Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Settlements / Judaization

Muting mosque bill gets initial thumbs up in Israel

Al Jazeera 9 Mar — A law to muffle mosques’ amplified calls to prayer in Israel and occupied East Jerusalem won preliminary approval on Wednesday in a charged parliamentary session where Palestinian legislators denounced the measure as racist. The bill passed a preliminary reading with 55 votes in favour and 48 against as the assembly broke out into chaotic arguments. Zuheir Bahloul, a Palestinian member of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, called the bill “a declaration of war… between sanity and racism” against Israel’s Palestinian minority. Palestinian lawmaker Ahmed Tibi told supporters of the legislation they were “committing a racist act”. Ayman Odeh, a member of the Joint List – a political bloc of parties representing Israel’s Palestinian minorities – was escorted out of the assembly hall after he stood up and ripped a copy of the bill into pieces. Supporters of the bill say it is aimed at improving the quality of life for people living near mosques who say they have lost sleep with the early morning calls through loudspeakers mounted on minarets. “This is a social-minded law that aims to protect citizens’ sleep, without, God-forbid, harming anyone’s religious faith,” said legislator Motti Yogev, one of the bill’s sponsors. But critics of the bill say its legislation is redundant due to existing noise regulations, and that it was a clearly designed to further infringe on the basic rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel, the majority of whom are Muslim. Najwan Berekdar, a human rights activist from the city of Nazareth, told Al Jazeera the bill was “yet another racist bill targeting Palestinians”. “But unlike any of the other laws that infringe on our basic rights, this law specifically targets Muslims.” … Mehmet Gormez, head of Turkey’s Presidency of Religious Affairs, said the bill was “unacceptable”, adding that Muslims in Jerusalem would read the call to prayer together, in defiance….


How a small-town street sign became center of latest Israeli-Palestinian dispute

Al-Monitor 8 Mar by Daoud Kuttab — The mayor of the Palestinian town of Jatt in Israel is caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, the last thing a Palestinian patriot and representative of a nationalist community wants is to take down a street sign bearing the name of Yasser Arafat. On the other hand, the local official has to respect the law and the order by the Israeli minister of interior that requires governmental approval prior to posting any street sign. In a phone interview with Al-Monitor, Mayor Muhammad Taher Wattad said the street sign has been up since 2008 when the town of Jatt merged with the nearby town of Baqa al-Gharbiya. The twin towns were under the direction of a government-appointed committee headed by Yacov Valed, an Israeli Jew, Wattad said. Wattad insists on the right of his town to name the street after the popular Palestinian leader. “Yasser Arafat is not only a Palestinian symbol, he is the father to all Palestinians. He sacrificed his life and died as a martyr of Palestine, but for us as a legal entity, we must respect the law.” Wattad, who is a lawyer by profession, said that the town council was surprised the street sign was never approved by the Ministry of Interior … According to Wattad, the Arafat street sign was discovered by accident March 3 by an Israeli soldier who was lost. “The soldier was using the popular mobile software Waze when he noticed the name of Yasser Arafat Street.” He published a story on social media and the story went viral. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on the issue at the beginning of the March 5 Cabinet meeting. “We cannot allow streets in the State of Israel to be named after Yasser Arafat and Haj Amin al-Husseini and others. We will make the arrangements, including new legislation if need be, so that this does not happen here.”….

Jericho: Israeli forces uproot 350 palm trees (VIDEO]

IMEMC/Agencies 9 Mar — Israeli forces have uprooted some 350 palm trees and bulldozed lands in Jericho city, Jordan Valley. Journalist Adel AbuNemah reported to the PNN that the land was razed and the trees were uprooted, even though it is located in area B and not C, as Israel claims. The land is private property of farmer Mohammed Awajneh, who said that his land was among other agricultural lands razed by Israeli bulldozers without prior notice. The trees were planted two years ago.

Hebron: Illegal Israeli colonists uproot olive saplings, spray crops with toxins

IMEMC 9 Mar — A number of extremist Israeli colonists from the Ma’on illegal outpost, installed on illegally confiscated Palestinian lands southeast of Yatta, south of the southern West Bank city of Hebron, invaded at dawn Palestinian farmlands and orchards, before uprooting olive saplings and spraying crops with toxins. Rateb Jabour, the coordinator of the Popular Committee against the Annexation Wall and Colonies in the southern part of the West Bank, said that Israeli assailants [had also] cut and uprooted dozens of olive saplings, planted by Palestinians in their own lands, nearly two years ago. Jabour added that the attackers also sprayed toxins on many plants in the invaded Palestinian lands, before fleeing the scene. The invaded farmlands and orchards are owned by Fadel Jibrin Reb’ey and his brothers.

Israeli authorities damage crops in Negev-area Bedouin village for 3rd consecutive day

NEGEV (Ma‘an) 7 Mar — For the third consecutive day, Israeli authorities damaged crops belonging to Palestinian Bedouins in the Negev in southern Israel on Tuesday, according to local sources. Locals told Ma‘an that bulldozers belonging to the Israel Land Authority leveled lands and “ruined” agricultural crops near the Negev village of Wadi al-Niam under heavy Israeli police protection. Israeli authorities, locals said, claimed that the lands were property of the state of Israel. Neither an Israel Land Authority or Israeli police spokesperson were immediately available for comment on the incident. Residents of Wadi al-Niam are among tens of thousands of Palestinian Bedouins living in what the Israeli government has deemed as “unrecognized” villages in the Negev, and as a result face ongoing displacement at the hands of Israeli authorities. Because Bedouins generally lack titles to the lands their ancestors have historically grazed and lived on, it is difficult for them to prove their right to live and work on the lands, which were declared property of the state of Israel in 1948.

