Poll: Only 37% of Israelis say human rights orgs should operate freely, just half support freedom of speech

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Poll: Just 37% of Israelis say human rights groups should operate freely
MEMO 28 Feb — In a major international survey, only 37 per cent of Israelis said human rights groups should be able to operate freely, as reported by the Times of Israel. The 34-nation poll, conducted by the US-based Pew Research Centre from May-October 2019, focused on views of, and support for, democracy and democratic institutions. Support in Israel is “significantly lower than in most countries for freedom of expression, including an uncensored press, internet freedom and freedom for human rights groups to operate freely.” As the report noted, “unlike in most nations polled, support for freedom of speech in Israel declined between 2015 and 2019”, with only 51 per cent saying “it is very important that people can say what they want without government censorship” (down from 58 per cent four years ago). Support in Israel for “internet freedom” also fell from 51 per cent in 2015 to just 40 per cent. Overall, support in Israel for a number of different characteristics of a healthy democracy were lower than the total median, including freedom of press – backed by 46 per cent of Israelis compared to a 64 per cent global median. Most alarmingly, “the level of support in Israel for freedom for human rights groups to operate freely” was at just 37 per cent – “the lowest among all the 34 countries surveyed”.


B’Tselem: ‘Turning a blind eye’: 19 protesters in Gaza lose eye from Israeli forces’ fire. 2 lose both
26 Feb — In the last two years, 19 Palestinians have lost their vision in one eye while participating in March of Return protests near the Gaza perimeter fence. At least two more lost their vision in both eyes. Each of these personal tragedies adds to the alarming casualty count in the protests: more than 200 people have been killed, some 8,000 wounded by live fire, about 2,400 wounded by rubber-coated metal bullets, and almost 3,000 wounded by tear gas canisters …  Wounded persons have to make do with the limited treatment options available within Gaza or try to make to another country – assuming they manage to get a permit to leave via Rafah crossing and shoulder the high costs. Meanwhile, just several dozen kilometers away, are hospitals that could provide the critical care they need …
B’Tselem field researchers in the Gaza Strip collected testimonies from demonstrators who were injured in their eyes by Israeli security forces’ gunfire. Here are three of their stories.
Mai Abu Rawida, 20, 6 December 2019 — On Friday, 6 December 2019, at around 2:30 P.M., Mai Abu Rawida, 20, from al-Maghazi R.C., arrived with her two sisters at the Return March protest held near the perimeter fence east of al-Bureij R.C., in the central Gaza Strip. After attending prayer in the protest tents, she went with several friends up to a distance of a few dozen meters from the fence, waving a Palestinian flag. At around 3:30 P.M., Abu Rawida went closer to the fence, and then a member of the Israeli security forces fired a “rubber” bullet that hit her in the eye. In a testimony she gave Olfat al-Kurd on 10 December 2019, Abu Rawida said: “I’ve been going to the March of Return protests east of al-Bureij R.C. since they started. On Friday, 6 December 2019, at around 3:30 P.M., after I walked away from my friends and stood several dozen meters away from the fence, one of the soldiers fired a “rubber” bullet that hit me in the left eye. I fell to the ground and put my hand over my eye, which was full of blood. Blood was coming out of my mouth. I was sure I’d lost my eye. I screamed and my friends rushed over with some guy. They lifted me up and carried me to the paramedics. The paramedics took me to an ambulance that drove me to the field infirmary and there, the doctors cleaned the wound and sent me to Shuhada al-Aqsa hospital right away” In her testimony, she further recounted: “When I came out of surgery, my eye was bandaged. I asked my father: “What happened to my eye”? He told me, “You’re okay”, because he didn’t want to shock me. When the doctor examined me, I asked him and he said I’d lost my eye. I’m very sad. I lost my eye just like that, for no reason. I wasn’t a threat to the Israeli army in any way. Sometimes I feel that my face is disfigured. I look in the mirror and I don’t like it. The army ruined my life and my future. As a woman, my life has been ruined. The most important thing for me right now is to get out of Gaza to access treatment and have a prosthetic eye implanted, so I can go back to being myself, so there isn’t such a hole in my face….

How Israel stole this fisherman’s sight and sense of smell
EI 18 Feb by Hamza Abu Eltarabesh — Khader al-Saidi lost his eyesight and sense of smell when Israeli navy forces fired rubber-coated steel bullets at his face while he was fishing in the sea off Gaza.  The 32-year-old was silent at first when The Electronic Intifada came to interview him … After a while, though, Khader broke his silence. “We, fishermen, can’t work in any place but the sea,” he said. “I’m like the fish. If I leave the sea, I die.” This was Khader’s way to start talking about the attack that left him blind, an attack that took place on what he has since been calling “the black night.” On 20 February 2019, Khader left Gaza’s port on his boat with his cousin Muhammad. The pair headed to the south toward the coast off Khan Younis, Khader said, in the southern area of the territory. They had been working there for two months after Israel had expanded the fishing zone to 12 nautical miles. At around 10 pm, as Khader and Muhammad were pulling their fishing nets from the water at an area, he said, of approximately nine nautical miles out from the coast, five Israeli navy boats began approaching them. Without warning, the Israeli soldiers opened fire. They tried to escape but Israeli navy boats surrounded them quickly. Then the soldiers began firing rubber-coated steel bullets towards the two fishermen – 15 according to one count – injuring Muhammad in his chest and stomach, and Khader in his back, leg, chest and face. When Khader woke up, he found himself shackled by his hands and legs to a hospital bed. Khader and his cousin had both been detained and taken to Barzilai Medical Center in southern Israel. “I tried to open my eyes, but to no avail. Everything was black. I started screaming until a doctor came,” Khader said. “With broken Arabic, he told me that they removed my right eye, and that in the coming hours I would have surgery in my left eye.” This was Khader’s fifth arrest since he started fishing at 12 years old … When Khader woke up after the second surgery, the doctor informed him that the operation had failed. The Israeli military then offered him, he said, $100,000. It was hush money so he wouldn’t file a lawsuit….

Army invades Palestinian lands, navy attacks fishing boats, in southern Gaza
IMEMC 26 Feb — Several Israeli military vehicles invaded, on Wednesday morning, Palestinian lands east of Khan Younis, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, while navy ships opened fire on fishing boats. Media sources said three armored D9 bulldozers, a digger, and a few military jeeps advanced dozens of meters into Palestinian farmlands before bulldozing several sections and digging trenches. They added that the invasion was carried out in the same area where the Israeli army killed, last Sunday, Mohammad Ali an-Na‘em, 27, who was not only shot by the soldiers, but also had his body crushed by a military bulldozer, before it was lifted in the air by its blade before it was swung back and forth in the air.
In addition, Israeli navy ships opened fire, and used water cannons, against Palestinian fishing boats in Khan Younis sea, forcing the fishermen back to the shore without being able to fish and provide for their families.

Israel reopens Gaza crossings after reaching ceasefire deal with resistance
MEMO Wed 26 FebIsraeli occupation authorities yesterday reopened crossings with the besieged Gaza Strip, but kept the fishing zone closed, Quds Press reported. Reporting Ynet News, Quds Press said the spokesperson for the Israeli occupation army said: “After evaluation of the situation, all the crossings in the peripheries of Gaza were reopened and train service from Sderot [Israeli town 1.6 kilometres from Gaza] to Ashkelon resumed.” The leadership of the internal front in the Israeli army also decided to resume education at schools in Sderot and Netivot and all the other towns surrounding Gaza. Meanwhile, regional councils in the towns surrounding Gaza allowed farmer to continue working their lands.
Fishing in Gaza continues to be banned, with the navy opening fire at fisherman this morning who were at a distance of just three miles from the coast. All crossings into Gaza had been closed on Monday after Palestinians reacted to occupation force’s killing of a man at the fence separating Israel from Gaza.

Israeli airstrike injures Palestinian motocycle driver
IMEMC/Agencies 25 Feb — A Palestinian citizen was injured, Monday evening, in an airstrike by Israeli occupation planes targeting his motorbike, east of Gaza City.  WAFA correspondent, quoting medical sources, stated that the occupation planes targeted, with at least one missile, a motorcycle on Salah El-Din Street, east of the city, which resulted in one injured Palestinian civilian.

Israeli strike near Damascus after Gaza skirmish
Haaretz 24 Feb by Yaniv Kubovich et al. — Islamic Jihad confirmed early Monday morning that two operatives were killed in Israeli airstrikes on targets belonging to the organization in Syria. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Monday that a total of six were killed in the strike, with the other four being members of a pro-Iranian militia. One is said to be a Syrian national, while the identity of the others remains unknown at this time. Israel Defense Forces struck targets in the Gaza Strip and Syria on Sunday night after Islamic Jihad fired a barrage of more than 20 rockets into southern Israel in response to the death of one of its operatives, who was shot by Israeli forces after they said he was laying an explosive charge near the Gaza border fence. “Israeli fighter jets struck Islamic Jihad terror targets south of Damascus, as well as across the Gaza Strip,” the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said in a statement, adding that a fighter jet struck an Islamic Jihad cell in Gaza while it was preparing to fire rockets at Israel.

