West Bank / Jerusalem
In the West Bank, the COVID-19 lockdown is exacerbating a mental health crisis
Médecins sans Frontières / Doctors without Borders 24 Apr — A full lockdown has been in place in the West Bank for more than three weeks, with over 300 cases of COVID-19 confirmed in the Palestinian Territories. The severity of these measures, intended to prevent the virus from spreading further, is impacting the lives of more than 3.2 million people living there. While millions of people worldwide are experiencing movement restrictions for the first time, for Palestinians such restrictions have long been the rule rather than the exception, and have accompanied years of uninterrupted violence and political and social tensions…
The outbreak of COVID-19, the subsequent lockdown, its serious effect on the financial situation of many families, and the continuous attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank are combining to worsen the already fragile situation of people facing mental distress, domestic violence, and various types of abuse. After the Palestinian Prime Minister announced the full lockdown in the West Bank, MSF teams have had to adapt their activities to protect patients and staff from COVID-19. Group mental health sessions and face-to-face consultations have been suspended, but patients continue to receive psychological support by phone. “The novelty of the coronavirus epidemic confronts everybody with the unknown, bringing a loss of control and a sense of powerlessness,” said MSF psychologist Samieh Malhees, who has spent the past five years providing free psychological consultations and social services to the population of Nablus…
Violence has been a fact of life in the West Bank for decades, and it permeates domestic dynamics, creating difficulties within the home and within family relationships. For the majority of people who seek psychological support at MSF’s clinics, their distress originates in the home—for example family issues and various forms of domestic violence. Sometimes, both sources of psychological disorder—the context of recurring violence and more commonplace family matters—become intertwined and hard to separate from one another. “One of my patients told me that her husband shouts at her and the children like some Israeli soldiers used to shout at him,” says Malhees. “Another told me that her husband became abusive after he was severely wounded during clashes. These cases aren’t isolated. I can trace a pattern where feelings of oppression, humiliation, powerlessness, and anger due to the occupation intrude on family bonding, and violence takes its course in a vicious cycle.”
Israel orders PA security officers to withdraw from Jerusalem
MEMO 22 Apr — Israeli occupation forces on Monday ordered Palestinian security officers to withdraw from Palestinian areas in the outskirts of occupied Jerusalem, Arab48 reported. According to the Palestinian security officers, occupation forces ordered them to withdraw from Qalandia refugee camp and the neighbourhoods of Kafr ‘Aqab and Samiramis, which fall behind the illegal Israeli Separation Wall, but are still run by the Israeli municipality of Jerusalem. Palestinian security officials said that the order came following the creation of a Palestinian security checkpoint to prevent the movement of Palestinian people between these areas and the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah. The security officials said that the Palestinian security officers are still present in the neighbourhoods of Anata, Abu Dis and Al-Ezariyeh.
Israeli settlers exploit coronavirus to increase violence against Palestinians
B’Tselem 23 Apr — Since the start of the corona crisis, Israeli settlers have ramped up attacks against Palestinians throughout the West Bank, with full state backing. The attacks have increased despite the movement restrictions, lockdowns and social distancing measures introduced to battle the pandemic. During the first three weeks of this month (through 22 April), B’Tselem documented 23 settler attacks against Palestinians. In all of March, 23 incidents were documented, 11 of them after the severe restrictions on movement and social gatherings were imposed (mid-March). In comparison, 11 attacks were recorded in January and 12 in February.
In these violent incidents, settlers, some of them carrying firearms, physically assaulted Palestinians with the aid of clubs, axes, electroshock weapons, stones and assault dogs, in some cases causing severe injury. Settlers also attacked homes, torched cars, vandalized and uprooted olive trees and other crops, and stole livestock. These incidents took place throughout the West Bank, with several epicenters: the area around the recently expanded outpost of Havat Ma’on in the South Hebron Hills; the area around the settlement of Shilo and its adjoining bloc of outposts, with the villages of al-Mughayir, Turmusaya, Qaryut and Qusrah within target range; and the area around the settlement of Halamish, where another new outpost was recently erected. Settlers also harass Palestinian shepherds almost daily in the Jordan Valley, near the settlements of Rimonim and Kochav Hashahar, and in the South Hebron Hills. Settlers also graze their cattle and sheep in Palestinians’ cultivated fields, mostly in the Jordan Valley, on a daily basis. These routine acts of harassment and vandalism are not included in the above data…
A particularly serious incident took place on 16 April, when brothers ‘Issa and Musa Qatash from al-Jalazun Refugee Camp were attacked by settlers while out for a walk in their family plots near the village of Jibya. The brothers were beaten so severely that they required medical attention. ‘Issa Qatash described the terrifying moments he endured in a testimony he gave to B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad on 18 April:…
Injuries during clashes between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers in south of West Bank
HEBRON, Monday, April 27, 2020 (WAFA) – Six Palestinians were injured late last night during clashes with Israeli soldiers near Fawwar refugee camp in the south of the West Bank, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent. It said that its medics treated six Palestinians suffering from teargas inhalation and transferred them to hospital in nearby Yatta, south of the West Bank city of Hebron. Camp residents said soldiers harassed Palestinian volunteers manning a checkpoint set up near the camp to monitor for coronavirus cases and to prevent the spread of the pandemic in their areas. The soldiers attempted to force the volunteers to leave the area when clashes broke out between the two sides during which the soldiers fired teargas and shot rubber bullets at the Palestinians causing the injuries.
Two Palestinians shot, injured by Israeli army fire in Kufur Qaddoum
26 Apr by Ali Salam — Israeli soldiers opened fire, on Saturday, towards local Palestinian civilians in Kufur Qaddoum, wounding two with rubber-coated metal rounds, while intentionally shooting at and damaging water tanks on rooftops of homes, local sources reported. Morad Eshteiwi, Coordinator of the Popular Committee in Kufur Qaddoum, told Quds News Network that a large army force invaded the village in the Qalqilia district of the occupied West Bank. Eshteiwi added that the troops showered Palestinian homes with live and rubber-coated metal bullets, injuring two Palestinians. One was reportedly struck in the neck while the other was shot in the face; both men were rushed to the local hospital by locals.
Palestinian shot and killed after stabbing Israeli policeman
Al Jazeera 22 Apr — A Palestinian man was shot and killed by Israeli forces after he stabbed an Israeli police officer at a checkpoint in the occupied West Bank. The man was identified by the Palestinian Authority (PA) as Ibrahim Halsa, 25, from the village of Sawahra. His body has been detained by Israeli forces. Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the attack took place near the Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim, near occupied East Jerusalem, and a sweep of the area found a pipe bomb at the scene. The Israeli policeman was moderately wounded, he said. Video footage of the incident shows a white van veering off a road onto the curb and ramming into the police officer by the Container Checkpoint, hurtling him several feet back. Halsa can then be seen jumping out of the vehicle with what looks like a pair of scissors and lunging at the injured policeman. A scuffle ensues with the policeman retreating and the assailant giving chase before other officers on the scene pursue him off-camera. Police said the other officers on the scene eventually shot and killed Halsa. Palestinian local media reported that Halsa’s village and home were raided by Israeli forces, and his parents were taken away for interrogation.
