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Israel to seal off West Bank and Gaza for 11 days during Jewish holiday

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Collective punishment / Closures

Israel set to put West Bank, Gaza under 11-day closure for Sukkot
Times of Israel 1 Oct by Judah Ari Gross —  In a rare move, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman approved a plan to shut off the West Bank and Gaza Strip for 11 days for the Sukkot holiday and the following Shabbat, his office said Sunday. An IDF spokesperson confirmed that this was the current decision. However, she stressed that the closure was subject to further assessments ahead of the holiday and could change. Closures for Jewish and Israeli holidays are a routine procedure. However, in the past, Israel has shut down the West Bank and Gaza only at the start and end of week-long festivals like Sukkot, rather than for the entire holiday. As the holiday ends on the evening of October 11 — a Wednesday — the closure is scheduled to last through the weekend, until midnight on October 14, for a total of 11 days. Channel 2 news reported that Liberman’s decision went against a recommendation by the army and was due to pressure by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, following the deadly stabbing attack at the Har Adar settlement last week in which a Palestinian terrorist shot and killed three security officers and wounded a fourth. The defense minister’s office dismissed the unsourced report as “nonsense,” and the army similarly denied the claim … A similar closure was imposed on Friday and Saturday for Yom Kippur and last week, for Rosh Hashanah.

‘Collective punishment’ enacted on West Bank Palestinians for 6th day running
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 1 Oct — Israeli forces imposed a general closure on a cluster of villages in the central occupied West Bank northwest of Jerusalem for the sixth consecutive day on Sunday, in what Israeli human rights group B’Tselem denounced as an act of “collective punishment” on tens of thousands of innocent Palestinians. Locals have been largely trapped inside the villages as a result of military roadblocks and strict security checks since Sept. 26, when 37-year-old Nimr Jamal from Beit Surik carried out a shooting attack outside of the adjacent illegal Har Adar settlement, leaving an Israeli border police officer and two Israeli security guards killed. The Israeli army said only “humanitarian cases” would be allowed passage in and out of Beit Surik, Biddu, and up to nine other neighboring localities. On Sunday, locals told Ma‘an that the area had been turned into an “open-air prison,” and “threatened to trigger a humanitarian catastrophe” as the entry of food supplies to these villages has been impeded.
B’Tselem emphasized that the Israeli military sealed off all entries and exits in Beit Surik itself, where soldiers have also taken over seven rooftops, kicking residents out. In Biddu, Israeli forces took over eight rooftops having turned out the residents. Several other homes have been raided and in some cases property has been destroyed. Raids in Beit Surik and Bidda have sparked clashes, with Israeli forces violently suppressing protesters with live bullets, rubber-coated steel bullets, and tear gas, forcing schools in both villages to shut down, according to B’Tselem. The siege has also caused severe gridlock in the area, as long lines of cars pile up behind checkpoints and crowd through detour routes. At at least one roadblock near Biddu and another at the entrance to Beit Anan, Israeli soldiers started denying passage to anyone under 40 years old, and anyone who is not a resident.

‘It’s an injustice’: Life after Israeli demolitions
RAMALLAH, Occupied West Bank (Al Jazeera) 29 Sept by Jaclynn Ashly Hassan Ankush leaned on his cane as he limped through the charred rubble of the home he lived in for four decades in the village of Deir Abu Mashaal. “Killing my son was not enough for the Israelis,” he told Al Jazeera. “They had to come and destroy my home, too.” Like other Palestinian families whose relatives committed attacks or alleged attacks against Israelis, Ankush is not accused of any wrongdoing. He is among the latest victims of Israel’s widely condemned policy of punishing families of Palestinian assailants by demolishing their homes. According to Israeli rights group B’Tselem, thousands of Palestinians have been displaced by home demolitions. The Israeli government claims the goal is deterrence, but B’Tselem spokesman Amit Gilutz describes it as a form of “collective punishment” and a blatant violation of international law. ‘Nothing else they can do to hurt us’  Ankush recalls the day he learned of his 18-year-old son’s death during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. … On June 16, Adel, along with two other youths from Deir Abu Mashaal – Osama Atta, 19, and Baraa Atta, 18 – carried out an attack around the Old City in occupied East Jerusalem, fatally stabbing Hadas Malka, a 23-year-old Israeli police officer. All three were shot dead by Israeli forces at the scene. Ankush learned all of this from the local news. The Israelis have not provided any information to him personally. “The only official information provided to me was Israeli forces raiding my home and handing me a notification declaring that my house would be demolished.” Ankush’s home housed six people, including Adel’s 11-year-old sister, Maisa. Even before the demolition, it was hard for the family to make ends meet. Now, they must rent a house in the village. Ankush is still recovering from a stroke that paralysed him four years ago, so it is up to his wife to support the family….