PCHR: IOF abuses the body of a Palestinian in a humiliating and degrading manner
23 Feb — On Sunday, 23 February 2020, Israeli occupation forces (IOF) shot and injured Palestinian civilians who were trying to rescue and evacuate two persons that were targeted by IOF in eastern Khan Younis, in the south of the Gaza Strip. IOF made a 150-meter incursion into the border and evacuated the body of a Palestinian it killed in the area after desecrating his body in a humiliating and cruel manner, trying to lift the deceased with a wheel loader several times and dropping the slain man back to the ground, then confiscating the slain man to the Israeli side of the border. According to PCHR investigations, at approximately 05:40 on Sunday, 23 February 2020, IOF fired three artillery shells and live bullets at two persons who were 100 meters from the border fence with Israel in eastern ‘Abassan al-Jadida, eastern Khan Younis. Minutes later, a group of Palestinian civilians arrived at the area at Jakar St., followed by an ambulance, and tried to recover the dead bodies. IOF reinforced along the border fence and several military vehicles and soldiers deployed on sand berms in the area. Approximately 1 hour later, 3 civilians took off their upper clothing, remained in their undershirts and approached one of the dead bodies while carrying a stretcher in an attempt to recover the body. They managed to pull out the body and place it on the stretcher and march westward a few meters. IOF fired lived bullets at them, wounding Mohammed Khaled al-Najjar, 19, in his lower body; forcing the young men to leave the dead body on the stretcher and evacuated al-Najjar into a civilian car that carried him to an ambulance. They later returned to the scene to evacuate the person on the stretcher. Meanwhile, an IOF wheel loader and tank moved into the location and sped in their direction. The group managed to carry the dead man’s body with the stretcher, but IOF opened fire at them, so he fell to the ground. An Israeli wheel loader arrived at the area and attempted to evacuate the young man’s body. According to eyewitnesses’ statement and video clips taken by Palestinian journalists in the area, the Israeli wheel loader lifted the young man’s body and threw him on the ground several times. When Mo‘taz Hasan al-Najjar, 21, attempted to recover his body, IOF opened fired live bullets at him, wounding him in his lower extremities. The Israeli wheel loader continued abusing the deceased man’s body for 3 minutes in an attempt to lift him in a way that violates the sanctity of death. The wheel loader carried him from his upper clothes as his body hanged in a tormenting manner, and retreated into the Israeli side of the border fence. It was later discovered that the person killed, and whose body was desecrated by IOF, was Mohammed ‘Ali Hasan al-Na‘em, 27, from Khan Younis. Al-Quds Brigades, the Military Wing of Islamic Jihad Movement, declared that the killed man is one of its members. Furthermore, the young men managed to evacuate the other dead body from the area, who was also a member of armed groups from the area….

EU representative deplores Israeli army actions in Gaza
IMEMC/:Agencies 26 Feb — European Union (EU) Representative in Jerusalem Sven Kuehn von Burgsdorff said Tuesday that the incident in which an Israeli soldier drove a bulldozer onto Palestinian territory, and dragged the body of a slain Palestinian in Gaza, on Sunday, goes counter to all principles of human dignity, Palestine News Network reported. “No one should be witnessing scenes like that one when a military bulldozer drags away a lifeless body. This is something that goes counter to all principles of human dignity and respect,” von Burgsdorff said. “The EU has consistently reiterated on numerous occasions, that the destructive cycle of violence and counter-violence has to come to an end,” he said. “De-escalation is now imperative, not least to preserve lives of the citizens of Gaza and to relieve their suffering.”

Analysis // Israel sent a bulldozer to snatch a Gazan’s body. The result was 100 rockets
Haaretz 29 Feb by Amos Harel — In retrospect, Israeli army sources acknowledge that the operation in which a bulldozer retrieved the body of an Islamic Jihad member killed in an incident on the Gaza border could have been handled differently. Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, who has boasted about reinstating the policy of collecting bodies, angrily rejected the criticism that followed the incident, saying that he was sick of the left wing’s hypocrisy. But the army’s reaction to the operation, which took place on Sunday, sounds somewhat different. They say that had they known it would run into such complications, maybe they could have passed up the effort: “It really looked bad. Sometimes things go awry.”
The shift in policy was mainly the result of Bennett’s political constraints. When he took office in November, he expressed support for an army recommendation in favor of wide-ranging steps to ease the economic situation in Gaza. The stance prompted allegations from the right wing that the bodies of Israeli soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, which are being held by Hamas, were being abandoned. In addition to announcing other aggressive steps, Bennett directed the Israel Defense Forces to resume the policy of collecting the bodies of Palestinians killed in incidents involving live fire near the border fence. The efficacy of the policy is a matter of debate, to put it mildly. Until now, Hamas had not expressed particular concern over the bodies of its own members that are held in Israel, some since the war in the summer of 2014. And the prospect that Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar would actually be more concerned over the sorry fate of an unknown member of Islamic Jihad is even slimmer.
But a directive is a directive, so on Sunday morning, after the army struck a cell that had come to lay explosive charges near the border fence and left the body of one of its members behind, an army bulldozer was dispatched to collect it, perhaps in the faint hope that it would help in bargaining with Hamas in the future. But then things began to get complicated. The bulldozer had problems digging in the hard ground to pick up the body; in the meantime, some locals gathered to try to scuttle the operation. Under the pressure of the unfolding situation, the bulldozer operator pulled up the body with the machine’s arm, creating a macabre scene: The body of the Islamic Jihad member was tossed around like a rag doll – which isn’t really consistent with the value of according respect to enemy bodies, which the IDF teaches its combat soldiers to uphold (even if it’s not always applied in practice) …  Army sources said that in retrospect, they think the footage is what prompted Islamic Jihad’s relatively harsh response – firing nearly 100 rockets at southern Israel within a two-day period….

On hanging from the blades of a bulldozer: Al-Naem is every Palestinian / Ramzy Baroud
Palestine Chron. 27 Feb — How is one to apply rational political analysis to what is inherently irrational? What kind of political theory must one consult to formulate and test hypotheses when the information at hand is so grizzly, sadistic, and reeking with unbearable contradictions? Seeing the gaunt body of Mohammed al-Na‘em hanging from the blades of an Israeli military bulldozer near the fence which separates besieged Gaza from Israel left me speechless. There is nothing in the field of political science that can convincingly explain the logic of that heart-rending scene. Come to think of it, killing a Palestinian then dragging his lifeless body using the blades of a bulldozer, thus denying his family the dignity of burying their beloved son or daughter, is unique to Israel; an act that manifests itself in numerous ways every single day in occupied Palestine. We often speak of Palestinian human rights – thus of Israel’s violation of these rights, of justice and peace – often contending that one is the prerequisite to the other. But how about humiliation, just for the sake of humiliation? How about the purposeful degradation of Palestinian women and men who, daily, would have to navigate numerous obstacles imposed on them by the Israeli army, not only to survive but also to preserve as much of their dignity as possible under circumstances that are almost entirely out of their control. Na‘em was only 27 years old when he was killed, thus he was merely 13 years of age when Israel placed the minuscule Gaza – 365 square kilometers – under a hermetic and deadly siege … The Israeli bulldozer that dangled Na‘em as if some sacrificial lamb, in front of TV cameras in the middle of the day, although unwittingly, sent a message to the rest of the world: this is us, Israel is the bulldozer, and this is them, Na‘em is the Palestinians, in all of their vulnerability, nakedness, and defeat, and there is nothing that anyone can do about it….

Family of slain Palestinian demands Israel return body for burial
KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza (Al Jazeera) 25 Feb by Walid Mahmoud & Muhammad Shehada — At the al-Naem family home in western Khan Younis, the relatives of 27-year-old Mohammed gathered in shock to grieve over the loss of a father, husband and son. “My son has no match, he was everything to me,” said Mohammed’s mother, Mirvat, 56. “He was kind-hearted, religious and very moral. I can’t imagine him gone.” Mohammed was shot dead on Sunday by the Israeli military, which accused him of planting an explosive device near the Israeli separation fence east of Khan Younis in the besieged Gaza Strip. Mohammed’s family denied this, saying that his presence near the fence area was peaceful. A local journalist captured the scenes that followed in a video, widely shared on social media, which showed a group of Palestinian onlookers attempting to retrieve Mohammed’s body when an Israeli military bulldozer approaches. Gunfire can be heard as the men rush away from the body, which the bulldozer then scoops up after several apparently failed attempts. The body appears to hang from the teeth of the scoop by a piece of clothing as the bulldozer turns and heads towards the fence.
— ‘A great crime’ — The images of Mohammed’s lifeless body being carried away by the bulldozer have caused widespread outrage among Palestinians and the family has demanded its swift return for burial. “Isn’t it horrendous enough that they killed my young man? What they did is a great crime against humanity,” said Mirvat. “All I want is for them to bring my son back … It’s my right to see him for the last time and bid farewell to him and bury him near me to be able to visit him.” Mohammed’s wife Hiba, 25, who struggled to speak through tears, described her husband as a kind-hearted, hard-working family man. “Mohammed was a very kind and very remarkable man. I can’t imagine this happening to him,” she told Al Jazeera. “We’ve been married for a year and a half and he’s been very tender-hearted and sweet to me. Our baby is less than a year old, what did he do to deserve growing up without his father?” Hiba said Mohammed was an engineer who worked with different companies as he sought to make a living to support his family. She said she would not watch the video….