Israeli forces demolish Bedouin village of al-Araqib for the 110th time

NEGEV (Ma‘an) 9 Mar — Israeli forces demolished the Bedouin village of al-Araqib in the Negev region of southern Israel for the 110th time since 2010 on Thursday. Israeli bulldozers escorted by Israeli police raided the village, which is “unrecognized” by Israeli authorities, in the morning and started the demolition, while Israeli police closed all entrances leading to the village. The last time Israeli forces demolished the village was in early February. “No matter how many times they demolish and destroy our village, they will not break our spirits,” local committee member Aziz Sayyah told Ma‘an during the previous demolition raid. “Al-Araqib is ours and we are here to stay.” Al-Araqib is one of 35 Bedouin villages considered “unrecognized” by the Israeli state. According to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), more than half of the approximately 160,000 Negev Bedouins reside in unrecognized villages.

Israeli authorities deliver demolition orders in Bedouin village in Negev

NEGEV (Ma‘an) — Israeli authorities delivered demolition orders in the Bedouin village of Rakhama in the Negev of southern Israel on Wednesday morning. Locals told Ma‘an that Israeli authorities arrived at the unrecognized village under police protection and hung demolition notices on the walls of several homes in the area. The notices stated that the homes were slated for demolition due to lacking difficult-to-obtain Israeli-issued building permits .Bedouin communities in the Negev have been the target of a heightened demolition campaign in recent weeks, following Israeli leaders publicly expressing their commitment to demolish Palestinian structures lacking Israeli building permits across Israel and occupied East Jerusalem in response to the Israeli-court sanctioned evacuation of the illegal Amona settler outpost.


8 workers survive Gaza tunnel collapse

IMEMC/Agencies 9 Mar — Eight Palestinian workers, on Wednesday, survived after a smuggling tunnel collapsed beneath the southern Gaza Strip’s border with Egypt, sources told WAFA. It was reported that civil defense teams managed to pull out the eight workers who were trapped under rubble after the tunnel collapsed while they were inside it. Smuggling tunnels passing beneath the Egyptian border have served as a lifeline to the outside world for Gaza’s 1.8 million inhabitants, since Israel imposed a crippling siege on the coastal enclave in 2007. The industry reached its peak around 2010, but has declined since 2013 as both Egyptian and Israeli armies bombarded and destroyed most of the tunnel networks. To be noted, dozens of Palestinians who work in smuggling tunnels have been killed in recent months and years, due to similar incidents of collapse.


Israeli army shells several sites in southern Gaza

GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 10 Mar — The Israeli army shelled several sites in the southern Gaza Strip Friday at dawn, in what locals suspected was retaliation for rocket shells that were fired towards Israel from Gaza late Thursday evening. Israeli forces shelled at least three sites in the southern besieged coastal enclave Friday, including eastern al-Qarara, eastern Khan Yunis and Deir al-Balah. No injuries were reported. Israeli forces also fired flares in the area around the same time as the shelling. Israeli news sites reported late Thursday night that a locally made rocket was fired towards the Kissufim Israeli military site in southern Israel from eastern Khan Yunis. The rocket landed and exploded inside Gaza’s border, and caused no damages or injuries.


Erez crossing between Gaza and Israel closed for upcoming Jewish holiday

RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 9 Mar — The Erez crossing between the besieged Gaza Strip and Israel will be closed by Israeli authorities on Thursday until the completion of the Jewish holiday of Purim on Sunday, according to Palestinian sources. Head of the media department of the Palestinian committee of civil affairs Muhammad al-Maqadma told Ma‘an that Israeli authorities had informed the committee that the Erez crossing would be closed in preparations for the holiday, with the exception of urgent humanitarian cases.  An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma‘an that all crossings between Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory, including Gaza and the occupied West Bank, would be closed between midnight on Friday and midnight on Sunday.

Israel allows fuel into besieged Gaza Strip via Kerem Shalom crossing

GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 10 Mar — Israeli authorities opened the Karam Abu Salam (Kerem Shalom) crossing on Friday between Israel and the Gaza Strip to allow fuels into the beisieged coastal enclave. Member of the Gaza gas committee Nour al-Din al-Khazandar told Ma‘an that the crossing was opened early Friday morning, and that some 160 tons of cooking gas, 500,000 liters of diesel for the Gaza electricity company and 200,000 liters of diesel for transport use were allowed in. The cooking gas crisis in Gaza has been caused by the lack of gas being pumped into Gaza, though, with officials telling Ma‘an that Gaza needs some 450 tons of cooking gas daily, but only received 200 tons through Kerem Shalom. Kerem Shalom was opened twice last month to allow diesel into the small coastal territory.