Violence / Detentions — West Bank / Jerusalem

Clashes erupt as Israeli forces escort hundreds of settlers to pray at Joseph’s Tomb
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 28 Sept — Clashes erupted Wednesday night near Joseph’s Tomb in the northern occupied West Bank city of Nablus between Palestinian youths and Israeli forces, who were escorting hundreds of Israeli settlers to the area to perform religious rituals. According to locals, Israeli forces fired bullets, tear-gas and stun grenades at the youth who threw rocks and Molotov cocktails. The Israeli army said in a statement that security forces were “providing security to 1500 Israeli settlers at the Joseph’s Tomb area.” Israeli settlers frequently visit Joseph’s Tomb under the protection of Israeli forces. During the visits, Israeli forces regularly raid Palestinian villages in the area and fire tear gas canisters into the nearby Balata refugee camp. Joseph’s Tomb is revered by Jews, Muslims, Christians, and Samaritans alike. The Israeli military allows Jews to visit as part of organized pilgrimages, despite the site being located in Area A where the Palestinian Authority (PA) has full control, and prohibits Muslims from worshiping at the site….

Israeli forces detain several Palestinians in overnight West Bank raids
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 28 Sept — Several Palestinians were detained by Israeli forces in predawn raids Thursday across the occupied West Bank, according to Palestinian and Israeli sources. Official Palestinian Authority (PA) Wafa news agency reported that Israeli forces detained at least four Palestinians in predawn raids, identifying one detainee as Rami Jamal from the Jerusalem-area village of Beit Surik. According to Wafa, Jamal is a relative of 37-year-old Nimr Mahmoud Ahmed Jamal, who was shot dead by Israeli forces after he carried out a shooting attack at the entrance of the illegal Israeli settlement of Har Adar, located adjacent to Beit Surik. It remained unclear exactly how the two were related. Other members of the Jamal family have also been detained since Nimr carried out a shooting the attack Tuesday that left an Israeli border police officer and two security guards killed, before he was shot dead. Israeli forces said in a statement Thursday that two guns and 50 “illegal vehicles” were also confiscated from Beit Surik during the raid, and that “slogans against Israel” were removed off walls of houses. More Israeli work permits of Jamal’s extended family were also revoked.
An Israeli army spokesperson confirmed the detention in Beit Surik, and told Ma’an that three Palestinians were detained from the northern West Bank Qalqiliya area, though they did not specify from which town or village. Meanwhile, in the Ramallah-area village of Budrus, Wafa reported that Israeli forces detained three Palestinians, including a journalist. Their identities remained unknown. Israeli forces detained 522 Palestinians, including 130 minors and 16 women, over the course of the month of August, according to a joint report released Palestinian institutions focusing on prisoners’ rights.

Palestinians reportedly open fire on Beit El settlement
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 29 Sept — Armed Palestinians reportedly opened live fire at Israeli settler houses in the illegal Beit El settlement, next to Ramallah city in the central occupied West Bank on Thursday evening. Locals told Ma‘an that the shooting continued for several minutes, with no response from the Israeli army. Shortly after the shooting, Israeli forces fired flares and searched the area for the source of fire. Israeli forces then deployed across the settlement as Israeli ambulances and police arrived in the area. Israeli army vehicles also deployed on the main road connecting Ramallah with the northern West bank city of Nablus.

Israeli forces detain 21 Palestinians in West Bank raids
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 29 Sept — Israeli forces detained at least 21 Palestinians during raids in the occupied West Bank between Thursday evening and Friday morning, according to local Palestinian sources …  In the northern West Bank district of Jenin, locals told Ma‘an that Israeli forces detained 14 Palestinians from the Yaabad town, including an unspecified number of minors … In the southern West Bank Bethlehem district, Israeli forces detained three Palestinians identified as Mustafa Salim Abu Aker, 17, from the ‘Aida refugee camp, and Iyad Mahmoud Taqatqa, 32 and Wajdi Kamal Thawabteh, 27, from the Beit Fajjar town.
Meanwhile in the Hebron-area town of al-Shuyoukh, Israeli forces delivered interrogation summons to two brothers that locals identified as Qassam and Majd Moussa Halayqa….

Israeli forces detain Palestinian, threaten journalists at gunpoint in Hebron clashes
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 29 Sept– Clashes erupted between Palestinian youths and Israeli forces on Friday in the southern occupied West Bank city of Hebron, as journalists reported being threatened at gunpoint by Israeli forces. Locals told Ma‘an that clashes erupted in the Bab al-Zawiya area in the center of the city, with Israeli forces firing tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets at Palestinians who threw rocks at the military checkpoint at the entrance of al-Shuhada street. Israeli forces detained an unidentified Palestinian “youth,” according to sources. Meanwhile, journalists covering the clashes told Ma‘an that Israeli forces forced them to leave the area at gunpoint.

43 Israeli violations against Palestinian journalists for September 2017
IMEMC/Agencies 1 Oct —  The Palestinian Ministry of Information (MOI) has documented a number of Israeli violations in an ongoing systematic escalation against Palestinian journalists, perpetrated in an attempt to whitewash Israeli crimes against the Palestinians. In a report issued by the Mentoring and Follow-up Unit in the ministry, it mentioned that 43 violations committed by Israeli occupation forces during September of 2017, including direct target, detention, interrogation, shooting and preventing them from covering events. Israeli forces abducted four journalists while they were working. According to Al Ray, they are identified as follows: Ragheed Tabeesah, Abdulrahman Awad, Alaa’ Badarnah, and Mohammed Awad. Another four journalists were detained, including Kayd Hussein, Hazem Badr, Essam Rimawi, and Talal Abu Rahma. Israeli forces also interrogated three others, known as Dawod Afana, Mohammed Batari, and Ahmed Jalajel. The report also recorded one case of extended detention for Ragheed Tabeesah, three others of actual judgments, and three of postponed trial for several times. Eight correspondents were beaten and suffocated with toxic gas as they were banned from covering newsworthy events. Israeli soldiers broke into the homes of five journalists and ransacked their belongings. They also confiscated two homes and imposed fines. Forces prevented two press crews from covering events and protests, while threatening and abusing three other journalists; moreover, Al-Jazeera’s Jerusalem office was closed, their permits withdrawn.