Israel slammed for ‘necroviolence’ on bodies of Palestinians
Al Jazeera 24 Feb by Linah Alsaafin —  Israeli practice of humiliating, withholding bodies of Palestinians is extension of control and war crime, analysts say   Israel’s use of “necroviolence” on bodies of Palestinians has been condemned as part of its policy to exert further control over the people living in the occupied territories. On Sunday, a video that went viral on social media showed an Israeli bulldozer violently scooping up the body of a Palestinian who had been shot by Israeli forces east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip …  “Desecrating the dead body of a young unarmed man on the borders of the Gaza Strip in front of the cameras of the whole world is a heinous crime that adds to the occupation’s list of crimes against our Palestinian people,” said Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for the Hamas movement that governs the Gaza Strip, in a press statement. According to Budour Hassan, a legal researcher with the Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center (JLAC), this necroviolence – the act of humiliating human bodies – is a means of exerting control over bodies of the Palestinians. “We see it as an extension of an entire policy designed by Israel to control bodies of Palestinians,” Hassan told Al Jazeera.
The word necroviolence, Hassan added, is borrowed from anthropologist Jason De Leon’s book, The Land of Open Graves, in which he coined the term to describe the mistreatment of bodies of migrants who crossed the US border from Mexico. Hassan added that while desecrating Palestinian bodies was not exceptional to the Israeli forces, the video of the incident was a rare instance where it was carried out publicly. “Israel carries out similar forms of humiliation on bodies silently in morgues or in the cemeteries of numbers,” she explained, referring to mass graves marked with numbers etched on metal plates rather than names. The cemeteries are situated in secret locations that Israel has deemed closed military zones. Some of the bodies have been there since the 1967 war. Furthermore, the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute in Tel Aviv, which holds bodies of Palestinians killed in alleged attacks on Israelis, is notoriously known as the place where Palestinian organs and body parts have been harvested.
According to JLAC and Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights, an NGO, Israel is the only country in the world that has a policy of confiscation of human remains, where it relies on regulations dating back to 1945 (during the British Mandate) as grounds for its policy….

‘Israel builds hospitals for Hamas, while my son is still in Gaza,’ thousands rally for KIAs’ return
Ynet 26 Feb by Ilana Curiel — In a massive event held in the southern city of Be’er Sheva, the relatives of fallen IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, as well as mentally ill Israeli citizen Avera Mengistu, beg the government to return them from Hamas’s captivity —  Some 8,000 people attended a rally in the southern city of Be’er Sheva on Wednesday evening, calling for an Israeli citizen and the bodies of two IDF soldiers killed in a war six years ago to be returned. Hamas has been holding the bodies of IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin since 2014, when they fell in combat during Operation Protective Edge. Along with the bodies of the two soldiers, Hamas is also holding Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed – two Israeli citizens who crossed into Gaza in 2014 and 2015 due to suffering from a mental illness … Among the main speakers were the parents of Goldin and a brother of Shaul as well as the brother of the Ethiopian-Israeli citizen….

Bennett to ‘Post’: 95% chance of large Gaza military offensive in future
JPost 25 Feb by Anna Ahronheim, Jeremy Sharon — There is a 95% chance that Israel will launch a large-scale military campaign to remove terrorist threats from the Hamas-run Gaza Strip in the near future, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. “I have come to the conclusion that there is a 95% chance it is inevitable that we will have to launch a large campaign to restart Gaza,” he said less than a day after nearly 100 rockets were fired into the South in the latest round of violence between Israel and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). “We are ready, and the plans have been formulated with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the military,” Bennett said. “We will give one very last chance to the terrorists to maintain quiet. But I don’t believe them. They are liars, murderers, and we are going to have to act. It’s always a last resort to go to war. But this time it will be on our terms with our timing and with a very clear vision of the day after.” Speaking to the Post in his office on the 14th floor of the IDF’s Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv, Bennett said as defense minister he is responsible for providing the people of the South “what they haven’t had for 20 years – sustainable peace and quiet.”… While Bennett did not provide a time line for when the campaign would begin, he hinted that he wanted Hamas to have a “painful spring.”… Bennett, who is marking 100 days as defense minister, told the Post the coming campaign would be “totally different” than past military campaigns, and once Gaza has been “reset,” there would be years of quiet….

Joint List’s Ahmed Tibi: No Gantz government if Gaza attacked
JPost 27 Feb by Gil Hoffman, Udi Shaham — One of the conditions for enabling Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz to form a minority government is that there be no IDF strikes in the Gaza Strip, Joint List faction chairman Ahmad Tibi told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. In an interview in the Knesset that will be published on Friday, Tibi appeared to confirm Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s repeated statements that the Joint List would have veto power over IDF operations. “We will do our utmost as the Joint List to block any war and advance the peace process,” Tibi said. “There will be no bulldozers on bodies, no air attacks on the Palestinians. Peace, not war. I have a limit of what I can swallow.” Joint List head Ayman Odeh added in an interview with Channel 12 that his party would not cooperate with a government that attacks Gaza. Netanyahu expressed outrage. “It is shameful that while the IDF and other security forces are maintaining Israel’s security, Gantz’s political allies condemn them,” Netanyahu said. “Gantz needs Ayman Odeh and Ahmad Tibi to form a government. Such a government would be dangerous.” Tibi confirmed reports that the Likud is trying to organize a Likud rally in an Arab city to woo Arab voters for the March 2 election. He said the Likud was offering both incentives and punishments to pressure Arab mayors to host the event.

How Hamas’ observation units operate on Gaza border
Al-Monitor 27 Feb by Adnan Abu Amer — Yedioth Ahronoth’s Palestinian affairs correspondent Elior Levy shed light Feb. 13 on the work of Hamas’ observation units along Israel’s borders with the Gaza Strip. The newspaper quoted Israeli security and military sources as saying that Hamas is following every movement of Israeli soldiers near the border, with the mission of observation and control units being to monitor any strange Israeli movements on the borders, be it by land, air or sea, and relay them to the operations room of Hamas’ military wing, Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. Hamas’ observation posts are deployed along the eastern border with Israel, namely east of the cities of Rafah and Khan Yunis in southern Gaza, in Maghazi and Bureij in central Gaza, in Shajaiya east of Gaza City, and in Jabaliya, Beit Lahia and Beit Hannoun in northern Gaza. Levy’s article included audio clips of members of the observation units reporting to other Hamas groups all field events near the border. Al-Qassam Brigades have developed monitoring points along the Gaza border. They also mobilized more members along the border and reinforced their units on the border with technological capacities to help them monitor the Israeli army’s moves on land, sea and air, Levy reported. Wasef Erekat, a Palestinian military expert in the West Bank and former artillery unit commander of the PLO, told Al-Monitor, “Hamas’ observation units are necessary to compensate for their modest land, sea and air capabilities compared to Israel. However, Hamas has only ground observation units and focuses its attention on ground surveillance and the naked eye to gather information. [Hamas’] field posts may be considered defensive and not offensive since the latter needs information [from deep inside the Israeli border], which is not available to the movement. With its monitoring sites spread along the Gaza Strip, Hamas cannot cover the entire border. So the Israelis still have gaps to operate from, and this is a weakness in Hamas’ monitoring system.”….

Mossad chief visited Doha, urged Qatar to continue Gaza financial aid
Haaretz 24 Feb — Mossad Chief Yossi Cohen visited Doha on February 5 in order to ensure Qatar continues its financial aid policy to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. The visit came to light in an interview former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman gave Israel’s Channel 12 News on Saturday, saying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had sent Cohen and the Israeli military’s chief of Southern Command Herzl Halevi to “beg the Qataris to keep funneling money into Hamas.” “Both the Egyptians and the Qataris are angry with Hamas, and they were going to cut all ties with them. All of a sudden Netanyahu shows up as a Hamas advocate, pressuring Egypt and the Qataris to continue” with the financial support, said Lieberman, adding that Netanyahu’s policy is tantamount to “surrender to terrorism.”…
On Friday, Doha announced that it would increase Gaza Strip aid as part of the efforts to alleviate conditions and increase stability in the enclave. Qatar has transferred the Gaza Strip over $1 billion since 2012 with Israel’s approval, according to data presented by an international source to Israeli ministers in 2019. As part of the improved aid package, some 120,000 impoverished families will receive $100 dollars each by the end of February. Moreover, poor-stricken families will receive financial support to pay for the rehabilitation of their homes totaling a million dollars, and an additional million dollars in aid to 500 young Palestinians from those families who are about to get married. Another million dollars will be given to Gazan students whose families are unable to pay their tuition….