Gaza water reservoir operating again with help from Germany

IMEMC/Agencies 9 Mar — Thanks to a 9-million euro fund from the German government, the Muntar water reservoir in Gaza, destroyed by Israel during its summer 2014 military onslaught, is once again operating. Germany’s Representative to the Palestinian Authority, Peter Beerwerth, and Palestinian Minister of Water, Mazen Ghneim, inaugurated the rebuilt reservoir in ceremonies held on Thursday. Work on rebuilding the 5000-cubic meter reservoir, considered vital for Gaza’s water supply, started in October 2014, according to WAFA. The fund also went to rehabilitating a destroyed water well in the area, in addition to another water reservoir, pumping stations and water lines and roads leading to the site. Beerwerth said that Germany continues to support development in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. While rebuilding Muntar water reservoir is one of these projects financed by Germany, it is also working on a 65- million euro project to build a waste water treatment plant in central Gaza. Germany’s total contribution to Palestinian infrastructure in water and waste water projects has reached 350 million euros, said a statement by the German Representative Office in Ramallah.

Underground Gaza wall construction expedited

Ynet 9 Mar by Matan Tzuri — With the help of 1500-2000 foreign workers, the construction of the underground barrier designed to prevent tunnels between Gaza and Israel is now being accelerated; barrier expected to be complete in two years, and is estimated to cost approximately 1 billion dollars —  … The information was made public by Defense Ministry Director-General Udi Adam in his meeting with officials from towns near the Gaza border to update them on the status of the project. According to Adam, technological work to be undertaken by two Israeli companies is also set to begin soon. He added that the companies will create jobs for residents of the region and that there are already are some from the area currently working on the project … The possibility to open the Erez crossing to increase the number of workers from Gaza for the purpose of working the region’s fields was also brought up during the conversation. Adam said that he supports the idea and requested the assistance of the officials to promote the move with authorities that object to it, such as the Shin Bet.

French learners in Gaza take matters into their own hands

EI 8 Mar by Mousa Tawfiq — Ahmad Kraira is a self-confessed Francophile. Sparked by an interest in soccer – he is a fan of the French national team and former great Zinedine Zidane – he decided to study French literature at 18. It was a “risky choice,” he said. “I had never studied French, but I couldn’t resist learning more about the culture and the country,” said Kraira, now 21, and in his final year at Gaza’s Al-Azhar University. Learning French is unusual for Palestinians in Gaza. Just two universities offer courses: Al-Azhar, which combines English and French literature in one major, and Al-Aqsa University, which teaches French as part of its faculty of education courses. Only a fraction of government-run secondary schools offer French as an optional subject and the focus is very much on English, leaving limited options for people like Kraira. Not only are the educational options slim for those seeking to learn French, but Palestinians in Gaza also suffer the usual restrictions, from an inability to travel to take up scholarships to a chronic lack of funds and resources. In addition, politics also reared its head to make matters more complicated. Kraira’s teachers urged him to go seek help at the French Institute … But spending time there proved unexpectedly risky. In 2014, the institute was attacked twice, once in October and once in December. Jund Ansar Allah, a small Jihadist group, claimed responsibility, citing French participation in airstrikes on the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The attacks caused little damage, but succeeded in closing down the institute. As in practically everything else in Gaza, necessity has proved a spur to innovation. Shorn of the obvious way to practice and improve, students began to create their own learning environment….


VIDEO: Gaza Poetess Shortlisted at UAE Poetry Contest

Palestine Chronicle 3 Mar — Palestinian poetess Alaa Al-Qatrawi, 25, from Gaza’s Al-Nusierat refugee camp has been shortlisted for the second stage of The Prince of Poets held in the United Arab Emirates two days ago. Al-Qatrawi has recited a poem, which described the love of a Palestinian, who had his hands amputated, for his homeland, following what appears to be an Israeli bombing. The poem, translated from Arabic, reads: “I am still alive even if they bomb my hands, If I can’t find my leg, I don’t see things around me, I don’t listen to a nearby bird, I don’t hear the sound of my mother and my father, I will not master drawing or even writing again anymore, My heart is still beating, Telling the wounded homeland, I got tired. How much I got tired of you, from you, To you, beautiful Palestine.” Al-Qatrawi is an UNRWA teacher based in Gaza and has published a number of poetry collections.


Gaza’s clothing sector makes a comeback

GAZA CITY (Al-Monitor) 6 Mar by Hana Salah — It seems that 2017 is boding well for the garment sector in the Gaza Strip after an eight-year Israeli export ban on garments. In a narrow alley in al-Shati refugee camp west of Gaza City, Muhammad Abu Shanab’s clothing factory has been brought back to life since Israel allowed the export of garments to the West Bank in March 2015. Following the Israeli closure of all commercial crossings with Israel after the 2007 blockade and the ban on exports of  Palestinian-made clothing, Abu Shanab had sold most of his factory’s machines under liquidation. His business is now running again, albeit in a small room and using the few unsold machines he has left. In March 2015, Israel permitted the first export of clothing from Gaza as part of its gradual easing of restrictions on the Gaza Strip, following the war on Gaza in the summer of 2014 This allowed clothing factories to raise their productivity and employ more workers. At the beginning of 2017, the number of operating factories jumped from 120 in 2015 to 160….

