West Bank / Jerusalem
2 Israeli teens arrested in West Bank for security-related offenses
Times of Israel 2 Jan by Jacob Magid — Police early Thursday morning arrested a pair of [Israeli] teens who were allegedly on their way to carry out a hate crime attack against a nearby Palestinian village in the central West Bank. The two, ages 18 and 15, were pulled over while driving outside Bat Ayin and transferred to interrogation, a law enforcement official confirmed. The Kan public broadcaster reported that the suspects had been en route to carry out a so-called price tag attack — an offense whose perpetrators claim is in retaliation for Palestinian violence or government policies seen as hostile to the settler movement. A spokesman for the Honenu legal aid organization said that the older teen has been served an administrative order barring him from meeting with an attorney for four days. The tactic is sometimes used by security forces in ticking time-bomb scenarios where enhanced interrogation measures are employed to prevent an imminent attack. “Once again, the Shin Bet [security service] is using an anti-democratic draconian tool against a young Jew,” said Nati Rom, a Honenu attorney representing the 18-year-old suspect. A defense official said the Shin Bet was not involved in the arrest and that it was a police matter …
A security official told The Times of Israel then that there had been a notable increase in settler violence targeting Palestinians surrounding the Bat Ayin settlement in recent weeks … The security official said that many of those involved in the latest spate of violence had come from the outposts surrounding another flashpoint settlement — Yitzhar in the northern West Bank … He added that the current situation in the West Bank was reminiscent of the lead-up to the 2015 firebombing of the Dawabsha family home in the village of Duma, a terror attack that killed a couple and their baby.
Israeli police disguised as Palestinians attacked by Jewish settlers
MEMO 3 Jan — Israeli police officers impersonating Palestinian technicians were attacked by two teenagers in the illegal Jewish settlement of Bat Ayin in Gush Etzion located in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday. According to a right-wing NGO, the Honenu organisation, the two policemen were approached by the teens who enquired as to why they were there, after receiving no clear answer, one of the settlers struck an officer, while the other was sprayed with pepper spray. Both of the suspects have been arrested and questioned. Haaretz has reported that the police have not issued a statement on the operation, only confirming that one policeman was lightly wounded.
Although in some parts of the West Bank it is common to employ Arabs as labourers, the settlers of Bat Ayin adhere to the discriminatory and racist principle of “Hebrew labour” whereby the community does not employ Arabs at all. A lawyer acting on behalf of one of the accused has described the Israeli police as causing a provocation in disguising themselves as Palestinians, “as everybody knows, this is a stressful time”. Russia Today reported that last month an unnamed security official highlighted a sharp uptick in settler violence against Palestinians near Bat Ayin over the preceding weeks and that the perpetrators were coming to the settlement from Yitzhar, another recent hotspot for ethnically-motivated violence, because of a military crackdown on the anti-Palestinian attacks in that area.
How one hilltop became an incubator for Israeli settler violence
+972 Magazine 2 Jan by Natasha Roth-Rowland — On Oct. 16, 2019, masked settlers from Yitzhar and its surrounding outposts assaulted Israeli and American-Jewish activists who were assisting Palestinians with their olive harvest, among them an 80-year-old rabbi. Three days later, settlers in the same area attacked Palestinians farming their land. For the following two days, Yitzhar residents also attacked Israeli Border Police troops, part of a running series of altercations after the military arrested a settler suspected of setting fire to a plot of Palestinian-owned land. This spasm of violence — which took place during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot — was one of many that occurred throughout the occupied West Bank in the last few months of 2019. Assaults on Palestinians and Israeli security forces, and vandalism of Palestinian property, including arson, were reported in Gush Etzion, Hebron, Bat Ayin, Hizma, and beyond. Although there has been, according to the Israeli Defense Ministry, an overall drop in the number of hate crimes by settlers this year compared to 2018, their scale and level of violence is increasing.
Yitzhar is located in the northern West Bank (generally referred to in Israel as “Samaria”), where settlers tend to cluster in hilltop outposts dotted around Palestinian population centers. This part of the occupied territories is particularly prone to settler violence, yet it is no accident that Yitzhar has been at the heart of the latest extended bout of settler aggression. Yitzhar was founded in 1983 as a military outpost on a hilltop near the Palestinian city of Nablus and turned into a civilian settlement via a government directive the following year. The original settlement was established on agricultural land belonging to several Palestinian villages, including Burin and Huwara, which have borne the brunt of settler violence in the area over the years. Starting in the late 1990s, numerous illegal outposts sprung up on neighboring hilltops.
Since 2000, Yitzhar has been home to the Od Yosef Chai (“Joseph Still Lives”) yeshiva, which has long been notorious for schooling its students on the permissibility — and even necessity — of violence against non-Jews. Founded in 1982, with its umbrella charitable organization incorporated in 1983, the yeshiva stood at the site of Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus for nearly 20 years, until transferring to Yitzhar when the IDF dismantled its military outpost at the tomb during the Second Intifada. The yeshiva and the encampment at Joseph’s Tomb were a frequent flashpoint during their lifetime, and the tomb itself continues to serve as a pilgrimage site for radical settlers, whose monthly night-time expeditions often provoke violence. The spiritual figurehead of the yeshiva and the settlement is Od Yosef Chai President Yitzchak Ginsburgh, a Missouri-born ultra-Orthodox rabbi who has amassed a dedicated and extensive following over the course of his career. His students and acolytes have been at the forefront of promoting and carrying out violence against Palestinians over the past decade. And despite the condemnations made from the top ranks of government when another assault or inciteful publication is traced back to Ginsburgh’s yeshiva, it continues to operate — all while receiving a modest yearly sum from the local regional council. It is largely thanks to the teachings of Ginsburgh and his deputies, and the violence they have encouraged, that Yitzhar has become known as one of the most extreme of the radical settlements. But while reports of its residents’ physical aggression often makes the news, the ideology underlying it — and the state’s unwillingness to seriously address it — receive far less attention …
At the heart of Ginsburgh’s ideology is the acceptability and morality of Jewish violence against non-Jews. Underpinning this, as the Israeli professor of religion Motti Inbari has written, is his conception of non-Jews as effectively “subhuman” — meaning that the commandment “You shall not kill,” which relates to humans, applies only to Jews….
