US freezes aid funds to West Bank and Gaza
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 26 June — The United States has frozen aid funds to the Palestinian Authority on Tuesday morning, according to Israeli Walla news. The Hebrew language news outlet reporter that the aid has been suspended under the “Taylor Force Law,” which was passed in March of this year, and will prevent the Palestinian Authority from paying monthly stipends to families of killed, wounded and imprisoned Palestinians. A Palestinian official confirmed the report, saying the Trump administration had told the PA in mid-January 2018 that it was reexamining its West Bank and Gaza aid budget. The Israeli television also said that the move comes two months after the US Congress passed the Taylor Force Law, which aims to force the Palestinian Authority to stop its policy of paying the stipends of Palestinian prisoners and the families of Palestinians killed after or during attacks they carried out. In the Palestinian society, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) is responsible for providing financial assistance to families of those slain, injured, or imprisoned by Israeli forces. Israeli news outlet Haaretz reported that, in January the US President Trump said that the U.S. may withhold future aid payments to the agency over what he called the Palestinians’ unwillingness to talk peace with Israel. The U.S. pledged $370 million to the agency in 2016, a third of the agency’s budget, according to UNRWA’s website.
PA: US ‘working hard’ to topple Mahmoud Abbas
Al Jazeera 25 June — Palestinian leaders react with fury after Jared Kushner questions Palestinian president’s ability to make peace deal — A senior Palestinian negotiator has accused the United States of trying to topple the government of President Mahmoud Abbas, insisting that Washington has disqualified itself from any possible role in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. Saeb Erekat’s comments on Sunday came after Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump‘s son-in-law and senior adviser, and White House envoy Jason Greenblatt held meetings with the leaders of Israel, Jordan, Qatar, Egypt and Saudi Arabia during a weeklong trip around the Middle East. In an interview published in the Arabic language al-Quds newspaper on Sunday, Kushner said the US administration will soon present its Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, with or without input from Abbas while also questioning the Palestinian Authority president’s ability to make a deal. “Mr Kushner’s interview further clarified that the United States administration of President Trump has actually moved from the squares of negotiations to the squares of dictations. They are determined to dictate a solution,” Erekat told reporters in Ramallah. “They are working and trying to work hard in a regime change, because Palestinian leadership under the leadership of President Abbas wants genuine, lasting, comprehensive peace, based on international law,” Erekat added. Abbas cut communications with the Trump administration after it recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December 2017….
Fatah responds to Dweik’s statement on president’s position
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 26 June — Palestinian legislative council member of the Hamas movement Aziz Dweik stated on Monday that if the Palestinian Authority disregards the Palestinian Constitution and Basic Law, it would be causing chaos in the Palestinian community. Dweik’s statement to the Sama News Agency came after Palestinian proposals to replace the Palestinian Legislative Council with the Central Council. Dweik added that in the case of the Palestinian President being unable to carry out his duties due to multiple reasons, Dweik would be responsible of the presidential duties in accordance with the constitution and law as the constitution states that head of the legislative council would be in charge in such case. Spokesperson of the Fatah Movement, Usama al-Qawasmi, responded to Dweik’s statement saying that Dweik is a member not head of the council, as the body had not met since 2007 when it has essentially been defunct after internal friction ended in a split between the leading Palestinian parties Fatah and Hamas. Several Palestinian officials and leaders condemned Dweik’s statement on Tuesday during separate interviews with the PA-official Voice of Palestine radio station.
PLO opposes Palestinian participation in West Jerusalem elections
PNN 27 June — The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) has said it is opposes the participation of East Jerusalem Palestinians in the West Jerusalem municipal elections this October. East Jerusalem, home to over 350,000 Palestinian residents, has boycotted the West Jerusalem municipal election since the occupation of the city in June 1967. However, calls have recently been made for East Jerusalem residents to vote in the upcoming elections so that they can have a say in decisions which affect their lives. Ramadan Dabash, founder of the political party ‘Jerusalem for Jerusalemites’, is in favour of East Jerusalemites taking part in the elections. He believes that East Jerusalemites should now seek an active role in local politics and their local city hall.
PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat and the Executive Committee strongly oppose this idea, arguing that the participation of Palestinians in the elections would lend legitimacy to the illegal occupation. In a statement, Erekat declared that ‘any participation in the elections will assist the Israeli establishment in promoting the ‘greater Jerusalem’ project’.
Birzeit University graduates more than 2300 students during 43rd commencement ceremonies
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 25 June — Birzeit University (BZU), located north of Ramallah, celebrated last week the graduation of the 43rd cohort of students from the faculties of Graduate Studies, Business and Economics, Arts, Science, Engineering and Technology, and the Faculty of Pharmacy, Nursing and Health Professions. The university convened the commencement ceremony on three subsequent days recognizing the success of 2360 students … [University President Abdul Latif] Abuhijleh added, “The students have cemented Birzeit University’s place as the top university in Palestine, and its reputation as a center of excellence and the provider of a high-quality education. In pursuit of excellence, we continue to celebrate our achievements in academia. For the second year in a row, Birzeit University was ranked by QS, in its 2019 World University Rankings, in the top 2.7% of universities worldwide, a jump compared to last year’s rankings, in which the university was classified in the top 3% of higher education institutions in the world.”….
