Violence / Detentions — West Bank / Jerusalem
Palestinian teen first to be killed by Israel in 2018
Al Jazeera 3 Jan by Zena Tahhan — Israeli forces have shot dead a Palestinian teen on the northern outskirts of the occupied West Bank town of Ramallah, according to Palestinian officials. The Palestinian health ministry identified the 17-year-old boy as Mus‘ab Firas al-Tamimi from the village of Deir Nitham, where Wednesday’s shooting took place. “He died shortly after the occupation forces fired a bullet into his neck,” Maria Aqraa, a spokesman for the ministry, told Al Jazeera. “He was transferred to a hospital in Ramallah and he passed away minutes later,” she added. Aqraa said Mus‘ab was shot during a confrontation with the Israeli army. According to the Times of Israel news website, the Israeli army said Mus‘ab had “appeared to be holding a gun”, but that it was “not immediately confirmed that al-Tamimi had been armed at the time of the shooting”. An army spokesperson reportedly told the website that the circumstances of Mus‘ab’s killing were being investigated.
‘The world is just silently watching’ Mus‘ab was a member of the Tamimi family, who live in the adjacent village of Nabi Saleh, where a prominent teen activist was arrested on December 19. Ahed Tamimi was filmed slapping a soldier standing outside her home, after Israeli forces had shot her 15-year-old cousin in the face with a rubber bullet. The family has been persecuted for years by the Israeli army which has detained and killed several of them during weekly unarmed village protests against the theft of their lands for the nearby illegal Jewish-only settlement, Halamish. Mus‘ab’s father, Firas, said the Israeli army has been provoking the residents of both villages for months now. He told Al Jazeera that Israeli soldiers raided Deir Nitham at about 8am local time (06:00 GMT) on Wednesday after which boys from the village went out to confront them. “The occupation army has been raiding both Deir Nitham and Nabi Saleh day in and day out. They come in, irritate the residents, raid our homes at night and throw sound bombs in the street. This has been our reality every day,” said Firas….
Israeli soldiers kill a Palestinian teen near Ramallah
IMEMC 3 Jan — Israeli soldiers killed, on Wednesday evening, a Palestinian teenage boy in Deir Nitham village, north of the central West Bank city of Ramallah. Palestinian medical sources said the soldiers shot Mos‘ab Firas Tamimi, 17, with a live round in his neck, causing very serious wounds, before he was moved to the Istishari Hospital, in Ramallah, where he succumbed to his injuries. The Palestinian was shot after the soldiers invaded Deir Nitham, and fired many live rounds, rubber-coated steel bullets and gas bombs, at Palestinian protesters who were marching in the village. The Israeli army claimed that the Palestinian was shot after the soldiers “noticed he was holding a gun,’ a claim that was never verified. The army said that the soldiers instantly used live fire against the Palestinians, when they saw the alleged gun.
Mos‘ab’s father said that the soldiers detained a teen who suffers from a mental disability, and that he and other Palestinians went to the soldiers to secure the teen’s release. He added that he was near the teen when the soldiers shot his boy in the neck, from a short distance of 5 – 6 meters, and killed him. “There were clashes between the youngster and the soldiers, before the army detained a mentally ill boy, I told the officer that the boy [was] crazy, but he said – we arrested him, and we want to kill another one,” the father stated, “I turned my car around and returned because [I] wanted to remove the youths when I saw the soldiers’ evil intentions, but when I was 5 to 6 meters away from my boy, the soldiers shot him in his neck, and killed him – he was nearly one meter away from the soldier who killed him.” After killing the teen, the soldiers imposed a strict siege on Deir Nitham, prevented the Palestinians from entering or leaving it, and cut the power supply to the village.
Israeli soldiers use excessive force against funeral of slain teen, seriously injure one Palestinian
IMEMC 4 Jan — Israeli soldiers resorted, Thursday, to the excessive use of force against the funeral of a slain teen from Deir Nitham village, north of the central West Bank city of Ramallah, and seriously injured one Palestinian with live fire. The Palestinian Health Ministry said the soldiers shot a young man with live fire, causing very serious wounds. It added that the seriously wounded young man was rushed to the Istishari Hospital in Ramallah, and was moved to surgery before being placed in the Intensive Care Unit. The young man was shot during the funeral procession and ceremony of Mos‘ab Firas Tamimi, 17, who was killed by the soldiers, Wednesday, in Deir Nitham. The soldiers installed a military roadblock at the main entrance of Deir Nitham, and started firing gas bombs and concussion grenades at the funeral procession. Many youngsters then hurled stones at the soldiers, who fired more gas bombs, concussion grenades, rubber-coated steel bullets and rounds of live ammunition, causing many injuries, including the young man, who suffered life-threatening wounds. It is worth mentioning that the funeral procession started from the Palestine Medical Complex, in Ramallah city, where the slain teen’s body was transported by ambulance, followed by many Palestinians’ cars, heading to Deir Nitham. The soldiers stopped the ambulance and the cars, before local youngsters carried the Tamimi’s corpse and marched to the village while holding Palestinian flags and chanting against the ongoing illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine.
Palestinian killed after being rammed by Israeli colony’s bus
IMEMC 5 Jan — A Palestinian man was killed, Thursday, after being rammed by a speeding Israeli colony’s bus near Bethlehem, in the occupied West Bank, before the soldiers took his body and returned it to his family five hours later. The family, from Ertas village, south of Bethlehem, said that the bus driver deliberately rammed their son, Rami Issa Khalil As‘ad, 38, on Road #60, near the al-Khader town, also south of Bethlehem. The man was mainly struck in the head, causing many fractures, including to his skull, and splattering his brain onto the road. An eyewitness said that he and other Palestinians, including Rami, were crossing the road when the settlement bus was still at a distance, but then the driver sped towards them, ramming Rami and killing him. “We were crossing the road, but when the bus driver saw us, he just sped towards us, and struck Rami, instantly killing him. His family said that the soldiers took his corpse, and returned it to them five hours later, before it was moved to Beit Jala governmental hospital. Rami, a married father of one child, will be buried, Friday, in Ertas village. He is just the latest of a number of Palestinians killed on this road by Israeli settler vehicles, while going from their community to their farmlands, or heading back home.
Israeli forces violently raid Bethlehem refugee camp, injure 10 including child
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 4 Jan — Ten Palestinians were injured, including seven with live bullets, as Israeli forces raided the al-Duheisha refugee camp in Bethlehem city in the southern occupied West Bank on Thursday morning. Two of the seven Palestinians that were injured with live fire were reported to be in critical condition, while the other three injuries were with rubber-coated steel bullets. Medical sources in the Beit Jala Governmental Hospital identified one of the critically injured as a schoolboy named Muhammad Mizher. Mizher was reportedly walking to school when he was shot with a live bullet that hit his spinal cord, putting him at serious risk of paralysis.
Another youth was critically injured and was identified as Jihad al-Atrash.
Israeli special forces raided several houses in the camp, and detained one Palestinian, identified as Maali Maali, 34. He was transferred to an unknown location. Clashes erupted in the camp during the raid, with soldiers heavily firing live bullets, rubber-coated steel bullets, stun grenades and tear-gas bombs in the camp.
Is Israel testing new types of tear gas in Bethlehem?
