Thursday, 28 February 2013

Hinger striker Samer Issawi transferred to hospital


BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Prison authorities transferred detainee Samer Issawi from Ramle prison to a hospital in Israel after 210 days on hunger strike, an Israeli official said late Wednesday.

Sivan Weizman, a spokeswoman for the Israel Prison Service, told Ma'an that Issawi was taken to Kaplan medical center in Rahavot, but she said his condition was stable and the move was unrelated to any specific decline.

"He's been on hunger strike for a long time, and medical staff at the IPS decided to move him," Weissman said. "It's better that he be in a hospital."

Palestinian Authority prisoners minister Issa Qaraqe confirmed that Issawi had been hospitalized.

"The Israeli side has begun dialogue today to find a solution to this issue, but so far they have not presented an acceptable offer," Qaraqe told reporters in Ramallah, adding that Issawi and Ayman Sharawna had refused an offer to be freed and deported.

Aside from a brief suspension in December, Sharawna has been on hunger strike since July. more

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Reports: Qaadan, Azzidine suspend hunger strike


RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Tareq Qaadan and Jafar Azzidine on Wednesday suspended their 93-day hunger strike after a hearing held at a hospital near Tel Aviv, the Palestinian Prisoners Society said.

Qaadan and Azzidine suspended their strike after an Israeli military prosecutor said their administrative detention order would not be renewed, the PPS said in a statement. Their current detention order expires on May 21.

They will consider renewing the strike depending on the outcome of the next hearing on March 6.

In Assaf Harofeh Hospital, where the prisoners are being treated, a military judge said she would reveal the secret charges and evidence against the men and issue a final decision at their next hearing, said lawyer Jawad Bulous.

Qaadan and Azzidine have been held in administrative detention on secret charges and evidence that even their lawyers have not been allowed to review. more

Video: Israeli mob celebrates savage beating of Palestinian man, shouts racist slogans

A video posted on YouTube shows an Israeli mob rampaging in Jerusalem on 24 February with multiple voices heard shouting the racist slogan, “A Jew is a soul [i.e human], an Arab is a son of a whore.”

This is the same slogan chanted by Israeli mobs who have carried out violent attacks on Palestinians on other occasions.

Some people in this video, though it is unclear if they are participating in the mob, can be seen in costumes traditionally worn for the Jewish festival of Purim which was just marked by Israelis.

Racially motivated beating of Hasan Usraf in Jaffa

At the beginning of the clip, a voice can be heard saying, “Did you hear what they did to the Arab guy? They screwed him with beatings.”

This may be reference to an incident earlier that day when Hasan Usraf, a street-sweeper in Jaffa was brutally beaten by Israeli youths in what police suspect was a racially-motivated attack. more

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Report: Mob attacks Palestinian woman in Jerusalem


BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) – A group of Jewish women attacked a Palestinian woman Monday while she was waiting at a light rail station in Jerusalem and beat her severely, Israeli media reported.

Hebrew-language Israeli daily Maariv reported that an ultra-Orthodox Jewish woman passed by the Palestinian woman and punched her all of a sudden. Other women, friends of the assailant, then joined her and together they started to beat the woman forcefully.

The victim tried to defend herself, but the number of attackers was big enough to subdue he and continue to beat her. more

Israel closes Gaza border crossings after rocket strike


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli authorities closed the Erez and Kerem Shalom border crossings with Gaza on Tuesday, after a rocket was fired from the coastal territory, a Palestinian border official said.

Nazmi Muhanna, head of the crossings committee in Gaza, told Ma'an that Israel closed the borders as a security measure after a rocket landed near Ashkelon. more

Gaza rocket fired at south Israel amid West Bank tensions


BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- A rocket was fired at southern Israel on Tuesday from the Gaza Strip, Israel's army said. "An explosion was heard in the Ashkelon region, experts searched the area and found one rocket that struck, damaging a road but causing no injuries," Rosenfeld said.

No Gaza faction has claimed responsibility for the rocket.

The incident comes as tensions in the West Bank continued for a second day on Monday following the death of Arafat Jadarat in Israeli prison custody.

A 13-year-old boy was seriously injured during protests in Bethlehem after being shot with live ammunition, and underwent surgery in Beit Jala hospital, his family said.

Another teenager, Odai Sirkhan, 16, was shot in the head with a rubber-coated steel bullet in Bethlehem and taken to Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem, where he is said to be in a critical condition.

The bullet penetrated his head and he is due to undergo surgery, Israeli media reported. more

Monday, 25 February 2013

Dozens injured in second day of West Bank protests - teenager shot with live ammo


RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Hundreds of people took to the streets in the West Bank and Gaza Strip on Monday in the second day of protests following the death of a Palestinian prisoner who PA officials say died as a result of torture.

The PA Minister of Detainee Affairs said Sunday that results from an autopsy of Arafat Jadarat's body indicate that he died after being tortured in Israeli custody, and not from a cardiac arrest, as Israel's Prison Authority had claimed.