Israeli security bar AP journalist from Prince William event
JERUSALEM (AP) 26 June — An Associated Press journalist on Tuesday was prevented from covering a visit by Britain’s Prince William to the prime minister’s official residence after Israeli security agents questioned him about his religion and ethnic background. Nebi Qena, the AP’s chief television producer for Israel and the Palestinian territories, was held at the entrance to the residence for 45 minutes, forcing him to miss the event, while other journalists were allowed to enter. Netanyahu’s office later apologized, citing “human error.” Qena is an ethnic Albanian from Kosovo and an Albanian citizen. He has been with the AP for 10 years, including three based in Jerusalem. He said he was repeatedly questioned by security guards about his “ethnic origin.” AP colleagues, on the scene and in the Jerusalem bureau, were asked by Netanyahu aides about Qena’s religion and whether he was a Muslim as they tried to secure him entrance. Qena had registered for the event ahead of time and been assured he would be allowed to enter. The AP was serving as the video press pool for international media. “The Associated Press decries this blatant ethnic and religious profiling of an AP journalist and calls on the prime minister’s office to cease such biased practices immediately,” said Lauren Easton, the AP’s director of media relations. International media have experienced repeated run-ins with Israeli security over apparent ethnic profiling. Over the years, there have been several incidents of security agents ordering international and Arab journalists to undergo strip searches at Netanyahu’s office, in addition to entering through metal detectors. More recently, at least four international journalists have been forced to undergo strip searches at an Israeli border crossing while returning from the Gaza Strip. The Foreign Press Association, which represents journalists working for dozens of international media outlets, condemned what it called “disgraceful and indefensible behavior.”….
Israel may reconsider UNESCO exit: ambassador
PARIS (AFP) 26 June — Israel’s ambassador to UNESCO said Tuesday he was urging his government to reconsider its decision to quit the UN cultural body, saying it had halted its “anti-Israeli resolutions” over the past year. Israel and the United States both announced on October 12 that they would leave the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization over resolutions critical of the Jewish state. But ambassador Carmel Shama-Hacohen said there had been a change of tone under the Paris-based agency’s new chief Audrey Azoulay, a former French culture minister who was elected last year … He spoke as Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian officials adopted amended versions of last year’s decisions by UNESCO’s world heritage committee to list the Old City of Jerusalem and its walls, as well as Hebron in the West Bank, as endangered sites. The new resolutions — adopted through a rare consensus — keep the two sites on the list, but remove phrasing which Israel had considered aggressive….
UN calls on member states to support UNRWA amid funding shortages
Al Jazeera 26 June — Head of Palestinian refugee agency says more than $250m needed to support millions of people following US aid cuts — The United Nations has asked member states to fill a critical funding gap caused by the US government’s decision to cut more than half of its funding to the UN agency that assists Palestinian refugees across the Middle East. On Monday, a conference held by the UN to raise money for basic services including food aid, medical care and sanitation, commenced in an attempt to help more than five million refugees in the occupied West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon, and war-torn Syria. It is unclear how much was pledged by which countries against this year’s shortfall of $250m facing the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA). According to UN officials, the US, previously UNRWA’s top donor, provided $364m to the agency last year, but only $60m this year. The cuts made by US President Donald Trump in January are endangering basic services, including food assistance in the besieged Gaza Strip, as well as medical clinics and education services to about half a million children, Pierre Krahenbuhl, the agency’s director, said … When Trump’s administration announced in January that it was withholding $65 million of a planned $125 million funding installment for the relief agency, it was essentially cutting the only lifeline available to millions of registered refugees who have been relying on UNRWA’s services for more than 70 years. In a series of tweets, Trump had 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?” ….
‘A real human cost’: American Muslims decry travel ban
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Al Jazeera 26 June by Ola Salem — Rights groups expect an unprecedented number of families to be separated and warn of a rise in attacks against Muslims — American-Muslims have decried a US Supreme Court ruling that upheld a controversial travel ban on five Muslim-majority countries, expressing anger and fear over what it will mean for them and their families. Dozens of people gathered outside the court building on Tuesday, holding banners and shouting slogans such as “No ban, no wall” to protest against the decision on a policy Donald Trump has fought for since his first week in office in January 2017. The ban prevents entry into the US by most people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen . “I’m very disappointed; I did not expect this,” Arwa al-Iryani, an American of Yemeni origin living in Connecticut, told Al Jazeera. She said her in-laws would no longer be able to visit her and their granddaughter. “They used to come twice a year, during summer and Christmas,” she said. “Now the whole family is split”.
At home, citizens of the mostly Muslim countries, including those who were in the process of migrating to the US, also expressed devastation at the ruling. Nasser Farpour, a resident of Iran’s capital, Tehran, said he first applied for a visa to travel to the US in 2003. He said he spent “thousands of dollars” in the hope of seeing his sister, nieces and nephews in the US, and for a chance to provide his “children with a better education”. “We spent so much money and time,” he told Al Jazeera. “We went to Turkey and stayed for a week and completed our medical screenings in addition to all of our security screenings. The day we were supposed to get our visas, the travel ban was issued,” he said, referring to Trump’s executive order last year. “We have been waiting for more than 15 years. Why would they do this to us after all this time?” Fapour’s niece in the US, Yasmine Taeb, a lawyer working at the Center for Victims of Torture, said countless of other families would be affected by the ruling. “The ruling has a real human cost,” she said. “This is what the American people need to understand; this is discriminatory, this is unacceptable.” Following the court’s decision, advocacy and rights groups said the country would see an unprecedented number of families separated and warned of an increase in attacks against Muslims.
Palestinian dies from wounds suffered Friday
IMEMC 24 June — The Health Ministry in the Gaza Strip has reported that a young Palestinian man died, on Sunday at dawn, from serious wounds he suffered last Friday after Israeli soldiers shot him with live fire. Dr. Ashraf al-Qedra, the spokesperson of the Health Ministry in Gaza, said the young man, identified as Osama Khalil Abu Khater, 29, was shot with a live Israeli army bullet in the abdomen, during Friday’s Great Return March procession. He added that Abu Khater, who was shot east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, suffered a serious injury, and was rushed to the Gaza European Hospital, in southern Gaza, but succumbed to his wounds.
