Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Palestinian man crushed to death inside overcrowded Israeli checkpoint

A Palestinian man from the northern West Bank village of Farun died Wednesday morning after he was crushed to death inside an Israeli checkpoint near Tulkarem as he was trying to get to work.

Witnesses said 39-year-old Ahmad Samih Bdeir, who was on his way to a construction job inside Israel, choked to death in extreme overcrowding amid large numbers of people trying to cross the al-Tayba checkpoint, also called Shaar Efrayim.

The witnesses said the crush occurred because of the extremely slow pace at which inspection procedures were carried out by the Israeli soldiers staffing the facility.

The death is the second at al-Tayba this year, after 59-year-old Adel Muhammad Yakoub died in early January as a result of extreme overcrowding at the checkpoint as well.

Inspection procedures at the checkpoint typically take hours as every person must pass through metal turnstiles one-at-a-time.

The turnstiles in turn are controlled by Israeli soldiers from hidden posts, and workers frequently complain about unnecessary delays caused by the soldiers staffing the checkpoints, who are typically 18- or 19-year-old conscripts finishing their compulsory military service. more

Israeli settlers torch Palestinian home near Hebron

A Palestinian family from a village east of the town of Yatta, near the southern West Bank city of Hebron, narrowly escaped death on Wednesday at dawn, when a number of fanatic Israeli settlers hurled Molotov cocktails into their home as they slept.

The head of the Yatta City Council Mousa Makhamra told the Maan News Agency that the attack is a very serious and dangerous escalation, adding that it is an attempt to annihilate a family of seven; five children and their parents.

Makhamra added that the fanatic settlers, from Karmiel illegal settlement, infiltrated into ad-Deerat village, east of Yatta, at approximately 3 am, and throw the Molotov cocktails into the Palestinian home after writing racist graffiti on its outer walls.

Makhamra further stated that the family woke up in time, and their neighbors rushed in when they saw the house on fire, and rescued the family.

The fires consumed the furniture in the living room, but was controlled before it spread.

The settlers wrote racist anti-Arab graffiti, including the infamous statement “Death To Arabs”, and other graffiti. more

Jewish settler runs over Palestinian child walking to school in Tuqu

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- A 10-year-old Palestinian boy was injured after an Israeli settler ran him over on the main road of the Palestinian village of Tuqu south east of Bethlehem early Wednesday.

Bethlehem region emergency services official Muhammad Awad told Ma'an that Amir Majed Ahmad Suleiman, 10, received a number of bruises after being hit by an Israeli settler's car as he was heading to school in the town.

Awad said that the settler immediately fled the area despite the fact that Israeli forces were deployed on the main road of the village.

He added that Suleiman was taken to the Beit Jala Governmental Hospital in Bethlehem for treatment.

The incident comes only three days after an Israeli settler ran over an seven-year-old Palestinian boy from the village of Zif south of Hebron. more

UN Security Council rejects Palestine statehood resolution

UNTED NATIONS (AFP) -- The UN Security Council failed to adopt a resolution on Palestinian statehood that was strongly opposed by the United States on Tuesday.

China, France and Russia were among the eight countries that voted in favor of the text, but the resolution fell short of winning the nine "yes" votes necessary morefor adoption in the 15-member council.

Australia and the United States voted against, and five other countries abstained, including Britain.

The resolution drafted by the Palestinians and backed by Arab countries would have paved the way to a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

It set a 12-month deadline for Israel to reach a final peace deal with the Palestinians and called for a full Israeli withdrawal from the Palestinian territories by the end of 2017.

Security Council member Jordan had requested the vote despite opposition from the United States, which argued that the resolution did not address Israel's security concerns and set arbitrary deadlines.

"This resolution sets the stage for more division, not for compromise," US Ambassador Samantha Power told the council. "This text addresses the concerns of just one side."

Power defended the US position in favor of direct talks, saying "peace will come from hard choices and compromises that must be made at the negotiating table."