Israeli forces detain 2 Palestinians for allegedly planting explosive near settlement
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 30 Sept — Israeli forces reportedly detained two Palestinian youths near the Gush Etzion junction south of Bethlehem in the southern occupied West Bank on Friday, according to local sources. Ynet news reported that Israeli forces stopped a “terrorist cell” that placed an explosive device on a road near the settlement of Migdal Oz in Gush Etzion. Israeli army forces reportedly transferred the two Palestinians to Israeli intelligence for questioning.

Attacking Israelis seen as way out for troubled Palestinians
HAR ADAR, West Bank (AP) 28 Sept by Aron Heller — For years, Palestinian laborer Nimr Jamal would make the short daily commute from his West Bank village to a nearby settlement, where he was known as a conscientious worker who earned the trust of local residents, some of whom he even befriended and invited to his wedding. Then on Tuesday, he pulled out a gun at the back entrance to Har Adar, killed three security men and seriously wounded another before he was shot dead himself. While Israeli and Palestinian officials traded blame for the shooting, the motive appears to be more pedestrian: Jamal was despondent over his broken marriage and apparently on a suicide mission. Israeli and Palestinian experts say there have been dozens of similar cases throughout a two-year spate of violence in which suicidal Palestinians plagued by emotional and psychological issues carried out deadly attacks that retroactively were cloaked in nationalism. Out of some 400 Palestinian attacks tracked by Israel since September 2015, about 18 percent of assailants were driven by personal issues, according to Israel’s Shin Bet security agency. Roughly two-thirds of the cases were ideologically motivated, and 15 percent were driven by unknown factors, the agency said. A Shin Bet official said despondent attackers have included the mentally ill, victims of domestic violence, people with economic hardships and women who had “dishonored the family” with sexual indiscretions. The official spoke on condition of anonymity under Shin Bet procedures….

Israeli soldiers, interrogators ‘torture’ Palestinian minor from ‘Aida refugee camp
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 1 Oct — Israeli forces have “tortured and humiliated” a Palestinian child during his arrest and detention in Israel’s Ofer prison, according to lawyer from the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs Luay Akka. Akka reported in a statement Sunday that 14-year-old Suleiman Salem al-Dibs was detained from his home in ‘Aida refugee camp in the southern occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem on Sep. 18. Israeli forces stormed the boy’s home at 3 a.m., damaging the family’s property. Soldier took Suleiman outside of the house, slammed him against a wall and assaulted him, and put him in tight handcuffs, Akka said. According to the report, Israeli interrogators continued to beat the boy, shouting at him and threatening to arrest his father and mother. Suleiman told Akka that he suffered wounds in his face and mouth and was not provided treatment despite his severe pain. The report came after the Lajee Center, a community organization in Aida refugee camp, said on Sep. 26 that Israeli forces detained three children from the camp: 15-year-old Omar Radi, Mustafa Hammad, and Mohammed Awis.
Meanwhile, the same day Suleiman was detained, an Israeli military court filed charges against three Palestinian minors from Aida a month after they were detained for allegedly throwing Molotov cocktails and stones at Israeli forces stationed at Rachel’s Tomb, which is located next to an Israeli military base at the edge of ‘Aida refugee camp in the southern occupied West Bank district of Bethlehem….

Under fire in ‘Aida refugee camp
BETHLEHEM (Defense for Children International-Palestine) 29 Sept — Sandwiched between Bethlehem’s ‘Aida refugee camp and an Israeli military base, the Lajee Center offers a kaleidoscope of play structures and an apparent reprieve from its hard surroundings. But 14-year-old camp resident Leith Hammad told Defense for Children International – Palestine that Israeli military violence in this central West Bank refugee camp is perpetual. Keeping the play space safe is impossible. Last year, Leith was standing outside of Lajee when Israeli soldiers shot a rubber-coated metal bullet, lightly injuring his waist. “During violent clashes in the area, there was random shooting. I was near the center to see what was happening,” Leith told DCIP. His back was turned from the soldiers when they opened fire from a nearby military post that adjoins the Israeli-fortified historical site of Rachel’s Tomb and overlooks the camp. “I saw people suffocating on the street, in the playground, and in the garden,” Leith said. “Mostly children,” he explained, “due to the heavy firing of tear gas.” Lajee center staff eventually installed netting above their soccer field because soldiers routinely fire tear gas canisters into the area. Shaatha al-Azza has worked at the center for over five years. She told DCIP that the center is raided by soldiers who often detain or assault children. She added that many families stopped taking their children to Lajee out of fear of being targeted by the military.

