Sunday, 31 March 2013

"Trade not aid" focus of new attempt to break Gaza blockade

GAZA CITY (IPS) - “An ark is literally a large floating vessel designed to keep its passengers and cargo safe,” according to the group preparing Gaza’s Ark. But its is “a vessel that embodies hope that the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip can soon live in peace without the threat of the Israeli blockade.”

An initiative by Palestinians in Gaza and international solidarity activists, Gaza’s Ark entails “purchasing a run-down boat from a local fishing family,” said Michael Coleman, a member of Free Gaza Australia and the steering committee for Gaza’s Ark.

“The refurbishing will be done by Palestinians in the port of Gaza, and the sailing will be with a mixed crew of Palestinians and internationals,” said David Heap, spokesman for Gaza’s Ark in Canada and Europe. The sailing date has not been announced yet.

Pointing to a weathered fishing trawler with a “for sale” sign painted on it, Mahfouz Kabariti, president of Gaza’s Fishing and Marine Sports Association, referred to the poverty of Gaza’s fishermen.

“Why sell?” he asked. “Because of years of poor incomes from Israeli restrictions on sea, many fishermen have debts they cannot pay off. Fishermen were optimistic when the Israelis re-extended the fishing limit six miles. We hoped that maybe it would be extended to 12 miles.” more

80-year-old attacked by settlers may need surgery

TULKAREM (Ma'an) -- An 80-year-old Palestinian farmer who was attacked Friday by Israeli settlers is still in hospital and may need surgery, medics said Sunday.

Hasan Barhoush is being treated for fractures and bruises at Thabit Thabit Hospital in Tulkarem.

He was working on his fields in Kafr al-Labad village, near the Israeli settlement Enav, when a group of settlers attacked him.

Walid Shalabi, deputy director of the Palestinian military liaison department, visited Barhoush in hospital on Sunday.

Shalabi told reporters his department was in contact with Israeli officials to urge Israeli forces to fight "such violations of all international laws and values."

Israeli perpetrators of violence against Palestinians are rarely investigated or prosecuted. more

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Film review: Gaza love story triumphs over Israeli obstacles

More than 1,000 years ago, in the middle of the Arabian peninsula, Qays ibn al-Mulawwah fell in love with Layla bint Mahdi ibn Saad. He recited poetry expressing his adoration of her, but in naming her continuously and publicly, convinced Layla’s father that he was mad, and so lost the opportunity of her hand in marriage. Layla was married to another man, and theirs became one of the great tragic love stories, a Middle Eastern Romeo and Juliet. It became known as Majnun Layla (Possessed by madness for Layla).

In Habibi (My beloved; the full Arabic title Habibi Rasak Kharban translates as Darling there’s something wrong with your head), the American-Syrian-Lebanese filmmaker Susan Youssef transfers the Majnun Layla tale to Gaza in 2001, near the beginning of second intifada. Qays and Layla, both from Khan Younis, have met at Birzeit University in the West Bank. When the Israeli occupation revokes their permits, both have to return home to Gaza and the watchful eyes of their families and community.

Layla’s mother is keen for her to marry Ward, an ambitious young doctor recently returned from America and in the process of setting up his own clinic. Her father, a quiet and religious man, is at first sympathetic to Layla’s passionate desire to finish her engineering degree. more

Haniyeh heads to Cairo for talks

GAZA CITY (AFP) -- Gaza's Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh headed to Cairo on Saturday to discuss his movement's complaints about Israeli compliance with an Egyptian-brokered truce.

Hamas spokesman Taher al-Nunu said Haniyeh would be discussing "Israeli violations of the truce," which ended eight days of deadly violence in and around the Gaza Strip last November.

Last week, Hamas complained to Egypt that Israel was not keeping its end of the bargain.

Al-Nunu said that the Gaza premier would be discussing "the problem of (Palestinian) prisoners (held by Israel) and Hamas-Egypt relations." more

Israeli troops open fire at protesters as Palestinians mark Land Day

QALQILIYA (Ma’an) – Clashes erupted Saturday between Palestinians and Israeli forces in the northern West Bank village of Jayyus east of Qalqiliya, witnesses said.

Eyewitnesses told Ma’an that hundreds of Palestinians gathered in agricultural lands west of Jayyus to plant trees commemorating Land Day before Israeli troops stormed the area.

The soldiers fired tear-gas canisters at the Palestinians who in return hurled stones at the soldiers. Dozens were hurt as they inhaled tear gas, according to onlookers.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said security forces were responding to rock-hurling, and she said two soldiers were lightly injured by rocks. She was unaware of any Palestinian casualties.

Israeli forces have deployed heavily across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem since Friday preparing to disperse demonstrations in Palestinian cities and villages in commemoration of Land Day.

In Ramallah in the central West Bank, young Palestinians clashed with Israeli forces near Qalandiya checkpoint which separates Ramallah and Jerusalem. more

Friday, 29 March 2013

Prisoner Ashraf Halaiqa taken to hospital after health deterioration

AL-KHALIL, (PIC)-- Family of captive Ashraf Mousa Halaiqa, held in an Israeli jail, appealed to human rights and humanitarian organizations and media to save their son, who was transferred to hospital after deterioration of his health condition.

