Israeli army declares Nabi Saleh, home to Tamimi family, closed military zone
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 13 Jan — The Israeli army declared the central occupied West Bank village of Nabi Saleh — home to imprisoned teenage activist Ahed al-Tamimi — a closed military zone on Saturday, closing off all entrances and exits. Official Palestinian Authority (PA)-owned Wafa news agency reported that that Israeli forces set up barriers on the main road that leads to Nabi Saleh and prevented Palestinians, including journalists, from entering the village. Wafa quoted Bilal al-Tamimi, the father of 16-year-old Ahed who was detained by Israeli forces last month over a video of her slapping and kicking an Israeli soldier, as saying that soldiers are preventing non-residents from entering the village. However, Wafa reported that some Palestinians were able to enter by taking alternative yet longer routes to participate in a protest in the village. Dozens of Palestinians suffered from tear severe tear gas inhalation after Israeli forces suppressed the protest, which was held in support of Ahed and in rejection of US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. While Wafa said that the closure was enforced to prevent people from accessing the protest, some have speculated that the closure was taken as a punitive measure against the residents of Nabi Saleh, specifically the Tamimi family. Since Ahed’s arrest, her cousin Nour was arrested — she was recently released — her mother Nariman and her aunt were detained, and recently one of her cousins was detained in an overnight raid.
Mohammed Tamimi, 19, seized by occupation forces as global solidarity escalates (Video)
IMEMC/Agencies 12 Jan — The ongoing Israeli harassment and targeted oppression of the Tamimi family, organizers in the anti-colonial land defense and popular resistance in the Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh, continued in the pre-dawn hours of 11 January. While 16-year-old activist Ahed Tamimi and her mother Nariman remain in Israeli prison, facing a series of charges before an Israeli military court, Israeli occupation forces raided the family home of Manal and Bilal Tamimi, seizing their 19-year-old son Mohammed. Manal, Mohammed’s mother, was released one week ago after nearly a week in Israeli prison.
Mohammed smiled and raised his fingers in the “victory” sign as he was taken from his family home surrounded by occupation soldiers. Manal later reported on Facebook that her son is currently being held in the infamous Petah Tikva interrogation center. He is the latest member of the Tamimi family to be targeted in an ongoing series of raids and and arrests in the village of Nabi Saleh and the neighboring village of Deir Nizam, both near Ramallah. Nabi Saleh, a village of 600, has become a center of popular organizing and indigenous land defense after the illegal settlement of Halamish has stolen the village’s agricultural land as well as its spring …
As the repression targeting the Tamimi family has continued and intensified, Palestinian and international support for Ahed Tamimi and her family has only grown. Ahed, who has traveled to South Africa, Europe, Lebanon and elsewhere to speak about the Palestinian struggle, is an internationally known leader in the indigenous land defense movement. She has been involved in the movement in Nabi Saleh since she was only 11 years old …
On the streets of Berlin, Jewish Antifa Berlin shared images of large stickers and posters highlighting Ahed Tamimi’s case and those of the Tamimi women posted on signboards and advertising spaces around the German capital city. Women in Berlin are also organizing a bloc for the women’s march on 21 January that will highlight Ahed’s case.
Palestinian protesters demand Ahed Tamimi’s release
NABI SALEH, occupied West Bank (Al Jazeera) 13 Jan by Jaclynn Ashly — Israeli forces have fired tear gas as hundreds of Palestinians protested against the detention of a prominent teenage activist and her mother. Ahed Tamimi, 16, was detained on December 19 in an overnight raid at her home in the village of Nabi Saleh after a video showing her hitting and slapping Israeli soldiers went viral. Shortly before, her 15-year-old cousin Mohammad was shot point-blank in the face with a rubber-coated steel bullet, which left him in a medically induced coma for 72 hours. Ahed was indicted on 12 charges earlier this month and could face up to 10 years in prison. Her mother, Nariman, and her 20-year-old cousin Nour were also detained shortly afterwards. Nour has since been released on bail.
On Saturday, Palestinians from various villages in the occupied West Bank gathered in Nabi Saleh to demand the release of Ahed and her mother, as well as protest against US President Donald Trump’s move last month to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. However, Israeli forces stationed themselves at the entrance of Nabi Saleh an hour before the protest, preventing many foreign activists and journalists from entering the village while also turning away some Palestinians. The demonstrators initially marched towards a hill adjacent to the illegal Halamish settlement, the construction of which has confiscated hundreds of hectares of Nabi Saleh’s land. The protesters then moved on towards an Israeli checkpoint and military tower erected at the entrance of the village. Israeli forces fired tear gas, causing gas inhalation to dozens of protesters. At least seven demonstrators were injured by rubber bullets, residents told Al Jazeera.
‘Nothing will stop us from resisting’ — Nabi Saleh has long held Friday protests against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank every Friday for years. Bassem Tamimi, Ahed’s father who has spent four years in an Israeli prison, said the message of Saturday’s demonstration was clear: “Palestinians will not keep silent while living under occupation”. Ahed and Nariman are being held at Israel’s HaSharon prison in Israel. Owing to his previous imprisonment, Bassem is unable to obtain an Israeli permit to visit his daughter and wife in jail….
Israeli soldiers deface poster hung in memoriam of slain Palestinian teen
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 12 Jan — Just over a week after Israeli forces shot and killed 16-year-old Musaab al-Tamimi during clashes in his hometown of Deir Nitham, in the central occupied West Bank, Israeli soldiers allegedly defaced posters of the boy hanging in the town. Israeli news website Ynet said in a report on Thursday that posters commemorating al-Tamimi’s martyrdom were defaced with permanent marker. A picture posted by Ynet shows slogans written in Hebrew, stars of David, and a middle finger drawn on the teen’s face. The Hebrew slogans translate to “son of a whore,” “whore,” and “dead.” Hanging posters in memory of martyrs killed by Israeli forces is customary throughout the occupied Palestinian territory. Al-Tamimi was killed on January 4th, and was the first Palestinian to die at the hands of Israel in 2018.
Violence / Detentions — West Bank / Gaza
Updated: Army kills a student near Qalqilia
IMEMC/Agencies 16 Jan — Palestinian medical sources said that Ahmad Abdul-Jaber Salim, 28, from Jayyous town, was shot with a live round in the head [on Monday], and died from his serious wounds at Darwish Nazzal hospital, in Qalqilia, in northern West Bank. Eyewitnesses said Israeli soldiers fired many live rounds at Palestinian protesters, wounding Ahmad in the head, and then fired many gas bombs at Palestinian ambulances and medics. It is worth mentioning that Ahmad is a former political prisoner, who was held by Israel for three years before he was released in 2016, and is a student of the Al-Quds Open University in Qalqilia. He was the secretary of the “Students Unity Block,” of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP). Following his death, the soldiers completely closed the main road, and installed many roadblocks in the area. Many youngsters also hurled stones at Israeli army vehicles and settlers’ cars, while hundreds of Palestinians marched to the hospital protesting his death.
Thousands march in funerals of slain Palestinian teenagers
[with photos] BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 13 Jan — Thousands of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and occupied West Bank marched on Friday in the funerals of the two Palestinian teenagers who were killed by Israeli forces during protests on Thursday. In the northern West Bank village of ‘Iraq Burin, in the Nablus district, crowds set off from the village mosque following prayers towards the village’s cemetery where 16-year-old Ali Kino was laid to rest. Mourners chanted Palestinian national slogans in support of Kino, promising revenge against the Israeli occupation. Palestinian flags and flags of the Fatah movement were waved during the procession.