Hundreds of people gathered outside Ofer prison in Ramallah, with clashes breaking out with Israeli forces. Eleven people were injured by rubber bullets, locals said, as protesters marched to the prison from Birzeit University.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said "500 rioters hurled rocks, firebombs and burning tires at Israeli forces, who responded with riot dispersal means."

Six people were hit by rubber bullets, she added.

In Bethlehem, 13-year-old Muhammad Khalid al-Kirdi was said to be seriously injured after being shot in the back and foot with live ammunition near Aida camp, locals said.

Two other people were injured as youths protested by an Israeli military watchtower near Aida, witnesses said.

In Tulkarem, 14 people were lightly injured by rubber bullets and tear gas canisters as protesters clashed with Israeli soldiers in the northern West Bank city, witnesses said. more

Thousands attend funeral for prisoner Arafat Jaradat tortured to death in Israeli prison


HEBRON (Ma'an) -- Thousands of mourners on Monday attended the funeral of Arafat Jaradat who died two days earlier in Israeli custody.

Jaradat, 30, died in Israel's Megiddo prison a week after he was detained. An autopsy showed he died from severe torture, Palestinian officials said Sunday.

Gunmen from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades fired in the air in Sair village, Jaradat's hometown, as thousands marched with his body. Jaradat's mother and pregnant wife collapsed at the funeral.

Large numbers of Israeli forces deployed to the area and imposed extensive restrictions on the entrances to Hebron and nearby villages. more

Fatah: Palestinian Authority supports escalating popular resistance


BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The Palestinian Authority supports and helped organized an escalation in popular resistance in the West Bank, a senior Fatah official said Sunday.

"Resistance is a natural right and we agree unanimously on escalating popular resistance," Azzam al-Ahmad told the Beirut-based al-Mayadeen satellite channel.

Al-Ahmad, a member of Fatah's Central Committee, said the Palestinian Authority had helped escalate popular resistance in the West Bank.

He said the PA may complain to the UN Security Council over the death of 30-year-old Arafat Jaradat in Israeli custody on Saturday.

Palestinian Authority Minister of Prisoners Issa Qaraqe said Sunday that Jaradat died as result of extreme torture. The Palestinian Authority state pathologist was present at the autopsy on Jaradat's body, which was carried out in Israel.

"There were marks of torture on the back, marks of torture on the chest, a deep wound on the upper side of the shoulder, wounds alongside the spine and marks of torture underneath the skin," Qaraqe said, based on the Palestinian doctor's basic findings. more

Minister: Autopsy shows torture killed Jaradat


BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- An autopsy has revealed that Arafat Jaradat died of extreme torture in Israeli custody and did not have a cardiac arrest, the PA Minister of Detainee Affairs said Sunday.

At a news conference in Ramallah, Issa Qaraqe said an autopsy conducted in Israel in the presence of Palestinian officials revealed that 30-year-old Jaradat had six broken bones in his neck, spine, arms and legs.

"The information we have received so far is shocking and painful. The evidence corroborates our suspicion that Mr. Jaradat died as a result of torture, especially since the autopsy clearly proved that the victim's heart was healthy, which disproves the initial alleged account presented by occupation authorities that he died of a heart attack," Qaraqe said.

A spokeswoman for Israel's Prison Authority said Saturday that Jaradat had apparently died of cardiac arrest in Megiddo prison. An emergency service team had tried to resuscitate him but failed, she said. more

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Hundreds rally in Gaza, West Bank over Israeli jail death


BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Hundreds of people rallied in the Gaza Strip and West Bank on Sunday to condemn the death of a Palestinian prisoner in Israeli custody.

In the West Bank, Israeli forces and protestors clashed in Hebron, Beit Ummar, al-Arrub refugee camp, and Tulkarem, with soldiers firing tear gas and sound grenades at demonstrators, locals said.

Palestinian factions in Gaza launched solidarity marches to condemn Jadarat's death, Ma'an's correspondent said.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said that "hundreds of Palestinians threw rocks and burned tires in Hebron, and security personnel responded with riot dispersal means."

One man was injured by rubber bullets and an Israeli soldier was injured after being hit by a rock, military sources said. more

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Palestinian prisoner Arafat Jaradat dies in Israeli jail


Palestinian prisoner Arafat Jaradat was proclaimed dead in the Israeli Megiddo jail on Saturday, sources in the Palestinian prisoner’s society announced.

The Israeli radio earlier said that a 30-year-old prisoner died of a heart attack in Megiddo jail without mentioning his name. more

Man who set self on fire sought help from Gaza govt


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- A man who set himself on fire at a government office in the northern Gaza Strip on Thursday, wounding himself and four others, was identified Friday as an out-of-work taxi driver.

Muhammad Namrouti, 43, had been applying for financial aid from the government for two years but never received a response, said his wife in an interview.

“We don’t have even one tomato at home, and we have been going to offices of ministry of social affairs since two years, but in vain,” she told Ma'an on Friday.

