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Palestinian teen in viral arrest photo released on bail following interrogation and torture

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Child who was assaulted and abducted by 23 Israeli soldiers released
IMEMC 28 Dec — The Israeli Authorities released, on Wednesday at dawn, a Palestinian child who was abducted and assaulted by 23 Israeli soldiers earlier this month, and [he] was instantly moved to a hospital for treatment. Media sources in Ramallah said the soldiers released Fawzi Mohammad al-Juneidi, 16, who was held in Ofer military base and detention center, west of the central West Bank city of Ramallah. Fawzi, from the southern West Bank city of Hebron, was rushed to Palestine Medical Complex, in Ramallah, for specialized treatment for a fracture in his shoulder. Al-Juneidi, who was assaulted and abducted on December 7th, told WAFA Palestinian News Agency that, after the soldiers attacked him, he was moved to Etzion military base, north of Hebron, where he spent the night being interrogated and tortured by the soldiers and interrogators. He added that his release came after his family paid a 10.000 Israeli Shekels fine to the Israeli authorities.

‘Battered and Tortured’ Palestinian Teen Released from Israeli Prison (Video)
Albawaba 28 Dec — The young Palestinian said he was badly treated and was exposed to violence by Israeli soldiers. “I was very afraid as they hit me on the head,” he told, describing his painful and bloodstained body. Blindfolded by the soldiers, the boy was taken to a prison “where I do not know,” he said. His lawyer Maamoun al-Hashim, quoting the teen, said he was assaulted by a dozen soldiers, who kept hitting and insulting him while laying on the ground, according to a statement by the Palestinian Prisoners Society on Saturday.“I was tied up by plastic bandages and dragged away blindfolded,” the statement quoted the child as saying. He said he was kept inside a dark room, where he was beaten. “I felt I was going to fall unconscious as a result of torture,” the child was quoted as saying. The Palestinian lawyer also said Al-Juneidi was interrogated while handcuffed. The court set Al-Juneidi’s bail at 10,000 Israeli shekels (roughly $2,860) after prosecutors withdrew an appeal against the teenager’s release, lawyer Arwa Hilehel told Anadolu Agency.

Violence / Detentions — West Bank / Jerusalem

Israeli forces injure 4 Palestinians with live fire during clashes in Hebron area
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 26 Dec — Four Palestinians were reportedly shot and injured with live bullets, while several others suffered from severe tear gas inhalation on Tuesday during clashes with Israeli forces in the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron. Official Palestinian Authority (PA)-owned Wafa news agency reported that clashes erupted in the town of Sair and the al-‘Arroub refugee camp, to the north of Hebron. In al-‘Arroub, Israeli forces reportedly raided the camp, sparking clashes with locals. According to Wafa, forces fired live ammunition at residents, injuring three in the feet. They were transferred to hospital for medical treatment. Their conditions remained unknown. “Forces further attacked residents’ homes with tear gas canisters, causing many to suffocate as a result of tear gas inhalation,” Wafa said.
In the town of Sair, a fourth Palestinian was also shot and injured with live ammunition during clashes. Israeli forces reportedly prevented ambulance crews from providing the injured youth with first aid and from transferring him to a hospital. His condition remained unknown. During the raid on Sair, five Palestinians were detained by Israeli forces.

Soldiers injure many schoolchildren near Jenin
IMEMC 26 Dec — Palestinian medical sources have reported, Tuesday, that many schoolchildren suffered the severe effects of teargas inhalation, after dozens of soldiers invaded Ya‘bad town and stormed the school while firing gas bombs and rubber-coated steel bullets. Media sources in Jenin said the soldiers fired many concussion grenades and gas bombs at the Ezzeddin Al-Qassam School, after invading its yard, while the students were behind their desks during the mid-term exams. They added that dozens of children suffered the effects of teargas inhalation, while many others suffered anxiety attacks, before Red Crescent medics rushed to the school and provided them with the needed treatment. Tareq Alawna, the head of the Education Department in Jenin, said the soldiers have been sporadically carrying out these provocative invasions and violations, and added that the soldiers shot and killed a student, identified as Fuad Turkman, during an invasion into the school seven years ago. Alawna stated that the army deliberately targets the students, and the educational process, in different parts of the occupied West Bank.

Israeli soldiers assault two sanitation workers near Ramallah
IMEMC 25 Dec — Israeli soldiers attacked, on Sunday evening, two Palestinian sanitation workers from the al-Biereh town, in central West Bank, and forced them to lie down in the rain for an extended period. The soldiers stopped a sanitation truck, run by the City Council in al-Biereh, just as it approached garbage dump, forced two sanitation workers out, and assaulted them. The soldiers confiscated the key to the truck, and forced the two workers to lie down in the heavy rain for an extended period, after frequently beating and assaulting them. The two workers were later rushed to the Palestine Medical Complex, in Ramallah, suffering fractures, in addition to many cuts and bruises.

Army abducts a family near Salfit
IMEMC 24 Dec — Israeli soldiers invaded, late on Saturday at night, Hares village, west of Salfit in central West Bank, detained an entire family, and later released the mother and one of her children after forcing them to pay bail, but refused to release the father and two children. Media sources in Salfit said the soldiers abducted Hosni Yousef Sultan, 52, his wife, Mona Sultan, 48, and their children, Ala’, 25, Habib, 21, and Yousef, 14, before talking them to Ariel illegal colony. Hosni’s son, Baha’ Sultan, said the army claimed that Yousef “attempted to destroy a section of the security fence,” and abducted him along with his father, mother and two brothers, He added that the soldiers later released his mother, and his brother ‘Ala, after forcing them to pay a 1700 Shekels fine, and moved the rest to Hadarim prison, awaiting a trial at a military court, Monday

Palestinians foil settler attack on Nablus-area village
IMEMC/Agencies 22 Dec —  Palestinian resdients of the village of Madama, to the south of Nablus, Friday, managed to foil an Israeli settler attack against their town, said a local official. Ghassan Daghlas, who monitors Israeli activities in the north of the occupied West Bank, told WAFA that dozens of Israeli settlers, under the protection of Israeli forces, attacked the village; however, their attack was foiled by the locals. Meanwhile, clashes reportedly broke out between Israeli forces and residents at the southern part of the town. No injuries were reported. In many cases of settler attacks against Palestinians, forces offer protection to settlers and turn a blind eye to attacks committed against locals.

Israeli soldiers shoot six Palestinians as colonists uproot trees
IMEMC 24 Dec — Israeli soldiers shot, on Saturday evening, six Palestinians with live fire and rubber-coated steel bullets, after a group of Palestinians tried to stop fanatic Israeli colonists who invaded their olive orchards and cut at least thirty trees, near the northern West Bank city of Nablus. The incident took place after the colonists invaded Palestinian olive orchards in Madama village, south of Nablus, and cut at least thirty trees, before the locals rushed to the lands and stopped the invaders. Israeli soldiers then rushed to the area, and started firing at the Palestinians, wounding three with live fire, and three others with rubber-coated steel bullets, instead of removing the colonists. Medical sources said the wounded Palestinians were rushed to a hospital in Nablus, suffering mild-to-moderate injuries.
In addition, the soldiers closed many Palestinian roads, in the southern and western parts of Nablus, and stopped dozens of cars, before searching them, and interrogated many Palestinians while inspecting their ID cards. The soldiers installed a roadblock on the main Nablus-Tulkarem road, west of Deir Sharaf town, in addition to another roadblock near Jeet junction, and a third roadblock north of Huwwara town, south of Nablus.


