Report: In 2019 Israel arrested over 5,500 Palestinians, including 889 children

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Year-end report: Israeli occupation arrests over 5,500 Palestinians in 2019
Samidoun 30 Dec — The following report was issued on 30 December 2019 by Palestinian prisoners’ institutions and associations… In 2019, Israeli occupation forces arrested over 5,500 Palestinians from the occupied Palestinian territories; among them were 889 children and at least 128 women. The Palestinian prisoners’ and human rights institutions, Palestinian Prisoners’ Society, Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Prisoners’ Affairs Commission, indicate that the number of Palestinian prisoners and detainees in occupation prisons to the current date is approximately 5000, including 40 women, approximately 200 child detainees and 450 Palestinians held in administrative detention, Israeli imprisonment without charge or trial. The following report aims to shed light on the reality of prisoners in the occupation prisons as well as the most prominent repressive acts exercised against them by the occupation authorities in 2019.
Torture is an ongoing policy of the occupation against Palestinian prisoners
During 2019, Israeli occupation forces continued to use torture as a tool of revenge and coercion against the prisoners to strip them of their human dignity and, most importantly, coerce them to give confessions during the interrogation period. According to investigation, 95% of detainees are subjected to torture, from the moment of arrest, through interrogation or even after transferring them to detention centers….

Gideon Levy // Shin Bet said she was behind Israeli teen’s murder; indictment says otherwise
[behind paywall] Haaretz 27 Dec by Gideon Levy & Alex Levac — Indictment: “Military prosecutor vs. Khalida Jarrar. Nature of the offense: holding a position in an illegal association. Offense under article 85(b) of the Defense (Emergency) Regulations of 1945.” This charge sheet, which has one clause and takes up just one page, is mandatory reading. It exposes the naked – and disturbing – truth about Israel’s occupation authorities and security apparatuses, but also about the country’s media, their bonded lackey. This is not only a story about tyranny in the territories, not only about the fact that Jarrar, like thousands of other Palestinians, is a political prisoner in every respect – as the military prosecution itself admits this time. Nor is it only about the fact that Israel allows itself to arrest Palestinian elected officials without any inhibition. Equally disturbing is the blind, knee-jerk mobilization of the Israeli media in the service of the security establishment’s propaganda. The Shin Bet dictates the narrative, the media repeat and declaim it, no one checks, no one asks, no one presses for more information – and that, too, is called journalism. That’s the left-wing media for you, after all.
Khalida Jarrar was arrested on the evening of October 31 at home in El Bireh, in the central West Bank. Last week, the Shin Bet briefed military correspondents about the widespread arrests it had made of members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, in connection with investigation of the murder of Rena Shnerb in August, at a spring in the West Bank that settlers have forcibly taken over.
The day after the briefing nearly all the newspapers ran screaming headlines about Jarrar’s supposed involvement in the killing. Yedioth Ahronoth: “Shin Bet arrests Khalida Jarrar, responsible for murdering Rena Shnerb”; Israel Hayom: “Among those responsible for murder of Rena Shnerb: ‘Human rights activist’ of 56.” The other media outlets – with the notable exception of Haaretz – followed suit in their coverage: Jarrar murdered Shnerb – or at least gave the order for her to be killed. No one took an interest in the actual indictment. It contains not a word about Shnerb’s murder, about any sort of murder, not even about any acts of violence to which Jarrar can be linked. The charge sheet, signed by the military prosecutor, Maj. Tal Ziskovich, states that Jarrar is accused of being a “director or assistant to the administration of an illegal association, or held a position or standing of some kind in an illegal association or under its auspices.”…
Why was she arrested again? Ghassan is convinced that Israel has decided to uproot the PFLP and imprison all its activists. For her part, her attorney, Sahar Francis, is certain the arrest is a political ploy aimed at vilifying human rights organizations that are still operating in the territories….

Eldest prisoner says he can’t withstand detention conditions anymore
RAMALLAH, Sunday, December 29, 2019 (WAFA) – 80-year-old Fo’ad Shobaki, the eldest Palestinian prisoner in Israeli jails, has told his attorney that he can no longer withstand the difficult health conditions he’s experiencing behind Israeli prison bars. Shobaki said during a visit by the Prisoners’ Affairs Commission attorney that he lived his toughest days during the last couple of weeks after he underwent an eye surgery, due to which he became completely dependent on other prisoners for basic life needs such as moving, which severely affected his psychological state. On October 20, an Israeli court rejected an appeal made by the Commission in order to release Shobaki, claiming he was a “dangerous case”, and that “he did not show regret”. Shobaki, from the Gaza Strip, is the eldest Palestinian political prisoner in Israeli detention, and was detained in 2006 and sentenced for 20 years then shortened to 17 in 2015 after several appeals were made considering his current health conditions and age.

Palestinian prisoners’ leader isolated, struggle grows as Zahran reaches 99 days of hunger strike
Samidoun 30 Dec — As hunger-striking Palestinian administrative detainee Ahmad Zahran entered his 99th day of hunger strike, demanding freedom from Israeli imprisonment without charge or trial, a leader in the Palestinian prisoners’ movement was transferred to collective isolation. Wael Jaghoub, the leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine’s prison branch, was transferred from Ramon prison to collective isolation in Hadarim prison shortly following the PFLP prisoners’ statement that the leftist party would be mobilizing inside the prisons to demand freedom for Zahran, 42. The Handala Center for Prisoners and Former Prisoners reported on Monday, 30 December that the PFLP prison branch said that Jaghoub’s isolation was “an integral part of the ongoing targeting of leaders and cadres of the Front inside and outside prison. It is a desperate attempt to disrupt the activities of the Front’s prison organization, especially as it launches a new, strategic battle in support of Comrade Zahran on hunger strike.”…  A group of PFLP prisoners in Israeli jails announced that they will launch a one-day hunger strike on Tuesday, 31 December in support of Zahran. They urged wide support and solidarity for Zahran’s struggle as he nears 100 days of hunger strike …  Zahran, held in the Ramleh prison clinic, is unable to walk and has suffered from serious deterioration of his health and has lost over 30 kilograms (66 pounds) of weight since launching his strike. The military appeals court at Ofer prison has repeatedly delayed a decision on his appeal against the detention order….


Israeli soldiers shoot a Palestinian in northern Gaza
IMEMC 29 Dec — Israeli soldiers shot, Sunday, a Palestinian man on his land east of Beit Hanoun, in the northern part of the besieged Gaza Strip. Media sources said the soldiers, stationed across the perimeter fence east of Beit Hanoun, fired many rubber-coated steel bullets at a Palestinian farmer, wounding him in the chest and arm. They added that the Palestinian suffered moderate wounds before he was rushed to a hospital for treatment. It is worth mentioning that the soldiers frequently target farmers and workers on their lands near the fence, in addition to attacking Palestinian fishermen and their boats in Gaza territorial waters, leading to hundreds of casualties, including fatalities.

86th GMR: IOF shot and injured 39 Palestinian civilians, including 11 children and a woman
PCHR 27 Dec — Thirty-nine Palestinian civilians, including 11 children and a woman, were shot and injured by Israeli occupation forces’ (IOF) fire against peaceful protestors at the 86th Great March of Return (GMR) in eastern Gaza Strip, this Friday, 27 December 2019. Despite of general calmness of protests in most of the areas and the decrease in numbers of participants due to the cold and rainy weather, IOF continued the use of excessive force against peaceful protestors, as 5 civilians, from eastern Rafah, were shot with live bullets; one of them was deemed in serious condition. Moreover, IOF targeted protests with rubber bullets and tear gas canisters, mainly targeting their upper bodies and heads. As a result, many civilians were injured, including a young man who was shot with a rubber bullet in his right eye.
The Supreme National Authority of GMR called for today’s protests under the slogan “Martyrs’ Blood Draws the Freedom Path” on the anniversary of the 2018 Israeli aggression against the Gaza Strip, which continued for 23 days, and resulted in hundreds of killings and injuries. At approximately 14:00, Palestinian civilians head towards the five GMR encampments in the eastern Gaza Strip to join today’s protest which lasted to 17:00, in the last Friday of this year.
The National Authority announced the suspension of the demonstrations until the next Earth Day, which is celebrated on 30 March of each year, which would mark the second anniversary of the GMR. The National Authority also declared that protests would thereafter take place on a monthly basis and on national events.
Since GMR started on 30 March 2018, PCHR documented that 215 civilians were killed by IOF, including 47 children, 2 women, 9 persons with disabilities, 4 paramedics and 2 journalists. Additionally, IOF shot and injured 14,854 civilians, including 3,746 children, 392 women, 255 paramedics and 219 journalists, noting that many sustained multiple injuries on separate occasions.

Israel strikes Gaza after rocket fire halts Netanyahu campaign event
TEL AVIV (dpa) 26 Dec by Sara Lemel — Israel Israeli fighter jets struck “a number of Hamas terror targets” in Gaza, hours after rockets were fired from Palestinian militants towards Israel, the Israeli army said on Twitter in the early hours of Thursday. A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip was intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome aerial defense system Wednesday evening, the army said earlier. In Israel’s coastal city of Ashkelon, warning sirens had interrupted a rally by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was evacuated, TV reports showed. Netanyahu continued his speech later and issued a warning to attackers. “He who fired (rockets) last time isn’t with us anymore,” Netanyahu said, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz. “And he who fired now, better start packing his belongings,” he added, indicating that whoever was responsible would face a swift response from Israel. Netanyahu was also evacuated while delivering a campaign speech at an earlier event in September. Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud Party is to hold a leadership primary Thursday to choose who will take it into March 2 elections….

