West Bank / Jerusalem
Palestinian journalist and child injured by Israeli bulldozer attack
IMEMC/Agencies 22 Feb — Two Palestinians were injured on Friday as Israeli forces attacked dozens of protesters taking part in the weekly anti-settlements protest in the village of Kufur Qaddoum, near Qalqilia in the central occupied West Bank, said Mourad Shtewi, coordinator of the popular resistance in the village. An Israeli army bulldozer was filmed pushing large rocks towards the protesters in the village, injuring a Palestinian child, identified as Mo’men Shtewi, 9, who was treated at the scene. Photojournalist for Palestine TV, Mohammad Enaya, 28, was also injured during the attack, and was transferred to nearby Darwish Nazzal hospital for treatment, where his condition was described as moderate, according to the Palestinian News Info Agency (WAFA). Israeli soldiers also shot at the protesters with rubber-coated steel rounds and tear-gas canisters to force them to leave the area, causing many cases of suffocation from toxic tear-gas inhalation.
Soldiers abduct a child and a wounded young man in Qalqilia and Hebron
IMEMC 22 Feb — Israeli soldiers abducted, on Friday evening, a Palestinian child and a wounded young man, in Qalqilia and Hebron, in the northern and southern parts of the occupied West Bank. Media sources said the soldiers abducted a child, identified as Mohammad Ibrahim Jo‘eidi, 12, at the southern entrance of Qalqilia city. They added that the soldiers invaded the area and attacked protesters with rubber-coated steel bullets, gas bombs, and concussion grenades. In addition, the soldiers invaded the al-Fawwar refugee camp, south of Hebron, and fired rubber-coated steel bullets, gas bombs, concussion grenades and several rounds of live ammunition at Palestinians protesting the invasion. One Palestinian was shot with a rubber-coated steel bullet in the leg, before the soldiers abducted him and took him to an unknown destination.
Israeli troops shoot at Palestinian vehicle, wounding 16-year-old Palestinian
IMEMC 21 Feb — A car filled with Palestinian teens was attacked by Israeli forces on Thursday evening. The car was driving near the Palestinian town of Beitin, east of Ramallah, when Israeli forces stationed at a checkpoint targeted the vehicle and began shooting.
According to local sources, the Israeli occupation forces wounded a boy and abducted three others, after they shot up a vehicle east of Ramallah, on Thursday evening. The sources told the Palestinian Wafa news agency that the Israeli forces opened fire on a vehicle that was traveling near the village of Beitin, east of Ramallah, and hit a teen, Mohammad Abdel Majeed Sarma, 16, who was driving the car. Mohammad was struck with a bullet in his abdomen and another in the thigh, and was transported an Israeli ambulance to a Jerusalem hospital.
The other three teens in the car were abducted by Israeli forces. They were identified as Mahmoud Muhammad Awawda (15 years old), Saif Al-Din Awawdeh (15 years) and Dhia Al-Din Awawdeh (15 years), all from the village of Deir Dibwan, located east of Ramallah. The occupation forces claimed that they shot the vehicle because it was driving in a suspicious manner, but did not provide details as to the nature of this ‘suspicious’ behavior.
Wounded Jerusalem child in critical condition after suffering hemorrhaging in the brain
IMEMC/Agencies 16 Feb — The family of the wounded Palestinian child, identified as Malek Issa, only eight years of age, has reported that their son is in a critical condition at Hadassah Medical Center, after an Israeli soldier shot him with a rubber-coated steel bullet in the head, in occupied Jerusalem, leading to hemorrhaging in the brain and skull fracture; the child will likely lose his left eye. They said that their child was walking back home in the al-‘Issawiya town, in Jerusalem, when a soldier shot him with rubber-coated steel bullets between his eyes, causing a serious skull fracture, which also led to hemorrhaging in the brain. The child was rushed to Hadassah medical center in al-‘Issawiya, suffering life-threatening wounds, and will likely lose his left eye. The incident took place after Malek and his sisters were heading back home from school. They first took a bus to its last stop in the center of al-‘Issawiya, only 200 meters away from their home, and called their mother informing her of their arrival. The mother asked them to walk the short distance to their home to enjoy the sunny day, and they started walking before stopping at a local shop. After exiting the shop, an Israeli soldier fired rubber-coated steel bullets at them, wounding Malek in the face, causing the serious injury. His father stated that one of his sons lives just nearby where Malek was shot and rushed to his rescue before an ambulance was called and moved him to the hospital. He added that it looks like his child was shot from close range, and that the situation was calm before the soldiers starting firing. Eyewitnesses said the soldiers invaded the town to abduct a young man and fired rubber-coated steel bullets and gas bombs at random, apparently to force the Palestinians away.
Israeli cop who shot Palestinian boy in the face says he fired at a wall
[with VIDEO] MEMO 18 Feb — Issa remains in serious condition in intensive care in hospital, and is expected to lose his sight in one eye — The Israeli police officer who shot a Palestinian child in the face over the weekend has told investigators that he only fired at a wall, reported Haaretz. 8-year-old Malek Issa was walking home from school in ‘Issawiya, occupied East Jerusalem, when he was hit with a sponge-tipped bullet. Issa remains in serious condition in intensive care in hospital, and is expected to lose his sight in one eye – and maybe in both. Now, according to Haaretz, the police officer who opened fire “admitted to having used his weapon, but claimed he only fired a single sponge-tipped bullet at a wall to calibrate his sights”. The report added that the officer further claimed “he didn’t notice that the boy…had been hit in the face, and thought he may have been hit by a stone thrown by other Palestinians”. On Sunday, the Justice Ministry’s department for the investigation of police officers began looking into the incident, Haaretz noted, “but has yet to decide whether to open an official investigation or summon the officer in question”.
His father, Wahel Issa, said there had been absolutely no justification for the police to open fire. “At the spot where they got off [the bus], the police were trying to take somebody and a lot of people had gathered. There were no rocks being thrown or anything”. “The police saw a lot of people and fired. The boy received the bullet between the eyes”, he said. The report added that “footage from the scene supports the family’s claim, and show no unusual activity in the moments before the shooting”. Eyewitnesses also corroborated that Issa had simply got off a bus with his sisters and cousin and crossed the road when shot. “They [local residents] were shouting at the police. Suddenly one of the policemen shot from a distance of perhaps 50 metres. I saw the boy fall before my very eyes”, one said.
Dozens of armed settlers attack, injure 5 Palestinian shepherds
IMEMC/Agencies 17 Feb — Armed Israeli settlers attacked Palestinian shepherds in the town of al-Mughayyir, in central occupied West Bank, while grazing their livestock, on Monday, the town`s mayor stated. Marzouq Abu Naim told WAFA that dozens of illegal armed settlers chased and brutally assaulted several Palestinian civilians, forcing them out of their fields, injuring five, three of whom were transferred to hospital, suffering various fractures and bruises. At the same time, Israeli military forces installed a flying checkpoint at the entrance of the village following the attack, coordinated with the settler attacks.
Two Palestinians injured as Jewish settlers storm Jordan Valley villages
[with video] Palestine Chronicle 21 Feb — Thousands of Jewish settlers, protected by the Israeli army, stormed today several villages in northern Jordan Valley, including al-Burj, Umm al-Qaba, and Ein el-‘Auja. Aref Daraghmeh, a local activist, confirmed that Israeli forces escorted a convoy of buses packed with some 4,000 Jewish settlers into the villages, where they stayed for over four hours. This came after Israel sealed off the main checkpoint of Tayaseer, east of Tubas city, in a prelude to the Jewish settlers’ raid into the villages.
Meanwhile, at least two Palestinians were injured in Ein el-‘Auja, a small Bedouin hamlet to the north of Jericho, according to local activist Mahmoud Ghawanmeh. Ghawanmeh told WAFA that dozens of armed Jewish settlers, accompanied by attack dogs, forced their way into the village and attempted to steal livestock belonging to local residents, injuring two young Palestinian men. The Jordan Valley covers an area of about 1.6 million dunams (1,600 km2) and constitutes around 30 percent of the total occupied West Bank. According to a previous government report, the Valley includes about 280,000 dunams of arable land, 50,000 of which are still used by Palestinians and 27,000 by illegal Jewish settlers. The majority of the Jordan Valley is under full Israeli military control, despite being within the West Bank. Meanwhile, at least 44 percent of the total land in the Jordan Valley has been reappropriated by Israeli forces for military purposes and training exercises.
