Violence / Detentions — West Bank / Jerusalem
Video: Israeli forces attack Palestinian medics attempting to save injured youth
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 13 Mar — Video captured on Monday shows Israeli forces assaulting Palestinian medics in the central occupied West Bank city of al-Bireh as they were attempting to aid a Palestinian who had been shot during clashes in the area. The four paramedics, including one woman, were identified as Nisreen Amireh, Ayman Qurt, Attiyeh al-Dweik and Muhammad Omar. Witnesses told Ma‘an that after the injured Palestinian, whose identity remained unknown, was shot, another youth attempted to help him, when Israeli soldiers attacked them, injuring both in attempts to detain them. The four paramedics, who were on the scene as volunteers, were beaten, pushed and allegedly threatened by soldiers of being shot and pepper-sprayed before Israeli soldiers opened live fire were in the air above their heads. Despite being beaten and pushed around, video of the assault shows the medics repeatedly attempting to rescue the injured youth. The three male paramedics were able to free one of the two youths and transfer him to a nearby ambulance, while Amireh, 19, remained behind, fighting off two soldiers in attempt to save the second youth. Amireh managed to hold the soldiers off until her colleagues returned and helped her rescue the second youth. Wearing her gas-mask Nisreen told journalists “this is my third injury during my job, but that will not stop us from doing our humanitarian work.”
19-year-old Palestinian killed by Israeli forces laid to rest in Urif village
[with photos] NABLUS (Ma‘an) 12 Mar — Hundreds of Palestinians marched on Sunday in the funeral of 19-year-old Omair Shehada, who was killed by Israeli forces in the northern occupied West Bank village of ‘Urif on Saturday evening. Shehada was shot in the chest by Israeli forces during clashes in the Nablus-area village, after settlers from the notoriously violent Yitzhar settlement attacked the residents of ‘Urif. Shehada’s body was briefly held by Israeli forces at the Huwwara military checkpoint south of Nablus before Palestinian medics were allowed to take him and transfer him to the Rafidiya Governmental Hospital in Nablus city. On Sunday, hundreds of Palestinians took part in Shehada’s funeral, which set off from the hospital towards ‘Urif.
A Palestinian boy is orphaned after his disabled father is killed by Israeli troops
Haaretz 16 Mar by Gideon Levy & Alex Levac — Zain, just over 4 years old, stares into space in his small room with dead eyes, making not a sound. He’s sitting on his grandmother’s knees – although he thinks she’s his mother, because that’s what he has been told. Now he’s also been informed that his father has been killed, although it’s unlikely that he is able to grasp the enormity of the new catastrophe that has befallen him. Three years ago, still a baby, he lost his mother. Last Friday he lost his father, too – a mentally disabled young man who was incapable of speech. In a senseless act, Israel Defense Forces soldiers, using live ammunition, shot him in the chest from a range of 20 meters, killing him. Three days after Zain was orphaned, we saw him as he sat mutely in his grandmother’s lap. Because of the family’s dire economic situation, the boy will likely be placed in an orphanage, his grandmother says, promising that she will visit him regularly. Words fail in this house of suffering; it is a time of anguish and tears. The home is a stone structure in Hebron’s Old City, above the Tomb of the Patriarchs and the settlers’ neighborhood, but in H1 – the area that is supposedly under Palestinian control. Dimness reigns in the house. As one’s eyes grow used to the gloom, an incredible reality takes shape. In this house live a couple with their 12 children, four of whom are disabled, along with some young grandchildren, all squeezed into three small rooms. The disabled offspring suffer from a variety of problems, including mental illness and epilepsy … Everyone is now wrenched in grief over Mohammed, the son and brother, who was killed next to the fence of the girls’ high school on King Faisal Street in Hebron. Three soldiers, who were hiding behind the trunk of an ancient olive tree, lurking in ambush for stone throwers in the schoolyard, suddenly darted from their hiding place and shot Mohammed, whose father says he could never grasp the meaning of approaching danger. [continued – not behind a paywall]
Israeli soldiers injure 38 Palestinians near Jerusalem
IMEMC 16 Mar — Israeli soldiers injured, on Thursday evening, 38 Palestinians in the al-‘Ezariyya town, east of occupied East Jerusalem. The soldiers invaded the town, attacked many Palestinians who protested the invasion, and fired gas bombs, concussion grenades and rubber-coated steel bullets. The Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) said its medics rushed to the town and provided treatment to nine Palestinians who were shot with rubber-coated steel bullets. It added that the medics also treated two Palestinians who suffered burns, and 27 who suffocated due to the severe effects of teargas inhalation.
Palestinian injured, 12 arrested in Jerusalem, West Bank by Israel
RAMALLAH (Petra) 13 Mar — A Palestinian youth was wounded and three others were arrested in pre-dawn raids carried out in different parts of the West Bank. Palestinian sources Tuesday said that the occupation troops stormed the Askar Al Jadeed refugee camp and ‘Asira town in the West Bank, and detained two young men after raiding their homes. Clashes broke out between Palestinian youths and the Israeli soldiers, who fired live ammunition, rubber-coated metal bullets, leaving a young Palestinian, in his twenties, injured.
Another 10 Palestinians were also arrested today, after Israeli forces broke into the ‘Asira town in Nablus, Ein Kahel town and a number of neighborhoods in Hebron as well as Qalandia refugee camp north of the occupied Jerusalem, the sources added.
Israeli settlers force Palestinian family out of its land in Hebron
HEBRON (WAFA) 13 Mar – Israeli settlers Tuesday forced a Palestinian family to leave its land in Tel Rumeida area, in Hebron to the south of the West Bank, according to local activist. Imad Abu-Shamsyeh, an activist in the anti-settlement movement in Hebron, said settlers broke into the land of Walid Sharif in Tel Rumeida in the center of Hebron and prevented him from working in his land. He said the settlers came from the illegal settlement of Ramat Yishai, build on Palestinian privately owned lands in Tel Rumeida.
Israeli forces detain 18 Palestinians in West Bank raids
HEBRON (WAFA) 12 Mar – Israeli forces Monday conducted multiple overnight raids across the West Bank, detaining 18 Palestinians, said Palestine Prisoner’s Society (PPS). Israeli detained three Palestinians, including two brothers, after storming and ransacking their homes in Halhul town, north of Hebron in the southern West Bank. Forces also raided Ad-Dhahiriya town, southwest of Hebron, where they detained a Palestinian after storming and thoroughly searching his home. In a subsequent raid into Beit Ummar town, northwest of Hebron, forces ransacked several homes and detained two Palestinians, including a former detainee.