The family expressed on Thursday morning real concern about the life of Ashraf and feared he might meet the same fate of prisoner Arafat Jaradat, who died in the occupation jails.

Ashraf, 27 from the town of Shyoukh in al-Khalil, was arrested by the occupation authorities at dawn Sunday, and was transferred to interrogation dungeons. He suffers from an injury in one of his legs which he had sustained in a car accident some time ago, and is taking many types of therapeutic drugs. more

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Qassam member killed in eastern Gaza

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- A member of Hamas' armed wing died Thursday during a mission in eastern Gaza, medical officials and witnesses said.

Mohammad Ahmad al-Sarhi, 20, from the Zaytoun neighborhood of Gaza City, was killed in a tunnel collapse, and three other people were wounded, health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra said.

Witnesses in the area confirmed to Ma'an that a group of Al-Qassam members were operating in a tunnel east of Zaytoun when the tunnel collapsed suddenly. more

Child 'critically injured' in Hebron clashes

HEBRON (Ma'an) -- A 12-year-old is in critical condition after he was injured in clashes with Israeli forces in Hebron, medics said.

Yousef Abu Aisha was shot in the head with a rubber bullet. Three other Palestinians were also injured by rubber bullets, a Ma'an reporter said.

An Israeli military spokeswoman did not immediately return a call seeking comment. more

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Rachel Corrie: BBC admits failings in reporting

On Tuesday 26th March, the BBC has admitted that a reference it made to Israeli soldiers dying on the same day US activist Rachel Corrie was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza was not 'duly accurate'. No Israeli soldiers were killed on that day, Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) said in a press release.

The claim was made by veteran BBC presenter, Martha Kearney, on BBC Radio 4's World at One programme, on the day an Israeli court ruled that Israel was not to blame for Corrie's death.

PSC has been lobbying the BBC for seven months, since the broadcast in August 2012, to extract an admission that Kearney's false claim constituted a breach of the BBC's Editorial Guidelines on Accuracy. more

Israeli forces detain 5 Hamas leaders in Hebron

EBRON (Ma’an) – Israeli forces raided the southern West Bank city of Hebron early on Wednesday morning and detained five local Hamas leaders, local sources said.

Israeli forces ransacked several homes of Hamas leaders before detaining five of them.

The detainees were identified as Muhammad Natsha, a Hamas-affiliated lawmaker, Abdul-Khaliq Hasan Natsha, Muhammad Tahsin Shawar, Amjad Hamouri and Jawad Muhammad al-Jaabari.

They were all taken to unknown locations. more

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has reneged on promises to Palestine

The euphoria that erupted in Gaza minutes after Hosni Mubarak stepped down on 11 February 2011 probably came second only to Egypt’s. The ousted dictator was Israel’s “strategic asset” for good reason. He secured the blockade of the Gaza Strip from the Egyptian side, sided against Hamas and proved a reliable ally.

Even during the 22-day Israeli war on Gaza at the end of 2008, Mubarak kept the Rafah border crossing firmly shut, in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention which binds Egypt, as a signatory, to protect civilians during times of war and foreign occupation.

Egypt’s dictator was removed but his legacy continues to influence realities on the ground in Gaza and around the Palestinian question in general. It does not help that his successor, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Muhammad Morsi, has done little to prove — thus far — that his policies will change course. Of course nothing is that simple. Morsi, willingly, inherited a difficult legacy of a mammoth, corrupt bureaucracy and questionable sovereignty after decades of subservience to the United States.

But judging from their discourse and performance during the past year, it’s evident that the Brotherhood — including their Freedom and Justice Party and the president — are too eager to prove their power-worthiness by demonstrating “pragmatism” and flexibility to the international community.

Some Brotherhood figures and sympathizers argue that this is vital to securing their ascendance to power in a shaky transition and to quell the fears of skeptics. This might be valid in some cases (where the regional balance of power isn’t in their favor) but it poses compelling questions on how far Morsi will go in Mubarak’s shoes under the pretext of realpolitik — and if he’ll eventually find himself trapped there. more

3 workers injured in Gaza tunnel explosion

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Three workers were injured Tuesday when a gas canister exploded in a smuggling tunnel under the Gaza-Egypt border, a Gaza official said.

Civil defense spokesman Muhammad al-Mathana told Ma'an that a fire broke out after a gas canister being transferred to Gaza exploded.

Three workers suffered serious burns and were taken to a hospital in Gaza, al-Matahan added.

In January, al-Mezan Center for Human Rights urged the Gaza government to implement better safety measures and assess the benefits of the network as a whole, saying 232 people had been killed in collapsing tunnels. more

Monday, 25 March 2013

Israel extends closure of Gaza crossing

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli authorities kept the Kerem Shalom crossing closed for a fifth day on Monday, after imposing a closure last week following rocket fire from Gaza.

Israel closed the Gaza commercial crossing on Thursday after a rocket was fired at southern Israel and reduced the fishing zone around Gaza from 6 to 3 miles.