In Gaza, baseball season is in full swing

GAZA CITY (Al-Monitor) 7 Mar by Rasha Abou Jalal — Palestinian athlete Mahmoud Tafesh has formed the first baseball team in the Gaza Strip, and despite the absence of funding, equipment and baseball fields, the team is hoping to compete in the 2020 Olympic Games … Tafesh told Al-Monitor, “The federation seeks to make baseball well known to Palestinians, help male and female amateurs to become professional baseball players and train local coaches and referees.” He said that 20 male and 20 female amateurs joined the federation for training purposes, and that it will be the nucleus of the first women’s and men’s baseball teams in the Gaza Strip. Iman Moghayyer, 23, has a bachelor’s degree in physical education and sports from Al-Aqsa University in Gaza, and she is a member of Gaza’s baseball team. She told Al-Monitor that she has loved baseball since she was a child and enjoys watching Major League Baseball on TV at home in Gaza City….

AP interview: Potential Netanyahu heir promotes Gaza island

TEL AVIV 9 Mar by Aron Heller. AP — Israel’s powerful transportation and intelligence minister says he is pushing forward with a proposal to build an artificial island with a seaport off the coast of Hamas-ruled Gaza that he believes will alleviate hardship in the blockaded territory and offer residents their first real bridge to the outside world in a decade. With an independent Palestinian state unlikely anytime soon, Yisrael Katz told The Associated Press that an island for moving goods in and out of Gaza was part of his broader goal of creating regional security and “economic peace” between Israel and its neighbors. The plan has been derided by critics as impractical but presents a bold platform for Katz, who speaks openly of succeeding Benjamin Netanyahu even as the embattled prime minister faces a series of potentially devastating corruption probes. Katz’s plan calls for an eight-square-kilometer (three-square-mile) island linked to Gaza by a five-kilometer (three-mile) bridge. The island, estimated to cost $5 billion, would take five years to build and include a seaport, a power station, a desalination plant and perhaps a future airport. Israel would supervise security but it would otherwise be run by the Palestinians and the international community — which he says would mark the completion of Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from Gaza. “No Palestinian can oppose this, not Abu Mazen and not Hamas, because it gives them an opening to the world,” Katz said in an interview at his Tel Aviv office. “In an absurd way, we are giving Hamas the keys to the world’s largest prison.”


Gaza’s red poison

EI 7 Mar by Hamza Abu Eltarabesh — Fatima’s marriage started to fall apart in its early days. Her husband began selling her jewelry, claiming that he was raising funds to set up a small shop. It soon transpired that he needed the money to buy a drug called Tramadol. “I didn’t know at first that my husband was a Tramadol addict,” said Fatima (not her real name). “But then I couldn’t find the only gold ring that I owned. I knew then that he was desperate for money.” According to Fatima, her husband would become aggressive if he did not have his daily fix of Tramadol. On one occasion, he started to beat his wife and children, ordering them to go out and find some money for him. “He was like a monster,” Fatima said. The incident occurred three years ago; her husband has not called to see his children since then.

There are two versions of Tramadol in Gaza. One is prescribed legally as a painkiller by the health services. The other, more potent form, is traded on the black market. Colloquially known as the red poison – because of the color of Tramadol pills – the drug is very much associated with the siege that Israel imposed on Gaza a decade ago and that remains in place to this day. In December 2008, it was reported that up to 30 percent of Gaza’s males between the ages of 14 and 30 were using Tramadol.  Later that month, Israel began a major three-week offensive against Gaza. An increase in drug-taking was noted by a United Nations survey undertaken in Gaza following Operation Cast Lead, as that offensive is known, regularly. -Pills for breakfast- Taking Tramadol was seen as a way to relieve stress by some people. Many of its users soon became hooked. One student recalled how she was given Tramadol by a friend, whose brother was the most active drug dealer in their area. The student took her first pill with breakfast before her first lecture at university. “I kept doing this every day for a month,” she said. After a while, she had run out of money to feed her habit, so she sold a gold chain that her father had given her when she passed her secondary school exams … Although Gaza is sealed off from the outside world, police have identified a number of what they call “yellow areas” through which contraband is entering the strip. The “yellow areas” include a few locations along Gaza’s boundary with Israel. According to al-Sweerky, the smugglers receive drugs from Israeli dealers at certain spots in the boundary which are under full Israeli control. “This means that Palestinian security forces cannot go there,” he said….


As drugs flood into Gaza, Hamas to get tougher on smugglers

GAZA (Reuters) 7 Mar by Nidal al-Mughrabi — Marijuana and prescription painkillers are flooding into the Gaza Strip as never before, prompting officials from the ruling Islamist group Hamas to seek tougher punishments for smuggling drugs into the blockaded territory. The quantity of drugs seized In Gaza in January was as much as for the whole of 2016, officials said. Eight major dealers were arrested in one of the biggest police stings to date. Palestinian and Egyptian gangs move marijuana and an opioid painkiller called tramadol from Egypt into Gaza, where two million Palestinians live in a territory about 45 km long and up to 12 km wide and where four in 10 young men have no job, pushing some towards drugs. “They think tramadol will change the reality and will make them feel at peace,” said Fadel Abu Heen, a psychiatrist. “They want to lose awareness and any feeling of reality.” … Until 2013, most smuggling was through a network of tunnels Palestinians and Egyptians had built under the border to move everything from food and consumer goods to cars, cattle and rockets. But Egypt destroyed the tunnels – blowing them up or flooding them – in 2014 and 2015 to crack down on the trade. Since then, smugglers have found new ways of shifting merchandise. Drugs are moved inside cooking gas canisters or washing machines. Sometimes, small quantities are thrown or catapulted from Egypt into Gaza. There are kilometers of tubes used to move small packages, and in some cases drugs are shipped inside goods imported from Israel. “It is a problem but not a phenomenon,” said Ahmed Al-Qidra, head of Gaza’s anti-drug squad. “We suffer from it just as most countries all over the world.”….

