Sunday, 30 June 2013

Israel 'sweetens deal for 930 East Jerusalem homes'

JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israel is poised to approve incentives for buyers of nearly 1,000 new homes in annexed East Jerusalem despite a major US push to revive peace talks, reports said on Sunday.

The plan, which will offer prospective buyers a huge discount on 930 new homes to be built in Har Homa, will be discussed by Jerusalem municipality's finance committee on Monday, army radio and the Maariv newspaper reported.

The reports emerged as US Secretary of State John Kerry was wrapping up an intensive four days of shuttle diplomacy toing and froing between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Mahmoud Abbas in a bid to coax them back to direct negotiations.

If approved, the plan will lower the price of each new home by 100,000 shekels ($27,500) in a move which will be funded by the housing ministry. more

AUDIO: Gaza youth and rights groups admonish new Hamas restrictions on clothing, hairstyles

Hamas authorities in Gaza imposed some new restrictions on young men regarding hairstyles and clothing. The restrictions were met with anger by local youth and rights groups across the territory. The Electronic Intifada’s Rami Almeghari reports.

play audio

Video photo gallery: Gaza in Shadows

I tried to collect some pictures offering a glimpse of the situation in the Gaza Strip, a closed, besieged place put under a blockade by the Israeli Zionist state.

Despite the everyday misery and difficulty, people carry on with their lives and try to do their best in order to survive in such an open-air jail, without losing the hope of finishing sooner, rather than later, with such a heartless situation.

The images were taken with my mobilephone as I don’t have a proper camera.more

Hamas warns against 'futile' peace process negotiations

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- The Hamas movement said Saturday that peace negotiations with Israel were 'futile', as US Secretary of State John Kerry extended his shuttle diplomacy between Israeli and Palestinian leaders for a third day.

The Islamist movement warned Fatah and the Palestinian Authority against the "mirage" of negotiations, and called on the PA to reject pressure from the United States to accept economic initiatives and instead focus on implementing national unity between Palestinian factions.

"We in Hamas look carefully at US Secretary of State John Kerry's efforts to re-launch the so-called peace process, which is based upon an American-Zionist agenda which sees settlements devour land and the Judaization of Jerusalem and holy sites," a statement read.

"These negotiations will not bring anything new," the group added, warning that talks will only perpetuate national divisions. more

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Three arrests at Nabi Saleh demonstration against occupation

Palestinian activist Nariman Tamimi today being arrested (Photo by: Oren Ziv/Activestills)

28th June 2013 | International Solidarity Movement, Ramallah Team | Nabi Saleh, Occupied Palestine

Update 29th June 2:15pm: Both Palestinian activists have a court date set in Ofer military court tomorrow.

Update 29th June 1:00pm: The Two Palestinian activists are now currently being held at HaSharon Prison.

Update 29th June 09:00am: The two Palestinian activists are currently being held at Jalameh prison. They may or may not have court on Sunday but will not be released before then.

Update 29th June 2am: The international activist arrested at the protest was released last night.

Update 29th June 00.45am: The two Palestinian activists are currently being interrogated at Giva Binyamin police station.


During the June 28th demonstration in Nabi Salih, after Friday prayer had finished, the Palestinians once again began their resistance against the illegal Israeli occupation. As usual, their demonstration was met with high levels of violence; disproportionate teargas was fired and foul smelling skunk water was shot onto homes. Two Palestinians and one international were arrested. They are currently being held in Binyamin police station.

At around 1:30 pm demonstrators began marching towards the stolen water spring of Nabi Salih, currently occupied by Israeli settlers from the nearby illegal settlement of Halamish. As soon as the demonstrators began to descend the mountain, two military jeeps began using their tempest tear gas attachments, firing excessive tear gas canisters directly at unarmed marchers. The military jeeps then began to aim directly at those who chose to stay on the road, shooting canisters at head height and disregarding the flammable nature of the local petrol station. The skunk truck and two jeeps then invaded the centre of the village, including the olive groves [as seen in video] which then allowed the skunk truck to maneuver freely, shooting at all homes and demonstrators in its wake.

After this, those demonstrators that had reached the bottom of the mountain close to the spring were faced with a large group of soldiers. Demonstrators confronted the soldiers; however as the video shows, the soldiers disregarded the rights the Palestinians have to their land and proceeded to aim their weaponry at demonstrators. Two Palestinian women, including prominent Nabi Saleh activist Nariman Tamimi, and one international man, believed to be from Spain, were arrested for no reason other than resisting the occupation. It is currently understood that these three have been transferred to Giva Binyamin police station, where they are still currently being held. more

“We will not give up; to give up is to die” – Susiya resists mass demolition orders

Today, June 27, 2013, the Israeli Civil Administration served thirty-four demolition orders in the Susiya village, which is in Area C and surrounded by the Israeli colony of Suseya. Due to previous demolition orders, every existing structure in the village is now threatened with destruction if they do not obtain permits by July 17.

The residents of Susiya include more than thirty families, who were all evacuated from their homes in the old Susiya village and forced to relocate 200 meters to the southeast, in 1986. Susiya residents collaborate with the nearby villages in Masafer Yatta, a closed military “firing zone,” also in Area C and threatened with demolition. On July 15, a hearing will decide whether all the villages in Masafer Yatta can be evacuated by the military. Hafez Huraini, leader of the South Hebron Hills Popular Committee and himself a refugee from 1948, emphasizes that the villagers in Susiya are targeted simply for existing, so everything they do from grazing sheep to visiting family members in the nearby city of Yatta draws violence from the Israeli military and the local settlers.