On Thursday morning her husband went to the office of the Ministry of Social Affairs to check up on an application he submitted two years ago seeking financial aid.

“He was told to come back in June, and as he heard that response he immediately set himself on fire,” she said. more

Friday, 22 February 2013

Palestinians clash with Israeli troops across the West Bank


RAMALLAH (Ma’an) – Clashes erupted across the West Bank after the Friday prayers between Israeli troops and Palestinian protesters who rallied to show solidarity with hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners.

Dozens were hurt as Israeli soldiers fired tear gas heavily to disperse the protesters.

Similarly, worshipers in Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem demonstrated in the compound after the Friday prayer before Israeli troops broke into the squares and clashed with the protesters.

According to Israeli radio station Reshet Bet, Israeli soldiers fired stun grenades to disperse the worshipers. The report highlighted that demonstrations started near the Moroccan Gate through which the soldiers stormed the compound and started to chase protesters.

In Ramallah in the central West Bank, 12 young men were hurt by tear gas and rubber-coated bullets during clashes with Israeli troops after the Friday prayers. Locals told Ma’an that the soldiers detained one Palestinian. The sources highlighted that the Friday prayer was performed near the main gate of Ofer detention center west of Ramallah. more

3 hunger strikers hospitalized


BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli authorities have hospitalized three Palestinians on hunger strike, a prison services spokeswoman said Friday.

Ayman Sharawna, Jaafar Azzidine and Tareq Qaadan were transferred from Ramle prison to hospitals in Israel for medical tests, Sivan Weizman told Ma'an.

Azzidine and Qaadan, who were taken to the Assaf Harofeh Medical Center, have been on hunger strike for 87 days in protest at their administrative detention, without charge or trial. more

Brigade threatens to fire rockets if hunger striker harmed


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- The Ahmed Abu Rish Brigades on Thursday threatened to fire rockets at Israel if any jailed hunger striker is harmed.

"We will continue to work with rockets and we will not stand by idly. Military operations will be implemented to achieve the rights of prisoners and to free them," brigades member Abu Ali al-Qawkabi said in a statement.

Al-Qawkabi called on Palestinian leaders in Ramallah to reject any negotiations with Israel and urged the Gaza government to refuse a truce until the detainees' demands are met.

The brigades called for action to free prisoners and joined a march from Victory Street to the protest tent, raising flags and banners of the hunger strikers.

The Fatah-affiliated Al-Aqsa Brigades joined a solidarity tent in Gaza City on Thursday in support of Samer Issawi who has been on hunger strike for 204 days, and Tareq Qaadan and Jaafar Azzidine who have refused food for 86 days. more

Samer Issawi sentenced to 8 months in prison


BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- An Israeli court on Thursday sentenced hunger-striker Samer Issawi to eight months in prison, but he has yet to face a military committee which could imprison him for 20 years.

Issawi has been on hunger strike for 204 days.

The magistrates court in Jerusalem sentenced Issawi for leaving Jerusalem, in violation of the terms of his amnesty granted in an Oct. 2011 prisoner exchange deal.

The sentence includes time served since Issawi's re-arrest in July 2012, and will conclude on March 6, but Issawi also faces a possible sentence under an Israeli military order which allows a special military committee to cancel prisoners' amnesty.

The committee could use secret evidence to sentence Issawi to serve 20 years, the remainder of his previous sentence. more


Thursday, 21 February 2013

Witnesses: Israeli forces level farmland along Gaza border


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli military vehicles entered the southern Gaza Strip on Thursday and leveled farmland near the border, witnesses said.

Six army vehicles entered east of Khan Younis, near al-Rawaydeh and al-Amour neighborhoods, and soldiers in watchtowers along the border opened fire, witnesses told Ma'an.

No injuries were reported. more

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Gaza minister: Egypt tunnel crackdown will fail


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Egypt's crackdown on smuggling tunnels to the Gaza Strip will not succeed unless alternatives to importing produce are provided, an official in Gaza's Hamas-run government said Wednesday.

Several days ago, Egyptian forces began flooding smuggling tunnels under the Gaza border in a campaign to shut them down. The tunnels have provided a lifeline to Palestinians since Israel intensified its blockade of the Gaza Strip in 2007.

"This is not the first time the Egyptian authorities have tried to shut down the tunnels, but neither of of the attempts have been successful," Minister of Economy Alaa Rafati told Ma'an.

The government in Gaza has informed Cairo several times that an official commercial route should be opened along the border, including a duty-free zone, Rafati said. more

Israel blocks delivery of electoral rolls from Gaza to West Bank


RAMALLAH (Ma’an) – Israel is impeding delivery of the Palestinian electoral registers from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank at the Erez crossing, officials in Ramallah said Wednesday.

According to the sources, Israel has not given the Palestinian side approval to transfer the electoral rolls which the Palestinian Central Elections Commission has updated over the past 10 days in the Gaza Strip.