Elsewhere, forces broke into the homes of a former prisoner and the principal of Ruwwad al-Ma’rifa School in Hebron city, wreaking havoc into their contents and seizing sums of cash. The school principal said that soldiers smashed his children’s money boxes and stole their savings.
In the northern West Bank, Israeli troops detained six Palestinians, including two 17-year-old minors and a 22-year-old cancer patient, after breaking into their family homes. Meanwhile, in Tulkarem, forces conducted a raid into ‘Anabta town, east of the city, where they detained two Palestinians. PPS said another was detained from the northern West Bank district.
Three more Palestinians were detained in predawn raids; two from Jericho district and another from Ramallah.
Report: Israel detains 1,319 Palestinians, 274 minors during January and February
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 14 Mar — Israeli forces detained over 1,000 Palestinians, including 274 children, during the months of January and February, according to Palestinian prisoners rights group Addameer. Addameer released a statement on Wednesday citing a joint report by the Prisoners and Liberties Affairs Association, Palestinian Prisoner Club, Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, and Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, which says that during January and February 2018, Israeli forces arrested 1,319 Palestinians from the occupied Palestinian territory. Among the detainees were 274 children, 23 women and four journalists.
The number of Palestinian prisoners and detainees in Israeli jails, as of February 28, 2018, was 6,500, Addameer reported. Of the 6,500 prisoners, 63 were women, including six girls, and 350 were children. In regard to the policy of administrative detention — Israel’s widely condemned policy of internment without charge or trial — Israeli authorities issued 169 administrative orders since the beginning of the year, which includes including 52 new orders. As of the end of February, the total number of administrative detainees was 500, Addameer said….
IDF soldiers come under fire near Ramallah
Times of Israel 11 Mar by Jacob Magid — Shots were fired at an IDF post near the central West Bank city of Ramallah, the army said Saturday night. There were no casualties in the incident, but troops were scanning the area adjacent to the Palestinian village of al-Bireh and had found several bullet shells, the army said. It was the second such incident in the West Bank in less than 48 hours. On Thursday evening, shots were fired in the direction of IDF soldiers who were operating near the northern West Bank city of Nablus. There were no casualties in the incident either, but troops scanned the area in search of suspects. An arrest has yet to be made.
Two Palestinians arrested with pipe bomb outside West Bank court
i24NEWS 11 Mar — Israeli security forces arrested two Palestinian men in possession of a pipe bomb at the entrance to the Samaria Military Courthouse in the West Bank on Sunday, in the sixth such incident over recent months. The entrance to the courthouse was sealed off as bomb disposal units worked at the scene. It is the sixth time that the courthouse has been the target of attempted attacks involving pipe bombs. Similar incidents occured on February 7th, December 28th, December 17th, and on two other occasions in October. In each incident, the attacks were thwarted with no injuries or damage to property … Three other Palestinians were apprehended in possession of Molotov cocktails near a roadway frequently used by Israeli settlers in the West Bank. The IDF said it was investigating whether the three have been involved in previous instances where firebombs were thrown at passing vehicles.
Netanyahu orders new investigative policy in West Bank to avoid police probing itself
Haaretz 11 Mar by Yotam Berger — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has instructed the police to refrain from investigating criminal charges against Border Police personnel for actions in the West Bank, and to transfer such investigations to the military police. The order, details of which Haaretz obtained, was signed in November 2017 but has not yet been implemented pending “groundwork” by enforcement agencies. The procedure has so far been for National Police Headquarters to assign investigations of criminal charges brought by Palestinians residents of the West Bank against Border Police personnel to the Judea and Samaria District police. This policy meant that the police was in most cases investigating itself. This is not the case within the pre-1967 border, where a department in the Justice Ministry investigates alleged police misconduct. The Border Police is officially the border security branch of the National Police force. However, its personnel are often deployed to assist the army as well as to carry out law enforcement and counter-terrorism operations in the West Bank and East Jerusalem….
Army pours concrete into room of detainee in Qabatia
IMEMC 13 Mar — Israeli soldiers invaded on Tuesday the town of Qabatia, south of Jenin, and poured concrete into the room of detainee Yousef Khaled Kamil.The family said that the soldiers surrounded their property, and poured the concrete into their detained son’s room in their family home. Yousef is imprisoned by Israel for allegedly killing an Israeli last year in Kafr Qassem. Jenin Governor Kamil Abu ar-Rob said the soldiers poured 42 cubic meters of concrete into the room as a form of collective punishment against the family. He added that the soldiers were unable to demolish the property, because the family’s residence is located in an apartment building. Instead, they filled a room in the building with concrete, which will render the apartment building structurally unsound, and inevitably cause it to collapse. During the invasion, the soldiers attacked Palestinian protesters and fired rubber-coated steel bullets, gas bombs and concussion grenades, in addition to invading homes and occupying their rooftops….
Prisoners / Court actions
Soldiers who killed unarmed Palestinian say in defense: Israel rarely charges for such offenses
Haaretz 14 Mar — The prosecution is negotiating a plea bargain in the case of two former soldiers accused of recklessness and negligence in the shooting death of a Palestinian teenager in 2013. The men were serving in the Armored Corps at the time, one as a squad commander and the other as a member of the squad, when they shot and killed 16-year-old Samir Awad. The lawyers for the two men argued that convicting the soldiers would be a selective enforcement of the law, since it is rare for an indictment to be brought against Israel Defense Force soldiers who shoot and kill Palestinians … The attorneys presented military data showing that in the last seven years, out of 110 cases in which soldiers had shot and killed Palestinians, only four indictments were filed. The court expressed doubts as to its ability to convict the two men due to the issue of selective enforcement … The defense brought up the possibility of dismissing the charges. Negotiations are underway for a plea agreement and the prosecution is expected to present its decision prior to the next court hearing in the case on March 26.
Israeli manslaughter soldier seeks cut in jail term
JERUSALEM (AFP) 14 Mar — An Israeli military court on Wednesday began examining a request for a shorter prison term by a soldier jailed for 14 months for shooting dead a wounded Palestinian, the army said. A ruling on the request by Elor Azaria was expected in the coming days, an army spokeswoman said. Azaria was convicted of manslaughter last year for shooting Abdul Fatah al-Sharif in the head in March 2016, as the Palestinian lay on the ground wounded after stabbing a soldier. Azaria was sentenced to 18 months in prison, but Israel’s Chief of Staff General Gadi Eisenkot later reduced the term by four months. The shooting in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron was caught on video by a human rights group and spread widely online. It showed 21-year-old Sharif lying wounded on the ground, shot along with another Palestinian after the stabbing attack, according to the army. Azaria then shot him in the head without any apparent provocation.