Susiya has faced six mass demolitions since the establishment of the Israeli Suseya colony in 1983. The last wave of demolitions in 2011 repeatedly displaced 37 people including 20 children [1]. Residents of Susiya, most of whom rely on subsistence agriculture, are subject to some of the worst living conditions in the West Bank. Their houses were destroyed by Israeli forces and they now live in tents and shelters, paying more than five times the price nearby villages pay for water and consuming less than 1/3 of the WHO standard per capita [2]. Settlers have violently denied Susiya residents access to over 300 hectares of their land, including 23 water cisterns. Documented cases of settler violence include beatings, verbal harassment and destruction of property. Settlers then annex parts of the land by exploiting the Palestinian owners’ inability to access their land.more

Video: California university chief admits failure to curb divestment campaigns

“There is a usurpation of the narrative of human rights on American campuses by [Muslim organizations and Palestine activism] groups in discussing Israel.”

Such were the shocking words of outgoing University of California President Mark Yudof, speaking at the recent Facing Tomorrow conference held in Israel (the same conference that renowned physicist Stephen Hawking boycotted, as we reported).

Yudof was part of a panel discussion entitled “The Campus at a Crossroads in the Life of a Young Jew” (which included topics such as the “de-legitimization of Israel on the campus”) and was joined by Zionist group officials including Gidi Mark, chief executive of Birthright Israel (Taglit), and Natan Sharansky, chairperson of the executive of the Jewish Agency.

In the first few minutes of his remarks, seen in the video posted above, Yudof talks about the thriving Jewish communities across the 10 UC campuses. He highlights the various academic and student life programs that Jewish students are a part of, and says that Jewish students, in general, “like the University of California better than most of the other groups.”

However, he goes on to say that Muslim organizations “and other interest groups, racial minorities and others” and events such as Palestine Awareness Weeks “offend many Jewish students.”

Yudof refers to his ongoing commitment to the University of California’s governing body, the Regents, to prevent divestment from firms profiting from the Israeli occupation. He notes, though, that his stance has not “prevented the commotion from continuing on campuses.”

He says that the “delegitimization of Israel is an ongoing problem,” and adds that “it seems that every six months, I’m reading about another vote of some sort of student organization on this issue, or some sort of academic organization, and too often, that vote is lost.”

To the students organizing with limited resources across University of California campuses, those “lost” votes — here, Yudof is ostensibly referencing the divestment resolutions that passed and were upheld at UC Irvine, UC San Diego and UC Berkeley — are indications that the tide is turning, much to the chagrin of well-funded Israel-aligned organizations working on and off-campus. more

Hamas: New Israel war on Gaza unlikely

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) – Israel is not likely to wage another war on the Gaza Strip, though it is possible a conflict could erupt elsewhere in the region, says Hamas official Salah Bardawil.

The senior official told Ma'an Saturday that Israel was likely to point its guns at another area “after Israel obtained a green light from the US.”

He added that the US and Israel were seeking a war which would prove Israel’s military superiority, a privilege which can’t be achieved through a war on Gaza, according to Bardawil.

Asked about the crisis in Egypt, he said he did not expect a civil war there because the Egyptian people realize it will be very destructive and “civil wars are absent in Egypt’s history.”

Bardawil applauded Egypt and lauded the biggest Arab country's “historic depth” for the Palestinians, adding that whatever “harms Egypt will eventually harm Palestine more than any Arab country.”

On the ongoing unrest in Syria and the possible outcomes, the Hamas official ruled out the possibility of military intervention by the US or other Western countries. “Foreign countries can’t resolve the conflict militarily, and Arab countries must design a strategy to bring this deterioration to an end.”

Bardawil criticized Hezbollah's intervention in the conflict. more

Frequent border closures add to Gaza gas woes

GAZA CITY, 28 June 2013 (IRIN) - Frequent closures of the only crossing for commercial goods between Israel and the Gaza Strip have left the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) short of gas for cooking and heating, businessmen say, affecting businesses, agricultural production and health services.

Kerem Shalom crossing reopened on 26 June after two days of closure, described by the Israeli military as a response to rocket fire from Gaza. Israel has closed the crossing five times since the end of February after similar rocket fire, for a total of 15 working days, in addition to six days of closure due to holidays.

Before this most recent closure, Gazans said they were still recovering from the series of closures in the spring, which they say created a cumulative deficit in gas.

At one of Gaza's major gas distributors, some 40,000 empty cylinders fill the station.

"Some people have been waiting for months to get their cylinders filled," owner Yusri Daban told IRIN. He manages to fill about 1,500 per day, but is flooded with an equal amount of empty arrivals.

Daban's company used to receive 25 tons of gas per day for distribution. His share decreased to 18 tons due to the shortages, and has not been increased since. He says he needs 35-45 tons a day to deal with the backlog. more

Friday, 28 June 2013

Egypt deports 11 Palestinians who entered through tunnels

EL-ARISH, Egypt (Ma'an) -- Egyptian authorities on Friday deported 11 Palestinians who entered Egypt through tunnels from the Gaza Strip, a security official said.

The Palestinians were detained after arriving in Egypt's Sinai through smuggling tunnels without any travel documents, an Egyptian security official told Ma'an. more

Hamas: Turkey PM to visit Gaza on July 5

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will visit the Gaza Strip next week, a senior official in the ruling Hamas movement told a newspaper on Thursday, despite opposition from Washington.

“The visit of Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan is to take place on July 5,” Abdelsalam Siyyam, secretary general of the Hamas government said in an interview with Falestin, a newspaper considered very close to the Islamist movement.

The Turkish leader has long pledged to push ahead with plans to visit the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, despite opposition from the United States which says it would be a “distraction” from efforts to revive the peace process.

Washington also fears such a visit could damage the rapprochement between Israel and Turkey which was personally brokered by President Barack Obama in March.

“Two Turkish delegations, one governmental and one press, arrived in Gaza two days ago and met with prime minister [Ismail] Haniya and deputy foreign minister Ghazi Hamad to look into the details of the visit,” Siyyam told the paper. more

Medics: Ramallah man shot in chest in clashes with soldiers

RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Israeli soldiers shot a Palestinian man in the chest with a live bullet during clashes in Qalandiya refugee camp early Friday, medics said.