Meanwhile, the funeral of Amir Abed al-Hamid Abu Musaed, 16, set off in the central Gaza Strip following Friday prayers. Mourners set off from the al-Mughazi refugee camp’s mosque towards Abu Musaed’s family home, then to the camp’s cemetery where he was buried. Abu Musaed was killed by Israeli forces at the eastern borders of al-Bureij refugee camp on Thursday. The two teenagers were the third Palestinians, after 16-year-old Musaab al-Tamimi, to be killed by Israeli forces since the beginning of the year.
Army invades many apartments in Ramallah
IMEMC 16 Jan — Israeli soldiers invaded, on Tuesday at dawn, many Palestinian apartments, including one inhabited by a journalist, and conducted violent searches, causing serious property damage. The Palestinian News Agency (WAFA) said the soldiers invaded the apartment of one of its reporters, identified as Zahran Hammad, after detonating the front door. It added that the soldiers violently searched the property, causing Hammad’s children to suffer anxiety attacks, after the army detonated the main door, and stormed into the apartment, including their rooms. The soldiers also invaded and ransacked many neighboring apartments, causing damage.
In related news, dozens of soldiers invaded Hebron city, in southern West Bank, before breaking into the home of a former political prisoner, identified as Jamal Karama, and summoning him for interrogation in Etzion military base, north of Hebron. The soldiers also invaded the al-‘Arroub refugee camp, north of Hebron, and searched the home of Mohammad Issa Abu Afifa, whose son was abducted two days ago.
Video: Extremist Israeli colonists cut [down] more than 110 Palestinian olive trees in Nablus
IMEMC 13 Jan — A group of extremist Israeli colonists, illegally living on stolen Palestinian lands in Huwwara and Burin villages, south of the northern West Bank city of Nablus, have cut down Saturday more than 110 olive trees owned by several Palestinians, while Israeli soldiers watched without trying to stop them. The colonists came from the illegal Yitzhar outpost … They cut down and destroyed more than 110 Palestinian olive trees, owned by several Palestinians, before the locals intercepted their attack and managed to force them out. A video filmed by a local Palestinian shows the colonists cutting the trees, while Israeli soldiers stood on top of a small hill, watching them without even trying to stop them. There have been numerous previous incidents where the soldiers only intervened to attack the Palestinians, and fire at them, when they rushed to rescue their lands, their main and in most cases, their only source of livelihood, and clashed with the invading illegal colonists.
Israeli settlers attack Nablus village, clashes erupt
NABLUS (WAFA) 14 Jan – Israeli settlers attacked the village of Urif, to the south of Nablus, on Sunday, provoking clashes with local villagers, according to local sources. Ghassan Daghlas, who monitors settlement activities in the area, said extremist Israeli settlers from the illegal settlement of Yitzhar raided the village, provoking clashes with local Palestinians. Israeli settlers have intensified their attacks on Palestinians and their properties following the drive-by shooting last week that killed an Israeli settler from Khavat Gilad settlement outpost, to the west of Nablus.
IDF arrests Palestinian sisters who planned stabbing attack in Hebron
Jerusalem Online 11 Jan by Omri Ariel — The IDF arrested three Palestinian sisters on Thursday in Hebron after a kitchen knife was found on one of them. A second knife was found thrown on the ground nearby. It is believed they had planned to carry out a terror attack but were having second thoughts. The sisters, aged 23, 18 and 15, arrived at a military checkpoint near the Cave of the Patriarchs at about 5 p.m. on Thursday. IDF Border Police officers noticed their suspicious behavior and decided to frisk them. They found a knife strapped to the body of one of the women and another one on the ground. A preliminary questioning of the three women suggested that they had thrown the knife away because they regretted their decision to carry out a terror attack.
IDF explodes bomb found in Joseph’s Tomb during mass visit
Ynet 16 Jan by Yoav Zitun — An explosive device and a remote detonator was found inside the tunnels of Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus overnight Monday, the IDF said, as thousands of worshipers were escorted by a security detail to the site. The device was destroyed in a controlled explosion by bomb disposal units. Rocks were thrown at the buses carrying the worshipers as they entered and left the site, causing light damage but no injuries. One person was arrested.
Israeli soldiers abduct ten Palestinians in Jerusalem
IMEMC 15 Jan — Israeli soldiers abducted, on Sunday evening, ten young Palestinian men, including a political prisoner who was just released from detention and was heading back home, in occupied Jerusalem, after the army ambushed them on the way to the city. Media sources said that the soldiers abducted former political prisoner Sbeih Abu Sbeih, who was just released from detention and was heading back home, without providing any explanation for his arrest. The soldiers also abducted nine other Palestinians from the Old City of occupied Jerusalem, who were with Sbeih; all were ambushed and detained on the way from prison to the Old City.
Israeli soldiers abduct fifteen Palestinians in the West Bank
IMEMC 15 Jan — Israeli soldiers abducted, on Monday at dawn, fifteen Palestinians from their homes, after breaking into them and violently searching them, in several parts of the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS) has reported. The PPS office in Bethlehem said the soldiers abducted eight Palestinians, from several parts of the governorate. They have been identified as Mohammad Khaled Ta’amra, Majed al-Azza, Abdul-Razeq Badawna, Ahmad Khaled Asakra, Faisal Yousef Sha’er, Mohammad Khal Tannouh, Mohammad Adeeb Mousa, and Qaher Jamil Abu Kamel. The soldiers also invaded homes in Qalqilia, in northern West Bank, and abducted three Palestinians, identified as Kamel Mohammad Adwan, 19, Luay Odah, 16, and Ali Moayyad Shreim, 18. In Jericho, the soldiers abducted Mohammad Khaled Batanja and Tamer Majed Barahma, from their homes. In addition, the soldiers invaded and searched many homes in Nablus, in northern West Bank, and abducted Moath Reehan. Another Palestinian, identified as Mohammad Abdul-Rauf Mahmoud, was abducted from his home in occupied Jerusalem.
Israeli soldiers injure five Palestinians near Jenin
IMEMC 16 Jan — Israeli soldiers invaded, on Monday at night, Burqin town, west of the northern West Bank city of Jenin, searched many homes and buildings, and injured five young men. Media sources in Jenin said the soldiers fired many live rounds, rubber-coated steel bullets and gas bombs at many protesters, who hurled stones at the invading armored jeeps. The soldiers shot four Palestinians with rubber-coated steel bullets, and one with a live round in his leg, in addition to causing many others to suffer the effects of teargas inhalation. The sources added that the soldiers invaded and ransacked homes, a local company, a supermarket and a gas station, before confiscating surveillance recordings. Eyewitnesses said the soldiers caused damage to many vehicles, including two cars owned Wisam Thieb Affana, and Kanaan Company, in addition to a tractor owned by Siyam al-‘Aassi.
On Monday evening, the soldiers invaded the al-Walaja village, northwest of Bethlehem, and photographed three homes In Ein Jweiza area. It is worth mentioning that Ein Jweiza is subject to frequent invasions, while many Palestinians received demolition orders of their homes, or orders demanding them to stop construction, as the army is trying to illegally confiscate the lands for “military purposes,” and for expanding illegal colonies.