Weekly report on Israeli human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territory (20-27 Sept)
PCHR-Gaza 28 Sept — An armed Palestinian was killed at the entrance to “Har Adar” settlement, northwest of Jerusalem.  A Palestinian civilian wounded during Kafer Qaddoum weekly protest, northeast of Qalqiliya. Israeli forces conducted 85 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank and a limited one into the Southern Gaza Strip. 75 civilians, including 12 children and 3 journalists, were arrested in the West Bank. Israeli forces continued to apply the collective punishment policy  Villages of Northwest Jerusalem were declared as a closed military zone, and 60,000 Palestinians were besieged inside. Israeli forces continued settlement activities in the West Bank Israeli forces demolished a workshop for stone manufacturing. Israeli forces demolished a car wash and 2 barracks for grazing sheep in Deir Ballout village, west of Salfit. Israeli forces continued to target the Palestinian fishermen in the Gaza Strip Sea. 7 Shooting incidents were documented against Palestinian fishing boats in the northern Gaza Strip. No casualties were reported. Israeli forces turned the West Bank into cantons and continued to impose the illegal closure on the Gaza Strip for the 10 year. Dozens of temporary checkpoints were established in the West Bank and others were re-established to obstruct the movement of Palestinian civilians. 6 Palestinian civilians, including a girl, were arrested at the checkpoints in the West Bank. [details follow]


Palestinian prime minister crosses into Gaza in major step toward reconciliation with Hamas
Haaretz 2 Oct by Reuters and Jack Khoury — Hundreds of Palestinians gathered outside the Hamas-controlled checkpoint, down the road from Israel’s Erez border crossing through which Rami Hamdallah and his delegation passed, to welcome the prime minister — The West Bank-based Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas crossed into the Gaza Strip on Monday in a major move toward reconciliation between Hamas and the mainstream Fatah party, a decade after the Islamist group seized the territory in a civil war. Hamas announced last week that it was handing over administrative control of the Gaza Strip to a unity government headed by Rami Hamdallah, but the movement’s armed wing remains the dominant power in the enclave of two million people. Hamas’s reversal was the most significant step towards elusive Palestinian unity since the government was formed in 2014. It failed to function in Gaza because of disputes between Hamas and Fatah over its responsibilities.  Analysts said narrowing internal divisions could help Western-backed Abbas counter Israel’s argument that it has no negotiating partner for peace. A Hamas police honor guard and hundreds of Palestinians, many of them waving Palestinian flags, welcomed Hamdallah outside the Hamas-controlled checkpoint, down the road from Israel’s Erez border crossing through which the prime minister and his delegation passed. Among them were also members of the Egyptian government’s security delegation, in Gaza to supervise the transfer of power within the government offices. Hamdallah is set to meet with Hamas political bureau chief Ismail Haniyeh and other senior members of the organization today. Around the strip, Egyptian flags are being flown for the first time in 6 years and the image of Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi has been plastered in Gaza streets in recognition of Egyptian efforts to achieve Palestinian reconciliation….

PA, Egyptian officials make their way to Gaza ahead of reconciliation talks
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 1 Oct — Officials from the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority (PA) started making their way to the Gaza Strip via the Israeli controlled Erez border crossing on Sunday, to pave the way for Hamas to hand over its control over the territory to the Ramallah-based government. An Egyptian security delegation headed by Hazem Khairat, Egypt’s ambassador to Israel, also arrived in the besieged coastal enclave through Erez on Sunday afternoon, to monitor the reconciliation process. The delegation was later received by Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh. PA Minister of Culture Ehab Bseiso, a native of Gaza, crossed into the territory with his team Sunday afternoon. Before he was sworn in as minister in December 2015, Bseiso served as a Ramallah-based PA spokesperson …
Spokesman for Gaza’s interior ministry Iyad Buzm said in a statement the Hamas-run security services in Gaza completed procedures to secure the arrival of PA ministers and their delegations, the majority expected to arrive on Monday — their numbers expected to reach in the hundreds. “We are looking forward to turn the page on (the political) division and achieve comprehensive national reconciliation that enhances the steadfastness of our people and preserves their rights,” he said.
The Hamas-led interior ministry also said it released five “security detainees” on Sunday as a gesture toward reconciliation. Buzm identified the five detainees as Shadi Mahdi Abu Obeid, Fadi Salah Masleh, Taher Ali Abu Armana, Muhammad Nasr al-Kharaz, and Ibrahim Ismail Matar, and say they had been detained over “issues related to acting against internal security.”
On Tuesday, Hamdallah is scheduled to head the PA’s weekly cabinet meeting in the enclave, and after the visit,delegations will head to Cairo to continue reconciliation discussions.
According to reports, PA security officials, including the presidential guard — which is expected to take responsibility for managing Gaza’s border checkpoints with Israel and Egypt according to the potential reconciliation accord — have also arrived in Gaza.
Saturday evening, Haniyeh released an official statement saying that, “The reconciliation is a will and a decision, to prevent Israel from swallowing up the West Bank and continuing its siege of the Gaza Strip.”  According to a translation of the statement from Israeli newspaper The Jerusalem Post, Haniyeh said, “We understand that the inner-Palestinian reconciliation process could be long, because of the setbacks along the way, and the fact that there are many issues that require brave decisions, but we are certain that we have started tearing down the wall of separation. We are in a situation of national, regional, and international changes in addition to the strong Egyptian backing which supports the end of the rift.”