PPS: ‘Israeli soldiers abduct at least 26 Palestinians in the West Bank’
IMEMC 25 Dec —  Israeli soldiers carried out, on Monday at dawn, extensive invasions and violent searches of homes and property, in several parts of the occupied West Bank, including occupied Jerusalem, and abducted at least 26 Palestinians, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS) has reported. Most of the abducted Palestinians are from the northern West Bank governorate of Nablus, especially in Qusra village, and several surrounding communities. The soldiers also abducted at least three Palestinians from the al-‘Isawiya town, in Jerusalem, during extensive and violent searches of homes. Media reports indicate that the number of abducted Palestinians is higher than 26, but the following names have been confirmed. The PPS identified the abducted Palestinians as:….

Seven more suspects arrested in probe of West Bank bar mitzvah attack
Times of Israel 25 Dec — Security forces arrested seven suspects early Monday in the West Bank village of Qusra in connection with a stone-throwing attack on a group of Israeli settlers last month that resulted in a Palestinian man being shot dead by one of the Israelis. Some of the suspects were wanted for involvement in the confrontation with the settlers, while others are accused of taking part in rioting that followed the deadly incident, or for incitement, the IDF said in a statement. At least 20 other suspects have already been arrested in the case. On November 30, a group of several dozen Israeli youths, chaperoned by a pair of fathers, had embarked on a tour of the northern West Bank to celebrate the bar mitzvah of Elitzur Libman. They departed the Migdalim settlement and continued past Qusra, southeast of Nablus. There, dozens of Palestinian residents began throwing rocks at them, according to the group. One of the armed chaperones opened fire, killing 48-year-old Mahmoud Za‘al Odeh. The army said the hikers did not coordinate their trip ahead of time or get permission from the military to enter the area, as required by protocol. The incident significantly raised tensions between settlers and local Palestinians. Last week police said in a statement that an investigation into the clash has so far reinforced the claims of the settlers, who maintain that residents from Qusra launched an attack on them….

Israeli soldiers abduct twelve Palestinians in Jerusalem
IMEMC 26 Dec — Israeli soldiers abducted, on Tuesday at dawn, twelve Palestinians from Silwan and al-‘Isawiya towns,  in occupied Jerusalem, after storming their homes and violently searching them. Dozens of soldiers invaded the two towns, and were extensively deployed in their streets and alleys, before invading many homes and abducting the twelve Palestinians. The abducted Palestinians have been identified as Odai Abu Tayeh, Fuad al-Qaaq, Mohammad Zidani, Mohammad Sarhan, Karim Shiokhy, Hamada Odah, Ahmad Rajabi, Mofeed Abbassi, Mohammad Mousa Abbassi, Mo’men Abbassi, from Silwan. The soldiers also summoned for interrogation two Palestinians, identified as Odai Mohammad Abbassi and Emadeddin Abbassi.  In al-‘Isawiya, the soldiers abducted two Palestinians, identified as Mohammad Abed Darwish and Khaled Mustafa.

A Palestinian teen puts his hand in his pocket. His punishment: a bullet in the face
Haaretz 24 Dec by Gideon Levy & Alex Levac — The bullet entered from the back of his neck and exited through the eye socket, shattering his head and face. A single bullet fired by an Israel Defense Forces soldier lurking in ambush with his buddies in the shade of olive trees. The soldier sees the person approaching the fence, unarmed, not endangering anyone, a slim teenager, dozens of meters away – but still shoots him in the head with live ammunition, wounding him seriously, destroying his life and that of his family, probably for all time. At first the IDF claimed that the soldier had thwarted a knifing attack, and later that the teen had “put his hand in his pocket in a suspicious way.” In the end, it turned out that the Hamed al-Masri hadn’t done anything wrong at all. Masri, a 15-year-old 10th-grader from a poor family in Salfit, a West Bank town east of Petah Tikva, collapsed on the rocks, his face covered in blood. As his friends ran for their lives, a soldier went over to him and, with his foot, turned the teen over. The soldier saw there was nothing in the boy’s hands. Ambulances and a helicopter were summoned, and in the end Masri was flown to Schneider Children’s Medical Center in Petah Tikva. Since the incident occurred, 10 days ago, Hamed has been unconscious, undergoing operations on his head, with his parents by his side day and night in the intensive care unit. His father, Omar al-Masri, who is unemployed and not in good health himself, only asks, repeatedly, “Why did they shoot him? And why in the head?” There’s no answer, of course, nor will there be….

Israeli soldiers detained 6-year-old Palestinian for five hours after he threw stones
Haaretz 24 Dec by Amira Hass — A week ago Saturday, Palestinian news sites boiled over. Israel Defense Forces soldiers had arrested a 6-year-old boy from the Jalazun refugee camp in the West Bank, they reported. There is no limit to their evil, web surfers raged. The IDF’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, rushed to intervene through his Facebook page. In a post at 8 P.M., he wrote in Arabic that the child had taken part in violent confrontations and even threw stones. “In contrast to what was written in the Palestinian media, the boy was not arrested but transferred to officers in the District Coordination Office in Ramallah, who called his parents and presented them with the dangerous and violent behavior of their son, along with other children,” wrote Mordechai … Strips of orchards, fields and unfarmed land separate the military position from the students of Jalazun. One of them is Ashraf, who will actually only be 6 next month. Last Monday, it was hard to get the details of Saturday’s events out of him. We met in his grandmother’s apartment, in the heart of the refugee camp. Ashraf’s eyes, surrounded by long lashes, displayed curiosity, but for the first 30 minutes he didn’t utter a word. He skipped from the chair to the sofa and then to another armchair, crawled under a low table and covered his face with his tiny hands, while he was listening/not listening to the adult conversation. He is still scared, explained his father. He wakes up at night, refuses to go to school where he’s a first-grader, speaks very little. His non-arrest frightened him a lot … The father was surprised to hear the army’s version of events. The army did not “summon the parents” and neither was he returned to them within the hour. He remembers that it was already dusk when his son was returned, and that at least five hours had passed until he was returned after the non-arrest. The father recounts that his son was held in the military jeep for two or three hours, and waited around the same amount of time at the District Coordination Office. As far as Palestinians are concerned, when armed soldiers detain or catch a child for several hours, it is an arrest even if it doesn’t lead to an indictment….

