Israeli settlers’ digging in occupied East Jerusalem causes landslides in Palestinian neighborhood

Kate – March 2, 2019
The underground excavations carried out by Israeli settlers beneath Palestinian buildings in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan have caused landslides following the last winter storm.

The Wadi Hilweh Information Center said that the torrential rains and flash floods over the past two days have exposed new landslides and cracks in Palestinian buildings and roads as a result of the ongoing Israeli settlers’ underground digs beneath the neighborhood. The Center detected “life-threatening” collapses Thursday evening in a wall surrounding a playground and a parking lot in Wadi Hilweh area, which it has blamed on the ongoing underground excavations carried out by Israelis and subsequent removal of large amounts of earth from under the area. It also detected other landslides in a plot of land currently used as a parking lot by the neighborhood residents. The land, located next to Ein Silwan mosque, is the property of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem. The center warned the area of cracks and landslides have noticeably increased, causing damages to over 70 Palestinian houses and buildings, not to mention local streets. The work above the ground and the underground digs by the settlers in that area without any consideration for the safety of the Palestinian families living there have posed a serious threat to the entire neighborhood. Residents of Silwan, which is adjacent to the Old City of Jerusalem, said that instead of doing something to stop the settlers’ digs and work and make living safer for the local residents, the West Jerusalem municipality decides that these homes are not safe and orders them evacuated and closed. They expressed fear that the digs and work in that area by the settlers are intentional and sanctioned by the municipality and government as a prelude to evacuate the Palestinians from their homes under the pretext they were not safe to live in to eventually take over their homes and replace them with the settlers, who are anxious to take over the entire Wadi Hilweh street and neighborhood, which they call City of David.

JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 1 Mar — Israeli authorities shut down a Palestinian restaurant in Salah al-Din Street in occupied East Jerusalem, on Friday, under the pretext of hiring a West Bank resident as an employee. Local sources said that Israeli authorities hung up an order closing Abu Ali Hummus and Falafel Restaurant for ten days under the pretext of employing a West Bank resident, who did not obtain an Israeli entry permit to enter Jerusalem. Sources added that Rashdi Ishti, the owner of the restaurant, was summoned for interrogation by Israeli police forces and was informed regarding the order to shut down his business. The owner did not receive prior notice concerning the Israeli decision. Under Israel’s permit regime, Palestinian residents of the West Bank are not allowed to access occupied East Jerusalem or Israel without an Israeli-issued permit, and many risk being shot and injured while trying to cross into Israel to work….
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 27 Feb — Israeli settler spray painted racist, anti-Arab slogans, on the al-Rahma Gate (Gate of Mercy), one of the Al-Aqsa Mosque gates, on Tuesday, in the central occupied West Bank district of Jerusalem. Eyewitnesses told Ma‘an that one Israeli settler raided the eastern part of Bab al-Rahma cemetery and spray painted racist, anti-Arab slogans on the wall. Israeli police detained the settler and took him for interrogation to an Israeli police station near the Lions Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City. In 2015, the Bab al-Rahma cemetery was subject to demolitions after Israeli authorities announced plans to seize parts of the cemetery for a national park trail in 2015.
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 26 Feb — The Israeli Minister of Agriculture, Uri Ariel, stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem under armed security by Israeli forces, on Tuesday. Head of the public relations office at the Islamic Endowment Department, Firas al-Dibs, said that Israeli Minister Ariel was heading a group of Israeli settlers into the Al-Aqsa compound via the Moroccans Gate, which has been under Israeli control since the occupation of Jerusalem City. Al-Dibs pointed out that Ariel took footage of the al-Rahma Gate (Gate of Mercy) prayer area that was opened recently. Prayer area of the al-Rahma Gate was closed Monday evening upon order by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and reopened on Tuesday morning. Israeli police forces were deployed around al-Rahma prayer area since early morning hours and took footage of Palestinian guards who opened the area.
The number of Israeli MK’s who storm the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound has increased the past few months after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to lift a ban that would previously not allow Israeli Knesset members to visit the compound every three months, after incursions were banned since October 2015. Netanyahu allowed members of the Knesset, mostly right-wing extremists who support the demolition of the Islamic site in order to build a Jewish temple instead, to visit the Al-Aqsa compound once every three months. However, in the past two months, MKs such as Shuli Mualem, Yehuda Glick, and Uri Ariel have repeatedly entered the compound, violating the “every three months entry.”
OCCUPIED EAST JERUSALEM (Al Jazeera) 1 Mar by Mersiha Gadzo — Palestinian activist Hanady Halawani has lost count of the number of times she has been banned from visiting the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque. Over a span of 15 years, she says she’s been arrested at least 24 times, much of the time due to her social media posts, in which she would update her followers on the latest developments unravelling at the flashpoint. Her posts include videos of Israeli settlers performing prayers at the holy compound, in violation of the status quo. Other photos from the past summer show land and graves that have been dug up by Israeli authorities at the historic Bab al-Rahma cemetery, located just outside the compound’s eastern wall. Protests over the summer last year by a small group of Palestinians were of no avail as the centuries-old graves of Muslim leaders reportedly lie in the way of a planned Israeli park. Even when the site – known as Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) for Muslims and Temple Mount for Jews – may at times appear to be relatively calm, Halawani and other Palestinians know that this is an illusion. They believe the fragile status quo is being gradually eroded as Israelis continue to take steps in asserting sovereignty over the site, with the goal of spatially and temporally partitioning the holy compound and eventually building the Third Temple over the ruins of Al-Aqsa, as propagated by the Temple Movement activists …
Building the Third Temple — For years, Ir Amim has been issuing reports warning of the danger and growing prominence of Temple Movement activists. Temple activists openly declare that ascension to the compound and praying at the site is central in their strategy of breaking the status quo, asserting Israeli control and serves as the first step in eventually building the Third Temple over Al-Aqsa. The number of Jewish visitors to the compound has been breaking records over the past few years. In the last Jewish year, 22,552 Jewish visitors ascended to the compound, which more than doubled compared with the number two years ago. Ir Amim warned in 2017 that the Israeli police, who are supposed to prevent non-Muslim worship at the site, are now working in “close coordination” with temple activists and disregard Jewish worship that takes place, marking a “radical shift” in their relationship….
AIC 28 Feb Ahmad Jaradat — Overnight on Tuesday, February 26, 2019, Israeli police arrested Palestinian Authority (PA) Governor of Jerusalem Adnan Ghaith from his home in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan. Ghaith’s lawyer Muhammad Mahmoud told Ma‘an News that Israeli intelligence and special forces raided his home and transferred him to the Russian Compound detention center. That night, alongside Gaith, Israeli police arrested at least 22 other Palestinians from across East Jerusalem. The arrests appear to part of an Israeli police crackdown on Palestinian activists in the holy city. Police have arrested dozens of Palestinians from across East Jerusalem following the eruption of a protest movement at al-Aqsa Mosque Compound. Despite the arrests, protesters have been successful in achieving their demand of reopening Bab al-Rahmah, a hall and gate in al-Aqsa Compound that Israeli authorities have kept closed since 2003. Ghaith was released from jail the following day, Wednesday, February 27. The Israeli police accused Gaith of violating an Israeli law that bars PA activity in Jerusalem as well as fraud, forgery and embezzlement. Israeli police have repeatedly arrested Ghaith since October 2018. In November 2018, Israeli police banned Ghaith from the West Bank for six months. PA President Mahmoud Abbas appointed Ghaith to his current position in August 2018.