Soldiers seriously injure a Palestinian worker, abduct one, near Jenin
IMEMC 25 Apr — Israeli soldiers shot and seriously injured, on Friday evening, a young Palestinian man, abducted another and caused several others to suffer the effects of teargas inhalation, after the army chased Palestinian workers near Jenin, in northern West Bank. Media sources said the soldiers chased the Palestinian workers near the illegal Annexation Wall, which was built of lands belonging to residents of Rommana village, west of Jenin. They added that the soldiers fired many live rounds at the workers, seriously wounding one, and abducted another, identified as Mohammad Samir Refa‘ey. The soldiers also fired a barrage of gas bombs, causing many workers to suffer the effects of teargas inhalation.
Israeli troops shoot, injure Palestinian youth in Bethlehem
IMEMC/Agencies 21 Apr — Palestinian media sources reported early on Tuesday that Israeli troops shot and wounded a Palestinian young man on Monday night, in the southern occupied West Bank. Sources said that the soldiers set up an ambush for the young man, before they chased and opened fire on him in the Taqou‘ town, southeast of Bethlehem city. The wounded Palestinian was not identified but the sources confirmed he was abducted immediately after he was shot by Israeli forces. No further details were available at the time of reporting, the status of the injured Palestinian is unknown at this time.
Israeli forces storm East Jerusalem town; Palestinian youths resist
24 Apr by Ali Salam — Confrontations broke out on Thursday morning between Israeli forces and Palestinian young men in Kafr ‘Aqab town in occupied East Jerusalem, according to local sources. Local sources told the Palestinian Information Center that soldiers were cutting down street signs; when the youth resisted the invasion, the soldiers fired rubber-coated steel bullets, stun grenades and tear-gas canisters at them.
Israeli colonists cut down dozens of Palestinian-owned olive trees near Nablus
26 Apr by Ali Salam — Illegal Israeli colonists on Friday cut down more than 30 olive trees in As-Sawiya town, south of the northern occupied West Bank city of Nablus, according to a local official. Ghassan Daghlas, an official documenting Israeli settlement construction in the area, told Palestinian WAFA News Agency, that a group of illegal settlers chopped off 33 olive trees belonging to Hamad Saleh Jazi, a local Palestinian farmer. The colonists came from the Israeli colonial settlement of Rechelim, built on Palestinian lands and deemed illegal under international law…
Palestinian Center for Human Rights recently released a weekly report, which revealed that on Monday, April 20, at least 15 Israeli settlers attacked ‘Abed al-Qader ‘Abdullah al-Kouk’s agricultural land in Termas‘ayia village, northeast of Ramallah, cutting down about 22 olive trees. On the same day, illegal colonists invaded Ahmed ‘Abdullah Barham’s land in Kufur Qaddoum village, north of Qalqilia, damaging 35 olive trees, uprooting 19 and broke the twigs of at least 16 trees. On Tuesday, April 21, settlers attacked Jameel ‘Abdullah Na’san’s agricultural land, under the protection of the Israeli military. The settlers cut 30 olive trees, in al-Moghair village, northeast of Ramallah.
Israeli forces invade homes, detain several Palestinians across the West Bank
21 Apr by Ali Salam — Israeli forces detained a total of 9 Palestinians in invasions across the occupied West Bank, according to Palestinian WAFA news Agency. Security sources said that Israeli forces, on Tuesday, detained 2 Palestinian youths from the Bethlehem-area village of Nahalin, after storming and searching their family homes. Sources added that the soldiers detained 4 Palestinians from the Hebron district, including earlier reported former prisoner, Mohammad Alsaleeby, 24. In the northern West Bank, soldiers detained 2 youths from the town of Ya‘bad, southwest of Jenin, after invading and searching their homes, according to local sources, and 1 teenager from the town of Faroun in the Tulkarem district after invading and searching his family home, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS) reported.
Israel razes illegal [settler] homes near flashpoint West Bank settlement
Ynet 22 Apr by Elisha Ben Kimon — Israeli security forces on Wednesday demolished six illegal structures near the flashpoint Yitzhar settlement in the northern West Bank. The Civil Administration officials said four of the buildings were located in the Kipa Sruga and Tekuma outposts in Area C, while two others were in Kumi Ori in Area B. The Oslo Accords bar Israel from issuing building permits for Areas B and C. One of the two illegal structures demolished in Kumi Ori belonged to the family of Neria Zarog, a far-right extremist. Zarog rebuilt his home almost immediately after it had been razed due to the lack of construction permits in January. Zarog was arrested ahead of the demolition for refusing to evacuate the structure. His heavily pregnant wife who was at the house with Zarog was not detained. The January razing of Zarog’s home took place a week after the High Court of Justice rejected a petition in which he argued that Israel had no right to demolish a structure in Area B because the territory is under the Palestinian Authority’s civil control. The court ruled that while Israel does not have the authority to grant building permits in that area, it can demolish illegal homes built by Israelis there. Settlement officials condemned the demolition and blasted the government for green-lighting it in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. The settlement called the measure a “price tag,” a term that refers to vandalism and other hate crimes carried out by Jewish ultra-nationalists…
Domestic abuse against Palestinian women soars
Al Jazeera 20 Apr by Farah Najjar — Since start of coronavirus lockdown, at least five women have been killed at the hands of their abusers, activists say — Banging pots and pans and waving homemade banners, scores of Palestinians have expressed their solidarity with women enduring various forms of domestic violence during a lockdown imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The initiative on Monday, which saw both women and men stand at their windows and balconies across the occupied Palestinian territories and historic Palestine, was aimed at shedding light on the plight of women who are locked down with their abusers. According to a tally combined by Tal‘at, an independent political feminist movement that organised the campaign, 11 Palestinian women have been killed as a result of domestic violence so far this year, with five of the fatalities occurring since the implementation of the lockdown in early March. Of these five, four succumbed to gun wounds. Tal‘at activist Soheir Asaad said that while for many “quarantine” suggests being safe at home, for others it is “hell”. “It means living with someone who could end your life,” Assad told Al Jazeera from Haifa, describing the reality faced by some women during the lockdown…
Photos: Palestinians make traditional sweets in West Bank city of Bethlehem
Xinhua 26 Apr — A Palestinian makes traditional sweets known as “Qatayef”, a dessert typically for the holy month of Ramadan, in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on April 25, 2020.
