Media Analysis

Another Trump gift to Israel: ending taboo on official visits to Western Wall

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Jerusalem / Al-Aqsa

Thanks to Trump, diplomatic taboo around Western Wall comes tumbling down
Times of Israel 21 Mar by Raphael Ahren — Foreign VIPs used to insist no Israeli officials escort them to site, lest they be seen as tacitly recognizing Israeli sovereignty there. Now, the US is not alone in flouting rule — On May 22, 2017, Donald Trump became the first sitting US president to visit the Western Wall. “Words fail to capture the experience,” he said a few hours later. “It will leave an impression on me forever.” The historic visit took place several months before Trump formally recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and, following what was standard diplomatic protocol at the time — and, to some degree, still is — the stopover at the Wall was billed as “private.” … In recent months, more foreign dignitaries than ever before have visited the Jewish holy site, and many of them no longer mind being chaperoned there by Israeli diplomats. “A lot of the inhibitions that might have existed in the past have been dropped. It’s pretty clear to many in the international community that the area of the Wall, if not the whole city, will remain in Israel’s hands in any future peace arrangement,” said Dore Gold, a former Foreign Ministry director-general….

US student assaulted by Israeli soldiers at Al-Aqsa (VIDEO)
IMEMC/Agencies 22 Mar — Three American women were violently assaulted by Israeli occupation forces as they attempted to help a disabled woman at Al-Aqsa Mosque on Tuesday, despite showing soldiers their passports. Virginia nursing student Nour Hawash, who is in Jerusalem on vacation, was taking photos with her mother and sister after midday prayers when Israeli occupation soldiers stormed the compound and started to evacuate the Dome of the Rock. “Suddenly we heard these shots being fired and people just started running all over the place. We saw the IDF [Israeli soldiers], guns pointed, running, trying to chase people. So we just ran with everyone else to the side,” Nour said. The number of Israeli troops in the courtyard quickly grew, from a dozen to between 50 to 100 soldiers; Nour also saw several Palestinian men being arrested. “They were not letting anyone near the Dome of the Rock, they had surrounded it from all its doors,” the 21 year-old student says. “And there was an old lady being wheeled out as she was leaving the prayer area and she fell out of her wheelchair and she was unable to get back in. And I saw that a couple of women were trying to help her, but they were being shoved so I tried to go in as well.” However, as Nour moved towards the elderly woman, she found herself shoved to the floor by an Israeli soldier, who cuffed one of her wrists and proceeded to sit on her to stop her from moving …  Other soldiers then dragged Nour’s mother, Germeen Abdelkarim, away from her daughter and pushed her against the wall, handcuffing her, as younger sister Safa watched on frantically….

France reprimands Israeli envoy after shutdown of East Jerusalem event
Times of Israel 22 Mar — France’s foreign ministry on Friday summoned Israel’s chargé d’affaires in Paris for a reprimand a day after Israeli authorities shut down a planned cultural event at a site belonging to the French Institute in East Jerusalem. Israeli officials had alleged the event was to involve an association supported by the Palestinian Authority. Israel has banned the PA from carrying out official business in East Jerusalem, which it considers territory under its jurisdiction. The French ministry said that “such acts represent a serious and unacceptable attack on the functioning of our cultural network in Jerusalem.” It vowed to “maintain and develop the close and long-standing relations it has with Palestinian civil society.”…
The incident occurred Thursday at the Institut Français Chateaubriand center in East Jerusalem, when in a rare move Israeli police entered the center and ordered the event canceled. One of the women who was to participate told AFP “it was an event related to Mother’s Day” to sell crafts made by women from Jerusalem. She said similar events occur on a near-monthly basis. The French consulate said it could not confirm if the association was indeed financed by the PA, but Palestinians who were to participate in the event said the allegation was false….

Israel gives Islamic Authority deadline in holy site closure
JERUSALEM (AP) 17 Mar — An Israeli court has set a 60-day deadline for the Jordanian-appointed council that oversees Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem to respond to its closure of a disputed structure at the city’s most sensitive scared site. Jordan’s Foreign Ministry called on Israel to rescind its “dangerous” court-ordered closure Sunday, saying that the Al-Aqsa mosque compound “is not subject to Israeli jurisdiction” and falls under the “exclusive authority of the Waqf,” or Islamic council. The Waqf says it will continue operating in the structure while Jordan and Israel attempt to reach a settlement in the coming weeks. Israel shuttered the structure in 2003, claiming it was used by a group connected with Islamic militants. The Waqf re-opened the area recently, leading to tense standoffs between Palestinian worshippers and Israeli police.

Jordanian king says pressured to alter custodianship of Jerusalem holy sites
ZARQA, Jordan (AP/Times of Israel) 21 Mar — Jordan’s King Abdullah II has vowed to keep protecting Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem, calling it a “red line” for his country. Abdullah said Wednesday, during a visit to the Zarqa Governorate outside Amman, that he’s under pressure to alter his country’s historic role as custodian of the Jerusalem holy sites, but that he won’t change his position. “I will never change my position toward Jerusalem in my life,” Abdullah said. “All my people are with me.”  The Waqf, a Jordanian-appointed council oversees Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem. It claims exclusive authority over the Temple Mount compound and says it is not subject to Israeli jurisdiction. Tensions often escalate at the site. Middle East pundits have in the past suggested that Saudi Arabia is interested in taking over responsibility for the Temple Mount and the mosques within its compound. Saudi Arabia is already the custodian of the two holiest sites in Mecca and Medina, both within its territory. In January 2018, the-then opposition leader Isaac Herzog said Saudi Arabia could play a key role in Jerusalem, taking responsibility for administering Muslim holy sites in any peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

Israeli court freezes evacuation order against Jerusalem family
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 18 Mar — The Israeli Magistrate Court of Jerusalem ordered the freeze of an evacuation order against a Palestinian family from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem, on Monday. Muhammad Sabbagh told Ma‘an that the Israeli court decided to freeze the evacuation order against his family, until the appeal presented by the family and the ownership of the land, on which the building is located, are observed by the court. The family was ordered to pay 35,000 Israeli shekels to the court for the freeze. In 2012, the Sabbagh family had filed a lawsuit at the Israeli District Court in Jerusalem against Israeli settlers’ claim that they own the land in question in Sheikh Jarrah. The Sabbagh family had provided the court with evidence proving ownership of the land and that Israeli setters’ land registration process done in 1972 was illegal and not proper, therefore, their claim of ownership was null and void, the court nevertheless ruled in favor of the settlers on claim that the statute of action in the case had expired….