JERUSALEM (WAFA) 27 Feb – The Israeli Magistrate Court ordered today the release of Palestinian Authority (PA) governor Adnan Ghaith after the Israeli security had failed to appeal its decision. The court gave the security service until 6:00 pm local time to submit an appeal to its ruling earlier in the day, and after the deadline had passed, Ghaith was set free.
[with video] Reuters 24 Feb — Police in Jerusalem arrested on Sunday a senior Muslim cleric attached to the sacred compound in the Old City, two days after he re-opened a mosque sealed by Israel during a Palestinian uprising in 2003. Sheikh Abdel-Azeem Salhab, who sits on the religious council appointed by Jordan to oversee the Islamic sites at the compound, personally reopened the gate leading into the Bab al-Rahmeh mosque on Friday, and hundreds of Muslims went inside to pray for the first time in years. It followed days of tension between Israeli police and the Muslim religious authorities over access to a corner of the 35-acre sacred compound known to Jews as Temple Mount and to Muslims as The Noble Sanctuary. In the build up to Friday prayers police arrested 60 people they suspected would incite violence, and boosted the security presence in the Old City. But the day passed without serious incident. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said Salhab and another person [Najih Bkirat, the Deputy Director General of Awqaf in Jerusalem] were arrested on Sunday morning, two days after the incident, for breaching an order, and that they were being held for questioning … Saeb Erekat, a senior aide to President Mahmoud Abbas, denounced the arrests “in the strongest terms” and demanded their immediate release. Jordan’s minister in charge of the Waqf and Islamic affairs, Abdul Nasser Moussa Abu al-Basal, called it “an unacceptable and dangerous escalation that impacts Jordan’s role as a caretaker of Jerusalem’s holy sites.”
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 1 Mar — The Israeli police banned, on Thursday evening, a Palestinian fireman from the Islamic Endowment Department from entering the al-Rahma Gate (Gate of Mercy) area inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. Head of the public relations office at the Islamic Endowment Department, Firas al-Dibs, said that Israeli police forces detained Imad Abdeen while at Hatta Gate adjacent to the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Abdeen was interrogated for several hours before being released on the condition of being banned from entering the al-Rahma Gate area, as Israeli police claim Abdeen was with Al-Aqsa guards who opened the gate. The al-Rahma Gate is a big building that lays to the east of the Al-Aqsa, the Israeli authorities sealed the building in 2003 as it was the headquarters of the Islamic Heritage Committee; Israel had said at the time that the building was being used for political activities. In 2017, an Israeli court ordered that the building be closed until a further notice.
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 24 Feb — A Palestinian teacher was shot and injured by Israeli forces, on Saturday, during raids of the ‘Issawiya neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem. Muhammad Abu al-Hummus, member of a local follow-up committee, said that Israeli forces raided the neighborhood as Palestinian students and teachers made their way back home from school. Abu al-Hummus stressed that one teacher was shot and injured in her hand after Israeli forces repeatedly fired rubber-coated steel bullets and stun grenades across ‘Issawiya. The teacher was transferred to a hospital for medical treatment. Her medical condition remained unknown.
IMEMC 24 Feb — Israeli soldiers abducted, Sunday, a Palestinian from occupied Jerusalem, while heading to Jericho along with many other Palestinians accompanying a former political prisoner to the Jericho city. Amjad Abu Assab, the head of the Jerusalem Detainees’ Committee, said the army stopped the car convoy of a former political prisoner, identified as Abdul-Rahman Mahmoud, and searched the vehicles while inspecting the ID cards of the Palestinians. Abu Assab added that the soldiers then abducted one of the relatives of the former detainee and took him to an unknown destination. The Palestinians were heading to Jericho with Mahmoud, who was just released from prison, after being held by Israel for seventeen years, but the conditions of his release required him not to return home, in the al-‘Issawiya town in Jerusalem, for three days.
AIC 22 Feb Ahmad Jaradat — In Jerusalem, Palestinians suffer from a web of institutional, personal, violent and quotidian forms of discrimination due to the Israeli colonial occupation. Yet, the Palestinian population in Jerusalem continues to grow. The Palestinian population in the holy city has increased fivefold since 1967 and now constitutes at least 38 percent of the city. In addition to posing a formidable challenge to the Israeli occupation, the Palestinian population’s increase means that more Palestinian children are growing up under a protracted military occupation. To understand the urgency with which the international community must act to end the Israeli occupation, one must grasp the discriminatory and violent policies that shape the lives and futures of Palestinian children in the holy city from the moment they are born. …
Born without papers — Palestinian children who live in Jerusalem are not born with a right to live in their hometowns. Since 1967, Palestinians in East Jerusalem have lived as “permanent residents” – an Israeli legal status that makes their presence a revocable privilege, rather than an inherent right. Permanent residency status is not automatically transferred through marriage or onto the holder’s children. Instead, around the time when Palestinian children enter high school, they are required to present themselves to Israeli authorities and supply proof that Jerusalem is at the center of their life according to the “center of life” policy. The “center of life” policy stipulates that if a Palestinian cannot prove that her everyday life revolves around Jerusalem then she will lose her residency rights to the city and be evicted to the West Bank. Even if a Palestinian can meet this strict standard, Israeli authorities retain the power to revoke her residency rights at any time. Between 1967 and 2016, Israel revoked the status of at least 14,595 Palestinians from East Jerusalem, according to the Interior Ministry….
JERUSALEM (AA) 26 Feb by Mustafa Deveci & Esat Firat — Many E. Jerusalem residents face same dilemma, Palestinian journalist’s lawyer says — The Israeli authorities are seeking to expel Mustafa Kharouf, a Palestinian photo-journalist for Anadolu Agency, from the occupied East Jerusalem, citing alleged “security concerns”. For the last four weeks, Kharouf, 32, who has lived in the East Jerusalem for the last two decades, has been held at Israel’s Givon Prison. He has resisted attempts by the Israeli authorities to force him into signing documents that would facilitate his expulsion to neighboring Jordan. Rights activists recently launched a social media campaign — with the hashtag #Mustafa_must_stay — to drum up support for the embattled journalist. For the last 20 years, the Israeli authorities have consistently refused to grant Kharouf a long-term residency permit. Adi Lustigman, Kharouf’s lawyer, told Anadolu Agency that his client had lived in the East Jerusalem since he was 12 years old. Nor, the lawyer added, is Kharouf a citizen of any other country.
West Bank
Twenty-nine people were killed when a far-right Israeli settler opened fire inside a Hebron mosque in 1994. Palestinian have been marking the 25th anniversary and protesting against Israel’s expulsion of the international observer mission that was set up in the aftermath of the massacre. The demonstrations have been relatively peaceful, but they highlight how divided, tense and militarised the city remains. Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett reports from Hebron. [Fawcett briefly interviews a survivor]
Twenty-five years ago, a Jewish settler killed 29 Palestinians as they worshipped at the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron. It’s the burial place of Abraham and the only site in the world shared by Jews and Muslims. Since the shooting, Muslims say it’s been more difficult to worship freely at holy sites. Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith reports from occupied East Jerusalem.