The rolls are supposed to be delivered to the main offices in the West Bank. The Palestinian side has been contacting the Israelis for 10 days on the issue, but the Israelis are still “haggling,” one official said. more

Gaza: Kerem Shalom crossing to be enlarged with EU funding


GAZA CITY (Ma’an) – The European Union will fund expansion of Gaza’s Kerem Shalom crossing increasing its capacity to 500 truckloads per day, chief of the Palestinian borders and crossings department Nathmi Muhanna said Tuesday.

Speaking to a Ma’an, Muhanna explained that new gates, new roads would be built as well as a waiting parking near the crossing. more

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Witnesses: Israeli forces arrest 2 Gaza fishermen


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces arrested two fishermen off Gaza's northern coast on Tuesday, locals said.

Mahmoud Saad Allah and his brother Muhammad were arrested by Israel's navy and taken to an unknown location, witnesses told Ma'an.

Their fishing boats were also confiscated.

An Israeli army spokesperson did not return calls seeking comment on the incident.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights on Monday expressed concern over an escalation in Israeli attacks on fishermen in Gaza.

On Monday morning, Israeli gunboats opened fire on a Palestinian fishing boat at close range, wounding two fishermen, PCHR said in a statement. more

Hundreds of prisoners launch solidarity hunger strike


RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Around 800 prisoners in Israeli jails launched a one day hunger strike on Tuesday to show solidarity with long-term hunger strikers, a prisoner group said.

Prisoners in the Israeli jails of Nafha, Ramon and Eshel launched the strike action to put pressure on Israeli prison authorities to deal with the demands of long-term hunger-strikers, the Palestinian Prisoners Society said.

Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine all announced that they would participate in solidarity strike action, the PPS said.

On Monday, protesters rallied in Bethlehem, Hebron and Ramallah in support of hunger striking prisoners in Israeli jails, with Palestinian Authority Minister of Prisoner Affairs Issa Qaraqe warning of a popular uprising.

On Friday, hundreds of Palestinians protested across the West Bank in solidarity with prisoners on hunger strike, sparking clashes with Israeli forces. more

Monday, 18 February 2013

Prisoner in Israeli isolation for 2 years 'forgets speech'


RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- A Palestinian man held in solitary confinement by Israel for two years is losing his ability to recall language and has speech impairments, a lawyer who visited him in jail said Sunday.

The lawyer for the Palestinian prisoners society said Dirar Abu Sisi, an engineer from Gaza, is suffering from a number of health problems in his isolation cell.

Abu Sisi disappeared in February 2011 while traveling on a train in Ukraine and Israel later announced that it was holding him in a southern Israeli jail.

He was the only prisoner excluded from a May 2012 deal with Israeli authorities to end solitary confinement, according to prisoners rights group Addameer. more

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Hamas, Fatah to meet Feb. 27 for national unity talks, official says


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Delegations from Hamas and Fatah will meet in Cairo later this month to discuss the formation of a new government, a senior Hamas leader said Sunday.

Hamas' deputy politburo chief Mousa Abu Marzouq said in a statement that the factions will meet on Feb. 27 to discuss mechanisms for formatting a unity government.

Hamas official Khalil al-Hayeh said Saturday that the unity government will address the most important reconciliation issues, including holding elections and reforming security forces.

The long-stalled agreement made some progress this week as the Central Elections Commission updated voter records in the Gaza Strip for the first time since 2005.

The voter registration process is due to be completed by Feb. 18 and, in theory, an election could then be called three months later. more

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Israeli soldier posts disturbing Instagram photo of child in crosshairs of his rifle


This disturbing image shows the back of the head of a child or young man as seen in the crosshairs of a rifle. The photo was posted on the personal Instagram account of Mor Ostrovski, a 20-year old Israeli soldier in a sniper unit.

The context – particularly the character of the buildings seen in the background of the image – strongly suggests the child could be Palestinian.

There are no other images to suggest that the photographer actually fired at the person in the image in this case. The image is simply tasteless and dehumanizing. It embodies the idea that Palestinian children are targets.

It reminded me of a chilling account another Israeli soldier gave to the group Breaking the Silence about how Israeli soldiers in Nablus in 2006-2007 would deliberately fire at children, sometimes using live ammunition and sometimes rubber-coated steel bullets: more

Election body: 155,000 registered to vote in Gaza


BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The Central Elections Commission said Saturday that 155,000 people have registered to vote in the Gaza Strip, with two days to go until the update of the electoral roll closes.

The roll has not been updated in Gaza since Jan. 2005 and the operation of the CEC in Gaza is seen as a boost to reconciliation efforts between Fatah and Hamas.

CEC director Hisham Kahil said 79 percent of eligible voters were now registered in Gaza, and in the West Bank -- where a parallel voter registration process is taking place -- 76 percent of voters are on the roll.

The voter registration centers will close on Monday, and the CEC will then start processing the data, which will take between four to six weeks.

After centers close, rival factions Hamas and Fatah have pledged to meet again to agree an election date and the composition of a unity government. more

Friday, 15 February 2013

Refugees once more: From Syria to Gaza


GAZA CITY (IRIN) -- Ahmed Dweik’s family knows a thing or two about the refugee experience. Theirs started in 1948, when his father fled his Palestinian home town as Israeli forces captured the village of West Batani near Ashdod in present-day Israel.