Israeli naval forces open fire on Gaza fishermen
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 30 Sept — Israeli naval forces opened fire at Palestinian fishing boats off the coast of Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip on Saturday morning. Locals told Ma‘an that Israeli forces targeted the fishermen for no reason. No injuries were reported.

Palestinians determined to flee Gaza despite migration risks
TOULOUSE, France (Al-Monitor) 28 Sept by Asmaa al-Ghoul — When the most recent war on Gaza broke out in 2014, 24-year-old Mohammad Youssef fled to the Netherlands. Since he arrived in Europe by boat, he has been refused asylum twice. But he has no intention of returning to the “prison” of Gaza. Hamas dismantled its administrative body on Sept. 17, and despite the positive atmosphere surrounding the reconciliation talks, uncertainty continues to plague the city. More than a decade into the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip and after three bloody wars, a large proportion of Palestinians are opting for migration. There are no official figures on the number of Palestinians leaving Gaza, but there is no sign of the wave slowing. During informal visits and conversations with people living in these camps in Europe, I have noted that a large number of Palestinians have applied for asylum in foreign countries such as Belgium and Sweden. It seems Gazans are now competing with Syrian refugees in search of a better future in refugee camps in Europe and Canada. The Times of Israel reported in January that the number of asylum applications from the West Bank and Gaza to Canada has skyrocketed from 50 in 2010 to 242 during the first nine months of 2016, according to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada….

Blockade on dreams: Gazan students barred from starting university abroad
Albawaba 30 Sept by Razan Shamallakh — …Ibrahim Sharaf is due to continue his fourth year at the University of Glasgow, where he has a scholarship, but now fears he may not be able to leave Gaza in time for the start of term. The 20-year-old was thrilled to be accepted for a funded place on the exchange programme, beginning 29 September. “I was accepted on 19 July 2017, and the deadline for arrival is today, but I’m still here,” he told The New Arab. “The past few days I have asked myself whether or not my dream will come true. The only way to leave Gaza is via the Rafah crossing. However, it seems that this route is impossible for everyone. In the past six months, the Rafah crossing has opened for only four days. The alternative route is through the Erez crossing, however exit through this route is restricted and exit permits are impossible to secure. “The past few months have been extremely stressful. Each day I become more anxious and more frustrated because there is nothing I can do; it is completely out of my hands.” According to Gisha, an Israeli not-for-profit organisation which fights for the freedom of movement of Palestinians, since January 2017, 362 Gazans who have secured places at colleges and universities abroad have applied to leave the Strip. Of these, 73 have been granted permission, while seven were outright refused, 50 were either returned to Gaza or placed under review – and 232 applicants are still waiting for a decision to be made….

Israel permits Gaza student exit visa to study in UK after media pressure
MEMO 29 Sept — A Palestinian student has been permitted to leave the besieged Gaza Strip to study at a British university after complaining to the media of how Israel was failing to grant him his visa on time. Mohammed Awad, 28, was overjoyed to be accepted as a fully funded student for the MA in Multilingualism, Linguistics, & Education at Goldsmiths, University of London, but had his travel documentation indefinitely delayed by Israel. However, after complaining to various media outlets including the Independent, Awad revealed that Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) messaged him on Facebook informing him that he would be allowed to exit next Tuesday. The message also alleged that Awad distributed “untrue information in the foreign press” and implied that such actions could “make it difficult” in the future.

Gaza activists decry rise in torture within prisons
Al-Monitor 1 Oct by Mohammed Othman — The number of victims of torture in Hamas-controlled prisons and detention centers in the Gaza Strip has increased significantly in recent months based on reports by Palestinian human rights centers. Torture has become a key method of interrogating detainees in the majority of cases. Mohammed Sufian al-Qassas, 30, a resident of Khan Yunis, was arrested on Sept. 18 by three officers of the intelligence services inside his internet cafe, claiming they had received complaints that some of his clients were “insulting God.” His uncle, Mohammed Yahya al-Qassas, told Al-Monitor that the officers attacked him severely before his arrest. “They started beating him up using their guns and sticks ever since they got ahold of him in the cafe until they arrived at the headquarters of the intelligence agency. When they took him in, they brutally assaulted him all over until blood came out of his mouth, nose and ears. His face got all swollen and he ended up with some broken ribs, a dislocated shoulder and a smashed foot. They then held his head over a toilet seat and poured burning hot water all over his face,” he said …
Said Seyam, the minister of interior in the government formed by Hamas after winning the 2006 legislative elections, announced on April 20, 2006, the opening of a new position for general inspector of the Ministry of Interior to monitor the work of the government security services. Speaking to Al-Monitor, the general inspector, Mohammad Lafi, said that they formed committees to investigate all recent incidents that led to injuries and deaths among the detainees, stressing that the results of the investigation are binding … Lafi believes that, to date, the committees have not proved any deliberate killings, describing the illegal violations committed by some officers as “undeliberate and reflecting wrong judgment in the field.”