Israeli court sentences Palestinian activist Munther Amira to 6 months
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 13 Mar — The Israeli Ofer Military Court sentenced Palestinian activist Munther Amira to six months of prison on Monday. Amira, the head of the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee (PSCC) in the occupied West Bank, was arrested during peaceful protests in late December. Amira’s brother, Ghassan, told Ma‘an that the court sentenced Amira to six months of jail in addition to a suspended sentence of five years and a fine. He added that the suspended sentence includes 3 suspended years if Amira is detained during any activity after his release and five years if he is detained during a protest. As he was arrested, Amira, along with dozens of Palestinians, were demonstrating against US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and the arrest of 17-year-old activist Ahed Tamimi, who had been detained one week prior. Video of Amira’s arrest shows the activist standing at the front of protests, holding a sign in support of Ahed Tamimi, when a group of Israeli officers ran out from the military base and grabbed him. The Israeli prosecution brought 12 charges against Amira, among them throwing stones, organizing and participating in unpermitted marches, and throwing an incendiary device towards soldiers, the latter referring to when Amira threw back a tear gas canister that was shot at him by Israeli forces while he was peacefully demonstrating. Amira was prosecuted in a military court that has over a 99 percent conviction rate against Palestinians.
Wife of Palestinian prisoner detained during visit
JENIN (WAFA) 15 Mar — Israeli authorities detained on Thursday the wife of a Palestinian prisoner from Ya‘bad, to the west of Jenin in the northern West Bank, during a visit to her husband in the Naqab desert prison, according to her family. They told WAFA they were informed of the detention of Safaa Atatra after visiting her husband Majid Nizar under the pretext of attempting to smuggle a phone SIM card to her husband in prison.
Explosion in Gaza targets convoy of Palestinian PM Rami Hamdallah
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 13 Mar — An explosion struck the convoy of Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah as he entered the besieged Gaza Strip on Tuesday morning, lightly injuring several people. The explosive device, which was reportedly planted two meters into the ground, detonated shortly after Hamdallah and his convoy passed through the Israeli-controlled Erez checkpoint. Travelling with Hamdallah was also the head of the General Intelligence Service of the Palestinian Authority (PA), Majid Faraj. Neither Hamdallah nor Faraj was injured in the explosion. Sources told Ma‘an that seven security guards were injured, adding that three of the injured were travelling in a car in which Faraj was initially meant to travel. Fatah, the ruling party of the PA to which PM Hamdallah and President Mahmoud Abbas belong, called it a “terrorist attack” and “assassination attempt,” which the group blamed on Hamas, the ruling party in Gaza … Other Fatah officials condemned the attack as being aimed at hindering efforts at achieving national reconciliation, though Hamdallah himself said in a statement that the incident “would only increase our persistence to continue our jobs providing services to the Gaza Strip and ending division,” adding that he would be back in the Gaza Strip soon. Meanwhile, the Hamas movement denied responsibility for the attack, saying “this crime is an inseparable part of attempts of harming the security of the Gaza Strip and destroying any efforts to achieve unity and reconciliation.” … The group demanded security services in Gaza start an immediate investigation and detain anyone involved in the incident. The spokesperson of the Gaza Ministry of Interior said that several suspects were arrested.
Hamas widens probe into Gaza bomb attack against PM
AFP 14 Mar — Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas widened an investigation Wednesday into a bomb explosion that targeted Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah as he made a rare visit to the strip a day earlier. The interior ministry in Gaza said it had launched a “high-level investigative committee” into the bomb attack, which was a further blow to faltering reconciliation talks between Hamas and president Mahmud Abbas’s secular Fatah party. It said a number of suspects were being questioned after the roadside bomb targeted Hamdallah’s convoy shortly after he entered Gaza, leaving him uninjured but lightly wounding six guards. It did not provide further details on the investigation Wednesday or release the identity of the suspects. “The door is open to anyone who wants to participate in the investigation,” Tawfeeq Abu Naim, the head of the Hamas security services in Gaza, said in a statement … After the attack, Abbas said he held Hamas responsible as the de facto power in the strip, though stopping short of directly accusing the group of carrying out the bombing. Hamas shot back, saying such rapid accusations were unhelpful before in turn pointing the finger of blame at Israel. Other potential suspects include smaller, more radical Islamist groups that are opposed to Hamas but operate in Gaza, or a Hamas splinter group. There has been no claim of responsibility. Hamdallah said the attack would not end his government’s commitment to continue with reconciliation and again called on Hamas to hand over all power in Gaza. “We are talking about internal security — the police and the civil defence,” he said. “Without security there won’t be a government.”
Jamal al-Fadi, a political scientist in Gaza, told AFP the aim of the attack was to “sabotage any chance for reconciliation.” He said potential suspects are those that have an interest in maintaining the split. “It could be a group that split from Hamas for ideological reasons, such as a militant Salafi group,” he said.
In October, Abu Naim, the Hamas security chief who issued Wednesday’s statement, was wounded by a car bomb after leaving a mosque. Hamas officials privately admit the assassination attempt was by Salafists, rather than Israel, and like Tuesday’s attack the explosion was relatively small.
‘Former Palestinian security official arrested’ in assassination attempt on Prime Minister
Haaretz 15 Mar by Jack Khoury — Security forces from the Hamas movement, which controls the Gaza Strip, have reportedly arrested a former member of the Palestinian Authority’s security forces as a suspect in the attempted assassination on Tuesday of Rami Hamdallah, the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority. The latest arrest was reported by the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar but has not been confirmed by official sources. Hamas security forces searched the suspect’s home for evidence as well as other locations that he had allegedly visited in Gaza, the Beirut daily added. The reported arrest follows others on the day of the incident … According to Al-Akhbar, the cell that planned the attack buried two explosive charges in the ground, planning to detonate them using a cell phone, but one of the two failed to detonate.
Finger pointed at Israel over attack on Palestinian PM convoy
Al Jazeera 13 Mar — The hand of Israel is not being ruled out as Hamas announces an inquiry into an explosion that targeted the convoy of the West Bank-based Palestinian prime minister during a visit to the Gaza Strip…. Sources told Al Jazeera that Hamdallah and Ismail Haniya, senior political leader of Hamas, spoke by phone later in the day and agreed that Israel was behind the explosion because it appeared to be the incident’s main beneficiary. Youssef al-Mahmoud, a Palestinian Authority spokesperson, denied via the Palestinian news agency WAFA that any phone call took place between Hamdallah and Haniya. Hamas has denied any involvement in the explosion, and said it would launch an investigation to “bring those behind the attack to justice”.
Who is Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, who just escaped an attempt on his life?