Israel stops coronavirus tests in Gaza
MEMO 22 Apr — Israeli soldiers conducting coronavirus tests in the Gaza Strip have been ordered to stop by Defence Minister Naftali Bennett due to coordination issues, an Israeli newspaper has reported. According to Maariv, the Israeli government cancelled the initiative and claimed that Bennett himself was not aware of the army initiative due to a “lack of communication”. The initiative lasted for two days and only 100 samples were tested at one of the army’s bases on the fringe of the besieged Gaza Strip. Soldiers had announced last week that they would carry out 50 coronavirus tests per day on samples from the Gaza Strip at the army laboratory in Tzrifin. The lab is also conducting tests for soldiers suspected of having the deadly virus. As of 15 April, the total number of infections in Gaza stood at 13. The head of the Israeli army’s Southern Command, Major General Eyal Zamir, was appointed to develop a plan to run coronavirus testing and offer humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank. Under the plan, Israeli soldiers would carry out the testing, and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) would take the samples through the Erez Crossing to Tzrifin. However, coordination between these two bodies broke down somewhere in the process, and the project was halted.
ICRC delivers vital medical supplies to Gaza
Ynet 23 Apr by Elior Levy — The International Committee of the Red Cross on Thursday delivered vital medical equipment to Gaza, including ventilators, and more equipment crucial for the treatment of severe symptoms of COVID-19. There are only 93 ventilators in the entire Strip, which is home to two million residents. The Red Cross said it is also working to improve the infrastructure at the European Hospital in Gaza City where most coronavirus patients were being treated, building a contamination monitoring facility. Facial masks and protective goggles were also delivered to the Red Crescent teams who operate the ambulance services in the Gaza Strip. Daniel Wallinder, the representative of the Red Cross in Israel and the Palestinian territories, said he was concerned at the prospect of an outbreak of the virus, “given the weakness of the health infrastructure and the dense population of the Gaza Strip.” Thousands of liters of alcogel had been delivered to Gaza medical facilities by the WHO recently. The virus seems to be contained in the Strip as of Thursday, which is a relief for international organizations, the Hamas rulers of Gaza and Israel.
Israel has allowed a delivery of car and truck tires into the Gaza Strip as part of the fourth phase of the negotiation for a long-term ceasefire. Israel suspended the delivery of tires to the Strip after April 2018 with the launch of the March of Return demonstrations and the weekly confrontations on the Israeli border with Gaza. Hundreds of tires were set on fire in these events.
Israeli troops open fire on Palestinian farmers in southern Gaza
IMEMC/Agencies 25 Apr — Israeli troops opened heavy fire, earlier Saturday, towards Palestinian farmers east of Khan Younis city, in the south of the Gaza Strip. Local media reports said that Israeli soldiers stationed on the Israeli side of the border fence between Gaza and Israel fired tear-gas canisters and some live ammunition, towards local farmers, while the latter were bending down in labor. The reports added that the farmers fled their farm lands immediately after Israeli troops opened fire. No casualties were reported.
Israeli military vehicles infiltrate Gaza Strip, raze Palestinian land
23 Apr by Ali Salam –A number of Israeli occupation military vehicles penetrated, on Thursday morning, the Palestinian agricultural lands along the border with Israel, east of Gaza City, local sources reported. Local sources and residents told Quds Press that Israeli military vehicles infiltrated dozens of meters into the agricultural lands of citizens east of the Al-Zaytun neighborhood. Sources added that the vehicles razed land, shot into the air, and prevented farmers from accessing their lands.
Important to note that Israeli military vehicles infiltrated the southern Gaza Strip border, on Wednesday morning, near the city of Rafah and razed land, Palestinian WAFA News correspondent reported. He stated that six military vehicles breached the border east of Rafah and razed land, while shooting in the air.
PCHR: Fisherman wounded & fishing boats damaged; Israel naval forces continue attacks on Palestinian fishermen in Gaza waters
22 Apr — Israeli Naval Forces continued its attacks on Palestinian Fishermen in Gaza waters, under the continued Israeli restrictions on fishermen’s freedom to work and banning their access to areas rich with fish, all while fishermen do not pose any threat to the Israeli naval forces stationed in Gaza waters, which is a violation of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, including Article 6 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR)’s investigations, at approximately 09:30 on Tuesday, 21 April 2020, Israeli naval forces stationed at Gaza sea, northern Gaza Strip, chased Palestinian fishing boats while the latter sailed at 3 nautical miles. Israeli forces opened fire at the fishing boats, damaging the engine of Fahed Zeyad Hassan Baker’s (43) boat; the forces surrounded the fishing boat and continued to fire at it for at least 10 minutes before withdrawing. Fishermen were able to pull the boat into the seaport, where Zeyad Fahed Baker (25), the son of the boat’s owner, was found wounded with a rubber bullet in his head. Baker was transferred to al-Shifa Hospital, and medical sources indicated that his injury was minor.
In a separate incident, at approximately 13:30 on Saturday, 18 April 2020, Israeli naval forces stationed northwest of Gaza city waters, chased Palestinian fishing boats while the latter sailed at 4 nautical miles and opened fire at them, damaging the boat’s engine. The boat is the property of Ahmed Ahmed Hasan Zaydan (29) and it sustained several bullets that caused damage.
Israeli bulldozers invade parts of northern Gaza; troops open fire in the south; navy injures one offshore
IMEMC/Agencies 21 Apr — Israeli troops reportedly invaded, early on Tuesday, parts of the northern and southern besieged Gaza Strip, local sources reported. Local witnesses said that a number of armored vehicles including bulldozers advanced tens of meters deep into the Jabalia refugee camp, in the north of the coastal enclave. Witnesses added that the bulldozers embarked on leveling Palestinian-owned farm lands, just near the border fence between Gaza and Israel. Concurrently, Israeli forces in the south of the territory opened fire and fired tear-gas canisters towards local farmers near the border fence with Israel in Qarara and Khuza‘a towns. Witnesses said that the farmers were forced to leave their workplaces immediately, with no casualties reported…
Gaza factories roar back to life to make protective wear
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) 25 Apr by Fares Akram — For the first time in years, sewing factories in the Gaza Strip are back to working at full capacity — producing masks, gloves and protective gowns, some of which are bound for Israel. It’s a rare economic lifeline in the coastal territory, which has been blockaded by Israel and Egypt since the Hamas militant group seized power from rival Palestinian forces in the strip in 2007. The blockade, and three wars between Hamas and Israel, have devastated the local economy, with unemployment hovering around 50%. But the sudden opportunity also shows how Gaza’s economy is at the mercy of those enforcing the blockade — and how depressed wages have become. Workers earn as little as $8 a day…
Rizq al-Madhoun, owner of the Bahaa garment company, said he has produced more than 1 million masks in the past three weeks, “all for the Israeli market.” Gaza may not have the advanced machinery seen in other places, but he said residents’ sewing skills are unmatched. “Gaza workers are distinguished in handiwork and they are better than workers in China or Turkey,” he said.