In words and deeds: the genesis of Israeli violence
MEMO 16 Jan — Not a day passes without a prominent Israeli politician or intellectual making an outrageous statement against Palestinians. Many of these statements tend to garner little attention or evoke rightly deserved outrage. Just recently, Israel’s Minister of Agriculture, Uri Ariel, called for more death and injuries on Palestinians in Gaza. “What is this special weapon we have that we fire and see pillars of smoke and fire, but nobody gets hurt? It is time for there to be injuries and deaths as well,” he said. Ariel’s calling for the killing of more Palestinians came on the heels of other repugnant statements concerning a 16-year-old teenager girl, Ahed Tamimi. Ahed was arrested in a violent Israeli army raid at her home in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh. A video recording showed her slapping an Israeli soldier a day after the Israeli army shot her cousin in the head, placing him in a coma. Israeli Education Minister, Naftali Bennett, known for his extremist political views, demanded that Ahed and other Palestinian girls should “spend the rest of their days in prison”. A prominent Israeli journalist, Ben Caspit, sought yet more punishment. He suggested that Ahed and girls like her should be raped in jail. “In the case of the girls, we should exact a price at some other opportunity, in the dark, without witnesses and cameras”, he wrote in Hebrew.
This violent and revolting mindset, however, is not new. It is an extension of an old, entrenched belief system that is predicated on a long history of violence. Undeniably, the views of Ariel, Bennett and Caspit are not angry statements uttered in a moment of rage. They are all reflections of real policies that have been carried out for over 70 years. Indeed, killing, raping and imprisoning for life are features that have accompanied the state of Israel since the very beginning. This violent legacy continues to define Israel to this day, through the use of what Israeli historian Ilan Pappe describes as ‘incremental genocide.’….
Israeli forces raid Nablus villages, seize private surveillance cameras
NABLUS (WAFA) 14 Jan – Israeli forces Sunday raided several villages in the district of Nablus, the occupied West Bank and seized private surveillance cameras, said local sources. Sources told WAFA that Israeli forces raided villages of Burqa, Beit Imrin and Yasid and seized surveillance cameras that belong to Palestinian families living in those villages. Israeli forces have been carrying out wide-scale raid operations in the district of Nablus after an Israeli settler was shot dead last week on a main road outside the illegal Israeli outpost of Havat Gilad located near the city.
Prisoners / Court actions
Israel extends Ahed Tamimi’s detention for 48 hours
MEMO 16 Jan — An Israeli court extended today the detention of the 16-year-old Palestinian girl, Ahed Al-Tamimi, for 48 hours “pending further investigation.” Al-Tamimi’s detention was extended four times since she was detained by the Israeli authorities last month. Israel’s Ofer military court, located west of the West Bank city of Ramallah, extended the teen’s detention to 17 January at the request of military prosecutors. Along with the members of her family, Al-Tamimi’s court session was attended by several foreign diplomats and human rights organisations and activists. While Tamimi was entering the court, handcuffed and leg shackled, her father, Bassem, told her “you’re strong.” The detained responded to her father saying “I’m fine.” Israeli forces first detained Al-Tamimi on 19 December during an overnight raid that was carried out in Ramallah’s northern village of Nabi Saleh. It was not the teen’s first brush with the Israeli forces. Both her mother and cousin were arrested shortly afterwards. The girl’s father, mother and brothers have also all been repeatedly arrested for their “fierce opposition to Israel’s decades-long occupation.”….
Group calls for release of senior Fatah official from Israeli detention
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 13 Jan — The International Union of Socialist Youth (IUSY) released a statement on Saturday calling for the release of Hassan Faraj, a senior leader in the Fatah movement, who was arrested by Israeli forces on Friday during protests in the southern occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem. Faraj, who is a member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council and the head of Fatah’s youth movement, was arrested during the anti-Trump protest along with Wisam Hamdan, Secretary-General of Fatah in the Bethlehem-area village of al-Jabaa. In their statement IUSY expressed their “deep concern” over Faraj’s arrest, and called on its member organizations and the international community to “take direct measures in order to end the more than 50 years occupation and apartheid in Palestine.” “We affirm our full support to the peaceful popular struggle of the Palestinian people in their fair quest for freedom and justice,” the statement said.
Faraj’s arrest comes two weeks after Israeli forces arrested Palestinian activist Munther Amira, the head of the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee (PSCC) in the West Bank. Amira, well-known around the region for his nonviolent activism, was arrested under similar circumstances to Faraj — during a protest in Bethlehem in front of Israel’s separation wall….
Court orders Palestinian charged with attempted murder of Israeli hikers in Qusra freed
Haaretz 14 Jan by Yotam Berger — A Palestinian charged with attempted murder for allegedly throwing stones at a group of young hikers in the West Bank in November was ordered released from custody by an Israeli military appeals court Sunday. The judge cited serious flaws in the way police identified the defendant as the attacker. In the November 30 incident, dozens of Palestinians surrounded and threw rocks at a group of 20 Israeli children and teenagers and two adults as they hiked near the village of Qusra. According to the charge sheet, Mohammed Wadi took part in throwing rocks, entered a cave where the children were hiding and injured the group’s security guard. Prosecutors had requested that Wadi remain in custody for the duration of proceedings, while Wadi claimed that he was not the attacker and that the identification process was flawed. While the lower military court did not accept Wadis claim, the appeals court, headed by Lt. Col. Ronen Atzmon, rejected the police identification of Wadi as the attacker….
Gaza fisherman shot dead by Egyptian army: Palestinians
GAZA CITY (AFP) 13 Jan — A fisherman from the Gaza Strip was shot dead by the Egyptian army overnight for unclear reasons, Palestinian officials said Saturday, calling for an immediate investigation into the incident. Medical sources in Gaza said that Abdullah Zeidan, 33, from the Shati refugee camp, was shot in the chest by Egyptian forces near the naval border with Egypt in the south of the coastal enclave. He was taken to hospital but died early Saturday morning. Gaza’s interior ministry said an initial investigation indicated “the Palestinian fishing boat did not cross the Egyptian (maritime) border”. “We call on the Egyptian authorities to open an urgent investigation into this incident,” spokesperson Iyad al-Bozum said in a statement. Egyptian officials did not immediately comment. The head of the fishing union in Gaza announced a halt in fishing until Sunday evening in protest at the killing.
Disabled Palestinian killed by Israeli fire: Hamas autopsy
AFP 15 Jan — The autopsy of a disabled Palestinian protester killed in December showed Israeli fire was responsible for his death, a Hamas-affiliated commission in Gaza said Monday. Ibrahim Abu Thurayeh died on December 15 during protests and clashes along the Israel-Gaza border against US President Donald Trump’s controversial recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. His family says he had lost his legs in an Israeli strike a decade earlier. Israel’s military said earlier this month it was opening an investigation into the death of the 29-year-old after previously saying it was not able to determine whether he had been killed by its soldiers’ fire.
The justice ministry in Gaza announced Sunday his body had been exhumed and on Monday a commission affiliated to Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas said he had been shot by Israeli forces. Emad al-Baz, from the organisation which Hamas tasks with gathering evidence about alleged Israeli crimes, told a news conference that multiple tests had been conducted on the body, including X-ray scans. “The autopsy revealed the bullet entered above his left eye and stayed in his head.” El-Baz said the autopsy indicated the bullet was fired from some 30 metres (yards) away, the distance between protesters and the Israeli army.
The United Nations’ human rights chief has said he was “truly shocked” by Abu Thurayeh’s death and demanded an “independent and impartial investigation”. Seventeen Palestinians have been killed since Trump’s December 6 announcement, most of them in clashes with Israeli forces. One Israeli has been killed in that timeframe.