Halt of Muslim pilgrimage over virus brings worldwide dismay
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) 27 Feb by — For years, Ibrahim al-Dabba has been saving up money to make the umrah pilgrimage to Islam’s holiest sites in Saudi Arabia, which for many Palestinians is the only way to leave the impoverished and isolated Gaza Strip. He registered with a tourism agency back in September, hoping to make the journey next month. But on Thursday, Saudi authorities took the unprecedented step of halting the pilgrimage over a virus outbreak that has infected more than 82,000 people worldwide and caused more than 2,800 deaths … For the 2 million Palestinians in Gaza, the Saudi decision closes one of the last avenues for leaving the narrow coastal strip, which has been ruled by the Islamic militant group Hamas and blockaded by Israel and Egypt since 2007. The blockade, along with three wars and countless skirmishes between Palestinian militants and Israel, has devastated the local economy and spawned widespread despair. An umrah pilgrimage from Gaza starts at around $1,300, a huge sum in a territory with 50% unemployment. Some Gazans sell jewelry or property to pay for it.  “We are imprisoned in Gaza, and for us, visiting Mecca and Medina feels like a prisoner receiving a visit from his family,” said al-Dabba, who had hoped to depart with his two sisters on March 8. “There, we release all the repression inside us.” A woman who identified herself as Umm Khalil was supposed to travel out with the same group and has been eagerly awaiting the pilgrimage for more than a year. But on Thursday she raced to the travel agency to get her money back. “We aren’t afraid of the virus because no one dies short of his fated lifetime,” she said. “But after the suspension everything came to a halt and we felt sad.” The pain of missing out on the pilgrimage is particularly acute in Gaza, but is shared by Muslims worldwide….

Video: ‘People just need opportunity’: innovation in blockaded Gaza
23 Feb — People in Gaza have been living under a blockade for almost 13 years. Lacking many basic needs such as consistent heating and healthier alternatives for diabetic patients has prompted many people to find innovative solutions. Al Jazeera’s Stefanie Dekker reports from southern Gaza.

Food for thought: Providing jobs for Gaza’s widows
[with photos] MEMO 26 Feb by Mohammed Asad — Eight women sit on the roof of a small house in the Zeitoun district of Gaza City, in an area where poverty is prevalent. They are supervised by 47-year-old Eitidal Filfil, who founded the project “Habbat Al-Loulou” or “grains of pearls”, to make maftool. Water is poured slowly over balls of semolina and ghee to make tiny balls the size of lentils. This is maftool, known as couscous in North Africa; a very popular dish in the Levant, North Africa and some Mediterranean Basin countries. Eitidal says that the project targets widows and gives them job opportunities. The women don’t earn much, she explains, but it helps them provide for themselves and their children. “Most [of the women] have five to eight children who need an allowance, food, drink, education and healthcare. All of this weighs heavily on us.” Eitidal says the initiative produces about 300 kilogrammes of maftool a month, which are sold at $1.60 a kilo. The women’s wages range between $8-$15 a day….

West Bank / Jerusalem

Palestinian shot dead after alleged stabbing attempt in Jerusalem
IMEMC/Agencies 23 Feb — The Palestinian Ministry of Health confirmed, on Saturday, the death of the alleged attacker, who was shot and killed earlier in the day by the Israeli police in Bab al-Asbat area in the Old City of occupied Jerusalem. Israeli police opened a barrage of gunfire the Palestinian man at Lions’ Gate of Jerusalem’s Old City, reportedly after attempting a stabbing attack. Witnesses told WAFA that the young man, who was not immediately identified, was shot several times and was left to bleed on the ground before Israeli paramedics arrived at the scene. The young man was identified as Maher Ibrahim Zaatra, 33, was a father of three children, and his wife is pregnant, from Jabal al-Mokabber village, south of occupied East Jerusalem. Video clips show the young man lying motionless on the ground, with a large police force at the scene. In an act of retribution and collective punishment, the soldiers invaded the home of the slain Palestinian, ransacked the property, before abducting his mother, and two brothers.

Army injures six Palestinians in Kufur Qaddoum
[with video] 29 Feb by Ali Salam — At least six Palestinians were injured by Israeli occupation forces today during the weekly protest against Israeli settlement construction, in the village of Kafr Qaddum in the northern West Bank, local sources said. The procession started in the center of Kafr Qaddoum, where the locals, accompanied by international activists, nonviolently marched while chanting against the ongoing Israeli occupation, its illegal colonies, and escalating violations. Morad Eshteiwi, the coordinator of the Popular Committee against the Wall and Colonies in Kafr Qaddoum, told WAFA Palestinian News Agency that Israeli soldiers attacked the protesters with live fire, rubber-coated bullets, and teargas, while several youngsters burnt tires and hurled stones at the invading soldiers. He stated that the soldiers injured six Palestinians, and caused many to suffer the effects of teargas inhalation. Eshteiwi added that one of the wounded is a child who was injured by fragments of a live round in the leg. Some of the injured were treated at the scene while others were moved to the hospital for treatment. Kufur Qaddoum witnesses frequent Israeli invasions, assaults and abductions as it continues to hold its weekly nonviolent processions against the illegal Annexation Wall and colonies, and against the closure of the main road, which was blockaded by the military fifteen years ago, to enable easy access for colonialist settlers driving to and from the Kedumim colony, built on private Palestinian lands.

UPDATE | Dozens injured as Israeli forces attack Palestinian protesters south of Nablus
NABLUS, Friday, February 28, 2020 (WAFA) – Dozens of Palestinian protesters were injured today as Israeli forces quelled them while defending a mountainous area against takeover by settlers to the south of the West Bank city of Nablus, according to a WAFA correspondent. He said that Israeli forces stormed Jabal al-‘Arma mountain, on the outskirts of Beita village, and opened fire on scores of Palestinian villagers who remained there all the night to fend off an Israeli settlers’ attempt to take it over, injuring over 180 protesters, most of them lightly. WAFA reported Palestinian medics confirming that a villager suffered from fractures and bruises as a result of being beaten by soldiers, and another sustained injuries in the thigh after being hit by a gas canister. Both casualties were rushed to a hospital for treatment. Medics also confirmed that a 16-year-old teen was evacuated to hospital for treatment after being hit in the back with a bullet shot by Israeli troops. Scores of villagers held a night-long [vigil] on the mountain to prevent settlers from encroaching upon it to establish a new colonial outpost. Jabal al-‘Arma boasts an ancient Roman-era castle hewn in rock and fresh water springs, making it a local tourist attraction. However, such features make it a prime target for Israeli settlers as colonial settlements are often positioned above water reserves, effectively stealing water as well as land.

Israeli police shot Palestinian man and left him to die, confirms new probe
MEMO 26 Feb — Israeli police officers shot an innocent Palestinian teacher and left him to die, a new investigation has found. Shocking details of the killing of Yacoub Abu Al-Qiyan in 2017 have been uncovered by Haaretz, exposing the negligence of Israeli soldiers who allowed the 47-year-old to bleed to death even though medical personnel were only a few metres away. Al-Qiyan’s death has been mired in controversy from the start. An Israel cover-up of his killing was exposed last year. The incident took place during the forcible evacuation of Umm Al-Hiran, a Bedouin village located just outside Beersheba in the Negev Desert in southern Israel. Several homes in Umm Al-Hiran – a village that is “unrecognised” by Israel – had been slated for demolition, one of which belonged to Musa Hussein Abu Al-Qiyan, the elderly father of Yacoub. During the pre-dawn demolition raid, the Israeli authorities claim, he had tried to ram his car into some policemen, killing one of them. The incident was subsequently labelled as a Daesh-inspired “terror attack”, to which the police responded in “self-defence”. Abu Al-Qiyan was shot dead at the scene. However, an exclusive report by Haaretz last year revealed that one police officer – known only as “S” – admitted hours after the incident that he did not believe that his life or the lives of his colleagues were in danger as a result of Al-Qiyan’s driving. This remark, the Israeli daily pointed out, was made to a Shin Bet coordinator known as “Taher” and contradicted his testimony given later to investigators from a unit of Israel’s Justice Ministry, which probes allegations of police misconduct. The latest probe by Haaretz found that Al-Qiyan had asked villagers to avoid any violence and to permit the Israeli forces to destroy the village homes to prevent an altercation. Moreover, Justice Ministry investigators who searched Al-Qiyan’s computers found no links to terrorism and nothing to suggest that he posed a threat. [Video available in this Haaretz article]

Palestinian fighters exchange fire with Israeli soldiers invading Qabatia
IMEMC 24 Feb — Palestinian resistance fighters exchanged fire, on Monday at dawn, with Israeli soldiers who invaded Qabatia town, south of the northern West Bank city of Jenin. Media sources said the fighters fired bursts of live ammunition at Israeli military vehicles invading the town, and that the soldiers fired a barrage of bullets at the sources of the fire. They added that fighters were firing at the invading army vehicles from several directions and that the exchange of fire lasted for an extended time. It is worth mentioning that the soldiers also invaded and ransacked homes, before abducting a young man, identified as Mustafa As’ad Abu ar-Rob, before withdrawing from the town.