The victim, in his 20s, was taken to the Palestine Medical Complex in Ramallah where he underwent surgery, medics told Ma'an.

Locals said Israeli forces raided the camp, between Ramallah and Jerusalem, at around 1 a.m. Palestinians clashed with the Israeli soldiers, who fired live ammunition and plastic-coated bullets, witnesses told Ma'an. more

Thursday, 27 June 2013

McDonald's refuses to open in West Bank settlement 'for ideological reasons'

JERUSALEM (AFP) -- McDonald's Israel, a franchise of the American fast food chain, has rejected an offer to open a restaurant in the Jewish settlement of Ariel in the occupied West Bank, media reported on Wednesday.

Israeli television stations said the company had rejected for "ideological reasons" an offer to locate in a mall under construction in Ariel that is due to open at the beginning of next year.

Housing Minister Uri Ariel, a member of the far-right Jewish Home party, reacted by calling on Israelis to boycott McDonald's, the reports said. more

Pro Israel media analyst convicted over France-2 Palestinian boy footage

A French media analyst has been convicted of defamation for accusing a state television network of staging a video that depicted a Palestinian boy being killed in a firefight between Palestinian militants and Israeli forces.

The footage more than a decade ago galvanised anti-Israeli sentiment, and shaped perspectives of the Middle East conflict during the second Palestinian uprising. The al-Dura case has long stirred emotions in Israel, tapping into a larger sense of the Jewish state being victimised in the media.

The footage by France-2 broadcast on 30 September 2000, showed the terrified boy, Mohammed al-Dura, and his father amid a furious exchange of fire in the Gaza Strip. It then cut to the motionless boy slumped in his father's lap. The report blamed Israeli forces for the death. more

Mass detentions across West Bank spark clashes

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The Israeli army detained 19 Palestinians across the West Bank overnight Wednesday as clashes broke out in the Beit Ummar village in the southern West Bank district of Hebron following the detentions.

Popular Committee spokesman Mohammad Awad in Beit Ummar said 12 military vehicles entered the village, raing the al-Tarbeiqa and al-Khlia areas. Three Palestinians were detained, of which two handed themselves over to the army, he said.

Jihad Abu Hashim, 22, was detained following a raid on the family home, as well as Muhammad Awad, 20, and Bassam Ikhlayel, 48. All three were previously detained and were held in Israeli jails, he added. Abu Hashim was released only a few months ago.

Brothers Ali and Ramzi Ikhlayel, 18 and 19 respectively, handed themselves over to the army, Awwad said.

The detentions sparked clashes with Israeli forces, who fired rubber bullets and tear gas, injuring three teenagers. Awwad said they were treated on site. Several suffered from tear-gas inhalation, he added.

Stones, rocks and Molotov cocktails were thrown at the Israeli army jeep, he added, saying one vehicle was damaged. more

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

As Gaza heads for water crisis, desalination seen key

(Reuters) - A tiny wedge of land jammed between Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean sea, the Gaza Strip is heading inexorably into a water crisis that the United Nations says could make the Palestinian enclave unliveable in just a few years.

With 90-95 percent of the territory's only aquifer contaminated by sewage, chemicals and seawater, neighborhood desalination facilities and their public taps are a lifesaver for some of Gaza's 1.6 million residents.

But these small-scale projects provide water for only about 20 percent of the population, forcing many more residents in the impoverished Gaza Strip to buy bottled water at a premium.

"There is a crisis. There is a serious deficit in the water resources in Gaza and there is a serious deterioration in the water quality," said Rebhi El Sheikh, deputy chairman of the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA).

The Gaza Strip, governed by the Islamist group Hamas and in a permanent state of tension with Israel, is not the only place in the Middle East facing water woes.

A NASA study of satellite data released this year showed that between 2003 and 2009 the region lost 144 cubic km of stored freshwater - equivalent to the amount of water held in the Dead Sea - making an already bad situation much worse.

But the situation in Gaza is particularly acute, with the United Nations warning that its sole aquifer might be unusable by 2016, with the damage potentially irreversible by 2020. more

Israeli guard 'assaults prisoner on hunger strike'

NABLUS (Ma'an) -- An Israeli guard assaulted a Palestinian prisoner on hunger strike in an Israeli hospital on Monday, a human rights organization said Wednesday.

The guard dragged Abdullah al-Barghouti from his hospital bed to the floor and kicked him in the face, causing bleeding, the Solidarity Foundation for Human Rights said in a statement.

The guard was angry that al-Barghouti closed the door during a bathroom visit despite instructions to leave it open, the group said.

Ahmad al-Betawi, a researcher for the foundation, said the attack was also motivated by al-Barghouti's complaint to Israel's high court over his treatment by prison guards.

Al-Barghouti has been on hunger strike for 56 days. more

Official: Israel to confiscate more land in Nablus

NABLUS (Ma'an) -- The Israeli military plans to confiscate 379 dunums of Palestinian land near Bracha settlement in the northern West Bank, a Palestinian Authority official said Wednesday.

Ghassan Daghlas, who monitors settlement activities, said Israel's military commander in the West Bank Nitsan Alon issued the decision to confiscate the land in Kafr Qalil.

The land belongs to Muhammad Abu Zarur, Samih Sadqa, Bassam al-Shaqa, Abdul Fattah Kashkash, Muhammad Qani, Kathem Abdul Ghani and Jamil Khader and his brothers, Daghlas told Ma'an.

Daghlas said the Israeli military cited security reasons for the confiscation.

An Israeli military spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. more

Israel reopens Gaza crossings: Army

JERUSALEM: The Israeli army on Wednesday reopened the two crossings into the Gaza Strip which were closed as a punitive measure after militants fired five rockets over the border, a statement said.

"Kerem Shalom and Erez were reopened this morning and are operating as normal," the army said in a statement. The two crossings were closed on Monday.

