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After a day of extensive Israeli strikes on Gaza, a ceasefire is brokered

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Ceasefire understanding reached under Egyptian mediation
IMEMC 21 July — An indirect ceasefire understanding was reached between Hamas and Israel, on Friday at night, following extensive Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip, and the killing of four Palestinian fighters and one soldier. Hamas spokesperson in Gaza, Fawzi Barhoum, said that “through Egyptian, and international mediation, a ceasefire understanding was reached between the occupation and the resistance.” Israeli sources said the United Nations Envoy to the Middle East, Nickolay Mladenov, held extensive talks with both Israel and Hamas, and added that the ceasefire was reached “because both parties are not interested in escalation.” He stated that the ceasefire was reached without an agreement, but with the sole purpose of “returning to the era of calm.”
Hamas was pressured by Egypt, Qatar and Turkey to refrain from responding to the Israeli strikes, in order to avoid a serious and extended military escalation. The understanding was reached after Israel shelled and bombarded more than 68 areas in the Gaza Strip, after following the death of one soldier by Palestinian fire, and four Palestinians by Israeli army fire. Despite the understanding for ceasefire, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Mladenov in a phone call that “the responsibility for escalation or calm lies with Hamas,” and added that “if the group continues to fire shells into Israel, then the outcome will be far worse than what they think.” Lieberman also said that “the destruction and loss of live will be on Hamas,” Israeli daily Haaretz said.
It is worth mentioning that the slain Israeli soldier, who remained unidentified at the time of this report, is the first Israeli to be killed by the Palestinians in Gaza, since the Great Return March procession started on Palestinian Land Day, March 30th, 2018. Meanwhile, the Israeli army killed 146 Palestinians protesters, including 17 children, two medics and two journalists, and wounded more than 16496 others.

Israel shells Hamas site in Gaza after ‘infiltration’ reported
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 21 July — The Israeli artillery shelled a resistance site in the Malaka area in eastern Gaza City in the central besieged Gaza Strip on Saturday morning.  A Ma‘an reporter said that one shell was fired at the site, and no injuries were reported. The shelling comes hours after a ceasefire was reached between Israel and Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip following a violent night. Several Palestinian youths had managed earlier Saturday to cross the Israeli security fence in the same area of eastern Gaza City; they entered an Israeli military site and seized military equipment before returning back to the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, the Israeli army reported that the shelling comes in response to the “infiltration” carried out by the Palestinian youths.

Israeli soldiers kill three Palestinian fighters in Gaza
IMEMC/Agencies 20 July — Israeli soldiers killed, Friday, three Palestinian fighters, and injured many residents, after the army fired missiles into two sites run by the al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, in Rafah and Khan Younis, in the southern parts of the Gaza Strip. The Al-Qassam Brigades issued a statement mourning Sha‘ban Rajab Abu Khater, and Mohammad Riyad Abu Farhana, from Khan Younis, in addition to Mahmoud Khalil Qishta, from Rafah. It said that the fighters were killed when the army fired missiles at observation posts in Rafah and Khan Younis. The Brigades vowed fierce retaliation to the serious Israeli escalation, and said the “Israeli crimes are foolish acts, will cause Israel to pay dearly.”
The bodies of the three Palestinians were severely mutilated by the Israeli missiles, and their remains were moved to the field clinic east of Khan Younis. Following the attack, Palestinian fighters exchanged fire with Israeli soldiers along the border areas, while the army fired more live rounds, in addition to several shells into northern Gaza. Furthermore, the soldiers shot a child, 14 years of age, with a live round in the head, east of Khan Younis, during the Great March Procession, and fired many live rounds at homes, east of Abasan, east of Khan Younis. The soldiers also injured at least five Palestinians, and caused dozens to suffer the effects of teargas inhalation, along the eastern border areas, in the Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that Israel is planning an assault on Gaza, bigger than the Israeli war on the coastal region in 2014, in which 2100 Palestinians, including entire families, were killed, and thousands were injured.

Dozens of Israeli bombs dropped in various parts of Gaza Strip; one soldier killed by Palestinian fire
IMEMC 20 July — As night fell on Friday evening, after Israeli airstrikes killed  Palestinian fighters that afternoon, and one Israeli soldier stationed at the border was reportedly killed, reports began coming in on Twitter from different parts of Gaza showing Israeli fighter jets dropping bombs. The Israeli army said one of its soldiers was seriously injured by Hamas fighters near the southern part of the Gaza Strip, during what it called a military activity near the border fence, in southern Gaza, and later died from his wounds. The name of the soldier has not been released at the time of this report.
The extent of the damage is unknown as of yet, and the airstrikes appear to be ongoing. As the loudspeakers sounded the call to evening prayer from mosques across the Occupied Territory, the sound of Israeli fighter jets filled the sky, and bombs began to fall. The Israeli army said it targeted and destroyed 25 sites run by armed resistance groups in Gaza, including monitoring and training centers. The bombing came just hours after Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman stated that he was planning to launch a large-scale war in Gaza similar to the one in 2014, in which 2200 people were killed. In his statement, he said the ‘Palestinian people will pay the price’ for the continued non-violent protests at the border, which have been going on for 100 days.
One woman in Khan Younis filmed a bombing on her phone, and posted it on Twitter with the caption, “I have heard twenty bombs in the last 30 minutes”. Several people live streamed on Facebook from different parts of Gaza, as the bombs began to drop. The Israeli strikes were carried out in several parts of the Gaza Strip, including sites run by the al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, in Rafah and Khan Younis, in addition to missiles fired into the Zeitoun neighborhoods, east of Gaza city, causing several injuries. The soldiers also fired at least eleven missiles into two sites west of Khan Younis, causing serious damage.
The Israeli army claims it “was retaliating to shells fired against its soldiers near Gaza’s eastern border area, while Hamas said it was retaliating to the killing of four Palestinians by army missiles, Friday. It said that Palestinian fighters fired shells into areas in Shaar HaNegev and Sdot Negev Regional Councils of Settlements,  and added that the Iron Dome missile defense system managed to intercept two. It stated that one shells landed and detonated in an open area in Shaar HaNegev. The reported shells did not lead to any casualties.

