Violence / Detentions — West Bank / Jerusalem
Palestinian teen shot dead at Israeli military checkpoint in stabbing attempt
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 19 Aug — Israeli border police shot and killed a Palestinian teenager at Israel’s Zaatara military checkpoint in the northern occupied West Bank on Saturday afternoon, with Israeli authorities alleging the youth attempted to carry out a knife attack on Israeli forces when he was shot. While initial reports suggested that an Israeli soldier was lightly injured after being stabbed by the Palestinian, it was later revealed that the border police officer was in fact wounded by friendly fire … Al-Samri said that the alleged assailant, a 17-year-old Palestinian, had approached border guard forces stationed at the Nablus-area checkpoint, “and when they saw he was carrying a bag in his hand, they started undertake procedures to arrest him.” The youth then allegedly brandished a knife “and started to battle an officer before other officers fired at him and neutralized him, and he was announced dead on the scene.” She released a statement shortly after saying the Palestinian was still alive but in a critical condition. Minutes later, a further statement confirmed he had succumbed to his injuries. The Israeli police spokeswoman also provided a photo of the knife allegedly found on the youth, who was identified by local sources as Qutayba Ziad Zahran from Illar village in the Tulkarem district … An eyewitness told Ma‘an that a large number of Israeli soldiers arrived to the scene and closed Zaatara checkpoint, denying passage to Palestinians in either direction. A photo of the slain youth later circulated on social media.
Shortly after Zahran was confirmed dead, a public Facebook post believed to be a will written by the teen earlier on Saturday was widely shared, in which he announced his intentions to carry out an attack. He also shared a photo depicting a “martyr’s funeral,” with a body shrouded in a green cloth, presumably a Hamas flag, being carried by a crowd of gunmen wearing green headbands. “How I long for a procession like this!”, text splashed across the image said. After citing a quote from the Qur’an about fighting for God’s cause, Zahran wrote: Dear family members… I have good news for you.My precious father, forgive me.Here I have achieved my wish and I am about to die a martyr for the sake of God, armed with the determination of mujahidin (fighters). I have left this mortal world, rushing to the immortal life in paradise where I will meet God’s chosen prophet, peace be upon him, alongside prophets, companions, and virtuous people. You should know, my family, that I haven’t left you because I am fed up with you, or because you were bad to me, but only because martyrdom has called upon me after I have been wishing to obtain it for a while. My precious mother, forgive me….
Zahran was the 54th Palestinian to be killed by Israelis since the start of the year….
Israeli forces detain brother of teen killed at Nablus checkpoint
TULKARM (WAFA) 20 Aug – Israeli forces Sunday detained the brother of the slain Palestinian teen who was shot dead at an Israeli military checkpoint near Nablus for allegedly attempting to stab Israeli soldiers, according to local witnesses. Tareq Ziad Zahran, 25, brother of Qutayba Zahran, was detained after Israeli forces raided and ransacked the family home in the village of Illar, in Tulkarm governorate.
Israel delays decision on burying Palestinians in ‘cemetery of numbers’
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 21 Aug — The Israeli general prosecution and Israeli police have continued to delay submitting a decision to the Israeli Supreme court regarding a plan to bury the bodies of two Jerusalemite Palestinians who carried out deadly attacks on Israelis in a so-called cemeteries of numbers. On Wednesday, Israeli Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman reportedly issued a decision, acquiescing to a request by security minister Gilad Erdan, not to release the bodies of the men to their families for burial in occupied East Jerusalem, and to instead use them as a bargaining chip with Hamas to secure the return of Israeli soldiers believed to be held by Hamas in Gaza.
The Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs meanwhile filed an urgent request to the Israeli court to prevent burying the bodies in the cemetery of numbers, at least until the next court hearing, scheduled for September 13. This comes in response to a decision by the Israeli security cabinet in January not to release the bodies of Hamas-affiliated Palestinians that had carried out deadly attacks, so that they may be used in negotiations. Monday’s session concerned the remains of Fadi al-Qunbar and Misbah Abu Sbeih, according to lawyer from the prisoners’ committee Muhammad Mahmoud. However, a number of other bodies of Palestinian attackers allegedly affiliated to Hamas also remain held by Israel, which were presumably not included in the case because they originated from the occupied West Bank, over which the Israeli army — not the police — hold jurisdiction.
Israeli forces escort 1,000 settlers into Kifl Haris overnight to perform religious rituals
SALFIT (Ma‘an) 21 Aug — Hundreds of Israeli settlers entered the Salfit-area town of Kifl Haris in the central occupied West Bank overnight before dawn Monday, where they performed religious rituals at a holy site in the town as soldiers restricted movement of locals and detained at least one person. Locals in Kifl Haris told Ma‘an that Israeli forces raided the town around 10 p.m. and imposed a curfew, ordering residents over loudspeakers not to leave their homes. Forces closed the entrances to the town and set up flying checkpoints, checking the identification of any Palestinians passing through. According to locals, settlers visited different areas of the town believed by the settlers to be Jewish holy sites, until 4 a.m. Monday morning.
Locals added that Israeli forces raided the house of Suleiman Abu Yaqoub and detained his 20 year-old son Sari after searching breaking down the doors and searching the home.
An Israeli army spokesperson confirmed one detention in Kifl Haris, adding that “security forces escorted the entrance of 1,000 Jewish worshipers to the tomb of Joshua,” overnight. “The prayers took place without exceptional incidents,” the spokesperson said. Residents of Kifl Haris live under constant tension due to frequent Israeli settler raids on a number of tombs in the village, which Palestinians in the area believe to be the graves of the Muslim prophet Dhul Kifl, the Sufi saint Dhul Nun, and another shrine built by 12-century Sultan Saladin.