Israeli aircraft fires warning shots at Gazans preparing to launch airborne firebombs
Haaretz 23 June by Almog Ben Zikri — An Israeli aircraft struck in the northern Gaza Strip on Saturday afternoon, firing at a group of Palestinians who tried to launch incendiary balloons into Israel, the military said in a statement. The attack came after seven fires broke out near Israeli communities bordering the Strip as a result of blazing balloons from Gaza landing in Israeli territory. The Jewish National Fund said that two of the fires started near the southern kibbutz of Be’eri and another near the Negev community of Kissufim. Firefighters managed to contain three of the fires. Another on is still raging in the Be’eri Crater Reserve….
Israeli missile injures three Palestinians in Gaza
IMEMC 25 June — Palestinian medical sources have confirmed, on Sunday evening, that three residents were injured after an Israeli drone fired a missile at them while they were riding a motorcycle east of the Zeitoun neighborhood, east of Gaza city. The sources said the three Palestinians were rushed to the Shifa Medical Center in Gaza city, suffering moderate-to-severe wounds. The Palestinians were targeted by the drone in Malka Junction area, in the Zeitoun neighborhood, in Gaza city. Furthermore, the army fired a tank shell at a site, east of the al-Boreij refugee camp in central Gaza, causing damage. On its part, the Israeli army claimed it fired a missile at what was described as a “wagon transporting incendiary balloons,” wounding three Palestinians.
Israeli army fires missiles at car, observation tower, in Gaza
IMEMC 27 June — The Israeli Air Force fired at least one missile at a Palestinian car, in addition to attacking an observation post run by an armed resistance group, in Central Gaza. Media sources in Gaza said the soldiers fired a missile at a Palestinian jeep in the Nusseirat refugee camp, in Central Gaza, causing damage but no injuries. They added that the army also fired flares while flying at a low altitude over the Gaza Strip. The Israeli army said it also fired missiles at an observation post, reportedly after several Palestinians flew “incendiary balloons” across the border fence. Meanwhile, armed resistance groups in Gaza said they retaliated by firing twelve shells into Israel.
Palestinian women in Gaza call for solidarity as they march to break the siege
Samidoun 26 June — A mass women’s coalition in Gaza is calling for support from feminist groups around the world to help end the siege. On Tuesday, 3 July, the High Committee of the Great March of Return and Breaking the Siege is organizing the first women’s march since the protests began on 30 March. The organizers are inviting women around the world to support the women of Palestine in ending 70 decades of occupation and more than a decade of blockade and siege. In a press release, the organizers invited women as both individuals and groups to join the event and to help give a voice to the voiceless and shed a light on the suffering and injustice that have befallen the Palestinian people for decades under the Israeli occupation. The High Committee of the Great March of Return hopes that women across the globe will join the protests, both in Gaza itself and by holding solidarity events in their own countries to demand an end to the 12-year Israeli blockade of Gaza, imposed in 2006, which has affected all aspects of life, from the economy to health, education, access and freedom of movement, farming, fishing, and the rebuilding efforts following three devastating Israeli bombings. More broadly the Committee calls for an end to the 70-year occupation of Palestine. The Committee reiterated that this protest is affiliated with no political party, faction or government, but independently represents all Palestinians regardless of political affiliation.
Israeli bulldozers raze lands along the eastern borders of Gaza Strip
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 26 June — Israeli forces carried out three raids alongside the borders of the besieged Gaza Strip during which they razed lands in the predawn hours of Tuesday morning. A Ma‘an reporter said that four Israeli bulldozers razed and leveled lands near the “return camps” which were set up by Palestinian protesters east of Gaza City.
Meanwhile in eastern al-Qarrara town in Khan Younis district of the southern Gaza Strip, another four Israeli bulldozers razed and leveled lands. Two Israeli bulldozers had raided the site of Abu Safiya, east of the town of Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip for about two hours.
Ministry of Health: 131 Palestinians killed, over 14,000 injured in Great March of Return
IMEMC/Agencies 24 June — The Palestinian Ministry of Health (MOH) in Gaza has issued an updated count of Palestinian casualties since the “Great March of Return” began on March 30th, in the besieged Gaza Strip. The Ministry announced, late Sunday, that the total number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces is 131, including 15 children and a woman, since the weeks-long massive demonstrations began. The total number of injuries and gas inhalation was 14,811, of which 6,836 were treated in the field at medical points and 7,775 were treated in hospitals. Among the injured were 2,525 children and 1,158 women, according to the statement. Of the total injuries, 3,947 are related to live ammunition, 427 with rubber bullets, 1466 are of tear-gas suffocation; 366 of the injuries are critical, 3,746 were declared moderate and 10,699 light. Fifty-four amputations were carried out; seven of them in the upper extremities, 47 in the lower extremities, Al Ray reports. The ministry said that two paramedic, including a female paramedic were killed, and 229 medics were injured with live ammunition and tear-gas suffocation, while 39 ambulances were partly damaged. Meanwhile, the Forum of Palestinian Journalists in the Gaza Strip said that two journalists, Yasser Murtaja and Ahmad Abu Hussein, were killed during the protests. The forum added that 175 journalists were injured since the beginning of the marches.
