Families of three slain Gaza teens say they were having campfire in buffer zone

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Families in disbelief after Israeli army kills three Gaza teens
MEE 24 Jan by Tareq Hajjaj in the Gaza Strip — On Tuesday afternoon, just before maghrib – the fourth daily Muslim call to prayer – Mohammed Abu Mandel, Salem al-Naami and Mahmoud Saed decided to take a break from their studies and spend some time on family farmland in the northern besieged Gaza Strip. The plan, family and friends told Middle East Eye, was to light a bonfire and relax ahead of the high-pressure tawjihi exams that would mark the end of high school in a few months’ time.  But the three 17-year-olds never came home. That evening, Israeli forces shot and killed the three boys, alleging that they had crossed the separation barrier between the blockaded Palestinian enclave and Israel in an attempt to carry out an attack. The teenagers’ families have vehemently rejected the accusations, as they seek to understand what happened to their sons, whose bodies Israel is now withholding.
— Family disbelief — According to a friend of the slain teenagers, who asked not to be named, Mohammed, Salem and Mahmoud gathered in the square of the village of al-Zawayda on Tuesday afternoon after a long day at school. “It was about an hour before sunset, and they decided to go to some farmland owned by Salem’s family,” the friend told MEE. “They just wanted a break from hard studying.” The Naami family’s land is located some 200 metres from the fence that separates Gaza from Israel east of the Maghazi refugee camp. While the area is often monitored by Israeli forces – which enforce a ‘buffer zone’ hundreds of metres into the Palestinian territory – the teenagers regularly came to the area to relax around a bonfire, the friend said. “I had plans at home, so I didn’t go with them,” he recalled. “I was busy and forgot about them, until later that night when I heard the news. I called their families to find out what happened, but none of them had returned home.” ….
An Israeli army statement said the three teenagers had crossed some 400 metres into Israel and were hiding in a thicket when a military jeep approached them. The army said that the young men threw two objects believed to be explosives at the jeep, prompting soldiers to open fire, killing them all. But Mohammed’s father refused to believe the army’s version of events. “The closest he ever got to resisting [against Israel] was by attending the Great March of Return protests a few times,” Hani said of his son. “He never held a gun, he didn’t participate in any military groups and I’m sure he didn’t know how to make a grenade.  “If the boys crossed the border, I bet they did it for entertainment only and were unaware of what the consequences could be. The Israelis are lying.”
— ‘Israeli killed him and his dream’– The news of the three teenagers’ deaths has hit their families hard. “Mohammed was a very quiet boy who wanted to study agricultural engineering at university next year so he could look after the lands we own,” Hani said. “But now Israel killed him and his dream.” Mohammed’s younger brother, 16-year-old Hamza, vowed to take up his brother’s academic goals as his own. Salem’s father, Zuweid al-Naami, said that he felt lost. The Naami family lives in a Bedouin village and Salem, the eldest of six children, used to help him herd sheep. “Salem helped our neighbours, those who are very poor. He brought them some food from our land,” Zuweid told MEE. “He had a very kind heart.”….

Palestinian dies from serious wounds suffered on March 30, 2018
IMEMC 20 Jan — The Palestinian Health Ministry in the Gaza Strip has reported that a young Palestinian man died on Sunday evening from serious wounds he suffered on March 30th, 2018, after Israeli soldiers shot him with live fire. The Health Ministry said the Palestinian has been identified as Amer Manar Hajjar, 30, from the Saftawi area, north of Gaza city. Hajjar was participating in the Great Return March processions in the besieged coastal region when the soldiers shot and seriously injured him. On the day of his injury, the soldiers killed seventeen Palestinians, and wounded more than 1416 Palestinians, including 758 who were shot by live ammunition, and 148 by rubber-coated steel bullets. At least twenty of the wounded Palestinians suffered life-threatening injuries, especially since the soldiers used exploding bullets.

Palestinian farmer killed, another injured in explosions in southern Gaza
IMEMC 19 Jan — The Palestinian Health Ministry in the Gaza Strip has reported, Saturday, that one farmer was killed, and another was injured, in two separate explosions in the southern part of the coastal region. The Ministry stated that a farmer, identified as Mahdi Eid Ayyad Irmeilat, 36, was killed when an explosive object went off near him while he was working on his farmland, east of Rafah.  The Health Ministry stated that another Palestinian farmer was seriously injured in a similar explosion on a farmland, also east of Rafah. The Palestinian Security Forces in Khan Younis and Rafah have initiated investigations into the explosions. Although the origins of the explosive objects remain unknown, it is believed they were dropped by Israeli soldiers during their numerous invasions into Palestinian farmlands near the perimeter fence, as such incidents have occurred in the past leading to dozens of casualties, including fatalities. It is worth mentioning that many Palestinians have been killed, and dozens injured, by unexploded ordnance dropped by Israeli soldiers during military training on Palestinian lands in the West Bank, especially in the Jordan Valley….

Gaza photographer wounded in attack by Israeli forces loses eye
Al Jazeera 19 Jan — For the second time in less than three months, a Palestinian photojournalist has lost his eye after being hit by Israeli forces during a protest. A tear gas canister hit Attiyah Darwish‘s face in December 2018 while he was covering the weekly Friday protests in the Gaza Strip near the Israeli separation barrier … Darwish, who sought medical treatment for his eye in Egypt and Jordan since his injury, was told on Sunday that he had lost all vision in his left eye. “I was taking pictures, then suddenly I felt a heavy blow on my face with a muffled explosion,” the 32-year-old told Palestinian news agencies, recalling the moment he was injured. “I fell down from the pain and the shock.” Darwish suffered several fractures and broken bones in his face and jaw, and severe bleeding in his left eye and ear, which initially resulted in at least 80 percent of severe visual impairment, his doctors said. According to Jordanian doctor Faisal Tawfiq Fayyad, Darwish’s left eye suffered a scar in the centre of his vision, and despite multiple surgeries, ended up in an irreversible loss of sight. The photographer’s lower jaw was repaired and the broken bones in the left side of his face were replaced with a metal plate. Palestinian social media users circulated the hashtag #AttiyaEye and #EyeOfTruth in Arabic after a popular support campaign for photographer Muath Amarneh went viral last November….

Israel shot at Gaza fishers 347 times in 2019
EI 10 Jan by Maureen Clare Murphy — Israel and its leaders do not shy from boasting about committing war crimes, even while being scrutinized by the International Criminal Court. Multiple times last year, COGAT, the bureaucratic arm of Israel’s military occupation, announced that it was collectively punishing Palestinian fishers by restricting access to Gaza’s coastal waters. In four cases, it banned Gaza fishers from sailing altogether.
— Collective punishment — Israel announced changes in access to Gaza’s coastal waters 20 times last year. Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, has treated the Gaza fishing industry as “a lever for pressure” on the two million Palestinians living in the territory, which has been under Israeli economic blockade since 2007. The punishment of a civilian population over acts for which they bear no responsibility is prohibited under the Fourth Geneva Convention, which Israel has ratified. During 2019, Israel imposed restrictions on fishers as collective punishment after incendiary balloons and rockets were launched from the territory. But Al Mezan, a human rights group in Gaza, says that the true aim of Israel’s restrictions on and violence against fishers is the destruction of the fishing sector altogether. Traditionally a cornerstone of Gaza’s economy, the fishing industry has shrunk in recent years. Some 10,000 Palestinians in Gaza were employed in the industry in the year 2000. There are only some 2,000 fishing regularly today….

