Monday, 22 December 2014

Israeli court extends detention of 7 Palestinians for Facebook posts

An Israeli court extended the detention of seven Palestinians from Jerusalem for "incitement" via Facebook for at least three more days on Friday.

The head of a committee for the families of prisoners in Jerusalem, Amjad Abu Asab, identified the seven prisoners being held by Israeli authorities as Omar al-Shalabi, Uday Sunuqrut, Tareq al-Kurd, Sami Ideis, Ibrahim Abdeen, Nasser al-Hidmi, and Fouad Ruweidi.

The seven were detained last Monday, apparently as a result of Facebook posts that authorities found to contain messages of "incitement" to violence.

Israeli authorities have in recent years detained numerous Palestinians inside Israel and Jerusalem for posting comments or statuses on Facebook they said somehow praised violence against Israel.

Reporters Without Borders ranked Israel 112th in the world for press freedom in its 2013 report, arguing that while Israeli journalists enjoy freedom of expression, there are major structural barriers related to military control and security issues that prevent a free press more generally. more

Prisoner from Gaza barred from seeing son for nine years

Jehad Saftawi has not seen his father in more than nine years. After being denied entry permits to present-day Israel multiple times, the 23-year-old Gaza City-based journalist eventually stopped bothering to apply for prison visits through the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Because his 52-year-old father Emad was imprisoned while Jehad, the oldest of five siblings, was just nine years old, his mother “more or less had to raise us alone. It was very difficult because all of her relatives live in Syria,” Jehad told The Electronic Intifada.

Countless Palestinian families have faced such difficulty.

There were an estimated 6,500 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli detention as of 1 October, according to Addameer, a Ramallah-based group that monitors Israel’s arrests of Palestinians.

At least 381 of the prisoners were from the Gaza Strip.

Though Israel’s restrictive policies translate into hardship for all Palestinian political prisoners, those from Gaza have faced a number of unique hardships, particularly in recent years.

Gavan Kelly, advocacy officer for Addameer, explained that Palestinians in Gaza were banned from visiting relatives in Israeli prison during the 51-day military offensive against the Strip this summer.

The “denial of family visits has been used as a form of collective punishment” for Palestinians in Gaza, Kelly told The Electronic Intifada. He added that since 20 October, “visits have resumed, but are only taking place every two months as opposed to every two weeks as required under international law.”

On 8 December, 21 relatives of prisoners were granted entry to present-day Israel via the Erez crossing in northern Gaza, the Ma’an News Agency reported.

“Hardest years”

Jehad Saftawi said the last nine years have been the hardest of his life. His father, who was arrested in 2000, is always on his mind.

Along with his mother, two brothers and two sisters, he was on a family vacation in Amman, Jordan, shortly before his father’s arrest. “My dad was an employee working with the Palestinian Authority at the time,” he recalled. “He was in Dubai for his job and was supposed to return to Gaza two days after us.”

“We made it back to Gaza and waited for him. My mom got a call from the Israeli military saying that my father had been arrested while crossing Rafah,” he added, referring to the border post between Gaza and Egypt.

“My mother started to scream and cry a lot,” he said. “She was pregnant with my youngest sister at the time and knew that it would be bad.”

For Jehad’s mother, it brought back memories of a difficult past. Israel imprisoned her husband in 1992, during the first intifada — a popular uprising that spanned from 1987 to 1993 — for charges related to his activism with the Palestinian political organization Fatah.

But it was not long before Emad escaped from detention along with five fellow prisoners. Jehad said four of the prisoners who took part in that jailbreak were shot and killed by Israeli soldiers.

The surviving prisoners escaped to the Sinai desert region of Egypt, where Emad was imprisoned for several months before negotations between Fatah and the Egyptian government secured his release. But he remained in Egypt and was only able to return to Gaza in 1994 when the Palestinian Authority was established.

Upon returning to Gaza, Emad abandoned his ties with Fatah and became a supporter of Islamic Jihad, a Palestinian political group banned by Israel. more

Sunday, 21 December 2014

200 Gazans enter Egypt as Rafah reopens for two days

RAFAH (AFP) -- Around 200 Palestinians left Gaza and entered the Egyptian Sinai through the Rafah crossing on Sunday after Cairo authorized a temporary reopening of the border, a Palestinian official said.

It was only the second time in two months that Egypt had opened the Rafah terminal.

All of those crossing were either seeking medical treatment or were holders of a permit to stay overseas, according to Maher Abu Sabha, director of border crossings in the Gaza Strip.

The southern Rafah crossing is Gaza's only gateway to the world that is not controlled by Israel.