Israel plans to relieve Gaza isolation by building port in Cyprus (update 2)
Cyprus Mail 26 June — The government on Tuesday confirmed that Israel has proposed to build a port for Gaza in Cyprus, but that Nicosia has yet to respond. According to Israeli media, Defence Minister Avigdor Liberman advanced a plan to build a port for Gaza in Cyprus when he was on the island to attend the recent trilateral defence summit. The idea of setting up a facility in Cyprus has been floated for years, and Israel recently made a request to explore the issue, according to Cypriot government spokesman Prodromos Prodromou. “It is an old issue which is now being re-discussed,” Prodromou told Reuters. “There will be contacts between the government and all interested parties in the region and, possibly, a decision will be taken. At the moment no decision has been taken. The request is being examined, it hasn’t been rejected,” he said. The Israeli embassy in Nicosia said on Tuesday it had no comment to make on the report. The report was published in the Jerusalem Post, citing a TV report. “Liberman’s Cyprus port plan would include construction of a special pier for cargo ships carrying goods destined for Gaza. They would be checked with the help of an Israeli monitoring mechanism to ensure that no weapons were being smuggled into the Hamas-controlled area,” the Jerusalem Post said. After that, it added, they would likely be sent to Gaza directly by ferry, given that the enclave lacks a port large enough for the docking of cargo ships. Citing Channel 2, the newspaper said the principles of the plan were agreed between Liberman and Cypriot Defence Minister Savvas Angelides during the summit on Friday. Within two weeks, work would begin on a detailed plan that would be presented within three months. “But any such move would be conditioned on Hamas’ agreement to return the remains of two Israeli soldiers and to release the three Israeli civilians believed to be held captive in Gaza,” the Post said. It then cited former Intelligence Ministry director-general and former Mossad deputy director Ram Ben-Barak tweeting that the plan would help Gaza residents without harming Israel’s security….
Gaza’s opioid crisis: Desperate Palestinians under brutal siege turn to drugs
The National 25 June by Florian Neuhof — Residents are self-medicating to cope with the misery of life in the enclave — In a dimly lit room with mouldy walls, Mahmoud carefully unwraps layers of tin foil to reveal a red pill. He presses his thumbnail into the coating to split the capsule, revealing a white powder laced with crystals that shimmer in the sparse light. In the 35-year-old Palestinian’s palm rests a powerful dose of tramadol, a synthetic opioid painkiller that has become the drug of choice in Gaza. “It numbs the pain,” Mahmoud says of the drug’s effect. The number 225 is impressed on to the pill in his hand, denoting its strength. At 225 milligrams, it is almost five times stronger than the lowest dose available in the coastal enclave where economic hardship and hopelessness translate into rampant substance abuse. It is an epidemic that threatens to render a generation of Gazans dependent upon prescription pills that can be as powerful as morphine. Living in what they describe as an open-air prison, Gazans have seen their fortunes decline, with little hope of a reversal. This desperation has fuelled drug abuse. “Drug use is much worse now,” Mahmoud says. “It’s directly linked to the situation: the worse it gets, the more drug abuse there is.” … Addiction remains a taboo topic in Gaza’s conservative society. The subject is so sensitive that Mahmoud declines to give his real name. This concealment makes it difficult for users to seek help. They can expect little to no assistance from the Gazan health system, which is under severe strain from the blockade. Mahmoud lives in a decrepit apartment block on the edge of Gaza city with his wife and five children. He first started taking tramadol after he was shot in the torso during the Second Intifada, or uprising, in 2000. Doctors prescribed him the drug and he took it to combat the pain from a bullet splinter that had moved close to his spine. He laid off the drug when the pain subsided. But he then lost his house and the family business went up in flames during the fighting between Hamas and Fatah in 2006. Around that time, tunnels were dug all along the Egyptian border to get around the blockade. Alongside goods of all kinds, drugs like tramadol were being smuggled through the tunnels. That’s when drug abuse began to spike in Gaza. “Tunnel operators would give the kids digging the tunnels tramadol. They were the first to get addicted. Digging tunnels is hard work and dangerous,” says Mahmoud….
The wounded Gazans ‘punished’ for protesting in Gaza
Al Jazeera 18 June by Mersiha Gadzo & Anas Jnena — The only way Sari al-Shubaki can now communicate is by closing and opening his eyelids. An Israeli sniper shot him in the neck with a live bullet during demonstrations in Gaza on the morning of May 14. Since then, the 22-year-old has been paralysed. A fragment of the bullet is still stuck between his shoulder and neck. For the past month he has been lying in the intensive care unit at Gaza City’s Al Shifa Hospital in critical condition. Since then, his family has been waiting for Israel to approve his exit permit to leave through the Israeli-controlled Erez checkpoint, known to Palestinians as Beit Hanoun, in northern Gaza to receive treatment. The day after Sari was shot, doctors said they would transfer him for treatment in Egypt, but a special ICU ambulance required to move him never came as promised, according to his father, Dawud al-Shubaki. “I don’t know if it’s the truth or if it’s because they see him as a hopeless case. I think they seem to prioritise cases since there’s many injured people,” Dawuf told to Al Jazeera from Al Shifa. Out of options, Dawud has been protesting in the hospital’s yard to raise awareness about his son’s condition and get help for him. “There’s still hope. He’s conscious. Now we’ve heard from St. Joseph’s Hospital in Jerusalem that they’re ready to receive him, but how long will that take? The injured person that was next to his bed yesterday died today,” Dawud said … “It has been decided that every request for entry into Israel for the purpose of medical treatment submitted by an active terrorist or rioter who took place in the violent events near the fence will be rejected out of hand,” a spokesperson from COGAT, the bureaucratic arm of Israel’s military occupation commented in an email to Al Jazeera….