West Bank

The story of Ahmad Manasra: Killed while trying to save a family from Israeli soldiers
IMEMC 22 Mar — On Wednesday, March 20th, a Palestinian youth named Ahmad Jamal Manasra, age 26, was shot dead by Israeli soldiers at Al-Nashash military checkpoint, to the south of Bethlehem, while trying to save a Palestinian family from the advances of Israeli soldiers. According to local sources, Alaa Ghayada, with his wife and two daughters, was driving back from a family visit, from Nahhalin to Irtas town, in Bethlehem, passing through Al-Nashash checkpoint. While at the traffic lights, their car was hit from the back by another car. As soon as Ghayada went down to check what happened, an Israeli soldier opened fire at him from her military watchtower. He sustained critical injuries from an exploding dumdum bullet. At the time, Ahmad Manasra was driving on the street and stopped to help the injured. He took Ghayada to the closest hospital, and promised him that he would go back for his family, as well. As soon as he went back to save the wife and two daughters, soldiers opened fire at him. He was shot with eight bullets, six of them in his upper body.
Today, Alaa Ghayada remains in critical conditions, while his wife was also injured in the shooting and Manasra was killed immediately. Following the killing, hundreds of people went to the streets chanting for him, while Bethlehem city went on a general strike for his soul, preparing for his funeral today. Manasra is the fourth Palestinian to be killed by Israeli forces within three days.

2 Palestinians killed as Israeli settlers raid Joseph’s Tomb
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 20 Mar — Two Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces’ live fire in the al-Ghawi area, east of the northern occupied West Bank city of Nablus, on predawn Wednesday. The Palestinian Ministry of Health confirmed that two Palestinians, identified as Raed Hashem Muhammad Hamdan, 21, and Zaid Imad Muhammad Nuri, 20, were shot and killed by Israeli forces. Israeli forces opened fire towards a vehicle in which Hamdan and Nuri were riding in the al-Ghawi area in Nablus City’s Amman Street, killing them right away. Spokesperson of the Palestinian Red Crescent, Ahmad Jibril, told Ma‘an that Israeli forces opened fire at the vehicle in Amman Street, prevented Red Crescent teams from approaching Hamdan and Nuri’s bodies, and opened fire at their ambulance before Israeli soldiers transferred the bodies to inside the Huwwara military camp. Jibril added that 12 Palestinian were injured with rubber-coated steel bullets and shrapnel, during clashes that erupted in Nablus after some 1,000 Israeli settlers raided Joseph’s Tomb under armed security by Israeli soldiers. The Israeli army claimed that an explosive device was thrown at an Israeli patrol, securing settlers’ visit to Joseph’s Tomb, from inside a vehicle to which Israeli soldiers responded by opening live fire, killing Hamdan and Nuri. Jibril added that 15 more Palestinians suffered from tear-gas suffocation. [AFP: There were no reports of injuries on the Israeli side.]

Palestinian killed by Israeli forces in West Bank
IMEMC/Agencies 20 Mar — Israeli soldiers killed, on Tuesday at night, a young Palestinian man who is suspected of killing two Israelis last Sunday; the Palestinian was killed after the soldiers surrounded a home and exchanged fire with him in ‘Abwein village, near the central West Bank city of Ramallah. The Israeli army said that “it received information about the location of the Palestinian”, identified as Omar Abu Laila, 19, before the soldiers surrounded the property and exchanged fire with him, reportedly after he refused to surrender. Israeli daily Haaretz has reported that Abu Laila is suspected of killing Rabbi Ahiad Ettinger and Staff Sgt. Gal Keidan, after he reportedly stabbed them on March 17, 2019. After the incident, the Israeli army invaded his home, and many homes of his relatives, conducted very violent searches, and took measurements of his home to demolish it at a later stage, in an act of collective punishment against his family.
The killing of Abu Laila led to massive protests, and the soldiers fired dozens of live rounds, rubber-coated steel bullets, gas bombs and concussion grenades.  The Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) said its medics provided treatment to at least nine Palestinians, including two who were shot with live fire, in addition to many others who suffered the effects of teargas inhalation.
It is worth mentioning that Abu Laila left a handwritten message to his family asking them to forgive him, and not be sad about his death. He also wrote names of a few Palestinians who loaned him some money, mounting in total to only about 50 Israeli shekels, and asked his family to repay his debt. It is worth mentioning that the Palestinian was not known to be involved in politics, or a member of any armed resistance group.

IDF: Palestinians killed in West Bank may have thrown rocks in internal dispute
Times of Israel 21 Mar — Army says probe shows Ahmed Manasra was hurling stones at cars, but acknowledges possible error; Palestinians say 26-year-old was shot while helping others injured by Israeli fire — The Israel Defense Forces on Thursday said a Palestinian man shot dead outside Bethlehem overnight was apparently throwing rocks at passing vehicles, but acknowledged the incident could have been misinterpreted by troops stationed outside the West Bank city. In a statement, the IDF said it was conducting its own investigation into the death of 26-year-old Ahmed Manasra, and concluded in its initial assessment that he was hurling stones at passing vehicles. The army said that soldiers guarding a nearby checkpoint opened fire when attempting to arrest him … But the Bethlehem governor said Manasra was unarmed, and that Israeli soldiers fatally shot him while he was trying to aid another man injured by the gunfire … Wabeb Manasra, a cousin of the slain Palestinian, confirmed the governor’s account. He said they were trying to help the wounded man and that his cousin was going to drive his wife and children away when he was gunned down. “There were no clashes, no stone throwing, nothing at all,” he said. “I don’t know why they shot him.”

Opinion – An Israeli soldier killed in West Bank attack died in vain / Gideon Levy
[behind paywall] Haaretz 21 Mar — Israel lies that Staff Sgt. Gal Keidan who fell in the settlement of Ariel was defending his country. He died guarding injustice — A soldier was killed on duty. The bespectacled boy, the musical career, the mandocello, the parents who immigrated from the Soviet Union, the friend from the music conservatory who played in his memory. A soldier was killed on duty. He was guarding settlers at a junction. A Palestinian his age stabbed him to death and grabbed his weapon. He was a soldier in the “Fire Brigade,” artillerymen who have been turned into junction security guards in the settlements. A soldier fell while defending occupied territory that no country in the world recognizes as ours. A soldier fell defending settlers who are convinced they are lords of the land … Staff Sgt. Gal Keidan, who was killed this week at the Ariel junction, fell guarding injustice. That’s why his death was in vain….

Opinion – It’s good to die for the West Bank / Zvi Bar’el
[behind paywall] Haaretz 20 Mar — The most recent victims in the war being waged in the West Bank between the Palestinians and the Jews are Rabbi Ahiad Ettinger, a father of 12 from the settlement of Eli, and Staff Sgt. Gal Keidan, 19 – a symbolic combination of victims that in the Israeli reality seems entirely natural. One was a settler and the other was forced to protect him. Soldiers serving in a war zone are a “routine matter.” They are wounded and killed, and they kill. The presence of Jewish civilians, including tens of thousands of children, in such a highly charged setting is not only incomprehensible. It’s unforgivable. Israeli civilians were not allowed to enter the killing fields in Lebanon during wartime. They were removed from Gaza after a long period of terror attacks, and for about the past 12 years, they have been barred from entering the Strip. The bluff that they and the government have been selling the public is that there is no war in the West Bank, that everything is calm there, that we can continue to build there, start families and redeem the Land of Israel without paying any price in blood….