Israel accuses UNRWA employee of being elected to Hamas government

BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 8 Mar — An employee of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has been accused by Israeli authorities of being elected to a top position in the Hamas movement’s politburo in the besieged Gaza Strip, Israeli media reported on Tuesday. The Times of Israel reported that Muhammad al-Jamassi, an engineer working with UNRWA, was elected along with 14 others into the committee during Hamas’ February elections. According to the report, al-Jamassi has held various positions with Hamas since 2007. Al-Jamassi acts as as a chairman for UNRWA’s engineering department while overseeing infrastructure projects for the organization, the Times of Israel noted. UNRWA’s spokesperson Chris Gunness told Ma‘an on Tuesday that UNRWA was “aware of a new allegation against a staff member in Gaza,” adding that the organization has launched a preliminary investigation into the allegations. “Thus far no evidence has been forthcoming or uncovered by us that would confirm the allegation. The staff member concerned has denied the accusation,” Gunness said, noting that as the investigation continued, “we will consider any relevant facts or elements that are brought to our attention.” A spokesperson for COGAT, the Israeli agency responsible for implementing Israeli policies in the occupied Palestinian territory, told Ma‘an they were not able to elaborate on what evidence has been brought against al-Jamassi and why such evidence has not yet been presented to UNRWA.
Last month, UNRWA suspended the head of its employee union, Suheil al-Hindi, after Israeli authorities accused him of having been elected to a position with the Hamas party in the Gaza Strip … Israel has accused a number of NGO workers based in the Gaza Strip of being affiliated with or aiding the Hamas movement in the past year, including employees of UNDP, World Vision, and Save the Children. Critics have pointed out that while the Israeli government considers Hamas to be a “terrorist” organization, the group continues to be the de-facto leaders of the Gaza Strip since being elected in 2006, making it difficult for local NGO employees in the besieged territory to avoid some form of political cooperation with the group.

Connolly intern sows father’s seeds of peace for Gaza

Roll Call 8 Mar by Alex Gangitano — The future president of a Palestinian state might be working as an intern in Democratic Rep. Gerald E. Connolly’s office. “No pressure, huh?” Yousef Bashir replies to the Virginia lawmaker’s assertion about his future and the two laugh. Bashir, 28, came to the U.S. to attend a summer camp in Maine organized by Seeds of Peace, a group that brings together children from countries in conflict. He later completed his high school education at a Presbyterian boarding school in Utah. He earned a bachelor’s degree in international affairs from Northeastern University and a master’s in coexistence and conflict from Brandeis University, a Jewish-sponsored institution. Bashir tells his story about growing up in Gaza and his wishes for a peaceful two-state solution to the conflict there on college campuses and in front of groups like J Street and AIPAC. His story is of growing up with Israeli soldiers telling him what he could and couldn’t do and of firefights going on outside his home. And of a father who, despite all that, kept his faith in humanity. And if anyone had a reason to lose his faith in humanity, it would be Bashir, who still carries fragments in his body from an Israeli bullet from when he was shot at age 15. “You think Palestinians, they just want to throw rocks and want to blow things up, but I say, it was in Gaza that I learned how to be a peacemaker,” Bashir said. “It was in Gaza that I learned that the Jewish people are our cousins.”….

Violence / Detentions — West Bank / Jerusalem / Israel

Israeli police ambush, assault, and detain relatives of freed Palestinian prisoner

JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 8 Mar — Five Palestinians said they were pulled from their vehicles, violently assaulted, and detained by Israeli forces at a checkpoint in occupied East Jerusalem, after returning home from southern Israel where they had attempted to welcome home their relative who had just been released from Israeli prison. Moussa Darwish was set to be released from Ktziot prison in the Negev region on Sunday after completing a 12-year sentence, but the newly freed man found Israeli intelligence officers waiting for him outside the prison, who immediately redetained him.  Israeli forces prevented the group of family and friends from approaching Darwish, after they had traveled from ‘Issawiya in East Jerusalem and arrived to the prison. They were notified that Darwish had been taken to Israel’s Russian Compound detention center back in West Jerusalem for interrogation. After several hours, Israeli forces again released Darwish.  However, Darwish’s friends and relatives — Ahmad Darwish, 52, Ibrahim Darwish, 42, Mansour Darwish, 28, Muhammad Ubeid, 25, and Saeb Dirbas, 23 — said that upon their return to Jerusalem, their three vehicles were “ambushed” by Israeli forces who had set up a flying checkpoint at the entrance to the city. In an interview with Ma‘an on Wednesday, Mansour Darwish, the former prisoner’s cousin, said that their group encountered a crippling traffic jam caused by the checkpoint. “When we tried to pass the checkpoint, our cars were stopped one after the other. Without even asking for our IDs or driving licenses, they made us step outside, and officers from the Israeli police special Yasam unit started to beat us violently — and we had no idea why.” Mansour highlighted that Israeli forces were heavily deployed in and around the checkpoint while police punched and kicked the five men in the face, chest, behind the ears, and other sensitive areas, also beating them with rifle butts and batons….