The zone had been extended to 11 km as part of an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire that ended an eight-day conflict between Israel and Hamas in November, in which 166 Palestinians and six Israelis were killed. more

Lawyer: Issawi's heart could stop at any moment

RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Samer Issawi's heart could stop at any moment, a lawyer said Monday, as the prisoner's health continues to deteriorate after 236 days on hunger strike.

Israeli doctors told Palestinian Prisoners Society lawyer Fawaz al-Shalawdi that Issawi's heartbeat had decreased to 28 beats per minute and his blood glucose has fallen to 65 milligrams per deciliter.

Doctors say his heart could stop at any moment.

Issawi suffers from breathing problems, constant dizziness and severe pain in his abdomen and kidneys, al-Shalawdi said.

"Despite my critical health situation, and all that I suffer from, I promise everyone that my health situation will not affect my decisions," Issawi said in a letter.

"I will continue my open hunger strike, and will not retract my steps. My life is not more precious than the blood of Palestinian martyrs."

Issawi was hospitalized in late February and stopped drinking water earlier in March. He was too sick to attend a hearing at Israel's Ofer military detention center last week. more

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Abbas may visit Gaza with Turkish PM, official says

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- President Abbas may accompany Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on a potential visit to the Gaza Strip in the near future, a Palestinian official said Sunday.

"I believe if Erdogan comes to Gaza, he may accompany president Abu Mazen," Ahmed Yousef, former senior political adviser to Gaza PM Ismail Haniyeh, told Ma'an.

Hamas said on Friday that Erdogan told its leader, Khalid Mashaal, that Israel had promised to "lift the siege on the Palestinian people".

Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said he expected Erdogan to make a solidarity visit to Gaza "soon".

A visit to Gaza by the Turkish prime minister would represent a real breakthrough in addressing the Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip, Yousef said.

Erdogan would likely pledge financial support for projects in Gaza and his visit could encourage other regional Arab leaders to visit. more

Israel says Turkey deal will not end Gaza blockade

JERUSALEM (Reuters) -- Israel did not commit to ending its Gaza blockade as part of reconciliation with Turkey and could clamp down even harder on the Palestinian enclave if security is threatened, a senior Israeli official said on Sunday.

After Friday's US-brokered fence-mending announcement, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said Israel had met his demands to apologize for killing nine Turks aboard a Gaza-bound activist ship in 2010, pay compensation and ease the blockade.

But during the almost three-year rift between the ex-allies, Erdogan had routinely insisted that Israel end the blockade.

The rapprochement deal noted Israel's relaxing of curbs on Gaza's civilian imports in that period and pledged "to continue to work to improve" Palestinians' humanitarian situation. more

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Israel opens fire at Gaza fishermen after new limit imposed

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces opened fire at fishermen off Gaza's coast on Saturday, forcing them to comply with a newly imposed reduced fishing zone following a rocket attack on southern Israel.

Israel's army announced Thursday that the fishing zone for Palestinians in Gaza would be reduced from six to three miles following a rocket attack.

Fishermen in Gaza told Ma'an that Israel's navy opened fire at them on Saturday to prevent them from going out further than 3 miles.

Mahfouth Kabariti, head of a federation for fishermen and water sports, confirmed that the Israeli navy had set up new signs defining the permitted fishing zone.

The zone had been extended to 11 km as part of an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire that ended an eight-day conflict between Israel and Hamas in November, in which 166 Palestinians and six Israelis were killed.

The newly imposed Israeli restriction does not necessarily mean that Israel has abandoned the ceasefire agreement, Gaza-based political analyst Wisam Afifa told Ma'an. more

Friday, 22 March 2013

Obama makes fun of heckler asking "who killed Rachel Corrie?"

US President Barack Obama arrived in Ramallah by helicopter yesterday and gave yet another insipid speech. The Palestinian Authority’s security forces, collaborating with US forces, designated a huge security perimeter with the PA compound — the Muqataa — in the middle. Some of the city’s busiest streets were closed off and inaccessible to those not living there. As helicopters filled the skies from the morning up until late afternoon, I was stuck at home working during the nine-hour lockdown, all too aware of the soldiers stationed on the rooftops around my building.

Protestors tried to march from Manara Square in the city center to the Muqataa yet again yesterday morning, but were stopped by hundreds of policemen and riot guards. The speech Obama gave at the compound was not littered with Arabic phrases (a speech he delivered the previous day was littered with Hebrew phrases) and gave the usual empty and irrational rhetoric of the US supporting an independent sovereign Palestinian state alongside a Jewish state that will only come into fruition through direct negotiations with Israel. more

Israel to limit Gaza fishing zone after rocket fire

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israel will reduce the Gaza fishing zone as punishment for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip following a rocket attack, the Israeli military announced Thursday.

"In response to the rocket fire earlier this morning ... the Prime Minister of the State of Israel, Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Minister of Defense, Mr. Moshe (Bogie) Yaalon, have instructed the IDF to narrow the permitted fishing zone for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip from six to three miles," the army said.

"Additionally, Kerem Shalom crossing will be closed. These changes will continue until the IDF is otherwise instructed by the political echelon. more

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Obama downplays settlements as obstacle to peace

RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- US President Barack Obama on Thursday downplayed continued Israeli settlement building as an obstacle to the peace process, and he called on the Palestinians to resume talks.