Feature: For Palestinian man in Gaza, even raising pet snakes is not a cheap hobby
GAZA (Xinhua) 22 June — Abdul-Fattah Assaliya, a 32-year-old man in the Palestinian enclave of the Gaza Strip, spends most of his time every day caring for the 35 snakes at his home. Assaliya, who lives in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya, is neither an expert in reptiles research, nor an owner of a snakes farm. Raising snakes is just his natural hobby, which he has developed since childhood. “I started to raise snakes almost 15 years ago … I found out that these creatures are lovely and I deal with them without any fears,” he told Xinhua. But for a construction worker earning a meager salary and a father of four, it is really not a cheap hobby to raise the pet snakes. Assaliya uses one of the three rooms inside his apartment for raising the reptiles of different colors and sizes. “I raise them in glass boxes so they will not escape,” Assaliya said as he fed a baby snake he recently caught in a nearby farm. Assaliya explained that the snakes require warm temperature and an appropriate condition to survive, which he has been trying hard to provide. Of course, Assaliya cannot afford to buy meats or small animals to feed his beloved snakes. “I resort to catching small mice, lizards, frogs and small reptiles to provide food for the snakes,” Assaliya said, while placing plastic sheets around the glass boxes to keep the snakes warm. He explained that some snakes eat once a week, and may eat once a month in winter. This certainly helps ease the burden on him to sustain his hobby. But another challenge, Assaliya explained, is the frequent power outages in Gaza due to the Israeli blockade, which threaten the lives of his snakes as they need the warmth to survive. There are 34 species of snakes in Palestine, out of which about nine are highly venomous….
Israelis who faked West Bank kidnapping get community service
Times of Israel 24 June by Stuart Winer, staff — Prosecution had sought prison time for Niv Asraf and Eran Nagauker over 2015 abduction claim, has 12 weeks to appeal the sentence — Two Israelis who staged a hoax kidnapping in the West Bank in 2015, leading to a massive search and rescue operation, were sentenced Sunday to community service and ordered to pay fines. The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court ordered Niv Asraf to perform six months of community service and pay a NIS 5,000 ($1,386) fine, while his accomplice Eran Nagauker was given three months of community service and a NIS 2,500 ($693) penalty. Asraf, who pretended to be abducted, and Nagauker, who helped report his disappearance to police, were convicted under a plea bargain. As part of the deal, prosecutors dropped the more serious charge of fraud, which could have carried a maximum sentence of five years. Prosecutors had asked for jail time for the two, citing the cost of the search and rescue operation as well as the danger to security forces who participated in the efforts … The hoax report, centering on the same area of the West Bank where three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and murdered less than a year before, sent hundreds of soldiers, police and agents of the Shin Bet security agency hammering on the doors of frightened Palestinian villagers as they searched house to house in the Hebron district. However, Asraf was found safe and sound in a nearby valley with a sleeping bag and some canned food. Police quickly concluded the event was a prank and a massive waste of resources. During the search, a thousand soldiers were scrambled, special units were deployed and aircraft were dispatched. In some cases stones were hurled at security forces, prosecutors said….
Violence / Detentions — West Bank / Jerusalem
Man injured at West Bank Israeli army checkpoint
BETHLEHEM 23 June – Israeli soldiers opened fire and injured on Saturday a Palestinian man at an Israeli army checkpoint north of Bethlehem, according to a Palestinian Security source. He told WAFA that Maher Thalji Jradat, 34, from the town of Sair, north of Hebron, was shot in the leg and injured at what is known as the “Container” checkpoint. Jradat was left at the sidewalk near the checkpoint for over one hour while the army refused to allow Palestinian medics or ambulances to attend to him until an Israeli army ambulance arrived at the scene and took him away into custody. Reason for shooting Jradat was not immediately clear, but some unconfirmed reports said he was shot for arguing with the soldiers at the checkpoint.
In Video: Hundreds of Israeli settlers raid Joseph’s Tomb, one Palestinian injured
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 26 June — Israeli forces shot and wounded a Palestinian youth with live bullets while another 17 were wounded with rubber bullets, and dozens suffered tear-gas inhalation during clashes in the northern occupied West Bank district of Nablus on Tuesday. Palestinian Red Crescent teams said that they immediately transferred the injured Palestinian to a hospital and treated dozens injured with rubber bullets and suffering tear-gas suffocation. Locals told Ma‘an that clashes broke out between Palestinian youths and Israeli forces after dozens of Israeli settlers raided Joseph’s Tomb near the Balata refugee camp east of Nablus City. Clashes were triggered when Israeli settlers began performing Jewish religious rituals in Joseph’s Tomb under the tight security of Israeli forces. Sources added that Israeli forces stormed northern Nablus City before midnight on Monday and surrounded Joseph’s Tomb in order to secure Israeli settlers’ visit to the holy site.
Joseph’s Tomb is revered by Jews, Muslims, Christians, and Samaritans alike. The Israeli military allows Jews to visit as part of organized pilgrimages, despite the site being located in Area A where the PA has full control, and prohibits Muslims from worshiping at the site. Ultra-orthodox and nationalist Jews regularly try to visit the shrine without approval, as many Jews believe the tomb to be the final resting place of the biblical figure in the Old Testament. Palestinians believe that Joseph’s Tomb is the funerary monument to Sheikh Yousif Dweikat, a local religious figure. In the video below, Israeli settlers are seen performing religious rituals in the tomb:
Israeli settlers burn 300 Palestinian olive trees in Nablus district
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 25 June — Israeli settlers set fire to Palestinian-owned agricultural lands in the village of Tell on Sunday evening, in the northern occupied West Bank district of Nablus. Local farmer Khaled Asida told Ma‘an that Israeli settlers from the Nablus-area illegal settlement of Havat Gilad set fire to several dunums of agricultural lands in the village, burning at least 300 olive trees. Asida added that the burned farmlands belonged to Palestinian residents of the village, Fathi al-Hassan and Musi al-Shartouk, and another Palestinian from the village of Farata, located in the northern West Bank district of Qalqiliya. Ghassan Daghlas, a Palestinian official who monitors settlement activity in the northern West Bank, confirmed the attack to Ma‘an.