Palestinian moderately injured after being rammed by Israeli colonists’ car
IMEMC 3 Jan — Palestinian medical sources have reported that a young man was injured, on Thursday evening, after illegal Israeli colonialist settlers rammed him with his car, near Bethlehem, south of occupied East Jerusalem, in the West Bank. The sources said that the young man, Bilal Sa‘id Ghazal, 20, suffered moderate wounds, before he was rushed by medics of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) to a local hospital. Eyewitnesses said the colonists rammed the young man with his car, before fleeing the scene. It is worth mentioning that such incidents are frequent in the occupied West Bank, and have led to dozens of casualties, including fatalities, while the Israeli army and police failed to investigate these crimes, or conduct a proper investigation.
Prisoners Commission: Palestinian teen shot and detained, in stable condition
IMEMC/Agencies 4 Jan — The Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs Commission stated, on Friday, that Palestinian teenager Hussein Younes, who Israeli soldiers shot, wounded and detained on Thursday, is in a stable health condition, according to the Palestinian News and Info Agency (WAFA). The Israeli occupation authorities claimed that the youth allegedly attempted to stab soldiers, on Thursday evening, near the illegal settlement of Gush Etzion, south of Jerusalem, before they shot him and detained him. In a statement, the Commission said that Younes was shot with live ammunition by the Israeli army, below the knee, and sustained fractures in his leg. Authorities stated that a court session will be held for Younes without his presence.
Soldiers injure many Palestinians in Beit Ummar
IMEMC 3 Jan — Israeli soldiers injured, on Thursday evening, several Palestinians in Beit Ummar town, north of Hebron, in the southern part of the occupied West Bank. Media activist Mohammad Awad said several army jeeps invaded the ath-Thaher area, south of Beit Ummar, and attacked protesters with live rounds, gas bombs and concussion grenades. Awad added that the soldiers randomly fired gas bombs and concussion grenades, many of them striking homes in the area. The Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) said its medics rushed to the area, and provided the needed treatment to many Palestinians who suffered the effects of teargas inhalation, and added that some of the wounded fainted due to the severe effects.
In related news, the soldiers invaded Shu‘fat refugee camp, in occupied Jerusalem, before storming and ransacking several homes.
Six young men arrested in Jerusalem for breaking curfew
IMEMC/Agencies 3 Jan — The occupation forces arrested 6 Palestinian young men from al-‘Issawiya, on the pretext of “breaking house arrest” imposed on them, Ma‘an News reported. Activist and member of the Follow-up Committee in al-‘Issawiya, Muhammad Abu Al-Homs, explained that the occupation forces stormed al-‘Issawiya, and summoned the young men, who had been sentenced to house arrest, at the entrance to al-‘Issawiya, and arrested them, on the pretext of breaking the order of house arrest. Abu Al-Homs added that the young men who were arrested were: Anwar Obeid, Fayez Muhammad Mheisen, Nadim Safadi, Adam Kayed Mahmoud, Nidal Froukh and Saleh Abu Assab.
Thursday night, the youths announced their rejection of the nightly house arrest decisions imposed on them, under the British emergency regulations 1945, on the pretext that they participated in “confrontations.” The young men asserted their right to move freely without restrictions or unjust decisions and laws, by staging a sit-in in the late hours of Thursday, in al-‘Issawiya, in defiance of the occupation orders.
Israeli forces arrest 12 Palestinian young men from Jerusalem
IMEMC/Agencies 1 Jan — The Israeli occupation forces, on Monday evening, arrested 12 Palestinian young men in Jerusalem, five of them from the Bab al-Amoud area, the Palestine News Network reported. Footage circulated on the internet showing Israeli police officers brutalizing and detaining five young men during their presence in the Bab al-Amoud area near the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. Earlier Monday evening, the IOF arrested four young men after raiding their homes in at-Tur town in east Jerusalem, while two others were taken prisoner during a similar campaign in Hizma town. The IOF also arrested a Jerusalemite young man after ransacking his home in Shu‘fat refugee camp, claiming they found a weapon and ammunition allegedly belonging to him.
Video: Israeli forces arrest Palestinian youth beaten by settlers
IMEMC/Agencies 31 Dec — Wadi Hilweh Information Center (Silwanic) reported that the Israeli occupation forces arrested a Palestinian youth on Monday evening from Batn Al Hawa neighborhood in Silwan, after settlers beat him. Witnesses said that settlers’ guards attacked the young Palestinian men who were in the neighborhood. Verbal quarrels and physical fights took place, meanwhile, the settlers’ guards randomly fired live bullets in the area. The witnesses also said that Israeli forces stormed the neighborhood within minutes of the shots, and supported the settlers in the attack, by beating the Palestinian residents and throwing sound bombs without stopping the aggression of the settlers’ guards. Witnesses added that the settlers’ guards detained the youth, Adam Abu Ramouz, severely beat him, and then handed him over to the occupation forces. Witnesses explained that the young boy Abu Ramouz was arrested while bleeding from his face and head, and taken to an undisclosed destination. Occupation forces stormed Batn Al Hawa neighborhood and spread over its neighborhoods extensively. Many of the residents were injured by shrapnel from sound bombs, among various bruises, as a result of being physically attacked by the settlers’ guards and the occupation forces. Video: Wadi Hilweh Information Center – Silwan (Facebook) Edited for IMEMC: Ali Salam
Settlers attack and injure West Bank commuters
IMEMC/Agencies 31 Dec — Jewish settlers, today, attacked Palestinian vehicles traveling on roads in the north of the West Bank, with stones, causing injury to people and damage to several cars, according to a Palestinian official. Ghassan Daghlas, in charge of the Israeli settlements file in the north of the West Bank, told WAFA that settlers from the former settlement of Homesh, which was built illegally on Burqa and Silat al-Daher lands, hurled stones at a number of Palestinian vehicles traveling between Nablus and Jenin. Daghlas said that 25 vehicles sustained broken windows and several people were injured from shattered glass. They were treated on the location.