IMEMC/Agencies 27 Feb — Israeli forces, this morning, attacked hundreds of Palestinian workers who gathered at the narrow corridor of Checkpoint 300, north of the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem, that leads to Jerusalem, causing suffocation, said Palestinian security sources. Soldiers manning the checkpoint fired tear gas canisters towards the workers after they protested their ill-treatment as they try to pass through the checkpoint, on their way to work in Israel, causing dozens to suffocate from excessive tear gas inhalation. Soldiers closed the checkpoint following the protest, denying workers access to their workplaces. According to WAFA, thousands of Palestinian workers who queue before dawn every day to pass through Checkpoint 300 face extreme overcrowding and often wait for hours, in line, due to severe inspection procedures as every person must pass through metal turnstiles one at a time.
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 27 Feb — Israeli forces detained 34 Palestinians, including a minor and a former prisoner, across the occupied West Bank on predawn Wednesday. Palestine Prisoner’s Society (PPS) said that Israeli forces detained three Palestinians in the southern West Bank district of Hebron. They were identified as Subhi Abu Zeineh, Ayoub Ayman Lafi, 53, and Ayed Abada al-Shuwahin, 27. In East Jerusalem, in the Jerusalem district, 23 Palestinians were detained from various neighborhoods, however, they were not identified. In the central West Bank district of Jericho, two Palestinians were detained. PPS identified them as Iyad Muhammad Zabidat and his brother Mourad.
In the central West Bank district of Ramallah, another three Palestinians were detained by Israeli forces. They were identified as Member of Fatah’s revolutionary council, Zakariya al-Zubeidi, lawyer of the Prisoners and Former Prisoners’ Affairs Committee Tareq Barghouth, and Hamza Rasem Barghouthi. In Beitillu village, also in the same district, a 13-year-old Palestinian was detained and identified as Mahmoud Shaher Bazar. PPS said that he was released shortly afterwards.
In the northern West Bank district of Jenin, three Palestinians were detained. PPS identified them as former prisoner, Khaled Khalil Kamil, Muhanad Beni Ghara, and Amar Tarkman.
According to prisoners rights group Addameer, there are 5,450 Palestinian prisoners being held in Israeli prisons, including 215 minors, 43 of whom under 16 years old.
IMEMC/Agencies 24 Feb — Israeli soldiers, on Saturday, assaulted journalist Mashhour al-Wahwah, who works as a cameraman with WAFA News Agency, while he was taking a video of a marathon organized by Jewish settlers in the Old City of Hebron, south of the West Bank. Soldiers assaulted Wahwah and prevented him from capturing the video or taking pictures. They also briefly detained him before letting him go. Also on Saturday, an Israeli settler assaulted the treasurer of the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee (HRC), Husam Abu Hadid, while he was walking in the old town quarter of Hebron, south of the occupied West Bank.
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 24 Feb — Israeli forces shot and injured a Palestinian youth, on Saturday evening, from al-‘Arroub refugee camp in the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron. According to medical sources, an 18-year-old Palestinian, whose identity remained unknown [IMEMC: Mohammad ‘Ata al-As‘ees], was shot and injured in his foot with a rubber-coated steel bullet fired by Israeli forces. Sources confirmed that the youth was transferred to a nearby hospital for medical treatment. His medical condition was described as moderate. Clashes erupted among Israeli forces and Palestinian youths at the entrance to al-Arroub refugee camp, during which soldiers fired rubber-coated steel bullets and tear-gas bombs, while youths threw rocks.

IMEMC 23 Feb — An illegal Israeli colonialist settler attacked, on Saturday morning, an official of the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee, in the Sahla neighborhood, near the Ibrahimi Mosque in the Old City of Hebron, in the southern part of the occupied West Bank. Husam Abu Hadid said the colonist assaulted him while he was walking in the area and added that the attack happened despite the presence of Israeli soldiers, constantly deployed in the area. He told the Palestinian News Agency WAFA that he was walking in the neighborhood, and just after he crossed the military roadblock in the area, an Israeli colonialist settler assaulted him, and struck him in the head, in addition to hurling insults at him. The Legal Advisor of the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee, attorney Tawfiq Jahshan, said that he filed an official complaint with the Israeli police.
IMEMC 23 Feb — Dozens of illegal Israeli colonialist settlers carried out, on Saturday evening, a provocative march in the streets and alleys of the Old City of Hebron, in the southern part of the occupied West Bank. Media sources said the colonists marched through the market area, and headed to the street of the City Council then to the Shuhada Street. Israeli soldiers closed the entire area to the Palestinians, and prevented them from entering or leaving it.
IMEMC 23 Feb — A group of illegal Israeli colonialist settlers attacked, on Saturday evening, many Palestinian cars near Huwwara Israeli military roadblock, south of Nablus, in northern West Bank. Resdent Mohammad Sawafta, from Bardala town in the Northern Plains of the West Bank, said the colonists pelted his car with stones, causing serious damage. e added that the colonists also attacked many cars in the area, while the soldiers failed to intervene and stop them. Sawafta stated that the army installed an additional military roadblock and started stopping and searching Palestinian cars.
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 25 Feb — Israeli forces detained two Palestinian women while crossing the Qalandiya checkpoint north of occupied Jerusalem, on Sunday evening. Israeli police sources said that Israeli border guards detained a Palestinian woman from Nablus, in the northern West Bank, while crossing the Qalandiya checkpoint using the car lane. Israeli border police reportedly suspected the woman, ordered her to stop, fired shots in the air when she did not respond before detaining her.
Earlier Sunday, Israeli forces had detained another Palestinian woman from Ramallah City, in the central West Bank, as she was passing the Qalandiya checkpoint. Israeli forces reportedly found a knife in the woman’s possession. The two women were transferred for interrogation.
IMEMC 23 Feb — Israeli soldiers abducted, on Saturday evening, three Palestinian shepherds, south of Yatta town, south of Hebron, in the southern part of the occupied West Bank. Rateb Jabour, the coordinator of the National and Popular Committee against the Annexation Wall and Colonies in southern West Bank, said the soldiers, accompanied by many colonialist settlers, invaded the area before the army detained the shepherds. He added that the three shepherds are from Abu Younis and al-Jabarin families and stated that the soldiers released them later. Jabour said that the colonists have escalated their violations in the area, and have been frequently attacking Palestinian farmers and shepherds, in addition to trying to prevent them from entering their own lands. It is worth mentioning that the colonists have occupied a Palestinian hill, west of the adjacent Jibna village, and have been preventing the Palestinian owners of the lands, and the shepherds, from entering it.
New Arab 25 Feb — Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank have arrested ten Palestinian activists including Khader Adnan and Tareq Qaadan, both former Palestinian prisoners who had won their freedom last year after a series of successful hunger strikes. A statement by the Israeli army early on Monday said ten suspects were arrested overnight, but did not identify any of those detained or the charges. But Israel’s notorious Shin Bet security service later identified two of the detainees as Adnan and Qaadan. The Israeli statement said the arrests were of “wanted persons suspected of involvement in terrorist activities, popular terror and violent disturbances against civilians and soldiers”. According to Palestinian media reports, Adnan was arrested in his home town of ‘Arraba, south of Jenin in the West Bank, just months after the Palestinian was released in December after a year in administrative detention. He had been picked up in January and detained briefly as well. Both Adnan and Qaadan are senior members of the political wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
[behind paywall] Haaretz 28 Feb by Jack Khoury et al. — Israeli security forces arrested on Wednesday morning the former leader of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, Zakayria Zubeidi, on suspicion of “grave and current terrorist activity.” Also arrested in Jenin was East Jerusalem resident Tarek Barghout. The two have been transferred for interrogation by the Shin Bet security service, and their arrest has since been extended by eight days. The arrest surprised the residents of Jenin, who noted that in recent years Zubeidi had been focusing on political activity as a member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council and held a position in the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society. Sources told Haaretz that Zubeidi served in a position equivalent to that of chief officer, and had been aiding prisoners and their families. Jawad Boulos, head of the legal department, said that he didn’t receive any information on the two’s arrest or the allegations against them. Tarek Barghout, who also works in the Paletsinian Prisoners’ Association, is a lawyer who had represented numerous Palestinian political prisoners.