Another factory, Unipal 2000, is able to employ 800 workers across two shifts to produce protective equipment around the clock. Both factories import fabric and other materials from customers in Israel and then produce items like masks, gloves and surgical gowns. Unipal makes about 150,000 pieces a day, and demand is high as countries around the world grapple with shortages. Asked about doing business with Israeli customers, both factory owners said they did not want to discuss politics and framed their work in terms of business and humanitarian needs.
Four women return from Israel to Gaza
TEl AVIV (Asharq Al-Awsat) 24 Apr — After weeks of rejection, Israel allowed Thursday four Arab-Israeli women to rejoin their families in the Gaza Strip. The women, who are part of Palestinians who had lost their homes in 1948, had gotten married to men from the Gaza Strip, and relocated to the territory. Israel admits there are 200 families with similar cases. They were allowed to visit their parents in Galilee and Negev after presenting special permits from the Civil Administration. However, with the outbreak of the COVID-19 disease, Israel shut down its border with the Gaza Strip. This resulted in many Palestinians separated from their families. Many Arab-Israelis living in the Gaza Strip can’t visit their parents in Israel. while others have visited their families in Israel and got stranded there.
Israeli non-profit organization ‘Gisha’ resorted to Israel’s Supreme Court and requested the authorities to allow the four women to access Gaza and rejoin their families. Among them is a mother of seven children, a mother of four, a woman who has two children, and another who has one child. The attorneys showed videos in which the children were seen crying and asking for their mothers. Before the court’s final decision, the Israeli army envoy said that an agreement was reached with the women to return to the Gaza Strip and not to come back to Israel unless they agree to stay in a 14-day quarantine.
Earlier, Gisha led a judicial battle against the Israeli government because of the policies of separation and control practiced on Palestinian families. Some regulations are being used by the Israeli authorities to curb Palestinians’ movements and control their lives, the organization stated.
Palestinian jailed in Gaza for breaking coronavirus quarantine
GAZA (Reuters) 23 Apr — A Gaza court has sentenced a Palestinian man to six months in jail for escaping from a coronavirus quarantine facility on the Egyptian border, the Interior Ministry said on Thursday. The 33-year-old was arrested on Saturday, a few hours after breaking out of the compound at Rafah, where people crossing from Egypt into Hamas Islamist-controlled Gaza are confined for a mandatory 21-day period. He had been in the facility for less than a week and tested negative for the novel coronavirus after being apprehended, the ministry said. In addition to the prison term handed down on Tuesday by a Hamas-run military court, the man was fined $700. It was the first time a jail term has been imposed in Gaza for violating restrictions aimed at stemming coronavirus infection. The ministry gave no details on how the man escaped from the 500-room compound of single-storey concrete buildings surrounded by a wall and guarded by police. In its statement, the ministry said the man would also face drug-selling charges relating to membership in a narcotics gang. Health officials said 17 people had tested positive for the coronavirus in the Gaza Strip. The densely populated enclave is home to two million people.
Video: Gaza artists decorate masks to raise coronavirus awareness
25 Apr — In the densely populated Gaza Strip, a widespread outbreak of coronavirus would be devastating. But not everyone is taking the risk seriously. Some young artists have started drawing on protective face masks to encourage people to wear them. So far, there are 17 known cases. Al Jazeera’s Nida Ibrahim reports.
Pupils struggle to learn at home in Gaza
Electronic Intifada 23 Apr by Ola Mousa — Raya Nofal finds it hard to attend classes over the internet. “I don’t have a tablet,” the 11-year-old said. “My mother gives me her phone. But sometimes she gets a call and that interrupts our lessons. At other times, I can’t focus because the internet is slow.” Raya’s experience is shared by numerous pupils in Gaza. Schools have been closed since March in an attempt to halt the spread of the new coronavirus. While teachers have been giving lessons online, participating in them has been difficult for children who do not have adequate equipment. As Raya’s father has been unemployed for the past two years, her family cannot afford to buy her a computer or other electronic device suitable for e-learning. The problems have been compounded by frequent power cuts in Gaza. Aya and Nisreen Saad are aged 10 and 15. Most mornings they are unable to follow classes on the internet as there is no electricity available. Furthermore, they do not have their own phones, tablets or computers. Both have to use their mother’s mobile phone. “At first we thought that the children might enjoy following their lessons on the internet,” said their mother Iman. “Now I am upset that they are experiencing such difficulties because of poverty. E-learning might work in other countries but Gaza isn’t a suitable place for it.”
3G blocked — Children relying on phones, rather than computers, are at a particular disadvantage. As part of the full blockade it has imposed for 13 years, Israel prevents Gaza from developing a third-generation mobile phone network. It is, therefore, rare for people in Gaza to have good quality internet access on their mobile phones. OCHA, a United Nations monitoring group, has found that the Palestinian education services were not prepared to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic…
In locked-down Gaza: PRCS rehabilitation programme uses social media to stay in touch with children
GAZA (Palestinian Red Crescent) 21 Apr — As soon as the lockdown was ordered in the Gaza Strip, the Society’s Rehabilitation Department created Facebook pages and WhatsApp groups targeting children, both with and without disabilities, as well as their parents, in order to monitor their needs as the lockdown continues. Hence, information and exercises covering all aspects of the rehabilitation process including education, training, therapy, guidance and behavior management were communicated to parents. Information was also provided on the risks posed by the lockdown on children with disabilities as well as on the spread and prevention of COVID-19. Publications and information issued by PRCS and WHO were promoted while extracurricular activities were provided to children to develop their skills and fill their time with meaningful activities. The 10 WhatsApp groups and 2 Facebook pages targeted 238 children with disabilities, 191 of their non-disabled peers and 290 parents. All participating children are enrolled in PRCS rehabilitation programs and services through schools, kindergartens, the Open Studio, programs for children with intellectual disabilities, extracurricular activities, vocational skills’ development programs and adult education programs…
Coronavirus brings more suffering to Gaza’s women
Gaza City (Al-Monitor) 24 Apr by Hana Salah — With the suspension of the Sharia courts’ work due to the confinement in the Gaza Strip, many Palestinian women have been struggling to get their rights to custody and alimony, while many have been separated from their children — A state of emergency for 30 days was initially declared in the Palestinian territories March 5 as per a presidential decree, and was later extended until May 5 as part of measures to stem the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. Consequently, on March 23, the Sharia courts across the Palestinian territories suspended their work in accordance with the decision of the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) Supreme Sharia Judge Mahmoud al-Habbash, which put off several sensitive cases, namely involving custody and women issues.