Kerem Shalom, which lies at the southern tip of the Israel-Gaza border, is the crossing point for all commercial goods, while Erez, which lies at the northermost point of the strip, is the terminal for travellers. more

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Video: 9-year-old dies in Gaza, without fulfilling ‘human rights’ dream, to see imprisoned father

The bus Tariq was traveling in was heading for a summer camp. It included thirty prisoners' children. All have been injured and five are in a critical condition. All of the children have not seen their fathers for years.

Tariq’s father was detained more than eleven years ago. His wife was pregnant at the time with his only son. Tariq only met his father twice when he was three years old. Even hearing his voice was forbidden after that. The only way he could see or hug him was to keep thinking of him, wishing he could see or smell him somewhere, while sleeping.
 Tariq used to have a wish. He just wanted to hear his father voice. To hug him was his highest priority. And to talk with him was all what he wanted from his life. I know that his story is not like ours. His dream was not even a dream, in our own dictionary. He once told me that he only wants to be like any other child. He only asks for a father he has.

The video above was shot only half an hour before Tariq died. [From 2:14] more

How Israeli apartheid is coming unstuck

One incident of racism, though small in relation to the decades of massive, institutionalised discrimination exercised by Israel against its Palestinian Arab citizens, has triggered an uncharacteristic bout of Israeli soul-searching.

Superland, a large amusement park near Tel Aviv, refused to accept a booking from an Arab school on its preferred date in late May. When a staff member called back impersonating a Jew, Superland approved the booking immediately.

As the story went viral on social media, the park’s managers hurriedly offered an excuse: they provided separate days for Jewish and Arab children to keep them apart and prevent friction.

Government ministers led an outpouring of revulsion. Tzipi Livni, the justice minister, called the incident a “symptom of a sick democracy”. Defence minister Moshe Yaalon was “ashamed”. Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanded that the “racist” policy be halted immediately.

Such sensitivity appears to be a reaction to an explosion of popular racism over the past few months against the one in five Israelis who belong to the country’s Palesinian Arab minority. Some Israeli Jews have started to find the endless parade of bigotry disturbing.

Israeli TV recently revealed, for example, that a group of children with cancer who had been offered a free day at a swimming pool were refused entry once managers discovered that they were Bedouin.

According to another TV investigation, Israel’s banks have a secret policy of rejecting Arab customers who try to transfer their accounts to a branch in a Jewish community, even though this violates banking regulations. more

Arab Idol winner greeted by jubilant crowds on return home to Gaza

Thousands of excited Gaza residents have mobbed the area's southern border crossing with Egypt to welcome home the winner of the Arab Idol talent contest.

Around 4,000 people gathered early Tuesday for the arrival of Mohammad Assaf, the 23-year-old who is the first Palestinian to win the popular reality show. His victory on Saturday sparked huge celebrations in the West Bank and Gaza.

Assaf is widely viewed as a unifying symbol in the Palestinian territories. His victory won praise from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and even some officials from Gaza's conservative Hamas rulers. more

Tukish PM: Protests delayed plans for Gaza visit

Turkey's prime minister says a wave of demonstrations at home have delayed preparations for his planned visit to Gaza.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday, however, that he intends to press ahead with the visit and could "make a surprise any time."

Erdogan has long said he wants to visit Gaza, despite concerns by the United States that the visit could strengthen the militant group Hamas, which controls Gaza, and harm Palestinian reconciliation efforts. Washington also fears that the visit could undo a truce it brokered between Israel and Turkey earlier this year.

Erdogan said: "Gaza is ready. We could not be ready because of the (protests)." more

Gaza crossings closed for second day

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israel continued its closure of all crossings into Gaza on Tuesday for the second day, a Palestinian Authority official told Ma'an.

Raed Fattouh said Israeli authorities informed the liaison office that the goods crossing in southern Gaza, Kerem Shalom, was closed for the import and export of goods for "security reasons."

The passenger crossing in northern Gaza, Erez, will also remain closed, except for "humanitarian cases only," Fattouh said.

Israel announced Monday morning it had shut down the crossings following rocket fire.

Israel responded by launching a series of air strikes on the coastal enclave. more

Monday, 24 June 2013

Egypt steps up Gaza tunnel crackdown, dismaying Palestinians

(Reuters) - Egypt has intensified a crackdown on smuggling tunnels between its volatile Sinai desert and the Gaza Strip, causing a steep hike in petrol and cement prices in the Palestinian territory.

Palestinians involved in the tunnel business say that the campaign, which began in March and has included flooding of underground passages, was ramped up in the past two weeks before a wave of opposition-led protests in Egypt expected to start on June 30.

Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi has come under political fire at home over a strong challenge to his authority by militant Islamists in the Sinai who have attacked Egyptian security forces in the peninsula.

Egypt's military, struggling to fill a security vacuum in the Sinai since autocrat Hosni Mubarak was swept from power in 2011, has pledged to shut all tunnels under the Gaza border, saying they are used by militants on both sides to smuggle activists and weapons. more

Israel breaks pledge to allow imprisoned Gaza engineer family visits

One year after Israel promised to allow Palestinian prisoners to receive visits from their families, it is still denying Dirar Abu Sisi the right to see his loved ones.

Abu Sisi, the deputy engineer of Gaza’s only power plant, was abducted in Ukraine, the country of his wife’s birth, in early 2011. He has been held in an Israeli prison since then. Throughout that time, his wife Veronika has only been able to have three telephone chats with him.

“The last call, which took ten minutes, was in January 2012,” she said. “When my mother died back in Ukraine, they refused to let us have a phone conversation.”

Tal Linoy, an Israeli attorney who is representing Abu Sisi, accused Israel of reneging on commitments that it made to Palestinian prisoners last year following a mass hunger strike. As well as agreeing to allow family visits, Israel pledged to end solitary confinement.