Times of Israel 27 Feb by Amanda Borschel-Dan — Two crews of antiquities thieves were arrested at sites in eastern Samaria in the West Bank in two unrelated incidents in the past two weeks. In a statement released by the Ministry of Defense, Head of the Civil Administration’s Archaeology Unit Hananya Hizmi said, “The phenomenon of the theft and destruction of antiquities causes both historical and cultural damage to all of the residents of the region … According to the Ministry of Defense release, when the four suspects were arrested by Israel Police they had in their possession excavation tools, metal detectors, as well as a Jeep Defender, which were all confiscated. Following a court hearing, two were released after serving 10 days in jail and fined NIS 2,000 ($550). The other two burglars are still serving their 35-day sentence and will be fined NIS 4,000. An additional NIS 8,000 fine was levied on the burglars for the confiscated vehicle….
Times of Israel 25 Feb by Judah Ari Gross — Checkers at a West Bank crossing arrested a truck driver and his passenger on Sunday evening, after finding a gun and large amounts of ammunition hidden inside the vehicle, the Defense Ministry said. The two men “aroused the suspicion” of a security officer at the Te’enim checkpoint between Israel and the northern West Bank, the ministry said in a statement. During an initial search of the truck, checkers found a large number of bullets, packed in plastic bags. A police sapper who was then called to assist in the search also found a locally produced makeshift submachine gun, known as a Carlo, which had been hidden inside the side panels of the truck, the ministry said….
Sunday’s thwarted smuggling came as Israeli police announced that they had foiled an apparent plot to smuggle handguns into Israel from Jordan earlier this month, details of which were kept under gag order until this week. On February 7, Border Police officers spotted the primary suspect, a Palestinian man from the Nablus area, as he attempted to cross the border into northern Israel from Jordan wearing a large backpack. The border guards, assisted by the Israel Defense Forces, arrested the man shortly after he crossed into the northern Jordan Valley and found inside his bag 37 pistols of various types, police said. The police arrested three other Palestinian suspects — all from the Nablus area — whom they believe were planning to pick up the suspect after he crossed the border….
Times of Israel 27 Feb by Judah Ari Gross — Heavy rains caused a segment of the West Bank security barrier to collapse east of Jerusalem on Wednesday, prompting cheers from residents of the nearby Palestinian village. The showers, which began Wednesday morning, appeared to wash away the ground beneath the wall outside the village of ‘Anata near Jerusalem, causing the large concrete slabs that make up the barrier to tumble into a roadway lower down the hill. A video posted on social media by residents of the village show people gathered around the fallen section of the contentious security barrier, applauding and hollering after its collapse. Palestinian negotiator Hanan Ashrawi tweeted that “Nature abhors racist #ApartheidIsrael walls that violate its integrity & #Palestinian human rights.” The Border Police said they were aware of the situation and that officers would guard the area until it is repaired.
JPost 28 Feb by Zack Evans — 44 trucks have been impounded since the beginning of the year for trying to dump garbage there without permits — Inspectors impounded two dump trucks at the Rantis crossing on the Israeli-West Bank border, according to a February 26 press release from the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories. The trucks were being used to illegally move trash into the West Bank….
JERUSALEM (WAFA) 1 Mar — The Israeli authorities destroyed in the last two weeks of February parts of three water connections in the occupied West Bank, two of them funded by international donors and provided as humanitarian assistance, that supplied or intended to supply tens of thousands of Palestinians with drinking water, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the occupied Palestinian territory. It said in its biweekly Protection of Civilians report covering the period between 12 to 25 February that the three connections were all in Area C of the occupied West Bank, which is under full Israeli military control. The connections either supplied, or were about to supply, running water to 18,000 people in the Beit Dajan and Beit Furik villages in Nablus in the north of the West Bank, 13 herding communities of 1200 people in the Masafer Yatta area of Hebron in the south of the West Bank, and 320 people of the Bedouin community of Wadi Abu Hindi in the Jerusalem area, all of which suffer from severe water shortages, especially in the summer, said OCHA.
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 2 Mar — At least 17 Palestinians were injured by Israeli forces, on Friday afternoon, during weekly protests in the besieged Gaza Strip. The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza confirmed that nine Palestinians sustained moderate injuries with live bullets, in addition to two paramedics and a journalist who were directly hit with tear-gas canisters by Israeli forces, while others suffered tear-gas inhalation. Israeli forces opened fire towards several Palestinian protesters who gathered at the eastern border fence of Khuzaa town in the southern Gaza Strip, while tear-gas canisters were fired at others gathering in eastern Gaza City. A Ma‘an reporter said that Israeli snipers were deployed alongside the eastern border fence.
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 1 Mar — Palestinians were detained by Israeli forces, on Thursday, near the Israel-Gaza electric security fence along the borders of southern Gaza. According to Hebrew-language news outlets, Israeli forces detained Palestinians near the security fence and they were taken in for interrogation to an unknown location. Sources added that no weapons were found in the possession of the Palestinians. The reason remained unknown for the detention.
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) 27 Feb — A Palestinian who is a member of the al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Hamas movement, died late Tuesday while inside a “resistance tunnel” in the southern besieged Gaza Strip. The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza confirmed that Muhammad Ibrahim Hamdan Qudeih, 24, arrived dead at the European Hospital. The al-Qassam Brigades declared that Qudeih is a member in Abasan al-Kabira in eastern Khan Younis, confirming that he died of a heart attack while working inside a “resistance tunnel” in Khan Younis. Scores of Palestinians in Gaza have been killed in the vast tunnel networks that lie below the besieged enclave, which are largely used for smuggling in the south and military purposes in the north.
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 28 Feb — Israeli warplanes carried out airstrikes targeting a resistance site belonging to the Hamas movement, overnight, in western Khan Younis, in the southern besieged Gaza Strip. A Ma‘an reporter said Israeli Apache warplane targeted the al-Tal resistance site, in western Khan Younis, with five missiles. No injuries were reported. The Israeli army claimed that the airstrikes were due to the launching of incendiary balloons towards Israeli communities surrounding the Gaza Strip. Hebrew-language news sites reported that several Hamas military sites were targeted with airstrikes. Palestinians in Gaza view the incendiary kites as a form of protest against Israel’s nearly 12-year blockade of Gaza and for Palestinian refugees right of return to their homes and lands which are now known as Israel.