Young boy beaten, detained and extorted in Al Khalil by IDF
SALAYMEH CHECKPOINT, occupied Palestine (ISM, Al-Khalil Team) 19 Mar — This teenager got arrested today after him and his little brother got attacked by the Israeli police and an illegal settler in the streets of Hebron. His testimony is as follows: ‘”This morning, my sister came to me and told me that the army kidnapped my younger brother. When I went there to see what’s going on, i found them beating him up, I tried to protect him but the army pushed me away to a corner, while I was in that corner, a Settler tried to run me over with his car, I escaped, then he came out of his car and beat me up, then the army came and beat me up and held me from here (chin). He took my ID and my phone and detained me here. Don’t know what to do, every few days I got arrested, I have a suspended sentence for 10 months against me and if he calls the court now, I will probably have to pay 10.000 shekels, where will I get them this money then?! I work the whole day for 50 shekels. Not long ago, i was arrested for two months because I was beaten up by a settler and there a video of that incident where they were attacking me”.

Soldiers raid school, abduct child in Hebron
IMEMC/Agencies 22 Mar — Israel forces stormed Ziad Jabber school, in Hebron, abducted a 10 year-old Palestinian child from inside his class, and physically assaulted the vice principal, guidance counselor and school janitor. A widespread footage showed soldiers breaking into the school and taking the child from his class, to a military post by force. Later, he was released. Ziad Jabber school, located in Jabber neighborhood adjacent to the Ibrahimi Mosque, in Hebron, in the south of the occupied West Bank, is under full control of Israel occupation authorities, according to Al Ray.

Illegal Israeli colonist rams Palestinian with car and flees the scene
IMEMC 21 Mar — An illegal Israeli colonialist settler rammed, Thursday, a Palestinian man with his car, and fled the scene, before Palestinian medics rushed the wounded man to a hospital, in Hebron city, in the southern part of the occupied West Bank. Aref Jaber, a nonviolent activist with the Human Rights Coalition in Hebron, said the colonist rammed a Palestinian, identified as Jom‘a Qfeisha, before fleeing the scene .Jaber added that the wounded man works for the Hebron Reconstruction Committee, and suffered a fracture in his arm, in addition to various cuts and bruises. Medical sources said  Qfeisha was rushed by local medics to a hospital in Hebron city, and described his wounded as moderate. Israeli soldiers, who are constantly deployed in Hebron, examined the man, but did not call for an ambulance, before the Palestinian medics managed to reach him.

Illegal Israeli colonists attack Palestinian homes in Hebron
IMEMC 23 Mar — A group of illegal extremist Israeli colonists attacked, on Friday evening, Palestinian homes near Kiryat Arba colony, built on Palestinian lands east of Hebron city, in the southern part of the occupied West Bank. Media sources in Hebron said the colonists hurled stones at many homes, causing damage to the attacked properties and the windshield of one car. They added that many children in the attacked homes suffered anxiety attacks.

Israeli forces detain Palestinian girl for alleged knife possession
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 18 Mar — Israeli forces detained a 17-year-old Palestinian girl near the Ibrahimi Mosque, in Hebron’s Old City, in the southern occupied West Bank, on Sunday evening. Local sources said that the Palestinian minor was identified as Walaa Ikram Ghaith, and was detained for allegedly having a knife in her possession. Hebrew-language news outlets reported that Walaa allegedly attempted to carry out a stabbing attack against Israeli soldiers situated at a military checkpoint in Hebron’s Old City. However, no injuries were reported.  Sources added that Walaa was taken in for interrogation by Israeli forces. Israeli forces have detained scores of Palestinians, many of them minors, for allegedly being in possession of knives following a spate of alleged and actual small-scale knife attacks by Palestinians that surged in the fall of 2015….

Thousands join 7th annual Free Movement Palestine Marathon
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 22 Mar — Over eight thousand Palestinians and international visitors from around the globe set off, on Friday morning, to participate in the seventh annual Free Movement Palestine Marathon, in the southern occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem. Marathon runners set off from the Nativity Church in Bethlehem’s Manger Square, and made their way past Israel’s illegal separation wall, which cuts around much of the city, before passing through the ‘Aida refugee camp, and the al-Khader village. Since the Palestinian Authority (PA) does not control a contiguous 42 kilometers in the Bethlehem district — the distance of a full Olympic marathon — the run was instead forced to loop around an 11-kilometer stretch….

Hamas holds PA responsible for attack on house of MP Salhab
AL-KHALIL (PIC) 17 Mar — Gunmen at dawn Sunday opened fire at the house and car of Palestinian lawmaker Azzam Salhab in al-Khalil city, causing material damage to them. Local sources said that MP Salhab was in his house when the shooting attack happened. The Hamas Movement strongly denounced the attack and held the Palestinian Authority leadership and its security forces fully responsible for it. In a statement, Hamas said that such crime took place after de facto PA chief Mahmoud Abbas took an unconstitutional step recently and decided to dissolve the Palestinian Legislative Council. It also pointed to the ongoing incitement and persecution campaigns its officials, lawmakers and members are exposed to by the PA and its security forces in the West Bank. It was not the first time Hamas leaders and MPs in the West Bank were targeted by gunmen believed to be from the PA security forces.

13 Palestinians abducted by Israeli forces in West Bank
IMEMC/Agencies 20 Mar — Israeli forces, today, abducted at least 13 Palestinians from various parts of the West Bank, according to the Palestine Prisoner’s Society (PPS). Israeli forces detained five Palestinians from the central West Bank district of Ramallah and al-Bireh. Meanwhile, PPS confirmed that three Palestinians were rounded up during predawn raids across the southern West Bank district of Bethlehem. Palestinian security sources said that among the three detainees was a young man from Tuqu‘ town, southeast of Bethlehem city. In Hebron, two Palestinians were rounded up from the southern West Bank district. Elaborating on the Hebron-district raids, security sources said that Israeli forces detained Fateh’s secretary in the southern West Bank, Awni al-Rajabi, who was taken from his house in Hebron city, and another man, after stopping him at a military checkpoint in the vicinity of the Ibrahimi Mosque. In the northern West Bank, PPS said that two Palestinians were detained from the Nablus district. In the Jerusalem district, Israeli troops manning Zaayim military checkpoint, east of Jerusalem, stopped and detained a former prisoner. The detainee was identified as the Director of Jerusalem’s Prisoners’ Affairs Commission office Thaer Anis.

West Bank university bans both Fatah and Islamic Bloc
MEMO 19 Mar — Fatah Youth banned the activities of the Islamic Bloc, Hamas’ student arm, in Al-Najah University in the occupied West Bank, leading the university’s administration to ban both groups, Safa reported yesterday. The Deputy Head of the University Maher Al-Al-Najah told the media that he had decided to freeze the activities of both blocs, fearing the ongoing developments in Gaza would cause a rift between students. In response, the Islamic Bloc said the move deprives students from practicing their rights, adding that the ban was “arrogance” and “lacks the basics of well-known moral and constitutional criteria.”

In pictures: Abandoned West Bank cinema hides film treasures
MEE/Agencies 18 Mar — How a Palestinian wedding hall once had a very different life – as a picture palace.