Haaretz 13 Mar — Hamdallah, 60 this year, became Palestinian prime minister in June 2013, following the resignation of previous incumbent Salam Fayyad after six years in office. He has long been seen as a moderate in Palestinian politics. In a 2013 Haaretz profile, Barak Ravid noted that Hamdallah’s appointment as prime minister was akin to a suicide mission, describing the post as “the most ungrateful job in the West Bank.” Ravid also noted that Hamdallah is familiar with crises. “A decade ago, in 2000, he experienced a personal tragedy when his three children were killed in a car accident,” Ravid wrote. “He managed to overcome the blow and continue his work at An-Najah.” … Before becoming prime minister, Hamdallah was the linguistics professor and president of An-Najah National University. He was born in ‘Anabta, in the northern West Bank, in 1958. He attended the University of Jordan in 1980 and went to Britain to continue his studies. He received his MA from the University of Manchester in 1982 and a PhD in linguistics at Lancaster University six years later. Hamdallah is known in the Arab world as Abu Walid, after his deceased son….
Israel hits Hamas posts in Gaza in response to bombings
GAZA CITY, Palestine (AFP) 16 Mar — Israel’s military hit Hamas posts in the Gaza Strip Thursday after Palestinians set off two bombs near the border fence, the military said, with no casualties reported. Israel’s military also said it suspected based on surveillance video that there was “an attempt” to fire rocket-propelled grenades toward its forces, but nothing was hit. If confirmed, it would be the first time such weapons were used by Gaza militants against Israeli forces since a 2014 war, army spokesman Jonathan Conricus said. A security source from Hamas said one Israeli round hit an observation post near the border, causing damage but no casualties. He said that earlier, shortly after sunrise, there were explosions near the border. Israel said two improvised explosive devices were detonated some 100 meters away from the fence on the Gaza side. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blasts and Israel said it could not say who was behind it, though it held Hamas responsible as the de facto power in the Palestinian enclave. Israel said the IEDs were detonated “toward” soldiers in a vehicle on the Israeli side of the fence near the northeastern Gaza Strip at around 6:00 am. “It appears that there was also an attempt to fire RPG rockets toward the force,” Conricus said. “We don’t have the final confirmation of that yet, but that is currently our working assumption.” Israel’s army then hit what it said were four military positions in the strip belonging to Hamas and Palestinian armed group Islamic Jihad with tank fire and another with air power, Conricus said.
Israeli forces open fire at Gaza fishermen
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 13 Mar — Israeli naval forces opened fire on Palestinian fishing boats off the coast of the northern Gaza Strip on Tuesday. Witnesses told Ma‘an that Israeli boats were seen and heard opening fire towards fishermen. Meanwhile, Israeli authorities released a 15-year-old fisherman who was detained by Israeli naval forces on Monday off the coast of southern Gaza. He was identified as Ahmad Ziad al-Bardawil.
Army abducts a patient at Erez Crossing
IMEMC 16 Mar — Israeli soldiers abducted, on Thursday evening, a Palestinian patient from the besieged Gaza Strip, at the Erez Crossing, near Beit Hanoun, in the northern part of the coastal region. Media sources said the patient, identified as Naim Kotkot, filed a permit application, asking to be allowed to leave Gaza and head to the West Bank for medical treatment. His application included medical reports, and a referral to a Palestinian hospital in the central West Bank city of Ramallah. The Israeli authorities demanded to talk to him before discussing his permit application, and instead abducted him when he went to Erez for the interview.
Kotkot is the second Palestinian to be abducted at the terminal in less than one week, after the army abducted a man, who works for the Palestinian Telecommunications Company (Paltel), and was on his way to the headquarters in Ramallah.
Egypt security delegation returns to Gaza after West Bank visit
MEMO 12 Mar — After visiting the occupied West Bank, an Egyptian security delegation returned to the Gaza Strip yesterday, the Anadolu Agency reported. Security source told Anadolu that the Egyptian delegation returned to Gaza to continue its efforts in following up the implementation of the internal reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas. During its stay in Gaza, the Egyptian delegation held several meetings with officials from both Hamas and Fatah along with leaders from the different Palestinian factions as part of its efforts to end internal divisions. In October 2017, Egypt brokered a reconciliation deal between Fatah and Hamas. It said it would dispatch a security delegation to Gaza to follow up the implementation of the reconciliation deal.
Gaza bypasses Rafah crossing to import goods
GAZA CITY (Al-Monitor) 12 Mar by Moath al-Amoudi — The Egyptian authorities brought in vegetables, fruits and other goods into the Gaza Strip on Feb. 23 through the Saladin gate crossing, in the southern part of Rafah city, instead of using the standard Rafah border crossing as they normally do. The Saladin gate, controlled by the Hamas security services, is located on the border between Egypt and Gaza at the site of the original Rafah land crossing that was bombed by Israel in October 2009, 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) south of the new Rafah crossing. By entering through this gate, the goods escape customs and levies imposed on the Rafah crossing by the security services affiliated with the consensus government. Gaza has seven crossings for the movement of goods and people, six of which are under the control of Israel. Meanwhile, the Rafah border crossing for the movement of Palestinians and the export of certain products from Gaza is under Palestinian and Egyptian control, without Israeli intervention. The official commercial crossings do not include the Saladin gate. An official from the Crossing and Borders Authority, affiliated with the Palestinian Authority (PA), told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that the authority had refused to allow the trucks to pass at an official commercial crossing under the excuse of not having the right equipment to examine them. The official claimed, however, that the real reason was that these trucks violate the Paris Protocol between the PLO and Israel. Hence, the trucks went through at the unofficial Saladin crossing Feb. 23 instead without proper inspection. Upon the instructions of Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in the government of national consensus, Minister of Labor Mamoun Abu Shahla contacted Gen. Tawfiq Abu Naim, the director general of the Internal Security Forces in Gaza, to inquire about the goods entering through the Saladin gate. A source close to Abu Naim told Al-Monitor that Abu Naim only ordered the closure of the gate and stopped Egyptian goods from entering after he received a phone call followed by a letter from Hamdallah.
Gaza villagers brace for new Israeli offensive
EI 12 Mar by Hamza Abu Eltarabesh — Fawzi Abu Jarad is preparing to move and the 62-year-old former shepherd wants to bring his entire extended family of 28 people with him. He won’t go far, however. A resident of Gaza, he can’t go far. But he will go deeper inside the Gaza Strip in search of some safety, however illusory. Anywhere is safer than home for the Abu Jarads. Home is the Bedouin village of Um al-Nasser. Located in the far north and almost flush against the boundary with Israel, it is not only an impoverished, isolated and underdeveloped part of Gaza. It is also directly in the line of any invading Israeli army, should another offensive start. Um al-Nasser’s villagers have been there before. On 17 July 2014, just around sunset, the Abu Jarads and other families found themselves trapped in the village when it became one of the initial targets of the Israeli army’s ground invasion at the outset of that phase of Israel’s 51-day assault on Gaza. More than 3,600 residents were then forced to evacuate and the village was badly damaged. According to local residents, the first casualty of the Israeli ground invasion was from here: Muhammad Ishtawi, 28, a member of Hamas’ armed Qassam Brigades….