US Secretary of State John Kerry had lobbied in the days leading up to the vote, calling 13 foreign ministers to explain the American opposition. more

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Palestinian cabinet ministers hold weekly session in Gaza

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The Palestinian national consensus government is scheduled to hold its weekly session in Gaza City Tuesday in the absence of prime minister Rami Hamdallah, sources in the government said.

The meeting comes on the second day of the unity government's second trip to Gaza since it was formed in June, amid criticism over the slow pace of reconstruction in the Gaza Strip in the wake of Israel's summer war that left around 2,200 dead and 110,000 homeless.

Hamas leaders in the Strip have called for the government to take a more proactive stance in taking control of Gaza and pressuring Israel to ease the siege as it promised in the August ceasefire that ended the two-month offensive.

Tuesday's cabinet meeting will be dedicated to discussing how Palestinian ministries can operate in the Gaza Strip, jump-starting the reconstruction process, and plans for the 50th anniversary of Fatah celebrations to take place Wednesday in Gaza.

Spokesman for the national consensus government Ihab Bseiso told Ma'an Monday that the cabinet ministers were visiting Gaza in an attempt to ease the suffering of Gaza people caused by the ongoing siege and the latest Israeli military offensive. more

Monday, 29 December 2014

Eight Palestinian ministers head to Gaza

GAZA CITY (AFP) -- Eight Palestinian unity government ministers are to travel to Gaza from its West Bank base on Monday for only the second time since its formation in June, a minister said.

The government was the fruit of an April reconciliation deal between Hamas and the Fatah organization of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.

The announcement comes only a day after top Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouq slammed the government for not asserting its authority in Gaza, and on Sunday protests were held in major Gaza cities demanding the government pressure Israel to end the siege and allow reconstruction to proceed.

The eight ministers are traveling to Gaza to "carry out their duties," labor minister Mamun Abu Shahla said.

He said security concerns sparked by a spate of bombings targeting the property of Fatah officials in Gaza early last month had prevented them from doing so sooner. more

3 Palestinians injured after Israeli forces fire at protesters in Gaza

Three Palestinians were injured on Sunday afternoon after Israeli forces opened fire on protesters close to the Erez crossing on the border with Israel in the northern Gaza Strip.

Witnesses told Ma'an that Israeli troops fired gunshots at dozens of young protestors who approached the border fence after they partook in a rally in the area protesting the ongoing siege and demanding reconstruction of the Gaza Strip.

As a result, three young men sustained gunshot injuries, one of whom was hit in the thigh. He was evacuated to a hospital in nearby Beit Hanoun.

An Israeli military spokeswoman confirmed that Israeli forces had opened fire, saying that "40 or more Palestinians were hurling rocks and rioting violently" in the area and as a result, Israeli forces "attempted to disperse the riot" and "fired toward the main instigator's lower extremities." more

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Egypt to demolish 1,200 homes for buffer zone near Gaza border

Egypt plans to destroy 1,200 homes to extend the depth of its security buffer zone on its border with the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip.

According to Egyptian military sources, an Egyptian technical engineering committee has finished surveying the homes that are located between 500-1,000 meters from the Gaza border.

The homes will be destroyed to expand the buffer zone on the border to a width of one kilometer.

In November, Egypt decided to extend its security buffer zone on its border with Gaza from 500 meters to one kilometer.

Citing security officials, Egypt’s MENA state news agency said on November 17 that the decision had been taken “after the discovery of underground tunnels with a total length of 800 to 1,000 meters” along the border with Gaza. more

Video: Israeli police shoot 5-year-old in the face while exiting school bus

JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces on Wednesday afternoon shot a 5-year-old Palestinian child in the face with a rubber-coated steel bullet in East Jerusalem as he was getting out of a school bus on his way home, relatives said.

"An Israeli soldier fired a black rubber-coated bullet at the child from a close distance, injuring him under the eye," the uncle of 5-year-old Muhammad Jamal Ubeid told Ma'an.

The incident reportedly took place in the East Jerusalem village of al-Issawiya, where Muhammad's family lives.

The child's uncle said that Muhammad and his 14-year-old sister stepped out of a school bus and had started to walk home when the Israeli forces shot him.