‘Devastating’: Israeli tear gas’ effect on Palestinians
‘AIDA REFUGEE CAMP, occupied West Bank (Al Jazeera) 26 Dec by Ibrahim Husseini & Liam O’Hare — A Palestinian refugee camp in the occupied West Bank may be the most exposed place to tear gas in the world, according to the author of a new study. The Human Rights Centre of the University of California at Berkeley recently reported that Israel’s security forces have carried out a “widespread”, “frequent” and “indiscriminate” use of tear gas against Palestinian refugees in ‘Aida refugee camp near Bethlehem. The report – said to be the first to analyse the effects of tear gas in the West Bank – found that 100 percent of the more than 200 Palestinian residents surveyed in ‘Aida camp were exposed to tear gas over the past year. The report, ‘No Safe Space: Health Consequences of Tear Gas Exposure Among Palestine Refugees’, collected testimonies last summer in ‘Aida and the nearby Dheisheh refugee camp. “We found that the constant and unpredictable use of tear gas in Palestine refugee camps has a devastating effect on the mental and physical health of residents,” said the report’s co-author, Dr Rohini Haar, a researcher at the UC Berkeley centre and a doctor with Physicians for Human Rights. The effects, Haar told Al Jazeera, are especially harmful on “the most vulnerable, including pregnant women, children, the elderly, and people already in ill health”… According to Dr Haar, regular exposure to tear gas can affect “all [the] body[‘s] systems” …
Meanwhile, Palestinians have also alleged that the gas has become more potent. “This is not tear gas; it is poison,” Thaer, another ‘Aida camp resident, told Al Jazeera. While tear gas is usually composed of a mixture of synthetic or naturally occurring gases, including pepper spray, “the specific chemical utilised by the [Israeli security forces] in recent years is unknown”, the report stated. According to Dr Haar, “the Israeli government is obligated to disclose the composition of the tear gas” it uses so medical professionals can treat the symptoms the chemicals cause….

‘I fear being shot’: A Palestinian paramedic’s account
SILWAD, occupied West Bank (Al Jazeera) 27 Dec by Shatha Hammad — Working as a paramedic, Yehya Mubarak has only one thing on his mind. “My goal is to take the patient to the hospital,” the 47-year-old, who has been working with the ambulance service for 12 years, says without hesitation. However, that’s far from an easy task in the occupied West Bank. First, there are the long delays at Israeli checkpoints. These not only put a patient’s life in danger, but also provoke anger and insults directed towards him by Palestinian relatives due to not delivering their loved ones to the hospital on time. Then, there are the attacks and threats by the Israeli army on ambulance crews during protests. In one instance, Mubarak lost control of his nerves and speech for nearly 12 hours after Israeli forces fired tear gas towards him. Other times, his vehicle, the sole ambulance serving Silwad and several neighbouring villages, had its windows broken after being attacked by Israeli soldiers. But despite the danger and frustration, Mubarak is committed to his life-saving work. Here, he relays to Al Jazeera his daily experience that comes with navigating checkpoints and rushing to get critically wounded patients to hospital, as well as the fear of being attacked and anguish of losing patients.
‘The Israelis want to undermine my work’ “As an ambulance driver and paramedic, you know that the first 10 minutes of when you receive a patient are the golden minutes. “So, when 30 minutes of my time at a checkpoint is wasted for no good reason, I can inherently tell that it is intentional. The Israelis want to undermine my work. “I always try to find alternative, faster routes – but the problem is that Silwad is surrounded with checkpoints, leaving only two checkpoint-free ways to Ramallah. Still, sometimes even these routes have what we call ‘flying checkpoints’. It does not matter if we have the siren on, they will still stop us. “But when I am honking because I have an urgent medical case in my ambulance, it’s not your right to stop me and waste our time, which may result in the death of the patient….

Palestinian teen wounded by sponge-tipped bullet entitled to compensation by Israel
Haaretz 25 Dec by Nir Hasson — Israel’s National Security Institute awards compensation to Ahmed Abu Hummus, who was 12 when the bullet shattered his skull into fragments — Israel’s National Security Institute on Thursday said a Palestinian teenage resident of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Isawiya was entitled to recompense under a law providing compensation to those injured by security forces in the course of a security-related incident. The Palestinian, Ahmed Abu Hummus, suffered brain injuries from a sponge-tipped bullet fired by Israeli police. At a hearing of the case, police alleged that the boy, who was 12 at the time of the incident two years ago, had been involved in stone throwing at the time of the incident. This is the fourth time that the National Security Institute has granted compensation in similar circumstances and the second time this year. The teenager was one of dozens of East Jerusalem Palestinians who have been seriously wounded by black, sponge-tipped bullets. The bullets are used to disperse crowds and have been widely used in recent years instead of blue sponge-tipped bullets, which are less damaging. After being hit in the head, Abu Hummus was hospitalized with fragments in his skull and severe brain damage. He underwent a lengthy period of hospitalization and rehabilitation. He is nearly fully functional and returned home about a year ago, although his father said he has not managed to return to his prior life, and dropped out of school a month after returning to his studies
About three months ago, another Isawiya resident, Luai Abed, was awarded National Insurance benefits after losing an eye to a sponge-tipped bullet, but, unlike Abu Hummus’ case, Abed was hit while standing on the balcony of his home, and it had not been alleged that involved in clashes with police. The prosecution alleged that Abu Hummus had been involved in a violent protest when he was hit. Itay Mack, a lawyer representing the Abu Hummus family, noted that the teen was not mentioned at all in police reports from that day. Mack claimed that there was no evidence in support for the claim that his client was involved in stone throwing….

Prisoners / Court actions

Israeli policeman indicted for urinating in face of bound Palestinian
IMEMC 25 Dec — After a ten-year saga in which the Israeli Ministry of Justice refused to pursue charges against an Israeli police officer who admitted urinating in the face of a Palestinian prisoner, the Ministry finally indicted the officer. The indictment came only after the victim, Mohammad Warani, took a lawsuit all the way to the Israeli High Court challenging the Israeli Justice Ministry’s decision to close the case. The High Court ruled in favor of Warani, ordering the Justice Department to file charges against the police officer, Ya’akov Ben-Nissim Cohen. In November 2007, Cohen took Mohammad Warani to a police station in the illegal Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, where he set the handcuffed, blindfolded man on a toilet and then climbed a shelf outside the stall and urinated in the man’s face. According to prosecutors with the Police Investigations Department of the Justice Ministry, the officer “urinated on the face of the plaintiff, as the plaintiff screamed and shook his head from side to side”. The indictment also stated, “In the above-described actions, the defendant psychologically abused a helpless victim”. Even though the indictment was filed on November 1st, it was only made public on Sunday. The incident took place ten years ago, and the officer involved has faced no repercussions during that time. This is despite the fact that he admitted to “an unusual incident” after his DNA was found in urine on the victim’s clothing.