Court actions

Israeli sentenced to 8 years for setting ‘Loaves and Fishes’ church on fire
IMEMC 29 Sept by Celine Hagbard — An Israeli court sentenced Yinon Reuveni, 22 to eight years imprisonment for the arson targeting the Church of Loaves and Fishes near Tiberias two years ago. His lawyer said that he intends to appeal the sentence, and claimed that the proof of Yinon’s involvement was insufficient. The lawyer also accused the court that convicted him of making mistakes and ignoring evidence presented by the defense. Yinon was arrested and charged with arson in July of this year, while another Israeli extremist was acquitted of all charges in the burning of the church. The church was burned in June of 2015 in a blatant act of anti-Christian aggression. In addition to the fire, which destroyed several church buildings, the perpetrators painted anti-Arab and anti-Christian graffiti on walls throughout the church grounds. The Catholic Church recently celebrated the reopening of the church, earlier this year. The fire, which was set in the middle of the night in June of 2015, wounded two church members and completely destroyed one of the buildings on the site. Hebrew graffiti was found on another building within the complex, reading ‘Idols will be cast out’ or destroyed, AFP correspondents reported at the time. The text is part of a common Jewish prayer….

Police arrest 5 in prison phone smuggling ring
JPost 2 Oct by Daniel K. Eisenbud — Five Israeli and Palestinian employees of a prison supplies company accused of smuggling cell phones and SIM cards to Arab inmates at prisons throughout the country were arrested Sunday. An investigation into the smuggling was launched by police in coordination with Prison Services in August, after prison officials first found smartphones hidden in food supplies at Ofer Prison. “During the course of the investigation, Israel Police investigators uncovered a systematic scheme in which the company’s employees smuggled cell phones inside the canteen’s goods, which were transferred from the company’s warehouses in the Shfela region to prisons across the country,” police said in a Sunday statement. According to police, the canteen company employees received NIS 8,000 to smuggle a regular cell phone, and up to NIS 15,000 to smuggle a smartphone….

Israel arrests 3 Palestinians in Umm al-Fahm over alleged plans to carry out attack
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 30 Sept — Israeli media reported on Thursday that Israeli intelligence authorities had arrested three Palestinian citizens of Israel from the northern Israeli town of Umm al-Fahm, the hometown of three Palestinians who were killed in July after they carried out a deadly shooting attack in July that left two Israeli police officers dead. Ynet news and Arutz Sheva reported that the suspects were “supporters of the ISIS terrorist organization and plotted terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens.” The detainees were identified as Saeed Ghasoub Mahmoud Jabarin, 26, an unidentified 16-year-old, and Faras Salah Mahmoud Mahajna, 24. According to the reports, Jabarin — apparently related to the three Jabarin family members that were killed in July — and the 16-year-old were arrested on charges of planning to carry out an attack at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, similar to the one in July. “During the arrests and interrogation, two pistols and ammunition were seized, which were supposed to serve both suspects in carrying out the attack,” reports said, citing Israeli intelligence officials. Meanwhile, Mahajna was reportedly arrested for supporting ISIS and illegal weapons possession, after an automatic rifle was found in his home. “Following the arrest and interrogation of the three suspects, additional suspects were arrested in the Umm al-Fahm area, who were involved in the trafficking of weapons. During the arrest more illegal weapons were seized,” reports said.

Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Settlements

Despite police restrictions, MKs tour east Jerusalem
Jpost 1 Oct by Udi Shaham — Despite restrictions imposed by the Israel Police, a group of center-left MKs toured east Jerusalem on Sunday, after a bill was submitted by Yoel Hasson (Zionist Union) to hand over control of some of its neighborhoods to the Palestinian Authority … Hasson’s bill suggests making all Palestinian neighborhoods of east Jerusalem that were under Jordanian control before 1967 – except the Old City and the six neighborhoods of the Holy Basin – part of area B, meaning they would be under Palestinian civil control and Israeli military control. According to Hasson, these neighborhoods are not really part of Jerusalem, and maintaining control of them presents risk to Israel and to the character of the capital. “When we were so happy to reunite Jerusalem in 1967, it was the because of the reunification of Israeli west Jerusalem and Jordanian east Jerusalem, and that was the real Jerusalem,” he said. “What happened next is that they added other Palestinian villages [inside Jerusalem’s municipal border] that were considered a part of the West Bank, like ‘Issawiya, Jebl Mukaber and Shuafat. And this addition wasn’t real [part of Jerusalem]. They never assimilated them and never made these neighborhoods like other Jerusalem neighborhoods.” “This move made Jerusalem an unstable city from the security perspective, a city that is really hard to protect,” Hasson added. “It also made it a city with a demographic danger – it is almost a binational city, and I believe that it is the prelude to Israel’s future if we won’t achieve a permanent solution with the Palestinians.” Under the bill, some 230,000 Arabs now living in Jerusalem would live under PA control, leaving 100,000 under Israeli control. Hasson stresses that these residents’ right to visit their holy places would not be harmed and that economic relations between east and west Jerusalem would be preserved … Hasson rejected the claims that by this bill he wants to divide Jerusalem, and said that keeping these neighborhoods is the real cause of division….