EI 3 Jan by Ryan Rodrick Beiler — Every resident in ‘Aida refugee camp – beside the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem – may have been exposed to tear gas fired by Israeli forces, according to a new study. Conducted by University of California researchers, the study notes Israel’s “widespread, frequent and indiscriminate” use of tear gas against Palestinians. The report cites incidents of tear gas as often as two to three times a week for more than a year, and in some months, almost every day … The University of California report defines tear gas as a general term for chemical irritants designed for crowd control. The report also notes that newer forms of tear gas have been developed in the recent past that are more potent, last longer and cause more severe pain and injury, as well as being more water resistant. One child interviewed for the report described the effects of tear gas: “My face burns, I feel dizzy.” The child added: “It’s hard to breathe. I sneeze. My throat burns. I can’t open my eyes. Sometimes I faint.” The precise type of gas used by Israeli forces in ‘Aida is unknown. However, the consistent testimonies provided by the camp’s residents suggest that they are being exposed to more potent forms of the weapon. A health care worker quoted in the report stated: “The old tear gas would be better with some water but [now] that only makes it worse. Obviously, it’s a different chemical.” Mohammad al-Azza, a journalist and camp resident, told The Electronic Intifada that he agrees that the gas is now stronger than before…
‘Aida residents who took part in the survey reported a number of physical effects from tear gas exposure, including asthma, rashes and headaches. It also notes how a 25-year-old woman who took part in the survey had a miscarriage late in the third trimester of pregnancy. A tear gas canister had landed on that woman’s patio several days before she miscarried; she had severe respiratory systems while being exposed to tear gas. Tear gas has proven to be a lethal weapon on a number of occasions. In April 2014, for example, I attended the funeral of Noha Katamish – a 45-year-old resident of ‘Aida – who died from the effects of tear gas that Israeli forces fired through her living room window. Salah Ajarma from the Lajee Center described how homes in the camp offer no refuge from the gas … Many of the psychological impacts of Israeli forces’ use of tear gas stem from its frequency, unpredictability and the inability to escape its effects. One teenager testified in the report: “We don’t feel safe in our homes. We don’t feel safe anywhere.”The report states that unpredictability is especially stress-inducing because raids involving tear gas are not always tied to specific incidents, creating “a state of hyper-arousal, fear and worry.” Residents testified that peaceful events, such as a child’s birthday party or family picnics, had been disrupted by tear gas raids, often captured on video. One interviewee said Israeli soldiers use tear gas “when they are bored, when they want to provoke a clash, or when they want to get into the camp.” “Sometimes, it feels like they do it just for fun,” said one elderly resident … The US also bears responsibility for the impact of tear gas on ‘Aida. Al-Azza pointed out that like many of the weapons used by the Israeli military, tear gas used in ‘Aida is made in the US….
Israel ‘confiscates’ money from Palestinians in occupied West Bank and Jerusalem
MEMO 3 Jan — Israel’s occupation forces have “confiscated” thousands of Israeli Shekels from Palestinians in several cities across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, Felesteen.ps reported on Tuesday. The money was taken on the pretext that it was intended for “funding terror activities”. Local sources pointed out that the Israeli occupation forces have, over the past three months, also taken 14 large items of machinery, four lorries and 20 other vehicles, four cameras, eight PCs and four mobile phones owned by Palestinian citizens. They added that 14 instances have been recorded of Israeli troops taking NIS 213,000 ($61,700) as well as jewellery from Palestinian-owned homes and shops. Lathes and other machines which are alleged to be used to make weapons have also been “confiscated”, as has Palestinian land. Furthermore, documents have been stolen by the security forces, it is alleged….
One night’s detentions:
Israeli forces detain 22 Palestinians during overnight West bank raids
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 3 Jan– Israeli forces detained 22 Palestinians during raids in the occupied West Bank in the predawn hours of Wednesday, according to Israeli media and army sources. An army spokesperson told Ma‘an that 22 Palestinians were detained overnight, without providing identities of the detainees, or the locations from which they were arrested.
Meanwhile, Hebrew media reported that five Palestinians were detained from the northern West Bank town of Qabatiya, in the Jenin district. They were identified as Muhammad Abu Mualla, Hussein al-Samadi, Mahmoud al-Hardi, Mahmoud Bassam Kamil and Saher Imad Kamil.
In the Nablus district, two Palestinians were reportedly detained from the Salem village. They were identified as Anas Ishtayeh and Malek Qays Hamdan.
Nine Palestinians were detained from the central West Bank districts of Ramallah and Jerusalem, according to Hebrew media.
They were identified as Hamzeh Imad al-Hadithi from the al-‘Amari refugee camp in Ramallah, Saddam Hussein Sharakeh, Abdullah Jamal Mubarak and Fayiz Shihdeh al-Tirawi from the al-Jalazun refugee camp in northern Ramallah, Shadi Khalid al-Rimawi from Beit Rima in western Ramallah, Karim Saleh from Nabi Saleh in western Ramallah, Ubada Azzam al-Rifaie, Palestinian police officer Muhammad Khalid al-Sheikh and his wife Duaa Barakat al-Sheikh from ‘Anata in Jerusalem.
In the southern West Bank district of Bethlehem, Israeli soldiers raided the Beit Fajjar town and confiscated eight vehicles. No detentions were reported.
In the Hebron district, Israeli forces detained Ayman Majed al-Atrash from Halhul in northern Hebron, while Israeli forces raided several houses in the al-‘Arroub refugee camp. No detentions were reported from al-Arroub.
Prisoners / Court actions
First reading of death penalty bill for Palestinian prisoners approved
IMEMC/Agencies 4 Jan — The Israeli Knesset approved, on Wednesday, a first reading of death penalty bill, which would allow Israel to execute Palestinian prisoners accused of taking part in “operations” against an Israeli target. Right-wing leader of the Jewish Home party Naftali Bennett proposed the bill, which was approved by a vote of 52 to 49 but needs a second and third reading before it becomes law. Extremist Avigdor Lieberman, Israeli Moldovan-born defense minister, endorsed the bill, which he said would increase Israel’s deterrence effect. In televised comments last week, Lieberman said that the law would specifically target Palestinians convicted of attacking Israeli civilians and soldiers. Last year, at a rally following the death of three Israeli police officers, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voiced his support for the death penalty for Palestinians, whom he described as “terrorists with blood on their hands.”
Israel applies civilian law to illegal Jewish settlers in the occupied Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Palestinians, however, face military courts and military law. The proposed death penalty would only be applicable in military courts. In the already unlikely event of an Israeli being convicted for killing a Palestinian, the accused would never face the death penalty. “The fact that Israel lacks a constitution allows its prime ministers to enact legislation that serves the interests of their respective racist governments,” explained Mohammed Dahleh, a Palestinian expert on Israeli affairs….
Israeli court imprisons anti-settlement protesters
MEMO 4 Jan — Israel’s Beersheba District Court has sentenced four Arab-Israeli citizens to prison after they protested against a settlement plan in the Negev Desert, Quds News Agency reported on Wednesday. The four were named as Atef Abu Ayesh, who was sent to prison for 12 months; Usama Nasasra for 10 months; Obaida Hawashleh also for 10 months; and Atef Abul Qi’an for four months. The court claimed that the sentences are “in the public interest.” Local sources pointed out that these sentences were issued on appeal against a previous sentence of three years for each one of the defendants. According to rights groups, the sentences are still “oppressive” because the four youths took part in a legal, peaceful demonstration. “This measure aims to scare the Palestinian citizens of Israel in order for them not to call for their rights,” they claimed. The four took part in a demonstration against the Israeli settlement proposal dubbed the Brawer Plan, which aims to evacuate Arab neighbourhoods in the Negev and replace them with Jewish communities. The people who are evacuated will, apparently, be given apartments in certain areas away from the Negev.
Opinion: Dissidents in Iran – and in Palestine / Gideon Levy
Haaretz 4 Jan — Why are Palestinians who attend weekly protest marches along the border fence less courageous or less justified than Iranian protesters? — We must call a spade a spade. The Palestinians and the handful of Israelis who are struggling against the occupation are dissidents. That’s what they should be called. They are dissidents who oppose the regime. They are dissidents just like anyone who rises up against any tyrannical regime, and they deserve as much respect and appreciation as we’ve accorded dissidents throughout history, from Nelson Mandela to Andrei Sakharov; from Lech Walesa to Natan Sharansky. The regime against which they are struggling and whose downfall they hope for is no less cruel than the tyrants against whom history’s most famous dissidents fought. This regime has no connection to the democracy that Israel is so proud of and that the world applauds. How can it be called a democracy if this is what’s going on in its own backyard?