From there, he settled in a refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, further south, until the 1967 Arab-Israeli war pushed him to search for an easier life abroad. He went first to Egypt to study, then to Yemen to find work.

That is where Dweik was born. But like his father, he too sought better opportunities, migrating to Syria to look for a better paying job and settling close to Yarmouk, the largest camp for Palestinian refugees in Syria.

“But what happened to my father after the 1967 war happened to me in 2012,” Dweik told IRIN.

In mid-2011, Dweik was in Yarmouk when the authorities opened fire on demonstrations and he was forced to take shelter for a few hours until it was safe to be on the street.

“I knew it was time for me to leave, but where to?”

Yemen, where he grew up, was facing its own unrest, and other Arab countries have made it harder for Palestinians to enter. more

Thursday, 14 February 2013

2 injured by Israeli fire in north Gaza


GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- Two young Palestinian men were injured by Israeli fire in the northern Gaza Strip on Thursday, medics said. A 20-year-old man was hit in the chest by gunfire east of Beit Hanoun, and is a moderate to serious condition, Gaza health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra said.

Another man, aged 22, was shot in the hand in the same incident and has moderate injuries, al-Qidra said. The pair are being treated in Beit Hanoun hospital.

An Israeli army spokesman said several Palestinians approached the border fence and tried to damage the barrier. He said one person was wounded by soldiers attempts to distance the group.

Earlier Thursday, Israeli military vehicles crossed into northern Gaza near Beit Lahiya to level lands, witnesses told Ma'an.

Israeli forces opened fire in the direction of Palestinian farmers, to force them leave their lands during the operation, they said. more

Barghouti, UN urge action on Palestinian hunger strikers


BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- MP Mustafa Barghouti on Thursday urged the world to act to save Palestinian hunger strikers as UN officials insisted Israel must charge or release the detainees.

Samer Issawi has been on hunger strike for 197 days, and Tareq Qaadan and Jaafar Azzidine have refused food for 79 days. All are being held in Israel's Ramle prison.

"I believe the situation is absolutely risky and their lives are in great danger and the only way to stop this tragedy is for the international community to fulfill its duty and exercise the utmost possible pressure on Israel to release them," said Barghouti, secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative.

"They are conducting the most peaceful form of non-violent resistance by going on hunger strike for their freedom," Barghouti told Ma'an, noting that their indefinite detention without charge was incompatible with international law.

On Wednesday, UN special rapporteur Richard Falk called for the immediate release of Issawi, Qaadan and Azzidine. more

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Egypt floods Gaza tunnels to cut Palestinian lifeline


GAZA CITY (Reuters) -- Egyptian forces have flooded smuggling tunnels under the border with the Gaza Strip in a campaign to shut them down, Egyptian and Palestinian officials said.

The network of tunnels is a vital lifeline for Gaza, bringing in an estimated 30 percent of all goods that reach the enclave and circumventing a blockade imposed by Israel for more than seven years.

Reporters saw one tunnel being used to bring in cement and gravel suddenly fill with water on Sunday, sending workers rushing for safety. Locals said two other tunnels were likewise flooded, with Egyptians deliberately pumping in water.

"The Egyptians have opened the water to drown the tunnels," said Abu Ghassan, who supervises the work of 30 men at one tunnel some 200 yards from the border fence.

An Egyptian security official in the Sinai told Reuters the campaign started five days ago.

"We are using water to close the tunnels by raising water from one of the wells," he said, declining to be named.

Dozens of tunnels had been destroyed since last August following the killing of 16 Egyptian soldiers in a militant attack near the Gaza fence. more

Election body: 70,000 register to vote in Gaza


RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Around 70,000 people have registered to vote in the Gaza Strip since the Central Elections Commission began updating the electoral roll two days ago, a statement from the group said Wednesday.

Some 257 registration centers will be open for one week to update the electoral roll in the Gaza Strip, with an estimated 350,000 unregistered eligible voters living in Gaza.

The roll has not been updated in Gaza since Jan. 2005 and the operation of the CEC in Gaza is seen as a boost to reconciliation efforts between Fatah and Hamas. more

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Gaza ministry denies Egypt closed tunnels


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Gaza's Ministry of Interior on Tuesday denied reports that Egypt had closed several smuggling tunnels a day earlier, a spokesman said.

Islam Shahwan said in a statement that a network of tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border are operating as normal, with the Interior Ministry briefly closing tunnels last week due to adverse weather conditions.

Egyptian security officials said Monday that they had arrested 10 suspected smugglers in Rafah and shut two tunnels used to smuggle goods to the Gaza Strip. more

Israeli forces arrest Hamas-affiliates across West Bank


BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces launched multiple arrest raids overnight Monday against Hamas affiliates in the West Bank, Hamas sources and locals said.

