“We are stones standing in front of bullets”. That’s how 21-year-old Razan al-Najjar explained the situation to Mersiha Gadzo and Anas Jnena in April regarding the unarmed Palestinian demonstrators on the ground facing Israeli snipers from across the fence. Al-Najjar also told them that an Israeli soldier had threatened to kill her if she continued aiding protesters. “Soldiers tried to kill me so many times,” Razan explained. “I received some information that I’m targeted by the Israeli army and that I have to stay away from the field because of my activities [tending to the injured] but I ignore all of that.”
On the sunny and warm afternoon of February 25th a crew of fishermen set out from Gaza City to change shifts with their younger team who had the task of preparing their boat for a night of fishing. However as the crew approached the damaged boat, the young men were nowhere to be found. Instead, the fishermen found a pool of blood, bullets and a first aid bag with Hebrew letters printed on it. 18-year-old Ismail Saleh Abu Riyala had been shot dead with a live bullet to the head earlier that day by Israeli forces, while his crew mates were forced to jump into the water and swim towards an Israeli gunboat where they were detained and interrogated.
Mersiha Gadzo reports from Gaza,”Three-year old Ahmad Abu Amra from Deir al-Balah, Gaza died on January 27, 2018 while waiting for an exit permit to be approved as he suffered from internal bleeding in the head. Despite submitting an urgent transfer application, his family waited three weeks and received the approved permit a day after he died. All permits to leave Gaza for treatment in Israel must first be approved by the Palestinian Authority. Leaders in Gaza accused Ramallah of delaying and out-right refusing to turn over the requests to Israel.”
“Their ultimate goal is no conspiracy theory,” reports Mersiha Gadzo on the growing movement to destroy the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque, in order to build a Third Temple: “One of the leading Temple movement organizations is the Temple Institute, which has had a blueprint ready for the temple’s construction since 2011. In 2014 they crowdfunded over $100,000 on Indiegogo to prepare architectural plans for their Third Temple.”
According to his family, Laith Abu Naim, 16, was unarmed when an Israeli soldier shot the boy at a distance of two meters during clashes in their village of Mughayer, northeast of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. “The soldiers killed him from a short range. They could have arrested him; they could have injured him; they could have shot his leg,” Laith’s uncle Marzouq Abu Naim told Palestinian media. “But the soldier meant to kill him. The bullet went through his eye and through the back of his head.” Abu Naim is the fourth Palestinian minor to be shot dead by Israeli forces in 2018 to date.
An Israeli military court ruled today to keep 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi and her mother Nariman in prison until the end of their trial. “I expect the worst from the occupation,” Ahed’s father Bassem told Mondoweiss. “This is life under occupation. I think we represent and show the real suffering of Palestinians under occupation. This is the real image.”
Visiting the Al Aqsa mosque remains a distant dream for many Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip. Photos by Mersiha Gadzo show the crush of worshippers trying to get to Jerusalem through the Qalandia checkpoint, and the jubilant atmosphere at Al Aqsa for those able to make it.
In January, Manwa al-Qanbar’s 28-year-old son was shot dead after ramming his truck into a group of Israeli soldiers in the illegal Jewish settlement of East Talpiot, killing four. Two days later, al-Qanbar received a notice from the Israeli Ministry of Interior informing her of their intent to revoke her permanent residency status. Ten other members of al-Qanbar’s extended family also received notices that their permits will be revoked, including two minors aged 8 and 10. By punitively revoking residencies, civil society organizations say Israel is illegally engaging in a “silent transfer and colonization” of Palestinians with the aim of maintaining a Jewish majority in Jerusalem.
Speaking to Mondoweiss from Friday’s prayer at Lion’s Gate in Jerusalem, Sheikh Mustafa Tawil fears the latest Israeli security measures at the Al-Aqsa mosque will lead to partitioning it just like with Hebron’s Ibrahimi mosque in 1994. “Muslims aren’t allowed to pray at the Ibrahimi mosque on Israeli weekends and holidays. The occupiers want to do the same thing to Al Aqsa mosque,” Tawil said. “We refuse these gates because they were set up by the occupiers to force their control over the mosque. We refuse the Israelis’ sovereignty over the mosque at all. The metal detectors are just the first step in dividing Al Aqsa mosque.”
Mersiha Gadzo talks to villagers who were expelled from towns outside of Jerusalem in 1967, where today an Israeli park and popular picnic spot is built over the rubble of the destroyed Palestinian houses, “Twelve-year-old Ahmad Ali Zaid awoke at 5 a.m. on June 6, 1967, to the sound of loudspeakers blaring outside his home, demanding that the sleeping residents of Beit Nuba village immediately leave their homes. ‘Leave your homes, leave the village. Go to Jordan; this is a military zone,’ the voice commanded as Israeli tanks rolled through. ‘Anyone who doesn’t leave will have their house demolished on top of them.’ In their pajamas, with no time to even put on shoes, residents frantically rushed outside.”