Fatah organises two events to celebrate 55th anniversary in Gaza
MEMO 30 Dec — Palestinian secular movement Fatah announced on Sunday that it would organise two major events to celebrate its 55th anniversary in the Gaza Strip, run by the rival Islamic movement, Hamas. According to Safa Press Agency, Fatah’s media commissioner, Munther Al-Hayek, revealed: “Much efforts are being exerted to make the events successful,” noting that events are planned to take place on Tuesday and Wednesday. He disclosed that the two events will include only one speech by Fatah leader in Gaza, Ahmed Helis. Al-Hayek announced that Helis is to speak on the topic of national unity and will call for carrying out elections in Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem. Helis is also going to speak about the attempts to eradicate the Palestinian cause, as well as to emphasise the importance of the popular resistance.
Meanwhile, Fatah’s branch led by the dismissed leader, Mohamed Dahlan, who lives in the UAE, is also planning to organise a major event in the centre of Gaza City to celebrate the same occasion. Dahlan’s Fatah branch, known as the Reformation Current, announced that the event is to include a speech by Fatah MP, Majed Abu-Shammala, a strong ally of Dahlan, in addition to national songs. It is worth noting that the Hamas-run interior ministry in Gaza has permitted the organisation of Fatah events; however, clashes often erupt during Fatah events, with the disruption ending only with police interception.

Amid talk of truce, Israel said to allow tires into Gaza in first since 2018
Times of Israel 30 Dec by Adam Rasgon — Israel has agreed to allow tires into the Gaza Strip starting on Monday, according to Sawa, a news site based in the coastal enclave, citing “well-placed sources.” The report comes amid persistent talk of a truce deal shaping up between Israel and the Hamas terror group … Israel banned tires from going into Gaza shortly after the protests in the border region began on March 30, 2018, saying the embargo was in response to Palestinians setting them on fire at the protests to impair the vision of Israeli soldiers and other security personnel. The shortage, however, has reportedly been felt more among motorists than among the protesters. After Israel instituted the ban, some shipments of tires entered Gaza through Egypt’s border with the territory. The Al-Quds daily also reported that Israel would allow tires to be imported into Gaza, citing “informed Palestinian sources.” Palestinian Authority Transportation Ministry spokesman Musa Rahal said he was not aware that Israel was planning to permit the entry of tires into Gaza. The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, the Defense Ministry body responsible for liaising with the Palestinians, did not respond to a request for comment. The Sawa report also said Israel agreed to allow buses and boats into Gaza. Rahal said he was not privy to such information, while Nizar Ayyash, the head of the Fishermen’s Union, said he was not aware of boats arriving in Gaza. The Al-Quds report made no mention of Israel allowing new boats into Gaza, but it quoted its Palestinian sources as saying Israeli authorities had agreed to permit fiberglass used to build and repair boats to enter the territory as well as steel cables and “special equipment for fishing and boats.” Israel considers fiberglass and steel cables to be “dual-use” items, Miriam Marmur, a spokeswoman for Gisha said….

Report: Israel and Hamas agree on entry of 5,000 Gazan ‘Palestinian’ workers into Israel
Israel National News 28 Dec — Israel will allow about 5,000 Gazans to enter Israel for work purposes, the Lebanese pro-Hezbollah newspaper Al-Akhbar reported on Saturday. The agreement was made possible by Egyptian mediation and its implementation will be carried out under Qatari and UN supervision, according to a Channel 13 News report. The report added that the goal of the agreement is to improve conditions in Gaza by reducing the high unemployment rate among local young people …  The announcement is believed to be connected to the ceasefire being negotiated between Israel and Hamas with the help of Egypt, which IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi referred to on Wednesday in a speech on Israel’s national security.

Israel develops new laser system to shoot down Gaza’s explosive balloons, drones
Epoch Times 27 Dec by Isabel van Brugen — Israeli security forces revealed on Dec. 26 its new laser system designed to intercept dangerous airborne incendiary devices launched from the Gaza Strip. Carried by drones, balloons, and kites, the aerial devices have entered its airspace and burned acres of Israeli land over the past two years. The laser-beam system, named Light Blade, was developed by three private-sector engineers, researchers from Ben Gurion University, and technological departments of the Israel Police and Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Security forces hope the system will eliminate threats before they enter Israeli territory. Light Blade is reportedly able to target threats up to two kilometers (1.6 miles) away, according to a Channel 12 News report. The portable system has been designed to operate during the day and at night and can be transported on a small trailer or installed on a truck.  The million-dollar year-long project, led by Border Police Commissioner Maj. Gen. Yaakov Shabtai, has not yet been given an official deploy date, however, system tests have been conducted over the past week. It is expected to be deployed along Israel’s northern border with Lebanon and the border with the Gaza Strip….

The captain returns: Gaza fisherman home after 18 months in an Israeli prison
Mondoweiss 24 Dec by Abdallah Abusamra & Pam Bailey — A largely forgotten casualty of the Great Return March protests in the Gaza Strip quietly returned home in November after serving 18 months in an Israeli prison. Suhail al-Amoudi, 58, was a captain in the Freedom Boats 2, commanding one of three vessels in a flotilla that sought to break the Israeli naval blockade around Gaza. “I sailed because the flotilla was meant to send a message to the whole world—that Palestinians can no longer stand the Israeli blockade,” explained al-Amoudi. “And if another flotilla were to try it again, I’d do it again, despite the price I paid. We shouldn’t give up protesting until we regain all of our rights.” Al-Amoudi has fished Gaza’s sea for 35 years, during which he was attacked several times by the Israeli navy despite staying within whatever limits were imposed at the time. The Israeli government constantly changes the zone in which it allows fishermen to ply the waters without being shot or having their boats confiscated. In fact, from the start of 2019 to date, Israel has implemented 15 changes in the “no-go” zone it enforces off Gaza’s coast. These restrictions contradict regulations from the Oslo Accords, signed by the Palestinian and Israeli leadership in 1993. According to the agreement, Gaza’s fishermen should be allowed to sail a distance of 20 nautical miles from the coast — where the best fish are found. That injustice is why when the committee for breaking the siege asked him to captain the flotilla, al-Amoudi said yes without hesitation….

Israel reopens full Gaza fishing zone despite lingering border tensions
Times of Israel 23 Dec by Judah Ari Gross & TOI staff — Israel’s military liaison to the Palestinians on Monday night announced that he was expanding the permitted fishing zone off the Gaza coast back to 15 nautical miles, as it had been before a series of rocket and mortar attacks last week. “The fishing zone will be expanded back to 15 nautical miles from tomorrow morning,” Maj. Gen. Kamil Abu Rukun, known as the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, said in a statement … A rocket and mortar shell that were fired at southern Israel on Thursday caused neither injury nor damage. In response, the Israeli Air Force conducted a series of airstrikes on Hamas facilities in the Strip. The day before, an Israeli aircraft fired at and hit an armed Palestinian who approached the border fence….

Israeli army infiltrates Gaza borders, razes land near Beit Hanoun
GAZA, Wednesday, 25 December 2019 (WAFA) – Israeli military infiltrated Gaza borders from the northern part of Beit Hanoun town in the northern Gaza Strip and razed agricultural land, said sources. Three Israeli military vehicles accompanied by three bulldozers advanced into the borderline area while opening indiscriminate gunfire, razed agricultural land, and placed earth mounds in the targeted area.  Infiltration of Israeli forces of Gaza’s border is regular. Farmers are prevented from accessing their lands if located within 300 meters from the border between Gaza and Israel, which Israel has unilaterally declared as a buffer zone off to Palestinians.

Gaza’s local industries in ruins as 500 factories are about to close
Palestine Chronicle 29 Dec — 2019 was one of the worst years for local Gaza economy that is struggling to stay afloat despite the hermetic Israeli blockade. Palestinian sources told Quds News Network that over 500 factories, which have provided much of Gazans’ domestic needs, will shut down by the end of this year, due to the increasingly dire economic situation in the besieged Gaza Strip …  According to the General Union of Palestinian Industries, “2019 was even worse than the year before as 520 factories have been (or are about to) shut down this year while other factories moved outside the Strip to Jordan or Egypt, leading to layoffs and increased unemployment among other social and humanitarian problems,” Quds News reported …  “The occupation state has targeted all kinds of economic installations during its wars on the besieged enclave,” Quds News reported.