Israel arrests PA officials in Jerusalem
MEMO 27 Feb — Israeli police yesterday arrested two senior Palestinian Authority (PA) officials in occupied Jerusalem after raiding their homes and searching them, Quds Press reported. Local sources told Quds Press that the Israeli occupation police arrested the Director of Arab Studies Society Khalil Tafakji from the Juz neighbourhood in Jerusalem. The same sources also reported that Israeli police arrested Head of the Chamber of Commerce Kamak Obeidat from his house in Beit Hanina in the occupied holy city.  Israeli occupation forces have been escalating their assaults on Palestinian activists and PA officials in order to undermine any national activity in the holy city since the announcement of the US “deal of the century
Last week, occupation authorities banned the PA’s governor of occupied Jerusalem Adnan Ghaith from entering the West Bank for six months and from communicating with the Palestinian Authority.

Updated: ‘Soldiers abduct 28 Palestinians, including children, former political prisoners, in West Bank
IMEMC 25 Feb — The Palestinian Prisoners Society (PPS) has reported that Israeli soldiers abducted, Tuesday, twenty-eight Palestinians, including children, siblings, and a young woman, from their homes in several parts of the occupied West Bank. The PPS said the soldiers abducted sixteen Palestinians from their homes in Hebron governorate, in southern West Bank. It added that the soldiers also abducted a father and his son from their home in Ramallah, in central West Bank, and a young female university student … The Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS) said the soldiers invaded and ransacked dozens of homes across the West Bank, causing serious property damage, and interrogated scores of residents while inspecting their ID cards. In Hebron, in southern West Bank, the soldiers abducted twelve Palestinians, including a young woman, identified as Leen Akef Awad, who is a student of the Polytechnic University, from Beit Ummar town, north of the city….

Israeli soldiers abduct eight Palestinians, including children, in Hizma
IMEMC 26 Feb — Israeli soldiers invaded, on Wednesday at dawn, the town of Hizma, northeast of occupied East Jerusalem, searched and ransacked many homes, before abducting eight Palestinians, including three former political prisoners, and three children. The Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS) has reported that the soldiers abducted three former political prisoners, identified as Issa Odah Khatib, 50, Ahmad Wahid Khatib, 21, and Mohammad Fawzi Khatib, 25. The PPS added that the soldiers also abducted Mohammad’s brother, a teenage boy identified as Ahmad. It also said that the soldiers abducted Mohammad Roshdi Salahuddin, 17, Fadi Hamed Khatib, 15, Mahmoud Hussein Khatib, 18, and Rami Sbeih Khatib.

Israeli colonists attack Palestinian homes near Nablus
IMEMC 28 Feb — Dozens of extremist illegal Israeli colonists attacked, earlier Friday, the town of Huwwara, south of the northern West Bank city of Nablus, before attacking homes and cars, causing damage. The WAFA Palestinian News Agency has reported that many colonists, illegally squatting on private Palestinian lands, stormed the village, and fired many rounds of live ammunition. WAFA added that the colonists hurled stones at many homes and cars, causing damage. The Palestinians tried to defend their homes and chase the assailants away, before Israeli soldiers, stationed nearby, fired many gas bombs and concussion grenades at them. The soldiers and the colonists then withdrew from the town.

Israeli settlers vandalize Palestinian vehicles near Salfit
IMEMC/Agencies 28 FebThe latest in a string of attacks by illegal Israeli settlers against Palestinian civilians in the West Bank, on Wednesday overnight, Israeli settlers vandalized at least eight Palestinian vehicles in Yasuf village, located east of Salfit city, central occupied West Bank. Local sources told WAFA, that a group of Israeli settlers managed to sneak into the village late at night and puncture the tires of eight vehicles, as well as covering the vehicles with racist, anti-Palestinian graffiti. Some of the graffiti read “Kill Arabs”, “War Against Arabs in Judea and Samaria” and “Price Tag” in Hebrew. The name “Judea and Samaria” is the Israeli nationalist name given to the occupied West Bank, in an attempt to reinforce its claims to the territory, to give those claims a veneer of historical and religious legitimacy.

Israeli settlers uproot olive trees on Palestinian lands
IMEMC/Agencies 27 Feb — Israeli settlers on Thursday uprooted hundreds of olive trees and vine trees in the town of al-Khader, south of the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem, according to a local activist. Emad Dadoo told WAFA that settlers from the illegal Israeli settlement of Eliazar uprooted approximately 200 olive trees and 80 vine trees from Palestinian lands near the colonial settlement. He stressed that Israeli colonists have been increasingly targeting and attacking Palestinian villages, especially those close to settlements, by razing lands, uprooting trees and preventing farmers access to their lands.

Israeli colonists attack Palestinian shepherds near Hebron
IMEMC 23 Feb — Many fanatic illegal Israeli colonists attacked, Saturday, several Palestinian shepherds in the at-Tiwana village, near Yatta, south of the southern West Bank city of Hebron. The Israeli assailants came from Havat Ma’on illegal colony, which was built on private Palestinian lands, and started hurling rocks at the shepherds. Israeli soldiers came to the scene but did not intervene, and instead were trying to force the Palestinian shepherds away. The Coordinator of the Popular Committees against the Annexation Wall and Colonies in southern Hebron, Rateb Jabour, said such attacks have recently witnessed a serious escalation.

Court actions

Court rejects petition by suspect in Palestinian family’s murder for excluding women
Haaretz 27 Feb by Hagar Shezaf — ‘Today we exile women from the center of the courtroom and make them cling to the wall, and tomorrow the appellant will demand that the state be represented only by a male,’ judge writes in his ruling — An Israeli court rejected Thursday an appeal filed by Amiram Ben-Uliel, an Israeli accused of the murder of a Palestinian family, citing his refusal to lift his head as he did not want to look at women in the courtroom. The Dawabshe family was murdered in a firebombing of their home in the village of Duma, located south of Nablus, in 2015. Masked assailants broke their window at 4 A.M. and threw a Molotov cocktail inside, killing Sa’ad and Reham Dawabshe and their son Ali, who was 18 months old.  Ali’s brother, Ahmed, who was four years old at the time, sustained severe injuries, but survived the attack …  Ben-Uliel’s attorney, Chai Hever of the right-wing Honenu organization, said his client had requested to close his eyes during the proceedings without removing any women from the room. Hever offered to stand in front of Ben-Uliel so as to obstruct his view of any women, but his client refused … Ben-Uliel’s trial is still ongoing, with closing arguments slated to begin next Sunday.

Criminal probe launched against Haaretz writer for incitement to terror
JPost 20 Feb by Yonah Jeremy Bob — The Attorney-General’s Office on Thursday ordered a criminal probe of left-wing activist Jonathan Pollack for an article he published in Haaretz, calling it incitement to terrorism and violence. It also froze a private criminal-style proceeding against Pollack by right-wing NGO Ad Kan. There is no probe against Haaretz.
The decision to open a criminal probe was made by Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit’s top deputy, Raz Nizri, since Mandelblit is out of the country. Nizri reached the decision after Pollack published multiple controversial pieces in Haaretz and based on allegations of violent or illegal actions he has taken. In one article, Pollack calls for Israeli citizens to “cross the lines and break the law. Despite the price, we need to join up with the teens throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails.” Pollack has also been the head of digital graphics for Haaretz. He had been in detention for more than a month, having refused to present himself to the court dealing with the Ad Kan case. He does not recognize Israel’s courts as legitimate because of what he views as unequal treatment of the Palestinians. Ironically, Pollack was released from detention because his detention was connected to the now-frozen Ad Kan case, whereas there is no basis to detain him now for the state prosecution’s new probe….