Elderly couple dies in Gaza due to suffocation
IMEMC/Agencies 14 Jan — An elderly couple using a charcoal grill to heat their house, in Gaza, was found dead on Sunday afternoon, the Palestinian Ministry of Health said. A Health Ministry spokesperson said that the man, who was 90 years old and his wife, 88 years old, used the charcoal grill to heat their house due to the lack of electricity. According to Days of Palestine, the spokesperson said that using the charcoal grill in a bad ventilation system causes carbon monoxide poisoning. Gazans have been suffering during winter due to the inability to warm up the homes because of the lack of electricity, which is an integral part of the 11-year-old siege implemented and sustained by Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority.
Updated: Army injures 108 Palestinians in Gaza
IMEMC 12 Jan — The Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza has confirmed that Israeli soldiers injured, Friday, 43 Palestinians with live rounds and rubber-coated steel bullets, and caused at least 65 others to suffer the effects of teargas inhalation, near border areas in the northern and eastern parts of the Gaza Strip, after the army, stationed across the border fence, opened fire on protesters in Palestinian lands. It said that the soldiers, stationed on military towers and in tanks, across the border fence east of Jabalia in northern Gaza, fired dozens of live rounds at protesters, wounding fifteen young men, before they were rushed to the Indonesian hospital, in nearby Beit Lahia. Local medics also provided many Palestinians with the needed treatment for the effects of teargas inhalation.
Furthermore, the soldiers shot seven Palestinians near Nahal Oz military base,east of Gaza city; one of them was shot with a rubber-coated steel bullet in his head; another was shot with a gas bomb in his shoulder, and the rest were shot with live rounds in their legs, while many others suffered the effects of teargas inhalation.
The soldiers also shot two Palestinians with live fire, near Erez Terminal in northern Gaza, and many others suffered the effects of teargas inhalation, east of the al-Boreij refugee camp, in central Gaza.
In addition, the army fired many live rounds and gas bombs at Palestinian protesters in Rafah and Khan Younis, in southern Gaza.
Israel destroys tunnel from Gaza it says intended for attacks
JERUSALEM (AFP) 14 Jan — Israel said Sunday it used a combination of air strikes and other means to destroy a tunnel stretching from the Gaza Strip into the country and continuing into Egypt. Israeli military spokesman Jonathan Conricus said the tunnel belonged to Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, and was intended for attacks as opposed to smuggling. Such tunnels have been used to carry out attacks in the past. He said he was not aware of any casualties from the destruction of the tunnel, which was still being built. It ran underneath the main goods crossing between Israel and the blockaded Gaza Strip — known as Kerem Shalom — as well as gas and fuel pipelines, he said. The crossing was to remain closed until further notice. According to Conricus, Israeli air strikes late Saturday along with other unspecified means were used to destroy the tunnel. The strikes occurred within the Gaza Strip, while further means were used in Israeli territory. The tunnel began east of the city of Rafah in the Gaza Strip, crossed into Israel some 180 metres, then continued into Egypt for an unspecified length, with no exit point detected, he said. Conricus said Israel had coordinated with Egypt on the operation. The tunnel stretched a total length of around a kilometre and a half, he said … The latest tunnel was at least the third destroyed since late October by Israel — some Israeli media reports say a fourth was also destroyed recently — but it comes at a particularly sensitive time….
Liberman: ‘We don’t want to destroy Gaza. We must drive them to total despair’
Jewish Press 15 Jan — Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Monday declared that his goal is to bring Hamas and the rest of the terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip to “a state of total despair [so they would] give up the idea of destroying the State of Israel.” Speaking to Reshet Bet, Liberman also stated that “the first thing to be dome in Gaza is an arrangement regarding the POWs and MIAs, without which we cannot move forward.” Jni.media checked the website “Is Ismail Haniyeh Dead Yet?” which follows the outcome of an earlier Liberman promise, that as soon as he is appointed defense minister, he plans to give the Hamas leader a 48-hour ultimatum to release the POW bodies and the living MIAs he is holding, after which he should arrange his own funeral. As of Monday morning, Haniyeh’s extended life since Liberman’s appointment has lasted one year, seven months, two days and one hour. Nevertheless, Liberman continued to issue promises on Monday morning, such as, “By the end of this year, we will destroy all the [terror] tunnels and complete the construction of the [tunnel] barrier.” “For every mortar fired, we remove some of the Hamas’ critical capabilities,” the defense minister boasted, suggesting “we should lead them to a state of total despair and get them to give up the idea of destroying the State of Israel. The formula would be rehabilitation in exchange for demilitarization.” Perhaps there should be a separate website to check on that statement as well. Perhaps “Has Hamas Given Up on Destroying Israel Yet?“
Gazan economy, infrastructure on verge of collapse, Israeli security officials say
Haaretz 15 Jan by Amos Harel — Officials are worried about possible consequences of continued military pressure on the Strip, as deteriorating conditions raise the risk of an uncontrollable flare-up — Senior defense officials one meets these days – not only members of the Government Coordinator of Activities in the Territories unit, but officers in uniform, and to some extent even the Shin Bet security service – are voicing surprisingly similar opinions about the situation in the Gaza Strip. The economy in the Strip is on the verge of total collapse, “like from zero to below zero,” as one official put it, and so is civilian infrastructure.
Hamas’ weak position, both economically and politically, makes it easier for Israel to take the necessary steps to destroy its tunnel project. As reported Saturday, Israel demolished a fourth tunnel in the Gaza Strip in less than three months (and in one incident a Hamas man was injured in Lebanon in an explosion by entities unknown). But politicians in Israel are acting as if military pressure can continue on the Strip, ignoring the worsening economic situation, and that has experts worried. In the long term, continually deteriorating infrastructure brings the risk of an uncontrollable blow-up in the Strip….
Opinion: Gaza’s prison warden and the Strip’s ever-rising collapse threshold / Amira Hass
Haaretz 16 Jan — The isolation of the Gaza Strip and its residents, as a political project rather than a security project, began long before the Qassam rockets did — The warden warns that the internment camp is on the brink of collapse. It’s good that he does so, and it’s good that his warning became the lead headline in Haaretz. But it’s hard to miss the target of this warning: the government, and above all Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman. The concern of the warden — that is, high-ranking career officers of the security establishment — seems genuine. There’s no reason to suspect that they’re merely planning their defense in the International Criminal Court, for the day that suspects are sought in the ongoing disaster known as Gaza Strip Prison. Gaza’s collapse threshold rises every year, due to the Palestinians’ unendurable capacity for endurance. Israel’s political fantasy of the Gaza Strip as a separate geographic and political entity can only be realized by destroying its economy and infrastructure and the physical and mental health of its inhabitants. Nothing illustrates this better than the water issue. When Israeli officers sanctimoniously warn that 95 percent of Gaza’s water is unfit to drink, they ignore the original absurdity: Israel forces Gaza to make do with water from the aquifer located within its borders. This aquifer, which supplied water to some 300,000 people in 1950, is now supposed to supply the same amount to two million people. It’s no wonder there’s overpumping and contamination by sewage and seawater … I’ll say it for the millionth time: The only near-term solution is to pipe water into Gaza from Israel and the West Bank, without haggling over the price or waiting for the Palestinian reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas … The same is true in every other walk of life. Israeli security professionals faithfully carry out their orders to ban fishing, shoot farmers and force people to wait six hours for a two-minute interrogation by the Shin Bet security service, and then tut-tut about the decline in the number of cargo trucks entering Gaza due to the decline in purchasing power …
Gaza is not an island. Treat its residents like human beings. Let them leave to study or party in Nablus and Bethlehem, and also in Haifa; let them leave to work and to visit friends and family. Let them manufacture and farm and export. Let Israelis, West Bankers and tourists visit Gaza. Gaza will be spared collapse, and Israel will be spared a trial in The Hague.