Palestinian shepherd: ‘There’s a sorrow in my heart’
SALEM, Occupied West Bank (Al Jazeera) 29 Sept by Mersiha Gadzo — Muhammad’s sheep have been eating each other’s wool out of frustration and misery. Their pasture is just across the road and beyond the hills of al-Jabal al-Kbir (The Big Mountain), but since their owner is Palestinian, they cannot go anywhere near it. Instead, they spend much of their day cooped up in a pen. They can roam in the near vicinity, but the thorns and thistles here are no substitute for the grass fields across the road. “They want to be outside grazing in the pasture; they’re used to going out every day,” Muhammad, a 40-year-old shepherd who spoke under a pseudonym for fear of reprisal, said sorrowfully. His sheep are suffering, but there’s not much he can do for them. Over the decades, the settlement of Elon Moreh has swallowed thousands of dunums of pasture from the neighbouring villages of Salem, Azmut and Deir al-Hatab, located about 10km east of Nablus. Ninety percent of Muhammad’s land is located across the road, which is accessible only to soldiers and settlers. Most of the time, he said, a local settler prevents Palestinians from going anywhere near their lands. Years ago, the settler established an illegal outpost on their land, where he herds hundreds of his own sheep. Sometimes he shoots at Palestinians with a machine gun; other times he calls upon soldiers to intervene, Muhammad told Al Jazeera. “Even the sheep know when it’s time to run away,” he said. “He’s so crazy. As soon as we see him, we head back. He patrols with his car, too, so we’re always trying to find a place to go where his car can’t reach.” Eight years ago, Muhammad’s cousin and his herd of sheep were killed after being struck by an Israeli bus while attempting to cross the road. Despite such risks, Muhammad still crosses the road from time to time out of necessity. But he has not attempted the crossing since May, knowing that if he loses any of his remaining sheep, he will not be able to feed his family….

Other news

Palestine’s admission to Interpol sparks angry response from Israel
Al-Monitor 1 Oct by Daoud Kuttab —  The success of Palestine in joining Interpol, the world’s leading police network, can best be evaluated by the response of the Israeli government. After the initial stunned silence, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned that the Palestinian action “will not go unanswered.” Palestine achieved the legally needed two-thirds majority to join Interpol by a 75-24 secret vote with 34 members abstaining. During the Sept. 27 meeting of the 192-country organization in Beijing, Palestine became a full member of this international security organization. While Interpol has no specific sovereignty powers over any country, it is famous for its “red alert” information-sharing system in which member countries can alert fellow members of a wanted criminal. Israel fears that this alert system will be used to hound Israeli officials as they travel. Eugene Kontorovich, the head of the international law department at Israeli think tank Kohelet Policy Forum in Jerusalem, said the decision to accept Palestine into Interpol will weaken prospects for future peace because somehow it will strengthen their aspiration for statehood. “Palestinian membership will only solidify their goal of seeking the trappings of statehood without negotiations and concessions,” Kontorovich told the Jewish News Service on Sept. 28. Israel’s Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) raised the rhetoric even further by using military terms when mentioning Palestine. “Israel cannot stand idle in the face of the Palestinians’ diplomatic warfare. We must convene the Cabinet and stop all of our goodwill gestures toward the Palestinian Authority,” Elkin was quoted in the Jerusalem Post on Sept. 28….

Short video: Recycling toxic e-waste in West Bank a toxic but necessary practice
BEIT AWWA, West Bank 1 Oct — In the West Bank, burning and recycling toxic electronic waste supports an entire economy. A Canadian researcher is helping to clean up the mess and make recycling e-waste safer

Statistics Bureau: Palestinian society is considered a young society
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 1 Oct — The Palestinian society is considered a young society; where the percentage of children is high and the percentage of the elderly is relatively low, Sunday said a press release issued by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS). By mid-year 2017, the percentage of the elderly aged 60 and over reached 4.6% of the population in Palestine (5.1% in West Bank and 3.9% in Gaza Strip), said a release issued on the occasion of the International Day of Older Persons, Marked on 1st of October each year. Even though the percentage of the elderly will be increasing during the coming years in Palestine; their percentage will stay relatively low and will not be exceeding 4.6% during the current decade. The elderly percentage may start increasing after year 2020. Palestine has been witnessing an improvement in life expectancy since the beginning of the last two decades, said the release. Life expectancy has increased about 5-8 years during the last two decades. In particular, life expectancy increased for both males and females from 67.0 years in 1992 to 72.3 years for males and 75.4 years for females by the midst of 2017….

Palestine’s relief and rescue mission to the Caribbean has completed its work
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 30 Sept — Foreign and Expatriates Minister Riyad Malki said on Saturday that the Palestinian relief and rescue mission to Dominica has completed its work and will leave the Caribbean island for the Venezuelan capital Caracas before returning home. He said in a statement that the mission has successfully completed 10 days of work in Dominica and delivered a message of solidarity from the Palestinian people and leadership to the people and the leadership of Dominica and the Caribbean. He said that the Caribbean countries hit by hurricanes will have many needs for reconstruction and that Palestinian businessmen can contribute toward the reconstruction efforts and to promote investment and economic cooperation and in these areas….