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 27 Feb — Israeli forces shot and injured four Palestinians during the “Night Confusion” protest east of Gaza City on late Tuesday. According to local sources, four Palestinians were shot and injured with live ammunition, while dozens of others suffocated from tear-gas inhalation. Sources added the injured Palestinians were transferred to hospitals for medical treatment. Hundreds of Palestinians gathered along the eastern borders of Gaza City to protest against the nearly 12-year Israeli siege and ignited a number of rubber tires on fire near the security border fence with Israel. Israeli forces repeatedly fired live ammunition and tear-gas bombs towards the large groups of protesters.
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 26 Feb — Three Palestinians were shot and injured by Israeli forces who opened heavy fire towards Palestinian protesters, along the eastern borders of the besieged Gaza Strip, on late Monday. The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza confirmed that three Palestinian protesters were shot and injured with live ammunition by Israeli forces during night protests near the return camps in southern Gaza. Dozens of Palestinians gathered along the borders in Rafah and Khan Younis to protest against the nearly 12-year Israeli siege, while Israeli forces fired live ammunition and tear-gas bombs towards them. Protesters ignited a number of rubber tires on fire near the return camps, east of Rafah, and chanted slogans. For several weeks, hundreds of Palestinian protesters, have been organizing, as well as participating in night protests, during which they set tires on fire and chant slogans through loud speakers, while marching towards the border with Israel. These protesters are also known as the “Night Confusion” unit.
IMEMC 24 Feb — Israeli soldiers abducted, on Sunday evening, two young Palestinian men near the perimeter fence, in Beit Lahia, in the northern part of the besieged Gaza Strip. Media sources said the two young man were on Palestinian lands near the fence, when the soldiers abducted them, and took them to an unknown destination. he Israeli army frequently invades Palestinian lands close to the fence, in addition to repeatedly bulldozing the lands and placing sand hills.
On Saturday, the Israeli army opened fire on several Palestinian shepherds, on lands near the fence, in eastern Gaza Strip.
GAZA CITY (AFP) 28 Feb — Four members of Palestinian Islamist group Hamas held in Egypt since August 2015 arrived home in the Gaza Strip Thursday where they were welcomed by Hamas leader Ismail Haniya. The four arrived at the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza where they greeted by dozens of well wishers before being driven to Haniyeh’s office, AFP journalists said. They had disappeared in August 2015 under mysterious circumstances as they travelled through the Sinai region on a bus from Hamas-ruled Gaza to Cairo en route to Turkey. Other passengers said that the vehicle was stopped by unidentified gunmen who seized the Hamas men. At the time Islamic State group jihadists were active in the lawless North Sinai. IS had threatened Hamas after it arrested jihadist militants suspected of targeting its armed wing with a series of bombings. Haniyeh did not say Thursday who had been holding the four Gazans but expressed his “deep gratitude to the Egyptian authorities for this decision”….
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — An opioid crisis has quietly spread in the Gaza Strip, trapping thousands in the hell of addiction and adding another layer of misery to the blockaded and impoverished coastal territory. The scourge can be traced to the mass import of cheap opioid-based Tramadol pain pills through smuggling tunnels under Gaza’s border more than a decade ago. A more addictive black-market form of the drug called Tramal has since taken hold. “I have seen the top elites taking it — university students, girls and respectful people,” said Dr. Fadel Ashour, who treats addicts in his dimly lit clinic. There are no reliable estimates for the number of addicts in Gaza, a conservative society of 2 million where it is considered shameful to admit to such a problem. A 2017 study by the World Health Organization estimated that 10,047 males over the age of 15 were “high-risk drug users.” Ashour, a psychiatrist, neurologist and professor at Gaza’s al-Azhar University, believes the number is much higher. Prices have shot up in recent years as a result of tunnel closures and an anti-drug campaign by the ruling Islamic militant group Hamas. Yet for the vast majority of sufferers, rehab isn’t available for those who can no longer finance the habit….
Amnesty International 25 Feb — An investigative journalist who published a report revealing corruption within the ministry of health in Gaza is facing up to six months in jail, said Amnesty International, ahead of her appeal hearing tomorrow. Hajar Harb, a Palestinian journalist from Gaza, released an investigative report on al-Araby TV on 25 June 2016 highlighting that the ministry, which is run by the Hamas de-facto administration, was profiting by arranging illegal medical transfers out of the Gaza Strip for people who did not need treatment. She has been charged with a series of offences including defamation and the publication of false news … Hajar Harb was tried in her absence, while she was in Jordan receiving treatment for breast cancer. On 4 June 2017 she was convicted and sentenced to six months in prison and a fine of 1,000 ILS (276 USD). She appealed against the court’s decision.
RAMALLAH (Asharq Al-Awsat) 1 Mar — Hamas has arrested Hisham Salam, the leader of the Iran-sponsored [and Shi‘a] al-Sabrin organization in Gaza. Local reports revealed that Hamas gunmen had raided Salem’s residence, arresting him. The campaign which took in Iran’s top colluder in Gaza also targeted four of his personal aides and senior al-Sabrin officials. In the arrest raid, digital devices, computers, mobile phones and documents were seized. Salam’s detention comes as a major blow Iran, especially that the latter had invested greatly in gaining foothold and securing influence in the Hamas ruled Gaza Strip. Salam’s arrest came in the context of Hamas’ plans to end al-Sabrin’s activity in the Strip, insider sources told Asharq Al-Awsat. The decision to rout al-Sabirn was not being made public by Hamas, according to sources, was due to the Palestinian’s group desire to maintain constraint and avoid escalating tensions with the Tehran cleric-led regime….
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 25 Feb — Israeli naval forces opened heavy fire, on Monday, towards Palestinian fishing boats off the coast of Beit Lahiya, in the northern besieged Gaza Strip. A Ma‘an reporter said that Israeli naval forces opened fire at Palestinians fishing boats within the permitted fishing zone, forcing the fishermen to head back to shore in fear for their lives. No injuries were reported.
[behind paywall] Haaretz 27 Feb by Amira Hass — Israel has retracted its initial ban on the entry of an American citizen born in Gaza from visiting his dying mother in Nablus in the West Bank. Haaretz was told by COGAT, the office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, that the entry permit for the Gaza-born American, Awni Abu Rjaila, had been approved on Monday evening, but as of Wednesday morning, after 12 days of waiting, he had still not permitted to enter the West Bank. On Wednesday afternoon, he was allowed in. In a statement on Wednesday, the coordinator’s office said the request did not meet the relevant criteria but he would be allowed into the West Bank in any event as a humanitarian gesture.
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 26 Feb — Ambassador for the Palestinian Affairs and Representative of Japan to Palestine, Takeshi Okubo, visited Rafah city in Gaza to celebrate the completion of the project funded by the Government of Japan through Japan’s Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects (GGP). Give Palestine Association used a grant of $83,651 to provide a reliable and stable electricity supply to Abu Yousef Al-Najjar Hospital through the installation of a solar panel system … The direct beneficiaries shall be about 150 patients with kidney failure who receive dialysis treatment through the provision of stable electricity supply.
Albawaba 26 Feb — From a small room in their house in the besieged Gaza strip, brothers Karam and Muhammad feed hungry customers the famous Palestinian dessert, knafeh — Made with a thin noodle-like pastry, soaked in sweet syrup, and then layered with cheese, this dessert is keeping the two brothers out of the unemployed queues, as severe shortages and a crippled economy send the enclave into a deeper and deeper crisis. “Professor’s Sweets” was kick-started by the two brothers after aged-24 Karam couldn’t find a job upon completing his studies in education at al-Aqsa University in Gaza in 2017. “We opened a small shop in our house to sell Nablusian kunefe and decided not to be part of the unemployment lines, sat at home doing nothing.” Employment engulfs the tiny strip. The unemployment rate in Gaza rose from 39.8 percent to 61.2 percent in the ten years between 2007 and 2017, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics….