Report: 2017 was worst year since Protective Edge for Gaza access
JPost 15 Jan by Udi Shaham — The past year was the worst in regard to the movement of Palestinians in and out of the Gaza Strip since Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014, according to a report released on Monday by the human-rights NGO Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement. Gisha presented 10 measures taken by Israeli authorities that limited the movement in and out the Gaza Strip through the Erez Crossing. They were “introduced with little to no justification provided as to their purpose and, it appears, no consideration of the impact they would have on the lives of Gaza’s residents,” the report says. The list of measures includes a significant extension to the processing time for permits, leaving thousands of applications pending with no response; a new directive prohibiting Palestinians from exiting the Gaza Strip with electronic devices, toiletries and food; freezes on travel to the US Consulate; mandatory shuttle services to the Allenby Bridge Crossing over the Jordan River; “security blocks” preventing travel for patients, traders and humanitarian workers; an increase in the frequency and severity of “security interviews” at Erez; trader permits canceled as new approvals were declined; travel for Friday prayers in Jerusalem remaining blocked; and recipients of permits for travel abroad increasingly made to sign a commitment not to return for a year.
According to the report, the number of exits by Palestinians via the Erez Crossing in 2017 dropped by 51% compared to 2016. It shows that the monthly average in 2017 was only 5,963 exits, compared to a monthly average of 12,150 in 2016 and 14,276 in 2015 … The number of valid trader permits dropped dramatically, by 85%, during this period – from more than 3,500 at the end of 2015 to only 551 in December 2017, according to the report…
Analysis: Israel is asking Palestinians leaving the Gaza Strip: Are you happy? / Amira Hass
Haaretz 13 Jan — People leaving the Gaza Strip through the Israeli terminal this week were asked to complete a public opinion survey. The IDF’s District Coordination and Liaison Office prepared the survey, asking 17 questions in Arabic. The first question was a statement of fact: “In general I’m happy with my life these days.” An Israeli who saw some of the completed questionnaires said most of the answers seemed to be “completely agree” or “agree.” The other options on the form were “partly agree,” “don’t agree,” “completely disagree.” Perhaps they are “happy” because they managed to get out of the Gaza Strip. In the past year the number of Palestinian residents in the strip that Israel allowed to leave has dropped sharply …”Happy” isn’t the description one hears in telephone conversations with friends and acquaintances in Gaza. But as a high school teacher says: “We say praise the lord, everything’s OK, meaning that at a certain moment no one in the family is sick, or wounded, or killed, that we have food and one of us is still working so that he can help his brothers’ unemployed families.” … A little more than a third of the average monthly departures in 2017 were made by sick people and their escort- 2,043. Will they answer “agree” to the first question? It is doubtful. Although one of Gaza’s jokes has a girl saying to a friend: “How lucky you are. You have cancer and you’re going to Nablus.”….
Education minister instructs 500 Gaza teachers to return to work
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 14 Jan – Minister of Education Sabri Saidam Sunday instructed 500 teachers appointed by the Palestinian Authority prior to the 2007 division to return back to the posts they held. “The decision comes as part of preparations for the second semester, taking into consideration schools needs and to ensure work progress and to serve the educational process,” Saidam said. He said directorates of education will communicate with the 500 teachers to handle the necessary procedures for their redeployment.
PA public employees were ordered not to cooperate with the Hamas authority following its takeover of power in Gaza in June 2007. The employees, whose number is around 20,000, were told to stay home and to continue receiving their salary.
One separated Gaza twin dies but sister recovering
RIYADH (AFP) 13 Jan — One of the Palestinian conjoined twins from the Gaza Strip separated this week in surgery in Saudi Arabia has died but her sister is recovering, the kingdom said Saturday — “Haneen is in stable condition and on her way to recovery five days after being surgically separated from her clinically dead sister, Farah,” the Saudi information ministry said. “Haneen is breathing normally and is receiving her nutrition intravenously,” said Dr. Abdullah al-Rabiah, who led the operation team. Rabiah said that all of the Palestinian infant’s vital signs were now stable and that she had been removed from an artificial respirator. The operation was carried out on Monday and involved the separation of multiple organs, including the liver, as well as restoring organs in Haneen. The surgery came months after a doctor and family member of the twins pleaded from Gaza that they be allowed to go abroad for the complex surgery. Allam Abu Hamda, head of the neonatal unit at Gaza’s Shifa Hospital, told AFP in October the girls were born joined at the stomach and pelvis and that the complicated condition could not be dealt with in the enclave.
Shell’s Gaza gas field sale hits problems
Reuters 12 Jan — It may prove to be Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s (NYSE: RDS.A) hardest sell. The Anglo-Dutch group is struggling to find a buyer for its gas field off the Gaza Strip, even among energy companies long used to dealing with projects fraught with political and security risks. At least one European company has shown interest in the undeveloped Gaza Marine Field following a reconciliation deal in October between the two rival Palestinian factions, a source involved in the talks said. But the firm’s discussions over the field, located about 30 km (20 miles) off the Gaza coast, have ground to a halt since tensions in the wider region have taken a fresh turn for the worse, the source told Reuters. “Until the political situation is resolved I really can’t see anything happening here,” he said. Gaza Marine has long been seen as a golden opportunity for the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority to join the Mediterranean gas bonanza, providing a major source of income to reduce its reliance on foreign aid….
Still, Gaza life continues, undefeated:
Gaza speech therapist treats refugee kids online
Al-Monitor 12 Jan by Ahmed Sammak — Speech therapist Mohammed al-Hayek is treating several children from different Arab countries, including Syrian children displaced to Turkey and Lebanon, from behind his computer screen in the besieged Gaza Strip. Hayek, 29, began his career as a speech therapist after graduating from the department of Rehabilitation Sciences at the University College of Applied Sciences in the Gaza Strip in 2009. He then joined local projects under the auspices of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which examined the speech of primary school students in institutions affiliated with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency … He added, “I visit each kindergarten two days a week and created a Facebook page where I give people advice and post photos of me working with children, in order to promote my work as much as possible.” Hayek said he was able to treat 6-year-old Nada, the first girl to receive a cochlear implant in the Gaza Strip. After the surgery, she still had trouble pronouncing some sounds. Her treatment with Hayek at the Balsam Association lasted for four months after the implant. He noted, “One day, a Syrian refugee living in Lebanon contacted me through the page and told me that her daughter had trouble pronouncing 10 different sounds. I diagnosed the girl over a video call and we began daily treatment sessions for three weeks, after which she fully recovered.” Hayek added, “The mother then posted on the page a thank-you note for treating her daughter and thanked me for offering my services for free. After that, many mothers from several Arab countries such as Jordan, Tunisia, the occupied West Bank, Lebanon and Iraq contacted me about their children. I also treated a 30-year-old Algerian man who had speech problems.” He explained that the appearance of speech problems among so many refugee children can be attributed to trauma … Despite Hayek’s success, he faced several challenges, including power outages for over 20 hours a day and a weak internet connection, which made it hard to communicate with patients over low-quality videos….