On the same day, the Palestinian Bar Association in the Gaza Strip announced that it was suspending work in all regular courts across Gaza. “In light of the lockdown and suspension of legal procedures, women in the Gaza Strip have become even more vulnerable and unable to file lawsuits before the courts,” Iman Fatima, a lawyer from the AISHA Association for Women and Child Protection in Gaza, told Al-Monitor. She said many fathers took advantage of the situation by denying mothers the right to custody of their children following a divorce. Some men have kidnapped children from their mothers or not returned them after a visit, she added…
Coronavirus imperils Ramadan meals, assistance in Gaza
GAZA CITY (AFP) 25 Apr — The Muslim holy month of Ramadan is a time for giving, with mosques and charities feeding thousands, but coronavirus has left many in the Gaza Strip wondering how they will manage this year. “The markets and mosques are closed. The good people who give us money or aid each Ramadan are facing a tough situation,” said 47-year-old Palestinian Salah Jibril, who is unemployed. He and his wife live with their six children in a cramped two-bedroom flat on the outskirts of Gaza City. He said his family normally counted on using the assistance they received during Ramadan to help them throughout the rest of the year. “This is the hardest Ramadan we have faced. We don’t know how we will cope,” he added…
Mosques and other charitable organisations feed thousands of poor people during the month, while individuals often give large sums of money to help the impoverished — a donation known as zakat. But this year in the strip, large public meals are banned and no concrete announcements have been made about alternate arrangements. Donations are expected to be down due to the global economic crisis brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. Hamas announced this week it was giving $100 to 5,000 poor families in the strip ahead of Ramadan. Jibril’s was not among them. He receives around $500 every four months from the local ministry of social affairs. “It isn’t enough to pay the electricity, water and gas bills, a well as the food and drinks, and medicine for when the kids are sick,” he said. The family has no detergents or sterilisers. A small bar of soap on a broken sink is all they have to keep their home clean. Umm Mohammed, Jibril’s wife, said she could not remember when they last had enough money to buy meat…
Hamas quietly allows Gaza doctors to get COVID-19 training in Israel
Gaza CIty (Al-Monitor) 26 Apr by Entsar Abu Jahal — Palestinian medical personnel from Gaza reportedly received training in Israel to deal with the novel coronavirus, raising questions among Palestinians about whether the training came through coordination between Israel and the Hamas government in Gaza, the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah or perhaps a humanitarian group. On April 11, Israeli state-owned TV channel Kan reported that Israeli teams have trained doctors, nurses and other medical workers in Gaza on treating COVID-19 patients. The report said a team from Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, Israel, held a training course several hours long for about 20 medical workers from Gaza at the Erez crossing. According to the report, another group of doctors and nurses was later allowed to leave the Gaza Strip for training at the Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon in southern Israel…
Photos: A Gaza ‘Musaharati’ entertains his daughter under quarantine
Palestine Chronicle 26 Apr by Fawzi Mahmoud — Palestinian performer ‘Ala Miqdad entertains his daughter at their home while under quarantine in Gaza city. Miqdad, a much-beloved character among Gaza’s children, is playing the role of the Ramadan Musaharati, a traditional character of a drummer who wakes Muslims up before sunrise, to eat and prepare for the fasting day ahead.
Gaza’s women break social barriers to advance amid pandemic
The Media Line 25 Apr — Hamas-run enclave seeing slow erosion of traditions that have long derailed progress as women stand shoulder to shoulder with men in struggle against deadly disease; activists say learning self-defense now indispensable — In the southern Rafah Governorate, a family that shuttered its karate training center due to the pandemic has converted their home’s roof into a karate club. There the father, a certified karate master, personally supervises the progress of all his family members, especially the females, in an effort to make their time under lockdown enjoyable, empower and support his daughters, and spend some quality time together. His oldest daughter, Hadeel Sheikheleid, a 21-year-old who has studied karate since she was very young, says that learning a martial art wasn’t easy for a girl in a male-dominated society since it was for too long considered a purely male sport. “I went through many difficult situations early on, but my father was always by my side,” she says. “He never forced any of us [his daughters] to do anything. My two sisters and I are strong enough to face what’s left of society’s unfair judgment and oppression, because we know we have our father’s full support.” …
Manal Awwad, the head of the Edward Said National Conservatory’s Gaza branch, says that it is a remarkable achievement that almost 70% of the institute’s students are female. “We are very satisfied with that percentage, which reflects a kind of a positive change,” Awwad says. However, she adds, such progress is required at all levels and not only in the artistic realm…
Photos: Coronavirus nips Gaza’s flower market in the bud
MEMO 20 Apr by Mohammed Asad — With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, hundreds of workers have lost their jobs as farmers have suffered thousands in losses — The coronavirus has demolished the ability of Gaza’s flower farmers selling their produce abroad. Farmers begin planting their orchids in June, spending $32,000 to tend to one acre of land, they start each new year picking the flowers, a process that continues until May. This year however, with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, hundreds of workers have lost their jobs as farmers have suffered thousands in losses. The Gaza Strip was known for its large rose exports to Europe, where the cost of a rose reaches $6, while locally it is sold for only $2. Over 100 varieties of flowers are grown in the Gaza Strip, but Palestinian farmers in Gaza prefer to plant carnations, as they can withstand weather conditions.
Palestinian Detainee Dies In Israeli Prison
IMEMC 22 Apr — The Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS) has reported that a detainee died, on Tuesday at night, in the Negev Desert Detention Camp, after fainting in the shower, and Israeli soldiers failed to provide him with any medical aid for more than thirty minutes. The PPS stated that the detainee, Nour Jaber Barghouthi, 23, was from ‘Aboud town, northwest of the central West Bank city of Ramallah, and added that he was abducted by the soldiers four years ago, and was sentenced to eight years in prison. It stated that the detainee was showering in Section 25 of the Negev Detention camp when he collapsed and lost consciousness. The PPS held Israel fully responsible for the death of the detainee and denounced its deadly neglect of basic, internationally guaranteed rights of the detainees in direct violation of all related International laws, and the Fourth Geneva Convention.
On his part, the head of the Palestinian Detainees’ and Ex-Detainees Committee, Qadri Abu Bakr, said that Israel continues to abuse the detainees, violate their basic rights, in addition to its constant use of torture during interrogation, and the continuous invasions and violent searches of the detainees’ rooms. Abu Bakr added that the detainees are also denied professional medical attention in Israeli prisons, especially those suffering from cancer, diabetes, kidney failure, and other serious health conditions. Barghouthi’s death brings the number of Palestinian detainees who died in Israeli prisons since the year 1967 after Israel occupied the rest of Palestine, including East Jerusalem, to 273.
Hamas: Israel’s decision to seize prisoners’ money is ‘unethical’
MEMO 22 Apr — Senior Hamas leader Mahmoud Al-Zahar yesterday described the new Israeli law which stipulates seizing the money of Palestinian prisoners as “racist” and “unethical”. In a press release, Al-Zahar said the law constitutes a “flagrant violation of human rights and the rules of international law and international humanitarian law.” “Israel’s extortion of Palestinian prisoners in light of the outbreak of the coronavirus is a new crime which adds to the continuous Israeli violations against Palestinians,” the official said. The Palestinian parliament, he continued, “will never leave Palestinian prisoners, who fought the Israeli occupation and defended Palestine and the Palestinians, alone.” He called on international rights groups and the international community to bear their responsibility towards Palestinian prisoners and urgently put pressure on Israel to stop its harassment of prisoners. Al-Watan Voice reported yesterday that the Israeli military commander in the occupied West Bank had approved a law that stipulates seizing the salaries of Palestinian prisoners from banks. This law, the site said, would come into effect on 9 May.