Khalida Jarrar is a dissident, and the regime’s response to her just proves that we’re talking about an unbridled dictatorship. She’s a member of the Palestinian parliament, age 54, a mother of two daughters, a legislator who was chosen in democratic elections, and she’s being sent repeatedly to jail, generally without trial. Jarrar has never hurt a fly. She’s a political activist. The agents of darkness who are responsible for her incarceration know that. But Jarrar is a determined dissident, so her place is in jail, with or (mainly) without trial. This is how dictatorships fight for their existence. Whether it’s Putin’s Russia, Erdogan’s Turkey, Iran, China or North Korea – dissidents are put in jail. Jarrar’s confinement puts Israel on the same plane as those countries and paints it in a different light than what its self-image reflects – “the only democracy blah, blah, blah.”….
Israeli army opens criminal investigation into killing of Gaza double amputee after new footage surfaces
Haaretz 4 Jan by Yaniv Kubovich — Military Police have opened an investigation into the death of Gaza double-leg amputee Ibrahim Abu Thuraya, who was killed in clashes with Israeli troops at a Gaza border demonstration in December, due to the significant disparity in the findings of an army inquiry into the incident and those of Palestinian groups inside the Gaza Strip. The army said it had also received information on a photographer who documented the protest in which Abu Thuraya took part, who possibly holds information pertinent to the investigation. The army has asked the Red Cross to relay the Palestinian autopsy report and to ascertain whether a Palestinian who testified that he had seen the shooting would agree to provide a testimony at the Erez border crossing with Israel. A military inquiry into the death of the 29-year-old wheelchair user carried out after the incident said it was unable to conclude whether he was killed by Israeli forces or otherwise….
Is Israel deliberately killing Gaza protesters?
EI 3 Jan by Hamza Abu Eltarabesh — …Ashraf al-Qedra, a spokesperson for the health ministry in Gaza, said that around 60 percent of people injured during recent protests had symptoms related to tear gas inhalation. They included severe coughing, respiratory problems and accelerated heart rates. Many people in Gaza also believe that Israel is deliberately shooting at protesters so that they will sustain major injuries or even die – eight Palestinians were killed during demonstrations on the Gaza-Israel boundary in December. About 40 percent of injuries by live fire during the recent protests in Gaza were in the head and upper body, according to al-Qedra. Sharif Shalash, 28, died on 23 December after being injured in protests a few days earlier. He had been shot in the stomach by the Israeli military. Sharif had confronted the Israeli military directly on a number of occasions. He was “an expert on the border area [with Israel],” said his friend Ahmad Hassaballah. During protests, Sharif had organized young people into groups and advised them about how to throw burning tires and other objects towards Israeli troops. He had also tried to cut holes in the Israeli fence. His final wish, according to Hassaballah, was that he be shrouded in a Palestinian flag when he was buried. I sought to speak with Sharif’s wife Yasmin. Yet when I arrived at her home, a woman came out and apologized on Yasmin’s behalf. “She is too tired,” the woman said. “She has just come back from the hospital and we have just learned that she is pregnant.” It was a powerful reminder of how life continues despite all the pain caused by the Israeli occupiers and their supporters in Washington.
Israeli soldiers shoot one Palestinian in southern Gaza
IMEMC 2 Jan — Israeli soldiers injured, on Tuesday afternoon, a young Palestinian man, east of Khan Younis in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. Dr. Ashraf al-Qedra, the spokesperson of the Palestinian Health Ministry In Gaza, said the soldiers shot the man with a live round in his leg, causing a moderate injury, before he was rushed to a hospital in Khan Younis. The Palestinian was shot after the army fired many live rounds, rubber-coated steel bullets and gas bombs at many Palestinians protesting on their lands near the border fence. Many Palestinians suffered the effects of teargas inhalation, and received the needed treatment by local medics.
Unusual Israeli statement and Palestinian silence suggest target of Gaza strike was attack tunnel
Haaretz 4 Jan by Amos Harel & Yaniv Kubovich — The Israeli military said early Thursday that it had struck “central terrorist infrastructure” in the Gaza Strip after three rockets were fired at Israeli border communities a day earlier. The statement added that the military will “continue to employ all measures available to it below and above ground to thwart attempted attacks on Israeli citizens.” The unusual wording of the statement implies that the target of the attack was an attack tunnel. The assessment is reinforced by the fact that the Palestinians have not yet revealed the target of the Israeli strike. On Wednesday, three rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip toward Israeli communities near the border. All the rockets exploded in open areas, causing no injuries or damage, the army said. In the first two cases, sirens did not sound, while a siren sounded for the third one.
The army also said on Wednesday morning that Islamic Jihad was behind a rocket attack on Friday, in which militants in Gaza fired a rocket toward Israel that disrupted a ceremony for a fallen IDF soldier….
Gaza residents to pay Israel for electricity
Al Jazeera 4 Jan b Zena Tahhan — The Palestinian Authority (PA) has requested that Gaza’s residents begin regularly paying their electricity company for the first time to resume the power supply to the Strip. Gaza’s residents would be required to pay a collective monthly fee of 10 million shekels ($2.8m) to restore the amount of electricity the PA asked Israel to cut off from the Strip in June, a source from the PA, who asked to remain anonymous, told Al Jazeera. This is the first time that the PA has made such a request, but the government believes that the [Gaza-based] electricity company must pay the amount that it consumes from the electricity sector,” he said. “The PA wants to support power supply in the Strip but within reason.” In June 2017, the PA requested that Israel reduce Gaza’s electricity supply by 40 percent. The move was seen as an attempt by President Mahmoud Abbas to weaken the rival Hamas government in Gaza. When the PA asked Israel to cut back electricity, residents of Gaza started receiving only up to four hours of electricity a day as opposed to an average of six to eight hours. In response, the United Nations warned that longer power cuts threaten a “total collapse” of basic services in Gaza. On Wednesday, the PA said it would allow Israel to resume supplying the 50 megawatts of electric power it had asked Israel to cut six months ago. Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah described the development as being within the context of a reconciliation agreement between the PA and Hamas signed in the Egyptian capital Cairo in October 2017 … But the PA source Al Jazeera spoke to said that one of Gaza’s two operating power plant turbines would have to be shut down, as the cost would only cover the operation of one. “In reality, the increase will be 25 megawatts, not 50,” he explained. “They have to close down the turbine in order to cover the 10 million shekels.” Because of high demand in winter, he said, the effect of restoring electricity will not make much of a difference to the lives of Gaza’s residents. “The power may increase by an hour at most.”….
Gaza’s health system close to collapse as electricity crisis threatens total blackout
The Guardian 3 Jan by Rebecca Ratcliffe — Hospitals in Gaza will face an almost total power blackout by the end of February unless funding is secured to keep emergency generators running, the World Health Organization has warned. An ongoing electricity crisis in Gaza has left hospitals reliant on emergency generators for up to 20 hours a day, while medical staff have been forced to cut back on basic services such as equipment sterilisation and diagnostics. About 500,000 litres of fuel are required each month to sustain critical care in Gaza, but funding will only cover hospitals’ needs until the end of February. Dr Mahmoud Daher, head of the WHO’s Gaza sub-office, said the health system is on “the edge of collapse”. Without urgent fundraising, hospitals will face a disastrous situation, he said. “There are at least 200 babies and people in intensive care units. It would be a really fatal situation for them. There are dozens of people who are going to surgical operations that would be affected.” … “Worsening maternal malnutrition and increasing rates of premature and low-birthweight babies have led to instances of dangerous overcrowding in the neonatal intensive care unit in al-Shifa hosptial,” said Ferguson. As a result, explained Ferguson, incubators designed to accommodate one baby were often occupied by several. “Medical staff are having to look after as many as seven critically ill babies each at a time, compared to the UK standard of 1:1 or 1:2 care. Overcrowding of this type makes adequate monitoring and infection control impossible.” Generators are also in need maintenance, the WHO warned, but hospitals are unable to carry out repairs due to restrictions on moving goods into Gaza.