Land theft / Settlements / Ethnic cleansing

Israel seeks banning Palestinian construction in Area B in West Bank
RAMALLAH (Asharq Al-Awsat) 23 Feb — Israeli media said Defense Minister Naftali Bennett started new measures that prevent Palestinians from building in areas near settlements in the West Bank, even if they were located in Area B according to the Oslo agreement. A similar ban had affected construction in Area C. According to the Oslo Accords, Israel divides the West Bank into three areas: Area A, which is subject to the civil and security jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority (PA), Area B, which belongs to PA civil jurisdiction, but is under the security control of Israel, and Area C, which is under Israel’s security and civil jurisdiction. Israel recently said it does not recognize these divisions because it virtually controls all areas. Bennett ordered a freeze on Palestinian Arab construction in Area B. In a letter to the attorney general’s office, he claimed that Palestinian construction in an area where civil authority is vested in the PA threatens the security of Israeli settlements. In the letter, Bennett banned Palestinian residents from continuing construction in an area near the Shiloh Valley in the Binyamin region. According to a Ynet report, the decision constitutes an “unusual development” because under the Oslo Civil Authority, Area B is under the PA’s civil control, with the PA responsible for granting building permits. It is believed that Bennett kicked off a series of new decisions in order to support the new border maps that Israel is working on.  Israel has started mapping lands in the occupied West Bank that will be annexed to Israel in accordance with the peace plan proposed by US President Donald Trump.

Another push to make Qalandia Airport a Jewish settlement
Al-Monitor 28 Feb by Daoud Kuttab — In a move that appears to directly contradict the Donald Trump administration’s Mideast plan, the Israeli Housing Ministry announced Feb. 18 its intention to build 11,000 housing units on the grounds of the runway of the former Jerusalem airport, known as the Qalandia Airport (Atarot Airport). The US “Peace to Prosperity” plan states: “The State of Israel should allow for the development by the State of Palestine of a special tourism zone in Atarot, in a specific area to be agreed upon by the parties.” Atarot, according to the plan, “should be a world class tourist zone that should support Muslim tourism to Jerusalem and its holy sites,” and would include restaurants, shops, hotels, cultural centers, and other tourism facilities, along with “state-of-the-art public transportation that provides easy access to and from the holy sites.” According to Khalil Tufakji, the head of the map department at Jerusalem’s Arab Studies Society, more than half the land intended for the Jewish settlement at the former Qalandia Airport is privately owned by Palestinians. “Six-hundred of the 1,200 dunums are privately owned by Palestinians, and another 20 dunums are owned by the Islamic Waqf,” Tufakji told Al-Monitor….

New app allows settlers to measure distance from Palestinian territories
MEMO 28 Feb — A notorious right-wing settler group has developed an app that enables users to calculate the distance between their homes and the borders of the Palestinian state being proposed by US President Donald Trump, reported the Jerusalem Post. The right-wing group Regavim used maps proposed in Trump’s so called “deal of the century” to highlight the additional lands being proposed to the future Palestinian state along the border with Egypt. Despite it legitimising Israel’s crimes under international law, including colonisation and annexation, the new app is part of an intense campaign by the right-wing group to warn Israelis that the “Peace Plan” still needs adjustments before Israel can accept it as a working plan of action …  the plan contains an unprecedented threat to the safety of Israelis and to the future of the State of  Israel: Recognition of a Palestinian state in the heart of the Land of Israel. Join us in our call to the Knesset and the Israeli government: Sovereignty – YES! A Palestinian state – NO WAY!….

Settlers fence off Palestinian agricultural land in Jordan Valley
IMEMC/Agencies 24 Feb — Israeli settlers, on Sunday, continued fencing large tracts of land in the northern Jordan Valley as they chased Palestinian herders out of pastures in the area, according to local sources. Aref Daraghmeh, a local rights activist, told the Palestinian News and Info Agency (WAFA) that extremist settlers continued for the second day in a row encircling thousands of dunams of Palestinian-owned agricultural lands. On Saturday, illegal Israeli colonists installed fences around large areas of grazing lands in the West Bank’s Northern plains. Recently there has been an increase in the severity and incidences of settler invasions, and attacks, as settlers have become emboldened with the introduction of the widely rejected Trump/Kushner so-called peace deal.

The Israelis fighting to keep the Jordan Valley Palestinian
UM ZUKA (Palestinian Territories) (AFP)27 Feb — When the Israeli army’s surveillance drone swooped down, briefly scattering a Palestinian shepherd’s flock, activist Guy Hirschfeld rightly predicted trouble. Hirschfeld is one of a small group of Israelis working against their country’s creeping takeover of the Jordan Valley, a key part of the occupied West Bank that Palestinians see as vital for their future state. The drone arrived as Hirschfeld was shepherding shepherds — accompanying Palestinian farmers grazing their flocks near Israeli military bases and Jewish settlements in the region. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to annex the strategic Jordan Valley, accounting for roughly 30 percent of the West Bank, if re-elected in next week’s vote — Israel’s third in under a year … in Israel, there is a growing consensus that the territory seized in the 1967 Six Day War should never be relinquished. Hirschfeld said Israelis opposed to annexation have an obligation to push back. “For me, silence is a war crime,” he said. Hirschfeld and fellow activist Arik Ascherman — a rabbi — lead a small NGO called Torat Tzedek, which has been active since before the US plan was announced. They regularly accompany Palestinian Bedouin shepherds such as the Daraghmeh family, grazing livestock in the Um Zuka area, in the north of the Jordan Valley … The Daraghmehs told AFP they faced increasing pressure to leave their ancestral lands. “Sometimes they ban us from grazing down in the valley, then they ban us from being up there”, Thiab said, referring to the hills where they’d been moved on. “Do they want us to live in the sky?” Hirschfeld said he felt “exhausted” and isolated advocating for Palestinian rights in an Israeli society that has moved sharply to the right….

EU warns Israel’s Har Homa, Givat Hamatos building harms 2-states
JPost 23 Feb by Tovah Lazaroff — The European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell warned on Saturday that Israel was harming the possibility of a two-state solution to the conflict with its plan to expand Har Homa neighborhood and create a new one on Givat Hamatos, both of which are located in east Jerusalem. “Such steps would be deeply detrimental to a two-state-solution,” said Borrell in a statement put out by his office. “As set out clearly on numerous occasions by the European Union, including in Council conclusions, such steps would cut the geographic and territorial contiguity between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, isolate Palestinian communities living in these areas, and threaten the viability of a two-state solution, with Jerusalem as capital of both states,” Borrell stated. “Settlements are illegal under international law. The EU will not recognize any changes to the pre-1967 borders, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties. We call on Israel to reconsider these plans,” he added. Four EU countries — France, Germany, Ireland and Italy — also put out individual statements condemning the plan …  Opponents of the project warn that these two neighborhoods create a Jewish wedge that cuts off the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem from nearby Bethlehem and the West Bank. Effectively, the opponents argue, it makes it impossible for Palestinians to achieve their vision of a state with contiguous territory at the pre-1967 lines with east Jerusalem as its capital. Israel has held that Har Homa and a potential neighborhood at Givat Hamatos are essential to carry out its vision of a united Jerusalem….

Israel closes 60-year-old Jerusalem bakery for distributing bread to Muslim worshipers
MEMO 25 Feb — Last week in a dawn raid, Israeli police shut down a 60-year-old Palestinian bakery and arrests the owner’s son in the Old City of occupied Jerusalem. According to local sources, police forces stormed the Bab Hitta area in the Old City and shut down the bakery, owned by the Abu Snaina family. The son of the owner, Naser Abu Snaina, was arrested during the incident.  A video released on the Facebook page of Wadi Hilweh Information Centre, a Silwan-based watchdog, shows footage of the closed bakery shop in the Bab Hitta neighbourhood, named after one of the doors leading to Al-Aqsa Mosque; the Gate of Remission. It has been alleged that the reason for the forced closure was that the bakery had been providing baked goods to Palestinian worshippers headed to Al-Aqsa Mosque to pray. The bakery was ordered to cease providing ka’ak, an oval shaped bread with sesame seeds to the worshippers. IMEMC News explained that many Palestinians think of ka’ak as “the essence of Palestine”, and the smell of the sesame bread fills the streets of Jerusalem. The Israeli municipal authorities did not say why it was a problem for the bakery to be distributing ka’ak to worshippers, but Palestinian analysts say that it appears to be part of the ongoing campaign against the mosque and the people who pray there and could be related to the bakery distributing ka’ak to worshippers during the “Great Dawn” campaign across the West Bank, when unprecedented numbers of Palestinians turning out for the dawn prayers as a new alternative to protesting against the so-called “deal of the century” endorsed by the administration of US President Donald Trump and Israeli plans to annex the whole of the occupied West Bank.
Last week footage also circulated on social media showing Israeli soldiers attacking an elderly Palestinian woman for handing out chocolates to worshippers as they attended Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa mosque.