Palestinian car-ramming attack in West Bank injures three IDF troops
i24NEWS 23 June — A Palestinian driver attempted to run over three Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers on a security patrol in the West Bank Saturday evening, lightly injuring them before getting away. A search for the suspect is underway and the three soldiers were taken to the hospital after receiving treatment at the site of the incident. “Over the last hour, a Palestinian driver attempted to run over IDF troops during a security patrol in the village of Husan, northwest of Bethlehem. Three soldiers were lightly injured and were given medical treatment at the scene. They were taken to the hospital for further treatment.” The attack took place outside the Palestinian village of Husan by the Al Khader Junction near the West Bank settlement of Beitar Illit in the Etzion bloc. “IDF troops are searching the area for the suspect. The circumstances of the incident are being looked into,” and IDF statement said following the car-ramming attack.
Israeli forces abuse three minor detainees while in detention
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 24 June — Three Palestinian minors from occupied Jerusalem who were detained by the Israeli police said they were physically and verbally tortured during interrogation at the Russian Compound in West Jerusalem. Hiba Masalha, a lawyer of the Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs Commission was allowed to visit the three minors – Musatafa Abu Snaineh, 15, Nabil Sader, 16, and Hisham Bshiti, 17 – in Megiddo prison and reported on their affidavits. The lawyer said the minors informed her that they were tortured during interrogation at the Russian Compound. All three said in an affidavit that they were brutally beaten while they were waiting in the Russian compound for only waving back at their families who were calling out their names while waiting at the entrance of the detention center.
Israeli forces detain 16 Palestinians in predawn West Bank raids
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 25 June — Israeli forces detained at least 16 Palestinians from across the occupied West Bank during predawn raids on Monday, according to the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS). According to PPS, five Palestinians were detained in the northern West Bank district of Nablus, and were identified as Saleh Fatin Salah, 18, Main Haris Hajeh, 19, Kamal Mahmmud Abu Arab, 18, Ahmad Haitham Shalbaye, 18, Saleh Ali Hashash, 26.
PPS confirmed three detentions in the northeastern West Bank district of Tubas, and identified the detainees as Jamil Beni Odeh, Muhammad Adnan Daraghmeh, and Kamal Jamal Daraghmeh.
From the northern district of Tulkarem, two Palestinians were detained and identified as Jihad Adnan Mustafa Naalwe, 28, and Khaled Ruslan Naalwe, 38.
Another six Palestinians were detained from the northern West Bank district of Jenin. They were identified by PPS as Qutaybah Ahmad Shalabi, Rabib Fadel Zakameh, Ahmad Said Abu Rab, Bassem Tazaazah, Imad Abu al-Hijai, and Abd al- Halim Izz al-Din.
The Israeli army said in a statement that all the detainees were transferred to Israeli intelligence for further investigation. The army added that weapons were also found during the raids and detentions carried out in the southern West Bank city of Hebron.
Israeli forces detain 12 Palestinians, including two sisters, in occupied West Bank
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 26 June — Israeli forces detained at least 12 Palestinians, including two sisters, from areas across the occupied West Bank on Tuesday, the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) reported. In the eastern Jerusalem town of al-Eizariya, PPS confirmed the detention of two sisters identified as Nour Afalqa, 20, and Ghada Afalqa, 42. Israeli forces detained another Palestinian,Tarek Sameh al-Khatib, in the Beit Rima village in the Ramallah and al-Bireh central West Bank district.
In the northern West Bank district of Nablus, Israeli forces detained seven Palestinians, PPS identified them as Subhi Jawabra, Mahran Hani Abu Ziadeh, Omar Farouq Amer, Muhammad Ghassan Abu Huwaila, Said Majdalawi, in addition to Faraj Mustafa Abu Leil and Muhammad Nasser Abu Huwaila; both were detained after being wounded by Israeli forces.
Two Palestinians were detained in the northern West Bank districts of Tulkarem and Jenin; they were identified as Anan Muhsen Jaber, 24, and Hamza Inad Abu Jabal.
According to Palestinian prisoners rights group Addameer, there are 6,036 Palestinians prisoners being currently held in Israeli prisons; 63 of them are female prisoners.
ISM speaks to ‘Aref Jaber about the increase in raids by Israeli forces in his neighborhood
HEBRON (ISM Al-Khalil Team) 23 June — ‘Aref Jaber lives in the Jaber neighbourhood in the H2 area of occupied Hebron, under Israeli control. He is a local activist and works with Human Rights Defenders filming and publicising the violations of international law committed by Israeli forces in his city. On June 2nd, ‘Aref witnessed and filmed the murder of Rami Sabarneh, a 37-year-old construction worker and a father of three, by Israeli forces just outside his house. The Israeli army said in a statement that Sabarneh had attempted to ram his vehicle into Israeli forces. Straight after the murder, a commander who had been part of the group that killed Sabarneh, along with seven other soldiers who were present, confronted ‘Aref, telling him to delete the video and pointing their rifles at him. When he refused, the commander violently assaulted him whilst saying, “You recorded the soldier who shot the terrorist. If you continue recording or taking photos of the army, I will put a bullet in your head. Do you understand me?”
Soon after, a group of Israeli intelligence officers came to speak with ‘Aref, trying to intimidate him into changing his statement to say that Sabarneh had been under the influence of alcohol when he was shot. ‘Aref refused. That night, his home was violently raided by Israeli forces, ending in both ‘Aref and his wife being rushed to hospital after being physically assaulted.
Before Sabarneh’s murder, the Jaber family home had recently been raided, in an attempt to threaten ‘Aref to stop his non-violent activism work. Israeli forces threw sound grenades inside the house, and the family were forced to replace the windows and doors. ‘Aref and his wife have five children, some of whom are very young.
On the 23rd of June in the early hours of the morning, ‘Aref’s family home was raided yet again. Later that morning, ‘Aref told International Solidarity Movement activists about the experience and the effects on him and his family. (Aref’s statement was translated for ISM by Badee Dwaik, another local activist and member of Human Rights Defenders).