Social unrest grows in Gaza, taxi drivers strike
GAZA (ANSAmed) 3 Jan — Social unrest is growing in the Gaza Strip as a result of worsening economic conditions, with a taxi driver strike in the southern Gaza Strip announced on Wednesday morning by taxi drivers in the city of Khan Yunis. The strike is against an increase announced Tuesday in the price of petrol imported from Egypt, bringing prices up to the same level as those of Israeli petrol. Drivers are also protesting against a ban by authorities prohibiting drivers from raising taxi fares, which drivers have said is making them “the poorest social class in Gaza”. On Tuesday a demonstration took place in Gaza by workers who said they haven’t been paid. In the city of Beit Lahiya, in the northern Gaza Strip, business owners went on strike to protest their worsening conditions.
Gaza Strip faces ‘collapse’, young generation seeks future beyond the siege
GAZA (Asharq Al-Awsat) 2 Jan — Palestinians in Gaza Strip bid the year 2017 farewell, bringing with them to the new year never-ending crises that continue to be aggravated with the Israeli blockade entering its eleventh year. Over the past six months, living conditions severely deteriorated in the coastal strip, especially after the Palestinian Authority (PA) imposed a series of sanctions on Gaza to pressure the Hamas movement to accept a national reconciliation. Figures indicate a decrease in the number of commercial trucks entering Gaza during the last three months to less than 500, instead of over 880 truckloads that were supposed to enter the strip daily. The decrease is due to traders’ inability to purchase the people’s daily needs as a result of a decline in purchasing power caused by the difficult economic and living conditions, making 2017 the worst in the eleven years of the Israeli siege. Over the past few days, a number of traders closed their shops in several areas of the strip for a few hours in protest against the deteriorating economic and living conditions. They called for rescuing the sector and saving it from the harsh living conditions. Most citizens are no longer able to buy the most basic needs. Mohammed al-Astal, 56, a resident of Khan Younis, in southern Gaza, indicated that merchants are losing huge sums of money and cannot benefit from goods that are allowed inside the strip through the Karam Abu Salim crossing, the only commercial crossing. Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, al-Astal pointed out that there is a decline in sales met by an increase in taxes imposed by the Customs Department of government of national accord, which further burdens the merchants. He stressed that Gaza is on the brink of economic, social and social collapse. He pointed out that 2017 was the most distressing year for traders and citizens, most of whom do not receive their salaries, while some receive their wages with major cuts that affect their purchasing power….
For young Palestinians, there’s only one way out of Gaza
BERLIN (Haaretz) 4 Jan by Liza Rosovsky — Berlin may not exactly feel like home, but Palestinian siblings Reham and Said say they’re never going back to Gaza — The smell of cigarettes assails the guests in the event hall in central Berlin. They sit around tables that are empty but for bottles of water and soft drinks. The band – keyboard, oud, darbouka – is busy with a sound check. It’s a modest gathering of the Palestinian community, in commemoration of the 13th anniversary of the death of Yasser Arafat. Reham, a 19-year-old Palestinian student whose parents requested that her surname not be published, is sitting with friends at the young people’s table, laughing and taking selfies. Reham came to Berlin from the Gaza Strip about 10 months ago in the wake of her older brother, Said, 22, who’s a medical student at the Charité, a local university hospital and medical school. She’s undecided about whether to follow in his footsteps or opt for genetics. Both of them graduated with top honors from high school, were accepted for studies in Germany and left their family behind. For young Gazans, admission to an institution of higher education in Europe is almost the only way to get out of the Strip. Both brother and sister assert that they will never return to the Gaza Strip. “I think that at this stage, everyone, irrespective of age or who they are, wants to leave Gaza, because the situation there is intolerable,” says Reham. “Obviously my friends want to leave. They saw that Said and I left and that we have a good life here – everything is clean, there are many options, you can work, you can go to school. But to leave you need money and very high matriculation marks.” Said was the first in his family to leave the Gaza Strip, three years ago, and the family did not take his decision easily, he says: “My father wanted me to stay, because I’m his only son.…
Gaza cartoon: The story of life under a blockade
3 Jan — Businesses in the Gaza Strip have long been struggling under an Israeli blockade. Many are barely able to keep their operations afloat – with some forced to close due to lack of supplies and other difficulties. Now, a new cartoon by an Israeli rights group tells the reality facing one business. Al Jazeera’s Malcolm Webb reports from Gaza.
IDF chief says calls to intensify response to Gaza rockets ‘irresponsible’
i24NEWS 2 Jan — The Israel Defense Force (IDF) chief-of-staff Gadi Eisenkot on Tuesday slammed as “irresponsible” calls for the army to intensify its response to recent rocket fire from the Gaza Strip. Speaking at a conference titled “The IDF an Israeli Society” at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in the central city of Herzliya, Eisenkot said that the military is seeking to avoid being “dragged” into a new conflict with the Strip sparked by rogue salafist groups in the Hamas-run enclave. “Statements I’m hearing and the pressure to use full strength against every rocket is, in my view, irresponsible. I don’t think that it’s the correct thing to do at this moment. At the same time, we can’t accept the firing, not of a single rocket on an open field, and certainly not on a residential center,” Eisenkot said. At least 18 rockets have been fired at Israel since US President Trump’s highly-contested decision to declare Jerusalem as the capital of the country on December 6. While a number of rockets have been intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, several have landed in the populated areas of Sderot and south of Ashkelon. Overnight Tuesday, one such rocket fired from the Gaza Strip exploded in an open area in southern Israel prompting retaliatory airstrikes. Eisenkot said that attacks were also being prompted by the IDF’s construction of an underground anti-tunnel barrier around the Strip….
ISIS in Sinai executes Hamas militant, accuses Gaza group of abandoning Palestinians
Haaretz 4 Jan by Jack Khoury — Tensions between Hamas and other regional militant groups intensify, as cooperation between the Gazan group and Egyptian authorities persists — A video published Wednesday by the Islamic State in Sinai showing the execution of a Hamas militant accused of transferring weapons to the organization’s military branch reveals increasing tensions between the two groups. The Islamic State accused Hamas of abandoning the Islamic path, capitulating to tyranny, and focusing exclusively on the Gaza Strip, thus abandoning the rest of Palestine. The Islamic State has even gone as far as calling on its supporters to act against Hamas and its people, a statement backed by the organization’s Sinai Mufti, Qazem al-Azawi. In the Gaza Strip, reports say that the man killed was Musa Abu Zmat, a resident of the Strip. Among those who executed him was another Gaza Palestinian, Mohammad al-Dajni. The al-Dajni family in Gaza condemned the execution, and said it had severed ties with the family member who had participated. “We were surprised by this terrible event in which a group belonging to the Islamic State’s Sinai offshoot killed a freedom fighter who was a member of Hamas’ military wing. We are proud that many of our sons are members of the Al-Qassam Brigades, and therefore decry and condemn this despicable murder and notify of our move to excommunicate him.” The execution comes as Hamas works to clamp down on Salafist and Jihadi organizations who support the Islamic State in the Gaza Strip and fire rockets at Israel.… [This article is open to everyone. Note that the only articles behind the Haaretz paywall are the ones with ‘.premium’ in the address]
Gaza’s airport, once a symbol of statehood, is now a wasteland
Mondoweiss 4 Jan by Ahmad Kabaraiti — At 8:50 a.m., I stopped a taxi in western Gaza City and asked the driver to go to the airport. The driver gazed at me as I sat next to him. He said: “Which airport? Do you mean the Cairo one?” I replied: “To the Gaza airport. Go to Rafah now, please.” Muhsin al-Balawi, the 23-year-old driver, may have been right to be extremely perplexed over my query. He had never been an airplane passenger. He was born three years before the airport opened in 1998. After 40 minutes of driving south on Salah al-Din Road, the main thoroughfare in the Strip, we hit the end of the asphalt road. Hundreds of yards further stood the departures terminal, which was surrounded by hills made of household waste. Everything across this 690 acres stretch of semi-desert field was lifeless. A stench from a ripped apart donkey’s corpse filled the air. I was sure I will never visit this place after dark. This arid zone was once the first airport for Palestinians in Gaza, a step towards a dream of independent state. In 2000, during the events of the Intifada, Israel bombed the control tower, then the runway, and finally the elegant Moroccan-inspired terminals. In 2001, Israeli army bulldozers flattened what remained. Few dare to reach this area where dozens of large bomb craters pocket the landscape, due to the Israeli bombs. Maybe one or two scavenging the field can be found milling about each week. Arriving to this area is fraught with security concerns because of proximity to Israeli military bases, which are ready to fire on any suspicion of movement in the vicinity of the airport’s ruins….