Israeli army kills one Palestinian, injures three, in Rafah
IMEMC 19 July — An Israeli military drone fired, on Thursday afternoon, a missile at Palestinians east of Rafah, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, killing one, and wounding three others, including one who suffered serious injuries. The Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza said the Palestinian, identified as Abdul-Karim Radwan, 22, died from his serious wounds in a hospital in Rafah, despite all efforts to save his life. It added that three other Palestinians were injured by the Israeli missile, including one who suffered serious wounds, and is currently on life support. Media sources in Gaza said the slain Palestinian is an officer with the Field Control Department of Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas. It is worth mentioning that Abdul-Karim’s brother, Ahmad Radwan, was killed by Israeli soldiers during a military offensive and invasion into Rafah in 2002. Al-Qassam Vows Retaliation For Radwan’s Death
… Just a few hours before the army killed Abdul-Karim, the Health Ministry published detailed statistics on the Palestinian casualties by Israeli army fire, since the beginning of the Great Return March on March 30th, 2018. The data covers the period between March 30th and July 17th:

Israel holds over 2000 truckloads to Gaza
GAZA (PNN) 19 July — Israeli occupation is holding more than 2000 truckloads of goods for the industrial and commercial sectors of Gaza as part of its plan to strangulate Gaza and tighten the siege in an unprecedented manner since 2008. Head of the Popular Committee Against Siege, MP Jamal al-Khudari, on Wednesday said in a press statement that the occupation prevents the trucks from entering Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing, the only commercial crossing to Gaza, which it recently decided to close. Al Khudari pointed out that these trucks carry basic goods for the continuation of industrial and commercial life, including building materials of all kinds, “clothing, stationery, textiles, footwear, electrical tools, elevators, cars and raw materials for industry in all sectors of construction, metal, furniture and other industries.” He stressed that the impact of holding these products leads to a rapid collapse of the industrial and commercial sector, and the collapse of all services as a result. Al-Khudari added that these measures would gradually raise poverty and unemployment rates (highest in the world in Gaza), in addition to the fear that it would be difficult to fix all this potential collapse of the economy if the Gaza strangulation plan applied by the Israeli occupation continues. In the same context, al-Khudari said that these goods were imported and purchased legally and have all approvals for passage, both ports and commercial crossings, but the occupation hinders it and returns after the arrival of the crossing, causing heavy losses where they are stored for long periods, as a result of their lack of timely access to their owners. Al-Khudari  called on the owners of these goods to appeal to Palestinian officials to move quickly and urgently to save them from this tragedy, as well as the European Union to exert pressure on the Israeli occupation, which is a flagrant violation of international law.

Heat and power cuts force Gazans onto polluted beaches
GAZA (Reuters) 16 July by Nidal al-Mughrabi — Maher Taha, his wife and six children sit enjoying the breeze on beach in Gaza, doing their best to ignore the rubbish and raw sewage floating a few yards off shore. The water is polluted and the smell is unpleasant but they need a break from the oppressive heat at home – and there are few other options for a family on their budget with a power supply that only works four hours a day. “We can see the sewage clearly, and we still come here – it costs us nothing,” says Taha, 46. “Life is depressing and difficult and people have no escape but the sea.” Warning signs tell people to stay out of the water at the beach near Nusseirat refugee camp in central Gaza Strip. Lifeguards go up to people and tell them about the dangers….

Soaring unemployment pushes Gaza’s tech sector forward
Al-Monitor 20 July by Ahmed Sammak — “The Palestinian startup ecosystem is in its early stages and still maturing,” reads a July 11 report by the World Bank. It called the Palestinian situation “relatively similar” to those of Lebanon and Tanzania, explaining that startup creation in Palestine has increased by 34% since 2009. One Israeli newspaper reported that it takes only 15 days to establish a tech startup in Palestine compared to at least 30 days in Lebanon and Tanzania. More Palestinian young entrepreneurs have turned to online projects and invested in technology in the absence of job opportunities due to the ongoing Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip. Unemployment in the enclave has reached 49.1% and 18.3% in the West Bank. On May 17, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics and the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology said in a joint press statement, “The data from the 2017 census indicated that the number of establishments that work in the information technology and communications sector accounted for 1,008 of the total [158,573] economic operating establishments in Palestine, while this sector employed 9,200 workers of the total [444,034] employees in 2017.

Gaza startup struggles to recover after Israeli airstrike
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) 18 July by Najib Jobain & Fares Akram — A Palestinian startup company touted as a model for Gaza entrepreneurship is struggling to recover after its office was badly damaged last weekend in an Israeli airstrike. The office of Haweya for Information Technology was among dozens of buildings damaged on Saturday in a flare up violence between Israel and Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza. Staffers began this week to clean up the premises, sweeping the shattered glass off the floor, removing destroyed computers and printers and cleaning the dust-covered furniture. The company was among dozens of houses, a university lab, a mosque and an art gallery damaged when the Israeli military hit what it said was a nearby training facility for Hamas. The startup was featured in an Associated Press story in 2015 as a model of the emerging high-tech entrepreneurship trying to overcome Gaza’s isolation and access restrictions. Haweya was a rare success story in Gaza, having employed 24 young engineers, designers and web developers in a territory where youth unemployment stands at 60 percent, according to the World Bank. Its owner and founder, Mohammed Qudih, estimated the damages from the airstrike at around $13,000. However, buying new equipment may cost more because prices began to spike this week as Israel imposed further restrictions on the coastal strip, with new limitations on its only cargo crossing with Gaza because of the continued hostilities.

HI’s partner organization in Gaza damaged by airstrikes
Handicap International 18 July — One of HI’s partner organizations in Gaza has seen their work severely disrupted as a result of damage caused by the indirect impact of airstrikes close-by. On Saturday July 14, the premises of our partner, providing education and play facilities for children, sustained indirect but widespread damage as a result of nearby airstrikes. The building, which had been adapted to welcome children with disabilities, was fortunately empty at the time of the airstrike, which took place after working hours and no staff or children were injured. However, many rooms are now unsafe and unusable and several disability-friendly facilities have been destroyed. HI is offering our support to partner staff as they deal with the shock and distress caused by the destruction. Since 2015, HI has been campaigning against the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. 92% of the victims of this increasingly widespread practice are civilians.

Leaving Gaza’s open air prison: Thousands abandon Gaza Strip as Egypt opens crossing
New Arab 17 July by Ali Adam — After the Muslim holy month of Ramadan ended on June 14, Egypt, unconventionally, announced that the Rafah border crossing will remain open for two months. Following the announcement, thousands of Gazans, who have been hit hard by the sharply deteriorating economic and living conditions, rushed to leave the Gaza Strip, some of whom have been waiting for the opportunity for years. The border crossing normally only opens on average three to four times a year and is crucial to deliver aid to civilians in the besieged Gaza Strip, where Israel has maintained a crippling siege for more than a decade. Human rights groups say it amounts to collective punishment of Gaza’s two million residents. Egyptian authorities initially opened the crossing on May 18, and then extended it for another two months after Ramadan, allowing around 400-500 people to cross per day.
Since then, at least 19,000 people are estimated to have left the Strip, but the eagerness to leave comes as no surprise. Many Palestinians in Gaza live below the poverty line. Unemployment is at 44 percent and unemployment among young people exceeds 60 percent. Those who are employed work long hours for extremely low salaries, typically ranging between $200 to $300.
Escaping the ‘open air prison’ 
— People from all walks of Gaza’s tough life rushed for their ticket out of the open air prison they’ve been trapped in for 12 years now. Many included the unemployed or grossly underpaid, highly educated young people who felt that their hard work, qualifications, and competency were not enough to bring them any kind of a decent life in their home country. ‘Travelling abroad to find work was never in my plans,” says Mohammed Najjar. “I graduated in 2010 from the engineering school of Al-Azhar university, but I have only been able to find one job that lasted six months in the last eight years. “I have waited and hoped that the political and economic conditions will improve over time. But nothing has. It has only got worse over time,” he adds.
Fears of most qualified leaving —
While some have encouraged the mass migration out of Gaza on the account that it is densely populated, with 1.9 million people, and that opportunities in the Strip are extremely rare, many others also expressed fear and worry. Some believe that what is happening is a human capital flight and a mass emigration of the most qualified and competent. The main case that sparked debate was the recent migration of around a hundred of Gaza’s most brilliant doctors, many of whom are reportedly indispensable to Gaza’s health sector….

