Monday, 20 October 2014

Gazans visit relatives jailed in Israel for 1st time since June

Over 60 Palestinians from Gaza visited relatives in Israeli jails on Monday for the first time since June, officials said.

A Palestinian crossings official said two buses carrying the relatives of Palestinian prisoners crossed into Israel, the first such visit since the trips were suspended in June.

The jail visits were banned following the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers.

Gaza families used to visit jailed relatives in Israel every Monday via the Erez crossing on buses run by the International Committee of the Red Cross. more

Rain floods exacerbate life for embattled Gaza residents

Moataz Sukkar no longer runs to his home's balcony in the Gaza Strip to welcome the year's first autumn rain.

The Palestinian young man had to carry out an urgent chore after rainwater spread through the floor of his house: fix the fragile spread of nylon sheets and cloth rags he had installed to cover the roof after it was blown off by Israeli warplanes during the latter's recently-ended devastating offensive on the coastal enclave.

"This is exactly what we have feared; that the rain season will begin before the reconstruction process [for the strip] does," Sukkar, 23, told Anadolu Agency on Sunday. "This morning the rain ruined our only option for covering up the roof."

In Gaza City's eastern Shujaya district, which had been heavily targeted by Israeli bombardments, Mohamed al-Moghni screams at his children to stay away from the streets surrounding their partially-destroyed home after they were flooded with rainwater.

"We were flooded with rain inside our damaged house because I haven't been able to repair it," he said as he attempted to get rid of the water inside his house using a number of buckets.

Already underdeveloped as a result of a years-long Israeli siege as well as two past wars in the recent past, the Gaza Strip's infrastructure was substantially damaged during Israel's latest offensive, which spanned 51 days of deadly bombardments between July and August.

Much of the embattled territory's sewage system and road networks, as well as water wells, have been destroyed during the bombings, leaving large pools of rainwater mixed with sewage all over Gaza as wet weather threatens to exacerbate the strip's post-war affliction.

Over 2,160 Palestinians were killed and over 11,000 injured during Israel's latest offensive, in addition to an estimated $5 billion in economic losses, according to the Palestinian government.

"Unfortunately, the rain in the Gaza Strip now brings more pain," said Marwa Hassanein, 54. more

Settlers take over 2 buildings in East Jerusalem

Armed Jewish settlers took over two buildings in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan on Monday, a local group said.

The Wadi Hilweh Information Center said that a group of armed settlers raided Silwan at 2 a.m. and occupied two buildings consisting of 10 apartments.

The owners of the buildings, Salah al-Rajabi and Imran al-Qawasmi, sold the properties to a Palestinian man identified as Shams al-Din al-Qawasmi, who in turn sold the buildings to Jewish settler groups, the center said.

The previous Palestinian tenants left the buildings over four months ago.

There are now four settlement outposts in the heart of the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan, the center said, increasing fears of a gradual Jewish takeover of the strategic area.

The settler news site Arutz Sheva quoted Jerusalem Councilman Arieh King as saying: "This morning the Jewish population in the Yemenite Village doubled." more

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Hamas blasts PA for failing to begin Gaza reconstruction

The Hamas movement on Sunday urged the Palestinian Authority to facilitate the entry of construction material into the besieged Gaza Strip in order to speed up the reconstruction ahead of winter, as the first major rain of the fall season highlighted the challenges still facing tens of thousands of displaced Gazans.

"Reconstruction of Gaza is one of the most important tasks the PA should carry out according to the reconciliation agreement, but on the condition that there be no obstacles, physical or legal, to the entry of construction material," senior Hamas official Moussa ABu Marzouq said in a statement.

The statement points to growing frustration with the PA's failure to pressure Israel to open the border into Gaza, despite two different negotiation meetings with Israeli officials where it promised to do just that.

It also underlines tension between Hamas and the Fatah-dominated PA despite working together in a technocratic government of national reconciliation, as Hamas has in recent days accused PA security forces of cracking down on members and attacking rallies.