Report: Israel begins selling gas destined for Gaza
IMEMC/Agencies 24 Jan — The severity of Gaza’s humanitarian crisis is currently growing in magnitude, as a result of Israel tightening its 15-year long, illegal siege of the poverty-stricken Palestinian territory. Due to Israel’s restriction of gas, prevented from entering the besieged coastal enclave, the people of Gaza are facing a lack of sufficient heating, lighting, and the ability to properly deal with sewage, all this and more whilst their Arab neighbor, Egypt, is purchasing stolen Israeli gas. Last February, Egypt signed a 19-billion-dollar gas deal with Israel. A few days ago, Israel officially began pumping that gas into Egypt via an ‘Eastern Mediterranean Gas’ pipeline formerly used to supply Israel with Egyptian gas (during the rule of ex-president of Egypt Hosni Mubarak). Israel restricts the gas it is allowing into Gaza, collectively punishing the Palestinian people — which constitutes a crime against humanity — for what Israel decides is the illegitimate actions of Gaza’s democratically elected government …
Adding to the list of Israeli crimes in Gaza is the fact that the Gaza gas fields, which were discovered in 1999 and belong to the Palestinian people under international law, still have not been excavated. The only reason for the Palestinians not being able to take advantage of their own oil is that Israel’s illegal blockade prohibits them from doing so, meaning that the people of Gaza are living in an area which has been deemed ‘unlivable’ by experts at the United Nations, suffering unimaginable pain, whilst literally sitting right next to a treasure trove of natural gas. Approximately two weeks ago, Israel decided to cut off the main supply of gas from entering the Gaza Strip. Since then, Egypt has let in 10 trucks, which have entered the besieged territory, but according to Gaza’s residents, this simply has not been enough to supply the people with a sufficient source of gas. Khaled Tabasha, a Palestinian activist living in Gaza’s al-Bureij refugee camp, spoke to me, informing me that his family and many others living in his camp have not been able to cook properly. Khaled even said that things have gotten so bad that he and others have begun looking for wood, in order to start fires from which they can cook their food. The term “sending Gaza back to the stone age” has been often used by Israeli politicians, referring to the military bombardments of the territory by Israel, but it seems by the blockade alone, Israel is achieving this aim….

Egypt reveals reason for importing Israel gas
MEMO 25 Jan — The Egyptian government announced its reason for importing natural gas from Israel, in response to rumours of Egypt importing large quantities of gas to fill the deficit in the local market. According to a government statement released on Friday, the media centre of the Egyptian cabinet communicated with the Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, and confirmed that the news regarding the import of large quantities of natural gas, in order to bridge the deficit in the local market, is false. They explained that Egypt had succeeded in achieving self-sufficiency in natural gas since 1 October 2018, and even became a production hub during the last quarter of the same year, reported Russia Today. The statement revealed that the Egyptian private sector signed agreements to purchase gas from Israeli fields, to be pumped through the pipelines of the Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company, liquefied at the Egyptian liquefaction factories, and then exported to Europe, thus enhancing Egypt’s project to become a regional centre for trading gas and oil….

Israel opens dams, floods agricultural land in Gaza
IMEMC/Agencies 19 Jan — For the third time in one week, on Saturday, Israel opened dams collecting rain water towards lands east of Gaza City, flooding hundreds of dunams of agricultural land, said witnesses. WAFA correspondent said that Israel opened the dams and drained the collected rainwater toward the Gaza Strip flooding and damaging hundreds of dunams of land planted with wheat, barley, peas, cabbage, and cauliflower. Losses to farmers were estimated in the thousands of dollars, the Palestine News and Info Agency (WAFA) reported.

Gaza Strip: Mapping movement and access (January 2020)
GISHA 9 Jan — What is known today as the Gaza Strip, originally a region in Mandatory Palestine, was created through the armistice agreements between Israel and Egypt in 1949. From that time until 1967, the Strip was under Egyptian control, cut off from Israel as well as from the West Bank, which was under Jordanian rule. In 1967, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip were occupied by Israel. The 1993 Oslo Accords define Gaza and the West Bank as a single territorial unit within which freedom of movement would be permitted. However, since the early 1990s, Israel has gradually closed off and isolated the Strip, culminating in a full closure it has enforced since 2007, as part of which it severely restricts movement between the two parts of the occupied Palestinian territory, Gaza and the West Bank, as well as from Gaza to Israel and abroad. A new and updated map published by Gisha in January 2020 emphasizes the spatial dimensions of Israel’s ongoing control over Gaza, and the means by which Israel denies movement of people and goods. The map includes data and background on the crossing points with Israel and Egypt, the “fishing zone” enforced by Israel in Gaza’s territorial waters, and the “buffer zone” it imposes along the barrier separating Gaza from Israel. To view the map in detail, click on the image above or here.

Gaza families to receive more Qatari cash despite balloon attacks
JPost 23 Jan by Khaled Abu Toameh — Despite the continued launching of incendiary balloons from the Gaza Strip toward Israel, Qatar said it will deliver another cash grant to needy families in the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave next week. The money will be distributed to 70,000 Palestinian families on Sunday, announced Mohammed Al-Emadi, chairman of the Qatari Committee for the Reconstruction of the Gaza Strip. Each family will receive $100 through post office branches in several parts of the Gaza Strip, he said, adding that the distribution of cash will take place in accordance with the mechanism that has been in place the past year.“The families have been chosen according to the criteria and conditions agreed upon in cooperation with the Ministry of Social Development in the Gaza Strip,” Emadi said. Last month, Qatar delivered a cash grant to 75,000 families in the Gaza Strip. Emadi’s announcement came as Palestinians continued to launch explosives-laden balloons toward Israel and the killing by the IDF of three Palestinians who infiltrated into Israel on Tuesday night. Hamas claimed on Wednesday that the three Palestinians were “cold-bloodedly” killed by the IDF. Israel “has committed a new Zionist crime,” Hamas spokesman Abdel Latif Qanou said in a statement. He dismissed the IDF version regarding the circumstances of Tuesday night’s incident, claiming that the three Palestinians did not pose a threat to anyone….

Hamas’s Haniya to be abroad for months, no reason given
GAZA (ANSAmed) 23 Jan — Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh will be abroad for some months, said local party leader Halil al-Haya. No reason was given for the decision. In Haniyeh’s absence, his close collaborator Yihia Sinwar will be in charge, local sources say. Haniyeh left Gaza in early December to go to Cairo. He later visited Turkey, Qatar, Iran, and Malaysia. In the coming months he is expected to stay in Qatar, a country that has provided a great deal of support to Gaza.

Hamas to end balloon attacks on Israel
The Media Line 24 Jan by Dima AbuMaria — Hamas, the Islamist movement that rules the Gaza Strip, has, according to sources, accepted an Egyptian request to prevent the firing of balloons and kites carrying improvised explosive devices into Israel. Cairo applied the pressure in an effort to prevent an escalation between Israel and Hamas, after Gazans on January 15 renewed their IED balloon attacks … No official statement was issued by Hamas or Cairo on the matter, and Hamas spokesman in Gaza Hazem Qassem declined to comment when reached by The Media Line. However, a source close to the Palestinian factions in Gaza, who asked that his name be withheld, confirmed to The Media Line the change. “Egypt asked Hamas and other political parties in the Strip to stop the fire balloons in order to calm the situation, in return for specific undertakings.”The source added, “They approved the request in response to the Egyptian efforts.”….

Hamas official threatens more explosive balloons into Israel
AP 21 Jan — Incendiary balloons Palestinians launched from the Gaza Strip recently were a signal to Israel to accelerate unofficial “understandings” meant to ease the crippling blockade on the Hamas-ruled territory, a senior official from the Islamic militant group said Tuesday.  The resumption of flammable balloons and other explosive devices flown across the border broke a month of calm that has largely prevailed since Hamas suspended its weekly protests along the Israeli-Gaza frontier. The quiet is meant to bolster an informal truce between Israel and Hamas brokered by international mediators. Speaking to journalists, Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya accused the Israelis of moving too slowly. He said the balloons had been launched by disgruntled individuals, not Hamas. But he said his group was “satisfied” with the launches and is ready to send more “if the occupation doesn’t pick up the message.” …  The incendiary balloons have not caused any damage or injuries on the Israeli side. But last week, an Israeli military helicopter struck an alleged Hamas target in Gaza in response to the resumption of the launches.