In a joint news conference in Ramallah, Obama said both sides should overcome their respective concerns about one another's commitment to the peace process.

"That's not to say settlements aren't important, that's to say if we resolve the (main) problems, then settlements will be resolved," Obama said, referring to the Palestinians' refusal to negotiate while Israel continues to build on Palestinian land.

"If to begin the conversation we have to get everything right from the outset ... then we're never going to get to the broader issue, which is how do you structure a state of Palestine," Obama said.

President Mahmoud Abbas, speaking directly after Obama, responded defiantly that the Palestinian position on settlements had not changed.

"It isn't just our perception that settlements are illegal. It is a global perspective. Everybody views settlements not only as a hurdle, but more than a hurdle to a two-state solution," he said.

"We are asking for nothing outside the international legitimacy. It is the responsibility of the Israeli government to halt settlement activities so we can at least speak." more

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Demonstrations in Gaza against Obama's visit

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) – Palestinian protesters on Wednesday torched photos of US President Barack Obama and US flags in front of office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Gaza City.

The protest started as dozens marched from the Unknown Soldier statue toward the UN office waving Palestinian flags. Representatives of nationalist and Islamic factions joined the rally. The protesters chanted slogans against Obama’s visit to the region.

“We are out here today to say enough to the ongoing pressure on the Palestinian people and the leadership of the Palestinian Authority seeking to impose a unilateral settlement, and US preconditions forcing the PA to make more concessions,” said senior leader of the Islamic Jihad movement Khalid al-Batsh.

Obama’s visit, he added, does not serve the Palestinian people’s interests, but rather support the idea of a Jewish state, and maintains Israel’s military superiority. more

Israeli Forces Open Fire at Palestinian Houses, South of Gaza Strip

On Wednesday 20th March, Israeli occupation forces stationed at military guard towers east of Khan Younes, south of the Gaza Strip, opened fired toward Palestinian houses and properties.

Eyewitnesses said that soldiers opened fire toward Palestinian houses and properties in al-Fakhari village, east of Khan Younes. more

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Sharawna: My release felt like victory

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Ayman Sharawna says his release to Gaza felt like a victory over Israel's occupation, after an 8-month hunger strike in Israeli prison.

"Being released this time felt different. It felt like a victory over the occupation, because no one can free a Palestinian prisoner but his persistence, determination and strength," Sharawna told Ma'an on Tuesday.

Israel deported the 36-year-old to the Gaza Strip for 10 years on Sunday in a deal to end a hunger strike he began in July.

Sharawna is from the southern West Bank city of Hebron, and told Ma'an he hopes to bring his wife and nine children to Gaza.

"I will work hard to get my family beside me as soon as possible," he said.

"I was impressed with the reception I received from people, journalists, and officials who made me feel at home," he said. "The people of Gaza are my people."

Sharawna said the last days of his hunger strike were the most difficult due to psychological pressure by Israeli authorities.

"They offered me the most craved food to try and break my strike, but I was able to stay strong an defeat the Israeli occupation. They also attempted to force me to end my strike by moving me from one prison to another," he said.

Sharawna was released in the Oct. 2011 prisoner swap deal between Israel and Hamas, but Israeli forces rearrested him in Jan. 2012 and jailed him without a trial. more

Arab, Islamic blocs urge UN to take action on settlement report

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Arab and Islamic blocs in the United Nations are drafting a resolution to ask the UN Human Rights Council to adopt the conclusions of a fact-finding mission on Israeli settlements, the regional director of a human rights group said Tuesday.

Amani Sinwar, the regional director of the Euro Mediterranean Monitor for Human Rights, told Ma'an that the two groups will ask that the UN human rights body implement the recommendations of the report, which says settlement building must stop immediately and settlers evacuated from occupied territory.

Christine Chanet, Chairperson of the Fact-Finding Mission, said Monday that settlement building was a "growing, creeping form of annexation" which compromised the Palestinian right to self-determination.

Presenting the findings of the mission to the Human Rights Council, Chanet said that "Israel should put an immediate end to this colonization process, begin a process of withdrawing settlements, and ensure effective remedy."

"The settlers seem to enjoy all the rights, while they are denied to Palestinians," she said.

Palestinians "are subject to a particularly complex civil law system and to a military criminal procedure which does not protect them against arbitrary arrest and detention and does not guarantee a fair trial to the accused."

"Even children aged between 12 and 17 are subject to this regime." more

Monday, 18 March 2013

PCHR: Sharawna deportation violates Geneva Conventions

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The deportation to Gaza of hunger-striking prisoner Ayman Sharawna is a violation of the Geneva Conventions, a Palestinian rights group said Monday.

Sharawna arrived in the Gaza Strip on Sunday evening after signing a deportation deal to end an 8-month long hunger strike in Israeli jail.

Forcible deportation is a form of collective punishment prohibited under the fourth Geneva Convention which prohibits "individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not," PCHR said in a statement.

The deal stipulates that Sharawna would stay in Gaza for 10 years before being able to return to his home in Gaza.