An AFP correspondent at the scene said hundreds of people had gathered in front of the terminal.

"At around midday, three buses carrying around 200 people left Gaza through the Rafah terminal and entered Egypt," Abu Sabha said. more

Hamas warns of Israeli 'foolishness' as leftists denounce Gaza attack

The Hamas movement on Saturday called Israeli airstrikes against a military base in Gaza a "dangerous escalation" as political parties across the Palestinian political spectrum condemned the first bombing since a ceasefire ended the summer's 51-day conflict.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri warned Palestinians in a statement of another "foolish" Israeli act, calling upon the international community to carry out its responsibilities toward renewed Israeli aggression.

The statements come in the wake of Israeli airstrikes that targeted a Hamas military site in the early morning hours Saturday, causing no injuries but bring back memories of the Israeli offensive over summer that left nearly 2,200 Palestinians dead and almost 110,000 homeless.

The Israeli military said it launched the attack in retaliation for a rocket from Gaza the day before that landed near the border in Eshkol but caused no injuries. Hamas denied any responsibility for the rocket but Israel has said it holds Hamas responsible for any rocket fired by any group inside Gaza.

Palestinian political organizations widely denounced the bombing, condemning Israel for its repeated violations of the August ceasefire. Israeli forces have opened fire on Palestinian fishermen at sea and civilians near the border repeatedly, injuring dozens and killing one.

The leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine called upon the Palestinian people and political parties to be prepared for an Israeli escalation against the Gaza Strip and called for political and social unity in resistance.

The PFLP said in a statement that Israel had never ended its offensive against the Strip as it had continued even after the end of bombings through the ongoing siege and blockade, as well as the obstacles placed by authorities to importing materials to rebuild Gaza. more

Rafah crossing to open for 2 days starting Sunday

Egyptian authorities have decided to open the Rafah crossing with Gaza for two days starting Sunday for those stuck in the Gaza Strip trying to reach Egypt as well as to allow humanitarian aid to enter the besieged coastal enclave.

The Palestinian embassy in Cairo told Ma'an that Egypt decided to open the crossing after intensive discussion between the embassy and the authorities.

Director of the Gaza crossings Maher Abu Sabha said that he is working to deliver the messages of patients in need to travel and of foreign passports holders in order to get the crossing opened in both directions.

Abu Sabha said that on Sunday the crossing will be open only for patients and foreign passports holders, and that Monday will be for students registered at the crossings department.

The Egyptian authorities opened the Rafah crossing in late November for four days to allow those stuck in Egypt and other countries to enter the Gaza Strip.

The crossing had been closed for more than 56 days before that, however, in the wake of a bomb attack in North Sinai in October that left more than 30 Egyptian policemen dead. more

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Israeli forces open fire on Palestinians at Gaza border, injuring 6

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces opened fire and shot six Palestinians in the northern Gaza Strip on Friday afternoon while they were taking part in a protest near the border, witnesses said.

Israeli forces reportedly opened fire at the group of Palestinians as they marched near al-Shuhada cemetery, near the so-called security buffer zone beside the Israeli border.

Medical sources said that the six were shot in their lower extremities and were in light to moderate condition. more

Israeli aircraft bomb Gaza in first airstrike since 'ceasefire'

Israeli aircraft bombed a Hamas militant base in the Gaza Strip on Friday for the first time since the end of a war in the territory.

The bombs struck in the Khan Younis area in the southern Gaza Strip. Local hospital officials said there were no casualties.

The army said the move was in response to a rocket that militants launched earlier in the day, which landed in a field in southern Israel and did not cause casualties.

“The IDF (military) will not permit any attempt to undermine the security and jeopardise the wellbeing of the civilians of Israel. The Hamas terrorist organization is responsible and accountable for today’s attack against Israel,” military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner said in a statement.

Two previous cases of militant rockets landing in Israel have been recorded but there was no retaliation to them.

Israel launched its Gaza offensive on 8 July with the declared aim of halting cross-border rocket salvoes by Hamas. The fighting was ended by an Egyptian-brokered truce on 26 August.

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in seven weeks of fighting, according to the Gaza health ministry. Sixty-seven Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel were killed. more

Friday, 19 December 2014

Rocket fired from Gaza hits southern Israel

A rocket fired from he Gaza Strip landed in southern Israel on Friday, with no damage or injuries reported, Israel's army said.

A rocket siren sounded in the Eshkol regional council at around noon, with residents reporting blasts shortly afterwards.

Israeli army forces searching the area found a rocket in an open area.

Another rocket fired from Gaza hit southern Israel on Nov. 1.