Abu Marzouq reiterated in the statement that Hamas had no problem with the PA coming into Gaza and carrying out reconstruction, expressing frustration that the unity government was failing to fulfill its duties.

"Hamas has questions about several issues which are the duties and responsibilities of the national consensus government," he added, stressing that these responsibilities included the salaries of Gaza civil servants, security arrangements on the border, and managing the Gaza crossings, in addition to the reconstruction process.

PA officials have repeatedly promised that they would take over the crossings between Israel and Gaza -- currently staffed by Hamas, the reason given by Israel for refusing to lift the economic blockade -- but have yet to take meaningful steps. more

Abbas vows legal measures to prevent settler attacks on Al-Aqsa mosque

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday legal measures would be taken to prevent Jewish settlers from attacking Jerusalem's flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound, having said their presence desecrates the site.

His remarks follow days of clashes between Palestinian youths and Israeli police, which erupted when right-wing Jewish groups -- including some that call for the destruction of the mosque -- visited the complex and restrictions were imposed on Muslim worship.

"The Palestinian leadership will be taking the necessary legal measures, at the international level, regarding the aggression of settlers on the Al-Aqsa mosque," Abbas said in a speech to the Revolutionary Council of his Fatah party.

"We will not allow settlers to attack the mosque," he added, referring to the entire compound, which is the third holiest site in Islam.

Non-Muslim visits to Al-Aqsa complex are permitted and regulated by police, but as a result of a 1967 agreement, Jews are not allowed to pray at the site for fear it could trigger major disturbances, nor do they enter the mosques there. more

Saturday, 18 October 2014

CPS: No prosecution of Galloway over Gaza solidarity speech

The UK's Crown Prosecution Service has confirmed that Bradford-West MP George Galloway will not be charged over a speech in made in Leeds, this past August, which asserted that Bradford was an 'an Israel-free zone'.

Following Galloway's speech on August 2, which was posted online, several complaints were made to Yorkshire police that Galloway's comments amounted to hate crime.

According to the PNN, these allegations have been comprehensively dismissed by the CPS.

"This has been an extremely expensive waste of police' and CPS' time forced on them by ultra-Zionists who were pursuing a vendetta against me," Galloway said.

"My comments were aimed at the state of Israel which - I repeat what I said at the time - is an illegal, savage and barbarous state, and had nothing whatever to do with race or religion. And they have the benefit of being true. That country has more censures against it by the United Nations than the rest of the countries in the world put together, refuses to abide by resolutions and continues to illegally grab land and persecute the rightful owners of it and uses its military to blockade and murder the people of Gaza. I take back not a word and I will continue to forcefully condemn Israel."

Mr. Galloway additionally described a visit by the Israeli ambassador to Bradford, shortly after his speech, as a "cheap and vulgar publicity stunt" and condemned local Muslims who had met him as "willing dupes".

He continued: "It remains the case that there is a worldwide boycott of Israel, its goods, its services, its academics. I hope the citizens of Bradford will join me in refusing to treat with the advocates of this hateful and oppressive regime and truly make Bradford an Israel-free zone." more

Young Palestinian 'beaten by Jewish mob' in Jerusalem hotel

JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- A mob of Jewish men assaulted a young Palestinian on Friday evening while he was working at a hotel in Jerusalem in an attack apparently motivated by racial hate, the victim’s father told Ma'an.

Faysal Azzam told Ma'an that 11 "extremist" Jews yelling racial epithets attacked his son Muhammad, 20, at his place of work at the Rimonim Shalom Hotel in West Jerusalem.

The attackers tried to strangle the young Palestinian man, he said, and as a result the youth suffered bruises and cuts in the face and hands.

He was also left bleeding from his nose and mouth, his father added.

Azzam said that before the "extremists" attacked his son, they insulted him and shouted racist curses against Arabs.