Gaza farmers go for gold
MEMO 15 Jan by Mohammed Asad — Farmer Mohammed Al-Wahidi walks through the family farm and starts harvesting the citrus fruit, south of Gaza city. Mohammed picks pomelettes, which are a hybrid citrus fruit resulting from combining pomelos and grapefruits. They are sweet and very juicy. This year’s harvest “is relatively good, as each medium-large tree holds about 70-100 kilogrammes of fruit,” the farmer explains. The Ministry of Agriculture had expected a decline in local produce this year due to the lack of cultivated land and the reluctance of farmers to plant citrus fruits given the saltiness of the water in Gaza. According to the ministry, the latest statistics indicate that the amount of land planted with citrus this year reached about 4,600 acres, including about 1,900 acres of new land. Last year’s production reached 28,000 tonnes. The centre also added that this year’s citrus production does not meet the needs of the Gazan market, as this year’s needs are over 40,000 tonnes, 27 per cent more that is being produced. Palestine is the top citrus producer in the Arab world. Citrus is harvested from November to April, and each kilogramme makes an average of $1 in the local market. The citrus fruits planted in Gaza include pomelos, pomelettes, grapefruits, clementines, mandarins and several types of oranges, including navel oranges, Valencia oranges and Jaffa oranges.
Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Judaization / Settlements
Israel resumes excavations near Al-Aqsa to build pedestrian bridge
JERUSALEM (WAFA) 14 Jan – Israeli authorities Sunday resumed excavations in several areas in Wadi Al-Rababeh area in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan – only a few dozen meters away from al-Aqsa Mosque – in preparation for the construction of a ‘pedestrian bridge’, said Wadi Hilweh Information Center. According to the center, the length of the planned bridge is 197 meters and 30 meters high. It noted that the new plan means confiscating the lands in favor of settlement projects. The landowners confirmed to the Information Center that they were surprised today by the digging operations to implement a new settlement project without informing them in advance so that they can file objections to the competent authorities to prevent its implementation.
Meanwhile, over 100 Israeli settlers under the protection of Israeli police stormed the courtyards of the al-Aqsa mosque through al-Magharbeh Gate, one of the gates leading to the mosque, and attempted to perform religious rituals there. According to Minister of Waqf and Religious Affairs, Yousif Idais, at least 1,210 violations and attacks against religious Islamic and Christian sites were documented during the year of 2017. He stressed that the frequency of these attacks have increased after US declaration of Jerusalem as capital of Israel….
Awqaf ministry calls for enabling maintenance at Hebron’s Ibrahimi Mosque
HEBRON (WAFA) 14 Jan – The Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs reiterated on Sunday the need to enable the ministry to freely undertake maintenance works at the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron and avoid any alterations in the holy site by Israel. The ministry condemned Israeli plans, which included the construction of a roof over the open area of the mosque, which Israel said was to prevent flooding of rainwater into the mosque. Khalid Zawawi, a media officer at the ministry, said the construction of the new roof will make new space for Israeli settlers who come to pray to the Mosque, which was divided by Israel into a mosque and a synagogue after an Israeli settler gunned down 29 Palestinians and injured a hundred others. Zawawi told WAFA that if built, the roof would obstruct ventilation, denying claims that rainwater flooding into the mosque is the reason for the addition of this roof. The ministry said if Israel allowed the Awqaf to continue to do its maintenance work in the mosque, the alleged flooding problem can be fixed without closing the mosque. However, it said Israel continues to ban maintenance works at the mosque by the Islamic Awqaf.
Central Council: Orthodox Christian property sales are documented
IMEMC/Agencies 15 Jan — The Central Council of the Orthodox Christians in Jordan and Palestine said, on Sunday, that it has documents proving that strategic properties of the Patriarchate in Jerusalem had been sold to Israel. In a letter sent to the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), the Orthodox Christian body said that the documents also prove that property linked to Al-Aqsa Mosque has been sold as well. The letter reiterated the importance of countering Israel’s Judaisation plans for Jerusalem and the displacement of citizens through selling property belonging to the Orthodox Church. The letter also noted that these sales were carried out by a “Greek group monopolising the Arab Orthodox Church;” Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem is said to be at the top of the list of these “conspirators.” Such sales, the group said, support Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. “Our issue is not religious or sectarian, but Palestinian and Arab,” the Church’s Central Council said. “Our church is the only one in the world which is not headed by a patriarch from its own people.” The PLO was requested to adopt the recommendations of the first National Orthodox Conference held on 1 October of last year, which was the first of its kind in about 100 years.
The Palestinian village with only three residents
BETHLEHEM, West Bank (Al-Monitor) 15 Jan by Ibrahim Abdelhadi — To the southwest of the town of al-Khader, 5 kilometers (3 miles) from the city of Bethlehem, lies Shoshahla village located at the foot of a mountain surrounded by five Israeli settlements: Sidi Bouaz, Eliezer, Efrat, Neve Daniel and Kfar Etzion. Only three people — a man, his wife and their daughter — live in Shoshahla and continue to cling to a land they inherited from their ancestors. This small family, which was forced to migrate decades ago under Israeli threats, chose to return to Shoshahla in the early 1990s and is refusing to leave again despite the primitive life they lead. The village of Shoshahla faces continuous attacks from settlers who destroy homes, write racist slogans on walls, deprive inhabitants of the basic necessities of life and force them to use primitive means when traveling to neighboring cities and villages. Settlers are seeking to maintain a tight grip on the only remaining family and prompt them to leave their home and land. Several attacks have been launched on the village, the most recent of which was when an Israeli military force stormed the village on July 29, 2017, forcing residents to leave their homes at gunpoint. Muhannad Salah, 37, is the only Palestinian left with his family in the village….
Israel orders halt on construction of mosque, room near Hebron
HEBRON (WAFA) 15 Jan – Israeli forces ordered a halt on the construction of a mosque, a room and solar cells near the town of Yatta, to the south of Hebron, according to local sources. Rateb Jabour, coordinator of the Anti-Settlement Committee in Hebron, told WAFA that the Israeli army handed Mohammad Ali Jaber, a resident of Khallet ad-Dabi village near Yatta, a notice ordering him to stop the construction of a room and solar cells in his house. Army also notified Palestinians in Masafer Yatta area, south of Hebron, to stop the construction of a mosque in the area.
Meanwhile, Israeli settlers from nearby illegal settlements of Maon and Havat Maon installed barbed wire on land belonging to Palestinians from the village of Tuwani, east of Yatta.
Israeli forces raze land near Nablus
NABLUS (WAFA) 14 Jan – Israeli bulldozers Sunday razed large tracts of land in the village of Burin, to the south of Nablus city in the occupied West Bank, according to local sources. Local sources said Israeli bulldozers razed agricultural lands in Burin and began constructing a 250-meter-long fence around the lands that were recently confiscated by the Israeli authorities in the area. Israeli authorities recently announced plans to confiscate 30 dunums of land outside Burin school. Last week, Israeli forces razed large tracts of land in the nearby village of Madama.
Liberman submits proposal to legalize West Bank outpost of slain rabbi
Times of Israel 14 Jan by Jacob Magid — Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman submitted a proposal to the cabinet on Sunday that would start the process of legalizing of the Havat Gilad outpost in the West Bank, less than a week after one of its residents was killed in a terror attack. If adopted by the cabinet, the proposal would authorize the defense minister to instruct relevant government bodies to examine the legal aspects of recognizing Havat Gilad as an official settlement, a statement announcing the proposal said … Havat Gilad residents claim to have purchased the land prior to establishing the outpost in 2002. The settlers named the hilltop community after Gilad Zar, the security coordinator of the Shomron Regional Council, who was shot dead in an attack a year earlier. Palestinians, however, have denied the purchase, claiming that the documents were fake. Since Shevach’s murder, settler leaders and right-wing lawmakers have called on the government to legalize the outpost. Earlier Sunday, President Reuven Rivlin called such demands “logical” and said they require “consideration or attention at the very least.”….