Yet Abu Sisi is still held in isolation. Although Abu Sisi has not yet been tried for any offense, the Israeli legal system has approved the extension of his solitary confinement on four separate occasions. The latest extension — for a six-month period — was authorized in April this year. more

Israel bars Gaza families from prison visits

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli authorities barred Gaza residents from leaving the coastal enclave Monday to visit relatives in Israeli jails, following the closure of all crossings, a Palestinian Authority liaison official said.

Raed Fattouh said 80 relatives had headed to the Beit Hanoun (Erez) passenger crossing in northern Gaza but soldiers said they were not allowed to cross.

Earlier Monday Fattouh announced that Israel had shut down all crossings into Gaza for "security reasons," following rocket fire from Islamic Jihad, who severed ties with Hamas over the death of an affiliate by Hamas police a day earlier. more

Police: Gaza man dies after self-immolation

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- A man died in the Gaza Strip on Monday after setting fire to himself a day earlier, police said.

Yousef Nassar, 30, suffered severe burns after pouring a flammable substance over himself and setting it alight in the Shujaiyeh neighborhood of Gaza City, a police spokesman told Ma'an. more

Israeli air force strikes Gaza and shuts crossings

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli aircraft shelled several Islamic Jihad sites in Gaza on Monday morning in response to rocket fire.

A Ma'an reporter said several F16 aircraft shelled four sites belonging to the military wing of Islamic Jihad, Saraya al-Quds, in Rafah.

Shelling was also reported in empty areas near the Asda city in Khan Younis and in the Deir al-Balah district, including the al-Zawayda village.

Tunnels were also targeted along the Rafah border, with no injuries reported.

Israel also shut down all crossings into Gaza, Palestinian Authority liaison official Raed Fattouh said.

Fattouh said he was told the closure was for "security reasons."

A source said Israel would only be allowing humanitarian cases through the passenger crossing Erez in northern Gaza. more

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Islamic Jihad severs ties with Hamas after death of member

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- The Islamic Jihad movement in Gaza announced Sunday that it was temporarily suspending ties with Hamas, accusing Gaza authorities of being responsible for the death of one of the group's members.

Raed Qassim Jundeyeih, a member of Islamic Jihad's militant wing, the Al-Quds Brigades, died on Sunday after being shot a day earlier by Hamas police officers.

Police had gone to an address in Gaza City on Saturday to deliver summons orders to a member of the Jundeyeih family. Upon approaching the home, members of the family opened fire at the officers and Jundeyeih was wounded in the ensuing gunfight.

He died from his injuries on Sunday.

Islamic Jihad told Ma'an that members affiliated with Hamas were responsible for the death, describing Jundeyeih's death as a "favor" for Israel, whether intentional or not.

Tensions further increased after a member of Islamic Jihad was hit by a jeep driven by a Hamas member during the funeral procession of Jundeyeih. more

Activists demonstrate at apartheid checkpoint blocking access to occupied Jerusalem

In the morning of June 22nd, Palestinian, international and Israeli activists marched to the Israeli occupation military checkpoint blocking the West Bank from Jerusalem. Upon reaching the Israeli occupation roadblock, they were stopped by soldiers who violently prevented them from passing through the checkpoint. In reaction, the Palestinian activists prayed at the checkpoint, demonstrating their right to both freedom of movement within their own land, and freedom to worship in Jerusalem.

The activists arrived on the Bethlehem road, driving towards the military checkpoint separating south West Bank from Jerusalem. Around fifty meters from the checkpoint, they exited vehicles and marched towards the occupied land on the other side of the checkpoint manned by Israeli occupation military. The activists wore kuffiyehs and carried Palestinian flags, carrying a sign reading “Our land is our right”, “Free”, “Justice.”

Demonstrators were immediately confronted by Israeli occupation military personnel, who refused them passage through the checkpoint and tried to push them back. Palestinian activists were grabbed violently by soldiers, who pulled at their clothes and shoved them out of the road and away from the area. more

Gaza singer wins Arab Idol to chants of 'Palestine, Palestine'

Gaza City: Palestinians relished a rare moment of pride and national unity on Saturday after a 23-year-old wedding singer from a refugee camp in the Gaza Strip won “Arab Idol,” a regional TV singing contest watched by millions of people.

With the announcement of Mohammad Assaf’s victory, fireworks lit up the sky over the West Bank and Gaza.

Thousands who had watched the final show on outdoor screens in the two territories broke into cheers and chants of “Palestine, Palestine.” In Gaza City, young men on motorcycles waved Palestinian flags and women dropped candy from balconies.

Rasha Salman, 42, an engineer in Gaza City, was moved to tears. “He brought joy to our hearts and dried some of our wounds,” she said. “For a few moments, he united us behind his cause, which is art.” more

Abbas accepts resignation of newly appointed prime minister Rami Hamdallah

RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday accepted the resignation of newly-appointed Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, the president's spokesman said.

Nabil Abu Rudeina said Abbas has asked Hamdallah to stay on as caretaker until a successor is sworn in.

Hamdallah, who was president of the Al-Najah University in Nablus, tendered his resignation on Thursday only two weeks after his government was sworn in.

His resignation followed a heated argument between his deputies Muhammad Mustafa and Ziad Abu Amr, whom Hamadallah had added to the new government.

Abbas held talks Hamdallah on Saturday for the second time in 24 hours, a senior official told Ma'an. more

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Gaza students prepare for final high school tests without electricity

Amid all the political uncertainty and under extremely abnormal circumstances, Palestinian high school students both in the Gaza Strip and West Bank are taking their final high school tests known as Tawjihi.

I remember attending my Tawjihi tests back in 2007. The time couldn’t have been worse as the political turmoil in Gaza and the internal political fighting between the two largest political parties — Hamas and Fatah — was just starting to spill over onto the streets. Hamas had been in power less than a year, and the grave impact of Israel’s hermetic blockade of Gaza was ubiquitous as it affected almost every aspect of Palestinian life including that of high school students.