The uncle said there were no confrontations at all in the area between Israeli forces and Palestinians at the time of the shooting.

An Israeli police spokesman did not return a request for comment. more

Still reeling from summer assault, Gaza faces new Israeli threats

Muhammad al-Gharib says his life was turned upside down when his father and younger sister were killed in an airstrike during Israel’s 51-day offensive on the Gaza Strip this past summer.

Shortly after his father, Baha, 58, and his sister, Ola, 16, stepped out of their home in Rafah on 29 July, they were directly struck by an Israeli missile. “They were only about two hundred meters [218 yards] from the house when they died,” al-Gharib, a first-year university student, told The Electronic Intifada. “We ran outside and couldn’t believe what we saw. They were dead.”

“As the war got really bad during the last days of his life, it was like he knew something bad was going to happen,” al-Gharib said of his father. “He was laughing all the time and joking, but we had a bad feeling.”

Amid a summer of soaring tensions and frequent clashes in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Israel launched its third major military operation in Gaza in the last six years.

Armed Palestinian factions fired rockets into southern and central Israel, while Israeli forces attacked the blockaded coastal enclave from air, land and sea.

Home to an estimated 1.8 million Palestinians, Gaza endured unprecedented destruction. Unlike during the 2012 attacks, the last full-scale assault on Gaza, Israel launched a ground invasion that devastated the Strip, particularly in areas bordering the south of present-day Israel.

The United Nations monitoring group OCHA estimates that 2,257 Palestinians were killed as a result of the fighting, including 1,563 civilians. Sixty-six Israeli soldiers and seven civilians were also killed. more

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Palestine marks 6th anniversary of 2008-9 Israeli assault on Gaza

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Palestinians around the world on Saturday commemorated the sixth anniversary of the beginning of Israel's 22-day offensive on the Gaza Strip in 2008-9 that left more than 1,400 dead.

This year's commemorations take place in the shadow of another Israeli offensive over summer -- the third major assault in six years -- that left nearly 2,200 Palestinians dead and 110,000 homeless.

Until this year, the 2008-9 assault was the bloodiest sustained Israeli assault on Palestinians since 1967, with more than 80 percent of victims thought to have been civilians.

The offensive, known by its Israeli moniker "Cast Lead," began on Dec. 27, 2008 around 11:30 a.m., when Israeli warplanes launched more than 100 airstrikes on Gaza simultaneously.

The airstrikes killed hundreds of police officers and civilians, including dozens of police cadets who were attending their graduation ceremony, and injured more than 2,000 Gazans on the first day alone.

On Jan. 3, 2009, meanwhile, an Israeli ground offensive began around 9 p.m., with Israeli soldiers, artillery, tanks, and other units raiding the Gaza Strip by land as the assault continued by air and sea.

Israeli forces famously used a number of internationally-banned weapons such as white phosphorus, a chemical that enters the body and burns the skin from the inside.

More than 5,500 Palestinians were injured in the assault while around 50,000 were displaced. more

Friday, 26 December 2014

Child dies of wounds suffered during Israel’s war on Gaza

Palestinian medical sources reported that a child died, on Thursday evening, of serious wounds suffered several months ago, in Beit Hanoun, in the northern part of the Gaza Strip, during the Israeli onslaught on the Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip.

The child, Ehab Mohammad Sohweil, 15 years of age, remained in a very serious condition since his injury nearly three months ago, until he was declared clinically dead last week, and was declared deceased on Thursday.

Local sources said one of his brothers was killed by an Israeli shell during the war, and several family members were injured.

Media sources in Gaza said Sohweil was a soccer player at a local club in Beit Hanoun, and was injured on the second day of the al-Fitir Muslim feast.

Following his injury, Sohweil was moved to the al-Makassed Islamic Hospital in Jerusalem, before he was moved to the Ichilov Israeli medical center. more

Israeli soldiers shoot Palestinian trying to cross Gaza border

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces on Friday shot a Palestinian man as he tried to cross into Israel from northern Gaza, Israel's army said.

An Israeli army spokeswoman told Ma'an that two Palestinians approached the "security fence in the northern Gaza Strip" with the intention of crossing into Israel.