A 2011 prisoner swap deal between Israel and Hamas saw 40 Palestinians deported to other countries and 163 to the Gaza Strip, PHCR said, calling for all deportees to be allowed to return home.

Sharawna, 36, is from the southern West Bank city of Hebron, and is married with nine children. more

Ayman Sharawna arrives in Gaza Strip

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Ayman Sharawna arrived in the Gaza Strip on Sunday evening after signing a deportation deal to end an 8-month long hunger strike in Israeli jail.

Sharawna arrived at the Erez crossing, where a Palestinian ambulance was waiting to take him into Gaza. Hundreds of people crowded at the Palestinian side of the checkpoint to greet him.

Sharawna signed an agreement with Israeli authorities to be deported to Gaza for 10 years, bringing an end to a hunger strike he launched on July 1, said Qadura Fares, head of the Palestinian Prisoners Society.

The undersecretary of the PA Ministry of Detainee Affairs, Ziad Abu Ein, told Ma'an the agreement was signed without notifying the ministry. He said Israeli authorities were pressuring Samer Issawi, who has been on hunger strike for 228 days, to make a similar deal. more

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Israel to deport hunger striker Ayman Sharawna to Gaza

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israel will deport Ayman Sharawna, who has been on hunger strike since July, to the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian Prisoners Society said Sunday.

After more than eight months on hunger strike, Sharawna signed an agreement to be deported to Gaza for 10 years on Sunday, PPS chief Qadura Fares said.

Sharawna is expected to enter Gaza within hours, Fares told Ma'an.

The 36-year-old is from the southern West Bank city of Hebron, and is married with nine children.

He was previously released in the Oct. 2011 prisoner swap deal between Israel and Hamas but was rearrested in Jan. 2012 and accused of violating the terms of his release.

Israeli authorities refused to reveal how Sharawna violated his release terms, even to his lawyers, and he was jailed without charge or trial. more

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Corrie family calls on Obama to seek justice from Israel

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The father of Rachel Corrie on Friday called for justice from Israel, a day before the tenth anniversary of his daughter's death.

Rachel Corrie, 23, was killed by an Israeli army bulldozer in the Gaza Strip on March 16, 2003, while trying to prevent the Israeli army from demolishing Palestinian houses.

Official Israeli investigations, criticized by human rights groups, have ruled that her death was an accident and no action would be taken against Israeli military personnel.

Her father Craig Corrie, writing in The Hill newspaper on Friday, said that "President Obama should refuse to continue US military and diplomatic support until Israel gives truthful answers to our questions, not just for US citizens like Rachel and Furkan Dogan, but for all the civilians killed or maimed using US-funded weapons."

He called on Obama, due to visit both Israel and Palestine this week, to "explain that the US will no longer support financially or diplomatically the apartheid system embodied in the occupation of Palestine and in the treatment of Palestinian citizens of Israel." more

Egypt says 7 Palestinians deported to Gaza

Egypt’s official news agency says officials deported seven Palestinians to Gaza after they were detained for days in Cairo airport.

The incident shows tensions between Cairo and neighboring Gaza, ruled by the militant Islamic group Hamas.

Hamas sees the Muslim Brotherhood, from which Egypt’s President Mohammed Mursi hails, as their ideological parent.

The report came as state media accused Hamas of undertaking an August attack that killed 16 Egyptian soldiers. more

Friday, 15 March 2013

Palestinian man dies from injuries sustained in clashes

RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- A Palestinian man died on Friday from wounds sustained weeks earlier after Israeli forces fired tear gas at his car in northeast Jerusalem, medics said.

Moayad Nazih Ghazawneh, 35, experienced severe heart problems after Israeli soldiers fired tear gas canisters directly inside his car during clashes in al-Ram three weeks ago, medics told Ma'an.

His heart stopped and he was taken to the Palestine Medical Complex in Ramallah where he was revived and placed in intensive care.

It is unclear whether Ghazawneh was taking part in the clashes at the time. He leaves behind a wife and two young children.

Ghazawneh's death is the latest in a series of recent killings in the occupied West Bank.

Mahmoud al-Teiti, a 25-year-old journalism student, died on Tuesday after he was shot in the head with an expanding "dum dum" bullet by Israeli forces in al-Fawwar refugee camp, medics said. more

Chairman defends magazine after Hamas lawsuit threats

CAIRO (Ma'an) -- Chairman of the board at Al-Ahram Al-Arabi magazine Mamdouh Al-Wali said Friday that he does not intervene editorially in what the magazine publishes and had no role in the story linking Hamas to the deaths of Egyptian soldiers.

Al-Wali told the Egyptian newspaper al-Watan that there were now contacts between the magazine's editor in chief and Hamas leaders in Gaza to resolve the issue and to post a formal reply by the Palestinian side on Al-Ahram magazine.

A day earlier Hamas’ military wing said it would sue the editor-in-chief of the magazine over a report Thursday accusing Hamas leaders of killing Egyptian soldiers in the northern Sinai.

“We will file legal proceedings against the editor-in-chief of Al-Ahram over his false claims,” al-Qassam Brigades spokesman Abu Ubayda told a news conference in Gaza City Thursday.

“Those writers should have prioritized siding with the Palestinian people.”