Soldiers attacked by youths after allegedly being mistaken for Arabs
Ynet 20 Aug by Raanan Ben Zur — The Israel Police has launched an investigation into an incident Friday night in which two soldiers on break from the army and another person were attacked in a public park in Pardes Hannah by a group of youths — allegedly because the assailants thought they were Arabs. Another possible line of inquiry is that the confrontation broke out because the complainants were with a young woman who knew one of the alleged attackers. The soldiers were lightly wounded and treated at Hillel Yaffe Medical Center in Hadera. According a report on Israel Radio, the two combat soldiers from the Golani and Kfir brigades were sitting at a public park in the company of a young woman when they were attacked by a group of men. The assailants allegedly shouted “You are Arabs” at the soldiers, hitting them using a hookah pipe and other blunt objects. The father of one of the soldiers called the police after learning his son was in the hospital. “Soldiers go on vacation and are attacked by criminals just because they look like Arabs. It’s a disgrace,” said the father. “They (almost) lynched them, it could have ended in death. How did we stoop so low? And even if they were Arabs, (does this mean) we should harm them? We are shocked and demand that the lawbreakers be brought to justice.”
Israeli forces detain Palestinian for alleged knife possession near Nablus
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 21 Aug — Israeli forces detained a Palestinian youth for knife possession at a junction near the village of Burin, south of Nablus in the northern occupied West Bank, Hebrew media reported on Monday. Reports said a male “youth” was detained by Israeli forces who claimed he was on his way to conduct a stabbing attack using a knife allegedly in his possession. The Palestinian was transferred to interrogation.
Palestinian reportedly flees from Israeli forces after attempting to infiltrate settlement
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 20 Aug — A Palestinian reportedly attempted to sneak into into the illegal Israeli settlement of Ateret in the central occupied West Bank district of Ramallah on Saturday night, according to Israeli media. Hebrew-language news sites reported that Israeli forces “foiled an attempt” by the man to sneak into the settlement with a ladder, but the Palestinian was able to flee the scene towards the neighboring Palestinian city of Rawabi. Israeli forces reportedly found the abandoned ladder beside the settlement’s exterior separation fence. Security camera footage was published by Israeli media purporting to show the alleged infiltrator escaping from the scene.
Israeli forces detain 25 Palestinians, 3 teenagers, in predawn West Bank raids
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 21 Aug — Israeli forces detained at least 25 Palestinians on Monday during predawn raids across the occupied West Bank, according to Palestinian and Israeli sources. Israeli raids in Palestinian towns, villages, and refugee camps are a daily occurrence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, with a biweekly average of 85 search and detention raids carried thus far in 2017, according to UN documentation. According to Palestinian prisoner’s rights group Addameer, there are some 6,128 Palestinians being held in Israeli prisons, including at least 320 minors and 62 women and girls.
Northern West Bank — In the Nablus district, locals told Ma‘an that Israeli forces detained four Palestinians from the village of Madama, and identified them as former prisoner Fadil Hamid al-Bitawi, Zeid al-Kharaz, Muhammad Salah Qit, 23, and Abada Fathi Qit, 23. An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma‘an that two Palestinians were detained in Madama, adding that three Palestinians were detained from Nablus city.
Central West Bank — The Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) reported that Israeli forces detained eight Palestinians from the Jerusalem district, citing five from Hizma, two from Biddu, and one from al-Eizariya….
Prisoners / Court actions
Israeli court rejects appeal to release family of Palestinian jailed for deadly attack
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 21 Aug — Israel’s military court at the Ofer detention center in the central occupied West Bank again ordered to extend the remand of a Palestinian family who were detained after their relative, 19-year-old Omar al-Abed, broke into an illegal West Bank settlement and stabbed and killed three Israelis in July. Lawyer from the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs’ Fadi al-Qawasmi said that the court rejected an appeal to release al-Abed’s mother, father, two of his brothers, and uncle on Monday, and extended their detentions until August 27, when the court would convene on the case again. Palestinians face a 99.74 percent conviction rate in Israel’s military courts, according to Human Rights Watch. Following the deadly attack in the illegal Halamish settlement, Omar’s mother Ibtisam spent a week in Israeli custody over accusations of “aggravated incitement” due to a video in which she allegedly praised her son’s actions, before being released on a 10,000 shekel ($2,801) bail, only to be redetained some two weeks after. The six family members now face charges of having advanced knowledge of the attack. Meanwhile, Omar, who was shot and seriously injured at the scene of the killing, has himself yet to be formally charged for the attack — but Israeli forces punitively demolished the al-Abed home anyway….
Israel issues administrative detention orders to 84 Palestinian detainees
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 20 Aug – Israeli authorities issued 84 administrative detention orders, without charge or trial, against Palestinian detainees, since the beginning of this month, according to the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS). PPS noted that new administrative detention orders were issued to 47 Palestinian detainees, whereas the remaining 38 others received renewed orders. Israel’s widely condemned policy of administrative detention allows detention of Palestinian detainees without charge or trial for renewable intervals, usually ranging between three and six months, based on undisclosed evidence that even a detainee’s lawyer is barred from viewing….
Israel releases 19-year-old extremist Israeli from administrative detention
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 19 Aug — Israeli authorities released a 19-year-old Israeli extremist from administrative detention — an Israeli policy of imprisonment without charge or trial — on Friday, after he was detained in June for allegedly attacking Palestinian communities. The Hebrew language version of Haaretz reported that the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, released Elia Nativ, a resident of the extremist Yitzhar settlement in the occupied West Bank district of Nablus, from administrative detention after some two months, in a rare case in which the policy was used against a Jewish Israeli. The policy of administrative detention is almost exclusively used against Palestinians, with 450 Palestinians held under the policy as of July, according to prisoners’ rights group Addameer.
Haaretz had previously reported that Nativ was suspected of vandalizing Palestinian properties, including setting fire to Palestinian cars in the villages of Huwwara and Burin, located nearby the Yitzhar settlement, and puncturing tires of vehicles parked near diplomatic offices and international agencies, including the United Nations in Jerusalem. Another Israeli was also reportedly detained over similar charges, but was not held under administrative detention.
According to Haaretz, the Shin Bet believes that Nativ is a member of an extremist Jewish group called “Foundation of the Revolt,” which reportedly operates out of the illegal Israeli outpost of Baladim. However, in recent weeks the residents of the outpost were removed, causing most of the extremists to move to the Yitzhar settlement….