Restriction of movement
The impossible return home
+972 mag 4 Jan by Mya Guarnieri — Our trip back to Israel-Palestine, the first since my daughter’s birth, was also the first time our family would be separated. The Israeli border, the crossing to the place where her father and I met and fell in love, would be the first thing to come between us — ...I left [Israel] in 2014, towards the end of the summer war, coming back to Tel Aviv for six weeks in 2015 to update my research for my book about migrant workers and African asylum seekers in Israel. And then, in 2016, a family emergency on my husband’s side brought all of us back — him, me, and our daughter, who was 10 months old at the time. Not to Tel Aviv. To the West Bank. But, first, we had to get there. No matter where we were going, we wouldn’t be able to fly to Ben Gurion together. My husband is a West Banker with a green ID, which means that there’s only one way in for him: Allenby Bridge — the only crossing that is off-limits to me. This wouldn’t be such a big deal if it had just been the two of us. I would have flown to Tel Aviv; my husband to Amman; we would have met in Ramallah, which stands between the two. But with a ten-month old who is still breastfeeding, things were more complicated. Besides that we wanted to travel as a family. And I believe it is our God-given right to do so, regardless of who God may or may not have given the land to…
If I wanted to fly to Amman with my husband, which is more expensive than flying to Ben Gurion, we would have to enter Israel and the territories separately. From Amman, Mohamed would travel to Allenby (average rating 3.2 stars — a star more than the Israeli consulate in Miami). There, he would endure the humiliation of being searched by his occupier before that same occupier would allow him to pass into his own land. After entering the West Bank, he would go to Jericho. From there, he would continue on to Ramallah. As for me, from Amman, I would head north to the Beit Shean crossing, entering Israel there, heading back south on an Israeli bus that would travel through the occupied West Bank to Jerusalem, passing the turn-off to Jericho and Allenby along the way. Once I reached Jerusalem, I would head from the west side of the city to East Jerusalem, re-entering the West Bank on a Palestinian bus bound for Ramallah…
And what about our little girl, who was still breastfeeding at the time? Who would she cross with? Where would she cross? She would obviously come with me. Right? Wrong. If she crossed via Ben Gurion, my husband fretted, she would be issued an Israeli entry. When he tried to register her as a West Banker, that Israeli entry could prove problematic. No, she would have to go in with him via Allenby, just in case. He couldn’t take the chance that she would somehow be linked to me — her mother — in the system and that she would somehow end up an Israeli citizen. Setting aside the politics for a moment, there are practical concerns: to inherit my husband’s share of the land, our daughter has to be registered as a West Banker. And that’s what this whole thing is about anyways. Land….
Israel blocks Omar Barghouti from travel for mom’s surgery
EI 4 Jan by Ali Abunimah — Israel is preventing Omar Barghouti from traveling to Jordan to be with his mother for cancer surgery. Barghouti believes that he is being punished for his leadership role in the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights, “given the well-established record of the Israeli regime’s all-out war” on the nonviolent campaign. The human rights defender’s mother, Wafieh Barghouti, 75, was diagnosed with cancer several months ago. “[She] has been fighting it ever since with bravery, dignity and lots of her typically stinging political commentary on Facebook,” Barghouti stated on Thursday. Israel has publicly threatened Barghouti over his role as a leader in the BDS movement. In May 2016, Israel effectively imposed a travel ban on him by refusing to renew his residency document. That came after interior minister Aryeh Deri had explicitly threatened to revoke Barghouti’s residency on the grounds that “he is using his resident status to travel all over the world in order to operate against Israel in the most serious manner.”…
According to Barghouti, he has been able to travel to Amman with his mother for several chemotherapy sessions, but each time his lawyers have had to apply for a court order to temporarily suspend the travel ban. But now he’s unable to go for her upcoming surgery. “In response to an urgent request from my lawyers – that explained my mother’s upcoming surgery and the need for me to be with her – an Israeli court temporarily suspended the travel ban from 2 January to 16 January 2018,” Barghouti stated. Israel’s ministry of interior, however, has failed to renew his travel document for three weeks despite the court order, he said. Barghouti added that the threats and restrictions imposed on him “all pale in comparison with the war crimes and crimes against humanity (including apartheid) perpetrated by Israel’s regime of oppression against millions of Palestinians.”….
The story behind Ahed Tamimi’s slap: Her cousin’s head shattered by Israeli soldier’s bullet
Haaretz 5 Jan by Gideon Levy & Alex Levac — Just before Palestinian teen Ahed Tamimi slapped one of the soldiers who’d invaded her yard, she learned that her 15-year-old cousin Mohammed had been shot in the head at close range — Half a head. The left side of his face is twisted, swollen, fragmented, scarred; there’s congealed blood by his nose, stitches in his face; one eye is shut, a seam line stretches across his whole scalp. A boy’s face turned scar-face. Some of his skull bones were removed in surgery and won’t be returned to their place for another six months. Mohammed Tamimi, just 15, and he is already a disabled shooting victim and a released prisoner. That’s life under the occupation in Nabi Saleh, where people are occupied with the struggle. About an hour after Mohammed was shot in the head at short range by an Israel Defense Forces soldier (or a Border Policeman), his now-better-known cousin, Ahed Tamimi, went to the yard of her house and tried to forcibly expel the two soldiers who had invaded her turf, while the camera rolled. It’s a reasonable assumption that she tried to vent her wrath on the soldiers in part because of the shooting of her cousin an hour earlier. Only a few dozen meters separate the place where the soldiers shot Mohammed and Ahed’s home; only an hour separated the two events. People in her family relate that Ahed, 16, burst into tears when she heard that her cousin had been shot and was in serious condition … This week, Mohammed still didn’t know about the arrest of his cousin, who has become an icon. In view of his condition, his family hasn’t told him….
In the past three months, the hand of the Israeli security forces has become even heavier in the village. According to Iyad Hadad, a field researcher for the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, the IDF and the Border Police have raided Nabi Saleh 70 or 80 times in the past three months. Sometimes the soldiers shut the yellow iron gate to the village, so that residents are unable to reach the main road. They do this most frequently in the early morning hours, when the workers head for their jobs, the patients for treatment and the students for school. The village attributes this policy to the new army commander in the region, whom they know simply as “Eyal.”….
Opinion: What happened when a Jewish settler slapped a soldier / Noa Osterreicher
Haaretz 4 Jan — Both Ahed Tamimi and Yifat Alkobi were questioned for slapping a soldier in the West Bank, but little else about their cases are similar — simply because one is Jewish, the other Palestinian — This slap didn’t lead the nightly news. This slap, which landed on the cheek of a Nahal soldier in Hebron, did not lead to an indictment. The assailant, who slapped a soldier who was trying to stop her from throwing stones, was taken in for questioning but released on bail the same day and allowed to return home. Prior to this incident, she had been convicted five times — for throwing rocks, for assaulting a police officer and for disorderly conduct, but was not jailed even once. In one instance, she was sentenced to probation, and in the rest to a month of community service and practically a token fine, as compensation to the injured parties. The accused systematically failed to heed summonses for questioning or for legal proceedings, but soldiers did not come to drag her out of bed in the middle of the night, nor were any of her relatives arrested. Aside from a brief report by Chaim Levinson about the incident, on July 2, 2010, there were hardly any repercussions to the slap and scratches inflicted by Yifat Alkobi on the face of a soldier who caught her hurling rocks a Palestinians … Like Ahed Tamimi, Alkobi has been known for years to the military and police forces that surround her place of residence, and both are considered a nuisance and even a danger. The main difference between them is that Tamimi assaulted a soldier who was sent by a hostile government that does not recognize her existence, steals her land and kills and wounds her relatives, while Alkobi, a serial criminal, assaulted a soldier from her own people and her religion, who was sent by her nation to protect her, a nation in which she is a citizen with special privileges….