Worshipers at Al-Aqsa assaulted by Israeli police
IMEMC/Agencies 2 Jan — Israeli police, this evening, assaulted several Palestinian worshipers and detained two of them while they were present at the Bab al-Rahma prayer area inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, in occupied Jerusalem, witnesses told WAFA. Police officers broke into Bab al-Rahma and physically assaulted the worshipers and attacked them with teargas, for no apparent reason. At least two of the worshipers were detained by the police during the attack. The prayer area was reopened in February of 2019, after it had been closed by Israeli police for 16 years, under the claim of a court order,which turned out to be false. The Islamic Waqf department, in charge of running the affairs of the mosque, has insisted on keeping the Bab al-Rahma prayer area open to Muslim devotees after it became clear to them that Israel wants to keep it off limits to Muslims in order to give Jewish fanatics, who call for rebuilding their temple inside Al-Aqsa compound, free access and presence in the area.
Almost 30.000 Jewish fanatics forced their way into Al-Aqsa Mosque in 2019: Waqf/
JERUSALEM (WAFA) 31 Dec – A total of 29,610 Jewish fanatics have forced their way into Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of Islam’s holiest sites, in 2019 raising concern of an organized scheme to change the long-held status quo at the holy compound located in Jerusalem’s Old City as a Muslim-only worship place, today said Azzam Khatib, director of the Waqf department, which is in charge of the Muslim-run places in Jerusalem. He said in a statement that the record number of Jewish fanatics who came to the Muslim holy compound this year under heavy protection by thousands of Israeli police, special forces and intelligence was a breach of the historical and legal status at the Mosque. “All signs and data indicate an escalation in the frequency of violations against the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque and its surroundings during this year through a series of unprecedented trespasses, which constitute an infringement on the historical and legal status of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque as an Islamic mosque for Muslims alone under the patronage of King Abdullah II (of Jordan),” said Khatib. He warned against “attempts by the occupying power to exploit the issue of Al-Aqsa Mosque as a platform to achieve political gains and for electoral propaganda for individuals and groups, who do not understand the dangers of these actions, in their efforts and insistence to agitate the feelings of millions of Muslims around the world.” Khatib stressed that the Islamic Waqf department insists on confronting all measures and violations against Al-Aqsa Mosque and all its buildings….
Palestinian, Israeli and diaspora Jewish activists reclaim spring seized by settlers
+972 Magazine 3 Jan by Oren Ziv — Kifah Adara lives less than two kilometers from the Ein Albeida spring in the southern West Bank, but was unable to visit the site for nearly 15 years. On Friday, however, she was finally able to draw water from the spring once more — accompanied by over a hundred Palestinian, Israeli and international Jewish activists, who led a joint direct action at the site. Local Palestinians’ difficulties accessing Ein Albeida, which means “The White Spring,” began in 2001, when the Avigayil outpost was established on a nearby hill. When the outpost was expanded in 2004, Palestinian residents were completely blocked off from the site. It is one of more than 60 natural water springs that have been taken over or are at risk of takeover by Israeli settlements and Israeli authorities. “I was so happy today,” said Adara, a prominent activist who lives in the nearby town of a-Tuwane. “I remember coming to this spring with women from my village to collect water for our families. We would travel on our donkeys, just like we did today, but once Israeli settlers began swimming in this spring, it was no longer safe for us to drink [from here]….
Unlike with most protests and direct actions that take place in the West Bank, which are usually broken up by Israeli security forces, the soldiers and Border Police who arrived at the site allowed the activists to continue their work … “We are happy that we could reach the spring,” said Basil Adara, a resident of the area and a member of Youth of Sumud. “It’s a good beginning and we hope we can go back there again and again and start using it regularly.”….
PA rejects Israel decision to use alternative to UNRWA schools in Jerusalem
MEMO 2 Jan — The Palestinian Authority (PA) yesterday slammed an Israeli decision to use alternatives to UNRWA-run Palestinian schools in Jerusalem. In a statement, the PA’s Ministry of Expatriates and Foreign Affairs said that the approval of the council of the Israeli municipality in Jerusalem to set up education facilities to replace UNRWA schools is part of Israel’s war on the right of return. The PA ministry also said that the Israeli measure is a “new step towards imposing the Israeli syllabus on Palestinians”, pointing out “this is part of the Israeli plans to Judaise the Palestinian city.” On Tuesday night, the Israeli municipal council approved a plan to establish an educational campus run by the Israeli Education Ministry near the Arab neighbourhoods of Shu‘afat and ‘Anata in Jerusalem.
According to the plan, the new facilities are meant to replace the schools established and being run by UNRWA. The project, according to the London-based Al-Awda Centre, will cost 7.1 million shekels ($2 million), and will be located in an area outside the Green Line but run by the Israeli governed Jerusalem Municipality. Member of Jerusalem Municipal Council Aryeh King thanked Mayor Moshe Lion for advancing the project, which seeks to diminish UNRWA’s presence in the city. “We are not talking, we are acting,” King wrote on Facebook. “While the previous mayor, Nir Barkat, published press releases for years about his plans to reduce UNWRA’s influence and involvement in eastern Jerusalem, the current Mayor, Moshe Lion, passed last night a decision of unprecedented importance. I salute you, Mayor.”