Ahed and Nariman Tamimi’s detentions extended
BETHLEHEM, occupied West Bank (Al Jazeera) 26 Dec by Jaclynn Ashly — On a day when millions of people around the world spent time with their families, laughing and exchanging gifts, Bassem Tamimi sat for hours in an Israeli court anticipating the fate of his daughter, wife and niece. For the second time in less than a week, the Tamimi women’s detentions were extended for another four days as the police prosecution continues an investigation into a case that has attracted worldwide attention. Bassem told Al Jazeera that the court sessions, held in Israel’s Ofer detention centre in Ramallah, went on for more than six hours on Monday. “Ahed looked so tired,” he said, referring to his jailed 16-year-old daughter, and expressed worry concerning her treatment in Israeli jail. Three Israeli officials stood in front of Bassem the entire court proceeding, blocking his view of Ahed. “I wasn’t even allowed to see her,” he said. Bassem attempted to speak to his daughter, eager to hear her familiar voice that could assure him she was continuing with the strength the teenager is famous for. However, “any time I tried to speak to her, the Israeli officers would tell me to shut up and would threaten to kick me out of the court”, he explained. “They just want to show us that Israel controls everything.”….

Israeli court convicts Palestinian teen on 3 murder counts over killing of Israeli settlers
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 27 Dec — The Palestinian teenager who stabbed and killed three Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank five months ago has been convicted on three counts of murder, according to Israeli news website Ynet. The Israeli Ofer military court convicted 19-year-old Omar al-Abed, a resident of the central occupied West Bank village of Kobar, on Wednesday, while the military prosecutor asked that al-Abed receive four life sentences — one for each murder, and one for attempted murder, Ynet reported. Al-Abed carried out the attack in July in the illegal Halamish settlement, nearby his village in the Ramallah district.
The victims as were Yosef Salomon, 70, and his adult children, Chaya, 46, and Elad, 36. Tova Salomon, 68, Yosef Salomon’s wife, was seriously wounded in the attack. The settler family were were reportedly having shabbat dinner with about 10 members of their family when the al-Abed broke into their house. A neighbor, a soldier in the Israeli army, reportedly heard the disturbance, and arrived to the scene and shot and moderately wounded al-Abed. The deadly attack took place after three Palestinians were killed — two of them by Israeli police and one reportedly by an Israeli settler — when large-scale civil disobedience demonstrations in Jerusalem erupted into violent clashes….

Oren Hazan harasses families of Palestinian prisoners
[with video] Al Jazeera 25 Dec by Zena Tahhan — An Israeli member of parliament has verbally harassed Palestinian families hailing from the Gaza Strip on their journey to visit their imprisoned relatives in an Israeli prison, calling their sons “dogs” and “terrorists”. Oren Hazan, a member of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, boarded a bus carrying the families of prisoners on Monday about to enter Nafha prison in Israel’s south. Flanked by Israeli police and camera crews, Hazan, a right-wing politician, shouted at one of the mothers: “Your son is a dog. He is a dog. You come to visit the scum who are sitting here in prison, whom you see as your family members.”… Under international humanitarian law, prisoners from occupied territories must be held in the occupied territory, not in the territory of the occupying power. Though most Palestinian political prisoners hail from the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, they are placed in prisons inside Israel, in direct contravention of international law. Families of Palestinian prisoners must, therefore, apply for hard-to-obtain permits to enter Israel and visit them, usually in buses organised by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The ICRC said they were “very concerned about this serious incident” …
Hazan said he intercepted the bus to promote legislation to cancel family visits until several Israelis being held in Gaza were returned. “I want to send a message to all of you,” he said. “Your friends in Gaza are holding our brothers, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul and Avera Mengistu. If you do not pass on this message that we want our children back, you will not see your son or your husband or your family. If you continue like this here, you will not see them alive.” Hamas, the Palestinian movement that administers the besieged Gaza Strip, reportedly holds Goldin and Shaul, soldiers who were part of Israel’s ground invasion of Gaza in 2014. It is unclear whether they are alive or dead. The third, Mengistu, reportedly crossed into Gaza in September 2014 and has been missing since.

Israeli lawmaker given security after insulting Palestinians
JERUSALEM (AFP) 26 Dec – Israel’s parliament has decided to give a controversial rightwing lawmaker a security detail after a widely-shared video showed him insulting Palestinians heading to visit detained relatives, a spokesman said Tuesday. Oren Hazan, a provocative figure from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, dispensed the abuse on Monday after boarding a bus of Palestinians allowed to exit the Gaza Strip to see family members held in an Israeli jail. “Your relatives belong in the ground,” he says in the footage, demanding that passengers denounce “terrorist acts” against Israel. “Your son is a dog,” he tells a woman from the coastal enclave. Hazan used the stunt to criticise Israel’s policy of allowing permits for such visits while Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas allegedly hold three civilians and the bodies of two Israeli soldiers. One woman replies: “Speak to Hamas to see your children, not us.” Footage of the incident has been shared widely on Palestinian and Israeli social media, and prompted a rare response from a spokesman for the armed wing of Hamas. “Instead of sending an idiot to carry out childish acts… try to resolve the issue with courage and without intimidating women,” Abu Obeida said in a statement to the Israeli authorities.


Israeli army kills two Palestinians, injures 123, in the Gaza Strip
IMEMC 23 Dec — Israeli soldiers killed, Friday, two Palestinians, and injured at least 123 others, including three who suffered life-threatening wounds, and caused dozens to suffer the effects of teargas inhalation, after the army, stationed across the border fence, resorted to the excessive use of force against Palestinian protesters, in several parts of the Gaza Strip. Medical sources in the Shifa Hospital, in Gaza city, said the soldiers killed Mohammad Nabil Moheisin, 29, from Sheja‘eyya neighborhood, east of the city, after shooting him with a live round in the chest. The Palestinian was shot by a soldier in a military tower, in Nahal Oz base, across the border fence, east of Gaza city.
Furthermore, the soldiers killed Zakariya al-Kafarna, 24, from Beit Hanoun, in northern Gaza, after shooting him with a live round in his chest, when the army attacked protesters, east of nearby Jabalia town, and also injured several other Palestinians with live fire. Media sources in Gaza said the soldiers, stationed on military towers, and in tanks across the border fence, east of Jabalia, fired dozens of live rounds at the Palestinians, wounding many, including al-Kafarna, who was shot in the chest. Al-Kafarna was rushed to the Indonesian Hospital, in Beit Lahia, but died from his serious wounds shortly after being moved there…
The Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza has confirmed that 123 Palestinians were shot with live Israeli army fire, and dozens suffered the severe effects of teargas inhalation, in the northern and eastern parts of the besieged coastal region. It added that among the wounded were five medics, and four journalists. In Beit Hanoun, in northern Gaza, the soldiers shot eight young Palestinian men, especially in the area close to Erez Terminal, before they were rushed to the Indonesian Hospital, suffering moderate wounds. Furthermore, the soldiers shot 27 Palestinians in Jabalia, in northern Gaza; one of them suffered a serious injury, while most of the wounded residents suffered moderate wounds. Ten Palestinians were also shot, east of the al-Boreij refugee camp, in Central Gaza; one of them suffered a serious injury, and was rushed to the Al-Aqsa Hospital, in nearby Deir al-Balah city. In addition, the soldiers shot 22 Palestinians east of Khan Younis, in the southern part of the Gaza strip, and six others in nearby Rafah, before they were all moved to Nasser Hospital and Abu Yousef an-Najjar Hospital, suffering moderate wounds….