School rooftops will generate solar energy for 16000 houses in the West Bank
Reliefweb 15 Mar — The European Investment Bank (EIB) and the Palestine Investment Fund (PIF) have signed a loan agreement worth USD 18 million to finance the installation of rooftop photovoltaic (PV) systems on 500 public schools in the West Bank. The EIB’s investment, which falls under the Economic Resilience Initiative (ERI) will generate 35 MW of clean energy enough to power more than 16000 houses across the West Bank … Azem Bishara, CEO of Masader explained that the schools’ rooftops project is an integral part of “Nour Palestine” solar program; which PIF launched aiming at producing 200 MW of clean energy in the coming six years with an estimated investment portfolio of $200M, including three medium sized solar fields in the West Bank that are currently under construction….

IDF installs fortification at West Bank bus stop, swiftly removes it amid uproar
Times of Israel 20 Mar by Jacob Magid — Right-wing lawmakers and settler leaders raised an instant clamor Wednesday over the installation of a protective fortification at a central West Bank bus stop, leading the IDF to take it down and say no additional such defensive enclosures would be erected beyond the Green Line. The decision came roughly two hours after a photo of the three-walled fortified structure at the Givat Assaf Junction was posted to Twitter, leading to a flood of statements opposing the measure … New Right party co-chair Naftali Bennett called the barrier “a surrender and submission to terrorism.” “This is what the response to the Givat Assaf terror attack looks like by a country that is slowly losing its national self-respect,” tweeted Union of Right Wing Parties chairman Rafi Peretz. “We must move from containment to attack mode. From defense to enacting sovereignty [in the West bank],” he added. Har Hebron Regional Council head Yochai Damri called the fortification “absurd.” “Instead of being tough and expelling the families of the terrorists, we are hiding behind walls in our own home,” the settler leader said….



Israeli forces kill 2, wound 181 civilians in March of Return protests in Gaza
IMEMC 23 Mar — On Friday, 22 March 2019, In excessive use of force against the peaceful protesters on the 51st Friday of the Great March of Return and Breaking Siege in the eastern Gaza Strip, Israeli forces killed 2 Palestinian civilians and wounded 181 others, including 53 Children, 5 Women, 1 Paramedic, and 3 Journalists.  Three Injuries of those wounded were reported serious. The two killed were identified as Nedal ‘Abdel Karim Ahmed Shatat (29), from al-Mughraqa in the central Gaza Strip, and Jihad Munir Khaled Hararah (24), from al-Shija‘iyah neighborhood in Gaza City. According to observations by PCHR’s fieldworkers, the Israeli forces who were stationed in prone positions and in military jeeps along the fence with Israel continued to use excessive force against the protesters by opening fire and firing tear gas canisters at them.  As a result, dozens of protesters were hit with bullets and teargas canisters without posing any imminent threat or danger to the life of soldiers. Moreover, PCHR’s fieldworkers said that the Israeli forces raised the sand berms on which the snipers station, particularly in eastern Khan Younis, enabling them to see clearly and completely the area where the protesters are spread and deep into the Return encampment….

Israeli navy injures Palestinian father, son off Gaza’s coast
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 22 Mar — A Palestinian fisherman along with his son were shot and injured by Israeli naval forces, off the northwestern coast of the besieged Gaza Strip, on Friday. Head of the Palestinian Fishermen Union in Gaza, Zakariya Bakr, told Ma‘an that the Israeli navy targeted a number of Palestinian fishing boats and opened heavy fire towards them, injuring one fisherman and his son. Bakr identified the injured as Muhammad Saad Bakr and his son Mahmoud. Bakr mentioned that Muhammad and his son were shot and injured with rubber-coated steel bullets. However, their medical condition remained unknown.  Bakr added that the Israeli navy repeatedly fired live ammunition and rubber-coated steel bullets. In addition, the fishing boat suffered major material damages as a result of the Israeli navy shooting at the outboard engine.

Israeli airstrike injures seven Palestinians in Gaza
IMEMC 21 Mar — An Israeli military drone fired, on Thursday evening, a missile at several Palestinians, east of Rafah, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. Media sources has reported that the Palestinians were protesting on Palestinian lands near the  perimeter fence, east of Rafah. They added that seven Palestinians were injured and were rushed  to several hospitals. In related news, the Israeli army said it “fired a tank shell at a Hamas post,” in southern Gaza, and claimed that it was “retaliating to flammable balloons launched from Gaza.” In addition, Quds News Network has reported that the soldiers also abducted two young men, after crossing the perimeter fence, in southern Gaza.

13 Palestinians injured along eastern, northern Gaza borders
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 20 Mar– At least 13 Palestinians were injured as Israeli forces suppressed the 25th naval march along the northern and eastern besieged Gaza Strip, on Tuesday afternoon. Local sources said Israeli forces repeatedly fired live ammunition and tear-gas bombs towards hundreds of Palestinian protesters participating in the weekly march. Medical sources confirmed that 11 Palestinians suffered from tear-gas inhalation, while two others were shot and injured with Israeli live fire. In addition, among the 11 Palestinians was a journalist who was injured with a tear-gas bomb in his foot …
Israeli war boats also fired at dozens of boats, which were attempting to break the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip. A number of boats, along with hundreds of Palestinian protesters, holding up Palestinian flags and banners, had set off from the Gaza seaport towards the Israeli “Zikim” beach….

Israeli drone strikes Gaza farmland
GAZA (PIC) 19 Mar — The Israeli occupation army on Tuesday evening bombed Palestinian farmland in Gaza. Local sources said that an Israeli drone attacked farmland east of Gaza city with two missiles. No injuries were reported.  A spokesman for the Israeli army said that the air raid targeted a group of Palestinians flying fire balloons toward Israeli settlements neighboring the Gaza border.

Israeli forces fire on Gaza farmers and shepherds
IMEMC/Agencies 18 Mar — Israeli forces opened heavy fire towards Palestinian farmers and shepherds on Sunday, in the southern besieged Gaza Strip. A Ma‘an reporter said that Israeli forces, deployed in military watchtowers, opened fire towards Palestinian agricultural lands east of Rafah, in southern Gaza, targeting farmers and shepherds. No injuries were reported. The Israeli army regularly detains and opens fire on unarmed Palestinian fishermen, shepherds, and farmers, along the border areas, if they approach the buffer zone, as authorities have not made clear the precise area of the designated zone. The practice has in effect destroyed much of the agricultural and fishing sector of the blockaded coastal enclave

Egypt to allow pilgrims to return to Gaza
MEMO 18 Mar — Egypt announced today that it will reopen the Rafah crossing in one direction tomorrow to permit return of pilgrim who travelled to Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah to return. Egypt allowed Palestinians from the besieged Gaza Strip to travel to Saudi Arabic earlier this month to perform Umrah (lesser pilgrimage) for the first time since 2014. At the time of the announcement, at least 800 pilgrims had already obtained the necessary travel documentation from the Saudi authorities, officials from the Palestinian Ministry of Religious Endowment said. “The offices of pilgrimage travel companies in Gaza have been inundated by those seeking to perform the sacred journey,” Awad Abu Mazkour, chairman of Gaza’s Hajj and Umrah Company, told Anadolu Agency. Egyptian officials said the opening of the border tomorrow will only allow for the return of pilgrims and no other travellers would be allowed through in either direction.