Palestinian Fatah marks 55 years with marches
RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) 1 Jan — Hundreds of Palestinians marched through the West Bank city of Ramallah on Tuesday to mark the 55th anniversary of the Fatah movement led by President Mahmoud Abbas. Established by Yasser Arafat in 1965, Fatah led the armed struggle against Israel for decades as the main component of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The PLO recognized Israel in the early 1990s at the start of the peace process, and since then it has been committed to a two-state solution. Around a dozen masked men led the march through Ramallah, firing several rounds of gunfire into the air. Similar marches are planned elsewhere in the West Bank in the coming days. Fatah has long vied with the Islamic militant group Hamas for leadership of the Palestinian national struggle. In 2007, the two factions battled one another in Gaza, leading to the Hamas takeover of the coastal strip. Several attempts at reconciliation have failed. The peace process with Israel ground to a halt over a decade ago, leaving the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority with limited control over parts of the occupied West Bank but little hope of achieving an independent state anytime soon….
Vatican, Christian leaders tour holy churches of Jerusalem and West Bank with COGAT
JPost 1 Jan by Zachary Keyser — To ring in the New Year and the new decade, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Occupied Territories (COGAT) brought a tour of Christian leaders – which included the Vatican Ambassador to Israel – on an excursion Tuesday night throughout the holy churches of Jerusalem and the West Bank. The representatives of the Christian commonwealth, in addition to the Vatican’s ambassador, included church leaders such as the Custos of the Holy Land, and the Latin and Greek Patriarchs, as well as Christian community leaders stretched across Israel and the Palestinian territories.
In honor of Christmas, COGAT approved a series of civilian measures for the Christian populations of the Gaza Strip as well as those in Judea and Samaria. Christian families from Arab countries were allowed to participate in concentrated trips to visit Christian residents in the Palestinian territories, including trips to Eilat, which is surrounded by the coasts of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt. Over the holidays, nearly 500 permits were issued to residents of Judea and Samaria to enter Israeli territory. The initiative also included family visits from foreign first and second relatives of residents living in the West Bank. In addition, there has been a large increase in permits allocated to church workers from Palestinian territories, as well as the permission for Palestinian religious workers to pass through the Jordan Valley checkpoint in order to visit holy Christian sites in the Galilee region….
Palestine’s Christmas caravan lights up West Bank streets
RAMALLAH, West Bank (Al-Monitor) 31 Dec by Ahmad Melhem — Fadi Nassar, an 11-year-old from Ramallah, was euphoric in his Santa hat as he clasped his balloon. Despite the cold, he was walking along with the Christmas caravan as it roamed the streets of this West Bank city just north of Jerusalem. The caravanners sang carols and other songs as a man dressed as Santa Claus leaned out to distribute candy to children in the streets. This year, the Christmas caravan took off from Bethlehem Dec. 19 and arrived in Ramallah Dec. 21. It then traveled to Zababdeh in Jenin — the north of the West Bank — and finally ended in Jericho Dec. 26 … The Christmas caravan starting at the birthplace of Jesus is the brainchild of Juliana Hodali, director of the Ramallah-based PR company Media Plus …
“The caravan is carrying the message that Palestinian children deserve the joys of Christmas, just like all kids around the world who celebrate and rejoice,” Hodali said, adding, “Palestine has one of the best stories to tell the world” as it is the birthplace of Jesus. “We have the right to share this story with our children in a unique way, so we tried to share some of the [Biblical scenes] with the local kids. These are the descriptions the kids read in books and stories and see in movies, from Santa Claus distributing gifts to reindeer and caravans,” she said. “In 2020, the caravan will reach new areas, like Nazareth.” “The Christmas caravan and its celebration of Christmas is part of the committee’s work,” said director Ramzi Khouri during a Dec. 15 press conference in Ramallah. “[We also] defend Islamic and Christian sanctities, try to counter … the Israeli attempts to undermine the Christian as well as Muslim presence through the new nationality law [which defines Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people], serve the main recognized churches and their associations and carry out restoration work.”
Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Settlements
Over 9.000 Palestinians displaced in a decade of West Bank demolitions
+972 Magazine 24 Dec by Natasha Roth-Rowland — Israeli authorities demolished over 6,000 Palestinian structures in the West Bank and East Jerusalem between 2010 and 2019, according to the United Nations. More than 9,000 Palestinians were displaced as a result. The figures, collected by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs – Occupied Palestinian Territory, show the scale of Israel’s demolition regime over the Green Line. The vast majority of the destruction (79 percent) has taken place in Area C of the West Bank, over which the Israeli army has full control. Roughly two percent of demolitions took place in Areas A and B of the West Bank, which are putatively under full and partial Palestinian Authority control, respectively. Around 19 percent of demolitions took place in East Jerusalem. Although Israel annexed the area in 1981 — technically making it Israeli territory — it is often subjected to similar policies as the West Bank because most of its inhabitants are not Israeli citizens (and many, in fact, are stateless). In total, 6,116 structures were demolished between January 1, 2010, and December 24, 2019, displacing 9,249 people — over half of whom are children and minors. In addition, over 115,000 people’s livelihoods were affected by the demolitions. Around 28 percent (1,734) of the destroyed structures were inhabited residential buildings. As this piece was being written, Israeli authorities were in the process of carrying out a string of demolitions throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem, including at least five on December 24, meaning that these figures may be out of date by the time of publishing….