“At a little past 2.30am, I was woken by a knock at the door, so I went to see who it was. Suddenly, around twenty five heavily-armed soldiers pushed inside without explaining the reason for their invasion or giving me and my family time to get dressed….
Israeli forces close off Bethlehem-area village following alleged shooting
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 25 June — Israeli forces on Monday closed off the entrance to the Palestinian village of Beit Fajjar in the southern occupied West Bank district of Bethlehem, allegedly in response to an “attempted shooting.” Israeli forces claimed that a speeding car with a Palestinian license plate fired shots towards the illegal Israeli settlement of Migdal Oz, located in the Bethlehem district, and immediately fled towards Beit Fajjar. The Israeli army said in a statement that no injuries or damage were reported after the shooting. Local sources told Ma‘an that Israeli forces closed both the entrance and exit of the village with roadblocks, while soldiers deployed in the western side of the village. Eyewitnesses reported that soldiers raided a gas station in the area to retrieve surveillance footage.
Residency / Exile
Jerusalemite Palestinians exiled from the city for six months
IMEMC 26 June — Israel’s Police ordered, Monday, a Jerusalemite Palestinian from Silwan town south of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, out of the Holy City for six months. The Palestinian, Odai Sonnokrot, a married father of two children, was held under interrogation at the al-Maskobiyya interrogation facility for thirty-two consecutive days. Last Thursday, Odai was released and forced under house arrest at his in-laws’ house in the Old City, for eight days, in addition to being prevented from seeing his father for one week. He also received an order preventing him from leaving the country for six months, and was ordered to pay a 10.000 Shekels fine, while two of his relatives had to sign a bail commitment of 100.000 Shekels. The Palestinian will have to leave his family and relatives and live in the occupied West Bank for six months, otherwise, he will be imprisoned and face high fines, in addition to losing the bail money.
Israel has been using this policy against dozens of Jerusalemite Palestinians, including elected officials and political leaders, forcing them to leave the city for several months, and even years, in exchange for their release, in addition to revoking ID’s and residency statuses of many Palestinians, including legislators….
Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Settlements
Israeli forces demolish and raze buildings in Hizma
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 25 June — Israeli forces demolished Palestinian agricultural and commercial buildings in the Hizma neighborhood in the central occupied West Bank district of Jerusalem on Monday morning. Witnesses told Ma‘an that Israeli forces, escorting staff from the Israeli Jerusalem Municipality, raided Hizma and surrounded agricultural and commercial buildings on the outskirts of the town. Sources added that Israeli forces razed the land to “prevent owners from rebuilding.” Samer Salah al-Din, head of the Hizma local council, told Ma‘an that Israeli forces demolished four agricultural structures, stone factories and a local shop under the pretext that the structures were built without difficult-to-obtain Israeli building permits. The demolished structures provide economic lifelines to twenty Palestinian families. Moreover, owners suffered massive losses that have been estimated at more than 1.5 million shekels. Salah al-Din added that the Israeli municipality had sent demolition notices to five houses in the same neighborhood two weeks ago; the notices included that the houses were built 40-50 years ago but were allegedly built without permits. According to a statement made by the owners of the commercial buildings in the area, “this is the fifth time that these buildings have been demolished, and every time they are rebuilt, Israeli forces unexpectedly demolish without warning. Rebuilding is a necessity since it is the only source of financial support.”
Israeli forces demolish Palestinian home in Jerusalem
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 26 June — Israeli bulldozers demolished a Palestinian house in the Beit Hanina neighborhood of Jerusalem, while another family was able to freeze the demolition order against their house after Israeli forces surrounded and prepared to demolish the house. Eyewitnesses said that Israeli special forces and police stormed the Talaat Hizma area of Beit Hanina neighborhood, surrounded a house, and began the demolition after evacuating its residents and emptying some of its contents.
In the al-Asharqiya area of Beit Hanina, the Shawamra family was able to freeze the demolition order against their home after they went to court. The family was ordered to pay 8,000 shekels in order for the court to approve their postponement request.
The family said that Israeli forces escorting bulldozers and municipal staff suddenly stormed their home, assaulted women and children present by forcefully pushing and hitting them, in order to evacuate the house and its surroundings. The family added that the house had been built since 2014 and is home to seven residents; they have been trying to issue licenses for the house multiple times. However, the Jerusalem municipality refuses to do so.
In the ‘Issawiya neighborhood in East Jerusalem, Israeli bulldozers began leveling roads leading to Palestinian-owned agricultural lands in the eastern part of the village. Muhammed Abu al-Hummus, member of a local follow-up committee, said that these lands are being confiscated for Israeli national parks to be built; he explained that the Jerusalem municipality and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority raze and demolish these lands every once in a while.
Army demolishes a home; two families forced to demolish their homes, in Jerusalem
IMEMC 26 June — Israeli soldiers demolished, Tuesday, a Palestinian home in Beit Hanina neighborhood, north of occupied East Jerusalem, while two families were forced to demolish their own homes, in Sur Baher and Silwan…
On Monday evening, resident Ibrahim Amira had to demolish his home in Sur Baher town, southeast of Jerusalem, to avoid fines exceeding 90.000 Shekels. The Palestinian said he filed numerous requests to license his home, which he built, two years ago, on his own land to shelter himself, his wife and four children, but his requests were denied, and the City Council decided to demolish it just as he and his family moved in. Amira filed various appeals with Israeli courts, including the High Court, but all of his applications were denied.
In Silwan town, south of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, resident Wael Shweiki and his family had to demolish their two under-construction homes after the City Council issued demolition orders and threatened to impose excessively high fines and fees if its workers are the ones who demolish the property. The family said it started the construction in early May of this year, and their applications for construction permits were denied.