Israel releases 15-year-old Palestinian girl after a day in custody
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 20 Aug — An Israeli military court at the Ofer detention center in the central occupied West Bank district of Ramallah decided on Sunday to release a 15-year-old Palestinian girl after a day in custody, according to a lawyer from the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS). Lawyer Munthir Abu Ahmad told Ma‘an that Israeli authorities released Shahd Muhammad Abu Quek, a resident of the Ramallah-area Qalandiya refugee camp, after her family signed as third-party custodian. Abu Quek was detained on Saturday at the Qalandiya military checkpoint between Ramallah and occupied East Jerusalem. It remained unclear why the teenager was detained. [according to IMEMC, Shahad is the sister of a detainee, identified as Salim Abu Kweik.]
Israel extends arrest of firebrand Islamic cleric
JERUSALEM (AFP) 21 Aug — An Israeli court on Monday extended the remand of a firebrand Islamic cleric accused of inciting violence in connection with last month’s deadly tensions over a Jerusalem holy site, his lawyer said. Raed Salah, arrested on August 15, had his remand extended until Thursday, Khaled Zabarka told AFP. The 58-year-old Arab Israeli is accused of inciting violence and terrorism as well as support for an illegal organisation. Prosecutors told the court on Monday that they intend to file charges against Salah, Zabarka said. Salah and his supporters call the accusations “political intimidation” intended to silent dissent.
Badran: Demolishing homes will not stop the West Bank resistance
Hamas.ps 19 Aug — The spokesperson of Hamas, Hussam Badran, said that the Israeli policy of demolishing the Palestinian freedom fighters’ homes in the West Bank is doomed to failure and will not curb them at all, praising the unique internal unity of the Palestinian families in facing this policy. He added that destroying five homes across the West Bank last week will only increase the Palestinian will of resistance, noting that the Israeli Occupation has previously resorted to this policy and achieved nothing out of it. In fact, the collective punishment against the Palestinian people accomplished a counter effect for the Israeli Occupation. He called upon all the Palestinian organizations to give a helping hand for those who were turned homeless because of this Israeli policy, asking the Palestinian Authority (PA) to expose the unjust draconian measures adopted against the Palestinian people by the Israeli Occupation.
PFLP calls for resistance campaign to rebuild punitively demolished Palestinian homes
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 20 Aug — The leftist Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) faction the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestinian (PFLP) has called for a broad campaign to rebuild homes that have been punitively demolished by Israel. Israel has come under harsh condemnation over the past several years for its response to attacks committed by Palestinians on Israelis, which rights groups have said amounted to “collective punishment” on family members and entire communities in a clear violation of international law. While Israeli authorities have argued that punitive home demolitions serve as a deterrent against further attacks, Palestinians have argued that the widespread use of such a policy only against Palestinians, and not against Israelis who have committed attacks against Palestinians, has only fueled more anger against the decades-long Israeli occupation.
The PFLP on Sunday urged that Palestinians assist in rebuilding a home in the central occupied West Bank village of Kobar belonging to a Palestinian family, which was demolished by Israel as punishment for a deadly attack carried out by a 19-year-old member of the family….
Al Mezan: Suspected cause of death of child is sea pollution and delayed medical referral
IMEMC/Agencies 20 Aug — Palestinian child Mohammed Salim Al-Sayis, 5, from Az-Zaytoun neighborhood in eastern Gaza City died on Saturday, 29 July 2017, at around 2 am. He was diagnosed with Ekiri syndrome, which caused lethal toxic encephalopathy. He died as a result, according to the diagnosis in his medical report. While at the Gaza City beach, Mohammed and his siblings swam in areas close to Ash-Shaikh Ejleen on 19 July 2017. The next day, they showed symptoms of illness and were rushed to the hospital. “Because of the electricity blackouts and heat, I decided to take my children to the beach”, said Salim Al-Sayis, Mohammed’s father, in a statement to Al Mezan’s field worker. “My brothers and some relatives joined us on the beach on Wednesday, 19 July 2017. Our children swam in the sea and played on the beach. After we returned home, some of my family members started feeling very sick—at around 2:00 am. Mohammed spent the night either vomiting or sleeping. When I tried to wake him up at 8 am on Friday, 21 July 2017, he did not respond. I immediately took him to Al Dorra Pediatrics Hospital in eastern Gaza City, and siblings and relatives who felt unusual fatigue came along with us. When we arrived at the hospital, Mohammed fell into a coma, while the doctors were taking a CT scan. Then, his health deteriorated drastically and he was placed in the intensive care unit. On Sunday, 23 July 2017, he was transferred to Al Rantisi Pediatrics Hospital in Gaza City, where he received another CT scan. Doctors confirmed that he was suffering from Ekiri syndrome, which results in brain edema. They produced a diagnostic report and tried to request an urgent referral for Mohammed to a hospital outside Gaza …
For a whole week, I kept trying to secure the referral to cover Mohammed’s medical treatment outside Gaza, and I sought the help of different figures to speed up the decision at the Ministry of Health in Ramallah to approve our request. Nevertheless, no approval was granted.” Mohammed was then re-admitted to the intensive care unit at Al Dorra Pediatrics Hospital. His condition continued to deteriorate until he died at 2 am on 29 July 2017. Al Mezan deeply regrets the death of 5-year-old Mohammed Al-Sayis—a death that evidences the constant struggle of the population in the Gaza Strip.
Egypt to allow 240 Palestinians to leave Gaza through Rafah crossing for hajj pilgrimage
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 20 Aug — Palestinian Minister of Waqf (Islamic endowment) and Religious Affairs Sheikh Yousif Ideis announced on Sunday from the city of Medina, Saudi Arabia, that the Egyptian government has agreed to allow 240 Palestinian worshipers to leave the besieged Gaza Strip next week in order to travel to Saudi Arabia to perform the Muslim hajj pilgrimage. Official Palestinian Authority (PA)-owned Wafa news agency quoted Ideis as saying the group of pilgrims will leave the coastal enclave through the Rafah crossing with Egypt next Sunday, August 27. Egyptian authorities closed the Rafah crossing on Friday, August 18, after a four-day opening in which an estimated 2,500 Palestinians from Gaza traveled through the crossing on their way to Saudi Arabia.