‘Like a prisoner being let free’: Israel-Hamas truce lends hope to Gaza’s jobless
NPR 23 Jan by Daniel Estrin — The White House has invited Israeli leaders to visit next week to discuss the administration’s long-awaited Middle East peace plan. Meanwhile, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have already brokered their own unofficial deal with Israel — and it’s beginning to have an impact. Strawberries and snacks from Gaza may now be sold abroad. Gazan fishermen can venture farther into the Mediterranean for a better catch. Thousands of unemployed Palestinians are suddenly allowed to leave the territory to work in Israel after more than a decade. These changes are part of an unwritten deal between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas leaders that has been in the works for months. It is so sensitive that the sides won’t call it a truce or a cease-fire, but rather “The Understandings.” Israel is easing some of its tough restrictions on trade and travel out of Gaza. That’s on the condition that Hamas — an Islamist militant organization that Israel and the U.S. consider a terrorist group — halts rocket fire into Israel and violent confrontations at the Israeli border. It’s unclear how the arrangement could be affected by the U.S. peace plan for the region …
But The Understandings could offer a small window of hope for residents of the impoverished, blockaded territory, which has been the scene of some of the worst fighting in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in recent years. Mahmoud Ghaben, a Gazan resident, secured a coveted permit last August to work plastering buildings in Israel. “It’s like finding treasure,” says Ghaben, who now wakes up before dawn to join the crowds crossing through the fortified border checkpoint. “Like a prisoner being let free.” He threw a party with a live band when his work permit came through. His cousin took a joy ride through Gaza, stereo blaring, when he got his …
But Israeli or Hamas leaders could renege on their side of the informal agreement in an instant if heavy violence resumes. Even now, many Gazans say they don’t feel the benefits of the new gestures. Hisham Abu Ghaben used to work at a restaurant in Israel before the border was sealed, but now has no job and no money to pay for the paperwork to apply for an Israeli work permit. (He is unrelated to Mahmoud Ghaben.) He called The Understandings a Bollywood film. His 18-year-old son, Mohammed, is one of more than 100 young Palestinians who had a leg amputated after being shot by Israeli troops at Gaza border protests. “There were lots of sacrifices. What did we get in return? Why did the protests stop? I want to understand why. What solution did it bring?” Abu Ghaben says….

Israeli humanitarian organization Natan to aid Gaza civilians
JPost 21 Jan by Deborah Dahan — From March 2020, the Israeli humanitarian aid organization Natan will run two clinics in the new Gaza Health Center to provide trauma, medical and dental care to Gaza civilians. The health facility is located on a 10-acre area of land near the Erez Checkpoint at the Israel-Gaza border and was built and is managed by the American NGO, FriendShips. The construction began last September in the context of ceasefire understandings. At the time, the Palestinian Authority had expressed concerns over the project, calling it an “attempt to whitewash the image of the Israeli occupation, whose hands are stained with Palestinian blood.” A Hamas spokesperson, on the other hand, had declared at the time that the construction of the hospital had no political connotation. Natan will recruit volunteer experts in their fields from all around the world to participate in the project, excluding volunteers holding Israeli passports due to IDF regulations….

Hamas ups security around US field hospital in Gaza
RAMALLAN (Asharq Al-Awsa) 20 Jan —  Hamas movement has established a new checkpoint near the US field hospital north of the Gaza Strip, which is supposed to start operating next month. Israel’s Kan channel said that Hamas has established a new checkpoint near the hospital to secure the location. The channel said the Hamas wants to control the movement of people in and around the hospital, adding that it wants to monitor those entering and leaving the premises. Hamas gunmen deployed 70 meters away from the US American hospital, which the Palestinian Authority (PA) says is a military base for espionage. The hospital has sparked controversy, criticism, and exchanged accusations between Hamas, the Authority, and other factions. FriendShips relief organization began construction on the hospital near Beit Hanoun crossing last November. The organization published pictures and video clips of workers installing hospital equipment near the crossing. It received a great controversy on social media and greater skepticism about the hospital, the timing of its establishment, the authority that will supervise it, and the nature of its work. Criticism of the hospital spread, especially that it came after the United States cut off all aid to the Palestinian Authority and Palestinians. Both the PA and Fatah say that the hospital is only an advanced US security base in the Strip, and serves the US-Israeli plan to implement the ‘deal of the century’ and separate Gaza from the West Bank …  However, Hamas said that it would ask the field hospital to leave if there were any security flaws relating to its existence

Palestinian doctor devoted to peace after daughters killed in Gaza hails Bard before his visit to Scotland
Sunday Post (Dundee, Scotland) 19 Jan by Laura Smith — Izzeldin Abuelaish will make his first visit to Scotland this week. But the Palestinian doctor, who has, since the death of three of his daughters, dedicated his life to promoting love not hatred in the Middle East, already feels an affinity with our most famous poet, Robert Burns. He said: “Robert Burns grew up in poverty and hardship but he was not broken nor defeated. Growing up in Gaza, my life was war, I had to fight to survive. “We both suffered but we changed, both transformed pain and suffering into hope. We need more of that in this world.” Abuelaish has dedicated his career to saving lives, irrespective of race or religion. But the Palestinian doctor was rendered helpless when Israeli forces shelled his family home in Gaza and his three daughters and niece were killed before his eyes. Despite the awful loss 11 years ago, Abuelaish has since promoted Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation, a path that has led to multiple Nobel Peace Prize nominations and, now, a visit to Scotland. He is among the finalists for the 2020 Robert Burns Humanitarian Award, which is run by South Ayrshire Council. It celebrates those who promote human rights and work to deliver social reform – mirroring values held by Burns himself. Abuelaish sees his invitation to Wednesday’s awards ceremony in Glasgow as an auspicious one as it takes place one week after the 11th anniversary of his daughters’ deaths. “My daughters are always with me, I keep them alive in spirit, not with anger, hatred or revenge but with good deeds,” said Abuelaish, 64. He founded the Daughters for Life Foundation in memory of his three daughters who died in Gaza: Bessan, 21, Mayar, 15, and Aya, 13. It gives young women from across the Middle East the opportunity to study at university around the world. “There is no peace without women. They are key to this everywhere, not just the Middle East,” he added….

Italian TV chef serves up cooking lessons at Gaza prison
GAZA CITY (Daily Sabah with AFP) 23 Jan — An Italian TV chef is serving up a taste of home cooking in the unlikeliest of places: a Gaza jail. Gabriele Rubini, a former rugby player who reinvented himself as Chef Rubio, is teaching 10 inmates at the prison near Gaza City how to make the perfect pasta — as well as learning about Palestinian cuisine. “My target is to share with them all I know and I want to learn from them all they know,” he said during his 10-day trip to the enclave with an Italian NGO. He said Palestinian food shares many similarities with that of Italy. “Around the Mediterranean Sea all the cultures were mixed,” he said. Chefs “use not many ingredients, good quality and it is all about sharing the food.” A longtime supporter of the Palestinian cause, Rubini has been sharing his experience in Gaza with more than 750,000 fans via his Facebook page.  Speaking to AFP, Rubini said he worked in prisons because “jail is a place where there is a lot of humanity” … Rubini’s pupils, serving time for non-violent crimes, said they took inspiration from the cooking lessons. “This is a great training opportunity,” said Sami Baraka, who has served most of a two-year sentence. “I’m going to open an Italian restaurant in Gaza.”

Dreaming of van Gogh in Gaza
[with photos] Washington Post 21 Jan by James McAuley — On the top floor of a run-down studio, the young sculptors were scraping away at plaster bas-reliefs, in many cases re-creating Western masterpieces they may never see. Nimer Qeeq, a 23-year-old hipster in tight black jeans, said Michelango’s Pietà would be the first thing he’d aim to see if he ever leaves the 25-mile strip of land that has circumscribed his life. “The details of that statue,” he said, “the details on her arm – it’s really perfect.” Jamila Sawalah, 22, dreams of seeing van Gogh. “The violent nature of the brushstrokes – I love that style, and I try to do the same.” She dashed paint onto her sculpture of a couple in a passionate embrace. It is often said that art is a means of escape. But in Gaza – an overcrowded and squalid enclave that residents cannot leave without great difficulty – there is no escape … A group of artists from Shabakeek, one of the only artist collectives and gallery spaces in the Gaza Strip, is now organising a travelling retrospective of Gaza-made art. It was shown first in East Jerusalem in late last December, then in the West Bank city of Ramallah and then, tentatively, in Frankfurt, Germany, sometime in 2020. But because of travel restrictions imposed by Israel, the artists may not be able to secure the permits necessary to leave Gaza. “Our art is travelling, but not us,” said Shareef Serhan, a painter and sculptor who now runs Shababeek….

Hamas releases Gaza comedian after public outrage
Al-Monitor 22 Jan by Aziza Nofal — It was a video that landed Adel al-Mashwakhi in jail and another video that got him out. The comedian and former policeman from the Gaza Strip is known for his videos critical of a wide range of political issues. Mashwakhi first gained media notoriety in 2017, when he posted a video mocking the electricity cuts. The clip, titled “Hamas, that’s enough,” was viewed a quarter-million times. Hamas arrested all-Mashwakhi but released him two weeks later, on the condition that he make no more “politically flavored” videos. Shortly after his release, the comedian left the Gaza Strip. He returned in October 2018, with promises from Hamas that he could get his policeman job back and retire early.  Instead, in December 2019, a Gaza Military Court sentenced Mashwakhi to 18 months in prison for insulting religion, opposing public policy and “defective behavior.” After the ruling, Mashwakhi fought back with a new video. He posted a five-minute video on his Facebook page Jan. 11 to tell his story, describing how Hamas had deceived him, luring him back to the country with the promise of returning his job and freedom from prosecution. “Then they sentenced me to 18 months,” he said, promising to go on a hunger strike until death. His video rekindled a wave of support for the acid-tongued comedian, both online and in the street. In the face of this public pressure, the Hamas government released him Jan. 14, after several key Hamas figures intervened. Human rights groups also acted on his behalf….

Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Settlements

Due to ongoing Israeli excavations, seven Jerusalem families ordered to leave their homes
IMEMC 20 Jan — The City Council in occupied Jerusalem issued orders, on Sunday evening, instructing seven Palestinian families in Bab as-Silsila (Chain Gate) neighborhood to leave their homes due to ongoing Israeli excavations under them, rendering the properties unsafe. Jerusalem Governor Adnan Gheith told the Palestinian News & Info Agency (WAFA) that the excavations are carried out by the municipality of the occupied city and various colonialist organizations and aim at forcing the Palestinians out of their homes. Gheith Added that this has been happening for years, especially in Bab as-Silsila (Chain Gate), Silwan town, and the Old City, and stated that this is all part of Israel’s illegal policies targeting the existence of the indigenous Palestinian population in the occupied city, in direct violation of all related international laws and agreements. Resident Rashid Zahda from Bab al-Silsila area, said that twenty-two Palestinian families would lose their homes, especially after Israel already handed eviction notices to seven families, while the remaining orders will be handed Monday. “The Israeli excavations in Bab as-Silsila, adjacent to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, are also threatening the homes of around 200 Palestinians, after the ongoing digging resulting in cracks and serious damage to their foundations,” Zahda stated, “We are appealing to the International Community to act and save not only our homes, but the entire historic area.”

Palestinians in Jerusalem’s Old City face evacuation fears
[with photos] Al Jazeera 23 Jan by Mersiha Gadzo — Jerusalem Municipality orders evacuation of 22 homes in occupied East Jerusalem due to ‘dangerous’ damage sustained — Since an Israeli water company working for the Jerusalem Municipality started conducting underground work in her neighbourhood about a month ago, Hanan Slaima says large cracks have formed on the walls and ceilings of rooms in the home located in the Old City in occupied East Jerusalem. Doors can no longer close fully as the surface of the floor has become uneven, while plastic basins are placed on the floor to catch water leaking from the ceiling. Elsewhere, water has seeped in through cracks in the walls, which has destroyed the electricity unit in her daughters’ bedroom. “The house was renovated only a year ago,” Slaima told Al Jazeera. “All the neighbours told them to stop [the work] because we began to see cracks [in our homes] and over time the cracks grew larger,” she said, adding that the water pipelines underground had burst at least four or five times during the month that the company was working underground. “They begin [work underground] late in the night and continue until the morning every day. We heard the digging and we felt the floor shake many times,” the 62-year-old said …
The residents blame the work carried out by the water company Gihon, which supplies water to Jerusalem and was working for the municipality to repair underground water and sewage infrastructure, for causing the damage. “I was born here and my family has lived here for hundreds of years and we never faced this situation; we never saw these cracks; we never saw a stone fall,” Slaima said. She said that when Gihon began work in the area and water began to seep into their homes, the neighbourhood residents brought professionals to check the foundation underneath their homes. “They told us that it seems there is a lake of water under the houses,” Slaima said….

Palestinian family pledge appeal over Jerusalem eviction ruling
AFP 20 Jan — A Palestinian family pledged on Monday to appeal an Israeli court order to evict them from their home in a mainly-Palestinian east Jerusalem neighbourhood in a case lodged by a settler organisation. The Israeli anti-settlement NGO Peace Now said a Jerusalem magistrates court ruled Sunday in favour of evicting the Rajabi family from their home in the Silwan neighbourhood following a lawsuit filed by members of the pro-settlement Ateret Cohanim organisation. The three-storey building houses 17 Palestinians, the family said. “There is no other home for me and my family to go to,” said Nasser al-Rajabi, adding that the youngest member of the family is 18 months old. “We reject this decision,” he said. The family has lived in the building since 1975, he added, arguing they are “victims of a political game by the Israeli courts and the settler organisations.” The family’s lawyer, Mohammed Dahla, said they would file an appeal … Peace Now said the family was one of around 100 families threatened by eviction lawsuits filed by Ateret Cohanim, in total putting around 700 people at risk of eviction. It said the eviction notices were an “attempt to displace a Palestinian community and to replace it with an Israeli one, in the heart of a Palestinian neighbourhood in East Jerusalem.”

Surge in Israeli demolition of EU-funded buildings
BRUSSELS (EUobserver) 17 Jan by Andrew Rettman — Israel has sped up demolitions of EU-funded and Palestinian structures in the West Bank amid hawkish talk on taking over the territory. It wrecked or seized 97 structures worth some €480,000 in the area last year which had been built using EU or member states’ funds – a 90 percent increase on the year before, according to internal EU figures seen by EUobserver. It also demolished 35 percent more Palestinian structures and displaced 95 percent more Palestinian people in the West Bank and East Jerusalem than in 2018. And the trend is set to continue this year, if Israel’s right-wing defence minister, Naftali Bennet, gets his way …
The Israeli mission to the EU did not respond to EUobserver’s questions. But the EU foreign service said: “Demolitions and seizures of humanitarian assets are contrary to Israel’s obligations under international law”. “Our focus remains on the halt of the demolitions, confiscations, and of settlement construction and expansion and on the humanitarian protection of the most vulnerable populations,” it added. “On a number of occasions, often in coordination with EU member states, the EU has called for the restitution and/or compensation of EU-funded humanitarian assets which have been demolished, dismantled, or confiscated by Israel,” it also said. For their part, all five EU members of the UN Security Council – Belgium, France, Germany, Poland, and the UK – complained about the developments at a debate in New York in late December….

Israel rejects over 98% of Palestinian building permit in West Bank’s Area C
[behind paywall] Haaretz 21 Jan by Hagar Shezaf — Trend to limit Palestinian development over the past three years correlates with expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank — The Israeli Civil Administration in the West Bank approved only 21 of 1,485 applications from Palestinians for construction permits in Area C, the portion of the West Bank under full Israeli control, between 2016 and 2018. During the same period, 2,147 demolition orders were issued in Area C for violations by Palestinians of planning and construction regulations, Civil Administration data show. Ninety of the orders were carried out. The figures were given in response to a freedom of information request by human rights organization Bimkom. The Civil Administration said that 56 building permits were granted to Palestinians between 2019 and 2018. However, 35 of those were granted as part of a state plan to relocate Jahalin Bedouins from the area of Ma’ale Adumim settlement, and were not implemented …  Also requested was comparable data for the entire period since 2000. Since 2000, Palestinians have submitted 6,532 building permits in Area C, of which 245 – only 3.7 percent – were approved.
The small number of building permits issued in Area C in recent decades is a break from the trend during the earlier years of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, beginning in 1967. Figures from the Unit Coordinating Activity in the Territories, the predecessor of the Civil Administration, show that in 1972, for example, 97 percent of the applications for building permits were approved – 2,134 of 2,199 requests. The following year, the approval rate was 96 percent. By contrast, in 1988, the rate was 32 percent. These figures reflect requests for all areas in the West Bank, as the division into Areas A, B, and C was created as part of the later Oslo Accords.

Army confiscates Palestinians lands in Nablus
IMEMC 23 Jan — The Israeli army delivered, Wednesday, orders for the illegal annexation of Palestinian lands south of Nablus, in northern West Bank. Ghassan Daghlas, a Palestinian official who monitors Israel’s illegal colonialist activities in northern West Bank, said the lands are owned by Palestinians from the villages of Tal, Madama, and Burin. Daghlas added that the lands extend from Madama Bridge area to the Israeli military tower, and are on both sides of a 3-Kilometer military road, which was paved on illegally confiscated Palestinian lands.