Gaza’s economic plight requires trade, not just aid — World Bank
GAZA (Reuters) 14 Mar — Economic decline in the Gaza Strip has become too steep to be tackled by international aid and also requires that the Israeli- and Egyptian-blockaded Palestinian enclave be allowed freer trade, the World Bank said on Thursday. “The (Gaza) economy cannot survive without being connected to the outside world,” it said in a 46-page report issued as world powers convened in Rome to discuss the future of a U.N. relief agency for Palestinians threatened by U.S. funding cuts. “Any effort at economic recovery and development must address the impacts of the current closure regime.”….
North Gaza communities will finally benefit from sewage treatment services
World Bank 12 Mar — The long-awaited construction of the new North Gaza Wastewater Treatment Plant is now complete and ready for operation. It will provide a long-term, sustainable wastewater management solution for over 400,000 Gazan citizens — …The commissioning of the new wastewater treatment plant was launched on March 1, 2018, as the World Bank project, the North Gaza Emergency Sewage Treatment (NGEST) neared completion. The four-month commissioning phase began following the conclusion of all works by the contractor, and the testing of equipment installed in the new facility. At the request of the Palestinian Authority, the owner of the new project, the World Bank will extend its support throughout the commissioning period, as the plant is gradually brought to full operation at the end of June of this year….
Experts speculate on causes of rising birth defects in Gaza
GAZA CITY 14 Mar by Hana Salah — During an ablative brain surgery Feb. 18 at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, neurosurgeon Mahmoud Abu Khater succeeded in removing an extra brain growth outside the head of 4-month-old Mayce Eid. He reconstructed her brain in a unique surgery … Eid said that the family learned about the deformity during the seventh month of pregnancy after several tests … Mayce’s parents are related to each other, but Abu Khater said it’s difficult to pin down the reason for Mayce’s deformity. He added, “There are no [current] scientific studies pointing at the causes of fetal deformation [specifically] in the Gaza Strip.” However, Abu Khater believes they can be attributed at least in part to Israeli weapons used in the recent wars and the inter-family marriages that are prevalent in Gaza. Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra also told Al-Monitor there have been no studies on the reasons behind fetal deformities or their numbers in the past few years.
However, in 2014, a medical research team from Italy published a small-sample study about fetal deformities in Gazan newborns (born in 2011) in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. The results indicated deformity cases were linked to Israeli weapons used in wars on Gaza. Teratogens — agents that can cause birth defects such as chemicals, radiation, drugs or maternal infections — from white phosphorus used in Israeli wars in Gaza were found in the hair of newborns with congenital defects or premature birth … Allam Abu Hamda, head of the neonatal unit at Al-Shifa Hospital, told Al-Monitor, “In the past few years the cases of fetal deformation have increased, including [conjoined] twin births.” He said, “The rate of congenital deformations of fetuses has exceeded normal levels in the world, which amount to 40 cases for every 1,000 newborns. But the rate increased after 2010 and reached 63 deformation cases for every 1,000 newborns in Gaza, and after the 2014 war, 100 in each 1,000 newborns were born with abnormalities.”….
Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Judaization / Settlements
Israeli forces raid East Jerusalem cemetery, destroy tombstones of slain Palestinians
[with photos] JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 12 Mar — Israeli forces destroyed tombstones in a Palestinian cemetery in occupied East Jerusalem early Monday morning, according to local sources. Husni al-Kilani, supervisor of the al-Mujahideen cemetery, told Ma‘an that he received a call at 3 a.m. on Monday informing him that the lock on the main door of the cemetery had been broken, and that the cemetery had been raided. According to al-Kilani, armed Israeli forces were deployed at the entrance of the cemetery, while what he claimed were officers dressed as civilians, raided the cemetery and destroyed several tombstones using a variety of hand tools. Al-Kilani told Ma‘an that the destroyed tombstones belonged to Muhammad al-Kaluti, Abdullah Abu Kharroub, Thaer Abu Ghazaleh, Bahaa Elayyan, Muhammad Abu Khalaf, Abed al-Muhsen Hassuneh and Muhammad Nimr, who were all killed by Israeli forces during a wave of violence across East Jerusalem and the West Bank that erupted in October 2015. The tombstones were engraved about a year-and-a-half ago with a verse from the Qur’an and the sentence “graves of martyrs of the Intifada of Jerusalem,” al-Kilani added. Following the outbreak of violence, which was largely characterized by small-scale stabbing attacks on uniformed Israeli security personnel, many Palestinians referred to the time period as the Jerusalem Intifada. Al-Kilani told Ma’an that out that Israeli forces had previously demanded that he remove the words “heroic martyr” that were engraved before the name of each of the deceased Palestinians, and threatened to destroy all the tombstones if he did not.
The Ein Hanya spring: a charming, spruced-up Jerusalem spot free of Palestinians
Haaretz 15 Mar by Naama Riba — The lovely spring, which is 300 feet over the green line, has undergone a 14 million shekel face-lift- but a fence and roadblock will cut off Palestinian villagers’ access, who have frequented the site for centuries — “When we arrived here there was an old man sitting under his fig tree, and shepherds would come to water their flocks – the place was enchanted. It was like a focal point of activities in the area. Our intention was to tidy it up a bit and then leave, as if we’d never been here,” recalls landscape architect Iris Tal, who was charged with upgrading the area surrounding Ein Hanya, the second-largest spring in the Judean Hills. But Tal’s good intentions are now clashing with local politics. After 3,000 years in which the spring was open to and frequented by local Jews, Christians and Muslims, the Jerusalem Municipality is planning to set up a roadblock nearby which will prevent thousands of residents from the adjacent Palestinian villages of al-Walaja and Battir and environs from reaching the site. The villagers, who used spring for recreational purposes also depended on its water for their livestock, are unable now to get to the pool itself; it was fenced off after renovation work began in mid-2016. The battle over the roadblock plan is currently being fought in a Jerusalem court….
Life under shadow of Beit El settlement: Travel restrictions on residents of al-Jalazun R.C.
B’Tselem 13 Mar — Al-Jalazun Refugee Camp is located north of Ramallah. The camp and its satellite neighborhoods are home to about 14,000 residents, some 5,000 of whom are minors. In 1977, the settlement of Beit El was established near the camp, bringing with it permanent military presence: soldiers are stationed in observation towers and patrol the area between the settlement and Route 466 – the main road that connects the northern West Bank and the camp to Ramallah.