Al-Aqsa / Ibrahimi Mosque
Israeli settlers perform marriage rituals at Al-Aqsa, violating longstanding agreement
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 3 Jan — In violation of a longstanding agreement between Jordan and Israel which prevents non-Muslim religious rituals at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem, a group of Israelis reportedly performed a marriage ritual inside the compound on Wednesday. Official Palestinian Authority (PA)-owned Wafa news agency reported that a group of right-wing ultra-religious Israelis performed a marriage ritual under the protection of Israeli police. While Jewish visitation is permitted to the compound, non-Muslim worship at Al-Aqsa is prohibited according to an agreement signed between Israel and the Jordanian government after Israel’s illegal occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967. Despite the agreement with Jordan — which is the custodian of Al-Aqsa — Israeli authorities regularly allow Jewish visitors to enter the site, often under armed guard. Such visits are typically made by right-wingers attempting to unsettle the status quo at the site, and coincide with restrictions on Palestinian access, including bans on entrance and detentions.
Israel banned call to prayer in Ibrahimi Mosque hundreds of times in 2017
MEMO 2 Jan — The Israeli occupation authorities banned the Muslim call to prayer in Al-Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron hundreds of times last year, the Palestinian Ministry of Religious Endowments revealed on Monday. At least 645 occasions were documented when the call was banned, with 53 occasions in December alone. “This is a violation of Muslims’ freedom to practice their faith,” the ministry pointed out, “as well as a violation of an Islamic holy site.” Religious Endowment Minister Yousef Idrees warned of the dangers of the increasing Israeli violations against the religious and heritage sites in the Palestinian city of Hebron. “Such measures,” he added, “are intended to take control of Palestinian and Islamic property and pave the way for illegal Israeli settlers to carry out their aggression against the city and its inhabitants.” Israel claims that the call to prayer “annoys” the Jewish settlers. Muslims have to go through an exhaustive search and series of military checkpoints in order to enter Al-Ibrahimi Mosque for prayers. Commentators point out that this is ironic, given that it was a Jewish settler who entered the mosque in February 1994 and shot 29 Palestinian Muslims while they were at prayer. “He used his Israeli army-issue rifle to carry out these murders,” explained MEMO’s Ibrahim Hewitt. “After this, the Israelis divided the mosque between Muslims and Jews. Settlers have access to the whole building during Jewish holidays.” The world is silent about such injustice, he added.
Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Settlements
Israel approves hundreds of colonialist units near Salfit
IMEMC 3 Jan — Israeli “Housing and Construction Minister,” Yuav Galant, stated that his ministry and the government, headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, have presented plans for expanding Ariel illegal colony, built on Palestinian lands near Salfit in the occupied West Bank. The plan aims at building hundreds of units in Ariel, in addition to creating new public gardens, expanding Ariel University, and building a stadium, in addition to what they called “developing Ariel.” His announcement came after visiting the colony, on Tuesday, when he said that Ariel holds a very important strategic position, and what he called “the prominent geographical contiguity between central West Bank, and the Jordan Valley.
Trump Jerusalem decision opens Israeli expansionism floodgates
Al-Monitor 4 Jan by Daoud Kuttab — Two major themes are emerging in the aftermath of the Dec. 6 statement by US President Donald Trump recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Trump’s statement has opened the floodgates of Israeli expansionism, and Israel is now clearly marching toward becoming a full-fledged apartheid state. Palestinian officials and a number of Israeli pundits and peace movements have argued that radical elements in the Israeli government have picked up the signals coming from Washington that they can do what they want without having to worry about US or international restrictions. The ruling Likud Party’s Central Committee unanimously endorsed Dec. 31 a resolution calling for the annexation of West Bank settlements, sending a tough message to the Palestinians in the wake of Trump’s recognition of Israel’s capital. Nasser Laham, the editor-in-chief of the independent Maan news agency, said in a column published Jan. 1 that the Likud decision has set the stage for theft of Palestinian lands. “Settler companies and Jewish terrorists have been given a wide-open opportunity to steal whatever is left of Palestinian lands, waters, mountains and valleys,” he wrote …Israeli columnist Gershom Gorenberg said in his Jan. 3 article on The American Prospect site that the Likud resolution will greatly speed up settlement annexation efforts under the larger call for annexation of all the West Bank. “The narrower reading actually shows the true intent: annex the settlements; leave Palestinian communities subject to Israeli rule without making the Palestinians citizens.” Gorenberg continued that the Likud is making the Israeli goal very clear: “It’s a call to transform de facto occupation into de jure apartheid.”….
Opinion: It happened in Yesha-stan, so who gives a damn? / Amira Hass
Haaretz 2 Jan — Raids seizing construction materials in Palestinian outposts in the West Bank are so commonplace they’ve become a non-story. Still, they happen — The contract workers in their shiny phosphorescent yellow vests spoke Russian to each other. Border policemen standing by had nothing to do, their hands shoved in their pockets. After all, no one bothered these workers as they loaded a trailer attached to a white pickup truck with a confiscated pile of 60 boards of wood and two doors. A short video clip documented this non-event that took place last Thursday morning, one of many such non-events that take place in Yesha-stan without ruffling our smugness. It was one more raid by the Civil Administration, carried out for the purpose of nipping one more crime in the bud – the crime of building a shack for some young couple of some children who had outgrown sleeping with their parents in the same tent, shed or hovel. The spokesman for the Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) responded as follows: “On Wednesday, materials serving for illegal construction were found in the outpost of Khan al-Ahmar. A unit of inspectors conducted a law enforcement operation on Thursday in order to seize these materials, confiscating them as well as ceramic and wooden panels. The confiscation was conducted according to law and based on operational considerations.” An “outpost” is the term coined by the settler lobby to describe Palestinian communities that have been in the West Bank since long before the settlements were established there in contravention of international law. This specious definition has percolated into the lexicon of the Civil Administration. The non-event is embedded in the well-known conception: Natural population growth entitles people to housing only if they are Jewish. Not if they’re Palestinian. in Area C, East Jerusalem, the Negev, Galilee or Arab communities in central Israel.…
Israeli settlers set up tents on Palestinian land in Nablus area
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 2 Jan — Israeli settlers on Tuesday set up tents on Palestinian-owned land in the northern occupied West Bank district of Nablus, seemingly marking the beginnings of a new illegal settlement outpost. Official Palestinian Authority (PA)-owned Wafa news agency reported that settlers from the illegal Elon Moreh settlement set up tents in the Ras al-Ein area east of the Deir al-Hatab village, and fenced off the area.
According to the Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem (ARIJ), Deir al-Hatab was divided into Area B and Area C after the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israel signed the Oslo II Interim Agreement in 1995. Approximately 4,783 dunams — 42 percent of the village’s total area — were classified as Area B, where the Palestinian Authority (PA) controls civil matters and Israel retains control over “security.” The rest of the 58 percent of the village’s area — approximately 6,681 dunams — was classified as Area C, where Israel retains full control over security and civil administration, making Palestinian building and land management “illegal” unless approved by the Israeli Civil Administration. The majority of Deir al-Hatab’s population resides in Area B, while most of the land lying within Area C is agricultural land or has been confiscated for Israeli settlements. Israel has confiscated 659 dunams from the village for the establishment of the Elon Moreh settlement, which sits on the north-eastern side of the village, according to a 2014 report by ARIJ. Since the establishment of the settlement in 1979, which at the time of the report had 1,595 residents, Palestinian residents and farmers of Deir al-Hatab have been subjected to various settler attacks, in addition to the settlers having also stolen crops, damaged trees and attacked animals, homes and other private property. According to ARIJ, settlers from Elon Moreh have cut off the village’s electricity supply by destroying the electricity infrastructure….