Israel cuts school buses for Bedouin children
EI 21 Jan by Tamara Nassar — Thousands of Palestinian Bedouin preschoolers haven’t been in class for days after Israeli authorities halted their only means of getting to school. The Neve Midbar Regional Council announced on 12 January that buses would stop serving 20 villages in the southern Naqab (Negev) region the next day without prior warning. As a result, some 2,200 Bedouin children had not been to school in over three days, according to Adalah, a legal advocacy group for Palestinians in Israel. It is notable that 16 of the affected villages are “unrecognized,” including Bir al-Hammam, al-Zarnouq, Abda and Rahma, among others. Israel virtually bars unrecognized villages in the Naqab from building new structures. Israel has forcibly displaced Bedouins residing in those villages multiple times since its establishment in 1948. In addition to barring development, Israel denies Bedouin communities essential services like adequate water and electricity. Thousands of Bedouins have had their citizenship revoked. The Israeli government is still intent on expelling Bedouins from the unrecognized Naqab village of Umm al-Hiran in order to build a Jewish-only settlement in its place. Last April, Israel said it would build an elementary school in the village of Rahma after 13 years of local struggle. Even then, the school will be a “temporary campus made up of mobile homes,” according to Israeli daily Haaretz.

Settlers are seizing ’empty’ land. The Palestinian owners are fighting back
+982 Magazine 7 Jan by Ahmad Al-Bazz — When Israel took over Ahmad Qaddoura’s land in the 1980s, it rejected his petition to stop the expropriation. Now, a nearby settlement is using the land to build a factory. — ….Qaddoura says that the land belongs to three people, including him and his father. Almost half the land was expropriated a decade ago for Israeli military facilities, including a watchtower — “a decision that you can never legally oppose,” Qaddoura says. The remaining half of the land has been subject to a decades-long legal dispute between its owners and the state, after being declared state land by an Israeli court in 1986. The land had, however, been left untouched before the bulldozers arrived at the start of December.  Qaddoura’s lawyer, We’am Shebita, has been following the case for some time. He confirms that the state took over the land because it had lain abandoned for over three years. Israeli military law allows the state to requisition land that remains unused for such a period — a law the government exploits in order to confiscate Palestinian land. Shebita says that Israeli authorities had previously photographed the area as proof that it had been abandoned, and believes that the family has no hope of regaining their land. +972 Magazine reviewed an old military letter addressed to residents of Kafr Laqef, dated June 23, 1986, informing them that the state had taken over the land and giving them a 45-day window in which to oppose the decision. One of the land’s inheritors, Yahiha Assaf, 50, showed +972 Magazine an undated document his father had filed in an attempt to prove ownership, to which he had attached a Jordanian document confirming his possession of the land. The document had a number of boxes to be filled out describing how the land was used and the period of usage, which had been left empty. Assaf told +972 Magazine that these parts of the document had been left incomplete because the villagers had not been able to use their land due to the settlements that were built in the wake of the occupation. “This land was full of wheat before 1967,” he said. But after the occupation commenced, “it was not possible for my family to enter the land due to its closeness to the adjacent settlement,” he adds….

Sealed off and forgotten: What you should know about Israel’s ‘firing zones’ in the West Bank
IMEMC/Agencies 16 Jan by Ramzy Baroud for the Palestine Chronicle — A seemingly ordinary news story, published in the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, on January 7, shed light on a long-forgotten, yet crucial, subject: Israel’s so-called “firing zones” in the West Bank. “Israel has impounded the only vehicle available to a medical team that provides assistance to 1,500 Palestinians living inside an Israeli military firing zone in the West Bank,” according to Haaretz. The Palestinian community that was denied its only access to medical services is Masafer Yatta, a tiny Palestinian village located in the South Hebron hills. Masafer Yatta, which exists in complete and utter isolation from the rest of the occupied West Bank, is located in ‘Area C’, which constitutes the larger territorial chunk, about 60%, of the West Bank. This means that the village, along with many Palestinian towns, villages and small, isolated communities, is under total Israeli military control …
There is no military logic in the world that could rationally justify the barring of medical access to an isolated community, especially when an Occupying Power like Israel is legally obligated under the Fourth Geneva Convention to ensure medical access to civilians living in an Occupied Territory … But there is more that makes Masafer Yatta even more unique, qualifying it for the unfortunate designation of being a Bantustan within a Bantustan, as it subsists in a far more complex system of control, compared to the one imposed on black South Africa during the Apartheid regime era …
What is far less known is that, throughout the 1970s, the Israeli military declared roughly 18% of the West Bank as “firing zones”. These “firing zones” were supposedly meant as training grounds for the Israeli occupation army soldiers – although Palestinians trapped in these regions often report that little or no military training takes place within “firing zones”. According to the Office for the UN Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Palestine, there are around 5,000 Palestinians, divided among 38 communities that still live, under most dire circumstances, within the so-called “firing zones”….

Feature: Small Palestinian village in West Bank struggles to survive in face of restrictions
BETHLEHEM (Xinhua) -18 Jan by Fatima AbdulKarim — A small Palestinian village named Shushahleh in the West Bank is evacuated every night by the Israeli army, citing that the villagers should not be allowed to stay on an agricultural land. But for the 22 families of Shushahleh, staying in their village is essential for tending their lands, all of which are privately owned and registered under their names, according to their land deeds. The tiny village, overlooking the suburbs of one of the oldest Palestinian cities, Bethlehem, is no more than 1.2 square km in size, but it is surrounded by four settlements, namely Afrat, Sidi Boaz, Eliazar, and the closest, Daniel. The villagers are not allowed to spend the night at the village anymore or lock the doors to their homes, according to newly issued orders by the Israeli army.
Despite the limited access into the hilly community, the Salah family of Shushahleh keeps working on its lands. Myasar Salah, 60, said the Israeli decision came as a surprise to them last September, and she still does not understand the reasoning behind it. “One morning, a few months ago, the Israeli army came to us and said ‘you have to leave,'” she said. “Since then, they don’t let us stay overnight, and they don’t let us lock the doors.” The residents had to move to the nearby village of al-Khader, but they go back to their homes and lands in Shushahleh every day …  Salah, who was born and raised in Shushahleh, the situation got more difficult with the expansion of the adjacent settlement, Daniel. “They’re watching us 24 hours a day via cameras from the settlement and Highway 60, and they know that we are peaceful and never cause any trouble,” Salah said, pointing to a surveillance camera on an electricity pole a few meters away. “They want us to leave completely to expand the settlements, even though we were here before them,” he said. While the overwhelming majority of the villagers rely on agriculture, it is not very feasible to maintain the lands under such condition, especially under a ban on almost all farming-related machinery and equipment…

West Bank / Jerusalem

Israeli soldiers raid house of Palestinian they shot and disabled 4 years ago
MEMO 24 Jan — A Palestinian who was shot four years ago in the head by Israeli soldiers is being called in for interrogation with no reason provided, Haaretz reported yesterday [article by Gideon Levy & Alex Levac]. The family house of 21-year-old Khalil Mahmoud from the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood of ‘Issawiya was raided last Thursday by Israeli forces who tried to arrest him. Khalil told Haaretz a large number of Israeli soldiers –  “maybe 30” wearing border force uniforms – crowded into the house while his father Ahmed, a house painter, was at work. There were more soldiers in civilian clothes stationed outside, he added. After ransacking his room, they confiscated four shield trophies made of olive wood, which Khalil had received from various Palestinian NGOs as tokens of esteem and solidarity with his suffering. With a bullet still lodged into the right side of his skull to his day, Khalil is severely disabled and house-bound; his speech has been impeded by the attack by Israeli occupation forces and his left foot is paralyzed. Only 17 at the time, he was shot with an M-16 rifle when occupation forces shot at local Palestinian youth who were demonstrating against their presence in the occupied area, he denies he was part of the protests. He says he was on his way to a neighbour’s house to return money his family had borrowed from them when he was shot. A year after the attack, Khalil underwent seven operations in two different hospitals and he was unable to move or speak. According to Haaretz, when an Israeli soldier who intended to arrest him last week asked “Why does Khalil look like that?” his eldest brother Salah replied outraged: “Because the Border Police shot him four years ago, how will you arrest him? He can’t walk and he can barely talk!”  The occupation forces then proceeded to hand a form his father requesting that he bring Khalil in for questioning without giving a reason for the summons….