Abu Ubayda added that the resistance maintained strong relations with both the Egyptian leadership and the people after the revolution. “The Egyptian people know quite well who the al-Qassam Brigades and Gaza resistance are. The people supported resistance and some did not like that.”

The news conference came after Egypt’s attorney general received a notification from a lawyer urging the AG to take into account reports in Al-Ahram Al-Arabi related to an August attack against an Egyptian military base near the border with Gaza in Rafah killing 16 soldiers. more

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Hamas denies Shin Bet claims over West Bank operations

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Hamas on Wednesday denied claims by Israel's Shin Bet security agency that it is planning operations against Israel in the West Bank.

Shin Bet said Wednesday that Gaza's Interior Minister Fathi Hammad was behind efforts to launch attacks from the West Bank, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Interior Ministry spokesman Islam Shahwan said the Israeli claims were related to a Hamas crackdown on collaborators.

"Accusing the Minister of Interior Fathi Hammad of planning operations in the West Bank is an attempt to avert the eyes of the public off Hamas' campaign against collaborators," Shahwan told Ma'an.

He added that Israel's intelligence agency had telephoned some of its informers in Gaza and told them not to hand themselves in. On Tuesday, Hamas said it had a list of collaborators working in Gaza and offered an amnesty to those who surrendered by April 11.

According to Shahwan, several informers have already given themselves up. more

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Thousands attend funeral of man killed by Israeli army

HEBRON (Ma'an) -- Clashes broke out between Israeli forces and mourners on Wednesday at the funeral of Mahmoud al-Teiti, who was shot dead by an Israeli soldier in a refugee camp near Hebron a day earlier.

Al-Teiti, a 25-year-old journalism student, died in Abu al-Hasan al-Qasim Hospital in Yatta on Tuesday. Medics said he had been shot in the head by an expanding "dum dum" bullet during an Israeli military raid on al-Fawwar camp.

PLC members, faction leaders and the governor of Hebron attended the funeral.

Mourners marched through the camp carrying al-Teiti's body, and called on national and Islamic factions to respond to the killing. Al-Teiti was buried in a cemetery in the camp.

At the entrance to al-Fawwar, Palestinians threw stones and empty bottles at soldiers, who fired tear gas and rubber bullets. Four people were injured by rubber bullets.

An Israeli military spokesman told Ma'an that forces fired "riot dispersal means" at Palestinians who threw rocks at soldiers. more

Young Palestinian shot dead by Israeli troops near Hebron

HEBRON (Ma’an) – A young Palestinian man was shot dead Tuesday evening by Israeli forces during clashes in al-Fawwar refugee camp near Hebron.

Medical sources at Abu al-Hasan al-Qasim Hospital in Yatta confirmed that 25-year-old Mahmoud Adel Faris al-Teiti was brought to hospital with head injury.

They explained that he was shot by expanding "dum dum" bullets.

Two other young men were shot and injured by live ammunition, while six young men were hit by rubber-coated bullets.

Mahmoud Shadafan was hit in the stomach and 25-year-old Rami al-Krunz, in the foot, Red Crescent official Nasser Qabaja told Ma'an.

Al-Krunz was evacuated to Abu al-Hasan al-Qasim Hospital, while Shadafan was taken to al-Ahli Hospital in Hebron.

Clashes erupted when Israeli forces raided the camp. Israeli soldiers fired live ammunition and tear gas after local youths threw stones at them, Qabaja said. more

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Lawyer: Issawi stops drinking water

RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Hunger striking detainee Samer Issawi has stopped drinking water in an escalation of his 223-day protest, his lawyer said Tuesday.

Jawad Bulous told Ma'an that Issawi started refusing all liquid on Monday in protest at having to wear ankle restraints and being shackled to his hospital bed.

He is required to keep his restraints on even when using the bathroom, Bulous said, adding that keeping him tied to the bed is inhumane and undignified.

The lawyer said that when he visited Issawi's room he found seven Israeli prison officers eating food to deliberately torment Issawi.

Doctors have tried to convince Issawi to drink water and are afraid he may die at any moment as his blood pressure is very low. more

Gaza government considering internal sea transport line

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- The Hamas government in Gaza is studying the possibility of an internal sea transport connection to reduce congestion in the coastal territory, officials said Tuesday.

Gaza Minister of Transportation Osama al-Eisawi made the comments during a meeting with Mahfouth Kabariti, head of the federation of fishermen.

The transport ministry is considering several ways to reduce traffic in Gaza, with one of the options to operate a sea transport line, al-Eisawi said. more

Monday, 11 March 2013

Israeli man asks Palestinian Authority for political asylum

TULKAREM (Ma'an) -- An Israeli man surrendered himself to security forces in Tulkarem on Monday, requesting political asylum in Palestinian Authority controlled areas of the West Bank.

Andre Beniron, 23, told Ma'an that he wanted temporary political asylum and protection while finding a way to leave Israel.

The young man said he immigrated to Israel from Russia 20 years ago and lived with his mother in Haifa. He was struggling to survive financially in Israel and described his life as difficult.