By 2020, the UN said Gaza would be unlivable. Did it turn out that way?
The Observer 28 Dec by Donald Macintyre — A 2012 report warned of the fragility of the Strip. Now, unemployment is above 50% and many wish to leave. But from cafes to software houses, an indomitable spirit still shines — Mohammed Nasser, 28, had had enough. He was at the Gaza Strip’s Rafah crossing, about to leave through Egypt for Turkey on a tourist visa, having saved $650 for Egyptian officials to ensure him a place at the front of the queue. He used the Arabic word for emigration: hijra. “I will not come back to Gaza,” said the electrician. “Here, even if you are experienced, there is no work.” Hoping one day to be joined by his wife and three young children, he really plans to be smuggled by sea to Greece and then to Sweden. Would that be dangerous? “No more dangerous than here,” he said, smiling thinly. “My wife tried to prevent me from going but she couldn’t.”  There is little doubt how Nasser (not his real name) would answer the question posed by a UN report in 2012. Seeking to alert the international community to the need for fundamental change, it was called “Gaza 2020: A Liveable Place?”. Seven years of continuing blockade and two devastating Israeli military onslaughts later, just how “liveable” for its two million residents is this embattled and enclosed coastal strip?
Yet somehow Gaza’s resilience and entrepreneurial spirit survive. At one end is Mohammed Abu Beid, 23, who last year started combing through rubbish skips in search of plastic and aluminium cans to take to a small recycling business – at one shekel (22p) for 70 cans and five shekels for a kilo of recyclable plastic. At the other, Work Without Borders, a highly successful not-for-profit IT company, houses more than 100 Gaza graduates earning between $500 and $1,500 designing software and apps, mainly for Saudi companies. In between is Bilal al Omri, 23, who runs a beachside cafeteria. “I saw my friends going to university and then staying at home because they had no job,” he said. “I thought, ‘why study and get nothing?’” His stall brings in 50-60 shekels a day in the summer, but much less in winter. He dreams of the borders being opened as the international community has repeatedly urged. “I could travel,” he said. “And think of all the tourists that would come here.” But, he added, “material things are not everything. We want dignity, like human beings everywhere.”

Hamas court hands comedian 18 months in prison over mock beheading
[behind paywall] dpa 29 Dec — A military court run by the Islamist Hamas movement that rules the Gaza Strip has sentenced a comedian to 18 months in prison for filming a mock Islamic State-style execution. Aadel al-Mashwakhi, 32, from the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah, was given six months in jail for “insulting religious feeling,” another six months for “opposing public policy” and yet another six months for displaying “defective behaviour,” the local news site Paltimes, which is close to Hamas, reported on Sunday. Police in Rafah confirmed the Saturday verdict. A video that has circulated on social media and on YouTube since September shows al-Mashwakhi mocking the radical Sunni group. Standing together with three young men, two of them holding knives, al-Mashwakhi cites a verse from the Koran as a fourth young man, blindfolded, kneels in front of him in the rubble. “This man’s head will be cut off because 10 years ago he stole a bag of pistachios from an old woman, and four years ago he swam in the sea wearing jean shorts 5 centimetres above his knees, in contradiction with Islam,” he says in a solemn voice, as those next to him giggle. Radical Muslims were outraged at the mockery of the rules of Islam …  Al-Mashwakhi is known in Rafah for having published dozens of funny video clips on YouTube.

Musicians decry Hamas ban on co-ed school concerts in Gaza
The Observer 22 Dec by Donald Macintyre — Authorities sanction strict Islamic fatwa that forbids boys and girls playing together on stage – but face strong criticism from teachers — Two orchestral concerts by students and graduates of Gaza’s decade-old music conservatory have been cancelled after the Hamas authorities insisted for the first time that they could not go ahead with girls and boys playing together on stage. The Gaza music school, part of the Palestinian-wide Edward Said National Conservatory of Music, rejected a new single-sex condition which the conductor told the Observer would be a disaster for the 45-member orchestra if sustained by the de facto government. As a result, the two annual public concerts by the Gaza Orchestra, one scheduled for earlier this month in the southern city of Khan Yunis and the other for last Thursday in Gaza City, did not take place. The concerts are usually a winter highlight for the school, which teaches both oriental and western classical music to 180 to 200 male and female pupils from the age of six or seven upwards.  The orchestra’s conductor, Anas Al Najar, 37, said the unprecedented move was “a very serious sign … The move against mixed-sex performances follows the issuing of a fatwa in November by an Islamic preacher in Khan Yunis, which is traditionally more conservative than Gaza City. On that occasion the target was open-air performances by the separate Sol Band – a five-member group including graduates of the Gaza school, one of them a girl. The fatwa, published on Facebook, and proposing a ban by the authorities, provoked widespread debate on social media, and was denounced as possible hate speech by the respected Palestinian Centre for Human Rights … [Hamas] is sensitive to complaints from Salafist and other ultra-conservative groups that it is not doing enough to impose a stricter Islamic regime….

In Gaza, a somber Christmas after permits row
GAZA (Asharq Al-Awsat) 23 Dec — With a shining tree, tinsel and Santa miniatures, Hanadi Missak’s apartment is all ready for Christmas, yet she still feels sad about spending the holiday at home. The 48-year-old is one of hundreds of Christian Palestinians from the Gaza Strip who applied for Israeli permission to travel to Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Church leaders say the normally straightforward process has this year been incredibly difficult, with only around one in five applications granted. With time running out until the celebrations begin, Missak had given up on travelling. “I was hoping to go to Bethlehem, but the circumstances did not allow it,” Missak, who is deputy principal at a Christian school in Gaza, told AFP. “There is the real celebration — the prayers, decorations in all the streets and the church,” she said. “The midnight mass is wonderful.”… A few hundred Gazan Christians have traditionally been granted permits to attend Christmas festivities in Bethlehem and Jerusalem each year.  This year, Israel initially didn’t announce any permits, prompting criticism from church groups and media. On Sunday, a statement from COGAT, the Israeli military body responsible for the permits, said some would be granted “in accordance with security assessments” …  Despite not travelling this year, Missak is determined to enjoy Christmas. Hanging on the wall in her apartment is a stitched “Merry Christmas” sign, while the banisters are covered in fake holly. Missak said Muslim friends and neighbors would pass by the house to take part in the festivities.

For many Gazans, it’s another Christmas barred from Bethlehem
RAMALLAH (Al-Monitor) 27 Dec by Aziza Nofal — Up until Dec. 23, Samer John Terzi was still hoping to fulfill his kids’ wish of celebrating Christmas at the birthplace of Christ. Every year, Israeli authorities have prevented Terzi and many other Christians from Gaza from visiting Bethlehem at this time of year, citing security reasons … Ayyad said that his church had received the list of people allowed to visit Bethlehem, and of the 950 requests made, 217 were approved. The list, however, did not include a single complete family, Ayyad claimed. The names, he said, had been approved randomly, which means that many of those who received a permit will not be able to use it. Neither Terzi’s name nor those of his three small children — John, Jack and Lamita — was on the list. “Christians from all over the world visit Bethlehem to celebrate Christmas while we, the people of this land, are denied access to it,” Terzi said. In 2016, John, Jack and their mother managed to visit Bethlehem, but Samir was denied a permit. In 2017 and 2018, the three kids were given permits, but their parents were not. “Last year, when we received our children’s permits, it was a bit like a joke,” Terzi said. “Lamita was two years old, and she got permission to go to Bethlehem without us …  Approved Catholics and other Christians in Gaza who celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25 and those of the Orthodox branch of the faith, who celebrate the holiday on Jan. 6, are issued permits typically valid for the span of the two holidays.

Israel allows only 55 Palestinian Christians from Gaza to enter West Bank for Christmas
MEMO 24 Dec — Israeli authorities have only allowed 55 Christians in the Gaza Strip to enter the West Bank and Jerusalem to celebrate Christmas, according to local news agency Ma’an. The Orthodox Church in Gaza said among the 600 official requests that were submitted to Israel, occupation authorities agreed to grant travel permits to just three children and 52 Palestinian elders mostly over the age of 60. This came after the Israeli Defence Ministry said in a statement on Sunday it would allow Palestinian Christians in Gaza to visit Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank “in accordance with security assessments and without regard to age”, reversing an earlier decision not to issue them permits, a move that was met with immediate backlash by Christian Palestinian leaders as well as Gisha, an Israeli rights group.

Muslim women spread Christmas cheer in Gaza
GAZA (Reuters) 30 Dec – Muslim women in the Palestinian Gaza Strip have been hand-crafting gifts for the approaching Orthodox Christmas as part of a project to empower a traditional community. Their Santa Claus dolls, toy Christmas trees and red-and-white puppets come into high demand over the holiday season in Gaza, Bethlehem and Italy. Though most of Gaza’s 2 million population are Muslim, around 1,000 are Christian, mostly Greek Orthodox, who celebrate Christmas on Jan. 7. “Our prophet encouraged us to respect all religions and we like to join with them in celebrating their day,” said the group’s product designer Laila Tayeh. Tayeh and colleagues are part of the Zaina Cooperative Association, working in a Gaza community that often restricts women’s movement outside the home. Haneen Alsammak, the association’s executive manager, said the project had given women training in carpentry and tailoring, and enabled them to leave their homes to work and spread some Christmas cheer. “This is a message of love toward Christians inside and outside Gaza,” she said.

New Freedom Flotilla will sail for Gaza in summer 2020
MEMO 2 Dec — The International Coalition of the Freedom Flotilla has announced that it will sail again to the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2020 to try to break the siege and silence towards the continuation of collective punishment imposed on the more than two million Palestinian people in Gaza. The decision comes after a two-day meeting in the Dutch city of Rotterdam, attended by representatives of solidarity organisations in support of Palestinian rights, from ten European countries including America, Canada and New Zealand. The flotilla will sail May next year, ten years after the bloody Israeli attack on the first Turkish-owned freedom flotilla, the Mavi Marmara that aimed to deliver aid to Gaza, breaking an Israeli and Egyptian blockade on the territory in 2010 …  Zaher Birawi, head of the International Committee for Breaking the Siege who also participated in the Rotterdam meetings, stressed that this year’s coalition project will focus on the effects of the blockade on children and youth in Gaza….

Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Settlements

Israeli media: 2000 new settlement units approved for West Bank
IMEMC/Agencies 29 Dec — It is expected that Israeli Civil Administration will approve, within days, the construction of thousands of settlement units in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem. Hebrew newspaper Haaretz said, Sunday morning, that “the so-called Supreme Building Council of the Civil Administration will approve, this week, the construction of two thousand settlement units in isolated blocs and settlements.” It stated that the ratification comes in implementation of statements made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a few days ago, in which he said that he “will soon seek to ratify the construction of 3 thousand settlement units.” Netanyahu also stated that he would soon announce the annexation of the Jordan Valley and seek American support for the annexation of the rest of the West Bank settlements, PNN reports.

Israel plans to further restrict Palestinian construction in West Bank
MEMO 20 Dec — The Israeli government is working to further clamp down on already restricted Palestinian construction in so-called “Area C” of the occupied West Bank, reported Israel Hayom. The paper reported that Defence Minister Naftali Bennett is working to fight Palestinian development in the region of the West Bank which he, and other right-wing leaders, have declared their intention of ultimately annexing. Israeli occupation authorities make it almost impossible for Palestinians to build “legally” in Area C – where Palestinians must obtain construction permits from Israel.
Now, Bennett has issued instructions to occupation authorities to intensify Israel’s crackdown. According to Israel Hayom, Bennett has held several meetings in the past few weeks with senior officials within Israel’s occupation authorities, as the right-wing minister seeks a “total stop to illegal Palestinian construction within two years”. In light of Israel’s discriminatory planning system, some European governments have provided modest funding to under-threat Palestinian communities, support that has infuriated Israel. For Israeli authorities, such Palestinian construction constitutes an illegal “take over” of land. The paper, which claims to have seen Bennett’s instructions to officials, says Israel’s plan has four elements: “operational, economic, legal, and PR”. One shift, in “enforcement priorities”, will see demolitions “carried out in accordance with Israeli interests, prioritising illegal buildings next to roads or settlements.” Bennett also reportedly “wants to take steps to stop the flow of European money” supporting Palestinian construction, with the minister telling officials: “We will no longer stand aside while the European Union builds political, illegal construction here”.

Al-Qanua: Bennett’s West Bank decision a ‘war crime’
IMEMC/Agencies 29 Dec — Hamas spokesman Abdul-Latif al-Qanua has described as “a war crime” the Israeli decision to have the settlements and outposts in Area C of the occupied West Bank registered with the Israeli Ministry of Justice instead of the army’s Civil Administration. In a press release on Saturday, Qanua said that war minister Naftali Bennett’s decision portends intents to annex more areas of the West Bank and displace the local residents. Qanua called such step a war crime against the Palestinian land and humans, and persistence in changing the geography of the West Bank … Israel Hayom newspaper reported, according to Days of Palestine, that Bennett recently carried out a series of discussions with officials within his ministry in order to allow the Israeli settlers to register the settlement lands with the Ministry of Justice instead of registering them through the Civil Administration. Bennett asked the officials to study a law allowing Israeli settlers to have the same privileges as other Jewish citizens of Israel. With this new measure, Bennett is seeking to reduce the waiting times for the approval of settlement plans applied for by Israeli settlers …  Such measures, it disclosed, would facilitate obtaining housing loans by settlers.

Presidency: Israeli intentions on land registration a challenge to the ICC
RAMALLAH, Saturday, December 28, 2019 (WAFA) – The Palestinian presidency warned today of the danger of Israeli expansionist intentions to enable settlers to register Palestinian lands in occupied West Bank areas classified as “C” in the land registry of the Israeli Ministry of Justice, stressing that this intention sought by Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett is a challenge to the International Criminal Court, which last week decided to open a war crime investigation of Israeli settlement activities. The presidency expressed in a statement its absolute rejection and condemnation of such intentions, considering that this constitutes an attempt to annex large parts of Palestinian lands, which is in violation of Security Council Resolution 2334 of 2016 that considers all settlements in all the Palestinian lands illegal. It said Israel, with this plan, wants to take advantage of the American administration’s hostility to the aspirations and hopes of the Palestinian people to prevent the establishment of the independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital….

Israel razes Palestinian lands south of Nablus to expand settlements
NABLUS (WAFA) 24 Dec – Israeli bulldozers Tuesday morning razed a large tract of Palestinian land located to the south of the occupied West Bank city of Nablus, in order to expand the nearby illegal Israeli colonial settlements. Ghassan Daghlas, who monitors Israeli settlement activities in the northern West Bank, told WAFA that settlers escorted bulldozers to al-Khafafish area, classified as Basin 13, which belongs to the Nablus-district villagers of Jalud, for the expansion of the nearby colonial settlements of Shilo and Shivot Rahil. Daghlas added that land was leveled despite an Israeli court ruling upholding a halt on the expansion of Shivot Rahil colonial settlement. He went on to say that Israeli bulldozers were proceeding with leveling Palestinian farmlands, classified as Basin 12, which belongs to the villagers of Jalud, to build 175 new settler units in the nearby settlement of Shilo.

Netanyahu freezes Jordan Valley annexation plan over ICC probe
Israel National News 24 Dec — Plan to apply Israeli sovereignty over Jordan Valley frozen after International Criminal Court moves forward with probe of Israel — Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has frozen plans to apply Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley, Yediot Aharonot reported Tuesday, after the International Criminal Court announced last Friday that it would investigate Israel for alleged war crimes in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza. According to the report, Netanyahu nixed a planned meeting of an inter-ministerial team charged with handling the proposed application of Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley. Sources told Yediot that the meeting had been slated to take place over the weekend, but was cancelled after the ICC announced it would probe Palestinian Arab allegations of Israeli war crimes in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza – including claims against Israeli towns beyond the pre-1967 Green Line.
In September, Netanyahu announced that if re-elected, he would apply Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley – Israel’s eastern border – making it the first territory since 1981 to be placed under Israeli sovereignty, and the first part of Judea and Samaria to be added to the sovereign State of Israel since the summer of 1967.
On Friday
, ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced that the ICC would investigate alleged Israeli “war crimes”.The ICC reportedly cited Netanyahu’s Jordan Valley annexation plans in its decision to open the investigation….

Israeli forces raze tents, uproot trees near Nablus
NABLUS (WAFA) 23 Dec – Israeli forces Monday seized a number of tents and uprooted trees in the area of Khirbet Tana, a small village to the east of Nablus, according to local sources. Ghassan Daghlas, who monitors settlement activities in northern West Bank, told WAFA that Israeli troops raided the area and declared it a closed military zone before proceeding to seize the tents and uproot the trees. The village has been demolished multiple times by the Israeli authorities, as the Israeli Civil Administration does not recognize it as a village worth planning, therefore prohibiting construction there. The community is not connected to water or electricity and its residents use two local springs for water. A community of some 250 Palestinians relying on animal husbandry and agriculture for their livelihood, Khirbet Tana has been left practically with almost no infrastructure. According to the United Nations monitoring group OCHA, recent Israeli demolitions in the village “displaced ten families with 36 members, including 11 children, and affected the livelihoods of five additional families.”

Israel demolished 29 structures in past two weeks, says OCHA
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 27 Dec – During the period between December 10 and 23, Israeli occupation authorities demolished or forced people to demolish 29 structures in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, displacing 45 people and affecting over 100 others, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has said. Twelve of the structures targeted, including five previously provided as humanitarian assistance, were in three herding communities located in areas designated as firing zones for military training in the Tubas, Nablus and Jericho governorates. OCHA said in its biweekly report that so far in 2019, 617 structures have been demolished or seized in the West Bank, displacing 898 Palestinians; these figures represent a 35 and 92 per cent increase, respectively, compared with the equivalent period in 2018. Over 20 per cent of all structures targeted in 2019, and some 40 per cent of all donor-funded aid structures, were located in firing zones, which cover about 30 per cent of Area C. During one of the demolitions in a firing zone east of Nablus, Israeli forces uprooted or cut approximately 2,500 forest trees and saplings. The trees were part of a recreational area serving some 14,000 residents in the nearby town of Beit Furik and the Khirbet Tana herding community. It was developed with the support of the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture and an international organization. This is the third such recreational area in Area C to be destroyed in 2019.
Israeli forces carried out a total of 154 search and arrest operations across the West Bank and arrested 146 Palestinians, including at least 17 children. The largest number of operations was in the Jerusalem governorate (41), mainly in Al-Isawiya neighbourhood of East Jerusalem, followed by Ramallah (34) and Hebron (27) governorates.
On 10 December, some 80 Palestinian farmers from three villages in Salfit governorate lost access to their land behind the West Bank Barrier after the Israeli authorities confiscated their entry permits. The incident took place at the Barrier gate leading to the farmers’ land; according to the latter, no reason was given to them. On 5 December, farmers from these three villages petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court against the routine failure of the authorities to open the gate at the scheduled time.