Missing 8-year-old child from Jerusalem found dead in cistern
JPost 25 Jan — The eight-year-old child from Jerusalem’s Arab neighborhood of Beit Hanina who was reported missing on Friday was found dead at the bottom of a cistern on Saturday morning, according to Israeli media reports.”When we arrived at the scene there was a big bustle, dozens of people were walking around the place,” Magen David Adom Paramedic Yanai Levy said in a statement. “Local medical staff performed basic resuscitation on the child. While transferring him to an intensive care unit, we were told that he was extracted from the reservoir without signs of life. We continued the medical care and cleared it while performing CPR operations at the hospital.”
Police forces and thousands of volunteers spent several hours searching for him. According to Israel Police, Qais abu Ramila was last seen on Friday afternoon and later reported missing by his family. He was last seen entering a car. His parents said they believe he was kidnapped. “We demand the police check security footage [from the streets],” his family told The Jerusalem Post‘s sister publication Maariv. “If it turns out he was kidnapped by [Jewish West Bank] settlers it would set the entire neighborhood on fire.” The boy’s father was taken for questioning by the police. According to Ynet, this is a routine procedure and the father is not a suspect …
In July 2014, a Palestinian teenager named Mohammed Abu Khdeir was kidnapped and his body was discovered in the Jerusalem Forest, burned by his murderers. Yosef Ben-David, 29, and two other Jewish-Israelis who were minors at the time were found guilty of the crime….

Palestinian boy beaten by Israeli soldiers hours after prison release
MEMO 23 Jan — Israeli soldiers have brutally beaten a Palestinian boy at a checkpoint north-east of Bethlehem, resulting in cuts and bruises across his body, the official Palestinian news agency Wafa has reported. Ma‘rouf Ahmad Al-Atrash, 15, is a resident of Beit Jala in Bethlehem. The boy was on his way home yesterday following his release from Damon Prison in the coastal Israeli city of Haifa after serving an eight-month prison sentence for allegedly throwing stones. Although he is just 15 years old, he was held alongside Israeli criminals guilty of crimes such as murder, robbery and drug trafficking. The Israeli soldiers at the checkpoint stopped his family’s vehicle and interrogated him on why he was arrested before forcibly holding him, and beating him with their rifles. He told Quds News Network that the soldiers also pointed their weapons at his mother and another relative. “After my mother yelled at the occupation soldiers,” the boy added, “they released me at 11:00 pm.” The director of the Association of Detainees and Ex-Detainees in Bethlehem, Mohammad Hamida, confirmed that Israel regularly arrests and detains Palestinian minors and that the child was assaulted for hours for no apparent reason. Al-Atrash described the violations of child prisoners at Damon Prison. He told Quds News Network, “They suffer from harsh conditions. The Israelis deprive them of food and blankets, and the repression unit beats them.”

Palestinian mosque in Jerusalem set ablaze in arson attack
MEMO 24 Jan — Suspected Jewish right-wing extremists attacked a Palestinian mosque in the Beit Safafa neighbourhood of occupied East Jerusalem pre-dawn today, reported Haaretz. A blaze broke out inside the mosque, which was quickly brought under control by the emergency services, causing damage but no casualties. In addition, graffiti was left on the mosque walls referring to the settler outpost “Kumi Ori”. “Destroy for Jews?” read the graffiti, “Destroy for enemies!” Earlier this month, Israeli occupation forces demolished two structures on Kumi Ori Hill, after the Supreme Court rejected a petition against the outpost’s demolition. During the demolition, a settler was arrested for assaulting Israeli forces. Israeli reports noted that “settlers at the outpost have been involved in several violent altercations with Israeli forces, including throwing stones”, and have also “committed a number of hate crimes” in Palestinian villages throughout the West Bank. The settlement outpost is located close to Yitzhar, a notorious base of right-wing extremism.

Bennett orders radical left-wing activists banned from West Bank
Times of Israel 18 Jan — Defense Minister Naftali Bennett on Saturday ordered security forces to issue restraining orders barring members of a left-wing activist group from the West Bank. Bennett accused Anarchists Against the Wall, an anti-Zionist group founded in 2003 to protest Israel’s security barrier in the West Bank, of initiating “violent provocations” each week in a number of Palestinian villages including Bil‘in, Ni‘lin, and Nabi Saleh. He said that according to information he was shown, including by disabled IDF veterans, the alleged violence was aimed at hurting Israeli soldiers, damaging property and causing “serious public relations damage” to Israel across the globe. “Orders of this type have so far only been issued in the Jewish public against price-tag activists and will now also be directed against anarchist activists on the left,” a statement from his office said … The statement from Bennett also said he ordered security forces “to act with a strong hand” against any violence by the group whose members he called “radical left-wing activists.” “No one was the right to harm cherished IDF soldiers and the security of the state in the name of freedom of expression and the right to protest. The time has come to stop the cheap provocations by these same anarchists and take a strong hand against internal enemies,” the statement quoted him saying. “The circus is over,” he added….

Ban on Israeli activists from West Bank based on lies and misinformation
+972 Magazine 19 Jan by Oren Ziv — Naftali Bennett’s decision to bar 30 Israeli activists from the West Bank is an attempt to silence anyone who dares work alongside Palestinians to end the occupation — Defense Minister Naftali Bennett announced Saturday night that he had issued administrative restraining orders against 30 Israeli left-wing and anarchist activists, barring them entry to the West Bank in order to stop them from joining the weekly, Palestinian-led protests against the separation barrier and the settlements. The order included the name Israeli activist Jonathan Pollak, who is already in detention after a far-right wing group filed a private prosecution against him for participation in West Bank demonstrations against the occupation. Pollak, who refuses to recognize legitimacy of the Israeli legal system, has been in custody for 15 days. Bennett’s announcement feels like it may have been relevant in 2005 when members of Anarchists Against the Wall would regularly join Palestinians in the West Bank. But the Palestinian popular struggle, which began with the building of the wall in 2002, and included demonstrations, marches, and direct actions, has reached a nadir over the past years.  Whether it is because Israel completed the building of the barrier, activist fatigue, or violent suppression of the protests — which included arrests, injuries, and even deaths — the demonstrations have never been smaller. In the past, hundreds of Palestinian, Israeli, and international activists would join the weekly protests in numerous sites around the West Bank. Today only symbolic protests take place in the villages of Bil‘in and Ni‘lin, which usually include no more than 20 people. Nabi Saleh no longer holds protests on a regular basis. Only in the village of Qaddum do between 100-200 people still demonstrate on a weekly basis …
The idea behind the restraining order for Israeli activists is based on the “theory” that Palestinians are helpless and need Israelis to travel from Tel Aviv to their villages in order to teach and encourage them to protest the occupation — the same occupation under which they live every single day. This assumption, of course, is not only racist, it is entirely disconnected from reality. Palestinians regularly hold protest marches in cities and villages that are unaffiliated with the popular struggle without a single Israeli coming to “encourage” them. Despite what Bennett may think, the Israeli activists do not lead the protests — they come to the West Bank to stand in solidarity. Without getting into the question of what does or does not constitute “legitimate” resistance, of the hundreds of West Bank demonstrations I have attended and documented over the last 15 years, not a single Israeli participant has ever thrown a stone at soldiers….

Israeli colonist injured in Hebron
IMEMC 19 Jan — Israeli sources have reported, Saturday, that one settler was injured in a stabbing attack, in Hebron, in the southern part of the occupied West Bank. The sources said that the colonist, 22 years of age, suffered a moderate injury, and was moved to an Israeli Medical Center. The incident took place near the illegal Israeli colony of Keryat Arba’, which was built on Palestinian lands, in Hebron. The soldiers detained one Palestinian and took him to an interrogation facility.

Israeli forces seize dozens of guns from Palestinians in crackdown
Times of Israel 22 Jan by Judah Ari Gross — Israeli security forces have seized dozens of guns owned illegally by Palestinians in the West Bank over the past month and a half, including two M-16 assault rifles, the military said Tuesday. The military said it has been cracking down on guns in the possession of Palestinians over the past six weeks, conducting searches in villages and towns throughout the West Bank. With the exception of Palestinian Authority security officials, West Bank Palestinians are prohibited by Israel from owning guns. “During these sweeps, forces seized many weapons, including 13 handguns, 25 Carlo-style submachine guns, two M-16 rifles and ammunition,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement. Carlo-style submachine guns are a variety of simple, locally produced firearms, based loosely on the design of the Swedish Carl Gustav submachine gun. Security forces also shut down five workshops throughout the West Bank where guns were being manufactured. All of the confiscated weapons were handed over to the Shin Bet. The IDF said soldiers had also seized hundreds of thousands of shekels that it believed were going to be used to fund terrorist activities…. [estimated Palestinian population of the West Bank in July 2017 acc. to CIA World Factbook: 2,155,743]


Defying Israel ban, Sheikh Sabri attempts to enter Al-Aqsa
IMEMC/Agencies 24 Jan — The head of the Supreme Islamic Commission and the Imam of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Sheikh Ekrema Sabri, on Friday, defied the Israeli order banning him from the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque, Shehab Agency reported. Sheikh Ekrema entered the Al-Aqsa Mosque to perform Friday prayers while being carried on the shoulders of worshipers, challenging the occupation’s attempts to ban worshipers from Al-Aqsa, which during the past two weeks affected more than 50 Palestinians. The Israeli police intensified their presence and stopped Sheikh Ekrema, then assaulted the worshipers, injuring two. It is noteworthy that the occupation forces banned Sheikh Sabri last week for one week, ending on Saturday, and require him to come for interrogation, for a possible renewal of his expulsion from Al-Aqsa, under the pretext of “incitement during Friday prayers.”