Hamas leader Rafat Jamil Nasif, 45, was detained in Tulkarem in an arrest raid on his home, sources in the Islamist movement said. Nasif's family were forced to stand outside in the cold while sniffer dogs searched his home.

Musab al-Ashqar, Abdullah Ismail al-Khalil and Ammar Jihad Ameir, students at al-Khadouri university, were also arrested in Tulkarem, together with the local Imam's son Qitad Amar Bidawi.

In Nablus, Israeli forces detained a local Islamist student leader Mathni Jamil Eshtayeh and students Osama Khalid Yamin and Walid Gamal Asida from An-Najah university, locals said.

Mousa Ahmad Yamin and Abed al-Ghani Ayesh Samara were also detained in nearby villages.

Four people were arrested in Qalandia refugee camp in Ramallah, including two ex-prisoners, and in Hebron two other students were detained. more

Egyptian forces close 2 Gaza tunnels, arrest 10


EL-ARISH, Egypt (Ma'an) -- Egypt's military closed two smuggling tunnels leading to Gaza on Monday, security officials said.

Egyptian soldiers arrested 10 suspected smugglers in Rafah and shut two tunnels used to smuggle goods to the Gaza Strip, Egyptian officials told Ma'an.

Families of the arrested smugglers staged a small demonstration against the arrests.

The tunnel network developed as a vital source of goods under Israel's blockade of the coastal strip and Egyptian restrictions on the official Rafah crossing point. more

Monday, 11 February 2013

Voter registration opens in Gaza


RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- Electoral registration centers opened in the Gaza Strip on Monday, the first step towards holding long-overdue Palestinian national elections.

The Central Elections Commission announced that 257 voter registration centers were open for one week across the Gaza Strip.

In addition 347 stations will register voters in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. The centers are based in public and UNWRa-affiliated schools, sports clubs, municipal offices and other organizations.

CEC chief Hanna Nasser noted that there are around 350,000 unregistered eligible voters in the Gaza Strip.

The roll has not been updated in Gaza since Jan. 2005. The operation of the CEC in Gaza is a boost to reconciliation efforts between Fatah, which dominates the West Bank government, and Hamas, which rules Gaza. more

Sunday, 10 February 2013

No sign of breakthrough after Cairo Palestinian unity summit


GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- Palestinian political parties meeting in Cairo this week over reconciliation failed to reach any concrete outcomes, participants in the summit told Ma'an on Sunday.

Political leaders met in Cairo on Thursday and Friday for talks on the May 2011 deal to reunite the West Bank and Gaza, which has never been implemented.

The politicians were discussing reformulation of the PLO, which currently does not include Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and establishing a temporary government to prepare for fresh national elections and end the West Bank-Gaza division.

Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine chief Nayef Hawatmeh told Ma’an that meetings "ended without achieving any tangible progress."

A member of his politburo Rabah Muhanna was more explicit. "The Cairo meetings did not achieve anything ... they did not set a date for forming the new government nor a date for fresh elections." more

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Activists construct new protest village in south Hebron


HEBRON (Ma’an) -- Palestinians and foreign solidarity activists on Saturday set up a new protest village in the south Hebron hills, and vowed to remain there despite Israeli forces moving to dismantle the structures.

Early Saturday, activists set up steel-framed tents near the Palestinian village of al-Tuwani, calling the encampment "Canaan".

Younis Arar, coordinator of the popular committees in the southern West Bank, told Ma'an that soldiers assaulted the 30 activists who had gathered in the area.

"We began building the tents and were surprised when a large force of the Israeli army began attacking us and destroying tents and hitting us ... We will try and build Canaan village again," Arar said.

A military spokeswoman said soldiers evacuated illegal structures, and responded with riot dispersal means when around 100 Palestinians "rioted" in the area. more

Friday, 8 February 2013

Hamas official lays down conditions for unity govt


BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Hamas official Ismail Ashqar said Friday that consultations for establishing a national consensus government will be initially confined to Fatah and Hamas, and then presented to the rest of the factions.

Fatah and Hamas are set to meet Sunday in Cairo in order to discuss formation of the new government.

Ashqar presented two conditions for the long-awaited joint government. He said Hamas still does not agree with the original proposal that the cabinet is composed of technocrats, but rather they want political figures from both parties.

The Hamas official also said that Abbas' decision to form the government only has political weight, to be a legal entity it should be approved by the parliament. more

Jerusalem soccer club torched after racist protests against Muslim players


JERUSALEM (Reuters) - A suspected arson attack damaged the main club house of Israeli Premier League side Beitar Jerusalem on Friday, a day after four fans were charged in court in connection with racist incitement against the team's recruitment of Muslim players, police said.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the fire, which caused no injuries, caused "extensive damage" to the premises next to the team's main training grounds. Reuters television footage showed trophies and other memorabilia were destroyed.

"Initial findings show the blaze was caused by a number of suspects" and police were investigating a possible link to protests over the team's signing up of two Chechen Muslim players last month, Rosenfeld said.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said police would take "a heavy hand to put an end to this issue," and praised the club for what he saw as steps toward "fighting racism and violence".