Times of Israel 24 Feb by Judah Ari Gross — The Israeli military launched a surprise large-scale exercise on Sunday simulating a number of war scenarios, including in the increasingly restive Gaza Strip, the army said. The three-day drill will include forces from throughout the military, “including ground troops, armor, artillery and aircraft,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement. The military sa id the exercise would “test the operational preparedness for a number of combat scenarios, especially in the Gaza Strip.” The drill, which is due to end on Tuesday, will include transporting large numbers of troops to different regions, gathering forces in designated locations, life-fire exercise and aerial maneuvers, the army said … The exercise also came amid growing concerns in the military concerning its readiness for war in light of allegations by former military ombudsman Maj. Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Brick that the army, especially its ground troops, were not prepared for a large-scale war….
Machsom [Checkpoint] Watch 17 Feb Observers: Tamar Fleishman; Translator: Tal H.– Slowly and warily those who were released from hospital that morning emerged from the checkpoint compound, most of them women, and continued towards the transport platform from where their designated vehicle would drive them home to Gaza. Last was a woman, pale, dragging her feet. A few days ago she underwent surgery in a Nablus hospital, replacing her knee, and she had yet to recover. The doctors had recommended/ordered total rest for ten days, but the instructions of the Occupation’s experts take precedence over medical ones. The woman reached the van leaning on her walker and could not tackle the two steps in the front of the vehicle, letting three men take her very gently up and inside. Like others, she also came there at 9 a.m., and like others, all very unhealthy, waited for six hours to get going. Until a few months ago, the DCO had a wheelchair for sparing cases like hers extra suffering. No longer. And one cannot help but ask again: Is it not right and considerate and proper for someone in her condition, suffering as she does, to travel home from hospital directly rather than be harassed between offices and headquarters and transport vehicles? How is this woman going to cross the Erez Crossing into the Gaza Strip and get home from there?
Screendaily 28 Feb by Fionnuala Halligan, chief film critic — Decades of news coverage have ensured that Gaza is a place we are all aware of, even if it’s hard to visualise day-to-day life there. Garry Keane and Andrew McConnell’s lyrical documentary gives a face to the name, a four-corners look around this over-crowded “open prison”, as one inhabitant describes it. This carefully-made film delicately avoids direct confrontation with political elements while still making clear their culpability for the devastation it surveys. Many are responsible for Gaza’s dire plight, it suggests, and by omitting them, Keane and McConnell give a solid cross-section of its inhabitants their voices back. Gaza is a richly realised documentary about a poor, poor place. Irish-backed, it opened at Sundance before commencing its international rollout at the Dublin Film Festival. Its cinematic vision should ensure it follows other recent Middle Eastern-set conflict documentaries on a prestige festival and awards run (photographer McConnell’s imagery is a standout). Bereft of political rhetoric for the most part, it should appeal to the curious and the open-minded, and its increasingly perilous third act is bracing….
Prisoners / Court actions
JENIN, Thursday, February 28, 2019 (WAFA) – Israeli authorities today morning released a Palestinian leftist lawmaker after being held for 20 months in administrative detention. Khalida Jarrar, a 56-year-old member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, was released at the Salem military checkpoint, west of the northern West Bank city of Jenin. Jarrar, a prominent figure on the Palestinian political scene, was detained for being a member in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and staunch advocate of prisoners’ rights and human rights organization. Following her release, Jarrar said that she left behind many Palestinian female prisoners behind Israeli bars who are still yearning for freedom. Commenting on her early release, she said she was scheduled to be released today noon at al-Jalama checkpoint, north of Jenin, but was released hours earlier than expected. She believes this was an attempt to prevent a festive reception. The Palestinian lawmaker has been barred by Israel from leaving the West Bank since 1998. This was not the first time Jarrar had been placed under administrative detention without charge or trial. She was detained from her house in the central West Bank city of al-Bireh on April 2, 2015, and had served a month in administrative detention in 1989.
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 28 Feb — … “As we celebrate the release of Khalida, we must not lose sight that nearly 500 Palestinian citizens, including children and other elected officials, are languishing in Israeli prisons, without charge or trial, under so-called administrative detention. This form of open-ended detention is a tool of cruel punishment and oppression that the Israeli occupation regime has employed against thousands of Palestinian activists throughout the past fifty-two years of occupation. It is an abhorrent practice that violates international law, including international humanitarian law and international criminal law, as well as the basic rights and dignity of Palestinians.”….
JERUSALEM (WAFA) 21 Feb – Palestinian detainee in Israeli jails Mohammad Shawish, 30, who was scheduled to be released from Israeli jails on Thursday, was unexpectedly placed in administrative detention without a charge or trial for six more months, according to the Jerusalem Prisoners’ Committee. Shawish, who comes from occupied Jerusalem has spent seven years in Israeli detention, and was supposed to be released today. He was surprised by an Israeli Prime Minister’s order placing him in jail for six more months.
Times of Israel 26 Feb by Jacob Magid — Suspect found guilty of hurling smoke grenades and Molotov cocktails into populated homes, stoning and torching vehicles and brutally assaulting a farmer, between 2013 and 2016 — The Lod District Attorney’s Office announced on Tuesday that it had convicted a teenage member of a Jewish terror cell responsible for targeting Palestinians and their property in the central West Bank from 2013 to 2016. The suspect, whose identity was not released as he was a minor at the time of the attacks, operated in the group with three brothers, who were convicted in March as part of a plea agreement. Deeming his actions to be particularly reprehensible, prosecutors tried and convicted the latest suspect separately, without offering a plea deal. The conviction was handed down last week, but was only made public by the court Tuesday. Over his involvement in nine different attacks, the court on Thursday found the 19-year-old guilty of 25 charges, including membership in a terror organization, racially motivated aggravated assault, racially motivated property destruction, stone throwing at vehicles and arson. This was just the second time that a Jewish suspect had ever been convicted of membership in a terror organization over the perpetration of so-called price tag attacks … The three brothers, from the ultra-Orthodox settlement of Nahliel, were sentenced last year to five, four and-a-half and two and-a-half years respectively.
The teen suspect convicted last week, who hails from a different settlement in the central West Bank, is expected to receive a heftier punishment. Sentencing is not expected until June….
Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Settlements
TUBAS (Ma‘an) 25 Feb — An Israeli settler surrounded hundreds of dunams of Palestinian lands with en electric fence in the al-Sweida area in the Jordan Valley, on Monday, under armed security by Israeli forces. Mutaz Bsharat, an official who monitors settlement activity in the Tubas district/Jordan Valley, told Ma‘an that the settler had set up 3 tents in the area several months ago and used them for cattle. Bsharat pointed out that these lands are owned by Palestinians. Additionally, Israeli forces installed surveillance cameras on all confiscated lands — more than 600 dunams — under procedures to prevent dozens of Palestinians from reaching their lands. Bsharat added that Israel considers these lands under the “Absentee Property.” The 1950 Absentee Property Law, permits the Israeli government to transfer so-called “absentee” property belonging to Palestinians to Jewish residents by submitting a payment to the Israeli Custodian of Absentee Property, allowing the Israeli government to claim that the properties had been acquired by payment instead of through direct confiscation….