Palestinians fear virus risk from Israeli jails
RAMALLAH (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) When Palestinian Amir Naji was released from an Israeli prison he was told not to hug his family, but emotion overwhelmed him and he clutched his mother tight. After a moment his father pushed away the 18-year-old, who was wearing a face mask, plastic suit and gloves. Naji briefly waved to other family members in the city of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank before being hurried to a nearby hotel for two weeks of isolation alongside other released prisoners.
Israel’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has included efforts to prevent outbreaks in prisons, including regular sterilisation, checking temperatures of staff daily, and stopping visits from family and lawyers. But advocates are calling for more — urging the Jewish state to release at-risk prisoners. More than 5,000 Palestinians are currently detained in Israeli jails. So far Israel says no cases have been detected among inmates. But the Palestinians said one released prisoner was infected and the justice ministry has called for an investigation. The International Committee of the Red Cross urged for those over 65 or with health conditions to be released…
Israel has nearly 15,000 COVID-19 cases, while in the Palestinian territories around 350 have been reported, though testing rates are lower. Naji, who was jailed for a year after being accused of throwing stones at soldiers during a protest, was not released due to coronavirus but because his term ended. He said there was real fear of an outbreak in the prisons.
Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Settlements
Israeli notices to demolish houses and agricultural structures in Salfit
SALFIT (QNN) 26 Apr — The Israeli authorities on Sunday issued notices to demolish 22 houses and agricultural structures in the northern and eastern areas of the village of Qarawat Bani Hassan in western Salfit. The governor of Salfit, Abdallah Kamil, condemned the Israeli ongoing violations against native Palestinians. He asserted that the occupation state has been exploiting the hard conditions that the Palestinians have been living during the coronavirus crisis, to implement its settlement plans. He added that all legal means will be used to confront the Israeli Judaization efforts. He also called on in native Palestinians to uphold their land and properties and not to succumb to the Israeli threats.
Israel approves appropriation of Hebron’s Ibrahimi Mosque land
MEMO 22 Apr — Israeli government’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit yesterday approved the expropriation of Palestinian land adjacent to the Ibrahimi Mosque in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron. According to Arab48, after Mandelblit’s approval, the Palestinian land will be under the control of Defence Minister Naftali Bennett. The land belongs to the Islamic charitable trust in the Palestinian city, which oversees the Ibrahimi Mosque. The occupation will use the land to allow disabled visitors to access a synagogue near the mosque. Israeli media reported the Israeli Ministry of Justice saying in a statement that the decision was made in collaboration with the Civil Administration. The statement said that this land would be used to build an elevator and ramp to allow people with disabilities, including tourists and Jewish worshippers, to access a synagogue. Commenting on this step, the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Waqf and Religious Affairs said: “The decision is an assault on the Muslims’ ownership of the Ibrahimi Mosque and the endowments that surround it, which are numerous in the city of Hebron.”
PLO calls for international support to protect heritage sites in Hebron
MEMO 23 Apr — Member of PLO’s Executive Committee Hanan Ashrawi yesterday called on the international community to protect heritage sites in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron, Safa news agency reported. In a statement, Ashrawi condemned the Israeli approval to seize land belonging to the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron as part of judaisation efforts under the pretext of renovation. Ashrawi stressed that Israel is using global preoccupation in the fight against the coronavirus and escalates its violations against “our land, people, identity and heritage”.
Israel orders halt to construction of mosque, removal of residential tent
22 Apr by Ali Salam — The Israeli military, on Monday, ordered a halt on the construction of a 2 story mosque being built on an area of 250 square meters in the Palestinian village of Kardala in the northern Jordan Valley, according to the head of Kardala village council. Ghassan Fuqaha told Palestinian WAFA news Agency that Israeli forces informed the village council that construction of the mosque, which consists of cement blocks, must be halted until May 4, claiming the building was built without a permit.
Israeli forces invaded the village of Twaneh, in Masafer Yatta in the southern occupied West Bank and ordered a local Palestinian resident to remove his residential tent, according to a local activist. Activist, Fouad Imour, told WAFA that troops instructed Jamal Ribie to remove his tent, which is home for 6 people. The reason provided for removal was that the resident had not received prior permission from occupation authorities.
Settlers plant trees on Palestinian land, while farmer receives demolition orders
22 Apr by Ali Salam — Israeli settlers, on Monday, planted trees on Palestinian-owned land, in the southern occupied West Bank, with the intent of stealing the land, a local official stated. Hasan Breijieh, director of the Bethlehem office of the Wall and Settlements Resistance Commission, told Palestinian WAFA News Agency that Israeli settlers planted olive trees on the property of Zeinab Abu Sneineh, near the village of Irta, south of the city of Bethlehem.
In related news, the Israeli army, on Monday, informed a Palestinian farmer in the southern occupied West Bank, that a structure he set up on his land will be demolished under the pretext of lack of a building permit, a local official reported. Breijieh, director of the Bethlehem office of the Wall and Settlements Resistance Commission, told WAFA that the occupation army presented Mohammad Abu Hammad with a demolition notice for his 120-square-meter agricultural structure in Jourat al-Shamaa village, south of Bethlehem.
Israeli troops demolish Palestinian-owned facility and caravan
IMEMC/Agencies 20 Apr — Israeli troops reportedly devastated, early on Monday, a Palestinian-owned facility and caravan in the Sebastia neighborhood, northwest of the West Bank city of Nablus. Ghassan Daghlas, chief of Israeli settlements construction file in the northern West Bank, told media outlets that an Israeli army force invaded the Sebastia neighborhood and began knocking down a mobile caravan owned by local resident, Mosheer Seif, under the pretext that it was placed without permission from Israeli authorities. The same troops also destroyed an agricultural facility, added Daghlas. One month ago, Israeli troops destroyed a similar caravan and the same agriculture facility in the same area. These measures are ordered by the Israeli occupation’s so-called ‘civil administration’, across the occupied West Bank, especially in areas that are classified as Area C.
Israeli soldiers dismantle, seize Palestinian mobile home near Jericho
24 Apr by Ali Salam — Israeli soldiers, on Thursday, dismantled a mobile home belonging to a Palestinian family in al-Dyouk al-Tahta village, west of the city of Jericho, and seized it, according to witnesses. Witnesses told Palestinian WAFA News Agency that soldiers invaded the area, and took apart the mobile home and seized it, under the pretext that the owner lacked an Israeli permit.