The Israel Football Association said that soccer's world governing body FIFA had requested clarification following racist chanting by fans at a league fixture last month against the Chechen players. more

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Hunger-striker, freed by Israel, returns to Gaza


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- A Palestinian prisoner who spent 100 days on hunger strike last year was released to the Gaza Strip on Thursday.

Akram Rekhawi crossed through the Erez crossing into Gaza to a public reception of political officials after nine years in Israeli jail.

In a short address, Rekhawi stressed the need to support other Palestinians on hunger strike in Israeli jails, noting the difficult conditions in Ramle prison hospital.

The 39-year-old, from Rafah, was then transferred to Dar al-Shifa hospital by ambulance for a medical check-up.

A father of eight, Rekhawi suffers from diabetes, asthma and osteoporosis and has been held in Ramle prison clinic throughout his detention since 2004. more

Fatah, Hamas officials to meet in Cairo


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Fatah and Hamas officials will meet Wednesday in Cairo to follow up on prior reconciliation agreements and elections, a Fatah official said Wednesday.

Yahya Rabah told Ma'an that the delegations representing both factions will meet in Cairo to discuss the work of the Palestinian Central Elections Commission's work, which is to resume this month.

Rabah said voting centers would re-open within days, and voter cards will be reissued over a 10-day period.

The long-embattled reconciliation deal, signed in 2011, once again ground to a halt until a renewed push earlier this month.

A PLO meeting set for Friday in Cairo will select members of a joint government in addition to selecting the leadership of the PLO. more

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Abbas calls for end to Gaza blockade


CAIRO (Ma'an) -- President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday urged Islamic leaders to end Israel's blockade of Gaza, but criticized official visits to the enclave.

The ongoing siege of Gaza will prolong the conflict with Israel and lead the region to another round of violence, preventing a just and comprehensive peace agreement, Abbas said in a speech at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation summit in Cairo.

He said his Fatah party was working "very honestly" to end its rift with Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip but said world leaders should not treat the enclave as an independent entity. more

Rights group: Israel arrests two brothers at Gaza crossing


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces detained two brothers at a border crossing in north Gaza on Tuesday, a rights group said.

The al-Mezan Center for Human Rights said in a statement that Rami Riyad al-Tayeb, 32, and his brother Mohammad, 23, were detained at the Beit Hanoun, or Erez, crossing while en-route to visit their mother in the West Bank.

Both men had Israeli-approved permits for the visit, the al-Mezan center said, but were arrested and transferred to an Israeli detention center.

The Gaza-based rights group will hire a lawyer to defend the two brothers, with no further details about why they were being held. more

Israel to demolish 10 homes in the Jordan Valley


On Tuesday, 5 February, Israeli forces handed 10 Palestinian families demolition notices of their homes in the Jordan Valley, an official told Palestinian official news source WAFA.

Aref Daragmeh, head of Wadi al-Maleh village council, told WAFA that the Israeli soldiers informed the families living in Wadi al-Maleh, Ein Hilwa, and al-Hammamat that they had to leave their homes.

This is not the first time these families, mostly made up of children, women and the elderly, have been forced to leave their homes to make room for army training, said Daragmeh. more

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Help release Mamun Nasser from Israeli prison


Video: Settlers and soldiers attacking Madama. It shows collusion between settlers and soldiers in Madama the day Mamun was arrested.

Shepherd Mamun Nasser has spent almost two months in an Israeli military prison after he was severely beaten by settlers while tending to his sheep. Military court has agreed to his release if the sum of 4000 NIS is paid for bail. Mamun’s family can not afford this amount. Help us raise the funds to secure his release.

On 17th December Mamun Nasser was tending his sheep on a hillside in his village land close to the illegal settler colony of Yizhar. Settlers sought out Mamun and handcuffed him then beat him. His brothers, two of his sisters and his mother who were first to arrive to his aid found Mamun surrounded by settlers covered in blood with most of his face severely swollen. As they attempted to get Mamun from the settlers Israeli soldiers arrived and opened fire shooting live bullets at his family, with one bullet passing through his sister’s dress. Mamun’s brother Amir wasn’t so ‘lucky’ and was hit in the leg. As word of the attack on Mamun spread more villagers arrived and fought to try to free Mamun. In the process a settler was hit by a stone and wounded.

The Military courts are willing to release Mamun provided the sum of 4000 NIS ($ 1100) is paid for bail and on the condition that he does not return to the land where he was attacked until the end of his proceedings. Mamun’s family can not afford to pay this amount. Please help us raise the funds needed to secure his release now. Please donate here and send us an email saying how much you were able to raise/donate. Thank you! more

Lawyer: Long-term hunger striker refusing water


RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Jailed hunger striker Samer Issawi has stopped drinking water after refusing food for 188 days, the Palestinian Prisoners Society said Tuesday.