The Palestinian Authority has refused to comment on the matter, with sources saying that the PA will hand the man over to Israel's military liaison department. more

MK Tibi: Settlers training dogs to attack Palestinians

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli Knesset member Ahmad Tibi on Monday alleged that settlers in the West Bank are training dogs to attack Palestinians.

Tibi told Ma'an that he obtained a videotape which shows settlers training dogs to attack Palestinians who say Allahu Akbar, or, 'God is Great'.

He described the practices as racist and contrary to international law. more

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Jeddah bank to fund Gaza reconstruction projects

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) – The Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank has allocated $79.9 million to fund a new package of reconstruction projects in the Gaza Strip.

The IDB is in is in charge of Gaza reconstruction projects on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Field coordinator Rifaat Diab told Ma’an that the new fund is a sixth package which the IDB started after the latest Israeli military offensive against the Gaza Strip. He highlighted that with the new package the GCC have donated $367.1 million to Gaza reconstruction projects. more

Factions to meet in April for unity talks, official says

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Palestinian faction officials will meet in April under the auspices of Egypt's leadership to renew national unity talks, a Palestinian official said Sunday.

Yasser al-Wadia, the general coordinator for independent political figures, told Ma'an that President Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas chief-in-exile Khalid Mashaal and all national factions have agreed to move forward to end national division.

Independent, Islamic and national figures are in contact to support reconciliation efforts.

Al-Wadia praised the role of the Central Elections Commission, which registered voters in Gaza for the first time since Jan. 2005.

Unity talks have stalled since a series of Cairo meetings in February failed to produce any tangible outcome. more

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Israeli forces shoot, critically injure man in north Gaza

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces shot and injured a man in the northern Gaza Strip on Friday, medics said.

Omar Wady, 22, was shot east of Jabalia refugee camp and taken to hospital for treatment, medics told Ma'an.

Wady was shot in the chest and is said to be in a critical condition.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said "several Palestinians gathered near the security fence and damaged the fence. During attempts to distant rioters, one Palestinian was shot." more

Friday, 8 March 2013

Dozens injured in Ramallah funeral clashes

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces clashed with protesters in the Ramallah village of Abud on Friday after the funeral of a man who died a day earlier after being wounded by Israeli forces two weeks ago.

More than 5,000 people attended the funeral procession of Mohammad Asfour, who was shot two weeks ago during protests in support of a hunger strike by four Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

Following his burial, clashes broke out at the entrance to Abud village, with Israeli forces firing tear gas canisters and rubber-coated steel bullets at villagers. more

Hamas: Obama can visit Gaza

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Hamas would not oppose a visit by US President Barack Obama to the Gaza Strip, a party leader said Wednesday.

"Hamas refuses to negotiate with Israel, but wouldn’t oppose Obama visiting Gaza with the hope that the US attitude to reality will change," said Aziz Dweik, the speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council.

Obama is expected to visit Israel and the West Bank in March. According to Dweik, the purpose of Obama's trip is to strengthen Washington's friendship with Israel.

"We are used to America viewing our cause from one angle," the Hamas leader told Ma'an TV.

Hamas spokesman Salah al-Bardawil said Wednesday that the intransigence of Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would prevent Obama bringing any new initiatives on his visit.

Obama's trip is "a political maneuver to buy time and to calm the situation," al-Bardawil told Ma'an.

"We hope Obama is serious and will exert pressure on Israel to ease the Palestinian people's suffering, thus he will make amends for his previous term during which he was unjust to the Palestinian people," he added. more

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Official: Egypt never asked Hamas to quit armed struggle

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Egypt has not asked Hamas to abandon its armed struggle against Israel, a spokesman for the party said Thursday.

"Hamas will not leave the armed struggle, and will not respond to this fabricated news," Salah al-Bardawil told Ma'an.

Israel's Ynet news reported Thursday that Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood leadership had asked Hamas to "implement jihad in other ways" in order to gain international legitimacy.

"The Egyptian leadership knows quite well that it is unacceptable to ask the Palestinian people to abandon their key tool to defeat the occupation," al-Bardawil said.

The Hamas spokesman said there was a media campaign in Egypt and Israel to attack the leadership in Cairo and Gaza. The Egyptian opposition wants to undermine the Muslim Brotherhood by portraying Hamas as a burden to Egypt's security, he said. more

Egypt's tunnel closures hit Gaza builders

GAZA CITY (Reuters) -- Business was booming for Gaza brick-maker Yasser Qreqea, until neighboring Egypt shut down smuggling tunnels across its border that were funneling arms to militants in the territory and cement and other basic goods to everyone else.

Overnight the price of building materials soared in the Gaza Strip, hitting Qreqea's key customers and, industry sources said, slowing the construction of apartments, roads and houses across the enclave run by Hamas.

"Business is dead and we are the ones losing out," the businessman told Reuters in his factory in the densely-populated Zeitoun neighborhood of Gaza City.

A handful of workers stacked bricks in his already bulging store room, but Qreqea sat idle, waiting for customers.

Egypt said it started flooding and sealing the network of tunnels in February to cut a two-way flow of smuggled weapons that was destabilizing its border area in the Sinai peninsula, where separate groups of militants operate.