As in many other places in the West Bank, the military frequently restricts Palestinian travel on this road. The road is closed off at least once a month, and sometimes much more often, forcing camp residents to take a bypass road to Ramallah or other Palestinian communities. This increases travel times and costs. The travel restrictions harm all residents of the camp but take a particularly harsh toll on those needing medical care in Ramallah, and the roughly 2,000 residents who work in Ramallah or in nearby al-Birah. It is difficult to quantify the overall impact of the travel restriction because camp residents state they prefer not to leave the camp unless absolutely necessary, as they can never know when the road will suddenly be closed. Palestinian communities north of the camp are also affected, as Route 466 is their main access route into Ramallah. The military closes the road for varying durations, ranging from several hours to weeks on end. Cars are sometimes allowed through after a security check, but for the most part, when the road is closed Palestinian travel is barred completely….
LRC: Israel demolished 5,000 houses in Jerusalem
[with long VIDEO “Hitting Home] Al Jazeera 14 Mar — A new Palestinian report reveals that Israel demolished five thousand homes in Jerusalem since 1967 as well as the demolition of neighbourhoods in the eastern part of the city. The report, issued by the Land Research Center (LRC), also noted that the 380,000 Jerusalemite Palestinians need 2,000 new housing units annually, and that half of them today live in unlicensed homes.
–Permits– According to the report, Jerusalem’s municipality has put in place a series of procedures that would make Palestinian construction in Jerusalem impossible. * According to UN data, Israel approved only 1.5 percent of all requests for building permits submitted by Palestinians between 2010 and 2014. * According to the LRC report, only 12% of Palestinian land in East Jerusalem can be used for urban development, of which only 7% is zoned for residential housing. * An earlier report by the Israeli NGO B’tselem confirms those findings, saying that “some 15% of the land area in East Jerusalem (about 8.5% of Jerusalem’s municipal jurisdiction) is zoned for residential use by Palestinian residents, although Palestinians currently account for 40% of the city’s population.” * As of 2017, more than 20,000 housing units have been built without permits in East Jerusalem. * The cost of a permit is estimated at $30,000 a home….
–Displacement– * In 1948, Israeli forces demolished 39 villages around Jerusalem and displaced about 198,000 Palestinian residents. * The report also says that about 6,500 Jerusalemites left before the 1948 war and about 30,000 after the war. * 16,000 Jews were housed in homes and dwellings whose Palestinian owners were expelled between September 1948 and August 1949.
* In 1967, 70,000 Jerusalemites were displaced, including Jerusalemites who were outside the city and were prevented from returning to it. * Since 2000: According to the detailed report, Israel demolished 1,706 homes between 2000 and 2017, displacing 9,422 Palestinians, including 5,443 children.
Jerusalem: Where the occupier demands loyalty from the occupied / Mariam Barghouti
Al Jazeera 12 Mar — Israel’s new ‘breach of loyalty’ bill is yet another sinister attempt to erase the Palestinian identity from Palestine. Last Wednesday, Palestinians in Jerusalem were hit with yet another travesty. The Israeli parliament ratified a bill that allows the minister of interior to revoke the residency rights of any Palestinian who poses a threat to Israel, or, more specifically, is suspected of a “breach of loyalty” to Israel … Between the years of 1967 and 2016, Israel has revoked the status of more than 14,500 Palestinian Jerusalemites, despite them having lived there for generations, since before the establishment of the Israeli state. The new bill, which is a visible consequence of Israel’s being emboldened to take over Jerusalem after Trump recognised the city as the undivided capital of Israel, is not only an attack on the Palestinians of Jerusalem but implicitly acts to further attack Palestinian identity.
–Legalising the Nakba of Jerusalem– The ongoing colonisation of Palestine does not stop at the displacement of the population. It is also an act to completely erase any sense of Palestine in the land and replace it with an entirely new character. This became more palpable to me when I, a West Bank ID holder, am permitted by Israel the rare access to visit Jerusalem and other cities in historical Palestine such as Haifa, Jaffa and Acre. I always return to Ramallah with a strained mind. The overriding sensation of being a foreign intruder in my ancestral land is a notion that makes it all the more difficult to view peace in the Israeli framework. During the attacks of 1948, Zionist militia would physically and violently remove Palestinians from their homes. Following a similar endeavor, what we are witnessing today is another attack, this time through a less bloody and quieter method: the law. The bill will further accelerate the dispossession of Palestinians from the city through a legal framework that will again forcibly transfer the Palestinian population. It is, in effect, ethnic cleansing by bureaucracy….
Israeli group puts markers on East Jerusalem Muslim cemetery, causes concern
JERUSALEM (WAFA) 15 Mar – Staff from the Israeli Nature Authority caused concern on Thursday when they were caught putting markers in the historic Muslim cemetery outside Bab al-Rahmeh [‘Door of Mercy’] (the Golden Gate), the closed gate in the wall of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, according to officials from the Muslim Waqf (endowment) department, which is in charge of the cemetery and Muslim holy places. Waqf director, Azzam al-Khatib, and the imam of al-Aqsa Mosque, Sheikh Yusuf Abu Sneineh, quarreled with the Israeli staff for trespassing on private Muslim property and walking on the graves and ordered them to leave the site. The Israelis placed markers on the graves before leaving, which is believed related to plans by the Israeli government to take over the cemetery or sections from it to build gardens and for excavation purposes. Israel also plans to build a cable car over the Old City of Jerusalem and wants to build a station for the cable car in an area of the cemetery. Bab al-Rahmeh cemetery is one of the oldest in Jerusalem where historic Muslim religious figures are buried.
Israel to uproot olive, grape trees to pave a settler-only road near Bethlehem
BETHLEHEM (WAFA) 14 Mar – Israeli authorities Wednesday issued notices informing Palestinian residents of the town of al-Khader, to the south of the city of Bethlehem, of their intentions to uproot trees in order to pave a settler-only road in the area. Hassan Brejieh, the coordinator of popular anti-wall and anti-settlement committees in Bethlehem, told WAFA Israeli forces handed the town residents notices to uproot olive trees and grape vines in the area of Khallet Thaher al-‘Ein for the benefit of opening a road designated for the sole use of settlers residing in illegal West Bank settlements.