Boycotting Israeli dates is working and we need to keep going
Al Jazeera 24 Apr by Taher Hezalla & Tarek Khalil — This Ramadan, make the right choice and do not buy dates from companies that exploit Palestinian land and labour — Throughout the 1930s, a Zionist settler and founder of the Kinneret kibbutz by the name of Ben-Zion Israeli travelled the Middle East to collect cuttings of palm trees. In many cases, he had to smuggle them illegally out of the countries he visited – Iraq, Persia, Egypt – as they were considered a national treasure and it was forbidden to export them. Those smuggled cuttings have helped establish large plantations across Israeli territories. Palm groves were planted from the Red Sea in the south along the Dead Sea, and as far as the Sea of Galilee up north, which has given the Israeli date industry its nickname “the industry of the three seas”.
Since Israel occupied the Palestinian West Bank in 1967, it has also established date plantations in its illegal settlements in that portion of the Jordan Valley. According to data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, in 2017, Israel produced 136,956 tonnes of dates with an export value of $181.2m. This industry is highly exploitative and much of its operations happen in illegal settlements, so its products must be boycotted. Approximately 40 percent of Israeli dates today are grown in illegal settlements. Because of the gruelling work involved in picking dates, Israeli settlers bring in low-paid Palestinian labourers to do the difficult work. Israeli farmers are also known to employ Palestinian children…
Palestinian refugees – Lebanon
Hamas: Israel’s Mossad involved in promoting drugs in Palestinian refugee camps
MEMO 23 Apr — Hamas yesterday accused Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad of being involved in promoting drugs among Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, Quds Press reported. During a meeting with other Palestinian factions, Hamas representative in Lebanon Ahmed Abdul-Hadi hailed the detention of drug dealers in the refugee camps. Abdul-Hadi reiterated that Mossad is involved in promoting drugs in the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, pointing out that the intelligence agency makes drugs available with very low prices in order to make it accessible to a large number of people. Israel, the movement said, promotes drugs among Palestinian refugees in order to undermine their spirit of resistance. Palestinian factions carried out a campaign to capture drug dealers in Burj El-Barajneh camp on Tuesday, handing them over to the Lebanese security services.
Lebanon confirms first coronavirus case in Palestine refugee camp
MEMO 22 Apr — Palestinian refugees living in the Wavel camp in Lebanon’s eastern Bekaa Valley are set to be tested for coronavirus after one resident was found to have contracted the disease. A team of medical experts from Lebanon’s leading coronavirus treatment centre, the Rafic Hariri University Hospital (RHUH) in Beirut have been sent to test for new cases in the camp today. According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the camp has been put on lockdown and the confirmed case transferred to Beirut for treatment that will be covered by the relief agency. The statement added the relief organisation is “taking all necessary steps to provide the required assistance to the patient’s family to allow them to isolate themselves inside the house”. Meanwhile, testing will focus on the patient’s relatives and people they recently interacted with, as well as 50 others chosen at random “inside the camp and its surroundings”, according to Lebanon’s National News Agency (NNA). In recent weeks, the United Nations (UN) and aid groups have raised concerns that refugees and migrants around the world are especially vulnerable to the virus…
Netanyahu ‘confident’ U.S. will allow West Bank annexation in two months
JERUSALEM (Reuters) 26 Apr — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voiced confidence on Sunday that Washington would give Israel the nod within two months to move ahead with de facto annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank … Netanyahu, in announcing a deal with his centrist rival Benny Gantz last week to form a unity government, set July 1 for the start of cabinet discussions on extending Israeli sovereignty to Jewish settlements in the West Bank and annexing outright the area’s Jordan Valley. Such a move would need to be agreed with Washington, according to the Netanyahu-Gantz agreement. In a video address on Sunday to a pro-Israeli Christian group in Europe, Netanyahu described a U.S. peace proposal announced by President Donald Trump in January as a promise to recognise Israel’s authority over West Bank settlement land. “A couple of months from now I am confident that that pledge will be honoured,” Netanyahu told the European Commission for Israel…
Palestinians have flatly rejected the Trump peace proposal, partly because it awards Israel most of what it has sought during decades of conflict, including nearly all the occupied land on which it has built settlements.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday it was up to Israel whether to annex parts of the West Bank and said that Washington would offer its views privately to its new government.
EU warns incoming Israeli gov’t against West Bank annexation
JERUSALEM (AP) 23 Apr — The European Union on Thursday issued a warning against the incoming Israeli government’s intention to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, saying that such a move “would constitute a serious violation of international law.” The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said the 27-member bloc does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Palestinian territory and that it will “continue to closely monitor the situation and its broader implications, and will act accordingly.” …
Israel’s Foreign Ministry responded to the EU with a statement deploring that Borrell “opts to see the relations between Israel and the European Union” solely through the “status of the territories.”
Israel threatens to stop cooperation with PA regarding fight against COVID-19
MEMO 25 Apr — On Thursday, Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) Danny Danon threatened to stop his country’s cooperation with the Palestinian Authority (PA) regarding the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. This came after a speech of the Palestinian representative Riyad Mansour at the UN Security Council, accusing Israeli of exacerbating the situation. “The Palestinian situation in this pandemic is unique and painfully acute,” Mansour explained. “Our coping capacities have been depleted by 53 years of this illegal occupation and its constant dispossession, deprivation and oppression.” Danon replied, accusing Mansour of adopting hate speech and being ani-Semitic, claiming that the Israeli army is doing its best to help the Palestinians.
Only two days ago, Israeli Defence Minister Naftali Bennett stopped coronavirus testing in the besieged Gaza Strip and the Israeli occupation forces have removed several PA efforts in the fight against the virus in Jerusalem and West Bank. Danon accused: “How dare you slander our efforts? How dare you lie about the brave soldiers of the IDF? How dare you blame them of the spreading the virus? They risk their lives to contain the outbreak for both Israelis and Palestinians.” …
Israel refuses to freeze Jerusalem electricity company’s debt despite coronavirus outbreak
MEMO 20 Apr — The Director General of the Jerusalem District Electricity Company (JDECO), Hisham Al-Omari, said yesterday that the Israeli authorities rejected JDECO’s request to freeze debt accumulated by the company due to the spread of the coronavirus and the subscribers’ inability to pay their bills. Earlier, the Israeli Electric Corporation (IEC) threatened to impose high levels of interest on JDECO and to take legal action against it if the outstanding debts were not paid on time. Al-Omari condemned Israel’s rejection of the company’s request, describing its position as “unrelated to reality”. He noted that the company has sent a strongly worded letter to the Israeli minister of energy, the Israel Public Utility Authority for Electricity and others on the issue. Al-Omari added that the company has informed the Palestinian government, the Palestinian Energy Authority and the Palestinian Electricity Regulatory Council of the Israeli response to its request and attached all correspondence related to the subject, including details of Israel’s threats should payments not be made.