PCHR: Child killed and young man wounded by Palestinian security service in Qabatia
PCHR 19 Feb — On Wednesday, a Palestinian minor is reported to have succumbed to gunshot wounds he sustained on Tuesday, when a Palestinian security force was dispatched to a gathering for a freed prisoner. The celebrating crowd allegedly threw stones at the security force, and some armed men in the group shot rounds into the air, west of Qabatia; police responded by opening fire and firing tear-gas at the crowd. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) is concerned about the incident and calls upon the Public Prosecution to open an investigation to identify the circumstances. PCHR also calls upon the Palestinian Authority to take all necessary measures to end the prevailing security chaos and proliferation of weapons and to maintain civilians’ life in accordance with the relevant international covenants and standards.
According to PCHR’s investigations, at approximately 19:30 on Tuesday, February 18, a large force of Palestinian security services arrived to disperse a celebration, west of Qabatia, when unidentified gunmen opened fire in the air. Amid the ongoing shooting by the gunmen, those celebrating threw stones at the security force, which in response opened fire and fired tear-gas canisters to disperse them. As a result, Salah Mohammed Sa’id Zakarnah, 15, was wounded with a bullet in the abdomen; and Naser Faisal Khzeimiyah, 25, was wounded with a bullet that entered his abdomen and exited from the back. The two wounded were taken to Khalil Soliman Governmental Hospital in Jenin, but due to their serious condition, they were transferred to An-Najah National Hospital in Nablus, where Wednesday morning, doctors declared Zakanrah’s death. Following the incident, Palestinian media quoted a statement for Jenin Governor, Major General, Akarm Rojoub that a security force moved towards the village after being informed that gunmen intended to organize a military parade to welcome a prisoner released from the Israeli prisons. When the security force arrived at the village, civilians threw stones and the gunmen opened fire. In response, the force fired tear-gas canisters and opened fire. He added that 15 security officers were wounded with the stones….
Israeli forces recover body of Palestinian in West Bank
18 Feb by Celine Hagbard — Israeli soldiers stationed in the occupied West Bank recovered, Monday, the body of a Palestinian man tangled among bushes in a rural area, who apparently died of his wounds after a shooting attack targeting Israeli soldiers two weeks prior. The corpse was found near Ras Karkar village, west of Ramallah, in central West Bank. The slain Palestinian has been identified as Fakhr Mahmoud Abu Zayed Qurt, 53, from Betunia town, south of Ramallah. According to the Israeli military spokesperson, the body was found “at the end of operational and intelligence efforts and after sweeping operations of the Israeli security services.” The military claimed the Palestinian was injured after the soldiers responded to him firing at them, and fled the scene. The military reported to Israeli news outlets that next to the body, which was eventually located only one kilometer from where the incident took place, the soldiers located an M16 rifle and a pistol, indicating that the person killed may have been responsible for the shooting. The attack which the deceased Palestinian is suspected of having taken part was a shooting incident targeting Israeli soldiers two weeks ago, in which one Israeli soldier was lightly wounded near the “Dolip” settlement on Feb. 6th. Local sources in Betunia said that, five days ago, the soldiers invaded and ransacked his home, before abducting two of his sons, Haitham and Mohammad, in addition to confiscating his car….
Palestinian attempts to stab cop in Hebron, is arrested — police
Times of Israel & Judah Ari Gross 17 Feb — A Palestinian man was arrested Monday after attempting to stab an Israeli police officer at Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs [aka Ibrahimi Mosque] holy site, police said. “A short time ago an apparent terrorist attempted to stab a Border Police officer of the Israel Police during a security check at one of the security posts at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron,” the police statement said. The suspected assailant was quickly apprehended by other officers. “It appears no harm came to our forces and the assailant was arrested without shots being fired,” the statement added. A video of the incident, which was later released by the police, shows the man brandishing a large kitchen knife, repeatedly trying to stab the Border Police officer. The border guard grapples with the assailant, who tries to run out the front door. In a recorded statement, the Border Police officer, Staff Sgt. Shadi Kheir, says he had patted down the assailant and did not initially find the knife on him, but suspected that the man may have been hiding something as he was trembling nervously during the check. When Kheir brought the assailant into the security post and as he was bringing him into a room for a more thorough inspection, the Palestinian man brought out the knife and tried to stab him. During the attack, the knife broke out, allowing Kheir an opportunity to wrestle the man to the ground….
Israeli forces detain 11 Palestinians in the West Bank
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 16 Feb – Israeli occupation forces last night detained 11 Palestinians, including minors, during raids throughout the occupied West Bank, according to the Palestinian’s Prisoner’s Society (PPS). PPS said in a statement that Israeli soldiers detained four Palestinians from Bethlehem, three, including a 17-year-old, from Hebron, and one from Jenin. In Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood, Israeli soldiers detained three minors, identified as Senan Awwad, 17, Abdullah Taha, 17, and Urabi Gheith, 14. This brings the number of Palestinians detained by Israeli forces during the past two days to 19, most of them from the West Bank district of Hebron.
Including children, soldiers abduct 12 Palestinians in West Bank
IMEMC 18 Feb — Israeli soldiers abducted, on Tuesday at dawn, twelve Palestinians, including children, after the army stormed and ransacked many homes in several parts of the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS) has reported. The PPS said the soldiers invaded and searched homes in Beit Doqqo and Qotna towns, in Jerusalem governorate, and abducted three Palestinians…
The soldiers also invaded the al-‘Oja town, near Jericho, and abducted Ala’ Jamil Jaraheed, 24, Abdul-Mon’em Khaled Jaraheed, 17, Haitham Awwad Jaraheed, 36, in addition to Ahmad Ismael Hdeib, 17.
In Nablus, in northern West Bank, the soldiers abducted Ramez Hashash and Ali Odah, from their homes in Balata refugee camp. The soldiers also detained Bashar Abdul-Hafith Mleitat but released him a few hours later.
In Jenin, also in northern West Bank, the soldiers abducted ‘Ala Abdul-Karim al-Betawi, 21.
In Ramallah, in central West Bank, the soldiers abducted Ashraf Samir Kifaya, 19, from his home. The soldiers also detained two siblings, identified as Sa’ad and Soheib Ataya, but released them shortly afterward.
In Bethlehem, the soldiers abducted Ali Mahmoud Allan, 14, from ‘Aida refugee camp, north of the city. The child is still recovering from a traffic accident that took place a few months ago. The soldiers also invaded the Deheishe refugee camp, south of Bethlehem, searched homes and summoned Khalil Abu Najma, Jamil Ragheb Lahham and Ma’moun Hussein Lahham, for interrogation in Etzion military base.
IFC will finance rooftop solar power projects in West Bank
ESI-Africa 20 Feb — The International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Massader, a company established by the Palestine Investment Fund (PIF), signed a loan agreement to finance the construction of hundreds of rooftop solar power projects across the West Bank — IFC noted that this is a first-of-its-kind project designed to enhance the renewable energy sector and address chronic power shortages and blackouts by harnessing a domestically available source of energy. The package includes an $8.1 million loan from IFC and $8.1 million in financing from the Finland-IFC Blended Finance for Climate Programme and the Dutch MENA Private Sector Development Programme. IFC will also be providing a local currency loan to Massader to develop energy and infrastructure projects in the Palestinian territories. The World Bank will provide a grant of up to $2 million from the Investment Co-Financing Facility. The financing will help Massader build small solar installations on the roofs of approximately 500 public schools to power more than 16,000 houses across the West Bank. In a novel arrangement, the schools will receive free electricity and, in some cases, cash payments for hosting the installations. The majority of the electricity generated from the solar panels will be fed into local distribution systems at a competitive tariff, providing clean, reliable power for residents and businesses….
Israel reduces amount of bread served to Palestinian prisoners
MEMO 18 Feb — The Israeli Prison Services (IPS) has decided to reduce food amounts and many other services offered to Palestinian prisoners inside Israeli jails, Palestinian Prisoner Club (PPC) revealed on Monday. In a statement, the PPC announced that this step is part of Gilad Erdan’s Committee, which decided in 2018 to cancel all the achievements that the prisoners gained throughout their struggle with the IPS. The statement, which was sent to mass media, pointed out that the IPS is to reduce the number of TV channels allowed for the prisoners from ten to seven, to lower the number of loaves of bread from five to four, and to withdraw cookers and 40 items from their purchases. In addition, the IPS will also cut down on the amount of meat, water and books allowed. It will also offer only boiled eggs, ban the use of coloured blankets, restrict movement among prison departments, decrease the time of breaks, minimise the number of family visits and change factional representation. Meanwhile, the prisoners stressed that they are currently laying out a resistance plan against the IPS over these measures, which are gradually being implemented. The PPC reiterated that the IPS is intending to impose a new reality inside the Israeli prisons, based on political orders and systematic policies aiming to put more pressure on the prisoners and rendering their lives unbearable.