Manufacturing the drones above Gaza
[with photos] BJP 17 July by Marigold Warner — Photographers Daniel Tepper and Vittoria Mentasti joined forces to investigate the manufacture and use of drones by Israel – and beyond. “Talking to people in Gaza, you realise how much the drones are burrowed into their daily lives,” says Daniel Tepper, an American photographer who has been researching and documenting the production and militarisation of drones in Israel since the 2014 conflict in Gaza. In Arabic, unmanned aircrafts are referred to as ‘zenana’, local slang for the buzzing of a mosquito; in English ‘drones’ take their name from the male honeybee, and the monotonous hum it makes in flight. The Israeli military pioneered the use of drones in combat, employing the technology during the 1982 Lebanon War, and since then people in Gaza have become accustomed to the insidious noise of drones, sounding so close “they could reside beside us”, as Dr. Atef Abu Saif writes in his first-hand account of the 2014 conflict, The Drone Eats With Me. “It’s like it wants to join us for the evening and has pulled up an invisible chair,” he adds.  Despite this familiarity, what’s most scary about the drones is the fact it’s always unclear why they’re out – if they’re doing surveillance, if they’re armed, or if they’re about to strike. During the summer of 2014 the people of Gaza lived under constant surveillance, so much so you couldn’t distinguish a star or a satellite from a drone at night, says Vittoria Mentasti, an Italian photographer who experienced the conflict while reporting on it. According to Hamushim, a human rights group based in Gaza, drone warfare was responsible for almost a third of the 1543 civilian casualties in the 2014 war. “The use of drones ensures a state of fear that perpetuates war,” says Mentasti, who has been working with Tepper to document drones and their use in Gaza. “All people in Gaza now suffer from the traumatic experience of war and the lack of any illusion of safety makes it impossible to heal from trauma.”….

WHO responds to growing health needs in Gaza
GAZA (WHO) 19 July — In response to increasing violence in Gaza, WHO is scaling up its response by providing life-saving medicines and medical supplies to hospitals and frontline trauma stabilization points. Since the start of demonstrations on 30 March, 148 Palestinians have died and 16 496 have been injured. To date, 500 000 emergency and trauma patients have been treated with supplies from WHO’s recent delivery of medicines, assistive devices and medical equipment. As Health Cluster lead, WHO is also supporting the Palestinian Ministry of Health in coordinating emergency medical teams to treat injured civilians who require immediate medical care. A Trauma Working Group has been established to improve trauma care along the pathway of the patient from point of injury in the field to rehabilitation. “The high numbers of trauma casualties, particularly with complex limb injuries, is continuing to increase,” said Dr Gerald Rockenschaub, head of WHO’s office for the West Bank and Gaza. “Trauma stabilization points are critical in saving the lives of people whose injuries are so serious that they may not survive the journey to a hospital. Almost half of all people injured so far have been treated and discharged by emergency medical teams at these points, significantly reducing the burden on hospitals, and likely saving many lives.” Of the 8695 people hospitalized to date, almost 50% suffer from gunshot wounds. Almost 20% of those being admitted to hospital are children. Psychosocial support is being provided to the injured, their families, and health care workers through 6 WHO-supported mental health teams….

Homemade beauty remedies mean ugly business in Gaza
GAZA CITY (Al-Monitor) 19 July by Entsar Abu Jahal — In cash-strapped Gaza Strip, increasing numbers of female entrepreneurs are offering homemade personal care products to the market. For some buyers, these unlicensed products have turned out to be an unpleasant experience. “I saw an advertisement for skin and hair products on Instagram and bought a face cream. But after several uses, I had red pimples all over my face and now I am seeing a skin doctor for treatment,” 21-year-old Lama Abdel Hadi told Al-Monitor. She said that she has not filed any complaints but made sure to warn her friends and family about the company and its products. Al-Monitor reached out to the Instagram account’s owner, who refused to comment. As the unemployment crisis deepens in the Gaza Strip, where more than 43.9% of the population is without jobs according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics for 2017, more Gazans are starting projects to earn a bit of cash. One of the areas the budding entrepreneurs favor is cosmetic products such as face washes, shower gels, creams for sun spots and acne, lightening concoctions and serums for hair growth. These products are often made at home and marketed on social media at much lower prices compared to known brands. Their creators have neither permits nor licenses, and most have not been tested except by the producers — most of whom have no formal education in chemistry or pharmacy….

Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Settlements

Palestinians in Jerusalem demolish own houses rather than see Israelis move in
JERUSALEM (Reuters) 19 July by Stephen Farrell & Ali Sawafta — Two Palestinian families on Thursday demolished the homes they had lived in for nearly two decades, saying they would rather destroy them than face the prospect of Israeli settlers moving in. Within two hours, two mechanical diggers smashed through the ceilings, walls and floors of the two buildings in Beit Hanina, a village on the outskirts of East Jerusalem, territory that Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war and then annexed in a move not recognized internationally. Jihad Shawamreh, 50, a taxi driver, said that he built his six-room house in 2000 and that his ex-wife Fawzia, their six children and other relatives lived there until Thursday. The demolition was the culmination of a lengthy legal battle. Israel’s Supreme Court ruled in January that the land on which the homes were constructed had been under Jewish ownership since 1974 and that documents presented by the Palestinian families to support their claims had been forged. The families argued they had bought the plots in good faith and believed they were the rightful owners. “I built (my house) with my own hands. It is where I brought up my children. This is where they grew up,” Shawamreh said, as the Hyundai digger went to work. “We took down the houses for fear of seeing settlers move in, and having to see them inside the house.” The Israel Land Fund, whose stated goal is “acquiring all the Land of Israel for the Jewish people”, advertised on its website after the court decision six months ago for “4 idealistic families” willing to move into the homes … Shawamreh said the demolition cost 30,000 shekels ($8,200) and that he had turned down offers of money from Israeli settlers to leave the buildings standing….