Palestinians foil attempt to take over two buildings in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah
JERUSALEM (WAFA) 25 June – Palestinians from the Um Haroun area in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, in occupied Jerusalem, Monday foiled an attempt by Israeli forces to take over two buildings. WAFA correspondent reported on locals saying that Israeli police withdrew from the area after being asked to present the court’s eviction order, which they failed to do.
Israeli settlement groups, with the support of the official institutions of the Israeli occupation, were able and through ‘crooked ways’ and improper papers to take over more than one property in the area, which is considered the closest to the western part of occupied Jerusalem, and are still attempting to take over what’s left of homes in the area, claiming pre-1948 ownership of the land.
Khan al Ahmar watches the World Cup
Khan al Ahmar (ISM Ramallah Team) 26 June — The Jahalin tribe of Khan al Ahmar were forcibly relocated by Israel from the Negev Desert in 1951. The village’s current site in Palestine is located between the illegal Israeli settlements of Ma’ale Adumim and Kfar Adumim. Israel wants to forcibly remove the community again to clear land for more illegal settlements. The whole world is watching. Join us in solidarity at the Tyre School and watch the World Cup, no matter which team you support. [one-minute video from the village]
Colonialist settlers install outpost on Palestinian land in Hebron
IMEMC 26 June — A group of Israeli colonialist settlers installed, Tuesday, an outpost on Palestinian lands in the al-Boweira area, close to the illegal Kharsina colony, east Hebron city, in the southern part of the occupied West Bank. Locals said the colonizers installed four mobile homes on the Palestinian land owned by several families, including Jweihan, Eada and Abu al-Halawa. They added that the Israeli assailants are trying to illegally occupy 70 dunams of Palestinian land, to build a new colony on top of a mountain that overlooks many neighborhoods in Hebron city. Several months ago, the colonists uprooted dozens of olive saplings, planted by the Palestinians from Eada family on their own land, in the same area.
Israeli settlers erect bus stop on land belonging to Palestinians in Hebron
HEBRON (WAFA) 24 June – Israeli settlers Sunday placed a wooden barracks in the Tel Rumeida area, in the southern West Bank city of Hebron, to be used as a bus stop. Witnesses said settlers, backed by a military force, placed the wooden barracks on land belonging to Palestinian locals in the said area, in central Hebron.
Israeli army to demolish over 50 Palestinian homes in West Bank
PressTV 22 June — The Israeli military has threatened to demolish more than 50 Palestinian homes in the northern part of the West Bank as the Tel Aviv regime continues with its land expropriation policies in the occupied territories and violation of international law — Local Palestinian media reports said that homes would be demolished by Israeli regime forces in Beit Dajan village, which is located east of Nablus, for lacking Israeli construction permits. Nasir Abu Jaish, mayor of the village confirmed that Israeli army handed notices to local citizens informing them that at least 51 homes would be demolished in 60 days for lacking Israeli construction permits. The homes are located in the so-called area C of the West Bank, which constitutes about 61 percent of the territory and is under full Israeli military control. Mohammed Abu Jaish, a local resident whose family has lived in the area for generations said, “We received a notice to demolish the house a few weeks ago, claiming that it was located on land allocated to military activities, although it is a private property.” He added that the same fate threatens his sisters and cousins.
Israel evacuates 21 Palestinian families for military training in Jordan Valley
TUBAS (Ma‘an) 22 June — Israeli authorities delivered evacuation notices to 21 Palestinian families in the Jordan Valley area of the northern occupied West Bank late Thursday night, in order to make way for active military training. Locals told Ma‘an that Israel authorities delivered notices to 21 families in Khirbet Humsa, in the Tubas district, ordering them to evacuate their homes from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. for military training in the area. Palestinian residents of the Jordan Valley regularly face evacuations and interruption due to Israeli military exercises on or near their land. The district of Tubas, meanwhile, is one of the occupied West Bank’s most important agricultural centers.
The majority of the Jordan Valley is under full Israeli military control, despite being within the West Bank. Meanwhile, at least 44 percent of the total land in the Jordan Valley has been reappropriated by Israeli forces for military purposes and training exercises.
According to the Palestinian nonprofit the Applied Research Institute-Jerusalem (ARIJ), more than 400,000 dunams (98,842 acres) of the 720,000 dunams (177,916 acres) that make up the total area of the Jordan Valley has been transformed into closed military and firing zones, with at least 27,000 dunams (6,672 acres) confiscated for illegal Israeli settlement building.
Israeli forces raze land in Jordan Valley in search of unauthorized water holes
JORDAN VALLEY (WAFA) 25 June– Israeli forces Monday stormed the village of Bardala, in the northern Jordan Valley, and conducted razing operations in the area, under the pretext of searching for ‘unauthorized’ water holes. The village’s council member Dirar Sawafta said Israeli forces stormed the razed land in search for ‘unauthorized’ water holes. He said Israeli forces dug around four pits in a 300-meter-long water pipeline.
Presbyterian Church confronts US legislation targeting Israel boycotts
IMEMC/Agencies 23 June — The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States approved, during its meeting last week in St. Louis, Missouri, by unanimous consent, an action opposing congressional and state anti-BDS (Boycott, Divest, and Sanction) laws, according to a press release. According to WAFA, the newly approved policy directs the Presbyterian Church (USA) to “oppose specific US legislation to suppress measures of economic witness…such as ‘The Israel Anti-Boycott Act’.” The action further instructs the church to join in legislation opposing state anti-BDS laws through the filing of amicus curiae briefs, in coalition with other religious and human rights groups. Some two-dozen laws have been passed, in Congress and states across the country, that are designed to suppress BDS campaigns in protest of Israel’s abuses of Palestinian human rights. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other civil liberties groups have condemned these laws as un-constitutional and an infringement on the First Amendment right to free speech….