Palestinian ordered to remove room, balcony, olive trees
IMEMC/Agencies 1 Jan — A Palestinian resident of Khirbet Ibzeiq was ordered by the Israeli military government, Wednesday, to remove a room and a balcony built on his own land as well as olive trees, the Palestinian News and Info Agency (WAFA) reported. The land, located north of the city of Tubas, in the Jordan Valley, northern occupied West Bank, is found in Area C, under full Israeli military rule. Ibrahim Mjalli, who received the order, said he was ordered by the army to remove a room, a balcony with metal roofing and a number of olive trees planted in his land, under the pretext that they are located in Area C. Israel does not allow Palestinians to develop Area C, which makes up more than 60% of the area of the occupied West Bank. With the intent to annex this area, Israel would effectively render an independent Palestinian state, impossible
Israeli army confiscates five tractors from Palestinian farmers
IMEMC/Agencies 3 Jan — Israeli forces, on Friday, seized five tractors belonging to Palestinian farmers in Um al-Qaba area, in the Jordan Valley, northern occupied West Bank, the Palestinian News and Info Agency (WAFA) reported. The head of the village council of nearby al-Maleh village, Mahdi Daraghmeh, said that the Israeli army seized the five agricultural tractors under the pretext of working in a “closed military zone.” The area is located in Area C of the West Bank, which is under full Israeli military control and where the Palestinian government has no jurisdiction. Israel seeks to displace the Palestinian population out of the Jordan Valley by any means, to allow greater numbers of illegal settlers to move in.
Israeli security guards ransack Palestinian tents in Jordan Valley
IMEMC/Agencies 3 Jan — Israeli occupation forces terrorized, Thursday afternoon, Palestinian residents in the village of Ein Hilweh in the Jordan Valley region of the occupied West Bank after searching and ransacking residential tents. Local activist, Mahdi Daraghmeh said that five Israeli security guards in street clothes stormed tents in the village, searched and ransacked them and terrorized their residents, the Palestinian News and Info Agency reported. Daraghmeh said an Israeli army force invaded the village while the guards were conducting the search and remained there for two hours.
On Wednesday, Israeli forces invaded Atouf area in the Jordan Valley and dismantled tents and animal barns belonging to Palestinian Bedouins.
Over 19 Palestinian families live in caves to escape Israel oppression
MEMO 31 Dec — Photo: A Palestinian woman prepares a meal for her children at her cave near the West Bank city of Hebron, 24 July 2013 [Mamoun Wazwaz/Apaimages] — More than 19 Palestinian families have taken refuge in caves in the Al-Mufqara village near Hebron to escape Israeli aggression. Fifty-year-old Mohammed Hassan said he moved to the cave last year with seven members of his family after Israeli occupation forces demolished their home. Hassan explained that the Israeli occupation authorities continue to impose restrictions on Palestinians in order to expel them from their homes and seize their lands to allow settlers to occupy them. A total of approximately 100 Palestinians living in the caves lack access to water, electricity, schools and roads. They rely on rainwater and harvest their own food; many work as shepherds. The European Union has in recent years provided the residents with semi-permanent homes made of corrugated iron and solar panels to generate electricity. However, Israel has repeatedly demolished the homes and confiscated the electricity generators.
High Court hampers settlement groups’ ability to receive public funds
Times of Israel 31 Dec by Jacob Magid — The High Court of Justice issued a ruling on Monday that would require the top legal body’s approval each time Israeli municipalities in the West Bank seek to transfer funds to private organizations that build settlements and outposts. The ruling came after a February petition from the settlement watchdog Peace Now against Amana, a group that promotes settlements, in which the former argued Amana has been illegally receiving millions of shekels from regional and local councils beyond the Green Line. Interior Ministry guidelines only allow municipalities to transfer funds to public organizations and NGOs. Amana is a private cooperative and therefore ineligible to receive such money, Peace Now asserted in its petition. The left-wing group also argued that Amana promotes the construction of West Bank outposts — wildcat communities established without official government consent and sometimes on private Palestinian land — and therefore should not be receiving public funds … “Amana is the strongest body operating in the settlements. For decades, it has been behind the establishment of illegal outposts, with a massive budget made up of tens of millions of shekels from the Israeli taxpayer,” Peace Now said in a statement. “The court’s decision is a dramatic and significant step that limits, at least for the time being, this rampant delinquency.” …
An official from a regional council in the West Bank downplayed the High Court ruling. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, he said that measure was only an interim order and the court will likely approve future transfers to Amana. The official pointed to a similar Peace Now petition from over two decades ago in which the group sought to prevent the transfer of local council funds to the Yesha settlement umbrella council. In that case, the court ultimately decided to green light such allocations.
$280m needed to rebuild Gaza homes destroyed in Israeli’s 2014 offensive
MEMO 31 Dec — Gaza still needs $280 million to rebuild homes demolished during Israel’s 2014 offensive on the enclave, head of the Popular Committee Against the Israeli Siege on Gaza, MP Jamal Al-Khodari, said yesterday. In a statement reported by the Safa News Agency, Al-Khodari said that the reconstruction of these homes is a “humanitarian, ethical and legal issue”, noting that women, children and men who used to live in these homes “are currently homeless”. He called on the Palestinian factions, government and everyone to work hard in order to solve this problem, which is being aggravated by the 13-year-old Israeli siege. “All the Palestinians at all levels must take this issue directly to the donors in order to get a solution for it,” Al-Khodari said, adding: “Solving it means ending the suffering of hundreds of homeless people.” Meanwhile, he called for the donors who made pledges during the Cairo Conference in the months following the Israeli attack – dubbed “Operation Protective Edge” – to follow through with their promises. Al-Khodari said that 2019 was the harshest year since the start of the Israeli siege on Gaza, stressing that “life will be impossible in 2020” if the Israeli siege continues.