Israel suppressing only pharmaceutical factory in Gaza
MEMO 16 Mar — The only pharmaceutical factory in the Gaza Strip is struggling to survive Israeli restrictions and the economic crises brought about by the 12-year siege imposed on the coastal enclave. The factory has been subjected to Israeli military attacks since 2003, long before the siege was imposed on the Strip in 2007, which caused an economic crisis, halted the factory’s development and caused production to drop by 80 per cent … Al-Astal also stressed that “despite the Israeli restrictions and attacks, as well as the economic crisis the Gaza Strip is witnessing, which have reduced the demand for medicines, we have maintained production at a monthly rate of 20 tons of pain killers, antibiotics, ointments and fluids used to treat respiratory diseases such as coughs and colds”. He pointed out that the factory, which was established in 1999, is the only facility producing seven medicines which are not produced by Palestinian factories in the occupied West Bank or factories in Israel. Under the restrictions imposed by Israel on the supply of medicines to Gaza, the factory offers cheap pharmaceutical alternatives to many imported items, covering 12 per cent of the needs of the local market in the Strip. One of the biggest challenges to the factory is access to raw materials….

Gaza border protests provide artist with inspiration, and raw materials
GAZA (Reuters) 19 Mar by Nidal al-Mughrabi — One year on from the start of Gaza’s border protests, the weekly clashes with Israeli soldiers have become part of the texture of life in the Palestinian enclave, providing inspiration and even raw materials for local artists. Diorama artist Majdi Abu Taqeya spends hours creating three-dimensional miniature replicas of the protest scenes, with figures carved from remnants of Israeli ammunition collected from the landscape along the frontier. Wool and cotton are turned into the white and black smoke that swirls over the five protest camps that have been set up along the fortified frontier since the protests began on March 30, 2018. Elsewhere on Abu Taqeya’s wooden boards, Palestinian protesters, ambulances, Israeli troops and tanks and even the wire fence itself are all created in miniature….

In pictures: How Gaza seeks work and rest from the sea
MEE 30 Jan by Kaamil Ahmed — The waters that border Gaza are no less besieged than its land borders or airspace. But they permeate the territory, shaping the lives of its 1.9m inhabitants.

Podcast — Gaza: generation blockade
The Guardian 19 Mar — Oliver Holmes describes his recent visit to Gaza, where a generation of Palestinians have spent their entire lives fenced in.

***VIDEO screened at UN Human Rights Council meeting, Feb 28 2019
This video of 11 Palestinian demonstrators being shot by Israeli snipers in Gaza is also included in this Haaretz article— where it is behind a paywall.

Israel ‘investigations’ into Gaza deaths ‘mere propaganda’ says rights group
MEMO 18 Mar — Human rights group B’Tselem has slammed Israeli authorities’ announcement of investigations into 11 deaths during Great Return March protests in the occupied Gaza Strip as “mere propaganda”. “A real change in Israeli policy will only take place if the international community demands it clearly and unequivocally, and if it stops allowing Israel to do no more than offer hollow promises of ‘investigation’”, B’Tselem Director Hagai El-Ad wrote to the UN Commission of Inquiry. According to a press release, a position paper issued by the NGO “explains why announcing investigations is a standard ploy that Israel employs to ease international pressure whenever its unlawful policy elicits criticism.”….

UN to step up human rights monitoring at Gaza protests
DW 22 Mar — The United Nations will step up the presence of monitors in Gaza after its human rights body said Israel’s shootings of Palestinians could be deemed crimes against humanity. Five UN human rights officers will be sent to Gaza to monitor “ongoing violations” against civilian protesters after hundreds were killed in demonstrations last year. The UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution on Friday condemning the “apparent intentional use of unlawful lethal and other excessive force by Israel” and called for the perpetrators to face justice. The body asked for cooperation with an International Criminal Court examination into Israeli violations opened in 2015. The resolution passed with 23 votes in favor, eight against and 15 abstentions, with European states divided.
More than 189 Palestinians have been killed and thousands more injured in the last 12 months in marches demanding Israel ease the blockade of the enclave and recognize Gazans’ right to return to lands they fled during the creation of Israel in 1948. A report released last month found only two incidences when Israeli troops were within their rights to use live ammunition when confronting protesters. The toll included 35 children, two journalists and medical workers. It also acknowledged that Gaza’s ruling party Hamas encouraged the use of incendiary projectiles….

UN experts urge Israel to rein in security forces
GENEVA (Reuters) 18 Mar by Stephanie Nebehay — U.N. war crimes investigators called on Israel on Monday to stop its snipers using lethal force against protesters on the border with Gaza, as the anniversary approached of the start of demonstrations there last year in which 189 Palestinians were killed. The Commission of Inquiry said Israel should investigate the shooting of more than 6,000 people, far beyond the criminal inquiries it has announced into 11 killings. “The most important thing for the government of Israel is to review the rules of engagement immediately and to ensure that the rules of engagement are according to accepted international law standards,” the commission’s chairman Santiago Canton told the Human Rights Council.
Israel says the U.N. council is biased, and it boycotted the day-long debate, while hundreds of Israel supporters rallied outside the United Nations in Geneva, including senior U.S. officials….

Hamas detains rights workers as it disperses Gaza protests
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) 16 Mar — Palestinian rights groups say Hamas briefly detained four of their researchers as it dispersed protests in Gaza against recent tax hikes. Hundreds of Gazans gathered for a third day on Saturday to protest the tax hikes, which have made life even harder in the territory ‘.. Two researchers from the Al-Mezan rights group, one from the Palestinian Center for Human Rights and one from Al-Dameer were held for a few hours before being released. Online videos show Hamas forces raiding homes, attacking protesters with clubs and firing into the air. Several Palestinian factions have signed a statement urging Hamas to stop its crackdown and lower the taxes.

MEE’s Gaza reporter interrogated for hours by Hamas officials
Middle East Eye 19 Mar — Hind Khoudary, a freelance reporter for Middle East Eye based in Gaza, was interrogated for three hours by Hamas officials and threatened with imprisonment, she told MEE on Tuesday. Khoudary, who also works as a consultant for human rights organisation Amnesty International, is one of several journalists detained by Hamas in recent days following their coverage of protests over living conditions in Gaza this weekend, according to local media and Amnesty … Khoudary said she was subjected to three hours of questioning in which four male interrogators shouted at her about her reporting and  repeatedly hit the table in front of her where they had laid out copies of her Facebook posts. She said her interrogators told her she would be imprisoned if she continued her work and asked her to remove her Facebook posts … In its first public response to the protests, Hamas said it recognises the humanitarian crisis that Palestinians are facing in Gaza, saying that the group itself is suffering like everyone else living in the besieged strip. Hamas condemned any assault against citizens, expressing regret for any physical or psychological harm suffered by protesters. It also called on security forces to compensate anyone who had been wronged….

Remembering Rachel Corrie
Occupied Palestine 16 Mar (International Solidarity Movement) — Today marks the sixteenth anniversary since the passing of ISM activist Rachel Corrie. She was 23 at the time of her passing. Rachel was tragically crushed to death under the front blade of an Israeli military Caterpillar bulldozer near Rafah, in the southern region of the Gaza Strip. Rachel died whilst placing herself in the path of a bulldozer to protect a Palestinian family whose home was about to be demolished. Rachel was killed during a three-hour peaceful demonstration between occupying Israeli forces operating two armoured bulldozers and eight ISM activists courageously trying to stop them. Rachel had come to Gaza during part of her senior-year college assignment that connected her home town of Olympia [Washington] with Rafah In Palestine, Rachel had engaged with other International Solidarity Movement activists in efforts to prevent continued demolition of Palestinian homes in operations that the Israeli military claimed were aimed at eliminating weapons smuggling tunnels….