Hamas calls on Fatah to take practical steps toward reconciliation
Memp 20 Apr — The Palestinian Resistance Movement has called on its rival Fatah to take practical and national steps towards “real” reconciliation, Hamas spokesman Hazim Qasim has revealed. Qasim made his comment in response to remarks by Rawhi Fatouh, a member of Fatah’s Executive Council. Fatouh claimed that Fatah, Palestine Liberation Organisation and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is ready to send a delegation to Gaza and sit with Hamas to discuss possible reconciliation. “Fatah has to give up propaganda discourse and start taking real and practical measures regarding the reconciliation,” insisted the Hamas spokesman. He noted that several reconciliation agreements have been reached and signed but are still waiting to be implemented.
The Hamas official pointed out that the movement has given up its constitutional right related to the formation of the government and taken practical measures for the handing over of the Gaza Strip to the PA, but there had been no positive response from Ramallah. He said: “Lifting the PA’s sanctions imposed on Gaza is a real starting point to kick off practical measures towards ending the internal division which has harmed the Palestinian cause.” Responding to calls for Hamas to join the PLO, he said that the only way for this is to rebuild the Palestinian political system. “That must be preceded by a General Election that leads to rebuilding the PLO and the Palestinian National Council in order to become truly representative of the whole Palestinian political system and the Palestinian people.”
Church of the Nativity deportees ask to be part of Hamas-Israel prisoner swap
MEMO 20 Apr — Palestinians who were besieged in the Church of the Nativity in 2002 and then deported to the Gaza Strip and other countries have asked to be included in any prisoner swap agreed between Hamas and Israel, Al-Ayyam newspaper reported on Sunday. “The deportees are to hold a meeting to discuss the measures to be taken in case they have not been included in the ongoing discussions about a potential prisoner swap,” explained their spokesman Hatem Hammoud. He requested that any agreement related to the return of the deportees should be unambiguous and clear, and laid particular stress on the fact that the deportation was a violation of international and humanitarian laws. “As long as they were deported forcefully in violation of the principles of international and humanitarian laws,” Hammoud added, “they must be allowed to return to their families and homes as soon as possible.”
In 2002, the Palestinian Authority, international bodies and Israel reached a deal to deport 43 Palestinians who sought refuge in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Thirty were sent to the Gaza Strip and the others were deported to Europe, supposedly for two years. Israel has since refused to allow them to return to their homes.
Abbas orders easing of coronavirus restrictions
MEMO 21 Apr — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas ordered yesterday the easing of some of the lockdown measures imposed in the occupied West Bank as part of the battle against the coronavirus Covid-19, Anadolu has reported. Speaking during a weekly cabinet meeting held online, Abbas did not specify what restrictions would be lifted. However, Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said that shops selling goods related to the Muslim holy month of Ramadan would be allowed to open their doors from 10am to 5pm. Ramadan is expected to start later this week, subject to the sighting of the new moon. Furthermore, the Prime Minister said that small businesses with a maximum of three workers would also be allowed to open. Staff will still be required to follow safety measures such as social distancing. Abbas accepted that the measures are strict, but said that he had to choose between not imposing restrictions and losing people. “I choose not to lose my people,” he added. The veteran leader claimed that he has ordered his government to pay special attention to the situation in occupied Jerusalem and Gaza Strip. However, the Ministry of Health in Gaza, which is doing relatively well with the coronavirus, insists that Abbas is neglecting the besieged enclave.
Turkey sends aid to Palestine to fight coronavirus
RAMALLAH, Palestine 24 Apr by Mehmet Nuri Ucar & Qais Omar Darwesh Omar — Turkey’s state-run aid agency on Friday sent medical aid to Palestine amid the fight against novel coronavirus pandemic. The Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) delivered medical and personal care packages to Palestinian health officials at a ceremony held at the Health Ministry building in Ramallah. It provided COVID-19 testing kits, masks, special clothing and other basic equipment to the ministry…Turkey announced an aid package for Palestine during an extraordinary meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said in a statement.
Israeli citizen indicted for ‘spying’ for Iran is identified
Al Jazeera 21 Apr by Ali Younes — Israel accuses activist Ayman Haj Yahya of espionage for Iran as Arab leaders call it a politically motivated case — Israeli activist Ayman Haj Yahya has been identified as the individual indicted for allegedly spying for Iran after he was arrested on March 16 by the internal security agency Shin Bet and Israeli police. Haj Yahya – a well-known political leader and activist within the Palestinian community in Israel – was accused of having contacts with Iranian intelligence to recruit Arab citizens in Israel. He was charged in court in the central city of Lod with “serious infringement of the security” of Israel on Sunday. Israeli authorities allege that Haj Yahya was in contact with Iranian agents during a trip to Europe and also communicated with a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) group in Lebanon. Haj Yahya had been a leading member of the Arab-nationalist political party Balad that won three seats in the Israeli Knesset in the last election. Balad is part of the Joint List alliance, which collectively won 15 seats, making it the third-largest political party in Israel…
Yonah Jeremy Bob, an Israeli intelligence analyst with the Jerusalem Post in Israel told Al Jazeera that, based on available information, the case against Haj Yahya did not tantamount to a full-fledged espionage operation against Israel. “It is too early in the case and the gag order is still too broad to know anything for certain. The available information indicates the spying charges are general and did not necessary lead to any kind of specific disaster,” he said. “If so, the charges may lead to a less severe prison sentence than for a person accused of spying activities which concretely endangers a major state secret or a person who undertook violent actions themselves against Israel.”
Another Palestinian leader in Israel told Al Jazeera the case against Haj Yahya was not unusual because it targets Palestinian leaders in Israel with “harassment, threats, and often lodges criminal cases against them”. Israel law bars its citizens from having contacts with Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas and others Israel considers its enemy or “terrorist organisations”, he noted, also speaking anonymously. “As Palestinian Arabs in Israel, we don’t see eye to eye with Israel’s political and security parameters,” he said…
Too poor to buy, too scared to meet: Palestinians face joyless Ramadan
GAZA/JERUSALEM (Reuters) 23 Apr — The electric lanterns and ornate decorations of Ramadan would normally be hanging in the streets of Gaza, the West Bank and east Jerusalem by now, but not this year amid coronavirus restrictions and growing economic woes. The holy fasting month is expected to start on Friday but, as elsewhere, Palestinians this year are facing the prospect of celebrations without the usual large gatherings for family meals or evening prayers, known as Tarawih. And the same closures that are set to dampen the mood are also suppressing the economy – Palestinian officials have ordered the closure of schools, wedding halls, restaurants and mosques, sending tens of thousands into unemployment. With two deaths and 335 infected cases reported, different coronavirus regulations have been imposed by Hamas in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and by Israel in East Jerusalem, where Muslim religious authorities have stopped worship at the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest place in Islam…