Israeli authorities demolish Palestinian home in East Jerusalem
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 18 July –The Israeli authorities demolished a Palestinian home in the al-Tur neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem on Wednesday. Local witnesses told Ma‘an that the Israeli authorities along with Israeli forces raided the al-Tur neighborhood and demolished a house under the pretext of being built without the difficult-to-obtain Israeli permit. The demolished home belonged to the Abu Sbitan Palestinian family. Witnesses said that Israeli forces demolished the house using manual demolition equipment. The demolished house was newly built and furnished to live in; the apartment was located on the last floor of a residential apartment building, which consisted of a total of five floors.

Israeli forces close off water lines in Jordan Valley-area lands
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 19 July — Israeli forces and representatives of the Israeli water-tech company “Mekorot” closed and separated the water lines from about 3,000 dunams (741 acres) of agricultural Palestinian land in central Jordan Valley on Thursday. According to Azzam al-Hajj Muhammad, head of the municipality of Furush Beit Dajan village, in the northern West Bank district of Nablus, said that since Thursday morning, Israeli forces have started to dig in search of water holes and close them in n attempt to separate water lines that provide Palestinian farmers with water. Israeli forces closed all of the water holes preventing the entry of water supply for about 3,000 dunams worth of agricultural land, which more than 1,200 Palestinian residents depend on in this area. Water allocations are very necessary for the increase of agricultural production, in order to support the economic growth of many Palestinian farmers. Earlier this month, Israeli forces had destroyed more than 400 meters of water pipelines, which is an important life source to many Palestinians residents of the Jordan Valley, who are mainly farmers or Bedouins.

Israeli bulldozers uproot 100 Palestinian olive trees in Salfit area
SALFIT (Ma‘an) 18 July — Israeli bulldozers uprooted more than 100 Palestinian-owned olive trees from the Deir Ballut village in the northern occupied West Bank district of Salfit on Tuesday. A resident of the village, Abdullah Idris told Ma‘an that Israeli bulldozers entered the eastern part of Deir Ballut and uprooted olive trees near his home. Idris added that Israeli bulldozers uprooted more than 100 olive trees out of 224 olive and almond trees; the trees were all between five and six years old. Idris pointed out that Israeli forces uprooted the trees in order to expand the illegal Israeli settlement of Lishim, that is built on the lands of Palestinian residents of Deir Ballut.

Israel to annex Ramallah-area land for settlement expansion
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 20 July — Israeli authorities approved a plan, on Thursday, to construct a new road for Israeli settlers, to execute a previous plan to annex 324 dunams (80 acres) of Palestinian-owned land west of the central occupied West Bank district of Ramallah. The planned road would link the illegal Israeli settlements of Beit Aryeh and Ofarim through the confiscation of additional Palestinian land. The two settlements already form as one huge settlement due to the continuous expansion through the occupied West Bank. The Land Research Center of the Arab Studies Association (LRC) said in a statement on Thursday that the Israeli authorities had announced earlier this month the start of the outline plan No. (6/201), which aims to control the area made up of a total space of 324 dunums (80 acres) of Palestinian-owned land in the villages of al-Lubban al-Gharbiya and Aboud in the central West Bank district of Ramallah. The center added that it was obvious from the detailed plan that Israel aims to connect the two illegal Israeli settlements by a new road, in an attempt to bring the distances between them and create a permanent connection …  According to LRC, this planned road will be used by Israeli settlers only; which is a violation of the International Humanitarian Law and of UN resolutions regarding occupying Palestinian land to expand Israeli settlements. LRC pointed out that the construction of this road will prevent Palestinians from rightfully expanding on their private lands and will limit their movement in the area….

Israel approves the construction of hundreds of units in Itamar illegal colony
IMEMC 19 July — Israel has approved, Thursday, the conduction of hundreds of homes in Itamar illegal colony, which was built on Palestinian lands, southeast of Nablus, in the northern part of the occupied West Bank. The new constructions are meant to expand the illegal colony, and were approved by Regional Council of Settlements, in northern West Bank, in coordination with the “Civil Administration Office,” the administrative and executive branch of the Israeli military occupation. The approval is currently for 62 units, and likely to include more in the future, and also includes paving a new colonialist road that surrounds Huwwara Palestinian town, leading to more annexation of Palestinian lands, so that the colonist settlers do not have to drive through it.

Thousands gather in Khan al-Ahmar to protest planned demolition (VIDEO)
IMEMC/Agencies 20 July — Thousands, on Wednesday, waved Palestinian flags and chanted slogans in protest against the Israeli plan to demolish Khan Al-Ahmar Bedouin village and replace it with illegal Israeli settlement units. Protesters included Palestinian citizens who came from cities all over the West Bank, in addition to Palestinian leaders and public figures who addressed the crowd. Head of the Wall and Settlements Resistance Authority, Walid Assaf spoke to the residents of Khan al-Ahmar, ensuring them that the protesters, who arrived in solidarity, will not stop supporting the village until the demolition plans have ended. “The issue of Khan al-Ahmar is not an issue of several hundred people,” Assaf said, according to the PNN. “Rather it is an issue of the entire Palestinian people.” Speaking at the rally, Fateh deputy chairman Mahmoud Aloul praised the steadfastness and perseverance of the residents of Khan al-Ahmar in spite of all the Israeli measures to force them out of their land. Khan al-Ahmar is a predominately Bedouin village made of members from the Jahalin tribe, according to B’Tselem. The Jahalin were displaced twice, once from the Negev desert of Israel proper and again from the area where the illegal Israeli settlement “Kfar Adumim” occupies, before finally arriving in Khan al-Ahmar. The area planned for demolition in Khan al-Ahmar is approximately 2 kilometers south of Kfar Adumim, where Israel’s supreme court has approved the construction of hundreds of units, according to International Middle East Media Center….

Catholic, Anglican leaders urge halt to destruction of Palestinian village
LEICESTER, United Kingdom (Crux) 17 July by Charles Collins — A Catholic-Anglican delegation met with British officials on Monday to try and stop the demolition of a Bedouin village in the West Bank. Israel claims the village of Khan al-Ahmar – located between two Israeli settlements – was built without the proper permits, which Palestinians have long complained are nearly impossible to get. “Earlier today we met with the Minister for the Middle East at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and shared our deep concern about the planned demolition of Khan al-Ahmar,” said the statement issued by Catholic Bishop Declan Lang, chair of the Holy Land Co-ordination, and Bishop Christopher Chessun, Anglican Bishop of Southwark. The Holy Land Co-ordination brings bishops from Europe, North America, and South Africa on an annual pilgrimage of the Holy Land in a show of solidarity with the region’s Christian community….