Gaza releases recording it says proves PA helped Israel kill Islamic Jihad leader
MEE 2 Jan by Mustafa Abu Sneineh — Recording allegedly reveals PA intelligence officer sharing details with Israeli agent before Bahaa Abu al-Ata’s assassination — Officials in Gaza have accused a Palestinian Authority intelligence officer of helping Israel assasinate a senior Islamic Jihad leader in November, and on Thursday posted online a recording of a phone call purportedly between the officer and an Israeli intelligence agent. Gaza’s Ministry of Interior has already arrested six members of a cell they say was working under the command of Shaaban al-Garbawi, the PA General Intelligence Services officer accused of collaborating with Israel. Under Garbawi’s leadership, the ministry says, the men spied on an Islamic State leader, Bahaa Abu al-Ata, for several months before he was assassinated, along with his wife, Asmaa, by Israeli fighter jets at their Gaza City home on 12 November. The information they gathered was shared with Israeli intelligence services, according to the ministry. The Fatah movement, which dominates the PA, has denied the allegations. “It is all lies and has no base in reality,” Fatah said in a statement. The assassination led to two days of fighting between Israel and Palestinian movements in which Israeli air strikes killed 34 Palestinians, including women and children, before a ceasefire was agreed.
‘Ya Barry’ In the recording made public on Thursday, a voice which Gaza’s interior ministry say is Gharbawi is heard telling another man, who the ministry says is an Israeli intelligence agent named Barry, the details of Palestinian fighters’ activities and plans along the Gaza-Israel border. “Barry, the al-Quds Brigades had a meeting with the military council and Bahaa Abu al-Ata was present, and they gave instructions for a monitoring operation for three days to carry out an attack using a Kornet missile,” the voice is heard saying. “They are working on three targets, ya Barry,” he continues, and then he lists targets. Barry’s voice is barely audible in the background. Fatah in its statement dismissing the allegations said it had grown accustomed to “Hamas’ lies”. “It is just a failed attempt to disguise the agreements for a long truce with the occupation,” the movement said, referring to Israel. “In return, Israel would recognise the Emirate of Gaza, and start implementing the Deal of the Century that aims to put an end to the Palestinian national project and selling Jerusalem and its sacred places.”….
Hamas allows rival Fatah to mark anniversary in Gaza rally
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) 1 Jan by Fares Akram — Tens of thousands of Palestinians took to the streets in Gaza on Wednesday to mark the 55th anniversary of President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement. The territory’s Hamas rulers permitted the event for the first time in years. The militant Islamic group Hamas, which seized control of the Gaza Strip by force from the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in 2007, allowed Fatah supporters to celebrate on a Gaza City street. They denied their request to organize the event at one of the city’s public squares or parks. But the crowd was so big that several thousand people made their way to nearby Saraya Square, the site of the last massive anniversary festival that Hamas allowed in January 2013. The Hamas takeover left the Palestinians divided between two governments, with Hamas controlling Gaza and the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority governing autonomous areas of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Fatah and Hamas remain bitter enemies, and repeated attempts to reconcile have failed. But in recent months, they have both pledged to hold new elections. Hamas’ decision to permit Wednesday’s demonstration appeared to be a goodwill gesture toward Fatah. “This year is the year of Palestinian unity and Fatah’s unity behind its leader Mahmoud Abbas,” said Ahmed Hilles, the top Fatah official in Gaza. Fatah sought to portray the large turnout as a reflection of its good standing, though its popularity has plunged in recent years. Abbas failed to regain control of Gaza and or move closer toward his goal of establishing an independent Palestinian state. Further hurting Abbas’ standing, the Palestinian leader slashed the salaries of thousands of Palestinian Authority civil servants in Gaza. The step, meant to put additional pressure on the cash-strapped Hamas government to provide for its people, backfired and provoked anger toward Abbas. Hilles promised to work on restoring the full payments to the workers. “We are one movement and one people,” he said.
On Tuesday, thousands of Fatah supporters who are loyal to Mohammed Dahlan, a former Fatah strongman who is now a rival of Abbas while living in exile, organized a similar rally in the middle of the city. Despite the challenges, the participants said they hope Hamas will allow them to mark the anniversary every year. “We came here to tell everybody that Fatah is still well,” said Mohammed al-Raqagh, a supporter draping the Palestinian flag around his body.
Photos: Palestinians gather to mark the 55th foundation anniversary of Palestinian Fatah movement in Gaza City on 1 January 2020
MEMO 1 January
Individual initiatives seek to ease Gaza’s harsh realities
The Media Line 3 Jan by Sanaa Alswerky — Hind Abunijela, a journalism student, poet, political researcher and social activist with an extra dose of energy, started an initiative in November called “Keswa” − an Arabic term that means clothing − by collecting clothes in good condition and then distributing them to the poor. Almost 40 Gazan families, with an average of two packages per family, have benefited so far, Abunijela told The Media Line, adding that social media has played a major role in spreading awareness of the initiative, meaning many more families can eventually benefit. “I use different kinds of social media platforms to garner as much support as possible, and I have more than 13,000 followers,” she said … “I started voluntary and social activities eight years ago and managed to establish psychological support sessions and various social initiatives with various target groups,” she explained. “But I try to focus on the most vulnerable categories in Gaza, such as the elderly, cancer patients, young students, girls and the neediest families.” …
Fahmi Shurrab, a writer and community activist, has implemented multiple initiatives to help people burdened by debts they cannot pay … Recently, Shurrab concluded a campaign, started in October, that was aimed at paying poor families’ debts to pharmacies by raising money from local and foreign donors …
Despite limited resources and a scarcity of funds in the Gaza Strip, the charitable initiatives are not confined to the benefit of humans. Sa‘eed Alerr is a dog trainer and animal rights activist who founded Sulala (For Animals’ Care). With the help of volunteers, he runs an initiative that cares for stray animals and then puts them up for adoption, helping hundreds of cats and dogs so far. Whenever he can, Alerr makes field trips to feed stray animals in different areas of the Gaza Strip, and brings sick or injured creatures to his home to receive treatment. “I currently have more than 35 cats in my house,” he said…. [donations for this organization can be made at their Facebook page: سلالة – Sulal For Animals Care ]