Palestinian dies from wounds suffered a week earlier in Gaza
IMEMC 23 Dec — The Palestinian Health Ministry has reported that a Palestinian man died, Saturday, from wounds he suffered a week earlier, east of Jabalia, in the northern part of the Gaza Strip. The Ministry said the young man, Sharif al-‘Abed Shalashel, 28, suffered a serious injury after the soldiers shot him with live fire, and remained in a critical condition until he succumbed to his wounds. He was injured on the same day when the soldiers killed four Palestinians, and wounded at least 367 others, in the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank. His death came less than a day after the soldiers killed, Friday, two Palestinians, identified as Mohammad Nabil Moheisin, 29, from Sheja’eyya neighborhood, east of the city, and Zakariya al-Kafarna, 24, from Beit Hanoun, in northern Gaza. The Health Ministry said Sharif’s death brings the number of Palestinians who were killed by Israeli army fire since the U.S. President made his illegal recognition of occupied Jerusalem as a unified capital of Israel on October 6th, to fourteen Palestinians, in addition to at least 3000 Palestinians who were injured by army fire.

Palestinian youth wounded in anti-Trump protest dies
Al Jazeera 24 Dec — A Palestinian youth has died from wounds sustained in clashes with Israeli forces, along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel earlier this week, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. Mohammed Sami al-Dahdouh was injured after being shot during a protest on December 8, in the east of Gaza City, against US President Donald Trump‘s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. “He died of his wounds on Sunday,” ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said in a statement. Dahdouh’s death brings to 15 the number of Palestinians killed in clashes with Israeli forces in the West Bank and Gaza Strip after the US move on December 6.

VIDEO: Exiled Palestinians in Gaza long for home
25 Dec — Twenty-six men caught up in the siege at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in 2002 were allowed to walk from the building. But they were forced to leave their homes in the Occupied West Bank for good, and move to Gaza. Al Jazeera talks to some of them, reflecting on their life in exile and longing to return home. Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher reports from Gaza.

63 Gaza border tunnels destroyed in 2017: Egyptian army
MEMO 22 Dec — Over the course of 2017, the Egyptian army has destroyed 63 cross-border tunnels linking the blockaded Gaza Strip to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, the army announced Friday. In a statement, the army also said that more than 6,000 illegal immigrants — of various nationalities — had been detained over the same period. Due to a decade-long blockade by Israel and Egypt, the Gaza Strip’s roughly 2 million inhabitants have come to rely on a sophisticated network of cross-border tunnels to import basic commodities, including food, fuel and medicine. Following Egypt’s 2013 military coup — which saw the country’s first freely-elected president, Mohamed Morsi, ousted and imprisoned — the Egyptian authorities began cracking down on Gaza’s cross-border tunnel network. Cairo has attempted to justify the crackdown by pointing to an ongoing militant insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula, which erupted following the 2013 coup.

Medical crews suspend work in Gaza due to poor hygiene conditions
Gaza (Petra) 27 Dec — Doctors and medical staff in Al-Shefa’a Medical Complex in the Gaza Strip announced work stoppage for hygiene lapses and lack of clean environment and services provided to patients. Sources at the complex said that medical operations stopped in fear of cross-infection among patients, due to piles of rubbish following cleaning workers’ strike over failure to pay their salaries . More than 800 cleaning workers in hospitals and medical facilities of the Ministry of Health in the besieged enclave, have not been paid for four months, the sources said .

Video: Christmas in Gaza: Christian community is getting smaller
24 Dec — There are about half a million Palestinian Christians, but many of them live in other parts of the world. In Gaza, their population is just over a thousand. It was more than double that, ten years ago, when the blockade by Israel and Egypt began. They gather in just three churches and congregations are shrinking. Al Jazeera’s Malcolm Webb reports from Gaza.

Gaza e-clinic crosses borders to offer medical advice
GAZA CITY (Al-Monitor) 24 Dec by Huda Baroud — Engineers Suleiman al-Lawh, 25, and Tasneem al-Sheikh Khalil, 24, are about to launch an online medical consultation app called Al-Mosheb (The Scientist). The app allows patients to communicate with specialized doctors in the health and psychology fields online in return for a fee. A pilot app was launched Nov. 1 on Google Play for smartphones, allowing its subscribers in the Gaza Strip to communicate with 120 doctors in the fields of psychological and physical health through text messages, video calls or voice calls, and to attach medical tests or prescriptions. Lawh, who came up with the idea, told Al-Monitor that the program aims to facilitate communication between patients and doctors through technology, allowing patients to contact any doctor of their choice from the list and get a medical consultation without the need to be present at the clinic or hospital….

Gaza zookeeper puts lion cubs up for sale
GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories (AFP) 23 Dec — The owner of a private zoo in the impoverished Gaza Strip has put three lion cubs up for sale, saying he can no longer afford to feed them. Mohammad Ahmad Jumaa took to social media to advertise the animals at 3,500 Jordanian dinars (US$5.000) each. “Because of the bad economic situation and the difficulty of finding food and drink (for the animals), I was forced to put up for sale three cubs born around a month ago,” he said. He said he needed the money to pay for the upkeep of the rest of his pride – two male and three female lions. Jumaa, who has owned the animal park in Rafah on the border with Egypt for 23 years, said feeding his animals costs around US$345 a month. He had named the cubs Palestine, Al-Quds (Jerusalem in Arabic), and Erdogan (after Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan). He had received calls about the advert on Facebook but had not so far sold any of the cubs….

Olives, pistachios inspire young Gaza designers
GAZA CITY (Al-Monitor) 26 Dec by Najlaa Eskafi — For two young Palestinian designers, inspiration came from objects close to home: a pistachio and an olive leaf. Ahmad al-Zoum and Saher Abdel Hamid, both 20 years old, are the winners of the Arab Student Starpack Award in the Structural Packaging category for Palestine. The contest, organized jointly by the UN Industrial Development Organization and Lebanese packaging center Libanpack, is the first regional packaging competition in the Arab World for Arab university students. As the winners from Palestine, they are now eligible to compete for the wider WorldStar Awards. The judging is currently underway and the winners will be announced in January … Zoum was inspired by the shape of “fustuq halabi,” Arabic for “pistachios of Aleppo,” whose shells crack open into two parts. So he created packaging for nuts  that divides into two parts — one for the nuts and the other for disposing the shells without littering. “I designed a creative box for nuts with a separate compartment for shells to facilitate shell disposal in public places,” he told Al-Monitor. Abdel Hamid created an attractive cover for olive oil bottles. “I created an oil package that would prevent oil from dripping, in the shape of a beautiful olive tree leaf,” Abdel Hamid told Al-Monitor….