Seven years on, things have not changed — except perhaps for the worse. High school students still have to deal with a great many challenges due to the abnormal situation they are caught up in, in addition to the issue of electricity outages.

Yousef Aql, 17, is a Palestinian high school student who lives in the Jabaliya refugee camp, in the northern Gaza Strip. His family of 12, he says, is doing everything it can to provide a calm and conducive environment to help him pass his tests successfully. The biggest challenge Aql has to deal with as a high school student in Gaza is electricity cuts. Students are extremely restricted by the availability of electricity when they want to study, and therefore are not free to study when they would like to. more

Four injured, Palestine TV reporters arrested in Kufur Qaddoum

The Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements in Kufur Qaddoum village, near the northern West Bank city of Qalqilia, reported Frida [June 21, 2013] that dozens of Israeli soldiers attacked the weekly nonviolent protest, wounding four residents, and kidnapped reporters of the official Palestine TV.

The Committee said that the soldiers violently attacked and beat Ahmad Shawar, cameraman Bashar Nazzal, working for the Palestinian TV, confiscated their cameras, and threw the rest of their equipment in the trash.

A spokesperson of the Israeli army claimed that the kidnapped journalists “attacked the soldiers”, and that they have been transferred to an interrogation facility.

Morad Shteiwy, coordinator of the Popular Committee in the village, has reported that the army surrounded the village since early morning hours Friday, and invaded it I an attempt to prevent the residents from holding their weekly protest against the illegal Annexation Wall and settlements. more

Lawyer: Detainee to be deported to Gaza for 10 years

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) – The Israeli military prosecution announced Thursday plans to deport detainee Iyad Abu Fnun from Nahalin village to the Gaza Strip, responding to his wishes.

Lawyer Ahlam Hadad told Ma’an that the Israeli prosecution at Ofer told her that they agreed on Iyad’s calls to be deported to Gaza for 10 years.

The lawyer added that Iyad will be released within two months and sent to Gaza. more

Friday, 21 June 2013

Palestinians step up campaign for Gaza "Arab Idol" star

(Reuters) - Palestinian fans and big business are rallying behind a 22-year-old singer from the Gaza Strip in a final push to vote him the next "Arab Idol" in a TV talent contest choosing a winner in Beirut on Saturday.

Mohammed Assaf is the first Palestinian to qualify for "Arab Idol", the Middle East's version of "American Idol", in which contestants perform for judges and voting viewers.

His potent mix of good looks and emotional lyrics about ancestral Palestinian lands have helped to turn the young man from Gaza's Khan Younis refugee camp into a star and symbol of unity for Palestinians plagued by deep internal divisions.

Voting in the pan-Arab competition is done through text messages. To encourage support for Assaf, one of three finalists, two Palestinian cellular telephone companies have cut their rates for ballots cast for him.

The Bank of Palestine is throwing money into the campaign, promising to match up to 350,000 texted votes - each one costs 1.50 shekels ($.40) - for Assaf. It has placed billboards with his picture at major intersections in Gaza and the West Bank.

"Vote and the Bank of Palestine votes with you," says a radio and television commercial broadcast in the Palestinian territories, where Assaf's songs blare constantly from vehicles. more

Israel refuses to investigate torture of 16-year-old

Israel has refused to investigate the brutal ill-treatment of a Palestinian child, a human rights group has stated.

On 6 February 2010, Mohammad Halabiyeh, then aged 16, broke his leg during his arrest by the Israeli border police. Mohammad — who hails from Abu Dis, near Jerusalem — needed urgent medical treatment. Yet the police interrogated and tortured him for five days by beating him, kicking him on his injured leg and threatening him with sexual abuse.

While being taken to a hospital, the interrogators punched Mohammad in his face, taped his mouth shut and beat him with an iron bar.

Two months after the horrible events, the Palestinian prisoner rights group Addameer filed a complaint to the military prosecution and the general legal advisor for the Israeli government. Addameer received confirmation of the receipt of the complaint in April 2010. more

Guard shoots Jewish tourist in Jerusalem after mistaking him for Palestinian militant

JERUSALEM (AFP) -- An Israeli security guard shot dead a Jewish visitor at Jerusalem's Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray, on Friday, apparently mistaking him for a Palestinian militant.

"There was a Jewish guy, an Israeli guy, who was in the bathroom area," police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP.

"He for some reason shouted 'Allahu Akbar'," Rosenfeld said. "A security guard drew his weapon and fired several shots at the suspect... He died from his wounds a few moments ago."

The shooting took place shortly before 8 a.m. as the plaza in front of the Wall filled with worshipers for morning prayers ahead of the start of the Jewish Sabbath at sundown.

The site was closed to the public for at least an hour afterwards.

Paramedic Zeevi Hessed told news website NRG that his team rushed to the scene as reports of a shooting came in. more

Thursday, 20 June 2013

EU's Ashton in Gaza on World Refugee Day

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) – The European Union’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton visited the Gaza Strip Thursday and took a tour in a UN-affiliated school in Gaza City marking World Refugee Day.

Ashton maintained in a news conference that support to the population of Gaza should not stop and that donor countries should continue to allocate financial aid to the Palestinian refugees in the coastal enclave through UNRWA.

The EU official said she wanted to see Gaza crossings operating, the economy improving and children expecting a promising future. Ashton expressed gratitude to UNRWA for its major role in helping Gaza residents. She pledged the EU would continue to be a major supporter to UNRWA “not only financially, but politically as well.”

“I came back to Gaza because Gaza is important. However, you are concerned more about what will happen after I leave. You want your conditions to improve which means economic support to the people, and education and hope of a better future for children. Most importantly, we need to exert pressure on the EU’s 27 countries to work out a solution.” more

Military vehicles seen entering southern Gaza

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces were seen entering the southern Gaza Strip on Thursday in the al-Qarara village in the Khan Younis district, witnesses said.