After verbally assaulting him, they attacked him with steel bars and tried to strangle him using a piece of rope, Azzam added.

The attack took place on the 8th floor, he said, adding that his son was rescued by security guards who heard his screams from the fourth floor.

The victim was taken to Shaare Zedek Medical Center for treatment.

"It wasn’t just an attack, but rather a murder attempt by spiteful extremists. The signs of (attempted) strangulation are clear on his neck," Azzam said.

The father said that Israeli police had summoned his son for questioning and he had filed a complaint against the attackers. more

Friday, 17 October 2014

Aqsa restrictions force thousands into Jerusalem streets for prayer

Thousands of Palestinians performed prayers in the streets and alleyways of the Old City of Jerusalem on Friday after men under the age of 50 were prevented by Israeli authorities from entering the al-Aqsa mosque compound.

Hundreds of Israeli border guards, police, and special forces were deployed throughout Jerusalem streets, in addition to at least one drone and a surveillance balloon in the sky as authorities sought to prevent Muslim worshipers from reaching the holy site.

Crowds performed prayers in the streets of the many Palestinian neighborhoods that lead out from the Old City including Ras al-Amud, Wadi al-Jouz, Salah al-Din, and al-Musrara.

Israeli forces detained two Palestinians in the Damascus Gate area after assaulting them, a member of the Arab Palestinian Front office, Said Shweiki, told Ma'an.

He identified the detainees as Marwan Majed Shweiki, 22, and Muhammad Nasser Shweiki, 22.

In Ras al-Amud neighborhood, meanwhile, Israeli forces fired stun grenades at worshipers as they finished prayers in order to disperse them, while Palestinians responded by throwing rocks at soldiers.

Tensions also soared in the Wadi al-Jouz area as Israeli forces deployed heavily in the alleyways of the neighborhood and Palestinian youths threw rocks and fireworks at soldiers. more

Thousands attend funeral of slain 13-year-old Palestinian child

Thousands of people in the central West Bank village of Beit Laqiya on Friday attended the funeral of 13-year-old Bahaa Samir Badir, who was shot dead by Israeli soldiers a day earlier.

The funeral procession started after Friday prayers at the Palestine Medical Complex in nearby Ramallah and headed towards the al-Shuhada cemetery, where the boy's body was buried.

Mourners waved Palestinian flags and held aloft pictures of Badir while shouting slogans to demand an end to the murder of Palestinian children.

Other participants demanded that Israel be held accountable for its ongoing "crimes."

Medical sources said Badir was shot in the chest after Israeli forces raided the village of Beit Laqiya on Thursday evening.

An Israeli military spokeswoman confirmed that Israeli forces shot at a crowd in the village, but said Palestinians had hurled "Molotov cocktails" at the troops.

The death of Bahaa brings the total number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank so far this year to 42, in addition to the nearly 2,200 Palestinians slain during Israel's summer offensive across Gaza. more

Israeli forces shoot, kill 13-year-old Palestinian near Ramallah

A Palestinian teenager was shot dead by Israeli forces in the village of Beit Laqiya northwest of Ramallah on Thursday evening.

Medical sources said Bahaa Samir Badir, 13, was shot in the chest after Israeli forces raided the village.

Badir was reportedly shot in the chest from close range, and suffered from severe bleeding shortly before dying at the Palestine Medical Complex in Ramallah.

Clashes broke out in the village of Beit Laqiya after news of Badir's death spread.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said that Israeli forces "encountered an illegal riot in Beit Laqiya," and "while they were exiting the village, rioters hurled Molotov cocktails at the forces."

"They responded to the threat with live fire," she said, adding: "Reports of a dead Palestinian are being reviewed. There will be military police investigation."

She added that the Molotov cocktails had posed a "direct threat" to the lives of the soldiers.