Report: Egypt plan to lift siege requires disarmament of Gaza
MEMO 22 Mar — An Israeli report said that Egypt has put forward a plan for a settlement between Israel and Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip, led by Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip. Israel Hayom newspaper reported on Thursday that “according to security sources in Egypt and Palestinian officials in Gaza and Ramallah, Israel and Egypt have become convinced that Hamas’s control in Gaza is a self-evident fact.” Israel Hayom quoted Egyptian security sources and Palestinian officials in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It explained that the Egyptian proposal stated that they would disarm the factions – except for light weapons – in exchange for lifting the siege on the Gaza Strip. According to this plan, all internal affairs will remain in the hands of Palestinian organisations headed by Hamas or a unified political entity for all organisations in the Strip. The internal security of the Gaza Strip will be based on “Hamas National Security Forces, which are currently operating.” The arms that will be in possession of the Internal Security Forces will be light weapons, in small quantities and subject to a strict control system.  In turn, the Israeli and Egyptian siege on the Gaza Strip will be lifted, according to the newspaper. Also, projects in the areas of infrastructure, employment, economy, health and education, financed by the United Nations, the European Union and Arab countries, “led by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE,” will be implemented. The plan calls for the opening of a maritime route to the Gaza port, which will allow in the first stage the export and import of goods directly to the Gaza Strip….

Lions, other animals to be saved from Gaza zoo: welfare group
GAZA CITY (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) 20 Mar — Forty animals including five lions are to be rescued from squalid conditions in the Gaza Strip, an animal welfare group said on Wednesday. The animals would be taken out of a zoo in the Palestinian enclave and relocated to sanctuaries in Jordan next week, the Four Paws organisation said. Among the other animals to be taken out were a hyena, monkeys, wolves and porcupines, the organisation said in a statement. The owner of the Rafah Zoo in southern Gaza was not immediately available for comment. The zoo hit the headlines last month when the cash-strapped owner revealed he had declawed one of the lions there, so that customers could play with her for money. The organisation condemned the declawing, with almost 150,000 signing a petition against the treatment. The animals would be treated and sedated, before being taken through Israel into Jordan, Four Paws said … The animal welfare group has previously evacuated two other zoos in Gaza, where desperate poverty means owners are often unable to provide adequate conditions.

Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Settlements

New housing spiked only in West Bank settlements and Tel Aviv in 2018
JPost 20 Mar by Tovah Lazaroff — On a percentage basis, West Bank settlements also saw the largest spike in housing finishes, 28% compared to the 3% increase in 2018 the rest of the country — …The quarterly release of construction data comes in the midst of the election campaign, in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is looking to hammer home the point to right-wing voters that his government has strengthened the settlement movement in Judea and Samaria. The 2018 data marked the third-highest number of settlement starts under Netanyahu’s government recorded in any single year since he took office in 2009.  But the 2018 data still fell way below the high number of 3,143 settler housing starts that the CBS recorded in 2016, when former US president Barack Obama was in office … With Trump in office, settler leaders had expected to see a dramatic rise in building in Judea and Samaria, and have been frustrated that the number of housing starts has not exceeded that of 2016.

Israel begins construction of 840 new illegal settlement units in West Bank
MEMO 20 Mar — Israeli Minister of Construction and Housing Yoav Galant along with Mayor of Ariel Eli Shaviro yesterday laid the cornerstone of new a settlement project comprising 839 settlement units in the illegal settlement, Arab48 reported. The new project is expected to attract hundreds of young settler families to the second largest Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank. According to Arab48, the project includes new malls, education facilities, parks and attraction sites serving the new illegal Jewish community. Shapiro said that this settlement project came in response to the killing of an Israeli soldier and a settler near the illegal settlement, which is built on the occupied land of the Palestinian city of Salfit.  However, the project was approved two years ago, according to the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu….

Negev Bedouin strike, protest Israel demolition policy
MEMO 22 Mar — Palestinian citizens of Israel living in the city of Rahat in the Negev desert started a general strike to protest against the Israeli authorities’ demolition policy pursued against the city. Israeli authorities on Wednesday demolished six houses belonging to Al-Atayqa family in Rahat, under the pretext that they were built without the impossible to obtain building permits. Israel places severe restrictions on Palestinian towns in the Negev desert and other areas including not issuing them the necessary building permits, forcing residents to build new homes and expand existing structures without permits. According to the Israeli Ministry of Public Security, from 2016 until the end of 2017 Israel has demolished 2,200 Palestinian facilities in the Negev (Naqab). Some 240,000 Arabs live in the Negev desert, half of them in villages and residential communities that existed for hundreds of years, however, Israel refuses to recognise their ownership of the land or provide them with basic services such as water and electricity. Authorities have been demolishing structures in “unrecognised” Arab villages in the Negev and forcibly relocating residents in an attempt to confiscate their land, estimated at hundreds of thousands of dunums, as part of a plan to Judaize the Negev desert and build new settlements there.

Israeli municipality razes school annexe in Shu‘fat camp
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (PIC) 19 Mar — The Israeli municipal authority in Occupied Jerusalem on Tuesday demolished, without prior notice, a building under construction belonging to al-Razi School in Shu‘fat refugee camp, northeast of the holy city. Local sources said that Israeli troops stormed the camp and evacuated all the students, teachers and employees from the school before bulldozers embarked on knocking down the two-story annexe. Meanwhile, Israeli soldiers closed the military road barrier at the entrance to the camp and prevented Palestinian citizens and vehicles from moving in both directions. Al-Razi School, which serves a wide segment of Palestinian children from the camp, was in need of another building to accommodate more students.

Israel delivers stop-construction order to Equestrian Club
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 19 Mar — Staff members from the Israeli Civil Administration delivered a stop-construction order to the Palestinian Equestrian Club building in Qalandiya village, north of the central occupied West Bank district of Jerusalem.  According to local sources, Israeli forces along with staff members from the Israeli Civil Administration stormed the area and delivered a stop-construction order to the Equestrian Club. Sources confirmed that residents face a construction crisis as they have only been able to build in the center of the village, which makes up 150 dunams (37 acres) out of the original 4,000 dunams (988 acres). Sources added that the order was issued under the pretext that the building was being built without the nearly-impossible to obtain Israeli permit.

Israeli forces demolish water well in southern Hebron
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 18 Mar — Israeli forces demolished a water well in the Umm al-Nir village in southern Hebron, in the southern occupied West Bank, on Monday. Locals said that an Israeli bulldozer, escorted by large numbers of Israeli soldiers, demolished a water well in the village. Umm al-Nir is located near Susiya village in the South Hebron Hills. The South Hebron Hills, known locally as Masafer Yatta, lie almost entirely in Area C, the 62 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli civil and security control since the 1993 Oslo Accords. Masafer Yatta residents were expelled at the time of the establishment of a firing zone in the 1970s and were eventually allowed back following a long court battle, but are under the constant threat of being expelled or seeing their homes demolished.