A PPS lawyer visited Issawi in Israel's al-Ramle prison clinic and said the prisoner has stopped drinking water and taking vitamins, and is boycotting all medical tests.

A doctor has informed Issawi that his heart could stop at any time if he stops drinking, the lawyer said in a statement. Issawi is suffering cramps and numbness and his weight has dropped to 47 kgs, the lawyer added.

Issawi thanked his supporters inside Palestine and internationally for their solidarity.

The prisoners society called on all Palestinians to intensify their efforts to support hunger strikers.

On Monday, Palestinian Knesset member Ahmad Tibi visited Issawi and said his health condition was critical.

From a wheelchair, Issawi told Tibi he was determined to continue his strike. more

Witnesses: Israeli tanks breach south Gaza border


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli tanks and bulldozers entered the southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday, witnesses said.

Seven military vehicles and two bulldozers breached the Sufa area east of Rafah, opening fire at Palestinian farmers, witnesses told Ma'an. more

Monday, 4 February 2013

MK Tibi says Issawi risks death in Israeli jail


JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Long-term hunger striker Samer Issawi is at risk of death after refusing food for 187 days, Palestinian Knesset member Ahmad Tibi said Monday.

Tibi, who visited Issawi in Ramle prison clinic, said the prisoner's health condition is critical. In a statement, the MK described Issawi as pale and skeletal, weighing only 48 kg.

From a wheelchair, Issawi told Tibi he was determined to continue his strike.

"The only choices I have are to triumph or die a martyr. I feel I am closer to martyrdom, and the battle I am fighting isn't a personal one as I am seeking to protect national accomplishments achieved within the Shalit deal," he said.

Issawi was released in the Oct. 2011 prisoner swap agreement between Israel and Hamas, which secured the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit from Gaza.

He was rearrested on July 7 and accused of violating the terms of his release by leaving Jerusalem. Israeli prosecutors are seeking to cancel his amnesty and detain him for 20 years, the remainder of his previous sentence. more

Israeli forces detain Hamas MPs, officials across West Bank


BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli forces conducted an arrest sweep of Hamas-affiliated officials in the West Bank overnight Sunday, including two Palestinian MPs.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said 25 Palestinians were held overnight, but would not elaborate on the identity of the detainees.

Locals identified the legislators detained as Hatim Qafisha from Hebron city and Ahmad Attoun, a lawmaker from Jerusalem who was exiled by Israel to Al-Bireh in the West Bank.

Thirteen other Hamas officials were seized in the raids, according to local sources.

In Hebron, forces detained Dr Zein Addin Shabanah from Hebron city, Muhammad Ismail al-Tal from ad-Dhahiriyya, and Sheikh Samir Buheis from Yatta.

In Ramallah, Israeli troops arrested Sheikh Falah Nada from Al-Bireh and Adnan al-Husary was seized in Tulkarem. In Qalqiliya, Riyad Walweel and Sheikh Muhsin al-Hardan were detained. more

Sunday, 3 February 2013

BBC acknowledges that Palestinian citizens of Israel are not guaranteed equality by law


In a report last month on Israel’s racist “Judaization” policies in the Negev, BBC reporter Tim Whewell wrote that “Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel are guaranteed full equality by law”. Responding to my complaint, the BBC’s Middle East desk has acknowledged that this is not the case, and “agree the wording of the sentence in question is inaccurate.”

The article has now been changed to say that “Israel says its Arab and Jewish citizens have equal rights under the law”, a claim followed up by testimony from a Negev Coexistence Forum activist that “in practice land policy in the Negev gives Bedouin fewer opportunities than Jews.”

In my complaint, I pointed out that there is in fact no such guarantee [of full equality for Jewish and Palestinian citizens] by law, and I shared the following:

- Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI): “the right to equality is not yet enshrined in law regarding most aspects of life”

- Submission to UN Human Rights Committee by legal rights NGO Adalah, August 2009: “a constitutional right to equality for all citizens is not explicitly guaranteed under Israeli law”

- UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), Israel country report, March 2012: “the Committee is concerned that no general provision for equality and the prohibition of racial discrimination has been included in the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty (1992), which serves as Israel’s bill of rights; neither does Israeli legislation contain a definition of racial discrimination in accordance with Article 1 of the Convention.”

- Justice Aharon Barak in Israel’s High Court case 7052/03: “Notwithstanding, not all aspects of equality that would have been included, had it been recognized as an independent right that stands on its own, are included within the framework of human dignity.” The BBC’s correction is a welcome development in challenging the discourse that Israel is the Middle East’s “only democracy”. more

19th Miles of Smiles aid convoy arrives in Gaza


GAZA, (PIC)-- The European Miles of Smiles 19th aid convoy to the Gaza Strip arrived on Saturday night in the coastal enclave via the Rafah border terminal with Egypt. Palestinian sources said that 120 foreign solidarity activists managed to cross into Gaza at a late night hour on Saturday and 30 others would cross on Sunday. They said that the convoy members would remain in Gaza till next Thursday and would distribute assistance, open projects, and have meetings. more