Palestinian mom counters child-rearing myths with modern app
GAZA CITY (Al-Monitor) 22 Dec by Amjad Yaghi — Nour al-Khodari came up with the idea for her award-winning app Momy Helper after she gave birth to a son in 2014 while living in Chicago far from her family. The child-rearing advice she found online was mostly written in English. “I was surprised to see that there was a great deal of research on child rearing published on social media and in magazines. Most of it was in-depth, well-documented and scientific — a sharp contrast to the Arabic content I found, which was mostly limited and from sources unverifiable” and often based on old wives’ tales, Khodari, the founder and CEO of Momy Helper, told Al-Monitor. Upon returning to the Gaza Strip in 2015, Khodari first started a blog on child rearing. In February 2017, she launched Momy Helper, a website and app that offer advice to mothers through Arabic articles, videos and blogs … In October, the Momy Helper app won the second prize at Startup Istanbul, an annual fair that brings together tech companies, executives, startups and investors from 65 countries. Khodari studied journalism and media at the Islamic University of Gaza and worked in film production and direction as well as screenwriting of cartoons at Zaitoon Cartoons’ Department in Gaza for four years. She then studied for a master’s degree at Chicago’s DePaul University….

Germany contributes EUR 23.15 million to UNRWA for projects in Gaza
UNRWA 22 Dec —  On 8 and 13 December 2017, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) signed two agreements with the German Development Bank (KfW) totaling EUR 23.15 million from the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). As part of the overall contribution, EUR 18.15 million will be allocated to the UNRWA reconstruction programme in Gaza, allowing the safe and dignified return of some 540 Palestine refugee families to their houses that were completely destroyed during the hostilities in the summer of 2014. Reaffirming Germany’s strong commitment to support Palestinian refugees in Gaza, this grant builds on earlier contributions in the amount of EUR 57 Million by the German Federal Government towards the UNRWA emergency shelter and reconstruction programme since 2014. An additional EUR 5 million will be used for the construction and expansion of two UNRWA schools in the Gaza Strip which will benefit around 6,000 students. Two schools will be constructed using the completely renewed, innovative, child-friendly UNRWA school design and will significantly enhance education for thousands of children over the coming years. In total, UNRWA operates 267 schools in Gaza, providing primary education to a steadily increasing student population of now over 262,000 refugee children.

Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Settlements

Family forced to demolish their own home for the second time
IMEMC 26 Dec by Celine Hagbard — The Abu Rajab family of Silwan neighborhood, in East Jerusalem, found themselves homeless again on Saturday, after the Israeli government ordered the family to demolish their home for the second time in two months. The family said they had to demolish the home themselves, after the Israeli Jerusalem Municipal Authority issued a demolition order, or else the Israeli authorities would come and demolish it, and charge exorbitant fees. This is the second family in two weeks in Silwan that has been forced to demolish their own home – and the second time in two months that the Abu Rajab family has been rendered homeless. The family lives in the al-Bustan area of Silwan, in east Jerusalem. According to Ma‘an News Agency, “A spokesman of a Silwan-based committee formed to fight demolitions, Fakhri Abu Diab, previously told Ma‘an that all 100 residential structures in the al-Bustan area are slated for demolition, and that the 1,570 residents of the area have exhausted all legal options.”
The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem says about the al-Bustan region of Silwan, “the Israeli municipal government master plan defines the area as an open space where construction is prohibited. “ The group states, “Silwan’s al-Bustan neighborhood lies in Kidron Valley, between the Wadi Hilwa neighborhood and Jerusalem Walls National park to the west and Silwan’s old quarter (Silwan al-Wasta) to the east. Until 1967 residents of Silwan cultivated fruit trees in the valley. City master plan No. 9, which was to determine the conservation to development ratio in the Old City Basin, defines al-Bustan Valley as an open space where construction is prohibited. The plan allowed only the few buildings in place at the time the plan was approved in 1976. Neighborhood master plans approved over the years for parts of Silwan did not allocate land for expansion or increase building rights. As crowding worsened, Silwan residents had no choice but to build in the valley and there are now more than 90 residential structures there….”

East Jerusalem Palestinians petition Israel’s top court in last-ditch effort to prevent eviction
Haaretz 26 Dec by Nir Hasson — The petition states that an illegal decision 16 years ago gave the land they live on to the custody of Ateret Cohanim, a right-wing group that settles Jews in Arab areas — More than 100 residents of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan have petitioned the High Court of Justice in a last-ditch attempt to prevent a right-wing organization from evicting them from their homes. The petition assails the Administrator General’s Office, which is part of the Justice Ministry, for having transferred a plot of land in Silwan to the Ateret Cohanim organization 16 years ago without even informing the hundreds of Palestinians who live on those five dunams (1.2 acres) of land. Ateret Cohanim has waged a legal battle for years to evict the Palestinians, and over the last two years, it has sought dozens of eviction orders from the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court. Both that court and the Jerusalem District Court have repeatedly upheld the organization’s right to the land, but neither has ever scrutinized the administrator general’s original decision. Now, attorneys representing the families are arguing that this original decision was a mistake and violated the law, and should therefore be canceled. How did Ateret Cohanim obtain rights to the land in the heart of Silwan in the first place? In the late 19th century, the land housed a small group of Jews from Yemen ...Now four lawyers representing the families against the eviction motions have joined forces and hope to demonstrate that the original decision by the custodian general was illegal. Their key argument is that the permits granted for the Yemenite immigrants were given for the structures and not for the land itself; the moment the buildings were demolished, the sanctuary had no more rights to the area. They note that the land in question is in the heart of Silwan, and that under Ottoman law, this type of land that could only be allocated by a special order of the Sultan.

Palestine slams Israeli plan for new settlement units
Al Jazeera 25 Dec — The Palestinian foreign ministry has denounced a new Israeli settlement construction plan, which includes the building of 300,000 housing units in occupied East Jerusalem. In a statement on its Facebook page, the ministry on Sunday held US President Donald Trump responsible for “Israeli arrogance” that has endorsed the annexation of East Jerusalem. “The ministry affirms that this Israeli colonial arrogance would not have happened without US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital,” the statement read. “Trump’s administration must bear the responsibility for new crimes that Israel, the occupying country, imposes on our people.” The ministry urged the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court to confront the move. According to Israeli media, the country’s Minister of Housing and Construction Yoav Galant announced the launching of a campaign to promote the building of the new settlement units. Israel’s Channel 10 said the planned construction was part of the so-called “Greater Jerusalem Bill”, which aims to annex illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank to the Israeli-defined boundaries of the city of Jerusalem … If passed, the bill would annex to the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem the three major mega-settlement cities of Maale Adumim, Givat Zeev and Gush Etzion, which together house around 140,000 Israelis. It would add the Israelis who live there to the population of Jerusalem, thus allowing them to vote in local elections. To ensure a Jewish majority in the city, the bill would also create “independent municipalities” for several Palestinian neighbourhoods that are part of the Jerusalem municipality but cut off from the city by Israel’s separation wall. These neighbourhoods are home to more than 100,000 people who suffer from a severe lack of basic services and infrastructure….