Israel’s top court orders halt on all construction at illegal West Bank outpost
Haaretz 2 Jan by Yotam Berger — The High Court of Justice has ordered a halt on all construction at the illegal Jewish outpost of Adei Ad in the northern West Bank until the state carries out its plan to legalize the outpost. The court ruled that, if the state wishes to avoid carrying out existing demolition orders against Adei Ad, it must legalize the outpost within the time frame it set for itself last March, when it said Adei Ad would be legalized “within a year and a half,” the court wrote. That leaves another nine months to complete the process. Adei Ad was established in 1998 near the settlement of Shiloh. Today dozens of families live there. Most of the outpost is on state land, but it has no approved master plan and all of its 91 buildings were built without permits. In addition, 24 of the buildings were constructed on a portion of the outpost where the land’s status is unclear, although the state plans to try to declare that as state land as well. There would be legal obstacles to legalizing outpost construction if the land was found to belong to individual Palestinians. “Nobody disputes that the outpost was built illegally,” former Supreme Court President Miriam Naor wrote in her ruling … The petition against Adei Ad was filed by the mayors of several neighboring Palestinian villages, including Turmus Ayya, Al-Mughayir, Jalud and Qaryut, along with the Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din. The petitioners demanded that the outpost be evacuated, since demolition orders had already been issued against it….
Palestinian refugees – Syria, Iraq
Daesh blocks Palestinian refugees from leaving Yarmouk Camp
MEMO 4 Jan — The Action Group for Palestinians of Syria said that Daesh [ISIS] forces have prevented Palestinian refugees from leaving areas in Yarmouk Camp under their control to areas controlled by the Hay’et Tahrir al-Sham Organization. The group said in a report on Wednesday that Daesh imposed tight restrictions on residents’ freedom of movement and other aspects of their daily lives under various pretexts. Daesh took control of al-Yarmouk refugee camp early in April 2015 with the support of Jabhat An-Nusra fighters in the camp.
In a related development, the Syrian Minister of State for National Reconciliation Affairs, Ali Haider, last week, allowed Palestinian refugees and Syrians to return to al-Sabina refugee camp in the Damascus countryside. The reconciliation committees in the area received the residents wishing to return to their homes after confirming their ownership papers.
Iraq promises new laws to protect rights of Palestinian refugees
MEMO 4 Jan — The Palestinian Ambassador to Iraq, Ahmed Aqel, said the Speaker of Iraq’s Parliament, Salim Al-Jubouri, has promised him to find a legal formula during the next few days to preserve the Palestinian refugees’ rights in Iraq. The ambassador met with Al-Jubouri in his office in Baghdad to discuss the issue of Palestinian refugees in Iraq and other issues. An expert in Palestinian affairs in Iraq, Hassan al-Khalid, said in an interview with Quds Press that the Iraqi Parliament Speaker’s remarks nullified all the clarifications provided by the Secretariat to the Iraqi cabinet or even the prime minister, who at his last weekly conference said that the decisions issued regarding the residency of foreigners in Iraq do not affect the Palestinian refugees in Iraq. Iraq abolished last month Resolution 202 which gave Palestinian refugees in Iraq the same rights as Iraqi citizens except citizenship, army service and political action….
Other news, opinion
Palestine in Pictures: December 2017
The Electronic Intifada 3 January 2018 — Twelve Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces during the month of December as Israel cracked down on protests against Donald Trump’s proclamation that the US would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital – a move roundly condemned in a vote by the United Nations General Assembly. Eight of those killed were unarmed protesters shot dead during protests along Gaza’s boundary with Israel:….
Weekly report on Israeli human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territory (28 Dec -3 Jan)
PCHR-Gaza 4 Jan — Israeli forces escalated the excessive use of force in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) Two Palestinian civilians, including a child, were killed, in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. 89 Palestinian civilians, including 12 children, were wounded in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. 53 of them were hit with live bullets, 23 were hit with rubber-coated metal bullets, and 13 were hit with tear gas canisters. Nine civilians, including 7 children and a woman, were arrested in a protest in the West Bank. Israeli forces conducted 69 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank and a limited one was conducted in the southern Gaza Strip. 79 civilians, including 10 children and a woman, were arrested. 20 of them, including a child and a woman, were arrested in Jerusalem. Israeli authorities continue to create a Jewish Majority in occupied East Jerusalem. A store was closed in addition to confiscating its contents in Silwan village. Israeli warplanes launched 2 airstrikes at 2 military sites for armed groups, but no casualties were reported. 3 shooting incidents targeting the Palestinian fishing boats occurred in the Gaza Strip, but no casualties were reported. 4 shooting incidents targeting the Palestinian fishing boats occurred in the Gaza Strip….
PA signs 22 international treaties and agreements
MEMO 3 Jan — Palestine has joined 22 international conventions and treaties, the Palestinian Authority (PA) announced today. In a statement, the PA said that the move was made “to strengthen the legal status of the State of Palestine on a global scale,” stressing that “adopting the international law is the only way to achieve the Palestinians’ legitimate national rights.”
Trump tells Israel that embassy will be moved this year
MEMO 3 Jan — US President Donald Trump has told Israel that he is planning to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem this year, Israeli website Wallah revealed on Tuesday. Trump is apparently putting pressure on the relevant government departments in Washington to coordinate with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in order to get the relocation procedures started. “President Trump sent a clear message that he wants to start relocation of the embassy soon,” a White House source said. “He stressed that work is going to start as soon as possible in 2018.” Although it is known that no new building is readily available for the embassy, sources claim that it is moving to a “diplomatic hotel” in Jerusalem….
Hanan Ashrawi to Trump: ‘We will not be blackmailed’
Al Jazeera 3 Jan — A senior Palestinian official has responded with defiance to Donald Trump’s threat via Twitter to cut aid to the Palestinian Authority. Hanan Ashrawi’s rebuke followed the US president’s tweet admitting that the Middle East peace process was in difficulty and warning Palestinians that they could lose US aid worth more than $300m a year. “We will not be blackmailed,” Ashrawi said in a statement on Wednesday. “President Trump has sabotaged our search for peace, freedom and justice. Now he dares to blame the Palestinians for the consequences of his own irresponsible actions!” In his tweet on Tuesday, Trump said: “We pay the Palestinians HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect.” “With the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?” Relations between his administration and the Palestinian Authority have deteriorated since Trump decided last month to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
US aid to the Palestinian Authority stood at about $319 million in 2016, according to US government figures. The US gives Israel annual military aid of $3.1bn. Next year, that figure will increase to $3.8bn under a 10-year deal agreed by Barack Obama shortly before his presidency ended.
US State Dept. ‘hasn’t changed’ position regarding status of West Bank as occupied territory
Haaretz 2 Jan by Amir Tibon — The U.S. State Department on Tuesday reiterated that it has “not changed” its position regarding the status of the West Bank as occupied territory, following a report published last week saying that U.S. Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, has pressured the department to stop using that term. The Department’s spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, said during a press briefing in Washington that “our position hasn’t changed.” She refused to directly say, however, what is the position that hasn’t changed, sticking instead to a vague formula, which seemed aimed at not attracting political criticism from the right. This is not the first time Nauert has had to make such a statement following contradictory remarks by Friedman. Over the summer, the ambassador told an Israeli news website that Israel was in fact only occupying 2% of the West Bank. Back then, Nauert also stated that the United States’ position on the entire West Bank being occupied – a fact recognized by every American administration since 1967 – has not changed….