Palestinian-Syrians travel back to ancestral homeland
Al Jazeera 29 Sept by Tom Rollins —  Thousands of Palestinians from Syria have been displaced to Europe, and some are journeying on towards Palestine [for visits] — A voice speaks over the video as it pans across the Palestinian countryside, the wind audibly blowing over the hills. “I am a Palestinian-Syrian, from the Yarmouk [refugee] camp,” Jamal Rashdan says in the video, filmed this summer. “Thank God, I have returned to Lubia, the land of my ancestors, our land.” It is a moment many Palestinians dream about – return. But the road is often long. A Palestinian refugee born in Syria and the son of a former Fatah party member, Rashdan left Syria when the government conducted a wave of arrests against the Fatah movement in the 1980s, before moving to the Gulf for 10 years and then marrying in Sweden. After receiving Swedish citizenship, Palestine was finally open to Rashdan. He travelled there this summer for the second time and visited his ancestral village of Lubia – one of the hundreds of Palestinian villages erased during the 1948 “Nakba”, or catastrophe, which saw the ethnic cleansing of Palestine and the displacement of around three-quarters of its population. When a sizeable number of Palestinians fled to Syria after the Nakba, the Syrian government issued travel documents for the refugees and their descendants, rather than passports. The documents allowed them to live and work in Syria while maintaining their stateless status.  “[Lubia] was hard to find because it is no longer on a map. There is no one living there because all the homes were demolished and destroyed,” Rashdan told Al Jazeera. “But I visited my roots and felt sorrow to not be able to go back [to how it was]. I met relatives from there for the first time; we ate from the figs and olives. I cannot tell you how beautiful it was….

Palestinians slam US Israel envoy’s ‘ignorance’
Al Jazeera 29 Sept —  The US ambassador in Tel Aviv has angered Palestinians with a comment downplaying Israel’s 50-year occupation of the West Bank, the second such spat in a month. In a video interview with Israeli news site Walla broadcast in full on Friday, Ambassador David Friedman said the Jewish state is “only occupying two percent of the West Bank.” The statement brought an angry response from Palestine Liberation Organization Secretary-General Saeb Erekat. “Israel is internationally recognised as the occupying power over 100 percent of Palestine, including in and around occupied East Jerusalem,” Erekat said. He said Friedman’s latest comment was “not only false and misleading but contradicts international law, United Nations resolutions, and also the historical US position.” “It is not the first time that Mr David Friedman has exploited his position as US ambassador to advocate and validate the Israeli government’s policies of occupation and annexation,” Erekat added. Before becoming ambassador, Friedman was the president of American Friends of Bet El Institutions, an organisation that supports the settlement of the same name that is built on Ramallah lands. Early in September, Friedman caused a stir when in an interview with the Jerusalem Post he referred to the “alleged occupation”….

US distances itself from Israel envoy as his 2% remarks come under fire
PressTV 30 Sept — Outrageous remarks by US ambassador to Israel David M. Friedman about the Israeli occupation has drawn fierce criticism from Palestinians as Washington distances itself from its envoy by tapping Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt to serve as the key American role players in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — …Following the US envoy’s remarks, the US State Department undermined Friedman partly by promoting Trump’s son-in-law. “We have some very effective leaders and representatives for the US government, including Jason Greenblatt and Mr. [Jared] Kushner (pictured below), who are spending an awful lot of time in the region trying to get both sides together to have talks about a lasting existence side by side. The president has made that one of his top priorities,” said the US State Department Heather Nauert. Three weeks earlier, Nauert had been forced to distance herself from Friedman as he had used the term “alleged occupation,” in an interview with Israeli newspaper Jerusalem Post, questioning the act of occupation, some of which is officially recognized by the United States….

US bans Palestinian runner from Chicago Marathon days before race
Mondoweiss 29 Sept by Sheren Khalel — The United States denied entry this week to a well-known marathon runner from the occupied West Bank, shattering the dreams of a young Palestinian seeking to complete the World Marathon Majors series. Mohammad Alqadi, 27, has always loved running, but had little to no opportunities to take his passion to the next level as a young man in the occupied West Bank. Five years ago Alqadi, originally from the Jenin district of the occupied West Bank, moved to France where he applied for and was granted asylum. In France Alqadi was able to begin building a more normal life, free of the constraints of Israel’s occupation … During the past two years, Alqadi has run nine marathons across the world, but his plan was to finish the ultimate series for marathon runners, the World Marathon Majors, which includes the London, Tokyo, New York, Boston, Berlin and Chicago marathons. This year, Alqadi planned to run the Chicago Marathon to raise money for the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund, an American-based NGO founded in 1991 by “concerned people in the U.S.” who want “to address the medical and humanitarian crisis facing Palestinian youths in the Middle East.” Without an American visa half the major marathons are out of the question for Alqadi … Alqadi had a visa interview in August at the US Embassy in France. At the end of the interview he was told he had been approved for a three month visa. Ecstatic at the news, Alqadi booked his flights and hotel stay, but just days before the race was set to begin, he got his passport back from the embassy — no visa was pasted inside, but a letter was attached informing him the embassy had rejected his visa request….

UK university censors title of Holocaust survivor’s speech criticising Israel
Manchester Univ (The Guardian) 29 Sept by Damien Gayle —  Manchester University censored the title of a Holocaust survivor’s criticism of Israel and insisted that her campus talk be recorded, after Israeli diplomats said its billing amounted to antisemitic hate speech. Marika Sherwood, a Jewish survivor of the Budapest ghetto, was due to give a talk in March about Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, headlined: “You’re doing to the Palestinians what the Nazis did to me.” But after a visit by Mark Regev, the Israeli ambassador, and his civil affairs attaché, university officials banned organisers from using the “unduly provocative” title and set out a range of conditions before it could go ahead. Students had booked Sherwood to speak as part of Israeli Apartheid Week, a series of events organised by the university’s student committee of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign…. (listserv) (archive)


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

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