Israel approves millions for settlements day after Netanyahu asks rabbis for their support
Haaretz 27 Dec by Noa Landau & Yotam Berger — The Prime Minister’s Bureau denies the transfer of funds is linked to Netanyahu’s meeting with the rabbis, in which they asked him to support West Bank settlements — The cabinet on Wednesday approved the transfer of 40 million shekels ($11 million) in funding for settlements in the West Bank. The approval comes a day after a group of religious Zionist rabbis met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and asked him to give higher priority to the settlements. Netanyahu met with the rabbis to seek their support against the backdrop of two police investigations that are being conducted against him. The financial support approved by the cabinet includes 34.5 million shekels in a one-time security grant to Israeli local government authorities in the West Bank. The Finance Ministry will transfer 29.5 million of the sum and the Prime Minister’s Office the remaining 5 million shekels. In addition, the Finance Ministry will allocate 5.5 million for West Bank first aid stations. The funding will be provided to the Health Ministry and earmarked for this purpose. The funding is to be immediate, according to the cabinet resolution.

Friedman asks US State Department to stop referring to West Bank as ‘occupied’
IMEMC/Agencies 27 Dec —  US Ambassador to Israeli occupation David Friedman has asked the US State Department to stop using the term “occupied” in official documents referring to Israeli occupation of West Bank. Friedman and the State Department agreed that the issue will be discussed again and that the US President Donald Trump will have the final say. In September, Friedman told an Israeli news outlet: “I think the settlements are part of Israel. I think that was always the expectation.” He added, according to Days of Palestine: “Obviously, there are important security considerations to those settlements, there is important nationalistic, historical and religious significance to those settlements and I think the settlers view themselves as Israelis, and Israel views the settlers as Israelis.” Before taking up his post as ambassador, Friedman served as president of American Friends of Bet El Institutions, an organization that supports the large West Bank settlement near Ramallah, and has a long history of excoriating groups who criticize Israel’s settlement policy….

Why some Palestinians choose to work in Israeli settlements
PSAGOT, West Bank (Vox) 21 Dec by Miriam Berger — It’s because the occupation makes finding other jobs really, really hard — When President Donald Trump formally recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital earlier this month, Palestinian leaders called for demonstrations and general strikes. Jamil Jahaleen understood the anger, but he had a family of eight to support. Jahaleen needed the money, so he chose to go to work. But it’s where he chose to go to work that’s surprising: inside one of the West Bank settlements, which Palestinian leaders generally want to see dismantled as part of any future peace deal with Israel. Jahaleen, 36, understood his friends’ decision to strike, but he didn’t feel he could do the same. “The situation is hard and I need to eat,” said Jahaleen, who has worked as a handyman at Psagot Winery, a popular West Bank tourist stop about 20 minutes away from Jerusalem, for nearly a decade. “My kids are more important than anything.” Jahaleen earns 5,000 Israeli shekels per month, or about $1,400 US — substantially more than he’d earn working in a Palestinian-owned business elsewhere in the West Bank, where unemployment is high and salaries are low. At one point, he had to hire a lawyer when Israeli authorities revoked his coveted work permit, he said. But Jahaleen said he is happy with his work, and that his employers just want to live in peace. “Not all settlers are the same,” he added … But for many average Palestinians under occupation, the reality is much more complicated: They may scorn the settlements, but they also depend on them for the money they need to support their families. Jahaleen is among the 36,000 Palestinian men, women, and sometimes children who work in Israeli settlements in the disputed West Bank.

Palestinian refugees – Lebanon

VIDEO: Palestinian refugees in Lebanon denied many rights
24 Dec Millions of Palestinians live around the world, waiting to return to what is now Israel. Life in exile has been particularly hard in Lebanon, where refugees are denied many rights so as not to encourage their resettlement. Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr reports from Beirut.

Lebanon census finds number of Palestinian refugees only a third of official UN data
Haaretz 25 Dec by Amira Hass — A census in Lebanon finds 175,000 Palestinian refugees living in the country, while the UN figure put their number at 500,000 — Around 175,000 Palestinian refugees live in Lebanon, 45 percent of them in 12 refugee camps and 55 percent in 156 population centers throughout the country, according to a census conducted by Lebanon’s Central Administration of Statistics in partnership with the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. The total is much lower than the official figure of 500,000, cited by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. It has been known for years that the UN figure was inaccurate, since many Palestinian refugees have emigrated from Lebanon. But the census finding was also below other estimates, such as that of the American University of Beirut in 2015, which put the figure at between 260,000 and 280,000 … The census was carried out over a period of one year, ending in September, by around 1,000 Lebanese and Palestinian census-takersThe census revealed that in some refugee camps, non-Palestinians outnumbered Palestinians. For example, in Chatila, 57.7 percent of residents were displaced Syrians and only 29.7 percent were Palestinians. There were more Syrians than Palestinians in the Burj el Brajneh and Mar Elias camps as well. Palestinians accounted for 72.8 percent of the population in the 12 refugee camps. Three-quarters are permanent residents in Lebanon, about 7.5 percent are displaced Palestinians from Syria and about 5 percent are Palestinian refugees from other places….


Singer Lorde cancels Israel event after backlash
Al Jazeera 25 Dec — Singer Lorde has cancelled a planned performance in the Israeli capital, Tel Aviv, following backlash from supporters of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions  (BDS) campaign. Organisers told the Jerusalem Post on Sunday that the artist would outline her reasons “shortly” on Twitter.”I pride myself on being an informed young citizen, and I had done a lot of reading and sought a lot of opinions before deciding to book a show in Tel Aviv, but I’m not too proud to admit I didn’t make the right call on this one,” said Lorde in an emailed statement to the newspaper….

Other news and opinion

Video: Salman Abu Sitta: Jerusalem Palestinians more than London English
26 Dec — The US decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is being discussed around the world. The city is holy to people of the three Abrahamic faiths. But at the core of the issue is an occupation that shows no sign of ending. How do you reconcile a conflict without disrupting the right to worship for all? Al Jazeera spoke to a historian widely known as the atlas of Palestine, Salman Abu Sitta, president of Palestinian Land Society.

Jerusalem as capital: All the latest
Al Jazeera 28 Dec — Casualties: 15 people killed  2,908 injuries: PRCS  500 arrests: PPS
The decision of US President Donald Trump to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has generated a series of reactions in Palestine and around the world. Here are the latest developments, both on the diplomatic and street front, as of Sunday, December 24:

Guatemalans unhappy with embassy move
IMEMC/Agencies 27 Dec — Guatemalans reacted with anger and concern over their president’s decision to move his country’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, following suit as a result of a similar United State move, the Department of Expatriate Affairs, a branch of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), reported on Wednesday … The Department of Expatriates Affairs said it heard from members of the Palestinian community in Guatemala and other organizations that following the decision by Morales concern was expressed among political, economic and media circles regarding the consequences of such a move on the county’s economy. Guatemala is the main exporter of cardamom pods that are used with coffee to Arab and Islamic countries with more than $300 million dollars of exports a year. When former President Ramiro J Leon Carpio (1993-1996) made a similar decision to move his country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, he was forced to quickly rescind that decision when Arab and Islamic countries closed their doors to the Guatemalan market. Former vice president of Guatemala, Eduardo Stein (2004-2008), warned of the negative consequences of the decision by Morales, who is facing impeachment on corruption charges….