Egypt set to reopen its Gaza crossing on regular basis in September
Haaretz 22 Aug by Amira Hass — Rafah border crossing has only opened for 14 days so far in 2017, but Palestinians expect it to reopen after ‘Id al-Adha holiday — The Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt is expected to reopen on a regular basis in September, after the Muslim holiday of ‘Id al-Adha. Palestinian sources in the Gaza Strip have reported over the past 10 days that Egypt has decided to reopen the crossing at that time, following the completion of extensive renovation work that had been underway since March. The renovations, which reports say will allow the passage of goods and protect the crossing against terror attacks, include the installation of a computer system connected to Cairo, sources in Rafah said. Hamas’ leader in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinwar, told political commentators and journalists at a meeting last week that the Rafah crossing will very likely open to goods and people right after the holiday, a participant at the meeting, Mohammad al-Ajrami, told the website Falastin Al Youm (which is identified with Islamic Jihad and known for its reliability).
However, according to an August 13 report by Falastin Al Youm, the director of public relations on the Palestinian side of the crossing said the Egyptian authorities had not officially announced their intention to open the crossing immediately after the holiday … some reports indicate that celebrations may be premature. One news website reporting on the possible opening of the Rafah crossing said arrangements would also depend on the security situation in Sinai. People returning to the Gaza Strip from Egypt said they were treated rudely at the many military checkpoints between Cairo and Rafah. A humanitarian mission from Algeria, bringing medical equipment and medicines to Gaza, was detained on the Egyptian side and not allowed to proceed for several days. The opening of the Rafah crossing is essential to easing conditions in the Gaza Strip, but this will not be a return to full freedom of movement. The trip through northern Sinai is a deterrent to many would-be travelers because of the frightening presence of armed groups in the area. And even if the crossing reopens, most Gazans are not allowed to travel to the West Bank, where they have natural and direct institutional, social, familial and economic connections….
Israeli navy opens fire at fishermen in Gaza, forces cross border in south
GAZA (WAFA) 21 Aug – Israeli navy Monday opened fire at Palestinian fishermen off the Gaza coast while army vehicles crossed the borders in Khan Younis area in the south of the Gaza Strip, WAFA correspondent said. The fishermen were forced to leave the sea and return to shore in fear of getting shot. No casualties were reported.
Meanwhile, Israeli forces broke into the town of Khuza‘a, east of the city of Khan Younis in the south of the Gaza Strip. WAFA correspondent said the forces were accompanied by a bulldozer when they crossed the border while opening fire in random at agricultural lands before leaving the area.
Gaza Power Watch: How many hours of electricity did Gaza get yesterday?
Haaretz 21 Aug — A severe electricity shortage in Gaza leaves residents with as little as four hours of power a day in the sweltering summer heat. Who gets electricity and when? 19 August: Gaza City: 18:00-22:00 Beit Lahia: 11:00-15:00 Deir al-Balah: 14:00-18:00 Khan Yunis: 02:00-06:00 Rafah:10:00-14:00
Op-Ed: In Gaza, we get four hours of electricity a day — if we’re lucky / Abier Almasri
Los Angeles Times 20 Aug — Some friends threw me a surprise birthday party last month. They placed a chocolate cake lit with candles before me and told me to make a wish for the year ahead. I immediately blurted out, “24-hour electricity and air conditioning.” They laughed and suggested I wish for something more realistic … Those four hours [of electricity] structure our days. When we don’t have power, life is on hold. We struggle with candles, flashlights and, if we can afford them, unreliable generators. We wait for the sound of an electric water pump to tell us we’re on the clock. I turn on all the light switches before I go to sleep to ensure that I don’t miss the electricity. When I hear the water pump and see the lights go on, I jump out of bed. Life becomes a race as we use every last minute to do laundry, finish urgent work tasks, enjoy cold drinking water. Then the lights go out again. No electricity means trying to sleep in 95-degree weather without fans or air conditioning, but with the constant humming of generators. It means showering with only a trickle of water, scrambling to keep phones and laptops charged and never buying more than a day’s worth of meat or milk. It means always taking the stairs to avoid the risk of getting stuck in an elevator. It means planning your outings around blackouts and checking the electricity schedule for a friend’s neighborhood before visiting … It’s a sign of just how much our horizons have shifted in Gaza that we dream less of the occupation ending, or the border reopening so that we might leave this 365-square-kilometer strip. These days we dream mostly about electricity. And our situation is certain to get worse. The United Nations’ coordinator for humanitarian activities, Robert Piper, has warned that the latest cuts are “likely to lead to a total collapse of basic services.”….
Gunmen attack Hamas posts in Gaza
RAFAH (WAFA) 21 Aug – Masked gunmen Monday opened fire at a Hamas post, a police station and a Hamas checkpoint in the city of Rafah, south of the Gaza Strip, local source said. No casualties were reported. The series of attacks were apparently a response from Salafist Jihadist groups to Hamas crackdown on its supporters. Gunmen first attacked a Hamas post, and within an hour an attack was reported against the Rafah police station. Shortly after, four people in a car threw five hand grenades at a checkpoint to the west of Rafah. The attacks, which reflect a decline in the security situation in Gaza, came after a member of the Jihadists blew himself up in a group of Hamas operatives in Rafah after he and another member were stopped for inspection when they apparently attempted to sneak into Egypt to carry out a military operation there. One Hamas member was killed in the attack.