Feature: Palestinian family left to live without any basic living standards in Tubas
TUBAS (WAFA) 23 Dec by Harith al-Hosni — On the foothills of a mountain overlooking Al-Baqai’a Plain to the east of Tubas, in the northeastern West Bank, lived a Bedouin family in tents after leaving the southern West Bank city of Hebron on the first of December. During this short period of living there, Israeli forces have twice verbally ordered Abu Thaher family to leave the 11 dunums of land under the pretext of being in closed military and live-fire zones, despite the fact that the family has ownership deeds, known as Tabu. According to one of the family members, Zaid, on the third raid on the area, Israeli forces dismantled and seized all the residential tents and others used for animal husbandry without giving them any prior official notices, displacing the whole family and leaving them without shelter. Israeli forces also seized the only clean water tank the family had, leaving them only with a livestock water tank used for the animal watering needs; “as if they are deliberately and intentionally seeking to deprive us of all the essential aspects of human life,” said Zaid. In most cases, Palestinian families attempt to rebuild and restore what the Israeli occupation has demolished, however, in the case of Abu Thaher family, there was nothing left to restore after Israeli forces dismantled and seized everything there, leaving them without any basic living standards. “We will start from scratch…Neither we nor our animals have shelter today,” said Zaid’s mother, Zainab, who lost her 60-square-meter home tent in the demolition raid. “They only gave us 15 minutes to empty the tents… Without giving any explanation they began to dismantle the tents and load them into trucks…They left us helpless without any shelter,” added Zaid as he spoke vigorously in contrast to the silent mother who said very little after being at a loss for words following the demolition of their entire tents …  In light of the low front expected to hit the region, the mother who spoke of concern about the animals given the fact that most Bedouins rely on livestock as their main source of income said: “The first thing we have to do is to find shelter for the animals….


Stateless Jerusalemites call on Jordan to restore their citizenship
Al-Monitor 30 Dec by Daoud Kuttab — Public calls by Palestinians for the restoration of Jordanian citizenship to all Palestinian East Jerusalemites have increased in recent weeks due in part to the increased Israeli attempts to divorce Jerusalemites from any connection to the Palestinian leadership. Some 350,000 stateless Palestinians live in Jerusalem. Their plight has deteriorated over the years, especially since the 1993 PLO-Israel Declaration of Principles (also known as the Oslo Accord) that separated East Jerusalem from the rest of the occupied territories. While Jerusalem is a final status negotiation issue, the reality on the ground after a quarter of a century — especially under the right-wing Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu — has focused in large part on attempts to cut off any connections between Palestinians in Jerusalem and the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah. Khalil Assali, the publisher of an East Jerusalem-focused website, Akhbar el Balad, wrote Dec. 23, “Jerusalemites are yearning for a return of Jordanian citizenship.” Al-Monitor talked with dozens of East Jerusalemites from different backgrounds and their answer was unanimous in support of the idea … Wasfi Kailani, director of the Royal Hashemite Fund for the Restoration of Al-Aqsa, told Al-Monitor that the Jordanian government is aware of the plight of Jerusalemites but the issue is not on the agenda of the Jordanian government. Kailani said, “We have taken note of the deteriorating situation in East Jerusalem especially after Israeli Minister of Public Security… Gilad Erdan’s decision to sever all ties between Palestinian educational institutions in Jerusalem and the Palestinian government. Some 42 schools run by the Jordanian waqf, which use Palestinian curriculum, were ordered closed last month [Nov. 6], leaving 20,000 students without any educational reference.”…  On Nov. 20, Erdan closed Palestinian health, education, and family organizations and ordered a local TV company not to provide technical services to Palestine TV. The Arab Health Center operating in Silwan was also closed by orders of Erdan because it receives financial support from the Ramallah-based Palestinian government….

Jerusalem issue complicates Palestinian elections
LONDON (Arab Weekly) 22 Dec — Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said an Israeli refusal to allow voting in East Jerusalem “would be a major problem” and could stop the vote from taking place entirely — The question of East Jerusalem has become an obstacle that threatens efforts to enable Palestinians to vote in the Palestinian territories. This reality became more evident after Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas conditioned the first Palestinian general elections in 13 years on Israel allowing residents of East Jerusalem to participate in the vote. “If Jerusalem residents can’t vote in the heart of the city where they live, there will not be elections,” Abbas said December 17. “We are very interested in having elections but not at any price.”
Abbas, who heads the Fatah party, said in September he would issue a decree for national elections but gave no date. The rival Hamas movement supported the move while PA officials requested Israel permit polling stations in East Jerusalem, as the Israelis had in the 2006 parliamentary election and a presidential vote a year earlier. However, recent statements by Abbas appear aimed mainly at Hamas, which is pressing the Palestinian president for the decree for the elections regardless of Israel’s position on allowing voting in Jerusalem. Hamas Political Bureau Member Moussa Abu Marzook said Abbas’s decision to postpone the decree pending the Israeli position “means, in practice, that this decree may never be issued.” Hamas officials said it was possible to overcome the Israeli rejection. However, the Palestinian Authority insists that Jerusalemites vote in the city’s post offices, as was the case in previous elections. The Palestinian Authority directly addressed Israel, the United Nations, the European Union and other countries to allow having elections in Jerusalem, as in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The overwhelming majority of Palestinians in East Jerusalem cannot vote in national elections in Israel because Israeli law only permits citizens to cast ballots. Palestinians in East Jerusalem largely do not hold citizenship but rather permanent residency. Israel forbids any official activity in Jerusalem by the Palestinian Authority, saying it breaches interim peace deals with the Palestinians. An Israeli official said Israel was aware of the Palestinians’ request but “has not yet taken a position on it.”

West Bank

Within two months, 20 Palestinians were shot while trying to cross from West Bank
[behind paywall] Haaretz 23 Dec by Hagar Shezaf — Four of the workers, who seek to earn living in Israel, say they received no warning before being shot. The Israeli army insists soldiers complied with rules of engagement — About 20 Palestinians have been shot by Israeli security forces in the last two months as they tried to illegally cross the separation barrier into Israel from the West Bank, according to figures obtained by Haaretz. All are construction workers living in the northern West Bank, and seem to have been shot with Ruger precision rifles. Four of them told Haaretz that they were shot in the legs without prior warning. The army spokesman said the soldiers were in compliance with the rules of engagement. According to a defense source, the instructions for the area require soldiers to first declare their intention and fire a shot into the air before aiming live fire at the legs. An estimated 30,000 Palestinians enter Israel illegally – without work permits – every day to work, a fact known to the Israeli defense establishment. Another 80,000 work in Israel legally, mostly in low-skilled jobs. The pay is meager by Israeli standards, but for Palestinians, it’s about twice of the average West Bank salary, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.
In September, rumor spread among Palestinians that Israel was opening a crossing point along the fence through which they could pass without permits. A video clip showing people crossing freely by the Palestinian village of Qaffin went viral, along with a message that “In the northern West Bank, Israel opened the gates and removed the army, and people are entering with their cars.” Sources claimed the Israeli army wanted to debunk the rumor, and since then, the number of Palestinians shot while trying to cross illegally has risen …
Abdullah from Tul Karm refugee camp took three bullets in the thigh and calf when approaching the fence by the village of Zita. “We were going through the opening one by one. I was in the first line by the fence. I was shot while approaching the fence but still in West Bank territory,” he related. Abdullah said he didn’t hear or see the soldiers before being shot. The impact knocked him into the wadi. The soldiers took him to the Israeli side, gave him first aid and then dropped him off on the Palestinian side. He spent four days in a Jenin hospital and has eight fractures in his legs. “If they had just told me to go backwards, I would have. My intention was to go to work, not get shot.” Fadi, also from Tul Karm, was shot in the foot when trying to cross. “I want Israelis to know that I cross the fence to make a living. Now I’m at home, vomiting with pain and struggling financially,” he said. Seif of ‘Arraba was shot in the calf while crossing to work in Bartaa two weeks ago. He had worked in Israel for four years, mostly with permits, but started crossing through breaches in the fence when Israel began denying his work permit.  “Yet again, the army is firing at people who aren’t endangering anybody, this time in premeditated ambushes,” commented the Israeli human rights organization B’tselem.

Several injuries as Israeli settlers storm Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus
NABLUS (WAFA) 30 Dec – Nine Palestinians were injured this morning by Israeli army gunfire as hundreds of Israeli settlers forced their way into Joseph’s Tomb near the northern West Bank city of Nablus, said security sources. Israeli forces escorted a convoy of buses packed with hundreds of fanatic Jewish settlers into the site, located in the Palestinian-controlled area, sparking confrontations with Palestinian residents. Soldiers opened fire on Palestinians protesting the raid and attempting to block settlers’ access to the site, injuring several protesters with rubber coated steel bullets. The Red Crescent told WAFA that three were injured with rubber coated steel bullets and that they were moved to Rafidia hospital, while six others were locally treated after suffering from suffocation due to inhaling tear gas fired at them by Israeli soldiers. Settlers repeatedly break into Joseph’s Tomb, located in a densely Palestinian populated area in Nablus, provoking chaos and confrontation with local residents.