AG’s office chides PMO for routinely blocking orders to raze illegal outposts
Times of Israel 27 Feb — State agrees to hold off on demolishing Israeli wildcat hamlets due to pressure from PM aide, while simultaneously bulldozing illegal Palestinian structures — The Attorney General’s Office has reprimanded Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office for routinely intervening in law enforcement’s efforts to demolish illegal Israeli outposts in the West Bank. In an October letter uncovered Thursday by the Haaretz daily, Deputy Attorney General Erez  Kaminitz wrote to PMO director Ronen Peretz, chiding the political echelon over the “very alarming collection of cases that raises concerns about the development of a very problematic trend of undermining the rule of law.” The cases cited by Kaminitz included demolition orders in the Sde Ephraim outpost near Modiin Illit, Givat Assaf near Beit El and Havat Negohot in the southern West Bank. The deputy attorney general said a frequent tactic used by the PMO to prevent razings was to direct the Civil Administration — the Defense Ministry body responsible for enforcing laws against illegal construction in the West Bank — to delay the orders. Portable structures cannot be removed if they’ve been allowed to remain for more than 60 days, according to military law in the West Bank….

Latin Pariarchate condemns Israeli settler incursion of church land in West Bank
CRUX 22 Feb — The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem has condemned an incursion of several thousand Israeli settlers on Church-owned land in the West Bank on Friday. The plot of land was near the village of Tayasir, near Tubas in the northern West Bank, and was one of several towns invaded by the settlers, who have been urging the Israeli government to annex the area. In a statement on Saturday, the Patriarchate noted the settlers did not have permission to enter the land, calling the action a violation of private property. “It should be mentioned that settlers brought their cows, some days ago, to the Patriarchate lands and caused considerable damage there,” the statement said. “It should be mentioned also that the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem protested to the Israeli authorities on similar violations of its property near Tayasir by settlers, but – so far – violations to our property continues to take place while the authorities are practically not prohibiting them,” the Patriarchate continued, adding it is “very concerned not only from the settlers’ violations of its properties, but also from the lack of action by the Israeli authorities to put an end to such offenses.”

Wadi al-Natuf: a West Bank historical site ravaged by Israel
RAMALLAH, (WAFA) 24 Feb by Maan Rimawi – Early in 2004, the Israeli army took control of Wadi al-Natuf (or Natufian Valley), in the north Ramallah village of Shuqba, under the pretext it was state-owned. The valley was quickly zoned as an industrial area. Israeli quarries took advantage of this decision and immediately began to pillage the rocky archaeological site, taking advantage of its rich soil. Almost 3,000 dunums of land, some of it agricultural, was quickly ruined. The archaeological landscape of the valley has changed from the explosions and roads built in it. Two Israeli quarries were set up at the site to excavate the land with an Israeli army tower to protect them. What has survived thousands of years of the historical Natufian Valley was wiped out in just 16 years of Israeli control. The Natufian culture existed thousands of years before Christ, according to historians. Its communities were the ancestors of the builders of the first Neolithic settlements of the region that founded the city of Jericho in the West Bank, the oldest inhabited urban area on earth. Dorothy Garrod, a British archeologist, discovered the Natufian culture after excavating Shuqba cave, known as Wadi al-Natuf, in 1928. The explosions in the valley for the quarrying factories caused damage to nearby homes. Residents complained to the Israeli military government but all their attempts to put a stop to the quarries have failed. Instead, they were not allowed to reach their lands near the quarries or to build on them, and anyone who builds there would have his building demolished. The daily explosions in the mountains to shatter the rocks have damaged many homes in that area, said Adnan Shalash, head of Shuqba village council, not to mention the noise, disturbance and pollution they cause to the environment as a result of the dust they generate. “All this is to force the residents to leave their homes,” he said, adding that the valley, which once was a scenic area, has become dangerous due to the big holes in the ground, some of them more than 15 meters deep….

12 West Bank outposts will finally be connected to electricity grid
JPost 24 Feb by Tovah Lazaroff — In a nod to authorization, the Defense Ministry announced on Sunday that it planned to connected twelve West Bank outposts to the electricity grid.This includes five in Samaria, three in the South Hebron Hills, two in Gush Etzion and two in Binyamin. The Yesha Council thanked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for issuing the directive, which will end the suffering of the fledgling communities that have lived for so many years without easy access to electricity.“This is another important step the Prime Minister has taken regulating these communities,”  the Yesha council said. It added that it planned to continue to work to bring one million new residents to Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley. Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan said the move corrects an historic injustice and called on Netanyahu to authorize all the outposts. Dagan also thanked Defense Minister Naftali Bennett and his settlements advisor Avi Ro’eh. South Hebron Hills Council head Yochai Damri said that “sovereignty would be tested in deeds, not words.”The outposts on the list are: Nofei Nehemia, Yair Farm, Hill 851, Maoz Tzvi, Shaharit, Pnei Kedem, Tekoa D, Mitzpe Lachish, Avigail, Asael, Esh Kodesh and Ahiya.


Opinion // Why the UN’s settlement database doesn’t go far enough
Haaretz 27 Feb by Emily Schaeffer Omer-Man —  Recently released list will be toothless unless countries take action to punish corporate complicity in Israel’s illegal conduct ––  The UN Human Rights Council reconvened this week to discuss world affairs, including its recently released database of businesses involved in Israeli settlements. The database was lauded by Palestinian civil society and the human rights community at large when it was published earlier this month. At the same time, it has been condemned by the governments of Israel and the United States, who had exerted tremendous pressure to suppress its publication. Last Friday, Kahol Lavan’s Yoaz Hendel denounced the list as an “ethical stain” on the United Nations, reminding Israeli voters that not even the leading opposition party will stop the de facto annexation of the West Bank from becoming permanent. Yet these polarized responses obscure an important reality: The 112 companies listed are merely the tip of the iceberg of corporate complicity in the occupation …  Similar UN reports were previously released documenting corporate complicity in systematic human rights violations in Myanmar and the Democratic Republic of Congo – all based on the principle that business actors, working alongside governments, must be held accountable nowadays when they violate international law …
Consider, for example, the heavy equipment industry. According to the report, the high commissioner determined that her office must read its mandate “restrictively,” such that only companies that supply equipment “for” the demolition of property are listed. This interpretation is divorced from reality, both legally and practically … Perhaps this restrictive interpretation explains why corporations like Caterpillar, Volvo and CNH Industrial – whose heavy machinery has been regularly documented in home demolitions and settlement construction – were left off the list….

Basques tell train maker to withdraw from Israel’s apartheid railway
EI 27 Feb by Ali Abunimah — More than 70 political parties, trade unions and other groups in the Basque Country have signed a statement demanding that train maker CAF withdraw from a massive Israeli colonization project in the occupied West Bank. Based in the Basque Country, an autonomous region of Spain, CAF is a member of the consortium picked by Israel to expand the Jerusalem light rail. The groups say that the railway “entrenches Israeli apartheid” and demand that CAF “comply with international law, withdraw from the Jerusalem tram project and thus end complicity in the occupation of Palestine.” The $2 billion expansion project is an essential part of Israel’s effort to consolidate its grip on its colonial settlements around Jerusalem and is viewed by Palestinians as a symbol of their occupation and oppression. The construction of settlements in occupied territory is a war crime … During the bidding for the railway expansion, major international firms withdrew from the process amid mounting criticism that they would be aiding and abetting Israel’s international crimes. They include Canada’s Bombardier, Australia’s Macquarie and Germany’s Siemens. France’s Alstom also pulled out after concluding that involvement in the settler railway would harm human rights and be illegal …  But CAF, along with its Israeli partner construction firm Shapir, stayed in the race and won the contract to extend the project….

BDS protest at sheet maker Brooklinen’s NYC store over Israeli production
IMEMC 25 Feb — At a protest Sunday at Brooklinen’s new Williamsburg, Brooklyn store, New York human rights advocates called for a boycott of the online sheet and linen retailer, over their Israeli production partners’ involvement in Israel’s apartheid rule over the Palestinian people. The protest came amidst international outrage over the Israeli military’s abuse with a bulldozer of the body of Palestinian in the impoverished Gaza Strip, an open-air prison with two million residents. Brooklinen has escaped scrutiny and parried questions about the specifics of its production of its sheets and linens in Israel. Brooklinen’s products are made by Israel’s Offis Textile, which also has murky ties with the Israeli company Ofertex. The two Israeli companies have been involved with illegal Israeli settlements and have exploited captive Palestinian workers. Their taxes fund Israel’s apartheid system.  The Sunday protest kicked off when two participants entered the Brooklinen store and caught staff by surprise, saying they wanted to return their sheets because they were “stained with Israeli apartheid.” They then pulled out pillowcases which said “Brooklinen sews destruction in Palestine” and “Brooklinen in bed with Israeli apartheid.” (video)….