Group of Gazan children get first glimpse of Jerusalem
AFP 20 Aug — Dozens of Palestinian children from the Gaza Strip saw Jerusalem and two of its holy sites for the first time on Sunday as part of a UN-run exchange programme. Ninety-one children aged between eight and 14 crossed from the blockaded Palestinian enclave into Israel before visiting Jerusalem, according to the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA. All but seven had never been out of Gaza, said UNRWA’s Scott Anderson. The children visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built at the site where Christians believe Jesus was crucified and buried, and the Al-Aqsa mosque compound nearby, he said. Both sites are in Jerusalem’s Old City. The children prayed and took pictures at the mosque compound, which also includes the golden-topped Dome of the Rock, an AFP journalist reported. “They were over-the-moon excited,” Anderson said. “There’s really no other way to describe it.” The children later travelled to Ramallah and will remain in the occupied West Bank, the other Palestinian territory separated from Gaza by Israeli territory, until Friday. They will visit various West Bank cities throughout the week … The exchange programme, in its first year, included 38 Palestinian children from the West Bank visiting the Gaza Strip a few weeks ago. UNRWA hopes to carry out more such exchanges in the future.
Fisherman nets message in a bottle in isolated Gaza
GAZA (Reuters) 21 Aug – For Palestinian fisherman Jihad al-Soltan, it was a surprise summer catch — a message in a bottle that he netted off a Gaza beach. It had bobbed its way in the Mediterranean for nearly 800 km (500 miles) from the Greek island of Rhodes, placed in the water by a vacationing British couple in July. “We are currently on holiday on Rhodes and we would love to know how far this bottle got, even if it’s just the next beach,” said the letter inside, signed “Faithfully, Zac and Beth”. By replying to the email address they enclosed, Soltan discovered the two were Bethany Wright, a university student, and her boyfriend, Zac Marriner. “Hello, Thank you for picking up this bottle. As a reward here are some magic flowers,” the couple wrote in their letter. By the time the bottle reached Gaza’s shores last week, the flowers had wilted. But Soltan said on Monday he was buoyed by the thought that currents could carry a carefree message into troubled waters under Israeli naval blockade and fishing zone restrictions – measures Israel says are necessary to prevent arms smuggling by Gaza’s hostile Hamas Islamist rulers. “As a fisherman I felt this letter traveled through borders and international waters without restrictions while we as fishermen are unable to go beyond six miles,” he said. “I hope one day we would become as free as this bottle was.”
Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Settlements / Racism
Israeli government says confiscation of Palestinian land through the law is legal
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 22 Aug — The Israeli government said on Monday that the confiscation of private Palestinian land through the law is legal, following two petitions to the High Court of Justice demanding to strike down the outpost “Regularization law,” which would pave the way for the retroactive legalization of dozens of illegal Israeli settler outposts. The Regularization law, passed by the Israeli parliament in February, states that any settlements built in the occupied West Bank “in good faith” — without knowledge that the land upon which it was built was privately owned by Palestinians — could be officially recognized by Israel pending minimal proof of governmental support in its establishment and some form of compensation to the Palestinian landowners. Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now said in a statement on Monday that in response to the petitions — one of which was submitted by rights groups Yesh Din, Peace Now and ACRI — the government justified the law by saying that the Palestinian landowners would receive monetary compensation. “The government even went as far as to claim that the Palestinian landowners whose land was stolen by Israeli citizens actually benefit from the law, since they actually want to sell their lands, but can’t do so due to Palestinian laws,” Peace Now said, adding that the response also claimed that the illegal settlements in the West Bank “are a national interest that justifies confiscation of private lands.”… “The government attempts to present Israeli citizens, who are directly involved in land theft of Palestinians, as deserving a reward for their participation in the thievery,” the petitioners said in the statement on Monday….
Right-wing NGO rallies court to stop road-paving on private Palestinian land
Ynet 21 Aug by Elisha Ben Kimon — Regavim, which promotes Jewish construction in the West Bank, petitions High Court to halt all work on a new access road to a Palestinian city [Rawabi] in bid to solicit a ruling that would set a legal precedent to prevent further evacuations of Jewish settlements: ‘The court has taken a strict line with Jews building on privately-owned land. It can’t now be nonchalant,’ say group’s lawyers — …By filing the petition, the organization, which frequently takes land battles to Israel’s highest judicial bodies, is hoping to extract from the courts a decision that could have far-reaching consequences for its promotion of construction of new settlements — and maintenance of old ones — in the West Bank. If it is accepted, a precedent will have been set for similar settlements deemed illegal in the West Bank since the central justification behind the evacuation of Jewish settlements is that they are built upon privately owned Palestinian land.
Israel threatens to demolish Bedouin homes despite High Court order
Haaretz 21 Aug by Yotam Berger — In legal spat, Civil Administration says Bedouin groups are playing for time and not addressing the issue in disputed E1 area near Ma’aleh Adumim — The High Court of Justice has forbidden the demolition of Bedouin homes in the E1 area near Ma’aleh Adumim until it is determined whether they can be legalized. However, the Israeli army’s Civil Administration in the West Bank is threatening to destroy them. A group of Bedouin from Jabal Baba and Bir Al-Maskub are waging a legal battle after the Oversight Subcommittee in Judea and Samaria – a Civil Administration body – threatened to destroy their homes. The group submitted a request last Thursday to declare the Civil Administration in contempt of court, with their lawyer, Shlomo Lecker, asking the court to make it clear that the homes cannot be demolished at this time….
Israel demolishes kindergarten in Bedouin community near Jerusalem
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 21 Aug — Israeli forces have reportedly demolished a kindergarten in the Bedouin community of Jabal al-Baba in the outskirts of al-‘Eizariya in the occupied West Bank district of Jerusalem … According to a report from Jerusalem-based al-Quds News and corroborated by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the kindergarten in Jabal al-Baba was dismantled early Monday morning. Large numbers of Israeli soldiers and forces from the Israeli Civil Administration raided the community as Israeli bulldozers began to raze the school to the ground. According to al-Quds, Israeli forces confiscated property from inside the kindergarten before the demolition and ripped apart European Union flags that were posted in the building — an indication that the structure had been built with EU funds.