Israeli settler attacks mother, daughter in Hebron city
HEBRON (WAFA) 23 Dec — A Palestinian mother and her daughter were injured today evening after being attacked by an Israeli settler in Tel Rumeida neighborhood in Hebron city, the southern occupied West Bank, according to Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS). PRCS said its staff provided the necessary first aid to the mother and her daughter after they were attacked and pepper sprayed by an Israeli settler. Palestinian residents in Tel Rumeida are subjected to almost daily harassment by extremist Israeli settlers from the illegal settlement of Ramat Yishai, build on Palestinian privately-owned lands in Tel Rumeida. To be noted, in Israeli occupied downtown Hebron, five small settlements that house between 500 and 1,000 Israelis continue to expand onto Palestinian land and property.

Palestinian writer among  dozens arrested by Israel
MEE/Agencies 24 Dec — In a fresh round of overnight raids, Israel arrests Ahmad Qatamesh and 31 others, including university students — Israeli forces arrested dozens of Palestinians in raids across the occupied West Bank on Tuesday, including prominent Palestinian writer Ahmad Qatamesh, the Palestine Prisoners’ Society (PPS) said. Qatamesh, 69, was arrested in his home in the city of al-Bireh, the group said. The reason for his arrest remained unclear. Israel has previously accused Qatamesh of being a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a left-wing political group. At time of publication, the spokesperson for the Shin Bet, the Israeli intelligence agency, had not replied to Middle East Eye’s request for a comment. Qatamesh is no stranger to Israeli detention. The writer, academic, and activist was first arrested in the 1970s and jailed for four years. In 1992, he was arrested again and spent six years on administrative detention – the longest period that a Palestinian prisoner was in detention without trial or charge. The rights group Amnesty International called Qatamesh a “prisoner of conscience” after he was arrested again in 2017 and held without trial for three months. “Qatamesh shouldn’t spend a single minute more behind bars, let alone be detained for three months without charge or trial,” Amnesty said at the time.
The Israeli army has recently arrested several Palestinian activists in the occupied West Bank, alleging it is searching for “wanted” Palestinians, triggering clashes with residents. At least 31 other Palestinians, including university students, were arrested throughout the West Bank on Tuesday, Palestinian news agency Wafa said. Nearly half of the arrests were made in the village of ‘Issawiya in occupied East Jerusalem….

Palestinian Prisoners’ Society: At least seven Palestinians detained from West Bank
IMEMC/Agencies 26 Dec — In a press release, the Palestine Prisoners’ Society (PPS) stated that Israeli forces detained at least seven Palestinians overnight Wednesday, in multiple incursions across the West Bank, the Palestinian News and Info Agency (WAFA) reported. Israeli forces rounded up two Palestinians from the northern West Bank district of Qalqilia; one of the detainees, 36, suffers from head and spinal injuries as a result of a traffic accident in 2016. Elsewhere in the northern West Bank, a resident of the Jenin refugee camp was detained after being stopped at a military checkpoint near Nablus city. PPS also confirmed an Israeli military invasion in Qarawat Bani Hassan town, located to the northwest of Salfit, resulting in the detention of a Palestinian. In Jericho region, two Palestinian teens, identified as residents of Aqabat Jabr refugee camp, located to southwest of Jericho city, were detained after being summoned by Israeli intelligence. In Hebron district, Israeli military vehicles invaded Bani Neim town, where soldiers abducted one Palestinian. Meanwhile, Israeli police ordered the nighttime house arrest of six Palestinian youths from the Jerusalem neighborhood of al-‘Issawiya.

‘We are living in a touristic prison’: Palestinians on life in the holy city of Bethlehem
BETHLEHEM, West Bank (Vox) 23 Dec by Dalia Hatuqa — Millions visit Bethlehem every Christmas. But Palestinians who live there are struggling to survive — It’s daytime in Bethlehem, about two weeks before Christmas, and two laborers are adding stones to a narrow, cobbled road believed to have been taken by Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to the place of Jesus’s birth. The pilgrimage route known as Star Street is being renovated in hopes it will return to its former glory: a bustling thoroughfare of historical importance. For now, though, it is often deserted, its storefronts almost always shut. Downtown Bethlehem, the commercial heart of the city, is mostly bypassed in favor of the more well-known ancient site: the church built on top of the grotto where Jesus was born …
“We are living in a touristic prison. Yes, we get lots of tourism, but for the Palestinian people, it’s pretty much a prison,” said Suhail Khalilieh, head of the Settlements Monitoring Department at the Applied Research Institute — Jerusalem (ARIJ), a nonprofit based in Bethlehem … Today, there are 23 settlements, which take up 8.1 square miles (21 square kilometers) of the Bethlehem area. Some 165,000 Israeli settlers — comprising about one-third of the total settler population in the West Bank, according to Khalilieh — live here on hilltops, in houses marked by their red tile roofs. Ninety-two percent of Bethlehem’s 210,000 Palestinians are confined to 13 percent of its total land, he explained. “There is no room to expand or build on,” he said. “Development of the city is extremely limited. Bethlehem is a devastated governorate. “Bethlehem is known to have one of the highest rates of unemployment within the West Bank. The price of land and [the] cost of living has skyrocketed beyond imagination, mostly because of tourism,” Khalilieh continued …
“Bethlehem is suffocating,” said George Rishmawi, a tourism expert and executive director of Abraham’s Path, a nonprofit that develops community-based tourism. “It’s full of buses and cars, [and] we don’t have enough space. Most of our land was stolen for the [sake of] Israeli settlements. “We have no place to breathe, no open areas for locals,” he added. “Tourists will come normally to visit the Church of the Nativity, use the toilets, some of them have lunch, some of them visit the Shepherds’ Field and leave.” …
Having the church be the main — if not only — attraction for most visitors during the festive season leaves Bethlehemites feeling “invisible during Christmas,” said Rev. Munther Isaac, the Lutheran pastor of Bethlehem and a prominent Palestinian theologian … The challenge, Isaac said, is to look at the Palestinian-Israeli conflict through the eyes of Jesus. Isaac believes that many Western Christians engage in false spirituality when they don’t ask what Jesus would do when dealing with such a conflict. “As they cross the checkpoint, and they travel near the separation wall and by two refugee camps, I always wonder: Do they care about what’s happening around them?” Isaac asked. “Or is Bethlehem, to them, this romantic view of an old church that they visit and tick off their to-do list of religious duties? Is this what it means to follow in Jesus’s footsteps?”

A Christmas journey from olive orchard to Nativity carving
BETHLEHEM, West Bank (Reuters) 23 Dec by Stephen Farrell — As Christmas pilgrims pore over the intricately carved Nativity scenes in Bethlehem shop windows, few pause to consider that some of the wood used comes from olive trees older than the events of the ancient story they depict. The lacquered wooden manger displays are some of the most popular souvenirs bought by tourists visiting the West Bank Palestinian town that is by tradition the birthplace of Jesus. Costing anything from $2 to $70,000 depending on size and quality, they are carved by some 125 workshops in and around Bethlehem, each putting its own distinctive stamp on the figurines of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the Three Wise Men and angels. Maher Canawati, CEO of The Three Arches, a family-run business that dates to the 16th century, said an American bank last year paid him $120,000 for a particularly large display to be installed in its lobby. Most, he said, sell for around $600 to $800. Canawati, 41, said the olive trees can be more than 2,000 years old, but his industry faces heavy fines if a healthy tree felled. The figurines are carved from branches cut off during the pruning season in November and December, he said. And the large trunks used for the Nativity scenes are usually from trees that have been moved for new buildings or roadworks, and that failed to “take” in their new location. “We wait two seasons to make sure they are dead, that there is nothing green on them, before we cut them down,” he said. “Olive trees are holy trees for us, and we try as much as possible to turn all the trees that we cut down … into eternal artefacts.”

VIDEO: Christmas parade tours streets of Bethlehem
IMEMC/Agencies 23 Dec — Thousands of people went out to the streets of Bethlehem, to watch the annual Christmas parade touring Palestinian cities. The parade was launched on Friday evening, with the sound of religious hymns, heading toward Nativity Square, in the presence of official and legal personalities, in addition to families, children, and tourists. The parade administration confirmed that it is returning today, after an absence of three years, as it seeks to revive Christmas, starting with the cave, the shepherds, Santa, and the games factory, as it departs from Bethlehem to roam several Palestinian cities, including Ramallah, Zababdeh, and Jericho. Ramzi Khoury, head of the Higher Presidential Committee for Follow-up on Churches Affairs, said that the Presidential Committee worked in cooperation with various authorities, headed by governorates, municipalities, and security services, to restore the convoy’s work after a three-year hiatus.  Khoury affirmed, in an interview with PNN, that the glorious birthday celebration contributes to the transfer of the Palestinian religious and national message to the whole world, and proves to the world that they are a peaceful people who love life and adhere to its sanctities….