Six military vehicles and bulldozers were seen entering farming land amid the sound of gunfire, which witnesses said caused extensive damage to the land.

Witnesses also said they saw Israeli military aircraft overhead. more

Norwich student Max prepares for trip to Gaza Strip

The tensions of the Middle East may not seem like an “exciting” opportunity to some people. But that is how 20-year-old student Max Slaughter has described his upcoming trip to the Gaza Strip.

Originally from Thorpe St Andrew, Mr Slaughter is one of 32 people chosen from more than 100 applicants to take part in Welcome to Gaza, a convoy of international media workers and volunteers heading to Palestine at the start of next month.

The aspiring journalist is studying for a BA Honours degree in International Relations and Politics at the University of Lincoln and will be going into his third year in September.

Mr Slaughter believes there will only be four or five others from the UK on the trip as applications were made from all over the world.

“I’ve never done any travelling before and the first time I do it’s in a war zone,” said Mr Slaughter. “So it’s exciting but I’m quite anxious as well. One of the first people I told said, you might want to invest in a bullet-proof vest, so I am excited about the opportunity but anxious at the same time.”

The trip will see the former Thorpe St Andrew School pupil film videos, write articles and promote international projects to raise awareness of what life is like in Gaza.

Mr Slaughter continued: “I am deeply passionate about the situation in Gaza and am always looking to educate and inform those around me who may not know much about what is happening.more

Gaza military court issues death penalty to collaborator

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- A military court in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip issued the death sentence to a Palestinian after finding him guilty of collaborating with Israeli intelligence.

The man, identified only as Kh.Sh, was born in 1972 and is from the Meghazi refugee camp in the central West Bank district of Deir al-Balah.

The sentence is the third death penalty issued since May, after the Hamas-run government vowed it would execute a number of collaborators with Israel in an attempt to "eradicate" collaboration.

Last month, Salah Addin Abu Sharkh, director of internal security at the Interior Ministry, said the government had "a clear goal and several means to eradicate this dangerous epidemic," including executing convicted collaborators.

Abu Sharkh said the anti-collaboration campaign, which ran from March 12 to May 12, achieved most of its goals and resulted in a number of arrests. He said legal procedures against the suspects were ongoing, in an interview on the ministry's website.more

Hamad: “Hamas held meetings with US, EU officials In Amman” to remove from 'terror' list

Hamad said that the core of the meetings focused on removing Hamas from the “terror list”.

He told the Arabic Sky News that a serious of meetings with American and European officials have been held in a number of Arab capitals, and that the most recent meeting was held two weeks ago.

“There is no legal or political reason to keep Hamas on the terror list”, Hamad added, “but these talks are not on the decision making level yet”.

The Hamas official also held a meeting with several journalists in Gaza, and affirmed the decline in relations between the movement and Tehran due to what he called “Hamas’s support to the Syrian people against Bashar Assad”.

“The relations have seriously declined”, he said, “I hope this decline won’t completely sever the ties with Tehran”.

On the Egyptian level, Hamad said that the movement does not intervene in internal Egyptian affairs, “despite the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood is in power”. more

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

South Africa ambassador rejects gift from Israel, condemns “replication of apartheid”

South Africa’s former ambassador in Tel Aviv has publicly rejected a gift from the Israeli government, of 18 trees planted in his name by the Jewish National Fund (JNF), on land violently expropriated from its Palestinian owners.

Ismail Coovadia, a former anti-apartheid activist, and a member of the ruling African National Congress, was presented with a JNF certificate, signed by Rafael Barak, director general of the Israeli foreign ministry, informing him that the trees had been planted in his “honor.”

Coovadia was appalled at the move and, in a letter posted by BDS South Africa, explained:
I have recently completed serving my term as the fifth Ambassador of democratic, non-racial South Africa to the State of Israel.

The racist actions of the Israeli parastatal, the Jewish National Fund, together with various other Israeli state institutions to forcibly remove the Palestinians and Bedouins from their legitimate homes is yet another repeat of the ongoing injustice meted out by the Israeli Defence Forces, etc …

I have had the opportunity to visit both, the “South Africa Forest” and the “Ambassador’s Forest” in Israel where trees are reportedly planted in the name of South Africa. In regard to the latter case, my queries, to the Israeli Foreign Ministry officials, have gone unanswered for over a year.

Regrettably, my permission was not sought to plant a tree/s in my or the name of a South African Ambassador on usurped land, the rightful land of the Palestinians and Bedouins. I reserve the right to the usage of my name with or without my permission.

Hamas: Erdogan still planning Gaza visit

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Turkish Prime Minister Reccep Tayyip Erdogan will follow through on promises to visit Gaza despite having to deal with mass protests in Turkey, the Hamas government said Wednesday.

A spokesman for the Gaza government quoted Erdogan as making the remarks in a news conference Tuesday in Ankara after meeting with Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas prime minister.

“Haniyeh discussed with Erdogan the reconciliation file,” a statement from the Gaza government said. “He stressed the strong Turkish-Palestinian relations, and he praised the Turkish role in the Palestinian issue.”

Haniyeh met with Erdogan Tuesday evening after a tour in Arab and Islamic countries.

Also Wednesday, the newly appointed prime minister in Ramallah, Rami Hamdallah, met Turkish consul-general Sakir Torunlar to discuss the latest political updates and the economic situation in Palestine. more

Witnesses: Israeli forces open fire at Gaza farmers

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces opened fire at Palestinian farmers in the central and southern Gaza Strip on Wednesday, witnesses said.

Locals told Ma'an that Israeli soldiers stationed in watchtowers opened fire at Palestinian farmers near the separation fence in Khan Younis and Deir al-Balah.

The gunfire hit several homes in the area, with no injuries reported.