Gaza musician: The siege has ‘made us strong through difficult experiences’
MEMO 3 Jan — SOL Band has also had to fight back after coming under attack for having a female member — As the Middle East continues to shift in terms of dynamics and politics, the music scene in Gaza remains stagnant. There are a lack of breakout artists in Gaza and female musicians are even more scarce, explains Hamada Nasrallah, lead singer of SOL Band. As a singer, Hamada feels the region is not keeping up to pace with the rest of the world in the contemporary music scene. Traditions and religious limitations are hindering progress in this field, Hamada believes, adding they are false religious concepts and traditions that are limiting and narrowing development and reinforcing the taboo around women participating in the industry. “Some religious scholars regard music as trivial or even haram [prohibited] unless it relates to Palestine or Islam,” he tells MEMO. As a result, Hamada was unable to take singing or vocal lessons in the Strip. SOL Band is one of the first Palestinian music groups who formed eight years ago and has since gained great popularity in the besieged Palestinian territory. Along with his bandmates, who are all childhood friends, Hamada began playing traditional Palestinian songs and making covers to build a profile for himself after studying a series of YouTube videos to learn about music. YouTube also helped them learn to play the guitar, bass and keyboard. The five-member troupe now creates both modern and traditional Arabic music with a style and formation which is visibly Western. This has earned them tens of thousands of followers and fans on social media. And in another break from tradition, SOL Band includes a female member, Rahaf, in what some have claimed is a “big controversy” … “We mainly sing Palestinian songs about peace and love,” said Hamada. SOL Band recently recorded a TV show based in Turkey called “Falastini Clip” made up of 30 episodes discussing the traditional Palestinian songs. “In the show, we teach the audience about all the traditional Palestinian songs, and sing it in our way with modern hits.” “In every episode, we used to go out to nice and famous places in the Gaza city to show the beauty and hopeful spirits of Gaza, the show was broadcasted a month ago and it’s gained tens of thousands of views on social media and YouTube.”….
Palestinian refugees – Syria
Report: 4,013 Palestinians killed in Syria
MEMO 3 Jan — The Action Group for Palestinians of Syria (AGPS) had documented the death of 4,013 Palestinians as a result of the war in Syria. In a report issued yesterday the group said the victims include 614 refugees who had died of torture inside Syrian regime prisons and detention centres and 205 who had died due to lack of medical care and the tight siege imposed by the Syrian regime army on the Yarmouk camp in Damascus. As many as 311 Palestinian were shot by snipers, it said. According to the group, as many as 142 victims were killed in bombings, 92 were executed in the field by regime forces and loyalists, 52 drowned trying to flee to Europe, 25 were assassinated and 315 were executed, burnt or suffocated. Some 87 victims died of unknown causes. The group explained that it documents the death of all Palestinian refugees in Syria, regardless of their political affiliations or the party responsible for their death.
More than 13 million Palestinians in the world by the end of 2019 – Statistics Bureau
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 31 Dec — The projected number of Palestinians in the world is 13.350 million, of whom 5.039 million are in the State of Palestine, which includes the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip, 1.597 million inside the green line or current day Israel, 5.986 million in Arab countries and around 727,000 in foreign countries, according to a report published today by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) marking the end of the year 2019. Of the 5.039 million living in the State of Palestine, around 3.020 million reside in the West Bank and 2.019 million in Gaza Strip. Palestinian refugees make up 42% of the Palestinian population in State of Palestine: 26% of them in the West Bank and 66% in Gaza Strip, said the report. The total fertility rate declined during (2011-2013) to 4.1 births (compared to 5.9 births in 1999). In Gaza Strip the rate was 4.5 births compared to 3.7 births in the West Bank during 2011-2013. The average household size in the State of Palestine was 5.1 persons in 2017 (compared to 6.1 in 2000): 4.8 persons in the West Bank and 5.6 persons in Gaza Strip … The total fertility rate for the Palestinian women living in Jordan was 3.3 births in 2010 compared to 2.5 in Syria in 2010 and 2.7 for the Palestinian women in Lebanon in 2017. The number of Palestinians living in Israel is 1.597 million at the end of 2019, of whom the percentage of individuals under 15 years was about 32.8% for males and 31.8% for females, while the percentage of individuals 65 years and above was 4.4% for males and 5.3% for females at the end of 2018.
PA: Israel’s demolition of Palestinian homes is a war crime according to ICC
MEMO 30 Dec — Photo: A Palestinian woman sits in front of her demolished house after Israeli forces destroyed it in the Negev on 15 February 2015 [Days of Palestine/Facebook] — The Palestinian Authority (PA) announced on Sunday that the Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes constitutes a war crime based on the International Criminal Court (ICC), Safa Press agency reported on Sunday. In a statement, the PA’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates reiterated that Israel’s demolition of Palestinian homes contradicts the Israeli responsibility for the lives and safety of Palestinians. The statement revealed that the occupying power, as stipulated by international law, is responsible for the safety and lives of the occupied people. The statement stressed that Israel is aware of its obligation under the international law.
Referring to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs (UN OCHA) report, the statement disclosed that the Israeli occupation demolished or confiscated 617 Palestinian structures, mainly homes, in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem during 2019, resulting in the displacement of 898 Palestinians. The UN OCHA revealed that the Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes increased in 2019 by 35 per cent, when compared with 2018. According to the statement, the Israeli occupation always raises the pretext of building without licenses when it demolishes Palestinian homes. However, the statement added, the Israeli occupation has demolished licensed homes tens of times, citing the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Wadi Al-Hummus, where all the demolished homes had building licenses. The PA noted in the statement that even the lack of licenses resulted in the strict, “illogical” and “implacable” Israeli conditions imposed on the Palestinians wanting to build or expand their homes.