US ambassador pays condolence visit at MK’s West Bank home
Times of Israel 3 Jan by Jacob Magid — Deflecting suggestions it is unusual for US officials to visit settlements, David Friedman says he only came to pay respects — US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman paid a condolence visit at the home of Likud MK Yehudah Glick in the settlement of Otniel on Wednesday. Glick’s wife, Yaffa, died on Monday at the age of 51 after six months in a coma due to a severe stroke. While US officials rarely visit settlements, Friedman was not the first American ambassador to do so. His predecessor Dan Shapiro paid condolence visits at the homes of grieving lawmakers Avigdor Liberman and Yuli Edelstein in the settlements Nokdim and Neve Daniel, respectively … Elaborating on his decision to visit, Friedman described the Likud lawmaker as “someone whose heart’s in the right place.” “He’s very committed to Israel, committed to the relationship with the United States, committed to peace, committed to treating all of his neighbors — Christian, Muslim, Arab — with respect,” the ambassador added … Unlike previous US envoys, Friedman was known to be a strong supporter of Israeli settlements before he took office, serving as president of American Friends of Bet El Institutions, an organization that supports the large West Bank settlement near Ramallah. That support has continued since his appointment as ambassador. In September, Friedman said that settlements “are part of Israel.”
West Bank annexation vote set to do more damage to Israel, Netanyahu
TEL AVIV (Straits Times) 3 Jan by Gil Yaron — In a provocative move just before the start of the new year, the central committee of Israel’s governing party Likud backed a resolution urging legislators to annex large areas in the West Bank, making it harder for the Palestinians to create a state. Science, Technology and Space Minister Ofir Akunis even declared that “two states for two peoples is a concept that has disappeared from the world.” The areas, which Israel wrestled from Jordan during the Six-Day War in 1967, are considered by the world community as occupied territory, destined to become part of a future Palestinian state in the context of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Although the resolution by Likud is non-binding, it will inevitably do further damage to the international standing of Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. On one hand, the resolution reflects the elation among those supporting the Israeli settlement enterprise, after the drastic change of course in US foreign policy in December. With United States President Donald Trump overturning a decades-old policy – and enraging Arabs and Muslims all over the world – by recognising Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, the supporters see this as a rare opportunity and strive to push for concrete changes on the ground. Mr Benny Kashriel, mayor of Ma’aleh Adumim, one of the largest Israeli cities in the West Bank, called upon the party’s delegates to convert the declaration into a sovereignty Bill in the Knesset while Mr Trump is in office. “If we don’t do it now, when will we be able to?” he implored. Mr Gilad Erdan, Minister for Interior Security and the second most powerful man in the Likud after Mr Netanyahu, also spoke of the “unique opportunity” that Mr Trump’s tenure offers to Israel….
Israeli security agency: Iranian agent arrested in West Bank
JERUSALEM (AP) 3 Jan — Israel’s internal security agency says it has busted an Iranian espionage ring operating in the West Bank and arrested its Palestinian leader. The Shin Bet said in a statement on Wednesday that 29-year-old Mohammed Maharmeh of Hebron is suspected of being enlisted by a relative in South Africa and working as an Iranian operative. Maharmeh was allegedly tasked with enlisting suicide bombers and gunmen for attacks against Israelis. The Shin Bet says Maharmeh received $8,000 from Iran for his activity. Israel has long accused Iran of funding Palestinian militant groups responsible for attacks against Israel, such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The Shin Bet’s announcement came shortly after the Israeli military said that Islamic Jihad was believed responsible for firing Iranian-made mortars at Israel from the Gaza Strip last week.
New in the West Bank: A credit boom waiting for a real economy
Benchmark 3 Jan by David Wainer — The Palestinian economy is crippled by restrictions on trade, investments and access to natural resources, but driving around Ramallah you might get the impression it’s booming. Underground parking lots are brimming with Audis and BMWs, residential buildings are popping up at a frenetic pace, and cafes and restaurants are buzzing with customers. Helping drive the appearance of wealth in the West Bank city, just 6 miles from Jerusalem, is the emergence of a consumer loan market that was all but non-existent just a decade ago. Its growth can be can be attributed to a 2008 law that forced banks operating in the Palestinian territories – which preferred to lend their money abroad – to extend at least 40 percent of their credit to locals. In the past four years, the debt market has more than doubled to $6.4 billion, of which $2.6 billion has gone to local residents, according to the Palestine Monetary Authority … The credit growth has allowed members of the Palestinian middle class – those who already have a steady job – to boost their quality of life. But the overall picture for the West Bank’s economy is still one of stagnation. Israeli restrictions on trade and investments and a shallow production base mean that large parts of the local society are falling behind. Unemployment in the West Bank and Gaza is at about 30 percent (versus a low of 4.3 percent in Israel) and economic growth in the West Bank is expected to be about 2 percent in coming years, which won’t be enough to keep up with population growth, according to the World Bank. Palestinians import more than three times what they manage to export – a trade structure the World Bank says resembles failed states such as Somalia. The danger is the expansion of credit could lead to an asset bubble and widen inequalities between those with a steady job – typically people working for NGOs or the Palestinian Authority – and those who don’t have a reliable income….
The master artist preserving Jerusalem’s history
JERUSALEM, occupied West Bank (Al Jazeera) 3 Jan by Ali Younes –– In his small and cramped studio, Shehab Kawasmi moves carefully around piles of centuries-old photographs, stacks of drawings and thick books. A realist painter, Kawasmi uses his brush to draw hundreds of historic and religious landmarks in Jerusalem’s Old City, the place where he was born and raised. “I feel it is my duty as an artist to preserve the history of our city for future generations,” said the Palestinian artist, who has dedicated his life’s work to depict the rich history of his city … Ever since his teenage years, the Old City, with its ancient landscape, interlinked souqs and Roman, Christian and Islamic architecture, has always lured Kawasmi to recreate it on canvas … Kawasmi has so far published a number of books with his creations and has exhibited both at home and abroad. His vast collection includes drawings of intricate artwork from inside al-Aqsa Mosque, Ottoman architecture, Christian landmarks, churches and ancient archaeological sites. They are all based on his own observation of the famous landmarks, as well as photographs he has taken of them … He and other local Palestinians know almost every corner of the city’s narrow lanes, its secret alleys, its Roman caverns, its Christian monasteries and numerous Ottoman and other Islamic landmarks. “I can never get lost here,” said Kawasmi. “Like every Palestinian from Jerusalem, every corner of it is practically imprinted in my memory since childhood….
Book review: A fight to the death, and betrayal by the Arab world: The most disastrous 24 hours in Palestinian history
Haaretz 4 Jan by Nir Hasson — April 8, 1948, was the most disastrous day in the history of Arab Jerusalem and of the Palestinian people in the modern era. The events began at 2 A.M., when Abd al-Qadir al-Husseini, leader of the Arab military force in the Jerusalem area, left a quarry outside the city, where he had situated his headquarters in an attempt to recapture the small village of Al-Qastel. A few hours later, at dawn, he was killed. It was a Thursday. On Friday morning, he was buried on the Temple Mount, known to the Arabs as Haram al-Sharif, following a mass funeral – one of the largest the city had seen. While the funeral was under way, refugees from the village of Deir Yassin, on Jerusalem’s western outskirts, arrived and told the story of the village’s conquest that same day and of the massacre perpetrated there by members of the Irgun underground organization. The tens of thousands who attended the funeral from every Jerusalem neighborhood and every adjacent village spread the news amid exaggerated descriptions of the brutal events in Deir Yassin. During those same hours, Qastel fell again to the Haganah, the pre-state underground army of Palestine’s Jews. Meanwhile, in the north of the country, the Arab Army of Salvation failed in its attempt to capture Kibbutz Mishmar Ha’emek. And villagers around Jerusalem and in Galilee started to leave their homes. The Nakba – the period when more than 700,000 Arabs eventually fled or were expelled from their homes during Israel’s War of Independence – had begun in earnest.
That dramatic 24-hour period of April 8-9 is the subject of a new book by Danny Rubinstein, a veteran Israeli journalist and student of Palestinian society. The book (in Hebrew), titled “The Battle on the Qastel: 24 Hours that Changed the Course of the 1948 War between Palestinians and Israelis,” describes events as they unfolded by way of the extraordinary figure of Husseini, a gifted military commander, leader and terrorist. Over and above being a riveting account of a group of leaders and fighters – this is also a Greek tragedy, in which the hero knows the fate that awaits him and goes to meet it open-eyed…. [Most readers of this list probably can’t read Hebrew, but the existence of this book may prod us to investigate the story of al-Husseini elsewhere]