centre, large halls and exhibitions beneath Wadi Hilweh. “They have been digging for 4 or 5 years but the cracks started appearing about 1 year ago. We can hear drilling from morning till night. The floor and walls vibrate, my children can’t concentrate and study,” said Hamid Aweidah, Jehan’s husband.
However, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the Israel Antiquities Authority said it had no information linking the house to the excavations. A petition by local residents trying to prove a direct link between the excavations and the damage caused to their homes was rejected by the High Court. Fearing that the 80-year-old house which he inherited from his grandfather may sink or collapse anytime, Hamid and his family could feel the ground shaking as horizontal tunnels are being dug under his property.  With a premonition that the house will face imminent collapse, the Aweidah family acted on the advice of neighbours who faced similar problems. The police and engineering experts were summoned to examine the conditions of the house. The authorities inspected and deemed the house too unsafe to live in. The Aweidah family has been issued with a letter to evacuate the house. They were told to move out by the beginning of May….

Opinion: Why I won’t fly the Israeli flag on Independence Day / Gideon Levy
Haaretz 30 Apr — Since it began flying in the territories, it has become the flag of apartheid. This is the flag you want me to fly? How can I? — No, Alon Idan, this time I can’t follow your advice and “hold my nose and fly the flag” (Haaretz Hebrew, April 28). I simply can’t. It’s not only that this flag has been contaminated beyond recognition over the past 50 years of occupation. It’s just not my flag anymore. Not that I have another flag. I don’t. But I am no longer capable of identifying with the flag my father would take out of storage every year and excitedly hang from the balcony of our house, as I proudly looked on from the street. Since then, the pride has turned to shame and the identification to guilt. The list in your article, Alon, was beautiful and moving – and I always pay heed to your advice as an editor. But this time I have to reject your words when you write: “Yes, fly the flag, on your car, on the window of your house, anywhere you can.” I no longer can. It is not possible to fly the flag because it symbolizes bad things that are not moral to display. It is the flag that is flown in the middle of the square at the junction near the Gush Etzion settlement bloc. Why is it there? After all, that’s not inside the sovereign territory of the State of Israel. It’s just to irk the thousands of Palestinians who pass the site, and to satisfy the settlers’ intoxication with power and lust for land. And why does it fly at Israeli army checkpoints, too? How does a country dare fly its flag in a foreign land without permission? This is the flag the settlers wrap themselves in when they set out to run rampant against their Palestinian neighborsThis is the flag on the jeeps of the Israeli army and the Border Police en route to another “arrest operation” in the middle of the night – which is actually nothing but the violent and arbitrary abduction of thousands of citizens from their beds, without any legal basisThis land is binational and the flag needs to be for both peoples. When that happens, Alon, I will proudly fly it. I won’t even have to hold my nose.

Haaretz Editorial: This is how Israel inflates its Jewish majority
30 Apr — Israeli stats bureau’s annual population report is a ludicrous piece of propaganda that includes settlers but not all Palestinians under Israeli control — Every year before Independence Day, the Central Bureau of Statistics releases a festive report starting with Israel’s population figures and moving on to various demographic and economic metrics showing the state’s development and achievements. This year the bureau counted 8.68 million people in Israel, 74.7 percent of them Jewish, 20.8 percent Arab and the rest “other” (mainly non-Arab Christians). This is the numerical manifestation of Zionism’s success in establishing a state with a solid Jewish majority, appearing in an official publication of an authorized professional agency. But the Central Bureau of Statistics’ announcement is misleading and includes many imprecisions and manipulations that turn it from a dry statistical report into a ludicrous piece of propaganda.
Let’s begin with Israel’s number of inhabitants. The bureau counts the Jews in all areas under its control from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. But it counts only the Arabs living within the pre-1967 border, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. Millions of Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are left out. Thus Jewish settlers in Hebron are “residents of Israel” and included in the count, while their Palestinian neighbors are not. The problem isn’t that the bureau doesn’t know how many Palestinians are living in the territories. Israel controls the Palestinian Authority population registry in the West Bank and even that of the Gaza Strip. Every birth, trip, marriage, divorce or death of Palestinians in the territories is reported to the Israeli authorities. Full figures can be published for the population under direct and indirect control of Israel, a population that pays with the same shekels and is connected to the same infrastructure. But then the Jewish majority would shrink amazingly, raining on the Independence Day parade. The artifice grows when the Central Bureau of Statistics describes the area of the 69-year-old state. The map in the official announcement shows Israel with the Golan Heights, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, without internal borders such as the pre-1967 border, the Oslo Accord lines or the Gaza disengagement lines – the whole Eretz Yisrael. But the area of the state as cited by the report – 22,072 square kilometers – doesn’t include the West Bank and Gaza. So are these areas part of Israel or aren’t they? Are the settlers included in the national statistics and the land of the settlements isn’t? Do the settlers live in the air?
This distortion of figures isn’t a new trick…. (listserv) (archive)

About Kate

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

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