Palestinians given just 0.25% of allocated state land in occupied West Bank
MEMO 19 July — Palestinians have been given just 0.25 percent of Israeli-allocated state land in the occupied West Bank, new figures have revealed. As reported by Haaretz, data released by the Defense Ministry-run Civil Administration shows that since 1967, occupation authorities have allocated only 1,624, dunams (401 acres) of so-called state land in the West Bank for Palestinians. “A conservative estimate puts this at around 0.25 percent of the allocations in the West Bank”, Haaretz states, adding that “all other allocations have been for [Israeli] settlements”. The figures were made public after a request by Peace Now and the Movement for Freedom of Information after a two-year delay. “For more than 50 years the state has allocated land in the West Bank almost solely for the needs of settlements, and sweepingly fails to designate it for the use of the protected Palestinians,” said Shabtay Bendet of Peace Now’s settlement-monitoring team. Under international law, the Palestinians under Israeli military occupation are a protected population.  Since 1967, Israeli authorities declared huge swathes of the occupied Palestinian territory as ‘state land’, in order to facilitate colonisation….

Jordan Valley Council refuses to divulge West Bank outpost activities
Haaretz 18 July by Amira Hass — The Jordan Valley Regional Council, whose jurisdiction covers most of the West Bank section of the valley, has confirmed that it has been involved in funding or establishing illegal West Bank outposts, but has refused to reveal information on these activities. The council’s explanation – that such revelations would disrupt its proper functioning – came in response to a Freedom of Information request. The council did not say it lacks the relevant information. Oshra Yihye, who is the council staff member in charge of freedom of information, based the written refusal to divulge information on the fact that one of those filing the request had criticized the conduct of residents in unauthorized Jewish settler outposts in the Jordan Valley. Israel’s Freedom of Information Law, which applies to all public authorities in the West Bank by virtue of a military order, does not permit refusal of a request due to the identity of the person filing it or because of that person’s political views. The request was filed with the regional council in February by attorney Eitay Mack, who asked for information, documentation, resolutions and agreements made by the council to fund nine outposts and unauthorized projects in the vicinity. The latter include a racetrack near the settlement of Petza’el, which the press has reported on extensively, including mention of the council’s involvement….

Six-month report on Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem
EEAS 16 July — In the first half of 2018 (January-June) advancement of housing units continued at a higher level than in the previous reporting period (July-December 2017). More than 6,000 housing units in the occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem were advanced in different stages of the planning and implementation process. This development will, over several years, enable potentially more than 27,000[1] Israeli settlers to move to the Occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem. More than 2,100 housing units (of the 6,000 units) are new plans, i.e. they have not been introduced in the planning circuit in the years before 2018. An important development during the reporting period was the promotion of two plans that would establish two entirely new settlements (Zayit Ra‘anan and Brosh) by authorising illegal outposts and the establishment of a new settlement near Hebron, north of the settlement of Kiryat Arba (based on a plan approved in 1988). Another worrying development was the continued construction of and the approval of funds for large scale road infrastructure projects in the occupied West Bank that improves the connectivity of settlements to Israel. There are currently approximately 215,000 Israelis living in East Jerusalem while the settler population in Area C in the occupied West Bank, excluding East Jerusalem, is some 399,300. This brings the settler population to approximately 600,000 Israeli settlers in 143 locations in the West Bank (132) including East Jerusalem (11)[2]. According to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics 4.6% of the total Israeli population resides today in the Occupied West Bank excluding East Jerusalem.  Through recent settlement activity, Israel continues to reinforce existing settlements and the separation of East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank and is exacerbating the territorial fragmentation of the West Bank.

Opinion: How a West Bank highway’s road sign captures the Israeli psyche / Amira Hass
Haaretz 17 July — There’s nothing more political than a company paving roads beyond the state’s borders to enable Jewish Israelis to violate international law, completely oblivious of Palestinian residents — If you want a tour of the Israeli subconscious, follow Route 60 through the West Bank to the junction of the villages of Beitin, Dir Dibwan and Burqa, then turn left. You’re not familiar with that intersection? Here’s a hint: Netivei Israel, the National Transport Infrastructure Company, is upgrading the junction and has even posted signs there with the following wording: “Very dangerous site. Drive carefully.” … Underneath the circle, it says, “Givat Assaf Junction. Widening the intersection and making safety upgrades … In mid-March, I asked spokespeople at Netivei Israel why it chose that name for the intersection, given that Givat Assaf is, as I put it, “An unauthorized and illegal outpost built on privately owned land belonging to residents of the Palestinian village of Beitin. Moreover, this land was taken over by means of forged documents.” The outpost was built in 2001 by exploiting the severe restrictions the army had imposed on Palestinian movement at that time, which enabled settler gangs of robbers to take over more land … “Isn’t the choice of this name a form of encouragement for real estate crime?” I asked the company. Here is the answer I received: “Netivei Israel is the national transportation infrastructure company and doesn’t get involved in political issues at all, but only in the core issues it is responsible for – planning, building and maintaining a network of roads.” It doesn’t get involved in political issues? There’s nothing more political than a state-owned company that built a major road on lands belonging to the Palestinian villages of Beitin, Burqa and Dir Dibwan, without even giving them direct access to the road and the intersection. There’s nothing more political than a company paving roads beyond the state’s borders to enable Jewish Israelis to violate international law, which forbids transferring members of an occupying population into occupied territory….

Prisoners / Court actions

Israel issues 37 administrative detention orders against Palestinians
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 19 July — The Israeli authorities have placed 37 Palestinian prisoners under administrative detention since the beginning of June, according to the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS). PPS confirmed that the 37 Palestinian prisoners sentenced to administrative detention since June are serving a renewable sentence period of between four and six months. Fifteen of the prisoners have already spent months and years under administrative detention in Israeli prisons. According to Palestinian prisoners rights group Addameer, there were 83 administrative detention orders issued in May by the Israeli authorities. Of the 83 orders, 36 were new, while the rest were renewals. Addameer reported that as of June, there are 5,900 Palestinians currently being held in Israeli prisons, of which 291 are child prisoners, 49 of them are under the age of 16, and 60 are female prisoners.

Two Palestinians get life for murdering Israeli employer
JERUSALEM (AFP) 19 July — Israeli judges on Thursday sentenced two Palestinians to life in jail for murdering their Jewish employer, the court said, in an October attack authorities labelled as terror. Yousef Kamil and Mohammed Abu Elrob, both of Qabatiya in the occupied West Bank, were in May found guilty of killing Reuven Schmerling in a premeditated attack at their workplace in the Arab Israeli city of Kafr Qasem on October 4. A panel of three judges at the Lod district court sentenced the pair to life in prison, and ordered each to pay Schmerling’s widow 258,000 shekels ($70,719, 60,906 euros). The two, who worked in Schmerling’s warehouse, were convicted by the same court as part of a plea bargain. “We determine that the murder of the deceased was an act of terror committed by each of the accused,” the sentencing read. Schmerling, 70 and who lived in the nearby Israeli settlement of Elkana in the West Bank, was stabbed and beaten to death by the two in his coal warehouse. They had decided to “carry out an attack for nationalistic reasons and cause the death of Jews,” the charges against the two read. They were seeking revenge over the death of a friend in 2015, who was shot dead while attempting an attack, prosecutors said. They were also motivated by “the events on the Temple Mount”, the Jewish name for the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, the Shin Bet domestic security agency said.