Israel extends detention of Palestinian with kidney failure
MEMO 20 Feb — Israel’s Ofer military court yesterday extended the detention of a Palestinian who suffers from kidney failure. Twenty-one-year-old Mohammed Taqatqa will spend another eight days in prison while occupation authorities “complete the investigation procedures”. The Palestinian Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs Commission said that Taqatqa, who is being held at Ramla prison’s clinic, suffers from serious kidney failure and needs dialysis three times a week. Taqatqa could not attend yesterday’s trial as a result of his health. Israeli occupation forces about a week ago arrested Taqatqa in Beit Fajjar in occupied Bethlehem after attacking him with their fists and rifle butts.
Report: Palestinian prisoner describes torture inside Israeli jail
IMEMC/Agencies 21 Feb — In a report issued, on Thursday, the Prisoners and Ex-Prisoners’ Affairs Authority released the testimony of the prisoner, Halima Khandakji, 45, from the town of Deir Sudan, Ramallah District, in which she tells details of her torture during interrogation inside the occupation detention cells. The report says “During her interrogation, she was hung to the wall twice, by handcuffing her hands and feet and then attaching her to the wall, she was also denied use of the bathroom, in addition to being mocked and insulted.” The report states that the prisoner Khandakji is the mother of three children whom remains detained at this time, is currently suffering from severe back, hands and leg pains due to the torture and abuse she suffered during interrogation, the Palestine News Network (PNN) reported.
Soldiers shoot a young man in southern Gaza
IMEMC 19 Feb — Israeli soldiers shot, on Wednesday afternoon, a young Palestinian man east of Khuza‘a town, east of Khan Younis, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. Media sources said the soldiers shot the young man near the perimeter fence, inflicting moderate wounds before he was rushed to the European Hospital for treatment. The Israeli army claimed that sharpshooters of the Al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad, fired rounds at military vehicles and soldiers across the fence and that the soldiers fired back.
Israeli navy attacks Palestinian fishing boats in Gaza
IMEMC 18 Feb — Israeli navy ships attacked, Tuesday, several Palestinian fishing boats with live rounds only three nautical miles from the shore in the besieged Gaza Strip. Media sources said the navy ships fired many live rounds at the boats, in Palestinian waters in the northern part of the coastal region. The attack did not lead to any casualties but forced the fishermen back to the shore without being able to fish to provide for their families. It is worth mentioning that, four days ago, Israel unilaterally decreased the fishing zone from ten nautical miles to only five. In related news, Israeli soldiers abducted a young Palestinian man reportedly after he crossed the perimeter fence in the southern part of the coastal region.
Israeli soldiers invade lands, open fire at farmers in Gaza
IMEMC/Agencies 17 Feb — Several armored Israeli military vehicles invaded, on Monday morning, Palestinian farmlands near Beit Lahia, in the northern part of the Gaza Strip, and opened fire at farmers in Khan Younis, in southern Gaza. Media sources said several army vehicles, including bulldozers, invaded Palestinian farmlands north of Beit Lahia, and started uprooting sections close to the perimeter fence. They added that the soldiers fired sporadic rounds of live ammunition during the invasion, before withdrawing to the military base, across the fence. Furthermore, the soldiers, stationed on military towers across the fence, east of Khan Younis, fired many live rounds at farmers on their lands, forcing them away.
Israel to allow hundreds more Gazans to enter for work
JERUSALEM (AP) 18 Feb — Israel will provide hundreds of additional work permits for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, an Israeli defense body said Tuesday, in a new step aimed at solidifying an informal cease-fire with the Hamas militant group. COGAT, the Israeli defense body responsible for civilian Palestinian affairs, said it was lifting certain restrictions on the territory starting Wednesday following days of “relative quiet” in the area surrounding Gaza. The additional work permits bring the total to 7,000 from 5,000 …
Tens of thousands of Gazans used to work in Israel. But Israel virtually sealed the border when it joined Egypt in imposing a crippling blockade on Gaza after Hamas seized power from rival Palestinian forces in 2007. The blockade, along with three wars between Hamas and Israel, has devastated the economy in Gaza, where unemployment is over 50%. In recent months, Israel has quietly provided some relief as part of an unofficial, Egyptian-brokered truce with Hamas, in exchange for reduced rocket fire from the territory and the scaling back of weekly protests along the border. Those include “merchant” permits that allow Palestinian businessmen to trade in Israel. Many of the permits are used by laborers who do menial jobs inside Israel. With the additional permits, Israel appears to be expanding that program to ease the economic crisis in Gaza.
Israel strikes Gaza, cancels easing of restrictions
JERUSALEM (AFP) 16 Feb — The Israeli air force attacked Hamas positions in the Gaza Strip on Saturday in retaliation to rocket fire from the Palestinian enclave into Israel, a military statement said. The exchange of fire between both sides has escalated since last month after US President Donald Trump unveiled his Middle East peace plan, angrily rejected by the Palestinians as a capitulation to Israeli objectives. “Fighter planes and helicopters have targeted positions of the terrorist organisation Hamas in central Gaza Strip,” including a military post, said the Israeli military, which earlier reported two projectiles had been fired into the Jewish state from the Gaza Strip. Following the rocket fire, Israel announced it would cancel a slight easing of the blockade on the Gaza Strip. “The extension of the fishing zone, the restoration of 500 commercial permits and the delivery of cement have been cancelled,” because of the rocket fire, COGAT, the Israel defence ministry unit that oversees civilian activities in the Palestinian territories, said in a statement.
RPG warhead attached to plastic bag found in kibbutz in Gaza border region
Ynet 18 Feb by Matan Tzuri — An RPG warhead attached to a giant plastic bag was discovered Tuesday at an orchard in an Israeli community bordering the Gaza Strip. Palestinian militants in Gaza tend to launch explosive devices, such as pipe bombs, into Israeli territory by attaching them to clusters of balloons. The latest incident signals a change in methods since the dangerous device appears to have been flown on an oversized plastic bag. Police sappers, who had been called to the scene in Kibbutz Alumim in the Sdot Negev Regional Council, destroyed the device. There were no reports of casualties or damage. It remains unclear when the warhead landed in the area and for how long it remained there before being located.
Gaza balloon attacks re-emerge as threat to Israel
BUREIJ (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) 14 Feb — As the bunch of brightly coloured balloons floated into Gaza’s evening sky, there was a piercing crackle of gunfire. Moments earlier, the balloons had been launched by a group of masked young Palestinian men huddled near the Al-Bureij refugee camp. They attached explosives to the weapon before setting it adrift towards Israel. Israeli troops along the border tried to down the device, but the balloons floated on. Explosives tied to balloons and kites first emerged as a weapon in Gaza, ruled by the Islamist group Hamas, during intense protests in 2018, when the devices drifted across the border daily, causing thousands of fires in Israeli farms and communities. The Palestinians said at the time they wanted to foster constant fear and misery among Israelis as punishment for the Jewish state’s crippling 13-year blockade of Gaza, which the United Nations has identified as the main cause of grinding poverty in the strip. Israel blamed Hamas for the balloon attacks, which eventually stopped after the two sides reached secret agreements to slightly ease the blockade in exchange for calm.
But hostilities have surged again since US President Donald Trump released his controversial Middle East peace plan last month. The plan triggered outrage among Palestinians, who saw it as a wishlist of Israeli objectives. As tensions rose, Gazans again directed rocket-fire and mortars towards Israel, which typically struck back with airstrikes targeting Hamas positions in the strip. And along with traditional weapons, Gazans once again sent incendiary-laden balloons across the border. “We are not afraid and we will return to (using balloons) despite all the threats to target us,” Abu Hamza, one of the young men preparing the devices, told AFP.
– ‘Creating casualties’ – Like many things in Gaza, weaponising balloons is the work of many political factions. The young men at the Al-Bureij camp said five major groups were involved in launching balloons, with ideological divisions among them. Hamas, its ally Islamic Jihad and three other militant parties all have dedicated balloon-launching units, with the smallest being around 180 members. But Israel holds Hamas responsible for all hostile action emerging from Gaza.
Tensions have eased somewhat since Monday when a delegation from Egypt, a longtime mediator between Hamas and Israel, visited Gaza to negotiate calm. Yet even as the Egyptian delegation was in town, the men in the tent were inflating balloons and preparing explosives. Group leader Abu Malek said the incendiary part of the weapon is called the “Yassin,” a 900 gram (two pound) device named after Hamas’s founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, who was assassinated by Israel in 2004 …
Abu Hamza confirmed his group would take instructions from the military and political leaders. “If a decision to stop them comes, we stop them,” he said.
Egypt warned Israel not to assassinate Hamas leaders in Gaza
MEMO 18 Feb — The London-based Al-Araby Al-Jadeed reported on Tuesday that Egypt warned Israel not to assassinate senior Hamas officials in Gaza. Yahya Al-Sinwar and Marwan Issa were named specifically in the report. According to the news website, the Egyptian intelligence delegation which visited Gaza last week had received information about such planned assassinations. It was agreed to travel to Israel and persuade officials there not to carry out the killings. The delegation then went to Gaza. Israel apparently blames Al-Sinwar and Issa for the ongoing instability in the south of the country. Al-Sinwar heads Hamas in the Gaza Strip, while Issa is regarded as the most effective leader of its military wing, Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. It was reported that Israeli security officials downplayed the potential consequences of assassinating Hamas leaders. They cited what happened following the assassination of Baha Abu Al-Ata, the commander of Al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of Islamic Jihad, last November. In response to these reports, Al Qassam Brigades issued a statement to insist that its leaders do not fear assassination by Israel or anyone else. The Brigades stressed that they are going ahead with their legitimate resistance against the Israeli occupation.
Israel accuses Hamas hackers of ‘seducing’ soldiers with photos of women
AFP 17 Feb — Israel’s military said on Sunday it had thwarted an attempted malware attack by Hamas that sought to gain access to soldiers’ mobile phones by using seductive pictures of young women. The phones of a few dozen soldiers were affected, but the military “does not assess that there has been a substantial breach of information”, said Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus, an army spokesman. Conricus said this was the third attempted malware attack by Hamas in less than four years, but that the latest effort indicated the Islamist group, which controls the Gaza Strip, had improved their capacity to wage cyber-warfare. “What we are talking about today is more advanced,” he said. “They are upping their game.” According to Conricus, the attacks began with messages that purported to be from young, “attractive-looking” women. The texts were delivered through Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram as well as the messaging application Telegram, which Israel said Hamas had not used previously. To avoid engaging in voice calls with soldiers, the messengers posing as young women claimed to be hard of hearing or new immigrants with poor Hebrew, Conricus said. Once contact was made, subsequent messages encouraged soldiers to click on a link to download an application that would allow for an easier exchange of photos. These apps, which the military identified as Catch&See, ZatuApp and GrixyApp, sought to infect the soldiers’ phones with malware that would give Hamas total access to the device. The army said the attack began several months ago and that Israel took “defensive activity” in recent days, but did not rule out further retaliation….
Gaza’s only bone laboratory is battling drug-resistant bacteria in bullet wounds
The National 18 Feb by Rosie Scammell — Scientists at a Gaza city laboratory are busy with bone samples taken from patients shot during border protests, as they battle drug-resistant infections which have hit the Palestinian enclave since March 2018. Sat beside a pile of Petri dishes, supervisor Hanan Ramadan remembers the race to send samples to Israel before Gaza opened its own facility to prevent amputations and give Gazans the chance — although it’s not guaranteed — to walk again. “There was a very high risk that we might lose these samples, just waiting at the border, waiting for the soldiers to allow the passengers to go through,” the 49-year-old said. After taking bone and tissue samples from a patient in Gaza, medics had just 16 hours to reach a processing laboratory in Tel Aviv, on Israel’s coast, before they were spoilt. “You have another option which is not good, which is to start processing the samples within the car of (medical charity) MSF en route to Tel Aviv, with a high possibility of contamination,” said Ms Ramadan. Sending medical samples to Tel Aviv was impractical and became unsustainable, as cases mounted of patients suffering from antibiotic-resistant infections. Drug-resistant bacteria is not new to Gaza, but the problem has come to the fore with the thousands of people shot by Israeli forces during border protests. More than 8,000 people have been wounded by live fire since the latest demonstrations began, according to figures from the United Nations’ humanitarian agency (Ocha). Many are shot in the lower limbs by Israeli snipers aiming to maim protesters and increase pressure on Gaza’s gasping medical services, according to healthcare providers, who say the system can’t keep up with the number of injuries, leaving many at risk of infection or death. “A bullet is never sterile so a lot of bacteria are getting into the bone and are causing an infection,” said Bettina Poepping, 60, a German laboratory manager for Doctors Without Borders (MSF) … More than a thousand gunshot victims in Gaza have severe bone infections, many of which are resistant to antibiotics, according to a September report by MSF….
The last boat maker in Gaza
EI 17 Feb by Sarah Algherbawi — Abdullah al-Najjar is the last boat maker in Gaza. Fully aware that he plies a vanishing trade, Abdullah, 61, is nonetheless trying to keep it alive in a time-honored way. He is training his son Jamil, 25, so that his skills can be handed on to the next generation. Abdullah himself began learning how to build boats when he was in his early teens. He was taught how to do so by an uncle. “Boat making is almost nonexistent in Gaza today,” said Abdullah. “That is because of the high costs involved, the fact that raw materials are scarce and the restrictions placed on fishers.” … The Oslo accords – signed between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization during the 1990s – allowed Gaza’s fishers to work in a zone that stretched for 20 nautical miles. In reality, Israel has never allowed fishers to venture beyond 15 miles of the coast. Since the beginning of the second intifada in 2000 Israel has reduced the size of the zone repeatedly. The effect has been a sharp fall in the number of Gaza’s fishers – from approximately 10,000 in 2000 to just 3,500 in 2013. Today Gaza has about 3,700 fishers, only 2,000 of whom go out to sea on a daily basis …
Throughout his career, Abdullah al-Najjar has made around 30 trawlers. Such vessels are 17.5 meters long, 5.5 meters wide and 2.5 meters in height. They can command a price of $70,000 each. Abdullah’s business has nearly collapsed since Israel’s blockade on Gaza was severely tightened in 2007. He has made just two boats in the past 13 years; one of them was for use by his own sons … Israel’s tightened siege of Gaza – now in its 14th year – has placed major obstacles in their way. Israel has prevented a large number of goods from entering Gaza. As a result, vital components of and equipment for fishing vessels – such as nets, fiberglass, electric motors and steel ropes – are hard to obtain. The shortages of materials and the generally dire economic situation in Gaza have also meant that Gaza’s fishers cannot carry out much-needed repairs on their boats. Zakaria Baker from the Union of Agricultural Work Committees – which represents both farmers and fishers in Gaza – estimates that there are 300 boats that will not be seaworthy until they are mended. “We keep them in a place that we call the ‘graveyard for boats,’” Baker said….
Gaza awaits the return of essential social welfare programs
GAZA CITY (Al-Monitor) 21 Feb by Entsar Abu Jahal — Gaza is awaiting the arrival early next week of a high-level delegation from the Ramallah-based Ministry of Social Development. The ministry is expected to reinstate its programs in the Gaza Strip that were folded last May. The ministry’s programs were discontinued following disputes between the central government in Ramallah and the Hamas administration in Gaza over the running of the ministry. Hamas had undermined the implementation of the programs and the collection of demographic data. In a statement issued by Ramallah in August 2019, the Ministry of Social Development held Hamas responsible for the cessation of its Gaza programs, which benefit the poor. Among the most significant programs offered by the ministry is the cash transfer scheme, which serves some 71,000 poor families in Gaza. Beneficiaries receive quarterly payments between $230 and $515, depending on financial need….
Video: Blind karate in Gaza
EI 18 Feb — This karate team in Gaza is comprised of men who are blind or visually impaired. Their coach, Hasan al-Rai, also trains a karate team of women who use wheelchairs. “I faced many difficulties,” al-Rai told The Electronic Intifada. “I was able to convince civil society organizations that blind people have the ability to practice all sorts of sports, including martial arts.” Palestinians with disabilities in Gaza are more vulnerable to the extremely tough living conditions in the coastal enclave. “We understand that life is difficult in the Gaza Strip, for example transportation for the blind,” Mumen al-Bitar, a team member, says of the difficulties of getting around. “Our community is not supportive enough and there are no funds.” Palestinians with disabilities are, however, determined to practice sports despite the lack of resources. “Karate teaches us many things. It strengthens the body, it stimulates circulation. But it also enhances self-confidence,” Muhammad al-Mahani, another team member, tells The Electronic Intifada. “To be able to speak to anyone, to go about your life normally, to have inner strength and for people to see you as someone who practices karate and is active, just like anyone else,” al-Mahani says. Video by Ruwaida Amer and Sanad Ltefa
Gaza launches drive for safe agricultural products
[with photos] MEMO 19 Feb by Mohammed Asad — The two-day event was entitled “Enhancing the Resilience of Communities through the Development of Safe Agriculture Communities”. The project, now in its third phase, targets 150 farmers, 75 of whom care for livestock while the rest grow crops. It will see safe agricultural products being labelled with a specially designed logo of Al-Azhar University. As part of the activities, dozens of acres were planted with various crops, including tomatoes, cucumbers, aubergines, peppers, potatoes, broccoli and beetroot. This was in accordance with the procedures of safe agriculture and under the supervision of agricultural engineers working on the project. Moreover, a solar energy system was established to help operate the dairy production unit and some of the centre’s equipment and devices. Agricultural materials were distributed to the farmers, including pesticides, seedlings, organic fertilisers and feed. Guidance and training services were also provided. The Faculty of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine at Al-Azhar University hopes the project will improve the livelihood of workers as it will contribute to the existence of a more resilient and sustainable agricultural sector.
Democratic senators call on US administration to restore aid to Gaza
WASHINGTON (WAFA) 20 Feb – A group of 31 US Democratic Senators called on the US administration to restore funding and aid to the Gaza Strip, saying that Palestinians there are facing a humanitarian crisis due to the harsh economic situation, according to American media reports. The letter, which was led by Representatives Mark Pocan and Debbie Dingell, urged US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to take immediate action to restore humanitarian aid to Gaza and have Israel end its 13-year-old blockade. “We write to request that the administration take immediate action to alleviate the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza — and that you pursue a solution to the blockade policy that has contributed to this humanitarian and security crisis,” the Senators wrote in the letter. “As we enter the new year, the continued deterioration of water and electrical infrastructure, medical systems, and other basic economic and social services bring Gaza closer to complete collapse.” They added, “This immediate crisis can be avoided with a resumption of bilateral US assistance to Gaza as well as funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.”
Land theft / Ethnic cleansing / Settlements
Netanyahu announces thousands of new east Jerusalem settler homes
Jerusalem (AFP) 20 Feb — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced plans on Thursday to build thousands of new homes for Jewish settlers in annexed east Jerusalem, a project unveiled less than two weeks before a general election. “I have huge news today — we’re adding another 2,200 units to Har Homa,” Netanyahu said in a video message posted by his office. The contentious Har Homa community was first built in 1997, during a previous Netanyahu government. The prime minister said he had approved that initial construction “despite objections from the entire world” and estimated that Har Homa’s population would grow from 40,000 to 50,000 when the new units were completed.
Netanyahu also announced approval to build a new settlement with several thousands homes in Givat Hamatos, next to the mainly Palestinian east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Beit Safafa. The new community will include 3,000 homes for Jewish residents and 1,000 “for the Arab residents of Beit Safafa”, Netanyahu said. Watchdog Peace Now called the Givat Hamatos project “a severe blow to the two-state solution,” as it would interrupt “territorial continuity between Bethlehem and east Jerusalem.” …
Peace Now argued that Netanyahu, who is currently leading a caretaker government after two elections failed to produce clear winner, lacked the mandate to approve the contentious projects. “Such a change of policy can’t happen in a transitional government without a mandate from the public,” it said. Netanyahu is trying to secure his re-election at a third vote due to take place on March 2.
Israeli soldiers bulldoze Palestinian lands to expand illegal colony
IMEMC 17 Feb — Israeli soldiers invaded, Monday, Palestinian lands in the villages of Iskaka and Yasuf, east of Salfit city in central West Bank, and started bulldozing them to expand an illegal colony. Khaled ‘Abaya, the head of Yasuf Village Council, said the lands are privately owned by the villagers and are in the eastern area of Iskaka and the southern area of Yasuf. He added that Israel is trying to expand the illegal Nofei Nehemia and to install new segregated roads. Israel’s colonies in the occupied West Bank, including in and around occupied East Jerusalem, are illegal under International Law, the Fourth Geneva Convention in addition to various UN resolutions.
In Hebron, in southern West Bank, the soldiers invaded Tarqoumia town, west of the city, demolished an agricultural shed, and bulldozed lands.
Soldiers bulldoze Palestinian lands in Nablus
IMEMC 16 Feb — Israeli soldiers bulldozed, Sunday, privately owned Palestinian lands in Burin village, south of the northern West Bank city of Nablus. Ghassan Daghlas, a Palestinian Authority official who monitors Israel’s illegal colonialist activities in northern West Bank, said the soldiers bulldozed and uprooted the lands in Ein al-Jiniyya area, in Jabal Salam al-Farsi Mountain. Daghlas added that the bulldozing took place on private property near the illegal Yitzhar colony, which was built on illegally confiscated Palestinian lands. The incident is one of numerous Israeli violations that escalated recently in that area as part of Israel’s attempts to expand its illegal colonies.
Threat of demolition hangs over West Bank
Oxfam 20 Feb — When the sun rises above the hills west of Bethlehem, it bathes Al Tahadi School Number 5 in a golden misty light. The temporary five-room structure is nestled among dusty, white limestone rocks, around which students pass as they walk up to school. As they arrive, some of them fill plastic bottles from a tap and water small trees planted in front of the school. Today it’s a peaceful scene, but elementary school principal Amneh Mussa says she can’t ever count on the school being there when she arrives for work in the morning. “Every day there is a fear that we will arrive to see no school,” she explains as she greets students. “We are under a demolition order.”
That’s because this school is located in part of the West Bank known as ‘Area C,’ where according to the 1993 Oslo Accords Israel has full civil and military control. Around 300,000 Palestinians live in this largest part of the West Bank but are rarely granted building permits to address a growing population. Currently Israel authorities have issued 13,000 demolition orders for homes, businesses, and community buildings such as schools. This leaves Al Tahadi School Number 5 and its 20 girls, 21 boys, and five teachers—at the mercy of the Israeli authorities. The current school is a temporary structure assembled after the school was demolished two years ago, the night before its opening day. “We are trying to get a permit to build,” Mussa says. “We have been working to get the permit for two years.”….
In an attempt to prevent education in Area C of the West Bank, soldiers seize a classroom
HEBRON (WAFA) 19 Feb – In their efforts to prevent education in the Palestinian areas classified as C, Israeli forces today seized a caravan used as a school classroom in the village of Susiya, in Masafer Yatta cluster to the south of the occupied southern West Bank city of Hebron, according to a local source. Fouad al-Amoor, an activist, said that Israeli soldiers seized the classroom caravan under the pretext of construction without permit. Israel never gives Palestinians permits to build in Area C of the occupied West Bank, which is under full Israeli military rule and make over 60 percent of the area of the West Bank. Israeli forces recently issued an order to halt the construction of a playing ground in the same school. The Palestinian Ministry of Education condemned the Israeli move and said in a statement that Israeli forces deliberately target Palestinian educational institutions aiming to prevent students from getting education in a safe and stable environment.
Meanwhile, Israeli forces seized today a residential caravan in Birin village in Masafer Yatta cluster also under the pretext it was placed at the site without a permit, according to Rateb Jabour, another local activist. He said the caravan was donated as a charity to two elderly sisters, one 85 years of age and the second 65, to use as shelter and home.
Israel destroys water access for Palestinian village
IMEMC/Agencies 18 Feb — Israeli forces today destroyed couplings in pipes providing water to al-Shunah area of al-Jiftlik village, in the Jordan Valley, north of Jericho, according to local activist, Qais al-Sinawi. Al-Sinawi told WAFA that Israeli forces invaded the village and proceeded to destroy the connectors supplying running water to Palestinian crops. Palestinians are forced to install a water connector to the main Israeli water carrier lines which supply between 400 and 700 cubic meters of underground Palestinian water per hour to the illegal colonial settlements. This is the only way Palestinians are able to get water to their homes, crops and livestock, as Israel bans them from building water pipes of their own.
Process underway to build a settlers-only road in north of West Bank
NABLUS (WAFA) 20 Feb – The Israeli authorities proceeded today with a process to build a new road to be used only by Jewish settlers in the north of the occupied West Bank, according to Ghassan Daghlas, a Palestinian official who monitors settlement construction in the northern West Bank. He told WAFA that the planned road will start from the village of Zaatara, south of Nablus, and will pass through land owned by the towns of Huwwara, Beita and Odala. He added that the Israeli government issued a decision to open this 7-kilometer-long road in April 2019, whose establishment will lead to the seizure of about 406 dunums of land from seven villages to the south of Nablus. Daghlas said that opening this road will cause losses in agricultural lands and will contribute to Israel’s apartheid system of separate roads to settlers and the original Palestinian inhabitants of the area.
To be noted, Israel last week started the construction of an 8-kilometer-long road that would connect the colonial settlements of Eli and Shilo in Nablus district with other colonial settlements in the Jordan Valley.
‘Feels like prison’: Palestinian family cut off from West Bank village by Israeli barrier
AL-WALAJA, West Bank (Reuters) 20 Feb by Mustafa Abu Ganeyeh — Omar Hajajla may have a private gateway to his home in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, but it is hardly a sign of luxury: it runs beneath an Israeli barrier that cuts him and his family off from the rest of their nearby Palestinian village. Israel began building its West Bank barrier in 2002 at the height of a Palestinian uprising, saying it aimed to stop attacks by bombers and gunmen in its cities. But the barrier’s circuitous route along and through the West Bank – Palestinians call it a land grab – slices through some Palestinian communities. In Hajajla’s case, it boxed him off from his village of Al-Walaja, near Bethlehem, part of West Bank territory Israel captured in a 1967 war. “Prison may be better than this, because even though I am at home, it feels like prison,” said Hajajla, 53, who lives in the house with his wife and three children. After appealing to Israel’s Supreme Court, Hajajla in 2013 reached a settlement under which the Israeli Defense Ministry built a tunnel and a remote-operated gate under the barrier, he said, giving his family access to their village. That underground bypass road, strewn with graffiti, is now the sole entrance to Hajajla’s home. The family needs permission from Israel’s military to use their remote control to open the gate and take their children to school or go to the grocery store, Hajajla says. Israel could take away his remote access if he violates a series of conditions, Hajajla says, including having guests over without coordinating their visit in advance with the military….
Palestinian refugees – Syria, West Bank
Report: 7,500 Palestinian refugees living in open air in north Syria
MEMO 15 Feb — At least 7,500 Palestinian refugees displaced from the refugee camps of Daraa, Homs, Aleppo and Al Yarmouk, are currently living in North Syria, the Documentation Civil Centre for Palestinian Refugees in North Syria confirmed on Friday. Speaking to Quds Press, director of the centre, Abu Mohannad, stated: “The Palestinian refugee families are distributed among several cities in North Syria.” He noted that several Turkish charities and NGOs, which enter through Turkey, are supervising a number of the camps providing them with water tanks, food parcels, kitchen appliances, clothes and heating. Meanwhile, the centre offers identification documents, including IDs and marriage deeds among other documents. Abu Mohannad informed Quds Press that the situation in the east of Idlib is very difficult, due to the ongoing battles between the opposition forces and the Syrian regime, pushing the Palestinian refugees to move towards Afrin. He pointed out that these are rural areas, so there are not enough homes to host the refugees. Therefore, most of the refugees live in primitive arbitrary camps without electricity and work. Palestinian refugee Fares Ahmed told Quds Press that he did not witness the 1948 Nakba, but he experienced it when he was displaced from Al Yarmouk in 2018, where he has been unsafe and lacking in stability until today. According to Abu Mohannad, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is completely absent in North Syria. However, he disclosed that there are many other United Nations groups entering through Turkey. Several appeals for help were initiated, but UNRWA did not respond. Meanwhile, he accused the Palestine Liberation Organisation of “completely” neglecting the refugees, despite reporting the situation to the senior Palestinian officials.
Settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank– Part 2: resisting disrupted futures
Open Democracy 21 Feb by Carly A. Krakow — Insidious attacks in the night — According to UNRWA (the UN Relief and Works Agency), there are currently 828,328 registered Palestinian refugees in the West Bank. They are Palestinians, and their descendants, displaced from their homes during the Nakba of 1948 (in Arabic, the catastrophe or cataclysm, referring to the expulsion of an estimated 750,000 Palestinians), and the hostilities of 1967. When traveling with an Eyewitness Palestine delegation as a leadership team member this past fall, I and other members of our group were hosted for the night in the home of a family in Dheisheh Refugee Camp, near Bethlehem. We had spent the day learning about refugee rights in the Palestinian context, including a lecture by Lubna Shomali at Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, and an afternoon in ‘Aida refugee camp. Dheisheh camp was established in 1949 and built to house 3,000 refugees. It is now home to an estimated 15,000, according to UNRWA, and an even larger population, as of 2018, of 17,503 people according to Badil’s latest survey. ‘Aida camp was established in 1950, and had a pre-1967 population of 1,977 people. As of 2018, Badil calculates that ‘Aida is home to an estimated population of 6,545 people. When visiting, you do not need all these astounding statistics to notice that both camps are extraordinarily crowded. With nowhere to go but up, families have built additions on the roofs of narrow buildings, which clog the camps’ skylines, often only permitting narrow rays of sunshine to enter the camps as you walk the winding streets. UN and Badil estimates place ‘Aida’s population density somewhere between 77,464 and 90,000 people per square kilometer, well above some of the world’s most densely populated urban centers (e.g., Dhaka, Bangladesh, estimated by the UN to be the world’s most densely populated city, has a density of 44,500 people per square kilometer). Despite these conditions, after as long as 72 years of residency, the camps reflect community efforts to make them feel like a home—artwork abounds on every corner….
Israel, Palestinian Authority agree to end trade dispute: officials
JERUSALEM/RAMALLAH (Reuters) 20 Feb – Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) have reached an agreement to end a five-month long trade dispute, officials said on Thursday. The dispute, which opened a new front in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, began in September when the PA announced a boycott of Israel calves. The Authority exercises limited self-rule in the occupied West Bank under interim peace deals. In response to the boycott, Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett in January announced a halt to all agricultural imports from the PA, which in turn prompted the Authority to end imports of Israeli agricultural products. Palestinians in the West Bank send over two-thirds of their farming exports to Israel, whose agriculture ministry says the calves boycott affected around 400 Israeli cattle breeders, costing them a total of $70 million since October. A final tit-for-tat move in the trade dispute came on Feb. 8, when Israel’s defense ministry banned all Palestinian exports through Jordan, apparently in an effort to entice the PA to lift its ban on Israeli calves. In a statement announcing the agreement, Israel’s defense ministry said that “the calf boycott has been lifted, (and) trade with the PA will be restored accordingly”. The actions of the PA had in part reflected greater efforts to end what it sees as over-dependence on Israeli markets. The PA prime minister’s office said in a statement that under the agreement Israel would allow the PA to begin the “direct import of livestock, including calves, from all countries around the world without obstacles”….
Israel is eager to annex West Bank lands but US says to wait
NPR 19 Feb by Daniel Estrin — President Trump’s Mideast peace plan was expected to help Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instantly fulfill a campaign promise to annex occupied land that Israelis and Palestinians have fought over for more than half a century. But it didn’t go as Netanyahu had hoped. Trump’s plan, announced on Jan. 28, would eventually give major swaths of the West Bank to Israel, but the administration offered a mixed message about the timing. Trump seemed to suggest annexation could happen immediately, while U.S. officials later advised Israel not to annex any land before Israeli elections on March 2. Now, Netanyahu is lobbying the White House for a compromise, according to the leader of Israel’s movement of hundreds of thousands of West Bank settlers. David Alhayani, chairman of the Yesha Council, the top settler leadership organization, tells NPR that the prime minister is seeking the Trump administration’s blessing for Israel to claim at least one settlement or area before Israelis go to the polls. “Something. One step,” says Alhayani, who meets regularly with Netanyahu and supports his right-wing Likud party. “If not, I’m afraid we will lose the election.” The White House had no comment….
US ambassador to Israel leads newly named committee mapping out West Bank settlements for Israeli rule
JERUSALEM (JTA) by Marcy Oster — U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman will lead the joint U.S.-Israel committee that will map the areas where Israel will be allowed to apply sovereignty, according to an Israeli newspaper’s report. The members of the committee were recently appointed. Along with Friedman, the U.S. members include his senior adviser, Aryeh Lightstone, and Scott Leith, director of Israeli and Palestinian affairs at the National Security Council, Israel Hayom reported late Saturday, citing an unnamed senior official in the Trump administration. The Israeli members are Tourism Minister Yariv Levin; National Security Council head Meir Ben-Shabbat; and the Prime Minister’s Office director-general, Ronen Peretz. Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer, will provide assistance. “We will complete the work as quickly as possible,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday at the weekly Cabinet meeting, noting that it was already underway. “We are turning parts of the homeland in Judea and Samaria into part of the State of Israel forever.”
US’s Sanders: ‘We cannot ignore the needs of the Palestinian people’
MEMO 20 Feb — US presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders said support for Israel was possible without backing its “racist” government, and the needs of Palestinians must not be ignored. In a Town Hall meeting hosted by US news channel CNN, Sanders was asked what Israel-US policy would look like under his administration. He said: “To be for the Israeli people and to be for peace in the Middle East does not mean that we have to support right wing racist governments that currently exist in Israel.” “What American foreign policy has got to be about in the Middle East, bringing the Israelis bringing the Palestinians together under the banner of justice. We could do it, we have the wealth to do it.” :It cannot be that we’re just pro-Israel and we ignore the needs of the Palestinian people” He went on to speak about the situation in Gaza, citing recent statistics stating youth unemployment now stands at 70 per cent, and no one is able to leave the besieged Strip. He continued by saying he felt strongly about it, citing his Jewish heritage and the long history of persecution Jews have faced as his reason … Israeli politicians have expressed fear that Sanders could win the nomination and go on to beat incumbent President Donald Trump, with Israeli MK Yair Lapid saying Israel would be in “big trouble” if the Democratic Party won the presidency. Sanders is currently leading the Democratic primaries, with double digit leads in some states as his opponents trail.
Palestinians slam Israel’s West Bank power project: ‘meant to support settlements’
[behind paywall] Haaretz 20 Feb by Hagar Shezaf — The Palestinian Authority’s Energy Authority has condemned an Israeli master plan for the development of an electricity grid in the West Bank, saying that it is designed “to establish Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank and to support the brutal presence of the settlements on our land.” The plan, which was not coordinated with the PA and is in the process of being approved by Israel’s National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Ministry, seeks for the first time to provide a blueprint for the electricity market in the West Bank through 2040 and to develop infrastructure for Israeli settlements as well as for the Palestinians residing there. The Israeli portion of the plan, which is devoted to the settlements, is to be funded, planned and executed by Israel. However, it calls for the Palestinian Authority to carry out the Palestinian portion of the plan. Therefore, if the PA refuses to agree to it, that portion won’t be implemented. The IEC supplies 99 percent of the electricity market in the West Bank, according to a 2017 World Bank report. The IEC’s own financial report for 2018 states that during that year, the consumption of electricity from the Palestinian Authority constituted 7 percent of the Israeli power utility’s customers. According to the new plan, the existence of which was first reported last week by the Israel Hayom daily, the IEC will build a network of high-tension transmission lines, which is the most expensive component of the plan and will serve both the settlements and the Palestinians in the West Bank … It is not only the PA that views the plan as an effort to advance annexation in the West Bank. The plan was warmly greeted by the Jewish settlements, with the chairman of the Gush Etzion Regional Council, Shlomo Ne’eman, saying: “All moves point to sovereignty, and when we build infrastructure, there is also a basic understanding that the State of Israel is the sovereign. We are pleased that more and more government ministries have realized that this sovereignty is the reality….
PA to protest to Amazon over its shipping policies to settlements
Times of Israel 18 Feb by Adam Rasgon — Palestinian official says letter will be sent to tech giant in the coming days; threatens international legal action if no changes are made — The Palestinian Authority Economy Ministry said on Tuesday that it intends to send a letter to Amazon in the coming days in protest of its shipping policy to Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The statement came after the Financial Times reported on Friday that Amazon was offering free shipping to settlements in the West Bank for purchases above $49. “The settlements are illegal in accordance with international law,” Ibrahim al-Qadi, the head of the consumer protection department in the PA Economy Ministry, said in a phone call. “Our letter will state clearly that Amazon should not be doing business with them.” … An Amazon spokesperson did not immediately respond to an email request for comment. Qadi said the letter would also demand that Amazon provide free shipping to Palestinians — who mark their addresses as being in “The Palestinian Territories” — for purchases above $49. “Palestinians deserve the ability to receive the same services as Israelis,” he said. “The current policy is discriminatory.” The FT also reported that while Amazon was offering free shipping to Israelis for purchases above $49, it was providing the same promotion to Palestinians — only if they mark their addresses as being in Israel. The FT later reported that Amazon said the discrepancy was due to “a logistical issue,” but it did not clarify whether the company was now providing the shipping discount to Palestinians … Qadi added that the PA would also inform Amazon that it would wage international legal action against it, if it doesn’t respond affirmatively to its demands….
China’s closed: Palestinian traders fear losing a good deal
HEBRON, West Bank (AP) by Joseph Krauss & Mohammed Daragmeh — The West Bank city of Hebron is separated from the epicenter of China’s virus outbreak by more than 4,000 miles and a ring of Israeli checkpoints. But even here the economic symptoms of the outbreak are starting to appear. Palestinian markets have long been flooded by low-cost Chinese goods. Traders in Hebron, the largest Palestinian city and a commercial hub for the territories, fear that if the outbreak and quarantine efforts continue they will have to switch to more expensive alternatives, passing higher prices on to consumers in an already weakened economy. Their concerns point to the potential for wide-ranging ripple effects from the outbreak in China, the world’s largest exporter. The health crisis has already thrown the global travel industry into chaos and threatened to disrupt supply chains around the world that depend on China. That a city deep inside the Israeli-occupied West Bank is so reliant on Chinese goods illustrates the perils of global economic integration … Samer Abu Eisha, a children’s clothes wholesaler in Hebron, has been importing from China for more than two decades. He has a permit from Israel that allows him to fly from Ben Gurion International Airport to China’s Guangzhou province every two months so he can place orders with factories there and supervise output. But business ground to a halt last month as the outbreak gathered pace. Israel and neighboring Jordan have suspended all flights to China, shipments have been put on hold, and Abu Eisha says his agent in China is confined to his home because of a local quarantine….
Coronavirus scare causes protest at West Bank hospital; health ministry denies cases
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 20 Feb – A coronavirus scare last night caused Palestinian patients at Jericho hospital in the occupied West Bank to leave the hospital and people to hold a protest outside it against what they claimed was keeping them in the dark about possible cases of coronavirus at the hospital, according to witnesses. The Palestinian Ministry of Health was quick to deny the existence of any coronavirus cases at the hospital or in Palestine in general. Witnesses said patients at the public hospital quickly left it following rumors that four people who came back from China were placed in a quarantine inside the hospital. Minister of Health Mai Keileh told WAFA that, in accordance with World Health Organization (WHO) instructions to combat coronavirus worldwide, anyone coming from China or the seven other infected countries will be put in quarantine for 14 days, and that since Jericho hospital was the closest to Allenby/King Hussein/Karama bridge crossing with Jordan, arrival from these countries are taken there until it is decided that they are not infected with the fatal virus. She said nine people were admitted to the hospital in the last weeks and only four have remained after the rest were diagnosed free of the virus. The four are the new arrivals. In order to ease people’s minds, who protested outside the hospital and burnt tires for being kept in the dark about the presence of coronavirus patients at the hospital, the minister said it was decided to move the four patients to another quarantine near the hospital but separate from it.
Palestinian uni apologizes for map that includes only West Bank and Gaza
JPost 15 Feb by Khaled Abu Toameh — Al-Quds Open University (QOU), a Palestinian independent public university, on Saturday apologized for publishing a “Map of “Palestine” that includes only the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The apology came after Palestinians expressed outrage with the university for publishing a map they claimed was similar to the one proposed by US President Donald Trump in his recently unveiled plan for Mideast peace. Several Palestinians accused the university of accepting the Trump plan, “Peace to Prosperity.” Palestinians often publish maps that show there is only one state from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River: “Palestine.”
Many Palestinians said they did not believe that the new map was published by mistake. “If the university administration made such a mistake, all its heads should go home,” said Facebook user Ishak Froukh. Another Facebook user, Sana Hmamreh, said she too did not believe that the map was published by mistake. “This map coincided with the publication of the Deal of the Century,” she commented, referring to Trump’s plan. Other social media users sarcastically suggested that the university change its name to “Deal of the Century University” and said it does not deserve to be called after Jerusalem (Al-Quds). The university administration said that the map was a “newsletter for high school students that includes a drawing of the university branches in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”….
Conservative rabbinical students oppose ‘Deal of the Century’, annexation
JTA 15 Feb by Ben Sales — Thirty-six Conservative Jewish rabbinical students signed a letter opposing President Donald Trump’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, as well as Israeli plans to annex parts of the West Bank. “Trump’s plan would leave Palestinians with a handful of discontiguous territories surrounded by settlements, and [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s would make permanent the status quo in which millions of Palestinians live under Israeli military control without civil rights,” reads the open letter, which was published on the left-wing Jewish site Jewschool. “Trump’s irresponsible vision and Netanyahu’s objective of annexation will move the region closer to catastrophe and even further from peace.” All but four of the signers attend the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, the Conservative movement’s flagship school, representing about half of the rabbinical school’s student body of 60 to 70, according to organizers. Three others attend the movement’s Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in Los Angeles, and one is a JTS cantorial student.
The Conservative movement’s leading institutions support the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel….
New Masa restrictions may prevent students from meeting with Palestinians in West Bank
[behind paywall] Haaretz 16 Feb by Allison Kaplan Sommer — Max Antman, 27, arrived in Israel last fall to begin his rabbinical studies in a year-long program at Hebrew Union College’s Jerusalem campus, determined to take advantage of living in the city “to experience everything going on both in Israel and in Palestine.” But shortly after his arrival, he said, he was “surprised and upset” when Masa Israel Journey, which gave him a $3,500 grant for his studies in Jerusalem, asked him to sign a document severely restricting his ability to travel to any part of the West Bank as a condition for the funds. Masa, a joint enterprise between the Jewish Agency and the Prime Minister’s Office offers grants for young adults enrolled in long-term Israel programs. The program includes scholarships for rabbinical and cantorial students during their year of studies in academic institutions affiliated with the Reform, Reconstructionist and Conservative movements … Antman says the restrictions are hampering his and other fellow Masa scholarship recipients’ ability to participate in a popular weekend program for international rabbinic and cantorial students in Israel. The six-year-old program, run by T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, supplements their studies with monthly activities and learning experiences designed to help them “develop their rabbinic voice on human rights issues in Israel and in the occupied Palestinian territories.” … Antman said he felt that “the money given to us by Masa is being leveraged to prohibit us from experiencing the land in its totality. That feels contrary to my goals as a future Jewish leader and contrary to what Masa says it sets out to do: educate people about the land.”….
Israeli mayor orders Palestinian ‘surrender’ billboards removed
TEL AVIV (Reuters) 14 Feb by Dan Williams — The mayor of Tel Aviv ordered the removal on Friday of highway billboards that appeared to call for the surrender at gunpoint of Palestinian leaders for the sake of peace. “Peace is made ONLY with defeated enemies,” said the billboards, which showed photo-shopped images of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh, blindfolded and supplicating in a war-zone as helicopters hover. Israel’s stand-off with the Palestinians has grown newly tense since last month’s unveiling of U.S. President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan, which they rejected as biased. It was not immediately clear who sponsored the billboards around Tel Aviv, Israel’s commercial capital, or if the campaign was meant to help rightist parties in a March 2 national election. Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai said in a statement that the billboards would be removed, saying that their image “incites violence and recalls the actions of ISIS and the Nazis – whom we do not want to counted among”. “Even in election season, there are red lines,” he said.
Jewish-Israeli left vote swinging to Arab parties
MEMO 19 Feb — Left-wing Jewish Israelis are planning to vote for the Arab dominated Joint List in the upcoming Israeli election, Haaretz has reported. Israeli Jews are casting off centre leftist parties like Meretz and Labor in favour of the coalition of Arab parties. This swing may lead to the Joint List gaining up to two seats in the Knesset in March’s general election. Haaretz reported many Jewish voters saying they don’t feel leftist Israeli parties take a strong enough stance against the occupation. Former Meretz voter and history teacher Ofek Ravid, 28, told Haaretz: “Arabs are a repressed minority in Israel, and I want there to be a voice that represents them. At one time, I could count on Meretz to fill that role, but I can’t any longer.” He continued: “I mean just look at their ambivalent response to the so-called Trump peace plan and their responses to the ongoing clashes in Gaza. The Joint List has a much clearer voice on these matters.” … The Joint List has begun reaching across sectarian lines and running campaigns in Yiddish targeting the Charedi community with the campaign slogan: “Your vote against the compulsory draft.” They have also been targeting Ethiopian Israelis in their election campaign, who have historically been marginalised by Israeli society … Israel goes to the polls for the third time in a year on 2 March, and the election is expected to end in a deadlock again between Benny Gantz’ Blue and White Party (Kahol Lavan) and incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud. Despite the Joint List’s growing support, Gantz has sworn he will not include the party in any coalition government he may lead.
Christian Zionist archaeology: a tool of Palestinian subjugation
Al Jazeera 16 Feb by Mimi Kirk — Archaeological projects in Palestine led by US evangelical Christians contribute to Palestinian dispossession — About 20 kilometres (12.4 miles) north of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, just west of the Israeli settlement Shiloh, lies Tel Shiloh, an archaeological site that attracts tens of thousands of evangelical Christians every year. There, Scott Stripling, an evangelical pastor from Texas, heads a dig in search of remnants of the biblical tabernacle – a portable dwelling containing a chest holding the two stone tablets of the Ten Commandments. In a recent interview with the Times of Israel, Stripling says his latest find – three horns that may have adorned an altar – supports his claim that Tel Shiloh is the site of the dwelling. The site and surrounding area already advance this perspective: The nearby settlement has a synagogue designed as a replica of the tabernacle, and while the site’s artefacts show a variety of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim groups residing in the area over a 3,700-year period, its attractions scarcely acknowledge anything outside the tabernacle story. Stripling calls Tel Shiloh Israel’s “first capital”, based on the idea that Shiloh was the first capital of the Israelites for close to 400 years from the 15th century BCE. It is a claim Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also made on a visit to Tel Shiloh last year. He was accompanied by former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who tweeted at the time: “Shiloh is proof from 3000 yrs ago this land was home to @Israel site of ancient Tabernacle.”
Biblical scholars beg to differ. “Properly credentialed biblical scholarship does not assume the historicity of anything prior to King David [ca. 1010-970 BCE],” says Southern Methodist University Professor of Old Testament Susanne Scholz. “That Stripling projects the biblical stories into the historical record exposes him as a Christian fundamentalist. That’s the origin of his drive to do archaeology at Tel Shiloh.” Scholz also points out that the claim that Shiloh was the capital of ancient Israel is “utter nonsense”. “Such statements are used to advance geopolitical goals,” she says. Indeed, as Christian Zionists, Stripling and Huckabee believe that the state of Israel is the result of biblical prophecy. The belief stems from the idea that four millennia ago God promised the land to the Jews, who will rule it until Jesus returns to Jerusalem for the rapture. While Christians will be saved upon Jesus’s return, those of other religions who do not convert to Christianity will be sent to hell. About 80 percent of US evangelicals espouse Christian Zionist beliefs. As a result of such beliefs, Christian Zionists support Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise in the West Bank and, indeed, any other policy – Israeli, US, or otherwise – that secures Israeli Jewish sovereignty over the land from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River and even beyond, into Jordan’s East Bank. This makes Netanyahu’s annexation pledges and Donald Trump’s annexation-friendly “Peace to Prosperity” plan coveted moves. Christian Zionists generally ignore Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights, even of Christian Palestinians, or see them as a necessary means to an end….