8 Palestinians detained as youths clash with Israeli forces over killing of Basel al-Araj

RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) updated 8 Mar — Israeli forces on Tuesday detained eight Palestinians, at least one of whom a minor, as clashes erupted between Palestinian youth and Israeli soldiers outside the Ofer detention center in the central occupied West Bank’s Ramallah district a day following the killing of well-known activist [and former ‘freedom rider’] Basel al-Araj by Israeli forces. Clashes erupted between the youths, mostly students from the nearby Birzeit University, who threw stones at Israeli soldiers firing tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets at the protesters. The Birzeit students had organized a sit-in demonstration inside the university’s campus condemning the “assassination” of al-Araj who was killed by Israeli forces in Ramallah on Monday. After the sit-in, the protesters headed towards the Ofer detention center, where clashes then erupted. According to witnesses, Israeli soldiers detained “seven youths and a child” before assaulting them and “brutally throwing them inside military jeeps and into the detention center.”

Slain activist Basel al-Araj ‘a representation of the soul of Palestinian youth’

BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 7 Mar — Prominent left-wing Palestinian writer Khalid Barakat called Palestinian activist Basel al-Araj, who was killed by Israeli forces on Monday morning, a “representation of the soul of the Palestinian youth” and a “revolutionary intellectual” in a statement released by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) on Tuesday.  “He saw the relationship between all forms of struggle, and he recognized the right and the duty to participate in all forms of struggle when possible. The act of resistance is not only found in the direct clashes and confrontations with the enemy; it is bigger and wider, and it stems from a political position, the culture of struggle, and the idea of revolution, along with the practice of struggle,” Barakat wrote, reiterating ideas often expressed by the activist during speeches held across the occupied West Bank. Al-Araj was detained without charges or explanation by Palestinian security forces in April last year along with Haitham Siyaj and Muhammad Harb. The controversial case made headlines when the three men joined three other detainees in a hunger strike in Palestinian prison, amid reports of torture and mistreatment….

Israeli forces raid Palestinian house near Bethlehem, turn it into military post

BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 7 Mar — Israeli army forces on Tuesday morning occupied an under-construction building in the town of Tuqu‘ east of Bethlehem in the southern occupied West Bank, turning the house into a military post. Large numbers of Israeli troops were deployed on the rooftop of a house belonging to Juma Muhammad Ali near on the main road of Tuqu‘, near the al-Khansa school. The house, he said, was undergoing interior finishing and was almost ready to be inhabited.  Israeli soldiers broke down the main doors and ascended to the rooftop where they raised an Israeli flag. The soldiers also placed sandbags at the windows of the house. Ali’s house and the majority of Tuqu‘ is located in Area C — the more than 60 percent of the occupied West Bank where Israel retains full control over security and civil administration. Under the jurisdiction of Area C, residents suffer under arbitrary policies of land classification, where they may not utilize any of their lands for building or farming in the areas without having proper authorization from the Israeli army.  Area C residents are also under constant threat of having their homes and businesses demolished at any moment, as obtaining Israeli-issued construction licenses for any sort of structure is virtually impossible. It is also not uncommon for Israeli forces to forcibly evict Palestinians from their homes for the use of military posts.


Israeli driver stabbed, lightly wounded by Palestinian hitchhiker near Beit Jala

BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 7 Mar — An Israeli driver was stabbed and lightly injured in the shoulder by a Palestinian hitchhiker on Route 60 in the southern occupied West Bank, an Israeli army spokesperson told Ma‘an, who said that the attacker fled the scene. According to the spokesperson, the Israeli civilian picked up the hitchhiker while he was driving near the Palestinian village of Beit Jala. Israeli news site Reshet Bet reported that the man arrived at the “tunnels” checkpoint on Route 60 that leads from Beit Jala to occupied East Jerusalem, and told the Israeli soldiers stationed there that he had been stabbed.  Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri said in a statement that the hitchhiker was Palestinian. According to al-Samri, the driver had repaired his car at a local mechanic, and picked up a Palestinian hitchhiker afterwards near the village of al-Walaja, which is between Beit Jala and Jerusalem. Israel’s emergency medical service Magen David Adom (MDA) confirmed in a statement that the attack occurred on Route 60, saying that its medics treated a 40-year-old male for a bleeding wound in his upper body, and evacuated him for further treatment after they stopped the bleeding, confirming he was in a “light” condition. The man was reportedly taken in an ambulance to Israel’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, where he was treated for minor wounds. Israeli forces were searching the area to find the perpetrator, and the incident was being reviewed, the Israeli army spokesperson added. The circumstances of the incident and the nature of the relationship between the two men remained unclear. Israeli authorities did not specifically classify the incident as a “terrorist attack.”