Jordan intervenes to prevent Israeli minister’s visit to Al-Aqsa
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 20 July — The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan intervened to prevent the Israeli Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Uri Ariel from visiting the Al-Aqsa Mosque, on Friday. According to Hebrew-language news outlets, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to a request made by the Jordanian government to prevent Ariel from visiting the Islamic holy site in East Jerusalem. Sources added that Ariel had requested to visit Al-Aqsa Mosque on Sunday, but that his request was rejected by Netanyahu after Jordan’s intervention. Earlier this month, Ariel had already visited the compound along with another Israeli Knesset member. This visit was made following Netanyahu’s decision to allow members of the Israeli Knesset, mostly right-wing extremists who support the demolition of the Islamic site in order to build a Jewish temple instead, to visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque once every three months….

In video – Dozens of Israeli settlers storm Al-Aqsa Mosque
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 18 July — Dozens of Israeli settlers stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound under armed security by the Israeli police on Wednesday ahead of the Jewish holiday of Tisha B’Av. Tisha B’Av notably commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temple, which Jews believe were located where the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the third holiest site in Islam, now stands. Local witnesses told Ma‘an that dozens of Israeli settlers escorted with Israeli police stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque through the Moroccan Gate, which Israeli forces have taken under their control since the beginning of occupation. Eyewitnesses added that the raids were in the form of consecutive large groups of Israeli settlers entering the compound. Meanwhile, Israeli police forces were deployed across the entire compound and at the entrance gates of Al-Aqsa Mosque, confiscating ID cards from Palestinian youths and women, in order to allow them entry into the compound. Firas al-Dibs, a spokesman for the Islamic Endowment (Waqf) told Ma‘an that by 9:15 am on Wednesday, 237 right-wing Israeli settlers entered through the Moroccan Gate and toured the Al-Aqsa compound. He added that many of the Israeli settlers were performing religious Jewish prayers and rites during the incursion. While Jewish visitation is permitted to the compound, non-Muslim worship is prohibited according to an agreement signed between Israel and the Jordanian government after Israel’s illegal occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967.

Violence / Detentions — West Bank / Jerusalem

Israeli settlers assault peaceful hiking group in Ramallah
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 20 July — Israeli settlers of the illegal Israeli settlement of Hallamish, in the central occupied West Bank district of Ramallah, attacked participants of “Hike and Explore Your Homeland” group under armed security by Israeli soldiers, on Friday. The Hallamish illegal Israeli settlement is built over confiscated lands of Palestinian villages of Nabi Salih and Deir Nidham, in the central district of Ramallah. The Israeli settlers of Hallamish attacked a peaceful group of known as “Hike and Explore Your Homeland,” who were trying to reach the Ein al-Zarqa natural spring in the Palestinian town of Beitello in the Ramallah district. The group regularly hikes around various sites to give young Palestinians a chance to get more informed about Palestine and its landscape. Armed Israeli settlers along with Israeli forces attacked the group while on their weekly tour of Palestinian areas; they forcefully attempted to prevent the group from advancing in the tour and physically assaulted some of the participants, while shouting racist expressions and insults at the group. The attack comes as an attempt by Israeli settlers to prevent people, Palestinian landowners, and tourists from reaching the area near the settlement that they have been planning to confiscate for further expansion of the illegal Israeli settlement….

In video – Israeli settlers perform religious rituals in Hebron villages
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 20 July — A group of Israeli settlers stormed two Palestinian villages in the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron, on Friday. Locals said that Israeli settlers raided the Khirbet Umm Nir village, south of Yatta in southern Hebron district, and the village of Susiya, in the same district. Sources added that Israeli settlers performed Jewish religious rituals while in the area and called for the displacement of Palestinian people from their lands. Visits by Israeli Jews to areas under Palestinian control across the West Bank often cause tensions with locals, as these visits are accompanied by large armed escorts. The video below shows Palestinian villagers standing by while Israeli settlers perform Jewish rituals on their lands:

Israeli forces raid Bethlehem-area village
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 20 July — Israeli forces raided the village of Tuqu‘, in the southern occupied West Bank district of Bethlehem, and attempted to break down the doors of a secondary school on Friday. Locals said that Israeli forces raided the village and attempted to break down the doors of an all-boys local secondary school. Sources added that clashes broke out, following the raid, between Israeli forces and residents of the village. Israeli forces fired live ammunition during clashes. No injuries were reported.

Israeli forces detain 9 Palestinians, 37 others placed under administrative detention
RAMALLAH, July 19, 2018 (WAFA) – Israeli forces Thursday detained nine Palestinians during predawn raids across the West Bank, said the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS), and 37 others were placed under administrative detention during June. Israeli forces detained seven Palestinians after breaking into and ransacking their family homes across Ramallah and al-Bireh district. Meanwhile, forces conducted a raid into al-Ubayyat area, on the eastern outskirts of Bethlehem, detaining a Palestinian.  Another Palestinian was detained during a similar raid into Aqbat Jaber refugee camp, southwest of Jericho city.

Document details execution of Palestinians at Israeli West Bank checkpoints
GENEVA (WAFA) 19 July — A document delivered to the United Nations Human Rights Council by the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor (Euro-Med) and the Global Institute for Water, Environment and Health (GIWEH) details execution of Palestinians at Israeli military checkpoints in the occupied West Bank, a Euro-Med press release said on Thursday. The document discussed the Israeli checkpoints in the occupied West Bank under item 7 of the Human Rights Council’s agenda on the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories. It detailed the Israeli soldiers’ shooting of Palestinians at checkpoints in the West Bank, highlighting the crippling impact of checkpoints on the daily lives of Palestinians, violating basic human rights, including the rights to freedom of movement, to health care, to freedom of religion, to work and to freedom from collective and indiscriminate punishment, according to the press release. Field executions by Israeli soldiers during the past years have been rampant at checkpoints in all areas of the West Bank, especially since 2015, following the spread of knife attacks by Palestinians targeting soldiers at checkpoints. Even though in most cases they posed no serious threat to the Israeli army, they were done in an arbitrary and excessive manner, said Euro-Med….