In response to a request for comment, a spokesperson for COGAT, the larger Israeli entity of which the Civil Administration is part, told Ma‘an: “Today an illegal tin and wood shed was caught in Eizaria, that was established over the past two weeks without receiving the required permits. The shed was confiscated by virtue of the procedure to confiscate caravans and in accordance to the law. We would like to emphasize that the construction was not in use.” In addition to reports from al-Quds and OCHA, Palestinian Authority-owned Wafa news agency also cited witnesses as saying the structure demolished was a kindergarten. Due to being continuously targeted with demolitions and suffering from high poverty rates, most shelter in Bedouin communities are makeshift, informal structures.
Palestinians prevent Israeli demolition of cemetery wall in East Jerusalem
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 21 Aug — Israeli bulldozers on Monday morning attempted to demolish the wall of a Palestinian cemetery in occupied East Jerusalem, though local sources told Ma‘an that a group of Palestinians managed to prevent the demolition from taking place. Mustafa Abu Zahra, head of the committee for the preservation of Islamic cemeteries in Jerusalem, told Ma‘an that an Israeli bulldozer attempted to demolish a wall on the western side of the al-Shuhada cemetery, which is an extension of the al-Yusifiya cemetery located at the Lion’s Gate entrance of the Old City. According to Abu Zahra, the attempted demolition was part of an ongoing campaign by the Israel Land Authority (ILA) to level the lands of the cemetery in order to build a national park. ILA workers, he said, had put up signs and construction tape in and around the cemetery prior to the attempted demolition on Monday. Abu Zahra noted that while Palestinian civilians prevented any damage to the actual cemetery walls, the bulldozer did destroy part of a smaller peripheral barrier surrounding the walled-off cemetery …
National park projects of the ILA have long threatened the Palestinian cemeteries surrounding the Old City in East Jerusalem….
Israel demolishes Palestinian home in East Jerusalem for second time in a week
JERUSALEM (WAFA) 22 Aug – The Israeli municipality of West Jerusalem demolished on Tuesday a Palestinian home in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan for the second time in one week, citing unlicensed building as a pretext. WAFA correspondent said Israeli border police cordoned off the targeted area as municipality crews proceeded to demolish the home of Abdul-Karim Abu Sneineh claiming it was “illegally” built. The municipality demolished the Abu Sneineh home the first time last week, but the family, in cooperation with activists and neighbors, was able to rebuild it in a few days using brick and tin sheet for the roof to serve as temporary shelter for the destitute family. A day after the reconstruction was completed, however, the municipality came back and re-demolished it.
The Abu Sneineh home is located in an area of Silwan known as the Bustan, where the municipality had previously issued demolition orders to 88 Palestinian homes in the same area under the pretext of construction without permit. Palestinians fear Israel wants to clear the Bustan area from its homes in order to turn it over for hardline Jewish settlement groups, who claim Silwan as the City of David.
Home still under construction demolished in Arab town inside Israel
JENIN (WAFA) 21 Aug – Israeli police demolished on Monday a home in the village of Barta‘a al-Gharbiyeh, an Arab town in northern Israel, under the pretext of building without permit, according to local sources. The demolished home belonged to Mohammad Qabaha, a Barta‘a resident, and had an area of 100 square meters. He was building it to house his expanding family.
This Israeli mixed Arab-Jewish city is in denial
Haaretz 22 Aug by Noa Shpigel — Nearly a quarter of the residents in Upper Nazareth [Nazareth Illit], founded as a Jewish suburb of the Arab city below it, are now Arab – yet it doesn’t have a single Arab school or Arabic on the municipality website — Four years ago, leaflets were distributed around Upper Nazareth calling for an end to the application of the law allowing Israelis to live wherever they wanted. “Now is the time to defend our home!” the flyers declared. They were part of Upper Nazareth Mayor Shimon Gapso’s 2013 election campaign and were accompanied by billboards declaring “Upper Nazareth – Jewish forever.” Gapso won the election, although his term was cut short after he was jailed following a bribery conviction. His electoral pledge wasn’t the first on the subject. A year earlier, the chairman of the Yisrael Beiteinu party in city hall tried to initiate a plan that would have provided grants to Arab residents who sold their homes to Jews and then left Upper Nazareth … Nevertheless, over the past decade there has been a substantial increase in the Arab population of Upper Nazareth: in 2015 the Central Bureau of Statistics said that 23.1 percent of the city’s residents were Arab. Yet there is a lack of recognition of the city’s diversity…
At one Upper Nazareth shopping center on Thursday afternoon, three women were engaged in a lively discussion in a mix of Hebrew and Arabic, while two younger women – one in a Muslim hijab head covering and the other in a T-shirt – were shopping together. One Jewish woman, Lilach Merel, who has lived in Upper Nazareth for 30 years, said she and her Arab neighbors live together in peace. However, she admitted, when pressed by her daughter, that if Arabs were to become a majority there, she would leave.…
Arabic edition of Israeli civics textbook ‘hits dead end’
Haaretx 22 Aug by Or Kashti — The Arabic translation of the new civics textbook for Israeli high schools is in serious trouble after a number of translators warned that some of the material was inappropriate for Arab students. Several of the translators say that many Jewish sources used throughout the book “don’t speak at all to Arab students.” Others criticize that the book “minimizes the Arab perspective as much as possible” on issues such as the founding of Israel or Arab minority rights. Some of the translators even asked not to be credited in the Arabic version – if and when it will be completed – for fear of being identified with the book. The Education Ministry had previously promised that this edition of the textbook, which was published in May 2016 and is meant to used in all tracts of Israel’s education systems (religious, ultra-Orthodox, Arab and secular), would be translated into Arabic by May 2017. “It seems that the attempt to translate the book has hit a dead end,” a source familiar with the matter told Haaretz. “There is no agreement between the translators’ expectations of what is appropriate to teach in Arab high schools and what the Education Ministry is prepared to allow and to be flexible about.” One of the translators said that if a solution isn’t found, the ministry would probably try to skirt the problem by enlisting Jewish translators.…
Palestinian refugees – Lebanon
Ceasefire reached in Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp after night of armed fighting
[with video] BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 20 Aug — After a night of armed clashes in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh in southern Lebanon left one dead and five injured, Palestinian leadership agreed to a ceasefire, restoring a cautious calm to the camp Sunday morning, according to Lebanese media reports. Fighting has been ongoing since Thursday when fighters led by Bilal Abu Arqub, a supporter of Islamist hardliner Bilal Badr, opened fire at the joint Palestinian force responsible for providing security in the camp.