German’s relentless campaign to silence pro-Palestinian voices
22 Mar by Denijal Jegic — The German political establishment has come after BDS just as viciously as Israel has — Against the backdrop of Israeli efforts to falsely equate Zionism with Judaism and dismiss any criticism of the Israeli state as anti-Semitic, Germany is also leading a relentless campaign to ostracise pro-Palestinian activists and delegitimise their protest campaigns. The German state has traditionally viewed protection of and unconditional ideological support for Israel as part of its raison d’être – a way to atone for the Holocaust. Historically, this pillar of German politics has justified the country’s unconditional support for Israel and silence on Israeli abuses of Palestinian rights. More recently, it has also made the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) Movement, which Israel sees as an existential threat, the primary target of smear campaigns and relentless persecution in the country….

Vienna museum cancels Palestinian event with leader of South African anti-apartheid struggle
BNC 21 Mar —  A Vienna museum, Volkskundemuseum, has cancelled an event on Palestinian rights where former minister in Nelson Mandela’s government Ronnie Kasrils was scheduled to speak (Video by Ronnie Kasrils). Kasrils is a renowned South African anti-apartheid activist of Jewish descent, and his address was scheduled for the March 29 event as part of the annual Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW). Human rights advocates immediately condemned the cancellation, and called for the event to be reinstated. The museum caved to pressure from Austria’s Israel lobby. The cancellation comes amid Israel’s ongoing repression of the peaceful Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights. Two IAW events scheduled in France this week were also canceled …  The organizers of the event, BDS Austria, were informed that the Museum canceled the event because the Vienna City Council adopted a resolution in June 2018 not to cooperate with the BDS movement. Anti-BDS measures being promoted at the local and national level in Europe, prompted by Israel’s far-right government, aim to stifle freedom of speech and silence debate on Palestinian rights….

Singing in Europe’s last Middle Eastern colony
Al Jazeera 21 Mar by Mariam Barghouti — Why is Israel part of the Eurovision song contest? — With less than two months to go till the song contest Eurovision kicks off in Tel Aviv, controversy surrounding the host country is bound to escalate. The event is a major opportunity for Israel to “art-wash” its crimes against the Palestinian population and pro-Palestinian activists are determined to challenge it with a boycott. Celebrities like Roger Waters and Wolf Alice have already called for media organisations and artists to refuse to participate, while the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement has intensified its campaign against the event. The provocative decision to hold the opening night of Eurovision on May 14 is particularly galling for Palestinians as it falls on the day Israel commemorates its 1948 declaration of independence. On the following day, as European singers compete in Tel Aviv, Palestine will be marking the 71st anniversary of what they call al-Nakba, the catastrophe, remembering the victims of the Israeli campaign of ethnic cleansing. But beyond the obvious issue of Israel using yet another cultural event to whitewash its bloody reputation, the upcoming Eurovision event is also an opportunity to reflect on how European Israel really is.  The question that few Europeans seem to be asking themselves is why a country situated in the Middle East (far away from the natural and imagined borders of Europe) has been participating since 1973 in a competition founded with the vision of culturally unifying Europe….

Other news

UN rights expert: Israel depriving Palestinians of clean water
GENEVA (Reuters) 18 Mar by Stephanic Nebehay — Israel is depriving millions of Palestinians of access to a regular supply of clean water while stripping their land of minerals “in an apparent act of pillage”, a United Nations human rights investigator said on Monday.  Michael Lynk, U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, said that Israel “continues full-steam with settlement expansion” in the West Bank, which the United Nations and many countries deem illegal … “For nearly five million Palestinians living under occupation, the degradation of their water supply, the exploitation of their natural resources and the defacing of their environment are symptomatic of the lack of any meaningful control they have over their daily lives,” Lynk said. In the West Bank, Israeli quarry companies extract some 17 million tonnes of stone each year, “notwithstanding strict prohibitions in international law against a military power economically exploiting an occupied territory”, Lynk said. “The Dead Sea and its plentiful natural resources, part of which lies within the occupied Palestinian territory, is off-limits to any Palestinian development while Israeli companies are permitted to harvest the minerals in an apparent act of pillage,” he added….

Israel’s ex-intelligence chief expects explosion in West Bank, Gaza Strip
MEMO 20 Mar — Former Shin Bet (Israel internal security agency) chief Yuval Diskin said he expects the situation in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip to explode, local media reported. He said that the Palestinians in both the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip have lost hope and this would cause an explosion. “One of the great accelerators of terrorism is when the other side loses hope,” Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported him saying. He said that “is what brings people onto the streets and sends young men and women to go commit terror attacks.” Meanwhile, the Israeli news website Ynet reported him saying he is “worried” about the deteriorating living conditions in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, which might soon lead to an escalation. “Whoever keeps the cork from flying out of the bottle is the defence establishment, but in the end the situation will erupt and I hope we would be able to deal with it in time.”

EU reiterates opposition to diplomatic missions in Jerusalem
Times of Israel 20 Mar by Raphael Ahren — A day after Hungary opened a “diplomatic” trade office in Jerusalem, the European Union on Wednesday insisted that its member states continue to oppose the presence of diplomatic missions in the city. “The position of the European Union and its member states on Jerusalem remains unchanged,” a spokesperson for the EU’s mission in Tel Aviv told The Times of Israel. “The European Union and its member states will continue to respect the international consensus on Jerusalem embodied in, inter alia, UN Security Council Resolution 478, including on the location of diplomatic representations until the final status of Jerusalem is resolved,” the spokesperson went on … Hungary is not opening an embassy in Jerusalem but merely a trade office, the EU spokesperson stressed. Meanwhile the Palestinian Authority said it was calling back its ambassador to Hungary for consultations in response to Budapest’s move….

EU says it will not follow Trump in recognizing Israeli sovereignty over Golan
Times of Israel 22 Mar — The European Union will not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights in the wake of US President Donald Trump’s declaration that Washington would do so, a spokesperson for the EU said Friday morning. “The European Union, in accordance with international law, does not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the territories it occupied since July 1967, including the Golan Heights, and does not consider them as part of Israeli territory,” Maya Kosyanchich, a spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, said in a statement carried by several news outlets. Her comments came as Trump’s move was condemned strongly by Syria and its allies Russia and Iran, as well as by the president of Turkey….

Syria vows to recover Golan as Trump policy shift draws criticism
BEIRUT (Reuters) 22 Mar by Tom Perry — The Syrian government vowed to take back the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights as its allies and enemies alike condemned U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday for moving to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the territory seized in war. Trump’s statement on Thursday marked a dramatic shift in U.S. policy over the status of a disputed area that Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Middle East conflict and annexed in 1981 – a move not recognized internationally. Against this backdrop of hostility toward the U.S. move, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Beirut where he took aim at Israel’s main regional foes – Hezbollah and its backer Iran – and declared the success of U.S. sanctions against them. Trump’s declaration is the latest U.S. step to fuel anger in the region, both in states that are hostile to Israel and others that have relations with it and are allied to the United States….