Thousands mark Christmas in West Bank town of Bethlehem
BETHLEHEM, West Bank (AP) 24 Dec by Mohammad Daraghmeh & Patty Nieburg — Thousands of Christian pilgrims on Tuesday flocked to the West Bank town of Bethlehem, celebrating Christmas Eve in the traditional birthplace of Jesus. Visitors converged on the town’s large Christmas tree in Manger Square, near the spot believed to mark Jesus’ birthplace. Uniformed Palestinian scouts wearing yellow and gold capes paraded past assembled visitors, the sound of drums and bagpipes filling the cool, clear air. Vendors hawked snacks and holiday gifts, adding to the festive atmosphere. Roger Hoagland, a Christian educator and missionary from Louisville, Kentucky, said he had come to lead a Baptist choir for a fourth time and described his visit as the experience of a lifetime. “We love this opportunity,” he said. “We have 40 people and many of them are from the U.S. and other countries. They come to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.” While Bethlehem is in the Palestinian-administered area of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Israel’s imposing separation barrier encloses parts of the city and is a constant reminder of the complex political reality. Most of the Christmas Eve visitors appeared to be local residents, with foreign pilgrims seeming to make up a modest portion of the crowd.  Still, the celebrations capped the most successful year in history for Palestinian tourism, according to Tourism Minister Rula Maayah … Maayah estimated that some 15,000 pilgrims were staying overnight in Bethlehem’s fully booked hotels this Christmas. Tourists were also staying in other West Bank towns, such as Ramallah and Jericho, in addition to Jerusalem. In all, she said the number of foreign tourists visiting the West Bank this year is estimated to reach 3.5 million people, up from 3 million last year …  The Church of the Nativity, where Christians believe Jesus was born, hosted Palestinian dignitaries and pilgrims from around the world for a midnight Mass. The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, was among those in attendance….

Banksy unveils politically charged ‘Scar of Bethlehem’ Nativity scene at West Bank hotel
BETHLEHEM, West Bank (AP) 23 Dec by Mohammed Daraghmeh — The mysterious street artist known as Banksy has displayed a politically charged Nativity scene in Bethlehem, the town revered as Jesus’ birthplace, just in time for the busy Christmas season. The artwork, named “Scar of Bethlehem,” depicts the birth of Jesus under Israel’s West Bank separation barrier with a bullet hole shaped like a star. The piece is displayed at the “Walled Off Hotel,” a Palestinian guesthouse in Bethlehem that was designed by Banksy and is filled with his artwork. Wisam Salsaa, the hotel manager, said the British artist recently sent the new piece to the hotel. “We see there is a scar,” he said. “A hole on the wall marks the wall and the life in Bethlehem.” The hotel, which overlooks the separation barrier, sarcastically boasts “the worst view in the world.” Since its opening in 2017, it has become a popular tourist draw. “Banksy is trying to remind the world that people of Bethlehem, where Christmas was started, are not celebrating Christmas like the rest of the world,” he said. Israel built the barrier in the early 2000s in what it said was a move to prevent Palestinian suicide bombers in the West Bank from reaching Israel. The Palestinians consider the barrier illegal and call it an Israeli land grab, noting that it has engulfed large chunks of the West Bank onto the Israeli “side.” Bethlehem has been affected especially hard by the barrier, which surrounds large parts of the city….


Israel organizes tour for 23 UN envoys to West Bank settlements
MEMO 20 Dec — Israel has taken 23 ambassadors to the UN on a tour of a number of illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, Israel Hayom reported yesterday. According to the paper, this is the first time that ambassadors to the United Nations have officially visited the region, explaining that the tour took place as part of the cooperation between the Foreign Relations Unit of the Samaria Regional Settlement Council and the Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon. The paper said the participants included the ambassadors of Poland, Romania, the Czech Republic, Ukraine, Guatemala, Haiti and others. The representatives met with the head of the Samaria Settlement Council, Yossi Dagan and visited a factory in the Barkan industrial zone where they met Palestinian workers and Jewish settlers. “We have seen Arab-Israeli coexistence in factories, and we think this is a very important project. Buying these products provides an opportunity for peace,” said Bosnia and Herzegovina Ambassador to the United Nations, Sven Alkalaj. Meanwhile, Danny Danon, the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, said: “The visit helps us present the truth about Israel.”
In mid-November, a top court in the EU ruled that European countries must identify with special labels products made in Israeli settlements. All of Israel’s settlements are illegal under international law. Israel has repeatedly protest against such a move. Palestinians working in illegal settlements often complain of a lack of rights, being paid significantly less than their Jewish counterparts, not being provided sick pay or medical attention should they be injured on the job and being under constant threat of losing their livelihood should they speak up about the abuse and injustice they face at work.

Report: UN body to ‘blacklist’ Israeli businesses operating in West Bank
i24NEWS 22 Dec — UNCHR High Commissioner Bachelet pressurized by Washington to bin controversial report — The United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) is set to publish a highly contested report about Israeli businesses that operate in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, Hebrew-language outlet Ynet reported on Sunday. The designation of Israeli companies has been referred to as “blacklisting” as Israelis fear move could have negative effect on investment in the country. The UN report is expected to be published at the end of next month, after having been postponed a few times in the past. This latest development comes as another international blow to the Jewish state after the chief International Criminal Court prosecutor announced Friday a probe into suspected war crimes on Palestinian territories. Ynet reported that the US administration has operated behind-the-scenes in an attempt to halt the UN’s conduct, but it is unclear if it will be successful. Washington is reportedly pressurizing UNCHR High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet of Chile to pull the controversial report, with US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman briefing Israeli sources on the matter. US Republican and Democrat congressmen alike have addressed Bachelet, sending a message that should the “blacklist” be published, the United States will engage in harsh steps against the UNCHR. “I am obliged to enforce the mandate of the Commission and intend to report to the Council as requested,” Bachelet told the UN Security Council in a letter made public. “My office will continue to dedicate itself to the matter with the aim to conclude its activity in the upcoming months.” Among the Israeli companies notified by the commissioner for potential inclusion: HOT, Hapoalim and Leumi banks, Bezeq, Egged, Coca Cola, Cafe Cafe, Teva, Rami Levy, Partner, and more.


In the West Bank, American funding cuts run deep
Irish Times 21 Dec by Niall Sargent — Life in Balata is a disaster, says Sadya Khateeb. Balata – a refugee camp in the West Bank – was set up after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. It was to be a transient home for 5,000 Palestinians exiled from the coastal village of Jaffa near Tel Aviv.  Born and raised in the urban camp, 43-year-old Khateeb sees the camp on the edge of Nablus as nothing more than a temporary resting place. She is waiting to take her seven children “home” to the Mediterranean Sea, a sight most residents of Balata have never seen. The teacher, however, sees little prospect of a political solution that would allow her to return. Balata sits at the edge of the city of Nablus in the West Bank, the land-locked area bordered by Israel and Jordan. The Israeli-occupied West Bank is Palestinian land which is largely under Israeli military control. Under the occupation, Palestinians’ freedom of movement is restricted through a system of checkpoints and roadblocks. While Palestinians have a degree of autonomy in parts of the West Bank, 60 per cent of the land is under complete Israeli civil and security control. As Balata creeps toward its 70th birthday, its population has ballooned to encompass three generations of refugee families. Yet its physical boundaries cannot expand beyond the land allotted to it 69 years ago, leaving it as by far the most densely populated among the 19 West Bank camps. Its near 30,000 inhabitants are confined to an area barely twice the size of Temple Bar. Tightly squeezed apartment blocks stand shoulder to shoulder in the cramped confines, separated by narrow streets that are measured in inches rather than feet. Overcrowding, however, is the least of the residents’ worries, says Khateeb. High unemployment rates, low incomes, poor infrastructure, and overburdened health clinics top the long list of problems camp dwellers face. These chronic problems were intensified by a decision made half way across the globe last year that sent shockwaves through refugee camps across the Middle East. The decision by US president Donald Trump to withhold $300 million of $360 million in funding to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) last year threatened the agency’s ability to deliver its core mandate to support Palestine refugees. The so-called “Trump cuts” (the US had been the agency’s largest donor) were “completely unprecedented”, according to Gwyn Lewis, UNRWA’s director of operations in the West Bank. They left the agency with a $446 million hole to fill last year. The US cut all contributions in 2019. The agency plays a crucial role in daily refugee life. The Palestinian Authority does not consider itself a first provider, leaving UNRWA with a quasi-governmental role….

Japan contributes over $11 million for food, education and sanitation for Palestine refugees
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 22 Dec – The Government of Japan signed yesterday two contribution agreements amounting to 1,214,000,000 Japanese Yen (approximately $11.15 million) with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). The event took place in the city of Ramallah with the presence of Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh and Keisuke Suzuki, State Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan. The JPY 600,000,000 ($5.51 million) will immediately enable UNRWA to continue to provide food assistance to 98,000 Palestine refugees in the Gaza Strip through the Social Security Net Programme (SSNP) and help mitigate the impact of poverty and food insecurity to those most in need. An additional JPY 614,000,000 ($5.64 million) will contribute to the construction of a school in the Gaza Strip that will provide 1,000 students access to quality education. This additional contribution will also support the construction of a sewerage system in Ein el-Sultan camp in the West Bank to improve the living conditions there. Both infrastructure projects will be implemented throughout 2020 and 2021.

UAE contributes $25M to UNRWA in support of Palestinian refugees
JERUSALEM (WAFA) 19 Dec — The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has announced a contribution of AED 95 million (approximately US$ 25 million) to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), said a statement issued by UNRWA. This contribution constitutes the second and final payment of its overall commitment for 2019 in the amount of AED 184 million (approximately US$ 50 million) in support of Palestine refugees.
The donation is the fulfillment of the UAE pledge for this year to help the agency deliver vital health and education, as well as life-saving humanitarian aid services, for Palestine refugees in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.  The fulfillment of the pledge comes at a critical time for the Agency, which is seeking to overcome a significant funding shortage at the end of the year.