According to Lebanon’s National News Agency (NNA) the clashes have left a total of three people killed and at least 17 injured as of Sunday morning. NNA reported that clashes has intensified in the camp Saturday night, as Palestinian leadership held an urgent meeting, deciding to call a ceasefire and return their forces to their previous locations. Heavy machine gun fire and mortar shelling in the camp caused houses to catch on fire, according to NNA, which reported that one person was killed and five others injured overnight, without providing further details on their identities. Dozens of Palestinian families have fled their homes to escape the fighting. In a statement quoted by NNA, Palestinian leadership expressed their rejection to the instability and lack of security in the camp, and condemned the violence for upending “Palestinian-Lebanese brotherly relations,” stressing that the assailants would be apprehended and turned over to the joint forces….
US pushing to quash UN ‘blacklist’ of firms doing business in Israeli settlements
Washington Post 21 Aug by Anne Gearan — The Trump administration is urging the United Nations not to publish what it calls a “blacklist” of international firms that do business in Israeli settlements on land claimed by the Palestinians for a future state, diplomats and others said. The U.N. Human Rights Council voted to approve the database of companies last year, over objections from the United States and Israel, which describe the list as a prelude to anti-Israel boycotts. American companies on the list drawn up by the Geneva-based council include Caterpillar, TripAdvisor, Priceline.com, Airbnb and others, according to people familiar with it. It is not clear whether the list has been finalized. Zeid Ra‘ad Al Hussein, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, has told U.S. officials he plans to publish the list by the end of the year and has asked for comments by Sept. 1 from countries where affected firms are headquartered, diplomats said. U.S. officials would not comment on which firms were included on a version of the list recently transmitted to U.S. diplomats. Details of U.S. involvement and the inclusion of specific American firms has not previously been reported. Zeid, a Jordanian diplomat who was his country’s ambassador to the United States, had agreed to one postponement this year, partly in response to a U.S. request. He has indicated he plans to move ahead now, arguing that the list is a resource for consumers and travelers, according to diplomats from several affected countries who requested anonymity to describe behind-the-scenes jockeying over the issue….
Portuguese photographers launch Israel boycott pledge
BDS Movement 19 Aug — On World Photography Day, over 40 Portuguese photographers, teachers of photography and photography students have launched a pledge not to accept professional invitations or financing from the State of Israel and to refuse to collaborate with Israeli cultural institutions complicit in Israel’s regime of occupation, colonialism and apartheid. The pledge is the first of its kind and follows similar pledges to boycott Israel culturally by hundreds of high-profile artists in the US, UK, South Africa, Canada, Switzerland and France. The photographers pledge to boycott Israel until it“complies with international law and respects the human rights of Palestinians.” Among the pledge supporters are João Pina, winner of the 2017 Prémio Estação Imagem Viana do Castelo, Portugal’s only photojournalism award, and Nuno Lobito, TV personality and one of the most travelled Portuguese of all times (204 countries, 193 recognised). The pledge comes in response to the 2006 call from Palestinian artists and cultural workers, including journalists and photographers, for a cultural boycott of Israel due to its use of culture to whitewash the oppression of Palestinians….
Watch: Israel’s secret blacklists of BDS supporters
EI 18 Aug by Asa Winstanley — Israel has started compiling and disseminating secretive blacklists of overseas supporters of BDS, the Palestinian-led boycott divestment and sanctions movement. I told The Real News’ Sharmini Peries about this recent phenomenon, how we know about it, and why it amounts to a “covert campaign” against BDS. You can watch the video above or read a full transcript on The Real News website. I talk in the interview about my recent articles on the subject. Israeli activists are challenging the ministry responsible for these blacklists by demanding in court they release the procedures by which they are compiled. This comes after Israel inadvertently revealed that it is spying on these activists’ emails. After Rabbi Alissa Wise of Jewish Voice for Peace was banned from the country, it soon became apparent that two names on the blacklist could only have been obtained by illicit and illegal means.
Israeli opposition says Abbas tried to resume security ties with Israel
JERUSALEM (Reuters) 20 Aug — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told Israeli opposition lawmakers on Sunday that he had proposed rolling back his month-old suspension of security coordination with Israel, but that it did not respond to the overture, the delegation said. Abbas suspended ties on July 21, demanding that Israel remove metal detectors it had installed outside a Jerusalem compound housing the Al-Aqsa mosque in response to the killing of two of its police guards by gunmen who had holed up there. Amid Palestinian and Jordanian unrest, and U.S. mediation efforts, Israel dismantled the walk-through gates on July 25 and said it would install less obtrusive security measures. “We recently communicated with them (Israeli security officials) in an attempt to resume some kind of cooperation,” Abbas told a visiting delegation from Israel’s left-wing Meretz party, according to a statement issued by the lawmakers. “But they have not returned an answer, something that has prevented progress in thawing ties,” he was quoted as saying. Abbas aides were not immediately available for comment. His administration’s relations with Israel are resented by many Palestinians, such as those from rival Islamist movement Hamas. A Netanyahu aide, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said: “These reported remarks are simply incorrect.” The aide declined to elaborate, citing policy of not publishing details on security contacts with the Palestinians. Despite their impasse in peace negotiations, both sides view the coordination as a means of tamping down violence in the occupied West Bank, where Palestinians have limited self-rule.