Ministers lambast ‘barbarian’ settlers who hurled stones at security forces
Times of Israel 19 July by Jacob Magid — Two right-wing ministers denounced a group of settlers that violently clashed with Israeli security forces in the northern West Bank Thursday, injuring a Border Police officer and Defense Ministry employee in the process. Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said the “disturbed barbarians” who attacked the officers would be dealt with. “Today, a group of disturbed barbarians attacked Border Police officers and the Civil Administration workers in Yitzhar,” tweeted Liberman. “We are dealing with and will continue to deal with this dangerous minority that has grown from among us and harms police officers as well as IDF soldiers.”Earlier in the day, dozens of settlers — many of them masked — converged on security troops at the Kumi Uri outpost and began hurling stones at them. The troops had been in the outpost adjacent to the settlement of Yitzhar in order to carry out a routine inspection along with employees of the Civil Administration, the Defense Ministry body that authorizes construction in the West Bank. The rocks, thrown by settlers coming from the direction of Yitzhar, hit a Border Police officer in the head and a Civil Administration inspector in the back. Both were evacuated to nearby hospitals for further treatment. Border Police gave chase to a number of the rioters and managed to arrest three of them — two for assaulting officers and one for stone throwing. The suspects were two men from Yitzhar — one in his 20s and one in his 30s– and a 19-year-old from the central West Bank settlement of Neria….

Palestinian refugees – Syria

Sisters recount years of horror in Syria’s Palestinian camp
DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) 20 July by Bassem Mroue — When the first Syrian soldier reached Lod street in the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk in Syria’s capital, four sisters who survived the seven-year conflict hiding in their ground floor apartment emerged hesitantly and asked: “Are you a soldier or a militant?” The young man came closer and took out his military ID to prove he was a Syrian soldier. The women began wailing emotionally, hardly believing that three years of rule by the Islamic State group had come to an end. “The nightmare is over. They are gone,” said 62-year-old Izdihar Abdul-Mahmoud. The Yarmouk refugee camp in southern Damascus, once home to the largest concentration of Palestinians outside the territories housing nearly 160,000 people, has been gutted by years of war. Its few remaining residents have been traumatized by relentless fighting, bombardment, siege and starvation. To rise again, officials estimated that 80 percent of its homes will need to be razed. On a recent afternoon, the Abdul-Mahmoud sisters gathered with neighbors, friends and soldiers outside their apartment, recalling the horrors they lived through the past years as they sipped dark Arabic coffee. Under IS, they were not allowed to even sit in the alley where their apartment is located. “At the start of the siege I used to weigh 87 kilograms (191 pounds) and later 49 kilograms (107 pounds) in late 2013 and early 2014,” said Izdihar, the eldest of six sisters and four brothers…
A government siege of Yarmouk between 2013 and 2014 left up to 200 people dead of hunger-related illnesses and a lack of medical aid. A picture taken during a U.N. food distribution mission in January 2014 showed thousands of desperate and gaunt-looking residents thronging a neighborhood street amid destroyed buildings on both sides as they waited for food handouts. It became an iconic image reflecting the camp’s inhumane conditions and the suffering caused by the civil war. One of the Abdul-Mahmoud sisters, Hana, 52, said people were on the verge of starvation in 2014 when the U.N. agency that deals with Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, brought in supplies — a box of food staples for each family. “This box lasted a month. When we carried it home we felt as if we were at a wedding carrying a bride,” Hanan said. The youngest, Amal, 45, said when they ate bread for the first time after a long time they had difficulty swallowing it, as they had become used to mostly eating soup….

‘They killed my love’: Remembering photographer Niraz Saied
Al Jazeera 18 July by Farah Najjar & Linah Alsaafin — An award-winning Palestinian photographer from the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria has been confirmed dead years after his arrest by Syrian government forces, according to family members and close friends. Niraz Saied, who was known for documenting life inside the camp in southern Damascus, was arrested by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad in October 2015, shortly after being promised a secure exit from the country by the government. After years of holding on to hope they would see their beloved relative again, family members in Syria’s capital received confirmation that Saied died about 18 months ago, Ahmed Abbassi, a childhood friend and fellow photojournalist, told Al Jazeera on Monday. He was 26. Saied’s wife, who lives in Germany, wrote on Facebook her husband had been “killed in the regime’s prison”. “There are no harder words to write than these,” Lamis al-Khateeb said on Monday …
Saied was born as a third-generation Palestinian refugee in Yarmouk, the largest refugee camp in Syria. His grandparents were driven out of their village Awlam in 1948 during the Nakba, or “catastrophe”, referring to the ethnic cleansing of Palestine by Zionist paramilitaries and the near-total destruction of Palestinian society. Together with Abbassi and a team of youth activists, Saied witnessed and captured in photos the changing stages of the camp … In 2014, the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, awarded him with the youth prize for best photograph for his image titled, Three Kings. The photograph depicted three boys with shaved heads who, according to Saied, were denied permits to leave the country in order to get medical care in Europe…
According to Action Group, at least 527 Palestinian Syrians have died as a result of torture in government jails. At least 1,680 Palestinians are still in detention, and hundreds more are missing, Hosain told Al Jazeera.

Other news

Hamas back new Egyptian plan for Palestinian unity
AFP 19 July — The head of Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas announced his backing Thursday for a new Egyptian-led push for reconciliation with the rival Palestinian faction Fatah. The office of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said he had spoken with Egypt’s intelligence head Abbas Kamel to inform him of his movement’s backing for a fresh Egyptian-brokered push. A statement from the movement said the two men discussed the “latest developments in the Palestinian issue and especially the reconciliation file and humanitarian projects for the people of the Gaza Strip.” The Egyptians presented the plan last week to a delegation to Cairo led by Haniyeh’s deputy Saleh al-Arouri. Then, the Hamas leadership held a meeting in the Gaza Strip Wednesday to discuss the plan. According to unofficial sources, the Egyptian road map for reconciliation consists of four stages, the implementation of which will be done over four months. According to the plan, the Palestinian Authority will remove all the sanctions it imposed on the Gaza Strip, and the judicial and land systems on both sides will meet for discussion. So far secularists Fatah have not officially responded to this fresh push for reconciliation.,7340,L-5313294,00.html

Israeli east Jerusalem plan gets cool Palestinian reception
JERUSALEM (AP) 19 July by Tia Goldenberg — A landmark half-billion-dollar Israeli plan to develop Palestinian areas of east Jerusalem and hoist residents out of poverty is getting a cool reception from the very people who are supposed to benefit. Israel says it hopes the program will improve living conditions in impoverished Palestinian neighborhoods and grant residents access to Israel’s robust economy. But the city’s long-neglected Palestinian community views the project with deep skepticism and mistrust, fearing it is a way of cementing Israel’s control over the eastern sector after more than 50 years of occupation. “All these projects have nothing to do with improving our lives,” said Ziad Hammoury, who heads the Jerusalem Center for Social and Economic Rights, an advocacy group. “It’s about controlling more and more in east Jerusalem.” The “Leading Change” program, launched in May, aims to reduce the huge social gaps between the Palestinian neighborhoods and the overwhelmingly Jewish western part of the city. After years of neglect, Palestinian neighborhoods suffer from poor infrastructure, neglect and subpar public services, and nearly 80 percent of the city’s Palestinian families live in poverty. The program will invest 2 billion shekels, or $560 million, in education, infrastructure and helping Palestinian women enter the work force. The money will be spent on a variety of programs, including nine pilot projects, over five years with the aim of attracting further government and private investment down the road. The program was instituted by Israel’s nationalist government. It opposes any division of the city but appears to have concluded that strengthening Jerusalem’s Palestinian areas is also in Israel’s interest….