NGO that rescued Jews from Nazis during WW II on blacklist
IMEMC/Agencies — The 101-year-old American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Quaker organization that was honored with the 1947 Nobel Peace Prize for assisting and rescuing Jewish victims from the Nazi regime during World War II was among 20 organizations recently blacklisted by Israel. The South African human rights and Palestine solidarity organization, BDS South Africa, a registered NGO and Public Benefit Organization (PBO), was also added to the blacklist by the department responsible for fighting against the BDS … Kerri Kennedy, an AFSC official, responded to the AFSC’s inclusion on Israel’s BDS Blacklist, saying: “We answered the call for divestment from apartheid South Africa and we have done the same with the call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions from Palestinians who have faced decades of human rights violations.”….
New Orleans passes BDS resolution
IMEMC/Agencies 15 Jan — The New Orleans City Council has unanimously passed a resolution calling for a process to avoid contracting with or investing in companies that profit from abuses of human rights, civil rights, labor rights, and other violations. The resolution was spearheaded by USCPR member group New Orleans Palestine Solidarity Committee (NOPSC). The resolution was introduced by the New Orleans Mayor-elect and Council member, Latoya Cantrell, following an inspiring, year-long campaign by NOPSC. This is among the strongest municipal wins to date, encompassing both boycotts and divestment, and is the first of its kind in the South. The US Campaign for Palestinian Rights celebrate the victory today, on Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, remembering the critical role of boycotts used in the Civil Rights Movement in protest of apartheid policies in the Jim Crow South.
Across the Mideast, Palestinians brace for Trump aid cuts
SHATI REFUGEE CAMP, Gaza Strip (AP) 16 Jan by Fares Akram – Mahmoud al-Qouqa can’t imagine life without the three sacks of flour, cooking oil and other staples he receives from the United Nations every three months. Living with 25 relatives in a crowded home in this teeming Gaza Strip slum, the meager rations provided by UNRWA, the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugee families, are the last thing keeping his family afloat in the territory hard hit by years of poverty and conflict. But that could be in danger as the United States, UNRWA’s biggest donor, threatens to curtail funding. “It will be like a disaster and no one can predict what the reaction will be,” al-Qouqa said. Across the Middle East, millions of people who depend on UNRWA are bracing for the worst. The expected cut could also add instability to struggling host countries already coping with spillover from other regional crises.
UNRWA was established in the wake of the 1948 Mideast war surrounding Israel’s creation. An estimated 700,000 Palestinians fled or were forced from their homes in the fighting. In the absence of a solution for these refugees, the U.N. General Assembly has repeatedly renewed UNRWA’s mandate, the original refugee camps have turned into concrete slums and more than 5 million refugees and their descendants now rely on the agency for services including education, health care and food. The largest populations are in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan and Lebanon. Seen by the Palestinians and most of the international community as providing a valuable safety net, UNRWA is viewed far differently by Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accuses the agency of perpetuating the conflict by helping promote an unrealistic dream that these people have the “right of return” to long-lost properties in what is now Israel …
Blaming the Palestinians for lack of progress in Mideast peace efforts, President Donald Trump has threatened to cut American assistance to the Palestinians. UNRWA would be the first to be affected. The U.S. provides about $355 million a year to UNRWA, roughly one-third of its budget. U.S. officials in Washington said this week the administration is preparing to withhold tens of millions of dollars from the year’s first contribution, cutting a planned $125 million installment by half or perhaps entirely. The decision could come as early as Tuesday. Matthias Schmale, UNRWA’s director in Gaza, said Washington has not informed the agency of any changes. However, “we are worried because of the statements … in the media and the fact that the money hasn’t arrived yet,” he said….
APNewsBreak: US set to cut UN money for Palestinian refugees
WASHINGTON (AP) 15 Jan by Matthew Lee & Julie Pace — The Trump administration is preparing to withhold tens of millions of dollars from the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, cutting the year’s first contribution by more than half or perhaps entirely, and making additional donations contingent on major changes to the organization, according to U.S. officials. President Donald Trump hasn’t made a final decision, but appears more likely to send only $60 million of the planned $125 million first installment to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, said the officials, who weren’t authorized to publicly discuss the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity. Future contributions would require the agency, facing heavy Israeli criticism, to demonstrate significant changes in operations, they said, adding that one suggestion under consideration would require the Palestinians to first re-enter peace talks with Israel. The State Department said Sunday that “the decision is under review. There are still deliberations taking place.” The White House did not immediately respond to questions about the matter. The administration could announce its decision as early as Tuesday, the officials said.
The plan to withhold some of the money is backed by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis, who offered it as a compromise to demands for more drastic measures by U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, the officials said. Haley wants a complete cutoff in U.S. money until the Palestinians resume peace talks with Israel that have been frozen for years. But Tillerson, Mattis and others say ending all assistance would exacerbate instability in the Mideast, notably in Jordan, a host to hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees and a crucial U.S. strategic partner.
The latest: UN defends work of Palestinian refugee agency
JERUSALEM (AP) 15 Jan 9:45 p.m. — The United Nations spokesman says the work of the U.N. agency that helps Palestinian refugees “is critical” and if the United States or any other donor cuts its contributions “we will have to find other sources.” Stephane Dujarric was responding to questions Monday about published reports that the United States — the largest contributor to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, known as UNRWA — is planning major cuts to its budget. Dujarric said UNRWA has a mandate from the U.N. General Assembly to foster the “human development” of Palestinian refugees and serves “some of the most marginalized population in the Middle East.” He said the agency’s health, education and humanitarian help “is a force for stabilization in a very volatile area.” UNRWA’s mandate covers 5.15 million registered Palestinian refugees in Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank.
Palestinian unity in doubt before summit in Jerusalem
Al Jazeera 14 Jan — Palestinian leaders are set to hold a crucial summit in response to the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but political movements Hamas and Islamic Jihad are boycotting the event, raising questions about unity as President Mahmoud Abbas ramps up the campaign for statehood. Hamas had announced it would not participate in the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) Central Council meeting on Sunday and Monday, saying it objected to Abbas’ decision to hold the meeting in the occupied West Bank. “Hamas will not take part in the upcoming meeting,” Hussam Badran, a Hamas spokesman, said in a statement on Saturday, urging that it be held “outside the occupied Palestinian territories to escape from Israeli pressure”.
News of the Hamas boycott comes as Israel announced on Sunday the closure of Gaza’s only commercial border crossing of Karam Abu Salem, and Israeli warplanes bombed a site near the Rafah crossing. On Sunday, the Israeli prime minister’s office confirmed the bombardment of the crossing that connects Gaza with Egypt. Islamic Jihad had earlier announced that it would not participate in the meeting in Ramallah, and later urged the Palestinian National Council (PNC) – the highest decision-making body of the PLO – “to end relations” with the US, and accelerate internal reconciliation, the Palestinian news agency Wafa reported. Hamas and Islamic Jihad are both based in Gaza, and the former governs the besieged Palestinian enclave. While both organisations are not part of the PLO, they are regularly invited to observe its meetings. PNC head Saleem al-Zanoon will preside over the meeting of the Central Council, the second-highest Palestinian legislative body after the PNC….