Palestinian foreign minister welcomes Egypt’s warmer ties with Hamas
CAIRO (Reuters) 19 Aug — Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki on Saturday welcomed Egypt’s closer ties with Hamas, calling on the Islamist group to bring an end to the rift between the Palestinian factions. Speaking at a joint press conference with his Jordanian and Egyptian counterparts in Cairo, Al-Maliki said Egypt was fulfilling its role as a mediator between the group and the Palestinian Authority. “It is not new or controversial for Egypt to do its part and fulfill its mandate in these negotiations … it must communicate with Hamas in order for the group to mesh with the overall Arab stance,” Al-Maliki said, following a meeting between the three parties to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. For much of the last decade, Egypt had joined Israel in enforcing a land, sea and air blockade of the Gaza Strip, a move to punish Hamas and its armed wing, which seized the territory in 2007 and has controlled it since. In recent months, however, Egypt hosted a number of Hamas members including its leader Ismail Haniyeh in a series of meetings that showed improved ties between the country and the group. After the last round of meetings in Cairo, Hamas cleared land on its side of the border, creating a buffer zone with watchtowers, cameras and barbed-wire fences in a concession to security-conscious Egypt, which has battled an Islamic State-led insurgency in its Sinai Peninsula that has killed hundreds of soldiers and police officers since 2013…
Al-Maliki called on Hamas to relinquish control of the Gaza Strip in order to pave the way for legislative and presidential elections.
COGAT’s Facebook war against Hamas
Ynet 21 Aug by Elior Levy — In addition to the ongoing security monitoring by the IDF of what is happening in the Palestinian territories, Coordinator of Government Activities in Territories conducts psychological warfare against Hamas leadership in Gaza—using a Facebook page to publish embarrassing details about senior Hamas officials, and in particular about its head, Yahya Sinwar — Facebook has served as a platform for digital warfare between Israel and Hamas for years, but that has recently taken an interesting turn. About two years ago, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), Major General Yoav Mordechai opened an Arabic-language Facebook page called al-Munnaseq (the coordinator), which serves as a method to bypass the Palestinian leadership and communicate directly with the Palestinian population. In the past, the page has accumulated an impressive number of 200,000 followers, most of them Palestinians from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, as well as from various Arab countries. The page officially provides information in Arabic for the Palestinian population, but it is also used for propaganda, shaming and psychological warfare, especially against the de facto Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip, but also with the Palestinian Authority. The Facebook page includes stories that embarrass the leadership in Gaza which originate within Israel’s intelligence community … Recently, for example, two stories have been published on the page which show Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar in a bad light….
Beer and music liven up West Bank town
JPost 20 Aug by Udi Shaham, Adam Rasgon — Some 4,500 Palestinians and foreigners danced to a mix of Arabic- and English-language music at a concert venue in the Bethlehem area on Saturday, while many firmly held on to a glass. Just meters from an IDF watchtower on the outskirts of Beit Sahur, a Christian-majority town, Shepherds, one of the largest Palestinian breweries, had kicked off its second annual beer festival. The festival is something of a unique event in the Palestinian territories, where many people do not consume alcohol in accordance with Islamic law. It featured a number of popular Palestinian bands, including Ta3lelah – that’s not a typo – and Apo and the Apostles, and popular Arabic foods, such as shwarma. And, of course, there was beer. Twenty-nine-year-old Alaa Sayej, founder of Shepherds, feels that beer and the Middle East go hand in hand, as the beverage is believed to have been invented in the region. “Why not make beer in Palestine when it comes from the Middle East?” Sayej asked, speaking on the sidelines of the festival. Beer was first produced in Sumer and Babylonia, located in modern-day Iraq, some 8,000 years ago, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica. Sayej initially brewed beer as a hobby in his dorm room while pursuing a dual master’s degree in finance and investment management in the United Kingdom in the early 2010s….
Turkey, Jordan call for ‘serious’ Mideast peace talks
AFP 21 Aug — Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called on Monday for new “serious and effective” peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, the royal palace said. Meeting in Amman, they urged “the resumption of serious and effective negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel to end the conflict on the basis of a two-state solution to assure an independent Palestinian state with June 1967 borders and east Jerusalem as capital”. Talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been at a standstill since the failure of US mediation in the spring of 2014. “New peace negotiations must take place according to a precise timetable and be based on international resolutions,” Erdoğan and Abdullah said. They also expressed their “unequivocal rejection of any attempt to change the legal and historical situation in the Al-Aqsa mosque and any unilateral Israeli action threatening the identity of east Jerusalem”….
PA under fire for sending medical aid to Venezuela amid Gaza crisis
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — The Palestinian Authority (PA) has come under fire from Palestinians and Israeli alike after it announced it was sending medical supplies to Venezuela, amid accusations that the Ramallah-based government is responsible for creating the worst medications crisis the besieged Gaza Strip has seen in years through recent debilitating budget cuts. Upon an order from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, three truck-loads of medical supplies were sent to Venezuela, which Minister of Foreign Affairs Riad al-Malki said was an effort to “repay what it can for what the Venezuelan government has presented to the Palestinian people,” citing the donation of 15 million dollars that was used to construct an eye hospital in the Ramallah-area.
The aid delivery faced a wide backlash from Palestinians on social media, fueling anti-PA sentiment that has mounted in recent months due to a number of policies seen as a deliberate attempt to send the impoverished Gaza Strip further into a humanitarian catastrophe — by slashing funding for Israeli fuel, medicine, and salaries for civil servants and former prisoners — in order to wrest control of the territory from rival faction Hamas…
The aid delivery to Venezuela also drew ire as it required PA coordination with Israel to ship from Israel’s Ashdod port. This comes as Abbas has also claimed to have upheld a freeze on all coordination with Israel, including its controversial security coordination — another primary source of anti-PA anger among Palestinians … Ahmed Jarrar, a freelance journalist in Gaza wrote on Facebook: “Venezuela is in our head, and helping them is a duty, but cutting the aid to Gaza and sending it to Venezuela — the same aid that was given to help Palestinians — it’s not logical and completely mad.”….
Abbas: I met Trump’s envoys 20 times and still don’t understand their peace plan
Haaretz 20 Aug by Barak Ravid — Palestinian president tells Israeli lawmakers ‘there’s chaos in the administration,’ says envoys expressed support for two-state solution and oppose settlements but won’t say so publicly to Netanyahu ….