Meanwhile, Israeli naval forces opened fire at fishermen off the coast of Khan Younis, witnesses added. more

Rockets fired from Gaza Strip toward southern Israel

JERUSALEM, June 19 (Xinhua) -- A rockets barrage was launched by militants from the Gaza Strip early Wednesday toward southern Israel, a military source told Xinhua.

The barrage included three rockets which were launched toward the Ashkelon coast area. According to a scan carried out by the Israeli military, none of the rockets made their way into Israel and they all exploded within the Gaza Strip territories.

No damages or causalities were reported. The shooting took place as international stars and leaders celebrated the 90th birthday of Israeli President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem.

Defense sources see it as an experiment carried out by Hamas militants, who rule the Gaza enclave, the Channel 10 news website reported.

In early May, a rocket landed in the southern Eshkol region but caused no damages or casualties. Several rockets were launched toward Israel in March and April as well. more

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Gates Foundation invests in occupation profiteer G4S, just as Dutch charity cuts ties

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has bought a 3 percent stake in the British-Danish security firm G4S worth £110 million ($172 million), the UK’s Guardian reported just days after protestors made the company’s role in human rights abuses in Palestine and beyond the focus at the firm’s annual meeting.

The Gates Foundation’s motto “We believe every person deserves the chance to live a healthy, productive life” is difficult to reconcile with G4S’s complicity in human rights violations.

Palestinian human rights organizations Addameer and Defence for Children International-Palestine Section have reported many cases of torture, ill-treatment, arbitrary detention, solitary confinement and isolation of Palestinian detainees in Israel’s G4S-secured prisons and interrogation centers. Last February, young Palestinian father Arafat Jaradat died in Megiddo prison after being interrogated by Israel’s internal security service Shin Bet, also known as the Shabak. G4S provides security services to Megiddo prison.

G4S shows no intention of ending its involvement with Israel’s prison system, though the transfer of Palestinian prisoners from the occupied West Bank and Gaza into Israel is illegal under international law and constitutes a war crime. Israel’s detention of the majority of the approximately 5,000 Palestinian political prisoners inside Israel, including 236 children, is therefore unlawful. However, the company will not end its servicing of security and surveillance equipment contracts with these prisons, G4S media relations manager Piers Zangana recently told Danish financial watchdog Danwatch. more

Gaza government: 'We never prevented Muslim students from attending Christian cchools'

The Palestinian Ministry of Education, under the Hamas-led government in the Gaza Strip, denied reports claiming that the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) and its government ever prevented Muslim students from attending Christian schools in the coastal region.

The Ministry issued a press release [Monday June 17 2013] stating that such a claimed decision was never made, and that students have the right to choose any school they deem fit.

The statement came after an Israeli news agency claimed that Hamas is preventing Muslim students from attending Christian school in Gaza.

An official at the Ministry of Education in Gaza stated that the government supports all schools, including Christian schools, and does not differentiate between them. more

Eyewitness: An insight into Palestinian resilience in Gaza

In the eyes of many Westerners, Gaza is a dangerous and war torn place. Even activists, including myself, often imagine Gaza primarily as a place of suffering, and one that has unfairly come to eclipse the affliction of all of Palestine. But while Israel’s wars of aggression against the people of Gaza, as well as its brutal siege, have cost many lives and inflicted countless casualties, Gaza today is a remarkably calm, protected and beautiful place where everyday lives go on, despite the continued suffering of its people. Indeed, Gaza is a place where the heart and soul flourish even if the body is ailing; where people and community are so alive and resilient that it rekindles one’s hope in humanity.

I only know this now because I traveled to Gaza earlier this month to participate in the second annual Global March to Jerusalem (GMJ) on Friday, 7th June 2013, when thousands of Palestinians and international activists mobilized in peaceful demonstrations around the world to draw attention to Israel’s continued violations against Jerusalem and its people. Although Israeli police violently suppressed GMJ demonstrations in Jerusalem and throughout the West Bank, peaceful mass demonstrations did successfully take place in Gaza and the neighboring countries of Jordan and Egypt, as well as in Tunisia, Mauritania, Morocco, Yemen, Malaysia, and Turkey. In addition, there were demonstrations in solidarity with the GMJ all around the world, including several major cities across Europe and North America.

On Friday, 7th June I was fortunate enough to join Palestinians and a group of international activists in a peaceful mass rally in Beit Hanoun, the nearest point possible to Jerusalem in Gaza. Many thousands attended the rally, and during my address I promised to carry their voices back home with me to the US in order to communicate their struggle to live under the footprint of a racist occupying power that my government funds and arms. Of course, the few days I spent in Gaza are hardly enough to fulfill this promise. There are too many voices that I was not able to hear, both because there was not enough time and because of my identity as an American woman. But I am hoping that what I can offer begins to communicate the complex life stories of a people resisting against horrific injustices, while at the same time encouraging other Westerners to travel to Gaza in order to do the same.

My entry into Gaza was made possible by the Miles of Smiles convoy organized by the International Committee for Breaking the Siege on Gaza (ICBSG). more

NGO reveals new 'Grand Jerusalem' plan to take more land for settlers

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israel intends to appropriate land in Bethlehem to expand the Jerusalem municipal boundaries, a Palestinian NGO revealed Tuesday.

The Grand Jerusalem plan would see the confiscation of 22.500 dunhams (5.55 acres), Jad Ishaq, the executive manager of the Applied Research Institute - Jerusalem told Ma'an.

The land is being seized under Israel's Absentee Property Law, which converts land to the State of Israel if the original owner is deemed absent from the land.

West Bank land is particularly vulnerable to appropriation under this law, as though residents remain on their land, not having a Jerusalem ID card places their status as "absent."

The land or property is then placed under the purview of Israel's Custodian of Absentee Property, which Ishaq notes is in contravention of international law.

Israel's Supreme Court approved the confiscation in September. The lands were placed under the Jerusalem 2020 plan in 2005, earmarked as "green" for Israeli development. more