At least five worshipers injured by Israeli police at Al-Aqsa
IMEMC/Agencies 18 Jan — Israeli police, early Friday morning, stormed occupied Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, and assaulted Palestinian Muslim worshipers. Witnesses told WAFA that thousands of Palestinians rallied at the mosque compound following the Fajr Prayer, chanting slogans slamming Israeli intrusions into the site. They added that scores of police officers stormed the site, chased and assaulted the worshipers, inflicting injuries to dozens. Police opened fire towards the worshipers, injuring at least five with rubber-coated steel bullets; all casualties received medical treatment on site. Israeli settlers, on a near daily basis enter the compound, under the protection of Israeli police, while at the same time, the police prohibit and block Muslim worshipers’ access into the sacred site.

Video: Israeli soldiers attack worshipers at Al-Aqsa following Fajr prayer
Quds News Network 24 Jan #Watch| Israeli soldiers attacked worshipers at #AlAqsa mosque following Fajr prayer today and used stun grenades and rubber-coated metal bullets, leaving injuries. #Jerusalem #Palestine

Jordan denounces Israeli attack on worshipers in Al-Aqsa Mosque
IMEMC 24 Jan — The Jordanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates strongly denounced the Friday dawn Israeli attack against Palestinian Muslim worshipers in Al-Aqsa Mosque, in occupied Jerusalem. The Ministry said that the invasion into the courtyards of the holy sites, and the violent assault against the worshipers, is another serious Israeli violation of International Law and all related treaties. It added that the attack is a provocative move aiming at creating more tension and called on Israel to abide by all related agreements, by ending its violations and invasions into the holy sites in occupied Palestine, especially Al-Aqsa Mosque. The Ministry also said that, as the occupying power, Israel must respect the historic and legal statutes, and should stop these violations, instead of acting on creating more conflicts. On Friday at dawn, the soldiers shot a young Palestinian man and a woman with rubber-coated steel bullets, and assaulted many others with clubs and batons, following dawn prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, in Jerusalem.


Rights group details Israel’s recent torture of Palestinian detainees
MEMO 24 Jan — A Palestinian rights group has published details of what it describes as “the systematic use of torture and ill-treatment” against Palestinian detainees in Al-Mascobiyya interrogation centre. Prisoners’ rights organisation Addameer yesterday revealed “hard evidence” of the “crime of torture and ill-treatment” committed against Palestinians in recent months, describing “the cruel physical and physiological torture and ill-treatment” that a “number of detainees were subjected to”. As reported by Addameer, towards the end of 2019 Israel’s Shin Bet “subjected a number of detainees at Al-Mascobiyya interrogation centre to severe physical and psychological torture”, in an attempt “to extract confessions and force them into self-incrimination”. Addameer stated that it is the legal representative for around 50 cases of the detainees in interrogations, with the detainees including “university students” and “human rights defenders”. Palestinian prisoners can be interrogated for up to 75 days without being charged, and also prevented from seeing a lawyer for up to 60 days. According to the report, “the torture methods used against those detainees resulted in visible marks, and bruises on their bodies”, while several  [detainees] were not able to walk or even move due to the harsh beatings and stress positions they were subjected to.  Yet doctors at the interrogation centre clinic failed to document these marks, and even “approved the detainees’ physical capability to be sent back to interrogations”….

Israel relocates 33 Palestinian child prisoners outside the West Bank in violation of law
Palestine Chronicle 21 Jan — Israeli authorities transferred dozens of Palestinian child detainees outside the occupied West Bank to a prison inside Israel last week, in a move that the human rights NGO Defence for Children Palestine described as “amounting to a war crime”. According to DCIP, on January 13, the Israel Prison Service (IPS) moved 33 Palestinian children from Ofer prison, located near Ramallah inside the occupied West Bank, to Damon prison, located near Haifa.  “The transfer of Palestinian child prisoners outside the occupied West Bank is a war crime,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Accountability Programme Director at DCIP. “Israeli authorities must only detain children as a measure of last resort for the shortest necessary period of time without transferring them outside the occupied West Bank”. The Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits an occupying power transferring members of the occupied civilian population outside of the occupied territory, including detainees. The children told their lawyers that they were held at Damon prison “in basement rooms with terrible conditions, including mice”, and during the first three days at Damon prison the children refused meals to protest the transfer and prison conditions”….


Israeli ministry paying for anti-BDS propaganda in major news outlets
+972 Magazine 14 Jan by Itamar Benzaquen and The Seventh Eye — The Israeli government recently paid tens of thousands of shekels to the Jerusalem Post in order to publish a series of articles connecting the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement (BDS) to anti-Semitism, according to the government’s own procurement department. The articles were part of a “package” purchased by the Ministry of Strategic Affairs that included branding, advertising, a slot at a recent Jerusalem Post conference, and the articles themselves, which appeared in the run-up to the conference. The Jerusalem Post denied that the articles had been paid for. The Strategic Affairs Ministry, headed by Likud minister Gilad Erdan, has for years been spearheading an international campaign to counter what it sees as “de-legitimization” of the State of Israel. This project has, in large part, involved providing funds and handing down directives to non-governmental organizations and journalists in order to enlist them in the fight against BDS.  The ministry prides itself on having created a “network” of domestic and international organizations to implement its policies. Believing that official government propaganda is ineffective, the ministry instead funnels its messaging via individuals and institutions who are perceived as unconnected to the state. The ministry has refused to release the list of entities belonging to this network, although some of them were revealed in a 2017 investigation by The Seventh Eye….

Other news

Israeli court rules homeless shelter, mall can be built over Muslim cemetery
[behind paywall] Haaretz 22 Jan by Bar Peleg — The Tel Aviv municipality may now build a homeless shelter on a site where Ottoman-era Muslim graves were found, a court ruled on Tuesday, rejecting an appeal from the local Islamic Council. The court said that despite the importance of not offending the city’s Muslim residents, the interests of the living should take precedence over those of the dead. Attorney Mohammed Adri’i, who chairs the Islamic Council in Jaffa, said the decision constitutes persecution and shows the policy of Israeli government and Tel Aviv municipality of “eradicating any memory” of Muslim presence in the area. The Islamic Council plans to appeal the ruling …  Her ruling relied in part on the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem, which was also built on the site of a former Muslim cemetery. That ruling included a lengthy discussion of how the dignity of the dead should be balanced against the needs of development….

Israeli electric company ends power cuts to West Bank after Palestinians pay debt
JERUSALEM/RAMALLAH (Reuters) 22 Jan — Israel’s state-owned electric company said on Wednesday it was ending power cuts to the occupied West Bank after the Palestinians’ main power distributor paid off a chunk of debt. Israel Electric Corp (IEC) began sporadic, three-hour power cuts on Dec. 18 to press for payment of some $519 million owed by the Jerusalem District Electricity Company (JDECO). Palestinians in the West Bank rely on IEC for over 95 percent of their electricity supply. The cuts led to power outages in the cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem, affecting an estimated 130,000 people, according to JDECO. IEC Chairman Yiftah Ron-Tal said the company was stopping the cuts after “JDECO transferred 740 million shekels ($214.21 million) of debt accumulated by the Palestinian Authority (PA) since 2016 … JDECO signed a loan agreement with several Palestinian banks in order to pay off the debt it owed, said Mansour Nassar, the company’s assistant general manager for technical affairs. The Palestinians have tried to reduce what they call their dependence on Israel for energy, in part through state- and private sector-funded solar energy projects and plans to build their own power plants.