Other news

PCHR weekly report on Israeli human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territory (20-26 February 2020)
Palestinian civilian killed as a result of IOF’s excessive use of force in occupied East Jerusalem;
IOF abuses the body of Palestinian in a humiliating and degrading manner after shooting him in eastern Khan Younis  2 civilians injured in the same incident;
13 Palestinian civilians injured, including 4 children, in the West Bank 10 of them injured during IOF suppression of 11 peaceful protests organized against Trump’s peace plan;
Eight shootings reported against agricultural lands and three at Palestinian fishing boats in eastern and western Gaza Strip;
IOF carries out airstrikes in the Gaza Strip causing severe damage to the power grid in eastern Khan Younis;
During 116 IOF incursions into the West Bank, including occupied Jerusalem: 126 civilians arrested, including 15 children and 3 women;
2 houses self-demolished by their owner in occupied East Jerusalem and a decision issued to demolish another house in Bethlehem; while 13 demolition notices and orders to stop construction works were distributed in Hebron; including one for a mosque;
An Israeli decision issued to ban Palestinians from building in Area “B” in the West Bank;
Settlers attacked a Palestinian doctor in Jerusalem and punctured the tires of 14 cars in Salfit;
Israeli Authorities Closed Beit Hanoun “Erez” and Kerem Shalom crossings, and banned fishing completely in the Gaza sea;
IOF established 46 temporary military checkpoints in the West Bank, where 6 Palestinian civilians were arrested.
[details follow]

Two Palestinian fighters killed by Israel missiles in Damascus
IMEMC 24 Feb — The Al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad, has reported that two of its fighters were killed, late on Sunday at night, after Israeli war jets fired missiles into an area in the Syrian capital, Damascus. The Brigades stated that its slain fighters have been identified as Salim Ahmad Salim, 24, and Ziad Ahmad Mansour, 23. [They were apparently both Palestinian refugees from Yarmouk camp.] It added that the Israeli offensive on the Arab Syrian capital “is just another example of Tel Aviv’s failure in facing the Palestinian fighters in occupied Palestine. “This new aggression will not deter us, as it is only another incentive for us to continue our fight for liberation and independence,” the Brigades added, “Our struggle against the Israeli occupation will continue until we achieve our legitimate goals,” and vowed a fierce retaliation.

Citing elections, Israel to close the occupied Palestinian territories
29 Feb by Rami Almeghari — Israeli media reports said on Friday that Israeli authorities, in control of the occupied Palestinian territories, have decided to close the territories from next Monday, through Tuesday. The reports added that the closure will include the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and that the authorities cited parliamentary Israeli elections, which are slated for Monday, March 2, 2020. However, the decision excludes humanitarian cases, involving patients in need of treatment, at Israeli or West Bank hospitals. Other categories of Palestinian travelers will be barred from crossing into Israel-ruled regions. Both Gaza and the West Bank are populated by Palestinians who have nothing to do with Israeli elections. Closing their territories affects the movement of both people and goods, as Israeli border crossings are the main gateways, in and out of Palestinian territories. Israeli elections, to be held next Monday, are the third round after two similar rounds in April and September of last year, had failed to bring an elected Israeli government.

Palestine wins the right to direct international postal exchanges
MEMO 28 Feb — Photo: A picture taken on August 14, 2018 shows stacks of undelivered mail dating as far back as 2010 which has been withheld by Israel [ABBAS MOMANI/AFP via Getty Images] — The UN Universal Postal Union has recognised Palestine’s right to have direct postal exchange with the world through Jordan without any restrictions imposed. Following the UPU council meeting in Bern, Switzerland, discussing solutions aimed at improving the operations and quality of the Palestine’s postal services, the Palestinian government announced the right for free international postal exchanges. The Palestinian postal service has been largely dysfunctional as mail deliveries to the Israeli-occupied West Bank must pass through international crossings and borders before reaching the Palestinian territory, and are often subject to long delays. Israel controls all entrances and exits to the occupied West Bank and can prevent goods passing through as it sees fit … In a press statement yesterday, the Palestinian government said the UPU council meeting will support Palestine’s postage services through developmental projects. Palestine has been given an observer status of the UN’s UPU since 1999. In 2008, it stated that it was entitled to collection of mail related revenues, but this was never put into practice.

Israel’s Shin Bet illegally interfering in Palestinian citizens’ education system
MEMO 28 Feb — Israeli legal rights centre Adalah has sent an urgent letter to the director general of the Education Ministry, demanding details of a recent meeting with agents from the Shin Bet security agency. Last November, Director General Shmuel Abuav met with two Shin Bet agents “to discuss issues related to the Palestinian Arab education system in Israel, including the participation of Arab school children in youth movements and the blocking of “extremist” teachers”, stated Adalah. The revelations came to light thanks to a Freedom of Information request. As explained by Adalah, “it is illegal for the Shin Bet to intervene or interfere in the Arab education system”, the result of a 2004 Supreme Court petition by the centre and the National Association of Arab Parents’ Education Committees. “The state subsequently committed that the Shin Bet – which had been actively involved in the Arab education system since the establishment of the state – would cease its intervention in the selection or hiring of teachers in the Arab school system,” Adalah stated.  Despite this pledge, Adalah continued, “the Shin Bet illegally involved itself once again in Arab education when its agents met with Abuav on 24 November 2019, violating the state’s earlier commitments before the Supreme Court.”….

UK Jewish lawyers add submission to International Criminal Court Gaza probe
Jewish News 25 Feb — British Jewish lawyers have added their submissions to the International Criminal Court at The Hague after prosecutors said they would investigate accusations of Israeli war crimes in Gaza in 2014. In December, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said she was satisfied that war crimes had been committed by Israel in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and/or the Gaza Strip, but sought a ruling on the scope of the ICC’s territorial jurisdiction … Among those involving British lawyers was a joint application by UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI), the International Legal Forum, Bnai Brith UK, the Jerusalem Initiative and the Simon Wiesenthal Centre. Another separate application was lodged by UKLFI patron Lord David Pannick, together with Prof Robert Badinter, Prof Irwin Cotler, Prof David Crane, Prof Jean-François Gaudreault-DesBiens and Prof Guglielmo Verdirame. UKLFI said lawyers and Jewish groups were “fighting back against the attempt to misuse the ICC by turning it into yet another international institution to bash the only Jewish state”….

Syria says Israeli drone attack kills civilian near Golan
AP 27 Feb — An Israeli drone fired a missile at a car in southern Syria on Thursday, killing one person, Syrian state TV reported. The state-run media outlet gave no further details on the attack near the southern village of Hader in the Quneitra region on the edge of the Golan Heights which had come under Israeli raids on pro-Iranian terror targets.
According to the some reports the fatality was identified as Emad al-Tawil, who was involved in the Iranian entrenchment in the area.  There was no immediate comment from Israel about the drone attack. Israel has repeatedly struck Iran-linked targets in Syria in recent years and has warned against any permanent Iranian presence on the frontier. A Syrian military statement reported this week an Israeli attack near Damascus International Airport and said its air defenses confronted Israeli rockets coming from the direction of the Golan Heights. It said the defenders intercepted or shot down most of them. In a rare acknowledgment of operations in neighboring Syria, Israel said its warplanes attacked targets late Sunday of the Palestinian militant Islamic Jihad group south of Damascus, in addition to sites in the Gaza Strip.

2 more US presidential candidates drop out of AIPAC conference
MEMO 28 Feb — Two leading Democratic presidential hopefuls have said that they will not be attending the upcoming AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) conference, in what appears to be another high-profile rejection of the pro-Israel group. Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar each said they will not take part in the annual confab, which takes place in Washington DC on 1-4 March. Klobuchar cited the fact that that the conference coincides with Super Tuesday on 3 March for her absence while Buttigieg said that a “travelling conflict” prevented him from taking part. Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg is the only Democratic candidate confirmed to speak at the conference, according to the Jewish News Syndicate. The announcement of the presidential hopefuls’ absence from the annual conference, which attracts as many as 20,000 delegates, comes five days after their rival Bernie Sanders announced that he was going to boycott the event in a tweet denouncing the pro-Israel organisation as a platform for leaders who “express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights”.

VIDEO: US athletes kneel down during Israel’s national anthem, draw accusation of ‘anti-Semitism’
Palestine Chron. 27 Feb — The politically symbolic act of two young American athletes has been dubbed ‘antisemitic’ by Israel’s supporters on social media and among the various organizations that promote Israel’s interests in the United States. The controversy started when two volleyball players from Brooklyn College decided to kneel down during Israel’s national anthem, ahead of a match against Yeshiva University. The symbolic act by two athletes, Hunnan Butt and Omar Rezika, was meant as a political protest against the Israeli occupation and apartheid policies in Palestine … Pro-Israel individuals and institutions, however, immediately dubbed the symbolic act as one of “antisemitism” and “hatred” … Writing in the Palestine Chronicle, Palestinian author and journalist Ramzy Baroud said that “while anti-Jewish racism is a real phenomenon that must be confronted, ‘antisemitism’, as defined by Israel and its Zionist allies .. is a smokescreen, with the ultimate aim of distracting from the real conversation, that being the crimes of military occupation, racism, and apartheid in Palestine.” (listserv)

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“Poll: Only 37% of Israelis say human rights orgs should operate freely, just half support freedom of speech.”

Shocking, but not surprising! Further confirmation that “Israel” is one “sick puppy.”