Israel orders halt on construction of five houses in Bethlehem-area town
BETHLEHEM (WAFA) 14 Mar — Israeli forces Wednesday ordered the halt on construction of five homes belonging to Palestinian families in the village of Nahalin to the west of the southern West Bank district of Bethlehem, according to a local official. Deputy Mayor of Nahalin village, Hani Fnoon, told WAFA Israeli forces handed halt on construction orders against five homes under the pretext of building without an Israeli-issued permit. The official said Israeli occupation authorities have escalated their measures against Palestinians in the town. The measures include the seizure of land and halt on construction orders, in addition to continued house-to-house raid and arrest campaigns.
Israeli parliament endorses ‘nation-state bill’ for first reading
NAZARETH, Israel (Al Jazeera) 16 Mar by Jonathan Cook — Key Knesset committee approves final draft of ‘Zionism’s flagship bill’ defining Israel exclusively as nation for Jews — After seven years of delays, the Israeli governing parties have agreed the final terms of controversial new legislation that would define Israel exclusively as “the nation-state of the Jewish people”. The bill is now expected to be fast-tracked through the Israeli parliament and on to the statute books in the coming weeks. Approval by the parliament’s justice committee this week of the Basic Law, which carries much greater weight than normal legislation, marks a dangerous turning-point for Palestinians, according to analysts. Amir Ohana, the committee’s chair, called it the “law of all laws”, while a government minister termed it “Zionism’s flagship bill”. It effectively blocks any chance for Israel’s large Palestinian minority – one in five of the population – to reform Israel in the future into a normal, Western-style democracy. In the words of one of the handful of Palestinian members of the Israeli parliament, Aida Touma-Suleiman, the bill “institutionalises an apartheid regime in the most blatant way”. But equally significantly, and largely unnoticed, the Basic Law paves the way for Israel’s right-wing government to consolidate and expand the annexation of Palestinian lands under occupation in East Jerusalem and the West Bank – and stymie any legal moves intended to prevent such efforts … The final version approved this week demotes the status of Arabic – the mother tongue of one-fifth of Israel’s citizens – so that it is no longer an official language alongside Hebrew. It also promotes Jewish communities that strictly enforce rules to exclude Israel’s 1.8 million Palestinian citizens. It reiterates Israel’s mission to “ingather the exiles”, restricting immigration to Jews only, and prioritises the rights of Jews abroad over those of the country’s Palestinian citizens….
White House hosts meeting on Gaza crisis without Palestinians present
WASHINGTON (Reuters) 13 Mar by James Oliphant — The White House on Tuesday hosted 19 nations, including Israel and Arab Gulf states, to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, but the Palestinian Authority boycotted the meeting, angered by the Trump administration’s policies on Jerusalem. U.S. President Donald Trump reversed decades of U.S. policy in December, when he decided to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv. This incensed Palestinians and other U.S. allies. The administration is also putting the final touches on a Middle East peace plan, and U.S. officials said the conference was integral to future negotiations. “Fixing Gaza is necessary to achieve a peace agreement,” one of the senior administration officials said. The officials stressed that the multi-nation humanitarian and reconstruction effort remains in beginning stages. Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to Trump who is overseeing the Israeli-Palestinian peace-process for the White House, gave a two-hour presentation to the attending countries, officials said, but the potential U.S. peace plan was not addressed. Attendees included representatives from Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates, as well as several European nations. The format did not allow for direct discussions between Israel and the Arab states, officials said….
Palestinians pin hopes on Pompeo
Al-Monitor 14 Mar by Shlomi Eldar — March 13 was a turbulent day for Majid Faraj, head of the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) General Intelligence Service. In the early morning hours, he survived an assassination attempt that targeted Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah’s convoy with a bomb … Before Faraj could even recover from the attack, he was informed that Mike Pompeo, director of the CIA and someone he considered a friend, had been appointed US secretary of state in the Donald Trump administration, replacing Rex Tillerson, who had just been fired. The Palestinians have not felt this relieved since the crisis that erupted last December between the United States and the Palestinians after Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and relocate the US Embassy from Tel Aviv. After Trump’s election in November 2016, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ordered the establishment of a think tank to examine ways to open new channels of communication with the administration, which was viewed from day one as being a biased, pro-Israel mediator. Even then, Ramallah was hanging all its hopes on Pompeo. It was a gamble, and it succeeded. Faraj met with Pompeo in Washington in early February 2017 and managed to convince him that the PA could make a significant contribution to regional stability and efforts to contain the spread of radical Islam. One person close to Faraj told Al-Monitor that Pompeo was impressed by the personal story of his Palestinian counterpart. Faraj had grown up in the Dheisheh refugee camp, in the West Bank. His father had been killed by the Israel Defense Forces during the second intifada (2000-05), and his entire family had joined the Forum for Bereaved Parents (The Parents’ Circle), bringing together Israelis and Palestinians who have lost a family member in the conflict….
UN Palestinian agency needs urgent funds by summer, chief says
AFP 15 Mar — The UN agency for Palestinian refugees has until the summer to secure new funding after only managing to partially cover a near-half-a-billion shortfall at a summit in Rome, the organisation’s head said Thursday. Commissioner General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Pierre Krähenbühl said that the body, which came to the meeting looking for $446 million (361 million euros) after major donor Washington slashed its 2018 funding, received pledges amounting to $100 million. “It’s a first step towards closing the entire shortfall,” said Krähenbühl. “There is an absolute imperative to mobilise the rest of the money. “We can’t go back to our students and say ‘this was one step and let’s leave it at that’.” Krähenbühl said the new funds came from Qatar, Switzerland, Turkey, New Zealand, Norway, Mexico and India, with an unspecified additional contribution from France pushing the donations “close to the $100 million mark.” The 52-year-old also said that other countries which had not pledged money on Thursday had promised to work towards giving more in the future. But he said there had been no movement from the US, which has cut the $360 million offered in 2017 to a commitment of just $60 million this year. That leaves UNRWA scrambling for the $346 million it needs to guarantee services until the end of the year. Krähenbühl said the funding raised on Thursday would tide the agency for another few months. “It will take us into the summer,” he said. ….
New programme qualifies Palestinian students for Ivy League schools
Al Jazeera 13 Mar by Zena Tahhan — Programme graduates its first batch of 110 students, with 50 receiving early acceptances into schools such as Harvard — The initiative, called Bridge Palestine, is the first programme of its kind in the country. It aims to fill the gaps in the local education system by providing after-school classes designed to train high-potential students to compete for education abroad. The $2m project was launched by Taawon, the largest Palestinian non-profit organisation committed to local development … Although 400 students were accepted into the programme at the beginning, the students were filtered each year based on their skills and qualifications to continue in the programme and apply for universities abroad, leaving 110 students who managed to graduate. So far, 50 students have received early acceptances into world-class universities such as Stanford University, King’s College London and the University of Manchester, with 60 remaining candidates hoping to hear back within the next few months … But while Bridge Palestine may offer students a chance to study abroad, it cannot secure scholarships or funding for them….