On Nov. 23, Fadil Muhammad Halawah, 32, was hunting birds east of Jabaliya when Israeli soldiers shot him dead. more

Warning on funds, UN doubles estimate of destroyed Gaza homes

The UN warned Thursday it was running out of funds to house families in Gaza, as it doubled its estimate of the number of homes damaged or destroyed in this summer's war with Israel.

"Unless the situation changes urgently, we will run out of funds in January, meaning we will not be able to provide rental subsidies to many affected families nor provide the support required to carry out repairs," said Robert Turner, the operations director for the UNRWA Palestinian refugee agency.

He said more than 96,000 homes were damaged or destroyed in the 50-day war, more than twice the UN's original estimate.

Based on satellite imagery and preliminary field work immediately after the war, "we estimated about 42,000 refugee family shelters had been affected by the war," he said.

"We now know that over 96,000 homes were damaged or destroyed."

Turner said more than 7,000 homes were completely lost, affecting some 10,000 families. An additional 89,000 homes were damaged, about 10,000 of them severely.

UNRWA has estimated $720 million (585 million euros) will be needed to provide rental subsidies to families with no alternative shelter, to rebuild destroyed homes and repair damaged ones.

However, only some $100 million has been pledged. more

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Israeli naval forces open fire at Gaza fishermen

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli naval forces on Thursday opened fire at fishing boats off the coast of the northern Gaza Strip, fishermen told Ma'an.

Several boats sustained material damage but no injuries have been reported. The fishermen managed to sail back to shore following the incident.

Last week, Israeli naval forces detained 11 fishermen claiming they had deviated beyond the designated zone.

The Aug. 26 ceasefire agreement between Israel and Palestinian militant groups stipulated that Israel would immediately expand the fishing zone off Gaza's coast, allowing fishermen to sail as far as six nautical miles from shore, and would continue to expand the area gradually. more

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

EU court orders Hamas removal from terror blacklist

LUXEMBOURG (AFP) -- A European court ruled Wednesday that Hamas must be removed from the EU's terrorism blacklist.

The 2001 listing of Hamas was based not on sound legal judgements but on "factual imputations derived from the press and the Internet," the General Court of the European Union said in a statement.

But it stressed that Wednesday's decision to remove Hamas was based on technical grounds and does "not imply any substantive assessment of the question of the classification of Hamas as a terrorist group."

The freeze on Hamas' funds will also temporarily remain in place for three months pending any appeal by the EU, the Luxembourg-based court said.

Hamas' military wing was added to the European Union's first-ever terrorism blacklist drawn up in December 2001 in the wake of the September 11 attacks on the United States.

The EU blacklisted the political wing of Hamas in 2003. more

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Israeli soldiers kill Palestinian during Ramallah arrest raid

RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Israeli soldiers shot and killed a young Palestinian man during a dawn detention raid in Qalandiya refugee camp near Ramallah, medics said Tuesday.

Mahmoud Abdullah Udwan, 21, was shot in the head while standing on the rooftop of his family home in the camp, medics said.

He was hit as Israeli soldiers ransacked homes to make arrests at around 3 a.m.

Clashes broke out as a result of the raid, with youths throwing stones at Israeli soldiers.

Despite the confrontations, Israeli soldiers managed to detain 26-year-old Mujahid Hamad, who works with the Palestinian football federation as a security guard at stadiums.

Four Palestinians have been killed by Israeli soldiers in Qalandiya refugee camp this year during arrest raids. more

Monday, 15 December 2014

Hamas leader: Too soon to discuss prisoner swap

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouq says it's still early to talk about a prisoner exchange deal with Israel, and Hamas will not consider one until Israel implements a ceasefire deal.

Abu Marzouq told Ma'an TV in an interview airing Monday that reconciliation with Fatah depended on a decision from President Mahmoud Abbas and the will to "immediately implement it" when he says to do so.

The official also said that a unified political decision is needed to set the date and mechanism for Palestinian elections, adding that the Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah's unity government is the "only choice."

Abu Marzouq added that Hamas still remains strong in the West Bank, and that it had the support of Palestinians. more

Israeli forces fire tear gas in Nablus school

Israeli soldiers surrounded a high school near Nablus on Monday and fired gunshots and tear gas canisters into the yard, a local official said.

Ghassan Daghlas, who monitors settlement activity in the northern West Bank, said hundreds of children were trapped in the secondary school in Burin as Israeli forces fired tear gas and stun grenades outside.

Witnesses said they also fired gunshots in the air.

The Israeli liaison department notified its Palestinian counterpart that Israeli soldiers raided the school after youths from the village threw stones and empty bottles at settler vehicles on a nearby main road. more