Druze on Golan Heights reject Trump backing for Israeli sovereignty
MAJDAL SHAMS, Golan Heights (Reuters) 22 Mar by Rami Ayyub, Stephen Farrell — Druze Arabs and Israeli settlers on opposite sides of the dispute over U.S. President Donald Trump’s support for Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights agree on one thing – it won’t change matters on the ground. The fertile hillsides of the Israeli-occupied Golan are scattered with villages inhabited by 22,000 Druze, an Arab minority who practice an offshoot of Islam. Many still have relatives on the Syrian side of the fortified boundary. In Majdal Shams, older residents remember being part of Syria before Israel captured most of the heights in the 1967 Middle East war, occupying and later annexing it in 1981. That annexation was not recognized internationally, and although they have lived under Israeli rule for more than half a century and shopfronts bear signs in both Arabic and Hebrew, many Druze still regard themselves as Syrian. “Trump can make his statements and say he wants to make the Golan part of Israel. But we know this will stay Syrian land,” said Sheikh Mahmoud Nazeeh, 70….

In first, EU states vote against permanent anti-Israel item at UN rights council
JTA 22 Mar by Cnaan Lipshitz — In a major policy reversal by Western members of the United Nations Human Rights Council, all its European Union member states voted against a permanent item singling out Israel. The vote Friday was the first time that EU members states, Brazil and Japan voted against Item 7 — a recurrent draft resolution that is the only permanent item on the agenda singling out any one nation. The draft resolution passed despite the Western opposition to it, with 26 in favor and 16 in opposition, including Australia and several other nations … Five nations on the council abstained in the vote Friday. It was also the first time that Brazil voted against Item 7, which it has tended to support….

Six Palestinians confirmed killed in New Zealand mosque attacks
Al Jazeera 17 Mar — Palestinian Authority’s foreign ministry says six other Palestinians were wounded in the Christchurch mosque attacks — Six Palestinians were killed in Friday’s attack on two New Zealand mosques, the Palestinian Authority’s foreign ministry and expatriates said. In a statement, the ministry said they were able to verify the number despite the “absence of official New Zealand reports” from information gathered from New Zealand’s foreign ministry and Red Cross. The ministry said six other Palestinians were wounded in the attack, and instructed non-resident ambassador to New Zealand Izzat Abdulhadi, (who is also Palestine’s ambassador to Australia) to visit the injured and to “provide them with the necessary assistance”. “It is important to note that some of these names may intersect with the lists of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan or lists of other countries because some of them are registered in New Zealand with this nationality or that despite their Palestinian origin,” the ministry said in its statement. Ambassador Abdulhadi said there is a small Palestinian community in Christchurch, but did not give a specific number. The names of those killed are as below:

‘Broken-hearted’ New Zealand observes Muslim call to prayer week after massacre
CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AP) 20 Mar by Nick Perry & Juliet Williams — New Zealanders observed the Muslim call to prayer Friday in reflecting on the moment one week ago when 50 worshipers at two Christchurch mosques were slain — an act an imam told the crowd of thousands that had left the country broken-hearted but not broken. In a day without precedent, people across New Zealand listened to the call to prayer on live broadcasts while thousands, including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, gathered in leafy Hagley Park opposite the Al Noor mosque, where 42 people died. “New Zealand mourns with you. We are one,” Ardern said….

Palestinians sue settlers over stolen property listed on Airbnb
EI 20 Mar by Ali Abunimah — Two Palestinians in the United States are suing Israeli settlers for profiting from property stolen from their families in the occupied West Bank, by listing them on the home rental website Airbnb. The lawsuit is in the form of a counterclaim against the settlers, who themselves filed a lawsuit against Airbnb over its decision last year to remove listings of settlement properties. The two Palestinians, Ziad Alwan and Randa Wahbe, are being joined in their lawsuit by two towns in the occupied West Bank, the municipality of Anata, east of Jerusalem, and the village council of Jalud, near Nablus. They are being represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights, which filed the counterclaim in federal court in Delaware on Monday.  In their original lawsuit , the settlers claim that Airbnb is discriminating against them under the Fair Housing Act, a civil rights-era US law that guarantees people access to housing regardless of their race, ethnicity or religion …  “Anyone looking at the facts can tell that we are the rightful owners of this land, no matter how the settlers try to spin it,” said Ziad Alwan, a Chicago resident who has a registration document showing that the land on which the settlers are running a bed and breakfast is registered in his father’s name. “I am filing this lawsuit in my father’s memory, and for my own children, whom I’ve taught to never forget that this land is rightfully theirs.” Alwan tells his story in the brief video above….

Multiple 2020 Democratic candidates to skip AIPAC conference
WASHINGTON (Al Jazeera) 22 Mar by Ola Salem — At least seven top Democratic and presidential candidates running in the 2020 election will not attend next week’s American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) annual policy conference. The conference by the United States-based lobbying group, which advocates pro-Israel policies, tends to lead both Republicans and Democrats competing over speaker spots. But this year, Democrats have decided to shun the entire three-day event after growing pressure calling politicians to boycott the conference. The Democrats who have so far said they would not attend include, Pete Buttigieg, Julian Castro, Kamala Harris, Jay Inslee, Beto O’Rourke, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, liberal advocacy group MoveOn told Al Jazeera …  Iram Ali, director of political action at MoveOn, said the change of heart was not sudden. She said it follows years of changing conversation about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a shifting tide to how progressives view AIPAC….

Palestinian peace activist barred from entering the US
NEW YORK (JTA) 22 Mar by Ben Sales — A Palestinian peace activist was denied entry to the United States and deported, despite having a valid visa. Osama Iliwat, 42, was questioned over the course of eight hours by officials from Customs and Border Protection at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City on February 24 before he was sent on a flight back home. He was embarking on a speaking tour for Combatants for Peace, a group of Israelis and Palestinians who, according to its website, “have taken an active part in the cycle of violence; Israelis as soldiers in the Israeli army and Palestinians as part of the violent struggle for Palestinian freedom,” but now advocate joint non-violent activism. Iliwat had a three-year visa that allowed him to visit the United States, but Customs and Border Protection annulled it before Iliwat was deported …  But according to documents obtained by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Iliwat was sent back on suspicion of wanting to remain in the United States as an immigrant. He said the reason is a false pretense for keeping him out of the country. Less than a year ago, he traveled to the United States for a similar tour without incident….

Last night in Berlin: The attack on Rasmea Odeh is an attack on Palestine
Samidoun 16 Mar — Following a frenzied campaign of harassment by pro-apartheid journalists, the Israeli ambassador and the U.S. ambassador to Germany (infamous for his connection to far-right groups), Berlin officials declared on Friday night, 15 March, that Palestinian former prisoner and renowned activist Rasmea Odeh‘s visa would be cancelled and that she was prohibited from political activity … An ongoing and severe harassment campaign was directed at the venue that had been engaged to host the event. The hall was vandalized and the organization that owns it were subjected to numerous threatening and harassing phone calls and demands. Despite multiple assurances by police that the event could indeed go forward, Rasmea was pulled aside by police on her way to deliver her speech about Palestinian women in the struggle for liberation….