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 25 Feb — Israeli forces destroyed two solar panels used for providing electricity to two homes in Wadi Sair area in southeastern Hebron of the southern occupied West Bank, on Sunday. Locals reported that Israeli soldiers escorted Israeli settlers into the area and destroyed two solar panels providing electricity to two homes in the Jorat al-Khayl area in Wadi Sair. Israeli soldiers destroyed the contents of three homes and confiscated surveillance camera recordings. The homes belong to locals Ibrahim Khalil Shalaldeh and Abdullah Ibrahim Shalaldeh, in addition to the home of Ahmad Shalaldeh; that was raided and damaged by Israeli settlers.
SALFIT (Ma‘an) 25 Feb — Israeli forces detained a Palestinian and confiscated his road roller as he was working in the Deir Ballout village in western Salfit in the northern occupied West Bank, on Monday. Engineer Ibrahim al-Hamad, Head of the Agriculture Department in Salfit, told Ma‘an that the Israeli Civil Administration, escorted by Israeli forces, confiscated a road roller that is used for rehabilitating an agricultural road, claiming that the road is in Areas B and C. Al-Hamad added that the road is being rehabilitated in order to connect Palestinian agricultural lands in the area. Additionally, Mayor of Deir Ballout Yahiya Mustafa, told Ma‘an that the agricultural road was opened 10 years ago, pointing out that the Israeli authorities detained the owner of the road roller, Wassim al-Azzam, without delivering a stop-construction order or notice.
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 27 Feb — Israeli forces sealed off a road in southern Nablus City, in the northern occupied West Bank, on Wednesday. Activists Youssef Deiriyeh told Ma‘an that Israeli forces completely sealed off the Wadi al-Radem road with dirt mounds for the fifth time in a row. Deiriyeh pointed out that the closure comes as a result of complaints of several Israeli settlers living in the Yanoun area. The Wadi al-Radem road serves several Palestinian agricultural roads, and leads to wide spaces that would be soon used for solar panels and substitute energy.
SALFIT (Ma‘an) 26 Feb — The Israeli authorities delivered stop-construction orders to three Palestinian-owned buildings in the Rafat village west of the northern occupied West Bank city of Salfit, on Monday, under the pretext that the structures are located in Area C. Head of the Rafat village council, Abed al-Jawad Ayyash, told Ma‘an that Israeli forces raided the village and delivered stop-construction orders to three Palestinian homes. He identified owners of the three homes as Maen Farah Ayyash, Abed al-Razeq Sadeq Ayyash and Ihab Odeh Abu Zreiq. Ayyash pointed out that the owners of the three homes were allowed until March 25th to object to the orders. Maen Ayyash told Ma‘an that the Israeli authorities had not delivered him any notices during the construction of his home, pointing out that he has been living in the house for one year and is currently only doing construction work inside the house. Ayyash stressed that he has documents proving that the land and building belong to him, and would head to specialized institutions to file a case at Israeli courts….
JENIN (Ma‘an) 25 Feb — Israeli bulldozers razed dozens of dunams and uprooted hundreds of Palestinian-owned trees, on Monday afternoon, on lands belonging to residents from the Bartaa village, southwest of the northern occupied West Bank district of Jenin. According to local sources, Israeli forces along with bulldozers stormed the area and began to raze about 28 dunams (6.9 acres) of land. In addition, bulldozers uprooted 300 almond and olive trees. Sources added that the razed land belonged to Jamal Sharif Amarneh.
Electronic Intifada 26 Feb by Rod Such — Bombardier Abroad: Patterns of Dispossession by David P. Thomas, Fernwood Publishing (2018) Many people outside of Canada are unfamiliar with Bombardier, but the Montreal-based aerospace and rail transportation behemoth is a global corporation with more than 65,000 employees in 28 countries. It is also a violator of international law participating in settler-colony projects that dispossess indigenous people, according to David P. Thomas, an associate professor in the Department of Politics and International Relations at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick, Canada. In his book Bombardier Abroad, Thomas presents three case studies in how Bombardier, aided by state financing and diplomatic overtures, participated in dispossession schemes in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, South Africa and Tibet, all while enjoying a reputation as what the author terms a “good corporate citizen.” This review focuses on Bombardier’s role in Israel and the West Bank and efforts by human rights activists in Canada to hold the company accountable to international law.
Other news
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 28 Feb — Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah confirmed, on Wednesday, that the Palestinian Authority (PA) has returned the month’s clearance revenues to Israel after deducting 41.8 million shekels ($11,567,700) from them. Hamdallah spoke with Palestine TV during the inauguration of a new courthouse in Dura City, in the southern West Bank district of Hebron, [and said] that since the Palestinian leadership had decided in its meeting on February 20th not to accept the tax revenues Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinians, it was decided to return this month’s clearance money Israel has transferred to the PA, which amounts to 41.8 million shekels.
Israel had decided to deduct from the PA revenues the amount of stipends the Palestinian government pays to the families of Palestinian prisoners or killed Palestinians. The tax revenues amount to about 502,697,00 shekels ($138 million) and will likely be deducted incrementally over a 12-month period. Israel collects funds from imports into the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, in addition to other taxes, and forwards a large sum of it to the PA, after deduction of payments for water and electricity. Hamdallah said that paying stipends to the families of Palestinian prisoners and killed Palestinians is a national duty. The clearance revenues usually cover 70% of the salaries for public employees, which means the PA may not be able to pay this month’s salaries to over 180,000 employees in both the West Bank and Gaza.
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 28 Feb — Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah called on the international community, particularly the European Union (EU), to pressure Israel to stop deducting from the Palestinian tax revenues, and stressed that this practice is a political rather than a financial issue. During a meeting, on Thursday, with Susanna Terstal, the EU Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process, at his office in the central West Bank city of Ramallah, Hamdallah briefed her on the daily Israeli violations and the aggression of the Israeli army and settlers in East Jerusalem and Hebron’s holy places, settlement expansion, and Israel’s efforts to destroy the two-state solution. Israel deducted over $11 million from this month’s Palestinian tax revenues, which Hamdallah stressed is “Palestinian money collected by Israel on our behalf,” prompting the Palestinian government to refuse to accept the remaining money, which makes around 70% of the Palestinian revenues….
Al Monitor 26 Feb by Shlomi Eldar — Israel intends to cut tax revenues owed to the Palestinian Authority but will need foeign intervention to save the PA from collapse — Israel has come up with a strange tactic: Imposing or supporting economic sanctions against the Palestinians, downplaying or ignoring the effects and then asking other countries to help save it from the repercussions just as they are about to blow up in its face….
GAZA CITY (AFP) 24 Feb — Thousands of protesters in the Gaza Strip Sunday called on Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas to resign after attempts to pressure his rival Hamas with financial cuts in the impoverished enclave. “Leave!” yelled crowds made up mainly of supporters of Hamas and Mohammed Dahlan, an Abbas rival expelled from the president’s Fatah party and who now lives in exile. They called on the Palestinian Authority to pay the full salaries of public sector employees in Gaza, run by Islamist movement Hamas. Abbas, 83, has over the course of recent months reduced salaries in the Gaza Strip. Protesters demanded increased electricity supplies to the enclave, where residents receive power in around eight-hour intervals …
Separately in the occupied West Bank on Sunday, around 2,500 people demonstrated in support of Abbas in the city of Hebron. Abbas was in Egypt’s Sharm El Sheikh on Sunday to attend a European Union-Arab League summit. He met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi while there, according to official Palestinian news agency WAFA. Abbas’s term was meant to expire in 2009, but he has remained in office in the absence of elections.