Jordan parliament passes draft law to ban gas imports from Israel
AMMAN (Reuters) 19 Jan by Suleiman Al-Khalidi — Jordan’s parliament on Sunday approved a draft law to ban imports of Israeli gas to the country just days after they started under a multibillion-dollar deal struck in 2016 which is opposed by much of the population. The motion was passed unanimously by Jordan’s 130 lawmakers and will be referred to the cabinet to be made law, although legal hurdles may prevent it coming into force. The government has previously said it was a deal between companies rather than a political matter. The $10 billion supply deal was originally struck between Jordan’s state-owned utility and a U.S -. Israeli consortium led by Texas-based Noble Energy, to provide gas to the country’s power plants for electricity generation. It was not referred to parliament for approval …  Although U.S. ally Jordan has a peace treaty with Israel the deal, which supplies Jordan for 15 years, has faced much popular opposition, with lawmakers arguing it makes the kingdom dependent on its neighbour for energy….

Prince Charles in Bethlehem: ‘It breaks my heart’ to see Palestinian suffering
Times of Israel 24 Jan — Britain’s Prince Charles said on Friday that he was heartbroken to witness the “suffering” and “hardship” endured by the Palestinians. The remarks by the heir to the British throne, who was visiting the West Bank town of Bethlehem, were described by Britain’s Sky News TV as constituting “the biggest show of support that a member of the Royal family ever has [expressed] for the Palestinians.” Visiting the town revered by Christians as the birthplace of Jesus, Charles said: “It breaks my heart therefore that we should continue to see so much suffering and division. No one arriving in Bethlehem today could miss the signs of continued hardship, and the situation you face.”… He added: “It is my dearest wish that the future will bring freedom, justice and equality to all Palestinians, enabling you to thrive and to prosper.”….

UK ‘counterterror’ police list Palestine Solidarity Campaign
EI 21 Jan by Asa Winstanley — A British police “counterterror” document listed the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and a host of other peaceful groups last year alongside Nazis and other extremists. The document, revealed by The Guardian last week, is intended to help public sector workers identify “extremist” groups. On its final page it encourages readers to anonymously “report suspicious activity” to counterterrorism police. The document is part of Britain’s controversial “Prevent” strategy, often criticized as Islamophobic. “The inclusion of peaceful campaigning groups in a counterterrorism guidance document is grotesque” and a threat to basic democratic rights, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s director Ben Jamal told The Electronic Intifada. “The document must be immediately rescinded.” …
A Prevent document leaked in 2017 indicated that British police were closely monitoring “pro-Palestinian activity.” The new document obtained by The Guardian was produced by the Counter Terrorism and Policing National Operations Centre, as shown by a note mentioning the CTPNOC. In a previous incarnation, this body ran long-term undercover police spies in peaceful campaigning groups. A similar UK “counterterror” police unit infiltrated an undercover officer in ISM London, a Palestine solidarity group, between 2004 and 2007….

Netanyahu renews West Bank annexation vow ahead of elections
JERUSALEM (AP) 21 Jan — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu renewed a vow to annex Israeli settlements in the West Bank as the embattled leader kicked off a third election campaign in under a year Tuesday. Addressing Likud Party supporters at a campaign launch event in Jerusalem, Netanyahu promised to “impose Israeli sovereignty on the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea,” then pledged to annex all Israeli West Bank settlements “without exception.” Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians seek those territories as part of a future state. Most of the international community considers Israel’s West Bank settlements illegal under international law. Netanyahu had previously called for the annexation of the Jordan Valley ahead of September’s repeat parliamentary elections. He and other Israeli officials contend the region is crucial to defending the country’s eastern flank. Annexation of the Jordan Valley, which makes up around a quarter of the West Bank and is the territory’s agricultural heartland, would make a future Palestinian state unviable and would draw condemnation from the Palestinians and much of the international community. U.N. political chief Rosemary DiCarlo reiterated at a U.N. Security Council meeting Tuesday that “all settlements are illegal under international law and remain an obstacle to peace” and warned against annexation … Israel faces an unprecedented third parliamentary election in under a year on March 2 after Netanyahu twice failed to form a governing coalition after April and September’s votes.

US opposes Israel annexation of West Bank before peace plan revealed
MEMO 23 Jan — The White House is opposing any Israeli move to annex parts of the occupied West Bank “before declaring its [US] prospective plan to settle the Israel-Palestinian conflict, known as Deal of the Century,” a US official announced yesterday. Israel’s Channel 13 quoted the American official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, as saying that the US administration had “clearly made its stance clear to the Israeli government”, adding that the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was “fully aware that the US does not support any unilateral annexation steps by Israel before a peace plan has been announced.” The official did not clarify whether Washington supports the Israeli annexation plan at all. Last year, the White House said the plan was pending the formation of a new Israeli government. However, Israeli media reported recently that the US would announce the plan sometime before the national elections due on 2 March.

Trump to unveil long-stalled Middle East peace plan ahead of Israeli leaders’ visit
MIAMI/JERUSALEM (Reuters)23 Jan by Jeff Mason, Maayan Lubell  – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday he will release details of his long-delayed peace plan for the Middle East before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his election rival Benny Gantz visit the White House next week. The political aspects of the peace initiative have been closely guarded. Only the economic proposals have been unveiled. Trump discussed the timing of the plan’s release with two architects of the plan, senior advisers Jared Kushner and Avi Berkowitz, on Air Force One while returning to Washington from Switzerland on Wednesday. Speaking to reporters on Air Force One en route to the Miami area for a political event, Trump said Palestinians might react negatively to his plan at first, but that “it’s actually very positive for them.”… The Trump Middle East peace proposal is a document, dozens of pages long, that addresses in detail the thorny political issues between Israel and the Palestinians, such as the status of Jerusalem. U.S. officials made no mention of inviting the Palestinians, and Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said: “We warn Israel and the U.S. administration not to cross any red lines.” Trump indicated his administration had spoken “briefly” to the Palestinians and would speak to them again “in a period of time.”

In the name of ‘Israel’s security’, retreating US gives Israel billions more in military aid
Palestine Chronicle 21 Jan by Ramzy Baroud — Billions of US taxpayers’ dollars will continue to be funneled into Israel in the next fiscal year, and for many years in the foreseeable future. Republican and Democratic Senators have recently ensured just that, passing a bill aimed at providing Israel with $3.3 billion in aid every year. The Bill, co-sponsored by Democratic Senator Chris Coons and Republican Senator Marco Rubio, was passed on 9 January, only one day after Iran struck US positions in Iraq. Enthusiasm to push the Bill forward was meant to be an assurance to Tel Aviv from Washington that the US is committed to Israel’s security and military superiority in the Middle East. Despite a palpable sense of war fatigue among all Americans, regardless of their political leaning, their country continues to sink deeper into Middle East conflicts simply because it is unable – or perhaps unwilling — to challenge Israel’s benefactors across the US government. “What’s good for Israel is good for America” continues to be the supreme maxim within Washington’s political elites, despite the fact that such irrational thinking has wrought disasters on the Middle East as a whole, and is finally forcing a hasty and humiliating American retreat. The latest aid package to Israel will officially put into law a “Memorandum of Understanding” that was reached between the right-wing government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Barack Obama administration in 2016. At the time, Obama had offered Israel the largest military aid package in US history….

Post falsely ties Tlaib scarf to Islamic State
Politfact 17 Jan by Jon Greenberg — Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., is the first female Palestinian-American member of Congress, and at times, wears the scarf — called a keffiyeh — associated with Palestinian resistance to Israeli control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. A viral Facebook post, however, wrongly says the scarf represents terrorism:  “A U.S. Congresswoman wears the symbolic scarf patterned after the Islamic terrorist state,” reads the post next to two images of people wearing the keffiyeh. One picture shows Tlaib on the House floor with the scarf around her neck and the other of an armed militant with the scarf over his face. There’s no quibble that the scarf Tlaib wore stands for the Palestinian people. She’s a Palestinian-American and her grandmother lives in the West Bank. Among Palestinians, it’s an object of pride with a history that stretches back thousands of years. Tlaib wore it when she spoke against a House resolution that she said would treat her grandmother as a second-class citizen. But the tie that the Facebook post makes between the scarf and Islamic State terrorism is unfounded….


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“But the three 17-year-olds never came home. That evening, Israeli forces shot and killed the three boys, alleging that they had crossed the separation barrier between the blockaded Palestinian enclave and Israel in an attempt to carry out an attack. The teenagers’ families have vehemently rejected the accusations, as they seek to understand what happened to their sons, whose bodies Israel is now withholding.” Let there be no doubt!! The borderless, armed to the teeth,… Read more »