Ismail Haniya warns against US ‘deal of the century’
Al Jazeera 27 Dec — Hamas leader Ismail Haniya has said that the US had offered the Palestinian Authority a Jerusalem suburb, Abu Dis, as an alternative to East Jerusalem for the capital of a future Palestinian state. Speaking at a meeting with Palestinian clan leaders in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, Haniya labelled President Donald Trump’s recent decision, to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a ploy to demolish the Palestinian cause in line with the so-called deal of the century. “The US is still offering deals and continues to be on the side of the Palestinian Authority (PA) one way or another, in order to give them a capital or entity in the Abu Dis area, away from Jerusalem, with a bridge linking to al-Aqsa Mosque allowing for the freedom of prayer,” he said. Haniya said certain regional forces are seeking to divide the West Bank into three sections, in addition to creating a political entity in the Gaza Strip with its own controlling powers. Al Jazeera’s Wael al-Dahdouh, reporting from Gaza City, said Haniya cautioned local, regional and international players against working to implement the US plan for the Middle East, which is yet to be published … Haniya said the US decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel introduces new risks that could affect the nature of the relationship between Palestine and Jordan. He cited reports of discussions regarding an alternative homeland for Palestinians and a confederation between Jordan and Palestine….

Israel behind ‘Christian exodus’ from Palestine
BEIT JALA, Palestine (Al Jazeera) 27 Dec by Ali Younes — The Israeli occupation of Palestine is the main factor behind the exodus of Palestinian Christians from the region, according to a new study. The research carried out by Dar al-Kalima University in the occupied West Bank town of Beit Jala, concluded that only a small percentage of Christians had left Palestine because of concerns over Muslim religious conservatism. Researchers interviewed more than a thousand people, roughly half of whom were Christian and the other half Muslim, on their outlook on life and, if negative, the causes of their pessimism. “The pressure of Israeli occupation, ongoing constraints, discriminatory policies, arbitrary arrests, confiscation of lands added to the general sense of hopelessness among Palestinian Christians,” the study said. These conditions have put Palestinian Christians in “a despairing situation where they can no longer perceive a future for their offspring or for themselves,” it added … The study also found that 50 percent of interviewed Christians and 54 percent of Muslims were optimistic that their situation would eventually improve and attributed their optimism to the belief that God is on their side. “This finding reflects the religiosity of the Palestinian people,” said Varsen Aghabekian, another of the study’s authors … Between 1860 and 1914, Palestinian Christians were about 11 percent of the Palestinian population of 350,000 people. On the eve of World War I, the Palestinian population reached 616,000, of which 69,000 were Christians. Today Palestinian Christians in all of historical Palestine, which includes Israel, the West Bank and Gaza account for only 1.7 percent of the Palestinian population of six million….

Lonely this Christmas / A glimpse into the life of the West Bank’s last Christians
Haaretz 26 Dec by Dina Kraft — Rafat Alsoos has seen most of his Palestinian family and friends leave the West Bank since 2000, echoing the exodus of Arab Christians from the Middle East. To compound matters, he’s also the only pig farmer in an area that’s increasingly Muslim — Rafat Alsoos is standing behind the counter of his butcher shop in the West Bank town of Beit Jala, just a few hours after his wife gave birth to their first child. Their baby son is so new, they have yet to settle on a name for him and Alsoos has only had a few hours to hold the 7.4 pound (3.4 kilogram) newborn with black wavy hair. “I came in because there was no one here to run the shop and it’s Christmas time – this season is our busiest,” says Alsoos, 27, a Palestinian Christian follower of the Greek Orthodox Church. The Aziz Butchery and Farm shop in this small town south of Jerusalem was opened by his grandfather in 1920, meaning their pig farm – the only one in the West Bank – has been in the family for almost 100 years. Alsoos and an older sister are the only members of his immediate family still living in Beit Jala. For most of its centuries-long history, this was a majority Christian village. Now, though, it has a growing Muslim population and a shrinking Christian one. Their parents and five other siblings live in Canada, in a suburb of Toronto. Which makes Rafat Alsoos, who moved back here from Canada in 2013 after attending high school and college, one of the dwindling number of Christians in the Holy Land and the Middle East as a whole.
“This is my homeland, I grew up here,” he says with a broad smile. “It’s a good thing to be in your homeland, no? It’s a different feeling. It’s like something inside you – you can’t leave it, especially this country and this city. Jesus was born here,” he adds, referring to Bethlehem just down the road. “It’s the Holy Land,” he says, emphasizing the word “holy.” An olive wood cross hangs on the white tile walls behind him, next to a row of postcard-sized images of various saints, including St. George and St. Nicholas.

Pilgrims celebrate Christmas under Church of the Nativity’s new roof
BETHLEHEM, West Bank (Al-Monitor) 22 Dec by Ibrahim Abdelhadi — Bethlehem’s Al-Mahd Church, better known as the Church of the Nativity, is greeting Christmas with a fresh face this year following a major rehabilitation of its roof and ancient mosaics. The church, on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 2012, has suffered earthquakes, storms and even political sieges ever since its construction in A.D. 330. The renovation of the church has been on the agenda ever since the late 2000s, with both the Palestinian Authority and UNESCO expressing a commitment to raise funds for much-needed work. Several parallel rehabilitation efforts started in 2013, and today, about 70% of its renovation work has been completed, Hanna Issa, the secretary-general of the Islamic-Christian Commission in Support of Jerusalem and Holy Sites, told Al-Monitor. Known as the world’s oldest church in daily use, Al-Mahd’s original basilica was built in the fourth century by Roman Emperor Constantine I above a cave where Virgin Mary is said to have given birth to Jesus … Issa pointed out that the church has been destroyed and rebuilt several times. He told Al-Monitor, “Al-Mahd Church was destroyed during the revolution of the Samaritans against the Byzantines in 528, then rebuilt in 535, but the last large-scale restoration and rehabilitation was in 650.” By the 21st century, both the mosaics and woodwork had been badly damaged … Muslims in the area made donations for the church’s restoration and rehabilitation….

Israel orders deportation of Turkish nationals arrested during Jerusalem protests
25 Dec by Reuters & Nir Hasson — Israel has ordered the deportation of two of three Turks who were briefly arrested during Palestinian demonstrations last week after U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the Interior Ministry said on Monday.  The three were detained on Friday on suspicion of assaulting Israeli police near Al-Aqsa mosque in East Jerusalem, which Palestinians see as the capital of their own future state. An Israeli court freed them without charges on Saturday, despite a police request to extend their detention. An Interior Ministry spokeswoman said one of the men was scheduled for deportation later on Monday and another on Saturday. The third was already deported. She said both had entered Israel on Belgian passports. A photograph circulated on social media showed them among a group of fez-wearing men and boys outside Al-Aqsa. One is seen wearing a Turkish flag T-shirt and waving a Palestinian flag, while two hold up pictures of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. Erdogan has been vocal in opposing Trump’s Jerusalem move, which reversed decades of U.S. policy over the status of a city whose eastern sector Israel captured in the 1967 war and which is holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims. (listserv)


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

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