Times of Israel 26 Feb by Adam Rasgon — Terrorists were planning bombings, Israeli TV says; PA security official won’t confirm or deny report — The Palestinian Authority security forces recently collared a six-person Hamas-led cell in Nablus that was preparing to carry out terrorist attacks in Israel employing explosive devices, Channel 12 news reported earlier this week, without citing a source. The PA security forces first arrested the commander of the cell, a Hamas terror group operative whose deputy chief, Saleh al-Arouri, transferred $50,000 through the United Arab Emirates, and then nabbed its remaining five members, the report said. The entirety of the cell, which was receiving orders from the Gaza Strip and Lebanon, did not belong to Hamas, the report added, stating that its commander had recruited persons unaffiliated with the terror group in an effort to make it more difficult for the PA security forces and Israeli intelligence to identify them. A PA security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he could not confirm or deny the details of the report, but noted Ramallah’s security forces constantly work to crack down on all Hamas terror activity in the West Bank….
GAZA CITY (Al-Monitor) 1 Mar by Entsar Abu Jahal — The Palestinian General Directorate of Police denied Feb. 7 Israeli media reports on the orders given to policemen deployed in the villages of al-Lubban ash-Sharqiya and al-Sawiya in Area C in the northern West Bank. The reports claimed the Palestinian security forces were ordered to deploy in Area C under the security coordination in order to prevent Palestinian students from hurling stones at the vehicles of Israeli settlers … The General Directorate of Police explained in its statement that it deployed a group of unarmed security forces in civilian clothes in front of schools in al-Lubban ash-Sharqiya and al-Sawiya in order to protect the students from settlers’ attacks and help them cross the street to their schools, as well as prevent the interruption of classes … The Israeli media had reported Feb. 6 that the commander of the Israeli army’s Binyamin Brigade of the West Bank Division ordered the deployment of plainclothes Palestinian police officers along Route 60 leading to the town of al-Lubban ash-Sharqiya, in an effort to protect settlers, who claim they have been attacked by Palestinians, passing or driving by….
GENEVA/JERUSALEM (Reuters) 28 Feb by Stephanie Nebehay &, Dan Williams — Israeli security forces may have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in killing 189 Palestinians and wounding more than 6,100 at weekly protests in Gaza last year, United Nations investigators said on Thursday. The independent panel said it had confidential information about those it believes to be responsible for the unlawful killings, including Israeli army snipers and commanders. It called on Israel to prosecute them. “The Israeli security forces killed and maimed Palestinian demonstrators who did not pose an imminent threat of death or serious injury to others when they were shot, nor were they directly participating in hostilities,” it said, adding that the protests had been “civilian in nature”. The victims included children, journalists, and a double amputee who was in a wheelchair….
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 28 Feb – Chief Religious Justice Mahmoud al-Habbash granted a Palestinian Christian female lawyer a license to practice law in the Muslim Sharia court. Haya Bannoura, a Christian lawyer from Beit Sahour near the biblical Palestinian city of Bethlehem, was granted a license to represent clients in Palestine’s Islamic Sharia courts. She is the fifth Palestinian Christian female lawyer to practice Sharia law since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1994. Habbash stressed that the Palestinian people are cohesive and united and Palestinian Christian are an integral part of the country’s social fabric as well as the Palestinian people as a whole. Bannoura affirmed that she has opted to obtain such a license for a pure humanitarian purpose and that her sense of loyalty to Palestine supersedes her religious affiliation.
IMEMC/Agencies 25 Feb — An Israeli news anchor who has blamed the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands for turning regime troops into “animals” has defended her comments despite having received death threats from “thousands.” — Israeli Channel 13 TV anchor Oshrat Kotler had, last week, denounced the mistreatment of Palestinians in Israeli custody, following a piece aired on the channel about five Israeli soldiers indicted for beating two handcuffed and blindfolded Palestinians — a father and his 15-year-old son. According to the indictment, the father was hospitalized for three days after sustaining multiple broken ribs, a “severely” broken nose, and subdermal bleeding around his stomach. The son also suffered a number of wounds to his head and “significant swelling” on his face. After the report was aired, Kotler said, “We send children to the army, to the [occupied] territories, and get back animals. That is the result of the occupation.” On Saturday, however, Kotler said she stood by her comments despite having been flooded with death threats, according to The Times of Israel. She accused Israeli politicians of taking “cynical” advantage of her comments and taking them out of context in the midst of an election campaign. “I am sorry if I hurt anyone with my words, but I cannot see the price we pay through our children for the reality of controlling another nation,” she said, appearing to fight back tears and referring to Palestinians. “We have lived this reality for 52 years. I do not have a magic solution; I am not a politician.” She said her comments, “spoken with great pain,” had been “directed only at the soldiers who violated the law” and not all Israeli troopers. “Thousands threatened my life and the life of my family, and I am afraid, but I hope to find the strength to continue and express my opinion as a reporter,” she said. Israeli NGO Peace Now backed Kotler, saying, “It is permissible and even desirable to look into the mirror from time to time and honestly admit to the damage [caused by] the occupation. Those whose children’s futures are important to them should work to end the conflict rather than maintain it, because the price is high.”….
WASHINGTON (DEVEX) 28 Feb by Teresa Welsh — U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Mark Green would welcome the opportunity to work with Congress on changes to the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act that resulted in the termination of USAID funding to the West Bank and Gaza. The USAID chief broached the subject on Wednesday during a wide-ranging hearing on Capitol Hill, in which he also provided an update on the status of the agency’s ongoing reorganization….
JERUSALEM (WAFA) 27 Feb — The European Union Representative, Ralph Tarraf, and Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Pierre Krähenbühl, signed today at UNRWA headquarters in East Jerusalem the EU-UNRWA contribution agreement in support of the Agency’s 2019 Program Budget, according to an UNRWA press release. Under this agreement, the EU provides a vital contribution of 82 million euros [US$93,266,800] in support of the human development work of UNRWA for this year. In light of the Agency’s ongoing financial challenges, the EU has agreed to provide the totality of its funding immediately upon the signature of the agreement, said the press release….
IMEMC/Agencies 24 Feb — The government of Japan has contributed US$ 23 million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). The agreement was signed by the Japanese Ambassador for Palestinian Affairs and Representative of Japan to Palestine, Mr. Takeshi Okubo, and UNRWA Commissioner-General, Mr. Pierre Krähenbühl. Of this very generous and crucial contribution, US$ 17.7 million will go towards the Agency’s core programmes of education, health care and improved living conditions for 5.4 million Palestine refugees across all five fields of UNRWA operation. This support from Japan will have a direct positive impact on the well-being of some of the most vulnerable refugees in the Middle East. An additional US$ 4.5 million will be used to improve the quality of UNRWA health services in the occupied Palestinian territory, Lebanon and Syria and another US$ 800,000 will contribute to the education of Palestine refugee children affected by the conflict in Syria….