The death of Bahaa brings the total number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank so far this year to 42, in addition to the nearly 2,200 Palestinians slain during Israel's summer offensive across Gaza. more

Israeli navy opens fire, sinks Palestinian fishing boat off Gaza coast

Israeli naval forces on Thursday evening opened fire at a Palestinian fishing boat off the coast of the Gaza Strip.

Head of the fishermen's union in Gaza Nizar Ayyash told Ma'an that Israeli boats opened fire at boats belonging to local fisherman off the coats of Deir al-Balah.

A boat belonging to Jamal Abu Watfa was sunk in the attack.

Ayyash said the fisherman lost consciousness after the incident, but was reportedly saved from the water.

He added that the financial losses to the fisherman could reach more than JOD 100,000 ($140,000).

Since the signing of a ceasefire agreement that ended 50 days of fighting between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants in Gaza on Aug. 26, the Israeli navy has fired at Gaza fishermen in multiple instances under the pretext that they had surpassed fishing zone limits.

The Aug. 26 agreement 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.

The fisherman who have been shot at, and even at times detained by Israeli forces, have insisted that they were well within the six-mile limit. more

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Palestinian prisoner now on hunger strike for over 3 weeks

35-year-old Raed Moussa, currently being held in an Israeli prison, has been on hunger strike for nearly a month, now, in protest against being held without charge or trial for nearly a year, under Israeli Administrative Detention policy.

The Palestinian Prisoners' Society (PPS), in Jenin, said in a statement that Raed was detained in Jenin on Nov. 29, 2013, and sentenced to six months of administrative detention, according to Ma'an.

Moussa's detention was then extended for four more months, the PPS statement added, upon which he began an open-ended hunger strike for 34 days, until he was finally promised by prison authorities that there would be no more extensions to his detention.

He began the strike again, this September, when Israeli Prison Service re-sentenced him for another four months of administrative detention.

Raed is now being held in solitary confinement, at Ktziot prison, in the Negev desert. He has spent a total of seven years in Israeli jails in separate periods, according to Ma'an.

Administrative Detention procedures, the use of which by Israel dates back to the British mandate period, allows them to hold prisoners indefinitely without charge or trial, on the basis of secret information. The conditions under which prisoners are kept are often quite harsh, during such a sentence, with basic needs and medical care being neglected by Israeli authorities.

According to the PPS, the number of Palestinian prisoners held in administrative detention has now doubled, since the beginning of 2014. Some 500 Palestinian are being held under administrative detention, some of whom are members of Palestinian parliament. more

PA security forces kill man during Hebron raid

Palestinian Authority security forces killed a 25-year-old man in Hebron early Thursday during a raid in the southern West Bank city.

Security officials told Ma'an that clashes broke out as PA forces attempted to arrest several known outlaws who had been hiding south of Hebron in Area C.

It is unclear what the men are accused of.

The men opened fire at security forces during the raid, injuring seven security personnel, including one who is in a critical condition.

PA forces responded with live fire and critically injured Bilal al-Rajabi, who later died in hospital. more

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Palestinians clash with Israeli forces amid Aqsa restrictions

Clashes broke out between Palestinian worshipers and Israeli forces at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound amid visits by right-wing Jews on Wednesday, witnesses told Ma'an.

Israeli forces fired stun grenades and rubber-coated bullets towards worshipers and chased them out of the compound, the sources said.

Three Palestinians were injured during the clashes.

Tensions had risen at the holy site early in the day as Israeli authorities imposed restrictions on Palestinians seeking to enter the mosque.

An Israeli police statement said all men under the age of 50 would be prevented from entering.

Though the statement said women would be allowed into the compound, witnesses said all women were denied entry as well.

The Al-Aqsa Foundation for Endowment and Heritage said in a statement that Israeli forces "assaulted" Palestinians who were conducting a sit-in at Lions Gate in protest against the restrictions.

By 9:00, some 100 right-wing Israelis had entered the compound, Palestinian security guards at the mosque told Ma'an.

Palestinians chanted "Allahu Akbar," or "God is the greatest." more