How Stephen Hawking supported the Palestinian cause
Al Jazeera 14 Mar — Stephen Hawking, the world-renowned scientist who passed away on Wednesday at the age of 76, was known not only for his groundbreaking work but also for his support for Palestine. Hawking, who had motor neurone disease, made headlines in May 2013 when he decided to boycott a high-profile conference in Israel where he was scheduled to speak. The physicist was working at the Cambridge University in the UK at the time. The Presidential Conference, an academic event held in Jerusalem, was being hosted by the late Israeli President Shimon Peres. In a letter Hawking sent to the organisers on May 3, he said the “policy of the present Israeli government is likely to lead to disaster”… Hawking’s sympathy with the Palestinian cause extended beyond a boycott of Israel. Last year, he asked his millions of Facebook followers to contribute financially to the Palestinian Advanced Physics School – a physics lecture series for masters students in the occupied West Bank….
Ashrawi mourns passing of Stephen Hawking
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 14 Mar – PLO Executive Committee Member Hanan Ashrawi Wednesday expressed sadness for the passing of British physicist Stephen Hawking, who she described as “a uniquely courageous person”. In a statement released today, Ashrawi praised Hawking’s pro-Palestinian stances, saying Palestinians mark today with sorrow because of his passing. “The Palestinian leadership and the Palestinian people mark with sorrow the passing of British legendary theoretical physicist, best-selling author of “A Brief History of Time,” and a uniquely courageous person, Dr. Stephen Hawking,” Ashwari said. “We join the rest of the world in celebrating his exceptional achievements and legacy, not just in science but in his deep understanding of the human condition and spirit.” “Many in Palestine remember his visit to Birzeit University in 2006 in which he shared his knowledge and inspired many Palestinians young and old….
International prize nomination shines spotlight on West Bank theater
Al-Monitor 12 Mar by Aziza Nofal — Al-Harah Theater is one of 11 finalists for the Ellen Stewart International Award, a prestigious prize presented to theater companies that promote social change and community participation with a particular emphasis on engaging young people. Located in the West Bank town of Beit Jala, in Bethlehem province, it is the only finalist from the Palestinian territories. Other Middle Eastern finalists are the Garage Theater in Iran and Zoukak in Lebanon. The finalists were selected in a public vote conducted online. The winner will be determined in one month in another online vote … Al-Harah produces three new works each year. It also revives plays from previous years. On average, the theater stages some 120 shows per year, mostly in Beit Jala, including plays for children. Al-Harah Theater draws inspiration from the Palestinians’ reality as interpreted in novels as well as from real life. “Myrmy,” the theater’s latest play, was presented in Ramallah on Feb. 15. It is based on “Living Memory,” a published collection of real-life stories of refugees compiled by Palestinian researcher Faiha Abdul Hadi. The play focuses on six refugees to present the typical experiences of the others….
EBRD launches first investment in the West Bank and Gaza
The Financial 13 Mar — The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is launching its first investment in the West Bank and Gaza: a US$ 5 million loan to Cairo Amman Bank Palestine that will increase access to finance for the economy’s micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.
Jewish pilgrimage in West Bank a rare sign of Israel-Palestinian cooperation
JERICHO, West Bank (Reuters) 13 Mar by Dan Williams — The Israeli armored convoy rolls into the West Bank town of Jericho and comes to a halt outside a building with a Palestinian flag fluttering over it. At first glance, it might have looked like another incursion. But then out of the bus guarded by Israeli troops emerge Jewish pilgrims, on a visit to the ruins of a Byzantine-era synagogue entrusted to Palestinian security forces. Such trips also play out at other Jewish heritage sites in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where Palestinian and Israeli forces still carry out vestiges of cooperation that have somehow survived intact at ground level, years after the sides’ leaders ended peace talks amid mutual recrimination and suspicion. The West Bank is the cradle of Judaism, which claims more than a dozen graves and shrines that dot the hills and deserts that Israelis know by the biblical names Judea and Samaria. Under the 1993 Oslo interim peace accords, the Palestinians agreed to secure such sites for Jewish access. Some of the sites have become political flashpoints. The tomb of the Jewish matriarch Rachel is surrounded by a huge Israeli security wall that looms over the Palestinian town of Bethlehem and is often the target of protests. Further north, Jewish visits to the tomb of the biblical Joseph often provoke anger in the nearby Palestinian city of Nablus. But elsewhere, rarely making headlines, the pilgrimages continue more peacefully, a gesture to the kind of religious pluralism that the authors of the peace process envisaged even in the crazy-quilt geography of the West Bank, where Palestinian towns and Israeli settlements exist uneasily side by side. …
Roger Waters teams up with Palestinian band in Trump protest
AFP 14 Mar — Rock icon Roger Waters has joined Palestinian artists for a new song billed as a response to the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. To the sound of the oud lutes of Le Trio Joubran, one of the most prominent groups performing Palestinian traditional music, Waters recites verse from Mahmoud Darwish, considered the poet laureate of the Palestinians. Darwish’s poem, “The Red Indian’s Penultimate Speech to the White Man,” on the surface comes from the voice of a Native American mourning settlements that will permanently alter the land but clearly draws a parallel to the Palestinians and Israel. “Where, oh white master, are you taking my people — and yours?” the British rocker recites in the English translation over the lutes and an ambient backdrop. Waters, best known as a former member of Pink Floyd who conceived the rock opera “The Wall,” has long been a passionate supporter of the Palestinian cause and has angered Israelis by leading calls for a cultural boycott. Le Trio Joubran wrote on Facebook that the collaborative song, entitled “Supremacy,” was meant as a response to Trump. They called Jerusalem the “#CapitalOfPalestine.”….
US, Israeli troops train together in mock Mideast village
ZEELIM MILITARY BASE, Israel (Reuters) 13 Mar by Amir Cohen — The Israeli military hosted U.S. Marines this week for an urban combat drill in a mock-up of a generic Middle East village, sharing know-how and signaling the allies’ shared interests as their leaders close ranks on a host of regional issues. “We are willing to work and train together, and if God wills it, if we ever need to be side by side, then we will,” Lieutenant-Colonel Marcus Mainz of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit told Reuters during the exercise at Israel’s Zeelim base. His troops joined Israeli special forces regiments to practise battle formation, helicopter deployment and medical evacuations in a mock-up village in the desert, complete with Arabic graffiti and a fake mosque. The maneuvers were part of a wider, biennial joint air defense exercise known as Juniper Cobra, which this year took place amid heightened Israeli and U.S. concern over the missile arsenal of Iranian-backed Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon.