Deadly fire kills 10 Gazans in packed refugee camp
[with photos] GAZA (PIC) 6 Mar — At least 10 Palestinians were killed and 58 injured, including 14 in critical condition, on Thursday afternoon when a fire broke out at a crowded market in Nuseirat refugee camp in the middle area of the Gaza Strip. Eyewitnesses said that a huge explosion came from a bakery and the blaze rapidly spread to nearby stores, factories, stalls and vehicles parked along the street. Civil defense crews and ambulances rushed to the scene and crowds of Palestinian citizens helped firefighters put out the flames. A number of victims who were seriously wounded in the fire will be transferred to hospitals in Egypt and the occupied West Bank for treatment, Gaza’s Ministry of Health said. Gaza’s Interior Ministry said that the initial investigations suggested that the fire resulted from a gas leak inside one of the bakeries that caused several cooking gas cylinders to explode. Head of Hamas’s political bureau Ismail Haneyya extended condolences to the families of those killed in the fire and wished speedy recovery for the wounded. Haneyya announced that Hamas would offer cash assistance estimated at $300,000 for the injured and families of the dead. Later, Hamas released a statement saying that Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani of Qatar had allocated $2 million in compensation for the damage and losses the fire caused. [WAFA: At least three residential buildings, 22 vehicles, four cinder block factories, a bakery, two restaurants, a carpentry, 50 stalls for peddlers, and an institute for the handicapped were totally destroyed in the fire.]
Palestinian man injured in Nuseirat fire dies of his wounds
GAZA (PIC) 7 Mar — A Palestinian man on Saturday afternoon succumbed to wounds he sustained in the fire which broke out in Nuseirat refugee camp in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, raising the number of the citizens killed in the incident to 11. Gaza’s Ministry of Health said in a brief statement that Saeed Khawwas, 65, died on Saturday of serious injuries he sustained in the deadly fire. A huge fire resulting from an explosion caused by a gas leak in a bakery in the packed refugee camp of Nuseirat in Gaza killed instantly on Thursday 10 Palestinian citizens, including six children, and injured 58 others,14 of whom are in critical condition. A number of stores, stalls, factories and cars parked along the street were completely damaged in the fire.
10 Palestinians killed in market fire laid to rest
GAZA (WAFA) 6 Mar — Ten Palestinians who died in a tragic fire incident yesterday were laid to their rest in the Nuseirat and al-Bureij refugee camps in the central besieged Gaza Strip. Thousands of Palestinians attended the funeral processions of the ten Palestinians who were killed when a fire ravaged a packed market in Nuseirat refugee camp. At least ten Palestinians were killed and some 60 other were injured when a fire broke out in a bakery in the refugee camp. Six children were among the dead and 14 injuries were in critical condition. The fire is thought to have started from a gas canister explosion at the bakery in the Nuseirat refugee camp, before the blaze tore through nearby shops, factories and cars parked along the street. With a population of 1.8 million, the Gaza Strip is one of the world’s most densely populated areas.
WHO report: Jana, 3, from Gaza gets permit to travel for cancer treatment, after a 5-month delay
JERUSALEM, Monday, March 02, 2020 (WAFA) – The World Health Organization (WHO) included in its January report on health access for patients in the occupied Palestinian territory published today an “In Focus” report on 3-year-old Jana’s efforts to leave the besieged Gaza Strip through Erez/Beit Hanoun crossing with Israel in order to get treatment for cancer in a qualified hospital outside Gaza. Gaza patients have to apply for special exit permit Following is the report: Three-year-old Jana from Jabalia in the north of the Gaza Strip has cancer, but she hasn’t been able to access the treatment she needs since October last year. Jana and her mother’s applications for Israeli-issued permits, required for her to access health facilities outside the Gaza Strip, have been repeatedly delayed or denied … Jana’s family discovered she had a tumor in 2018 when she was unable to pass urine and her family took her to Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. A CT scan showed a tumor in her bladder and she underwent surgery to have it removed in January 2019. Initially the doctors at Al-Shifa had thought the tumor was benign. However, a biopsy in May 2019 confirmed that Jana had a cancer called a rhabdomyosarcoma. From July 2019, Jana underwent a course of chemotherapy. Due to the size of her tumor, Jana then needed radiotherapy treatment that is not available in the Gaza Strip. She was referred to Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem in October 2019, which required travel out of Gaza and an Israeli-issued permit. However, her permit application to Israeli authorities was delayed, remaining ‘under study’ by the time of her hospital appointment, and her mother’s application was denied … Since October 2019, Jana and Maysa have applied three times for permits to exit Gaza so Jana could access the radiotherapy treatment she needs to have the best chance of recovery. Jana’s applications were delayed, remaining ‘under study’ by the time of her hospital respective appointments. Maysa’s applications to accompany Jana were once denied and twice delayed….
’42 knees in one day’: Israeli snipers open up about shooting Gaza protesters
[behind paywall – if you can’t access Haaretz, read the following Palestine Chronicle article, with photos]; Haaretz Magazine 6 Mar by Hilo Glazer — Over 200 Palestinians were killed and nearly 8,000 were injured during almost two years of weekly protests at the Israel-Gaza border. Israeli army snipers tell their stories — I know exactly how many knees I’ve hit, says Eden, who completed his service in the Israel Defense Forces as a sniper in its Golani infantry brigade six months ago. For much of the time, he was stationed along the border with the Gaza Strip. His assignment: to repel Palestinian demonstrators who approached the fence. “I kept the casing of every round I fired,” he says. “I have them in my room. So I don’t have to make an estimate – I know: 52 definite hits.” But there are also “non-definite” hits, right? “There were incidents when the bullet didn’t stop and also hit the knee of someone behind [the one I aimed at]. Those are mistakes that happen.”… “There are awful, dreadful stories about soldiers who aimed at a demonstrator and hit someone else. I know someone who took aim at one of the leaders of a demonstration, who was standing on a box and urging the people to keep marching ahead. The soldier aimed at his leg, but at the last moment the man moved and the bullet missed him. Instead, he hit a little girl, who was killed on the spot. That soldier is a wreck today. He is being watched 24/7, so he won’t commit suicide.” Snipers burdened with experiences like that are the minority. For his part, Amir says the kind of feelings most snipers have are completely different, reminiscent of the world of sports. “The arena of the disturbances is like a sports arena, a situation you can sell tickets for,” he says. “Group versus group, with a line down the middle and an audience of fans on both sides. You can totally tell a story of a sports encounter here.”….
Damning evidence of war crimes in Gaza: Israeli soldiers compete to break legs of Palestinian protesters
[with photos] Palestine Chronicle 6 Mar — A report published in the Israeli daily newspaper, Haaretz on Friday revealed harrowing details of the military protocol followed by Israeli army snipers who have killed over 300 Palestinian protesters and wounded thousands more at the fence separating besieged Gaza from Israel. The report, written by Israeli journalist Hilo Glazer, included testimonies of six Israeli snipers who took part in the ongoing army violence targeting peaceful protesters in Gaza, who, starting in March 2018, gathered at the fence demanding an end to the Israeli siege….
New ward provides hope for Gazans coping with gunshot wounds
KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip (AP)5 Mar by Fares Akram — Mansour al-Masri has been largely confined to bed for almost two years, iron rods protruding through bandages wrapping his lower leg. Since an Israeli gunshot fractured the bones of his left leg in May 2018, the 24-year-old blacksmith has undergone 18 operations, briefly regaining the ability to walk with a limp before returning to the hospital. He is terrified he will join the 158 Palestinians who have had legs amputated after being wounded in protests along the Israeli frontier. On Thursday, the World Health Organization and the local Health Ministry offered some hope, officially inaugurating Gaza’s first limb reconstruction center, which aims to provide the wounded with permanent specialized and centralized care. “It’s the first time I (have entered) such a department and feel things are working out with me,” said al-Masri, who has been receiving treatment at the center since it began operations three weeks ago … In all, some 8,000 people have suffered gunshot wounds, straining Gaza’s over-burdened health care system. Health authorities have appealed for help to deal with the influx of injuries, especially those shot in the limbs, to reduce the number of disabilities and amputations. These difficult-to-treat injuries can take up to two years of follow-up, with bone, muscle, soft tissue and nerve surgeries. Serious bone infections are common along with signs of antibiotic resistance. The new limb center, built by WHO in coordination with the Hamas-run Health Ministry, is located at the Nasser medical complex in the southern city of Khan Younis….
A glimmer of hope for Gaza’s visually impaired
The Media Line 4 Mar by Sanaa Alswerky — A station with a mission: Shams radio aims to help the blind build better lives — Shams, the Gaza Strip’s first radio station for the blind, has commenced full operations, providing a much-needed service for an extremely marginalized segment of society. Amro Alhaj, the station’s chief coordinator, told The Media Line the idea was “to defend the rights of persons with visual disabilities, give them the essentials of media training, and spread awareness of the importance of this sector by showing people what they can do.” Shams (“Sun”) radio was founded by the Association of Visually Impaired Graduates, with funding from the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development, commonly known as the Kuwait Fund. After nearly two months of experimental operations starting in November 2019, the station, based in central Gaza, is broadcasting via Facebook, joining 23 other radio outlets based in the Strip. Shams’ offerings run the gamut, with programs on social, educational and personal rights subjects transmitted almost six hours a day, Alhaj said … Behind the microphone, a confident young woman with a soothing voice reads the weather forecast from a Braille-printed paper as if she has been doing it for years. Meet Warda Alshanti, a volunteer broadcaster and program producer at Shams radio station and a presenter at Palestine TV….
Israeli bulldozers raze land, place barbed wire fence, in Gaza
4 Mar by Ali Salam — Several Israeli military vehicles on Tuesday invaded the southern besieged Gaza Strip in eastern Rafah, Quds News Network reports. Local sources said that five bulldozers entered through Mutebeq military entry, invading 50 meters into Palestinian lands, in eastern Rafah, erecting barbed wire in the area to prevent Palestinians from entering. Additionally, Israeli soldiers reportedly fired tear gas canisters at farmers in Sreij, in eastern Khan Younis.
Also, off the coast of Beit Lahia in northern Gaza, Israeli gunboats opened fire at Palestinian fishing boats; no casualties were reported.
Video: The undrinkable water of a land under siege
MEE 5 Mar by Rakan Abed El Rahman — Experts say Israeli policies and wars are to blame for a deepening water crisis in Gaza that will have detrimental effects on public health, especially on the most vulnerable segment of society: children.
‘The safest place in the world’ – how the coronavirus went viral in Gaza
GAZA (MEE) 1 Mar by Maha Hussaini — While the coronavirus has prompted panic and emergency measures around the world, many Palestinians trapped in Gaza have responded with black humour on social media, joking that the blockaded enclave may now be the “safest place in the world”. Commenting on a Facebook post about the disease spreading to Lebanon earlier this week, Monzer Rajab wrote: “God willing, it is hard [for the coronavirus to reach Gaza]. Gaza has been on quarantine lockdown for 14 years,” referring to the blockade imposed by Israel since 2006. Loai Harazin, a Palestinian activist, wrote on Twitter: “One of the benefits of the blockade, travel difficulties, and isolation of Gaza, is that it is hard for the coronavirus to reach Gaza.” Tayssir Balbissi, a HR consultant, shared the same opinion. “With the coronavirus being transboundary, it looks like besieged Gaza will be the safest place in the world,” he said in a tweet. Having endured repeated Israeli attacks on the territory, as well as fuel shortages, power cuts, contaminated water and crumbling infrastructure, others scoffed at the idea that the virus could harm them any further. Writing on Facebook, Nadia Abushaban, a 25-year-old activist, compared the virus to a popular chocolate-covered wafer biscuit with a cream filling called Korona that is popular in Gaza. “We have not died of four wars, chemicals, toxic gases that half of our youth inhaled near the border fence [with Israel], light bombs, or phosphorus. You think we would die of corona with cream? Calm down, people,” she said.
In Pictures: The Gaza factory ‘making sweets at any cost’
MEE 28 Feb by Mohammed al-Hajjar, Maha Hussaini — In Gaza’s al-Zawiya market neighbourhood stands The Alai Factory for Sweets, one of a number of confectionery businesses struggling to survive in a fragile economy and volatile political environment. Established in 1987 by 53-year-old Palestinian Wael Alai and his brothers, the factory was originally located in eastern Gaza, near the border fence with Israel. (All photos by Mohammed Hajjar) … The original building sustained damage from an Israeli air strike during the Gaza War of 2009, forcing them to relocate. After the factory was bombed, the Alai brothers decided to minimise the risks should it happen again. “This time we didn’t put all our eggs in one basket,” Alai says. “We decided to build three small ones in different places, so that if Israel targets one building, we can still have two other ones.”….
West Bank / Jerusalem
Israeli settlers uproot dozens of olive and vine trees in West Bank
BETHLEHEM, Monday, March 2, 2020 (WAFA) – Israeli settlers today uprooted dozens of olive and vine trees in the town of Husan, west of the occupied city of Bethlehem, and in other areas of the West Bank, according to local sources. Mohammad Sbateen, head of Husan village council, told WAFA that settlers from the illegal Israeli settlement of Bitar Illit uprooted about 100 olive trees and 60 vine trees in lands belonging to Palestinians. Settlers have recently been targeting village lands, especially those close to settlements, by razing lands, uprooting trees and preventing farmers access to their lands. To be noted, Israeli settlers last week uprooted hundreds of olive and vine trees in the town of al-Khader, to the south of Bethlehem. Meanwhile, Israeli settlers also uprooted today olive trees in the town of Bruqin, west of the northern West Bank city of Salfit, according to the town’s mayor, Marwan Abdul Rahman. He told WAFA that settlers from the illegal settlement of Brukhin, built on the town’s land, uprooted 20 olive trees and cut down 120 others belonging to two local residents. At the same time, settlers chopped 12 olive trees in Kufr al-Dik land, west of Salfit, according to the owner of the land were the trees were vandalized.
Thousands of shekels stolen from Palestinian homes in occupied West Bank
MEMO 4 Mar — Israel security forces stole thousands of shekels from Palestinians in Al-Zawiya in the Salfit district of the occupied West Bank last night. According to the Palestinian news agency WAFA, around 50,000 shekels ($14,500) were seized during raids that were carried out overnight in the houses of Palestinian citizens and former prisoners. The Israeli authorities often claim that money has been “confiscated” because the Palestinians “supported acts of terror” and received the money from unknown sources. As a result, soldiers are rarely charged with such thefts. This is not the first time that Israel has taken money from Palestinian homes during night raids condemned by the Palestinian Authority and international rights bodies. Such accusations have been made on hundreds of occasions, with soldiers pocketing Palestinians’ cash and valuables during the raids that take place nightly across the West Bank. A similar raid was carried out in December, for example, when Israeli soldiers used dogs to ransack the family home of Mohammed Rayhan in the town of Yabod, south-west of Jenin. After the soldiers had left without making any arrests, the family realised that money and gold jewelry were missing, he told Wafa. The family accused the soldiers of stealing the money and valuables. Heavily armed Israeli soldiers, often with large dogs, regularly raid Palestinian homes, wake the children and arrest one or more family members. The occupation state’s policy of night raids against the people of occupied Palestine has been condemned repeatedly by international rights bodies as it leaves victims feeling unsafe in their own homes.
Israeli troops attack protest in Kufur Qaddoum, injuring two Palestinians
6 Mar by Celine Hagbard — Two young men were wounded by rubber-coated metal bullets, while dozens more suffered the effects of tear gas inhalation, when Israeli forces invaded Kufur Qaddoum village and began assaulting non-violent demonstrators. Each week, the townspeople of Kufur Qaddoum hold a march and protest to challenge the Israeli closure of their village’s main road for the past sixteen years. They also protest against the Israeli colonies constructed on land confiscated by the Israeli military from the village. The coordinator of the Popular Resistance in Kufur Qaddoum, Murad Shtaiwi, told reporters with the Wafa News Agency that the occupation forces suppressed the march by using gas bombs and rubber-coated metal bullets, which led to the injury of a young man with a metal bullet in the face, and another in his hand. The two were treated by medics in the field, while dozens more were treated for the effects of tear gas inhalation. The march began after Friday prayers with the participation of hundreds of townspeople, who chanted national slogans calling for an escalation of popular resistance and rejecting the so-called “deal of the century” drafted by Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Soldiers injure hundreds of Palestinians in West Bank
IMEMC 29 Feb — Israeli soldiers injured, Friday, hundreds of Palestinians across several parts of the occupied West Bank. The Israeli army used live and rubber-coated metal rounds, in addition to teargas bombs and stun grenades. The Palestinian Red Crescent stated that its crews have dealt with 191 injuries during confrontations in the village of Beita, south of the northern West Bank city of Nablus. One of the wounded Palestinians is a child who was shot with a live round in the back. The injuries varied as some were shot with live fire, dozens were wounded by rubber-coated steel bullets, and at least 46 suffered the effects of teargas inhalation, in addition to one who was shot with a tear gas grenade in the head … Protests and dozens of injuries were reported in many parts of the West Bank, especially in Azzoun, near Qalqilia, in northern West Bank, Hebron governorate, in southern West Bank, Ramallah, and al-Biereh governorate, in central West Bank, Jericho, and many other areas. The soldiers also abducted two young Palestinian men in the al- Fawwar refugee camp, in Hebron. Furthermore, the soldiers fired a barrage of gas bombs, concussion grenades, and rubber-coated steel bullets, in addition to several live rounds at protesters and homes, in Shu‘fat refugee camp, northeast of occupied Jerusalem. Media sources said protests took place when at least three army jeeps invaded the refugee camp. Dozens of residents suffered the effects of teargas inhalation, in addition to cuts and bruises. A few protesters also hurled Molotov cocktails at the invading army jeeps, burning one of them.
Israeli troops invade Birzeit University dorms, abduct 5 students
IMEMC 7 Mar — Early Friday morning, Israeli forces raided student dormitories at Birzeit University in Ramallah, in the central West Bank, and abducted five students. According to local sources, Israeli troops kidnapped five students affiliated with the Islamic Bloc, the student branch of the Hamas movement, at Birzeit University in Ramallah. The sources reported that the Israeli military raided a number of student dormitories in Ramallah, searched them and abducted five students. The detainees have been identified as Ahmad Farah, Mohammad Naser, Osaid Qaddumi, Barakat Raed and Rayyan Kharboush. All of them are Islamic Bloc student activists at Birzeit University. Israeli authorities gave no reason for the abductions of the students.
15-year-old boy hit by Israeli rubber-coated bullet while in school
IMEMC 7 Mar — In the al- ‘Issawiya area of Jerusalem on Tuesday, Israeli forces fired a rubber-coated steel bullet into a schoolyard, injuring 15-year-old student Mohammad Awni Atiya in his hand. The incident took place at the “Boys Secondary School”, in the village of Al-‘Issawiya. The Silwan Information Center reported that the Israeli Special Forces stormed Al-Madares Street in the village, in conjunction with the school’s break between the classes. While students were buying from the vendors through the main school gate as usual, the soldiers got off their vehicle and walked parallel to the main gate. Abu Al-Hummos added that the occupation forces attacked the school gates and pointed their weapons towards the students through the gates’ separators and fired rubber bullets without regard for the crowded courtyards, where the student Atiya was injured; he was immediately transferred for treatment. The parents’ committee in al-‘Issawiya denounced the disregard for the lives of students and the failure to provide them with a safe environment even when they are inside their schools, not to mention the storming and deployment in Al-Madares Street in the morning and afternoon time….
Heavy police raids leave east Jerusalem neighborhood on edge
JERUSALEM (AP) 6 March by Joseph Krauss & Mohammed Daraghmeh — Murad Mahmoud’s 14-year-old son has been detained by Israeli police in his east Jerusalem neighborhood three times in the last two years. His 10-year-old has been interrogated by police in combat gear. These days, he keeps all six of his children inside most of the time, fearing even worse. “I won’t even let them go to the corner store,” he says. “I’m not just afraid they’ll be arrested, I’m afraid they’ll lose an eye or get shot in the head.” Nearly every day for the last nine months Israeli police have stormed into the Palestinian neighborhood of ‘Issawiya in east Jerusalem in a campaign they say is needed to maintain law and order. Rights groups say that in addition to searching houses and issuing fines, they have detained hundreds of people — some as young as 10 — on suspicion of stone-throwing. The operations frequently ignite clashes, with local youths throwing rocks and firebombs, which police say justifies their heightened presence. But residents and human rights groups say the raids themselves seem intended to provoke confrontations and have created an atmosphere of terror, with parents afraid to let their children play outside. Last month, a 9-year-old boy was shot in the face by police, losing an eye in an incident authorities say they are still investigating. It’s unclear what prompted the crackdown, but many residents feel police are making an example out of ‘Issawiya so that Israel can cement its control over east Jerusalem, which it seized in the 1967 war and later annexed….
Israel is trying to ‘break’ this East Jerusalem village — with brutal results
+972 Mag 25 Feb by Judith Sudillovsky — For more than a week since their nine-year-old son Malek was shot in the eye by a sponge-tipped bullet, Wael and Sawsan Issa kept vigil over him together with friends and relatives at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, first at the intensive care unit and then at the pediatric ward. Despite several surgeries, doctors were unable to save Malek’s left eye and thus had to remove it. After being sent home on Monday, the family returned to Hadassah a few hours later due to the pain the boy was suffering. Concerns that Malek might have suffered brain damage have been allayed and he has been communicating, says his father Wael Issa. “He is sleeping. He does not want to speak with anyone. It hurts and he wants quiet. It will take some time.” The bullet that hit Malek’s head was shot by an Israeli police officer on Feb. 15, during an arrest raid by Israeli forces in the Palestinian village of ‘Issawiya in East Jerusalem. According to press reports, the officer claimed he had shot the bullet at a wall to calibrate his sights. The police also claimed they were responding to protests they had encountered during the arrest; however, video footage of the incident showed only normal street traffic in the area … Eyewitnesses, including Malek’s 10-year-old cousin who had been with him and his two sisters when they stopped at a kiosk to buy a sandwich, also say there were no disturbances on the street. The cousin, whose mother asked that his name not be used, explained that Malek did not hear his sisters telling him to wait because there were soldiers in the street, and had run ahead of them. “Then he fell to the floor,” the cousin said …
The shooting is not an isolated incident. Malek is the eleventh child from ‘Issawiya to lose an eye from a rubber-tipped bullet, says his father, who has left his job at a Tel Aviv restaurant to be with his son while he recovers. His wife and daughters have sought counseling, he notes, but he is doing without …
A tour through the village reveals many apartment buildings donning brand new roll-down blinds — not out of aesthetic concern or because people have money to spend, but for protection against stray bullets, says community leader Mohammed Abu-Hummos….
Report from B’Tselem on army bulldozer pushing boulders at high speed toward protesters
B’Tselem 5 Mar — On Friday, 21 Feb. 2020, at around 12:30 P.M., Palestinians held a demonstration in the village of Kufur Qaddoum to protest the military closure of their access to the road that connects the village to the city of Nablus. The residents have held these protests on a weekly basis since 2011, when their access to the road was cut off following the expansion of the nearby settlement of Kedumim, forcing them since then to take a long, circuitous route. The residents marched towards the blocked entrance and stopped near the last house in the village. During the march, clashes developed and some protesters torched tires and threw stones at soldiers, who fired rubber-coated metal bullets and tear gas at them.
About half an hour later, a military bulldozer drove towards the village from the direction of the settlement, picking up rocks and tires Palestinians had placed on the road to obstruct the soldiers. At some point, the driver accelerated and started pushing large boulders towards the demonstrators, including youths and children. The protesters, among them journalists covering the demonstration, started running to escape the boulders hurtling their way. The bulldozer stopped abruptly and began to draw back. One of the boulders that the driver pushed towards the demonstrators hit journalist Muhammad ‘Enaya in the legs. He fell over and lost his helmet, which rolled down the road. ‘Enaya’s camera fell to the ground and broke. Several young men hurried over to pick him up and carried him away. Ten-year-old Muamen Shteiwi was standing by his house watching the procession when he, too, was hit by a boulder. He fell over, managed to get up and, with the help of a young man, avoided another boulder rolling towards him at the last second. Yet another boulder crashed into an ambulance parked down the road with the driver inside it, damaging the front bumper and a headlight. A private car parked nearby was lightly damaged. The young men put the injured ‘Enaya in the ambulance, but before the driver could take off, soldiers fired tear gas canisters that landed around the ambulance. The medics transferred ‘Enaya to another ambulance, which took him to a hospital in Qalqilia. An X-ray found a fracture in his left ankle and torn tendons and bruising in his right leg. ‘Enaya was discharged the next day. In response to footage published on Israeli news website Ynet, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit claimed that “the footage was filmed at a sharp incline and edited to play at a higher speed than the original”. However, B’Tselem has the original footage, which clearly shows that the video posted online was not sped up and that the driver of the bulldozer did intentionally push boulders at the demonstrators….
IDF to impose 4-day West Bank, Gaza closure on Palestinians for Purim holiday
Times of Israel 6 Mar by Judah Ari Gross — Crossings to close on Sunday and reopen Thursday, pending ‘situational assessment,’ military says; exceptions to be made for humanitarian cases — The Israel Defense Forces on Friday announced it would close the crossings into Israel from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to Palestinians for four days beginning 12:01 a.m. Sunday, ahead of next week’s Purim holiday. The military said an exception would be made for the Gaza Strip’s Kerem Shalom Crossing — the main terminal for commercial goods into the enclave — which would close only for 24 hours, from Tuesday at 12:01 a.m. to Wednesday. The closure for the rest of the crossings — a standard practice for religious and national holidays — was scheduled to be a day longer than normal for the Purim festival, which begins on Monday evening in most of the country. A military spokesperson said this was not due to concerns about the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus or any other issue, but was decided out of practical considerations.
Israel on Thursday announced that Bethlehem in the West Bank would be closed off due to the coronavirus. Israel placed Bethlehem on lockdown, banning Israelis and Palestinians from entering or leaving the storied city, as officials from both governments race to contain the virus’s spread in Palestinian population centers.
No compensation for Palestinian journalist shot by Israeli army
+972 Mag 26 Feb by Oren Persico and The Seventh Eye — A Palestinian journalist who was shot in the leg by Israeli soldiers while documenting a demonstration in the West Bank in 2015 will not be paid damages, despite the fact that the shooting violated army regulations. The Jerusalem Magistrates’ Court rejected this week a lawsuit by Palestinian photographer Ahmad Tal‘at against the IDF, who he said shot him in his right leg while he was covering the weekly protest in the village of Kufr Qaddum. Although the court acknowledged that Tal‘at had been shot by Israeli forces — despite the army’s claims to the contrary — it ruled that the IDF is not obligated to pay him damages, since the incident took place during an “act of war.” According to the lawsuit, Tal‘at was wearing a press flak jacket and helmet when he was shot. He was also carrying three cameras with large lenses, which he argues made it easy for security forces to recognize him as a member of the press rather than a protestor. Attorney Eitay Mack, who represented Tal‘at, provided the court with a copy of the IDF regulations relating to journalists and photographers. The procedures do not list any legal restrictions on photographing in the West Bank nor on photographing IDF soldiers, including during operations. As such, the procedures stipulate, “the authorities of the region, including IDF soldiers and Border Police officers, must act according to this understanding and in this spirit!” The procedures also do not describe any scenario in which soldiers may open fire at photographers….
WHO: Healthcare for Palestinian communities in Area C at risk due to funding shortages
Palestine Chronicle 4 Mar — Basic health care provision for isolated Palestinian communities in the occupied West Bank is under threat due to a shortfall in funding. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in an update published this week as part of periodic reporting by UN OCHA, at the end of 2019 “mobile clinic coverage of communities in Area C fell from 85 to 60 percent of people in need”, due to “severe funding shortages”. More than 100 Palestinian communities that are home to some 162,000 residents in ‘Area C’ of the occupied West Bank – which is under full Israeli civil control – “have limited or no access to primary healthcare and are therefore in need of mobile clinics services”. As noted by the WHO update, this critical absence is “primarily because of the restrictive Israeli planning regime, which prevents the construction of the necessary facilities, as well as the prevailing access and movement restrictions, which impedes access to main service centers.” … For 2020, WHO and its partners are seeking $2.7 million “to ensure access to essential primary health care services, through mobile clinics, in the West Bank”. “These resources would enable WHO to deliver services to 176 communities and expand coverage to more than 120,000 out of the more than 160,000 in need.”….
Gideon Levy // The IDF jeep’s door swung open. A single bullet hit the Palestinian’s neck
[behind paywall] Haaretz 29 Feb by Gideon Levy & Alex Levac — The family of Bader Harashi, who live in a peaceful West Bank village, used to work in Israel. But after he was shot dead at a protest, the authorities have revoked their permits, denying them of a livelihood as well as their kin — A gate in the separation fence near the town of Qaffin, north of Tul Karm, in the West Bank, is also known as crossing point No. 436, at least by the Israel Defense Forces … A few dozen Palestinians were burning tires and throwing stones from the eastern side of the fence and gate; five IDF soldiers and an armored jeep were on the western side. Suddenly the right front door of the jeep opened, a rifle was thrust out and a soldier or officer fired a single shot into Harashi’s neck. Less than 15 meters separated the troops and the demonstrators, the high separation barrier making things difficult for the stone throwers. And only a few minutes separated the exchange of remarks between a soldier and Harashi, before he was struck down. “You should be ashamed of yourself. Why are you here? Go back to your village, to your wife and family,” Harashi shouted in Arabic to the soldier, who was apparently a Druze – a fact that might have sealed Harashi’s fate. “I came here to break your head,” the soldier retorted in Arabic, before leaving with his four buddies. They had been standing opposite the protesters on the other side of the gate and they walked back to their armored vehicle, parked up the road, and got in. Then the same soldier returned in the jeep, opened the door and shot Harashi to death … On one rather stormy day this week, we walked with Sadi near the fence, trying to reconstruct the circumstances of the killing of a young man who had never before been in trouble with Israel …
At least 500 people in Qaffin (whose overall population is roughly 10,000) have a permit to work in Israel. The town’s proximity to the Green Line has made it a convenient home for these people, who are generally considered to be good at construction. That’s also why Qaffin is known as a tranquil village …
In a spacious house in the heart of town, Nidal Harashi, 50, mourns the death of his son. But he is also anxious about the family’s future: Not only did they lose their beloved son and brother, at age 20, but Israel has revoked the work permits of Nidal and his three other sons. (He also has three daughters.) That’s customary when dealing with most bereaved Palestinian families, to foil any possible impulse they may have to avenge the killing. Thus, such families are punished twice – by a pointless death and by being deprived of their livelihood. Nidal’s face says it all….
Israeli forces invade West Bank, abduct 11 Palestinians from their homes, and rearrest long-term prisoner
5 Mar by Celine Hagbard — During the nightly invasion of various parts of the West Bank on Thursday, Israeli forces abducted a number of Palestinians who were asleep in bed, and re-arrested one man who had served 18 years. The Israeli authorities played a cruel trick on the man by releasing him, letting him walk out the prison gates where his fiancée was waiting to have their wedding ceremony after 18 years of waiting, then re-arresting him just outside the gate. The Israeli occupation forces re-arrested the prisoner Randi Issa Adel Odeh (39 years old), at the moment of his release, from the gate of the desert Negev detention center. The captive, Odeh, from Shuafat, was first abducted on 7/3/2002, and the Occupation Court in Jerusalem had sentenced him to 18 years in prison. His long-waiting fiancée, Alaa Abu Dawoud from Nablus, had planned their wedding for today, Thursday. But just as he reached the prison gates to his freedom, the authorities grabbed him and threw him back in prison for “investigation” without any charges. His 18-year term had ended, he was not charged with any new crime (nor could he have committed any, having been behind bars for so long), but the Israeli authorities decided to put him back behind bars with no charges.
Also today, Israeli forces detained this morning 11 Palestinians, including former prisoners, from several areas in the occupied West Bank, said the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS)….
Israel dismantles weapons cell in West Bank
RAMALLAH (Al-Monitor) 6 Mar by Ahmad Melhem — Israeli police revealed Feb. 25 the arrests of 58 Palestinians suspected of belonging to a network that transforms airsoft guns into assault rifles. The police claimed that some of these rifles were used during attacks against Israelis in the West Bank and Israel. The Jerusalem Post cited the Israeli police spokesman as saying that most detainees hailed from Hebron in the southern West Bank. So far, seven of them have been indicted and 300,000 shekels ($87,000) have been frozen in bank accounts, according to the paper. Two airsoft weapon shops in Kfar Kinna within the Green Line and Kafarakab near Ramallah have been shut down. Israeli police accused those arrested of purchasing airsoft weapons from Israel and buying parts online from abroad to convert airsoft weapons into M16s in underground labs. The police clarified that they had seized, in cooperation with the Israeli Tax Authority, a product container that reached Ashdod Port through the United States carrying electrical devices and toys. Upon searching the container, they found hundreds of hidden M16 parts and combat equipment that a citizen from Adna in Hebron had purchased …
Weapons in the West Bank are used for two different purposes: weapons used in attacks against Israel, which are few and locally made due to ongoing pursuit from the Israeli army and the Palestinian security forces, and automatic machine guns like Kalashnikovs and M16s that families and tribes mostly use in internal disputes and that are smuggled from Israel … Palestinian police spokesperson Louay Erzikat told Al-Monitor, “Security forces want to seize unlicensed weapons and hold their owners and traders accountable because they are arbitrary weapons used in weddings [for celebratory fire], family feuds and crimes, and we are trying to control their spread.”… He noted that Israeli authorities are turning a blind eye to arms smuggling to the West Bank, especially those used in internal Palestinian disputes. He explained, “The southern area of Hebron has been the stage of almost daily armed disputes between families that often occur before the eyes of the Israeli army. The clashes are only a few meters away from settlers; still, the Israeli army neither interferes nor allows Palestinian security forces to enter the area to control the situation. The Israeli army is also overlooking weapons traders and entry of weapons to Palestine for local use.”….
Israeli police arrest Palestinian journalist Mujahed Muflih at checkpoint
BEIRUT (CPJ) 28 Feb — Israeli authorities should release Palestinian journalist Mujahed Muflih and drop any charges against him, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. On February 26, Israeli police arrested Muflih, a reporter and editor for the news website Ultra Palestine, at the Za‘tara checkpoint south of the West Bank city of Nablus, according to news reports, including a report by Muflih’s employer, and the Skeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom, a regional press freedom group. Police officers took Muflih to the Ariel Settlement in the central West Bank, where they interrogated him and placed him under investigation for incitement in relation to his Facebook posts, according to Skeyes and Ultra Palestine … CPJ could not determine which of Muflih’s Facebook posts are at the center of the investigation. The day before his arrest, Muflih published a Facebook post translating into Arabic a Hebrew flyer that called on Israeli settlers to join a February 28 bike ride to the Jabal al-Aarma archeological site led by the head of the Settlements Council in the northern West Bank city of Yossi Dagan. He posted a comment saying the settlers “forgot what happened in 1988,” in reference to clashes between Israelis and Palestinians over settlements in that year.
‘Brutally and barbarically’: PA police arrest Fatah MP in West Bank
Palestine Chronicle 87 Mar — On Friday, Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces “brutally and barbarically” arrested Fatah MP Hussam Khader from his house in the West Bank city of Nablus, his daughter, Amira Khader, revealed. “[PA] Protective Security Services broke into our house, accompanied by the Joint Forces (formed to crackdown on Abbas foes) in Balata Refugee Camp [in Nablus] and took my father forcefully,” Amira announced on her Twitter page. She added: “They took my father brutally and barbarically. I saw this brutality and barbarism in 2003 and 2011 when the Israeli occupation forces broke into our house and arrested my father. They attacked me as two armed officers prevented me from moving, pushed me and beat me.”. Khader’s detention came following his censure of PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s criticism of Palestinian doctors, who have been on industrial strike. Khader stated that the abuse and “dirty insults” should disqualify Abbas as president and called for him to apologize to the doctors.
Land theft / Ethnic cleansing / Settlements
Palestinians bewildered after settler group posts warning signs across West Bank
QUSRA, Occupied West Bank (MEE) 28 Feb by Akram Al-Waara — One of the most common sights across the occupied West Bank are giant red billboards sitting at the entrance of every Palestinian town, village, and city, warning Israelis not to enter Area A, under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority (PA) as it is “forbidden, dangerous to your lives and is against the Israeli law”. But when Palestinians woke up on Tuesday, they were shocked to find new red posters plastered at the entrances to 33 villages in the West Bank – from Nablus and Jenin in the north, all the way south to Hebron. In the same familiar red and white, warning signs written in Hebrew, Arabic, and English, read: “Warning! You are entering State of Palestine (See Trump Peace Plan).”
The ‘peace plan’ referred to in the sign is the much-maligned proposal by US President Donald Trump – which has been categorically rejected by Palestinian leadership. In the village of Qusra, south of Nablus, the villagers found the sign posted at the main entrance off the highway, an area settlers from the neighbouring Migdalim settlement also pass to reach their homes. “At first, people were really scared, we thought it was the Israeli government who put up the signs,” Abed al-Athim Wadi, a 47-year-old local activist, told Middle East Eye from a hilltop on the outskirts of the village. “We thought they had already begun implementing Trump’s peace plan,” he said, adding that the villagers immediately tore the posters down in protest. But after a few phone calls to neighbouring villages and some investigation on social media, Wadi and other activists realised that the signs were posted as a political statement by right-wing Israeli settler organisation Regavim. Notorious for its advocacy against Palestinian self-determination and the two-state solution, Regavim wanted to make a statement: the existence of any future Palestinian state would be a threat to their vision of Israeli annexation of the entire West Bank. By posting signs at future proposed border points with the Palestinian state, they were alerting settlers to the “dangers they will face” at “33 points that Jewish residents will no longer be able to access, 33 points from which acts of terrorism will be unpreventable”….
Israel demolishes Palestinian Bedouin village for 176th time
MEMO 6 Mar — Israeli occupation authorities yesterday demolished all Palestinian homes in the Palestinian Bedouin village of Al-Araqeeb in the Negev for the 176th time. The village was first levelled in July 2010, and every time the residents of Al-Araqeeb rebuild their tents and small homes, occupation forces return to raze them, sometime several times in a month. Al-Araqeeb’s houses, which are inhabited by over 20 Palestinian families, are built of wood, plastic, and corrugated iron. Located in the Negev (Naqab) desert, the village is one of 51 “unrecognised” Arab villages in the area and is constantly targeted for demolition ahead of plans to Judaise the Negev by building homes for new Jewish communities. Israeli bulldozers, which Bedouins are charged for, have demolished everything, from the trees to the water tanks, but Bedouin residents have tried to rebuild it every time. Bedouins in the Negev must abide by the same laws as Jewish Israeli citizens. They pay taxes but do not enjoy the same rights and services as Jews in Israel and the state has repeatedly refused to connect the towns to the national grid, water supplies, and other vital amenities. In its ruling, the court said the villagers had “broken into state-owned land” by rebuilding their demolished homes.
Emboldened by Israeli PM and Trump, settlers transform West Bank
Kedem Arava (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) 28 Feb — Around the time US President Donald Trump took office, a group of Israeli families more than 10,000 kilometres (6,000 miles) away started a wildcat settlement near the Dead Sea in the Palestinians territories. In the three years since, it has become the outpost of Kedem Arava, home to 40 families. It is believed to be the first Israeli settlement of the Trump era, and one of dozens built under the decade-long rule of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Today, barefoot children run around happily and race their bicycles between its mobile homes. “It’s a paradise for kids,” said Ifat Lev, a 32-year-old mother-of-two living in the outpost near Jericho in the Jordan Valley. “Since they turned two, they have been out with their friends, mixing like one family.” Palestinians and the international community may consider such outposts illegal and impediments to peace — but to their residents, they’re home and the families are determined to stay. Kerem Arava, protected by the Israeli army and guarded by razor wire, is a close-knit community that celebrates what it sees as its youthful pioneering spirit … Under the Trump plan, small places like Kedem Arava could become towns or even cities — like Ariel, which boasts a university, or a region like Gush Etzion which is now seeing its third generation of residents born. “I don’t call this a settlement. I call this my homeland,” said Yehuda Leuchter, a musician who lives with his five children in Gush Etzion. “We are here. We are not asking ourselves if we are supposed to be here. We are here.”….
Israeli settlers place fence around Palestinian agricultural land
5 Mar by Ali Salam — Israeli settlers, on Wednesday, placed a fence around a privately-owned Palestinian land in the town of Beit Ummar, in the Hebron Governorate, southern occupied West Bank, in an effort to take it over, said activist Mohammad Awad. He told WAFA Palestinian News Agency that illegal colonial settlers, under Israeli military protection, placed the fence around a 12-dunam plot of land, owned by Saqer Abu Ayyash, planted with almonds, grape vines, olive trees and forest trees. He said Abu Ayyash has fought a 20-year legal battle against the settlers to prove his ownership of the plot by presenting land deeds proving ownership. “They came back today and placed a fence around the land and when I showed up to stop them, they said I should go to the (Israeli military) Civil Administration and ask them about the land,” said Abu Ayyash.
Homeowners in West Bank village notified of demolition, ordered to stop construction
BETHLEHEM, Tuesday, March 3, 2020 (WAFA) – Palestinian homeowners in the southern West Bank village of Nahalin were informed by the Israeli military that one house will be demolished as two others were ordered to stop construction of their homes, according to the village’s deputy mayor Hani Fannoun. He told WAFA that one resident of the village has received a demolition order and two other residents ordered to stop work on building their homes under the pretext they were being built without a permit. The area in question is considered Area C, which is under full Israeli military rule and where Palestinians are denied the right to build even on their own land. It is also located on the outskirts of the village, which Fannoun said is the only area where the village can expand with the growth of its population.
Families ordered to stop building their homes in a village in the north of West Bank
QALQILYA, Wednesday, March 4, 2020 (WAFA) – The Israeli military authorities today ordered three Palestinian families to stop construction on their homes in Nabi Elias village, east of the northern West Bank city of Qalqilya, according to local sources. They told WAFA that the military claimed the three homes were being built without a construction permit.
Israeli army shuts entrance to West Bank village to prevent residents from using road
BETHLEHEM, Tuesday, March 3, 2020 (WAFA) – The Israeli army closed today an entrance to the southern West Bank village of al-Jabaa, southwest of Bethlehem, according to the head of the village council Diab Mashaleh. He told WAFA that the army blocked the road with dirt and concrete boulders to prevent residents from using or reopening it. He said that road is the only access way to the village of Surif, north of Hebron.
Photos: Israeli soldiers clash with Palestinian protesters near West Bank city of Nablus
Xinhua 3 Mar — Palestinian protesters carry a wounded man during clashes with Israeli soldiers, while Palestinians try to prevent Israeli bulldozers from shoveling their fields in the Palestinian village of Aqraba, near the West Bank city of Nablus, March 3, 2020. According to Palestinian farmers the Israeli bulldozers shovel their fields for a new settlement road. (Photo by Nidal Eshtayeh/Xinhua)
Archaeological site in north of West Bank target of Israeli settlers. says official
NABLUS, Wednesday, March 4, 2020 (WAFA) – Dozens of Israeli settlers today broke into Sebastia archaeological site, in the north of the occupied West Bank, in what appears to be plans to eventually take it over, according to Sebastia mayor, Mohammad Azem. He said about 50 settlers forced their way into the site under the protection of the Israeli soldiers, who closed off roads leading to the site to Palestinians. He added that the site has been a regular target by settlers, noting that an Israeli officer also came to the site yesterday, raising concern of intentions to take it over.
Punitive house demolitions
Palestinian activists launch global campaign to raise awareness of home demolition (video)
Palestine Chronicle 4 Mar — Update: Hours after the publishing of the article below, which appealed to the world to prevent the demolishing of Yazan Mghames’s house, the Israeli army demolished the prisoner’s family home overnight.– Dozens of Palestinian activists, lawyers, and students, representing various Palestinian organizations held a press conference on Wednesday in front of the family home of prisoner Yazan Mghames, which is set to be demolished at any time by the Israeli military occupation. “We just started the campaign today to highlight Israeli unjust practices of individual and collective punishment against Palestinian prisoners, starting from subjecting the prisoners themselves to extreme torture to collectively punishing their families by ordering the demolition of their homes,” the human rights defenders said in a letter, a copy of which was sent to The Palestine Chronicle … “In grave violation of International Law, including International Humanitarian Law .. the Israeli regime has engaged in collective punishment against Palestinians since the beginning of the military occupation in 1967,” the letter read in part. “Israel has systematically engaged in extra-judicial executions or arrests of Palestinians it accuses of undertaking legitimate resistance actions against the occupation and colonization of Palestinian land, subjecting many to lengthy imprisonment without evidence or fair trials.”
“It then subjects their family members to additional punishment by association by demolishing their family homes. This policy has only intensified since 2015; particularly in the city of Jerusalem.” The letter said that home demolishing is only “one of many forms of collective punishment which the Israeli regime deploys against the Palestinian people for their resistance.” “Other forms of collective punishment include revocation of permanent residency status of family members of political prisoners in Jerusalem, forcible transfer from their homes, refusal and revocation of close and distant relatives’ Israeli work permits, prohibition of new construction on the site of demolished homes, and confiscation of the properties themselves.”
Israel razes homes of Palestinian bombing suspects
Ramallah (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) 5 Mar — Israeli forces on Thursday demolished the homes of two Palestinian men accused of involvement in a bomb attack last year that killed an Israeli teenager in the occupied West Bank. The explosion on August 23, 2019, near a spring close to the Jewish settlement of Dolev, killed 17-year-old Rina Shnerb and wounded her father and brother. Four men were subsequently rounded up, accused of planting the roadside bomb as members of the banned Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. They have not been charged.
An English-language army statement said soldiers on Thursday razed the home of Walid Hanatsheh in Ramallah and that of Yazan Mughamis in the nearby town of Birzeit. It said Palestinians hurled rocks and petrol bombs at troops and burned tires in protest during the demolitions, while soldiers responded with unspecified “riot dispersal means”. There were no reports of wounded on either side. Israel routinely demolishes the homes of those accused of carrying out attacks … The family of Kasim Shibli, another detained suspect, has been notified that his home in Kobar, near Ramallah, is also slated for demolition subject to a ruling by the Israeli supreme court, which is set to hear an appeal against the move on March 16. The army said the court had rejected appeals on behalf of Hanatsheh and Mughamis. The fourth suspect, Samer al-Arbeed, rents his home, which can therefore not be demolished, Palestinians said. Israel’s Shin Bet security agency in September identified Arbeed as the ringleader and said the cell had been planning shooting attacks and a kidnapping. Palestinian prisoner support group Addameer said at the time that the 44-year-old Arbeed had been tortured by his Israeli interrogators and needed hospitalisation. Police refused to comment on the nature of Arbeed’s arrest, while the Shin Bet said that during his interrogation he said “he did not feel well.”
In first, UN settlement blacklist used in Norway to urge Israel divestment
AFP/Times of Israel 5 Mar — Two international trade unions have used a UN list of companies working in Israeli settlements in the West Bank to attempt to press the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund to disinvest. The United Nations last month released a list of 112 companies that allegedly operate in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem … The UNI Global Union and the International Trade Union Confederation wrote a joint letter this week to an ethics committee overseeing the huge Government Pension Fund of Norway, accusing it of investing in 28 of the firms listed. TripAdvisor and Motorola Solutions, as well as Israeli banks and other companies, are among the firms on the UN list. The letter, a copy of which has been seen by AFP, is believed to be the first time the UN list has been used in such a fashion … The sovereign wealth fund, the largest in the world, invests Norway’s oil revenues across the globe and has more than $1 trillion in assets. It was invested in 9,200 companies at the end of 2019, according to its annual report….
LGBT+ artists boycott Israeli film festival
LONDON (Reuters) 3 Mar by Rachel Savage – More than 130 gay and trans filmmakers have pledged to boycott an LGBT+ film festival in Tel Aviv, the latest move in a bitter row between Israel and international pro-Palestinian activists. Turner Prize-winning British artist Charlotte Prodger and French film director Alain Guiraudie are among those boycotting the Tel Aviv International LGBT Film Festival, which is funded by Israel’s ministry of culture and opens on Wednesday. “Our liberation is intimately connected to the liberation of all oppressed peoples and communities,” Queer Cinema for Palestine, a group of pro-Palestinian filmmakers behind the boycott campaign, said on its website. “We stand in solidarity with the struggle of the Palestinian people for freedom, justice, and dignity.” Itai Pinkas, a Tel Aviv city council member responsible for LGBT+ issues, said the boycott was misplaced….
American students must serve like Israeli soldiers on their campuses against BDS – Steny Hoyer
Mondoweiss 4 Mar by Philip Weiss — House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer called on American college students to serve like Israeli soldiers on their campuses, fighting the boycott movement. “America must not be fooled by BDS. And that is up to all of us,” he said in a speech to the Israel lobby conference AIPAC on March 1. “I’m told there are more than 3600 high school and college students at policy conference this year…. Welcome, welcome. You, as Betsy [Berns Korn, AIPAC’s president] said, are the front lines in this battle. As surely as Israel relies on the extraordinary young people in the IDF [Israeli Defense Forces], it relies on you for steadfast support and success. As successful as we are today, we must also be successful tomorrow on behalf of our ally and our strategic interest. You are here this week, students, to gain knowledge that will help you in your mission to go back and share Israel’s story with your schools, your communities, your fellow students, your peers.” Hoyer dismissed criticism of Israel as a political sideshow.
Pro-BDS store wins majorlegal victory against pro-Israel advocates in the US
Palestine Chronicle 2 Mar– Advocates for the state of Israel have suffered a historic defeat in a decade-long legal battle to sue Olympia Food Co-op over its decision to boycott Israeli goods. The US grocery store, which campaigns for ethical food consumption, was fully vindicated by a Washington appeals court on February 20 in a legal case that is likely to have positive ramifications for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign for Palestinian rights. The original case that was filed in 2011 by five co-op members, purporting to act on behalf of the co-op and seeking to block the boycott, sought to collect monetary damages against the board members. The case was dismissed five months later as a SLAPP, or Strategic Lawsuit against Public Participation, but reinstated when Washington’s anti-SLAPP statute was struck down. Two years later, an appeals court upheld that the judge’s ruling and the plaintiffs were ordered to pay $160,000 in statutory damages as well as other legal fees. Last week’s ruling dismissed the case a second time. Board member, Grace Cox, who supported a measure to ban Israeli products from the store’s shelves, was put through years of litigation by several former Co-op members who worked closely with the Israel advocacy group StandWithUs. The right-wing Israel lobby group is reported to have secretly planned the lawsuit in coordination with Israeli government officials in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which has been authorized to lead the global campaign against BDS….
Palestine divided over coronavirus countermeasures
MEMO 7 Mar — Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas announced a state of emergency for 30 days in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, as a counter-measure against the spread of the coronavirus. Following Abbas’s announcement, PA Prime Minister Mohamed Shtayyeh broadcast the closure of all of the government institutions in both parts of the country. However, the government in Gaza, run by Abbas’s rival movement Hamas, confirmed that there was no need for such measures, as there have been no coronavirus cases found in the coastal enclave. Following this stance, the universities and various institutions run by Fatah, and people loyal to Abbas, affirmed their commitment to the announcement and closed their institutions for 30 days. The Education Ministry in Gaza announced a work suspension for two days, while the Islamic University and the University College of Applied Sciences suspended work until further notice. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) also announced work suspension on Saturday.
Bethlehem under lockdown as coronavirus cases confirmed
Al Jazeera 7 Mar — Palestinian officials announce state of emergency as number of infections rises to 16 — The city of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank has been placed in lockdown after the first Palestinian cases of the new coronavirus were discovered there and authorities announced a state of emergency. Palestinian Health Minister Mai al-Kaila said on Friday a total of 16 cases of the COVID-19 illness caused by the virus had been detected in the West Bank, including nine new cases in Bethlehem, according to the official Palestinian news agency, Wafa. The Israeli defence ministry said it had imposed emergency measures on Bethlehem, with everybody “forbidden from entering or leaving the city”. It added that the lockdown had been imposed “in coordination with the Palestinian Authority” (PA). Israel controls all entrances to the West Bank but the Ramallah-based PA has limited autonomy in cities. Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh made a special broadcast late on Thursday to announce the 30-day lockdown, saying the measures were essential to contain the disease. All but essential travel between Palestinian governorates was now prohibited, while all schools and educational facilities would close, he said. Public parks and tourist sites would close while large sporting events, conferences and other major gatherings were cancelled, Shtayyeh added.
Muhannad Qaisy, a Bethlehem resident, told Al Jazeera it was nothing the Palestinians had not experienced before. “To be honest, we’re used to such measures, to be under closure, people staying at home for many nights, but for a different reason, because we live under occupation,” he said …
The Palestinian health ministry said the cases had first been detected at a hotel in the Bethlehem area. The head of the local health directorate, Imad Shahadeh, told AFP that a group of Greek tourists had visited the hotel in late February, with two later diagnosed with the virus….
Palestinian labor unions demand higher pay
The Media Line 28 Feb by Dima Abumaria — Members of the Palestinian doctors, teachers and engineers unions in the West Bank have been phasing in work sanctions since last week, demanding benefits they say are due them under Palestinian law. The doctors this Tuesday stopped performing most work in hospitals and outpatient clinics, including non-emergency operations, with physicians ending routine work at 11 in the morning. However, the physicians are still caring for emergency cases and stand ready to do whatever is necessary if the Wuhan coronavirus reaches the West Bank. All three unions are under heavy criticism from political parties about the timing of their measures, given that the Palestinian Authority is going through a difficult economic and political time. In addition, many institutions and organizations are saying that Palestinians need to be united more than ever in the face of the epidemic coronavirus that began in China in December and the American peace plan for the Middle East that was unveiled on January 28….
Amazon extends free shipping promotion to Palestinian territories
Palestine Chronicls 4 Mar — Amazon has extended its free shipping promotion to the occupied Palestinian territories, a company spokesman confirmed to The New Arab on Wednesday, after previously offering free delivery to Israelis living in Jewish settlements while charging their Palestinian neighbors. Last month, the Palestinian Authority announced it would take legal action against Amazon over “its discrimination policy that favors illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories over the indigenous Palestinian population” … In February, a Financial Times report revealed that, in blatant defiance of international law, Amazon was offering free shipping to illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, but not to Palestinians living in the same area. In fact, Palestinian customers who list their address as “the Palestinian Territories” were forced to pay shipping and handling fees starting from $24….
Israel missile hits car in Syria after sniper attack attempt
JERUSALEM (AP) 2 Mar — Israeli forces on Monday fired a missile at a car on the edge of Syria’s Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, after the vehicle was allegedly used in an attempted sniper attack from inside Syria. There was no immediate word on casualties. Syrian state TV described the Israeli missile attack in the village of Ein Tinneh, near the town of Quneitra, as an “aggression.” The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said the car belonged to a pro-government militia, and was destroyed. The strike took place on election day in Israel, where voters will decide whether longtime Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stays in power. Netanyahu has tried to portray himself as a statesman who is uniquely qualified to lead the country through challenging times. The missile attack came days after an Israeli drone hit a car in southern Syria and killed one person, according to Syrian state TV. The Observatory said the targeted man was an anti-Israel operative.