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