Cairo's decision also cut a lifeline to around 1.7 million Palestinians in Gaza, hit by a blockade on a wide range of goods imposed by Israel in 2007 after Hamas took power.

The tunnels had been used to bypass the blockade and smuggle in all kinds of merchandise, including cars, livestock and fuel -- around 30 percent of all goods that reached the enclave, according to some estimates. more

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

UNICEF: Israel mistreats Palestinian children in custody

JERUSALEM (Reuters) -- Palestinian children detained by the Israeli military are subject to widespread, systematic ill-treatment that violates international law, a UNICEF report said on Wednesday.

The United Nations Children Fund estimated that 700 Palestinian children aged 12 to 17, most of them boys, are arrested, interrogated and detained by the Israeli military, police and security agents every year in the occupied West Bank.

According to the report, most of the youths are arrested for throwing stones. Israel says it takes such incidents seriously, noting that rock-throwing has caused Israeli deaths.

UNICEF said it had identified some examples of practices that "amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention against Torture".

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said officials from the ministry and the Israeli military had cooperated with UNICEF in its work on the report, with the goal of improving the treatment of Palestinian minors in custody.

"Israel will study the conclusions and will work to implement them through ongoing cooperation with UNICEF, whose work we value and respect," he said.

According to the report, ill-treatment of Palestinian minors typically begins with the arrest itself, often carried out in the middle of the night by heavily armed soldiers, and continues all the way through prosecution and sentencing. more

Report: Israeli army to use live fire against fireworks protesters

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces will respond to fireworks shot toward them with live ammunition at the lower legs of protesters, an army official said Tuesday.

"Palestinian protestors are increasingly shooting fireworks recently. These fireworks can cause severe burns or blindness in case of a direct hit," an army official told Israel's Maariv newspaper.

"We see these as dangerous weapons rather than toys," he said. "Palestinians don't use guns because they know our response, so they use it as an alternative and we can not allow that because when fired at a close range they can do serious damage."

Maariv described the fireworks, adapted to be let off through metal pipes, as a new symbol in the latest wave of protests.

It said an incident at Qalandia checkpoint, in which a Palestinian protester was shot dead by Israeli forces, was the catalyst for the Israeli army's decision to respond to fireworks in the same way soldiers respond to Molotov cocktails, by shooting at protesters' lower bodies.

Soldiers thought the protester was firing a gun, but he was actually shooting fireworks, it said. more

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

UK envoy attacked at West Bank university

RAMALLAH (Ma'an) – Palestinian students at Birzeit University near Ramallah on Tuesday attacked the car of British Consul-General Sir Vincent Fean, smashing a mirror.

A Ma'an reporter saw a group of students gather in front of the administrative offices on campus where the consul general was at a meeting with university president Khalil al-Hindi.

When Fean left, students approached him chanting and screaming before his security guards surrounded him and prevented physical contact between the students and the consul general.

Some students were carrying rods, according to the reporter. As soon as he seated himself in the car, students attacked it with rods causing minor damage before the driver sped away.

The consul general was scheduled to take part in a symposium at the university, but the event was cancelled after the attack.

Student unions had expressed opposition to Vincent’s visit in protest of the UK's position toward the question of Palestine. more

Israel reopens Gaza crossing

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces reopened the Kerem Shalom commercial crossing with Gaza on Tuesday, after a week-long closure, a Palestinian official said.

Palestinian Authority official Raed Fattouh told Ma'an that the crossing will operate regularly on Tuesday, with 390 truckloads of goods set to enter Gaza and one truck of flowers to leave.

Israel closed the commercial crossing last Tuesday after a rocket was fired from Gaza toward Ashkelon in southern Israel, but agreed to reopen it Monday.

A dispute between Hamas and the company operating the crossing further delayed its opening. more

UN agency cancels Gaza marathon over Hamas ban on women

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The UN agency for Palestinian refugees on Tuesday announced that the 2013 Gaza marathon has been canceled, after the Hamas government refused to allow women to participate.

"This disappointing decision follows discussions with the authorities in Gaza who have insisted that no women should participate," a statement from UNRWA said.

"Registered participants who still wish to come to Gaza are welcome and UNRWA is working on a programme of other events, which will be forwarded to those interested as soon as possible."

Around 3,000 people took part in the event last year, with professional athletes and amateurs rubbing shoulders to run the 42 kilometer long race. more

Monday, 4 March 2013

Hamas closes Gaza crossing

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- The Hamas government in Gaza closed the Kerem Shalom crossing on Monday, despite the fact Israel had agreed to reopen it after a one week closure.

Israel closed the commercial crossing last Tuesday after a rocket was fired from Gaza toward Ashkelon in southern Israel, but agreed to reopen it Monday.

However, the border remained closed on the Palestinian side.

Officials in Gaza, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the issue, said the Hamas government in Gaza has fired the company that operates the terminal after a dispute over the collection of customs revenue.

The officials told Ma'an that Hamas wants to keep the taxes, which are usually paid to the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

Hamas has decided to appoint a new company to run the terminal, they said.

Truck drivers at Kerem Shalom told Ma'an that rivalries over control of the crossing were impeding their work, adding that they hoped the terminal would reopen soon. more