Israeli army carries out predawn raids in multiple areas across the West Bank

NABLUS (Ma‘an) 8 Mar — Israeli forces carried out multiple predawn military raids Wednesday across the occupied West Bank, detaining at least 25 Palestinians, according to local sources and the Israeli army. Israeli forces carry out raids across the occupied Palestinian territory on a near-nightly basis, with the UN recording an average of 95 weekly raids in the West Bank in 2016, and 73 weekly raids on average thus far in 2017. The majority of raids are carried out in cities, villages, and refugee camps located in Area A, which should be under full Palestinian Authority control according to the Oslo agreements. Northern West Bank: In in the village of Bal‘a in the Tulkarem district, locals told Ma‘an that Israeli troops ransacked a home and detained Mahid Miri, his father, and brothers, without specifying how many of his brothers were detained. According to an Israeli army spokesperson, two Palestinians were also detained in the Tubas district. In Nablus, local sources said Israeli forces detained 18-year-old Alaa Taha, 24-year-old Thaer Issawi, and Yousif Ramzi Dweikat….

Israeli forces detain 31 Palestinians overnight, including MP

RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 9 Mar — Israeli forces detained at least 31 Palestinians, including one lawmaker and four minors, in overnight detention raids in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem between Wednesday and Thursday, Israeli and Palestinian sources told Ma‘an. Southern West Bank: In Hebron, the southernmost West Bank district, the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) reported the detentions of eight Palestinians, including PLC member Samira al-Halaiqa, who locals said was detained in al-Shuyukh. An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma‘an that a “Hamas terror operative” was detained in al-Shuyukh. Al-Halaiqa’s detention occurred three days after Israeli forces detained Palestinian lawmakers Khalid Tafish and Anwar Zboun, both deputies of the Change and Reform bloc in the PLC. PPS identified the other Hebron-area detainees as Mutasim Faruq Masalma, Mahmoud Raed Masalma, brothers Majid and Mursi al-Ajlouni, Rami Idris, Khalid Awwad, and Tariq Rshidat. Locals told Ma‘an that the two Masalmas were detained in Beit ‘Awwa, while the al-Ajlounis and Idris were detained in the city of Hebron. Local sources added that Khalid Muhammad Zaaqiaa was detained in the village of Beit Ummar. In the Bethlehem district, PPS reported that Muhammad Mahmoud Abu Shuka, a Palestinian from the besieged Gaza Strip, was detained at the Container checkpoint. Central West Bank and East Jerusalem: In occupied East Jerusalem, locals said that Israeli forces detained at least three Palestinian boys between the ages of 11 and 15 from the neighborhood of Silwan, identifying them as Hussam al-Zaghal, Rami al-Julani, and Malik al-Qaisi….

Israeli soldiers, police detain 89 Palestinian workers this week

IMEMC 10 Mar — Israeli soldiers and police officers have detained, this week alone, 89 Palestinians workers “for entering Israel without permits,” and shut down twelve construction sites for hiring them. According to Israeli media outlets, the police arrested 20 persons; many are contractors, and others are drivers, for transporting and providing aid to the Palestinian workers, including providing them with shelter. They added that the police shut down 12 workplaces since the beginning of this year, for hiring Palestinian workers who do not have work permits in Israel, and that all the workers were taken prisoner in construction sites.


Israel denies redress to thousands of Palestinians

NAZARETH (Al Jazeera) 8 Mar by Jonathan Cook — Legal changes have shielded Israel from paying compensation to families of killed or injured Palestinians, report finds — Israel has given itself almost complete immunity from paying compensation in cases where its soldiers have killed, injured or disabled Palestinian civilians, an Israeli human rights group has warned. In a report released on Wednesday, entitled Getting Off Scot-Free, B’Tselem said that Israel had violated its obligations under international law by denying many thousands of Palestinians redress in Israeli civil courts. The report said that changes to Israeli law over the past 15 years meant that Israeli authorities were now almost never liable for awarding compensation, even in non-combat situations. That also included cases where soldiers had engaged in patently criminal behaviour against Palestinians, such as physical assault or looting. B’Tselem stressed that the report did not deal with the issue of Israel’s responsibility for deaths, injuries and damage to property during “warfare”. International law includes an exemption for compensation, even for civilians, when casualties are the result of hostilities, such as Israel’s repeated large-scale operations in Gaza. But the group said that Israel had extended the scope of its dispensation to cover routine procedures, especially in the occupied West Bank, where soldiers regularly conduct policing operations, arrest raids and security checks. As a result, said B’Tselem, thousands of Palestinians had been left not only physically harmed, but with inadequate care and rehabilitation. Their families had often accrued large debts they struggled to pay off. “Data from Israel’s defence ministry shows that Palestinians have all but stopped filing claims for compensation because they understand it is a futile exercise,” Amit Gilutz, a spokesman for B’Tselem, told Al Jazeera … In the 1990s, before the changes started taking effect, the report observed, thousands of Palestinians filed suits after they were harmed by unlawful gunfire, extreme violence from soldiers, torture during interrogation, destruction of property or delayed blasts from unexploded ordnance….


Prisoners / Court actions

Muhammad al-Qiq suspends hunger strike upon reaching agreement for his release

BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 10 Mar — Palestinian journalist Muhammad al-Qiq has suspended his hunger strike upon reaching an agreement with Israeli authorities to be released in mid April, the Palestinian Prisoners’s Society (PPS) reported on Friday. It remained unclear the exact release date that was agreed upon. A spokesperson from the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) was not immediately available for comment. Al-Qiq, who began his hunger strike on Feb. 6, was protesting being held in administrative detention– Israel’s widely condemned policy of internment without charge or trial. Israeli authorities on Wednesday moved al-Qiq to the Assaf Harofeh Medical Center in Tel Aviv, following a serious deterioration of his health condition, according to the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs. Al-Qiq had lost 12 kilograms of weight since he began his hunger strike, and according to the committee, was unable to stand on his own and suffered from severe headaches, dizziness, and ophthalmia.