$42 million initiative launched to help small-scale Palestinian farmers
RAMALLAH (Al-Monitor) 19 July by Ahmad Melhem — The Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture in the West Bank launched July 2 the Resilient Land and Resources Management Project, which is one of its largest. The $41.5 million project is funded by the Palestinian government, in coordination with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the OPEC Fund for International Development. The project is among the most important for developing agriculture in the Palestinian territories, and it will take six years of work. It aims to raise the levels of agricultural economic growth in the territories, specifically in urban areas, by increasing the area of planted lands and agricultural production, consequently boosting the financial profit…
Sultan said the project will be implemented in all governorates of the West Bank and will focus on six out of 11 of these governorates, namely: Jenin, Tubas, Tulkarm, Bethlehem, Hebron and Nablus. It will aim at “integrating weaker groups like small-scale farmers, the poor, cattlemen and unemployed men and women as well as families that have limited opportunities to reach agricultural lands. Around 30,000 families are expected to benefit from the activities of the project.” According to the project plan, 18,000 dunams of agricultural land will be developed and reclaimed using activities and techniques that take climate changes into account. To help serve and reclaim this land, 100 kilometers (62 miles) of agricultural roads will be built or improved. A unit to manage the project was formed, and the project will be launched simultaneously in the governorates….

Video: Meet the people building a skate park for kids in the West Bank
JAYYOUS, West Bank (VICE) 19 July by Sarah Bellman — Growing up on the border of Israel in Palestine is undoubtably difficult, but activists and volunteers are trying to make life a little easier for the youngest generation of Palestinians by teaching them how to skateboard. Non-profit groups SkatePal and SkateQilya are currently building a skatepark in Jayyous, a town near the border of the West Bank, to help create a positive environment for kids to form their own emerging skateboarding scene….

Disease-spreading flies torment West Bank, northern Israel
Times of Israel 19 July — A disease-spreading sandfly has been plaguing the central and northern West Bank as well as the Lower Galilee in recent months, prompting calls for increased government spending to address the threat. Sandflies found in Israel and the surrounding areas often carry a parasite called Leishmania, which they contract from the rock hyrax, a small desert mammal native to the Middle East and Africa. People bitten by an infected sandfly develop leishmaniasis, an illness characterized by skin ulcers and open sores at the bite site that can take up to 18 months to fully heal. Children are particularity vulnerable to leishmaniasis, as sandflies generally tend to fly close to the ground….

Israel adopts divisive Jewish nation-state law
JERUSALEM (Reuters) 19 July by Maayan Lubell — Israel passed a “nation-state” law on Thursday declaring that only Jews have the right of self-determination in the country, stirring anger from members of the Arab minority who said it was racist and drawing an expression of concern from the EU. The bill, backed by the right-wing government, passed through parliament after months of political argument and some Arab lawmakers shouted and ripped up their papers after the vote … Largely symbolic, the law was enacted just after the 70th anniversary of the birth of the state of Israel. It stipulates “Israel is the historical homeland of the Jewish people and they have an exclusive right to national self-determination in it”. Palestinian leaders condemned the move. “No racist law will undermine the rights of our people. We are proud of being a strong nation deeply rooted in our homeland,” Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said in a statement. In Brussels, a spokeswoman for EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini expressed concern at the move and said it would complicate a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. The bill also removes Arabic as an official language alongside Hebrew, downgrading it to a “special status” that enables its continued use in Israeli institutions. Israel’s Arab citizens number some 1.8 million, about 20 percent of the 9 million population. “I announce with shock and sorrow the death of democracy,” Ahmed Tibi, an Arab lawmaker, told reporters after the law was adopted.
Early drafts had gone further in what critics at home and abroad saw as discrimination toward Arabs, who have long said they are treated in Israel as second-class citizens. Clauses that were dropped after political wrangling would have enshrined in law establishment of Jewish-only communities …  Even after the changes, critics said the new law will deepen a sense of alienation within the Arab minority….

Breaking the Silence lectures students in Knesset despite law
Ynet 18 July by Inbar Tvizer — Protesting against the so-called Breaking the Silence Law, which passed this week with a majority of 43 to 23, ten students from all over the country came to the Knesset Tuesday and participated in a Breaking the Silence lecture. The organization, which is now banned from schools under the new law, held the lecture in the Meretz Party’s room … Itai Glazer, a high school student from Ramat Gan (a city bordering Tel Aviv), asserted that Bennett undervalues Israeli students. “I heard about this law when it passed its first reading— and even then it bothered me… I feel that this law disparages students and doesn’t give the youth a chance to decide for themselves,” he said … Rena Miriam Simanovski, a 10th grader from Ramla High School, opined it was “appalling that the government and the Education Ministry are trying to silence the voices of all those that oppose them. Everyone deserves to hear all sides. If you give a lecture on Jewish values in schools, why not let students attend a lecture by Breaking the Silence?”….,7340,L-5312226,00.html

Palestinians protest US visa denial to experts to come to UN
UNITED NATIONS (AP) 18 July by Edith M. Lederer — The Palestinians are protesting the U.S. refusal to grant visas to six experts from the prime minister’s office to come to the United Nations to present a report on Palestinian implementation of U.N. goals for 2030. The Palestinian U.N. ambassador, Riyad Mansour, told two reporters Wednesday that Israel “complicated the matter” by refusing to allow several of the experts to travel from Ramallah to Jerusalem where the U.S. Consulate is located to check on their visas. “We condemn this action,” Mansour said. He said it violates the U.N. agreement with the United States as host country of the world organization, which requires the U.S. to facilitate U.N. work and allow delegates to attend U.N. meetings. Mansour said he plans to send a letter of protest to the General Assembly committee dealing with host country relations. The U.S. Mission said it was looking into the complaint. Israel’s U.N. Mission did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. Since the experts couldn’t attend the high-level meeting taking place this week at U.N. headquarters, Mansour said he and his team “were able to improvise” and presented the Palestinian report on Tuesday. He said it “received a long applause from the participants.” (listserv)

About Kate

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

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