News video: Palestinian leaders call for suspension of recognition of Israel
RAMALLAH (AFP) 15 Jan by Nasser Abu Bakr & Joe Dyke — Palestinian leaders voted on Monday to call for the suspension of recognition of Israel in a move with potentially deep implications as they met in response to US President Donald Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. While withdrawing the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s recognition of Israel could spark international backlash, it was unclear whether the vote was binding. A previous vote by the same Palestinian Central Council, a high-ranking arm of the PLO, in 2015 to suspend security coordination with Israel was never implemented. That vote was also reaffirmed on Monday. However, even if the move goes no further, the vote was another expression of Palestinian fury over Trump’s Jerusalem declaration and what they see as the White House’s attack on their long bid for statehood. On Sunday as he opened the meeting, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, who voted in favour of the suspension, called Trump’s peace efforts the “slap of the century.” The vote ordered the Palestine Liberation Organisation to suspend its recognition of Israel until it “recognises the state of Palestine”, cancels its annexation of east Jerusalem and stops settlement activity, a statement said. The PLO is considered the official representative of the Palestinians internationally and formalised its recognition of Israel in 1993.
In a statement, the delegates also backed comments on Sunday by Abbas that the Oslo peace accords of the early 1990s, which form the basis of the Palestinians’ relations with Israel, were “finished.” Abbas had said that Israel had ended the accords through its actions, referring to activities seen as eroding the possibility of a two-state solution such as persistent settlement building. Removing the ‘mask’? — There was no immediate Israeli reaction to the vote, but earlier Monday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Abbas’s comments had “torn off” his “mask” as a supposed moderate. Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement that runs the Gaza Strip and does not recognise Israel, appeared to welcome the vote but said in a statement that the “real test” would be “to implement it effectively on the ground and put in place the necessary mechanisms.”….
An indignant Abbas also said that Trump had accused them of refusing to engage in peace negotiations. “May God demolish your house. When did we refuse?” he said, using a common Arabic curse.
Mahmoud Abbas slams Trump over ‘slap of the century’
Al Jazeera 14 Jan — Mahmoud Abbas has sharply criticised Donald Trump, saying the Palestinian Authority (PA) will never accept the US president’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The PA president made his comments on Sunday at the start of a two-day central council meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Ramallah. “Politically, Jerusalem is our capital; in our religion, it is our capital; geographically, it is our capital,” said Abbas. “But it was removed from the map with a tweet from Mr Trump,” he added. “Now we say ‘No’ to Trump, we won’t accept his plan – we say the ‘deal of the century’ is the slap of the century,” noted Abbas, referring to the US president’s pledge to achieve the “ultimate deal” – peace in the Middle East. The Palestinian leader also said that Israel had “ended” the Oslo peace accords of the 1990s with its actions, and also called the US ambassadors to the UN and to Israel – Nikki Haley and David Friedman – a “disgrace”. “It was a very strong speech by Abbas … who used very critical language,” said Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan, reporting from Ramallah.
Palestinian national dish fuels Al-Aqsa protests
Al-Monitor 11 Jan by Ahmad Melhem — While hundreds of demonstrators shouted slogans on Dec. 11 against US President Donald Trump in front of the Damascus Gate, one of the main entrances to Al-Aqsa, Khadija Khweis and her friend Hanadi al-Halawani were flipping pots of maqluba to serve to the protesters. In the last 12 months, this traditional food, also called the “dish of victory,” has become a part of the Palestinian protests. Every Sunday throughout December, when people of Jerusalem held demonstrations to protest Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, they would bring large pots of maqluba, which literally means “upside down” in Arabic, and eat it under the eyes of the Israeli police. The flipping of the pots as the cooks shouted “Allahu Akbar” became a ritual, and the dish also came to be called by both the Palestinians and the Israelis as the “dish of spite.” Halawani told Al-Monitor, “During the sit-in against Trump’s decision at the Damascus Gate, I made sure to serve maqluba, a popular Palestinian national dish, to the young protesters as a way to underline that Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine, with all its people, food and culture. People are now keen to have maqluba every week with their families in Al-Aqsa’s squares as a kind of tradition and custom to guard the mosque.”
Video: St John Eye Hospital saving sight in occupied West Bank
TRT World 12 Jan — A century-old hospital in Jerusalem has started a mobile programme which operates in the West Bank’s most remote and impoverished communities. St John Eye Hospital opened its doors in Jerusalem in 1882 at the request of Britain’s Queen Victoria. It provides care for anybody in need regardless of their ethnicity, religion, or ability to pay. Some villages in the occupied West Bank are surrounded by Israeli settlements. It’s difficult for its residents to travel and hard to reach. However, its Mobile Outreach Programme manages to arrive and finds locals waiting to be treated. TRT World‘s Mmalegabe Motsepe reports.
Palestinians to get 3G in West Bank, after Israel lifts ban
RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) 14 Jan — Palestinians in the West Bank are finally getting high-speed mobile data services, after a years-long Israeli ban that cost their fragile economy hundreds of millions of dollars, impeded tech start-ups and denied them simple conveniences enjoyed by the rest of the world. Palestinian officials say cell phone providers Wataniya and Jawwal are expected to launch 3G broadband services in the West Bank by the end of this month, after Israel assigned frequencies and allowed the import of equipment. Wataniya CEO Durgham Maraee says that the anticipated launch “has taken a very, very long time.” The belated move to 3G comes a decade after Palestinian operators first sought Israeli permits and at a time when faster 4G is increasingly available in the Middle East.
Bomb wounds Hamas member in Lebanon
BEIRUT (Reuters) 14 Jan by Tom Perry — A bomb blast wounded a member of the Palestinian group Hamas in the Lebanese city of Sidon on Sunday, destroying his car as he was about to get in. The target, Mohamed Hamdan, was not a publicly known Hamas figure in Lebanon. A statement from Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza, confirmed he was a member of the group, without detailing his role, and said “initial indications” suggested Israel was behind the bombing. There was no immediate comment from Israel. Al-Manar television, run by the Lebanese political and military group Hezbollah, described Hamdan as an important figure in Hamas, adding that he appeared to have a security role and was being tracked by Israel. The blast took place around noon (1000 GMT), the Lebanese army said in a statement. Security forces sealed off the site of the explosion, in a northern residential district of Sidon, 40 km (25 miles) south of Beirut. The blast destroyed Hamdan’s silver BMW and sent a column of smoke into the sky, footage from the scene broadcast by Lebanese television stations showed. Fire fighters doused the vehicle. A leader of the Palestinian Fatah movement in Lebanon said Hamdan was involved in operations in Israel. “The incident has Israeli fingerprints,” Mounir al-Maqdah, the Fatah official, told Reuters. Hamdan was “slightly wounded” in the attack, a Hamas official in Sidon, Ayman Shanaa, told the Palestinian television station Paltoday. Witnesses said the man targeted in the attack appeared to have been wounded in the leg. He was taken to hospital, where he was being treated. Sidon is home to two of the 12 Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.
Mossad, Shin Bet 2019 budget at $2.8 billion, a 12% bump
JNi.Media 11 Jan — The 2019 budget for the Mossad and the Shin Bet is expected to break a new record: 9.6 billion shekel, or about $2.8 billion, most of it going to the Mossad, Kan News correspondent Gili Cohen tweeted Wednesday. The new figure represents an increase of almost 12% over the previous year’s budget. For comparison, the IDF budget, with more than 175,000 soldiers, hovers around $21 billion. The news, ahead of the Netanyahu cabinet’s meeting Thursday morning on next year’s budget, follows a much cited appearance of Mossad chief Yossi Cohen at a Finance Ministry forum Tuesday, where he touted his agency’s efforts to remain the number one clandestine service in the world. “The Mossad has a responsibility to gain absolute superiority in the world of espionage,” Cohen stressed. “We can’t afford to be in second place – be it in manpower, in cyber defense, in our ability to obtain intelligence, in operations and the personnel running operations, in technology and command, and in dealing with staff welfare and human resources.” The overall state budget for 2019 comes to 479 billion shekel, roughly $140 billion.