I am a proud Palestinian woman and a humanitarian. I am also the mother of the youngest Palestinian prisoner in an Israeli jail.

Mondoweiss. 8 Mar by Farihan Daraghmeh Farah — …My son, Shadi, is a smart little boy who was always full of life. He is loved by everyone who knows him—family, neighbors, friends and classmates. He is a great Dabke dancer, and a good swimmer and horseback rider. He likes to sing and is excellent at math. My husband and I have always done our best to provide for Shadi and the rest of our children, encouraging them in their education and hobbies, and teaching them to be kind, honest and open in their dealings with others. We raised them to accept people for who they are, regardless of their nationality, religion or race. Shadi was arrested on December 30, 2015. He was just 12 years old. The news took my breath away; the whole family was in a state of shock. For a long time, none of us could eat or sleep properly. When I closed my eyes, all I could see was my little boy, scared and alone, in a freezing cold prison cell. I later learned that they had forced him to stand in there naked, at one point.

He had been waiting at the bus station in our home city of Jerusalem when Israeli police arrested him and took him to the main police station (al-Muskubiya, or the Russian Compound in Jerusalem). We were only informed of his arrest at 10 p.m. after we had become worried and reported his absence. Shadi had been accused of planning to commit a crime with a knife, despite no knife being found in his possession. During the interrogation they then asked him whether he would have stabbed an Israeli, if he had had a knife. He told them simply that he would never have been able to stab any human being.My 12-year old son was held for four days before being moved to a “reformatory”—a detention center supposedly for those over the age of 15. After 20 court sessions during a period of one year, the final verdict was issued last December: my now 13-year old boy will spend an additional two years in prison, convicted by the draconian military legal system of a foreign power….

8 Palestinian children indicted for ‘attacks’ as Israeli police warn of further detentions

BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 7 Mar — Israeli authorities have indicted 11 Palestinian residents of ‘Aida refugee camp, including eight minors, for allegedly throwing stones, pipe bombs, and Molotov cocktails, Israeli police said Tuesday. Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said in a statement that the suspects were charged after police gathered “concrete evidence” that the Palestinians were involved in “attacks” that targeted Rachel’s Tomb, which is located just next to the refugee camp beyond Israel’s separation wall and next to a military base. He said the 11 were arrested in recent months and had been interrogated by Israeli police, without providing further details regarding the suspects’ identities, the length of their sentences, or the dates of their detentions. In addition to the 11 indictments, Rosenfeld said that “further arrests are expected as the police investigation into the attacks continues.” In a statement issued in Arabic, Israeli police spokesperson Luba al-Samri said that the Palestinian youth committed the alleged attacks after leaving school, also without specifying when the alleged incidents occurred. She claimed that the suspects learned how to make the explosive devices through watching “inciting videos on the internet encouraging terrorist attacks.” Local sources could not immediately be reached to confirm the details of the cases. However, Israeli police said last month that a 13-year-old Palestinian boy in the camp was awaiting indictment after he was detained for allegedly throwing stones at Rachel’s Tomb, and that seven other Palestinians were detained in ‘Aida the same week on suspicion of throwing stones, Molotov cocktails, and improvised explosive devices.

Report: Israeli indicts Palestinian ‘Hezbollah operative’ for planning abduction

BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 9 Mar — Israeli media reported on Thursday that in a joint operation, Israeli intelligence, army, and police officials arrested a Palestinian “Hezbollah operative,” from the northern occupied West Bank district of Qalqiliya. An Israeli military court indicted Youssef Yasser Sweilem, 23, for planning “terrorist operations,” charging him with “aggravated security offenses.” Arutz Sheva reported that Sweilem, a locksmith by profession, “was recruited to Hezbollah using a Facebook profile used to identify potential recruits to the organization.” According to the news website, Sweilem was being trained to carry out an “abduction,” and was instructed to perform various tasks such as photographing and gathering information on Israeli army bases, checkpoints, and sites in the Old City of occupied East Jerusalem. Sweilem was also allegedly instructed “to set up a terror cell, which was to carry out an abduction and transfer the abductee to Lebanese territory,” Arutz Sheva reported. It remained unclear if the target was an Israeli military personnel or an Israeli citizen.

Israeli army prosecution files appeal for harsher sentence for Elor Azarya

BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 7 Mar — Days after the defense team for Elor Azarya appealed his manslaughter conviction for the fatal shooting of a wounded Palestinian, the Israeli general prosecution submitted their own appeal on Tuesday, demanding a harsher sentence for the Israeli soldier who was sentenced to just 18 months in prison for the killing. Azarya was filmed committing the execution-style shooting of 21-year-old Abd al-Fattah al-Sharif in the southern occupied West Bank city of Hebron last year. Israeli media reported that the prosecution petitioned the Israeli military appeals court to increase the sentence to between 30 and 60 months — two-and-a-half to five years — in prison, from the 18-month sentence handed down last month, amid widespread outrage over its leniency….

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