PA to refer the file of sick prisoners held by Israel to the UN, ICC
MEMO31 Dec — Palestinian Authority (PA), PLO and Fatah President Mahmoud Abbas is to refer the file of sick Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails to the ICC, Al Watan Voice reported yesterday. Speaking to a local radio station, the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority’s Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs Commission, Qadri Abu Baker, said Abbas has urgently asked for a file including the names of sick prisoners in order to refer them to the UN and the International Criminal Court (ICC). This comes following the ICC’s recent decision to launch a full investigation into alleged war crimes in the Palestinian Territories, Abu Baker explained. Wafa reported “the crimes to be referred to ICC include the deliberate medical negligence practiced by Israeli authorities against Palestinian prisoners, as well as the Israeli government’s withholding of millions of dollars since February in tax revenue payable to the Palestinian Authority,” in reference to the tax revenues which Israeli has stopped transferring to the PA. The commission, Abu Baker explained, is still working with the Israeli Supreme Court to look into a request to release the oldest Palestinian prisoner held in the occupation’s jails, Fuad Al-Shobaki, as a result of his medical condition.
Hamas calls for resistance against Israeli tax move
MEMO 2 Jan — The Hamas resistance group called on the Palestinian administration Wednesday to work together with it and other groups against Israel’s decision to withhold millions of dollars in tax funds from Palestinians, Anadolu reports. In a statement, Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said the decision once again proves the “piracy of Israel.” Israel’s security cabinet voted Sunday to deduct $43 million from the tax funds the Israeli administration transfers each month to the Palestinian Authority. Palestinians say the funds are needed to help families affected by violence and the Israeli occupation.
Abbas said to warn Netanyahu that West Bank on verge of explosion
Times of Israel 2 Jan — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has reportedly sent a message to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warning him that Israel’s decision to cut funds from Ramallah at the same time as it works toward a ceasefire with Hamas in Gaza is fueling mounting anger in the West Bank … On Sunday, in a speech to Fatah members at the PA presidential headquarters in Ramallah, Abbas called the situation a “strange paradox.” “Here, we are blocked from funds and the land is being gradually taken. Over there [in Gaza], understandings for a calming [of tensions] and quiet are being done,” he said. “The strange paradox is that there are deals for a calming [there], while there is a daily decision and decree to squeeze us here,” he added.
Israel mum on permission for Palestinian vote, Hamas edgy
RAMALLAH (Al-Monitor) 31 Dec by Aziza Nofal — Hamas is calling for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to schedule elections and stop waiting for Israel’s approval. Abbas has yet to issue a decree to schedule the vote, as he waits for an official response from the Israeli side on his request to allow polling stations in occupied East Jerusalem. Since he first announced in September his decision to hold presidential and parliamentary elections, Abbas has said the electoral process should include all Palestinian territories, including the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. “No elections will be held without Jerusalem,” Abbas reiterated during a Dec. 17 speech at a Fatah Central Committee meeting. Hamas agrees with that sentiment, but on Dec. 25 senior Hamas official Salah Bardaweel demanded that the Palestinian Authority (PA) “impose” elections in Jerusalem, saying Palestinians don’t need Israel’s permission …
The prospect of Israel approving a vote remains far-fetched, given that the official Palestinian presence in the city is regularly undermined. This is especially true since the official Palestinian TV station was closed Nov. 20. Its staff members are being prosecuted or imprisoned on charges of carrying out PA activities in Israel without a permit. However, Abbas is seeking international support to pressure Israel into allowing the elections….
PA claims Israel-Hamas ceasefire would further divide Gaza from West Bank
Times of Israel 30 Dec — The Palestinian Authority said Monday that a possible Israel-Hamas ceasefire in Gaza would deepen the rift between the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave and the Fatah-dominated PA in the West Bank. Citing reported Israeli “promises of easing [blockade] measures for Gaza including the delivery of funds, a seaport, an airport, a hospital and an industrial zone,” PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh told the weekly cabinet meeting in Ramallah that the emerging ceasefire plan “is another piece of evidence of the efforts aimed at strengthening the division.” Hamas denied reports earlier Monday that it was in contact with Israel and was seeking a long-term ceasefire. “There are no ceasefire talks with the Zionist enemy. The occupation has not carried out the understandings reached in the past with the Egyptian mediators.” The statement came after Israel’s security cabinet met Sunday for several hours to address the ceasefire talks. The meeting ended without any statement as to the status of the negotiations….
Israel closes ski resort in occupied Golan Heights, fearing attack
MEMO 3 Jan — The Israeli military has closed a ski resort in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights due to concerns over what it calls possible threats from Iranian-backed groups in Lebanon and Syria, or Palestinian resistance movements Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza. The closing of the Mount Hermon resort — the target of a previous missile attack — came after the Pentagon confirmed that US President Donald Trump had ordered the assassination of Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force.
Jordan receives first delivery of natural gas from Israel
MEMO 2 Jan — Jordan’s National Electricity Company (NEPCO) announced yesterday that it has started receiving natural gas from Israel’s Leviathan offshore natural gas field in implementation of the agreement signed between the two sides in 2016. NEPCO said in a statement that the experimental pumping will continue for three months under the technical and contractual terms between the two sides. It gave no further details. In 2016, NEPCO signed a $10 billion agreement with Texas-based Noble Energy which operates Israel’s Leviathan field in the Mediterranean under which Israel will provide Jordan 45 billion cubic metres of gas over 15 years.
The agreement is widely rejected by the Jordanian people and lawmakers. On 15 December, 58 Jordanian lawmakers out of 130 signed memoranda to prepare a bill to cancel the agreement. In March, the Jordanian parliament has unanimously rejected the gas agreement, but the Constitutional Court issued a decision that the agreement does not require parliamentary approval because it was signed between private companies and not governments.
According to NEPCO, importing natural gas from Israel saves about $300 million compared to purchasing it from international markets. However, experts say that Jordan has alternatives to importing gas from Israel including importing from Egypt, Iraq and Algeria.