Other news

Newspapers Review: As Israel eases restrictions on Gaza, it tightens grip on West Bank
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 30 Dec – According to the main front-page story in today’s al-Quds newspaper, Israel will soon ease its 13-year-old blockade on the Gaza Strip as reports of progress in calm talks between Israel and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip since 2007. At the same time, Israel intends to tighten its grip on the West Bank with an expected decision to add more than 2000 new housing units to its illegal settlements in the occupied territory, according to the main front page story in al-Ayyam daily.
The main front-page headline in the third Arabic daily, al-Hayat al-Jadida, highlighted remarks by President Mahmoud Abbas at the opening of Fatah Consultative Council meeting in Ramallah last night in which he said that there will be no elections without East Jerusalem being part and parcel of it. He also said that he is going to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to hold Israel accountable for its crimes against the Palestinian people, as came in the headline of the stories on this topic in the three dailies …
The same paper also highlighted charges by Fatah attacking Hamas for claiming that it has arrested a cell in Gaza involved in the Israeli assassination of a top Islamic Jihad leader, with Fatah describing these claims as a “failed attempt to cover up the agreements it (Hamas) is concluding with the (Israeli) occupation.”

Hamas accuses PA of helping Israel kill Islamic Jihad leader
Times of Israel 29 Dec by Adam Rasgon — Hamas in the Gaza Strip said on Sunday that its security forces arrested a cell of Palestinian Authority intelligence officials, who it claimed collected information on Islamic Jihad terror leader Baha Abu al-Ata before he was eliminated by Israel in a targeted killing. Fatah, the party that dominates the PA, quickly pushed back on the allegation, claiming it was false. Abu al-Ata and his wife were killed on November 12, in an Israeli strike on his home in northern Gaza. Terror groups in Gaza subsequently fired hundreds of rockets at Israel, which responded with retaliatory strikes. After Abu al-Ata’s death, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described him as a “ticking time bomb” and “the main instigator of terrorism” from the coastal enclave, responsible for many rocket attacks on Israel and planning more. The Hamas Interior Ministry alleged in a statement Sunday that the cell of PA intelligence officers monitored the movements of Abu al-Ata for several months before he was killed. It specifically claimed that the cell was ordered to follow the Islamic Jihad commander by Shaaban Abdullah al-Gharbawi, who it said is a PA General Intelligence Services officer responsible for Gaza …  In its statement, the ministry claimed that the security forces confiscated “technical materials” that confirm Gharbawi gave Shin Bet officers information about “the resistance’s abilities, plans and the movements of its members and leaders.”….

Israeli-PA coordinated arrest campaign against Hamas in West Bank
Al-Monitor 23 Dec by Adnan Abu Amer — Since mid-December, the West Bank has been the target of an increased arrest campaign led by Israeli and Palestinian security forces against dozens of Hamas members and leaders. The campaign is ongoing, and the number of arrests has not been specified. On Dec. 12 and Dec. 16, Israel carried out wide arrests in Nablus, Tulkarm, Ramallah, al-Bireh, Hebron and Jericho that included member of the Palestinian Legislative Council Mohammad al-Natsheh, former Minister of Local Governance Issa al-Jaabari, Hamas leader Abdul Khaleq al-Natsheh, several former detainees and Shada Hasan, a student at Birzeit University. On Dec. 14 and Dec. 16, Hamas revealed that the Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces had arrested more than 40 of its members, including former detainees, university students, journalists, young activists, rights activists, traders, engineers and academics. The PA also summoned 36 Hamas members and raided and searched 24 houses, according to Palestinian activist Mostafa Jamil who disclosed the names of the Hamas members arrested by Israel and the PA in a Facebook post. The timing of Israel’s and the PA’s simultaneous arrests of Hamas members is suspicious, as the arrests coincide with the Palestinian preparations for legislative elections scheduled in the coming months. This might deprive Hamas of participating in these elections, amid attempts at emptying the West Bank of Hamas members who might take part in the electoral campaign and intimidating any Palestinian wanting to run on its list by reminding him that the PA or Israel would arrest him if he so chooses….

Power cuts to end with a loan to pay the debt to the Israeli electricity company
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 29 Dec – The power cut enforced by the Israeli Electricity Company (IEC) on hundreds of thousands of Palestinian households and businesses in different cities and villages in the West Bank seem to have ended with several Palestinian and Arab banks agreeing today to give the Jerusalem District Electricity Company (JDECO) a loan to pay its debt to the IEC. In order for IEC to collect its debt from the Palestinian-owned JDECO, a private shareholding company, it decided more than two months ago to cut power to JDECO’s power stations thus forcing power cuts to JDECO customers between two to three hours at different days of the month. However, and on the initiative of Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh, JDECO today signed with a consortium of eight Arab banks a memorandum of understanding to give the company a loan of 670 million Israeli shekels ($220 million) to pay off its debt to IEC….

Premier says withholding additional funds from tax revenues brings us back to square one of crisis
RAMALLAH, Monday, December 30, 2019 (WAFA) – Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh said today that the Israeli cabinet’s decision to deduct additional amounts from the Palestinian tax revenues amounting to 150 million shekels ($43 million) under the pretext of making payments to the families of the prisoners and those killed by Israel, “brings us back to square one of the crisis” and “demands an appropriate response from all of us.” Shtayyeh explained at the beginning of the weekly cabinet meeting held in Ramallah that the withheld money so far will reach 650 million shekels ($188 million), which “brings us back to square one of the crisis that we tried to overcome by wisely managing public funds.” He added, “It is clear that Israel does not want us to stand on our feet. However, the government will remain active and efficient in managing public funds.” The Palestinian Authority was forced to pay its employees half salary for six months this year after Israel deducted millions of dollars from its tax revenues leading it to the brink of financial collapse. The crisis was eased only after Israel agreed to return most of the tax revenues to the Palestinians.

ICC prosecutor rejects Israeli allegation of bias
MEMO 30 Dec — The Senior Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, has rejected Israeli allegations that she is siding with the Palestinians with regard to the possible probe into alleged war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories, Al-Watan Voice reported on Sunday. “The ICC works on the principle of personal responsibility for crimes,” explained Bensouda. “It does not deal with conflicts among states.” The Prosecutor has asked ICC judges for a ruling about jurisdiction in this matter within 120 days. The deadline is flexible either way, she added. “No accusations have been made yet against any Israeli or Palestinian,” Bensouda pointed out. Nevertheless, both sides are invited to submit evidence and claims. Rejecting claims that she has has come under the influence of anti-Israel officials, the Prosecutor said: “This is a very big mistake. I am completely independent, objective, just and credible in my work. Any attempts to prove the opposite are, simply, fake and baseless.” She noted that there have been regular contacts with Israeli and Palestinian officials or representatives during the initial examination process of the status of Palestine.

Israel has banned 8,000 Palestinians from traveling abroad since 2014: NGO
JERUSALEM, Thursday, December 26, 2019 (WAFA) – Israeli occupation authorities have banned almost 8,000 Palestinians from traveling abroad since 2014, a Palestinian human rights group said yesterday. The Jerusalem-based Center for the Defense of Freedoms and Civil Rights (Hurriyat) said in a report it has documented 7,984 cases in which Israeli authorities banned Palestinians from traveling abroad, of which at least 91 percent were against men. In 2019, 310 travel bans have been reported, only seven of which were against women. The highest number of travel bans was in 2014, when 3,672 Palestinians were banned travel. Hurryyat said the number of total bans was probably much higher, as the organization only reports on individual and not collective cases.

Malaysia to have honorary consuls in Ramallah, Gaza
PUTRAJAYA (Bernama) 28 Dec — Malaysia is planning to appoint honorary consuls in Palestine’s Ramallah and Gaza next year. This will be in addition to the recently announced Malaysian embassy accredited to Palestine in Jordan, said Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah. He said this would allow Malaysia to have representations on both sides of Palestine. “In 2020, we will establish our embassy in Amman. This is because it is impossible to have our office in Ramallah as you have to have some kind of arrangement with Israel and we cannot do that. “In fact, what will happen is we will have two offices (embassies) — one for Jordan and one for Palestine and, of course, two ambassadors,” he told Bernama. He noted that this marks the first time Malaysia will have an ambassador dedicated to Palestine, as currently the Malaysian ambassador to Egypt is also accredited to Palestine. When asked on the execution of the plan, Saifuddin said Malaysia is in discussions with Jordan on the matter.

World Bank invests US$9 million in Palestinian early childhood development
WASHINGTON 20 Dec – The World Bank has announced a new grant of US$9 million to improve Palestinian early childhood development. The World Bank said in a press release that the project will expand coverage and quality of services for Palestinian children from gestation until age five. The 2018 Human Capital Index (HCI) indicates that a Palestinian child born today will only be 55 percent as productive when she grows up as she could be if she enjoyed complete education and full health. While the West Bank and Gaza’s HCI is lower than the average for its region but still higher than the average for its income group … Despite lack of substantial financial support in the sector, the Palestinian Authority has demonstrated strong commitment to invest in early childhood development. The project will introduce effective interventions to support pre-natal care for pregnant women, adequate child nutrition and growth monitoring, as well as early learning opportunities that are crucial to a Palestinian child’s development….

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Surely we are reaching a time when Israel will be held to account for its appalling treatment of the people of the land it has colonised.