Israeli soldiers ordered them to stop and fired in the air and then at their legs when they failed to comply.

One man was hit, while both were detained at the scene and taken for questioning. more

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Palestinian Authority security forces detain 14 Hamas members

Palestinian faction Hamas has accused the security forces of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority (PA) of detaining 14 group members in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

In a Thursday statement, Hamas said the members had been detained one day earlier in raids carried out in several West Bank cities.

But Adnan al-Dameri, a spokesman for the PA's security apparatus, denied allegations that his forces were detaining Palestinians based on "their political affiliations." more

Pregnant woman under rubble survived deadly Israeli attack on Gaza

Palestinian journalist Muhammad Daher did not live to see the birth of his son and will never see his one-year-old daughter grow up.

A financial editor for Al-Resaleh newspaper, the 27-year-old father and husband died after being injured during Israel’s brutal assault on the Shujaiya district of Gaza City this past summer.

His wife, Shaima, recalled that their three-story house collapsed on top of them when Israeli occupation forces attacked the area with heavy tank shelling on 20 July. “I was stuck under the house, under a pillar,” she told The Electronic Intifada. “I was pregnant at the time, and I really don’t know how I survived.”

Muhammad was transferred to the nearby al-Shifa hospital, where he succumbed to his wounds ten days later — on 31 July. Shaima was trapped next to her injured husband for six hours before being rescued by Palestinian medics. Three more of their relatives died under the rubble of the home, she recounts.

Muhammad’s sister, Bisan, just eight years old, was also stuck under the rubble and was badly injured by shrapnel.

The United Nations monitoring group OCHA estimates that 2,257 Palestinians were killed during Israel’s 51-day summer onslaught, including at least 1,563 civilians. Some 100,000 people are still displaced; they are now living in schools, temporary shelters or with host families across the coastal enclave, which has been under tight Israeli siege since 2007. more

Saudi Arabia donates $12 million to repair UNRWA schools in Gaza

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has donated $12 million to the UN's Palestine refugee agency UNRWA to support the repair of Gaza schools damaged in Israel's latest offensive.

UNRWA said in a statement that nearly $9.8 million will be dedicated to reconstruction, while just over $2.2 million be allocated for furniture and equipment.

Eight UNRWA-run schools in the Gaza Strip will benefit from the Saudi donation, according to the statement.

"We deeply appreciate this generous and continuous support by the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Saudi Fund for Development to the UNRWA and the Palestinian refugees," Tawfiq Abid, the chair of UNRWA's program for infrastructure and refugee camp development, said in the statement. more

Israel approves 380 new East Jerusalem settler homes

JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israeli authorities gave final approval on Wednesday to the construction of 380 new settler homes in two areas of occupied East Jerusalem, a local official said.

"The municipal commission has given construction permits for 307 homes in Ramot and 73 in Har Homa," Yosef Pepe Alalu, a Jerusalem city councillor with the opposition Meretz party, told AFP.

He said local officials were taking advantage of attention focusing on Israeli elections due in March to expand settlements.

"This kind of decision distances us from any chance of reaching an agreement with the Palestinians," he said.

Despite repeated warnings from Washington that it is fueling tensions, Israel has approved a series of plans for new settler homes in east Jerusalem in recent months.

Israel seized East Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognized by the international community.

It refers to the entire city as its "united, undivided capital," and does not view construction there as settlement activity. more

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Israeli warplanes hit southern Gaza after sniper fire

Israeli fighter jets carried out an air strike in southern Gaza on Wednesday and killed a Hamas militant after a sniper attack on a patrol seriously wounded a soldier, the army and medics said.

The Israeli military said on a twitter statement that “sniper fire was opened on an IDF routine patrol near the southern Gaza Strip.”

“Following the sniper attack on the #Gaza border, IDF air & ground forces responded immediately to the threat. More details to come,” the statement added.

It was only the second time Israel had struck Gaza since a 50-day war ended with a truce on August 26, after witnesses reported a first strike early on Saturday.

Palestinian medical sources said the incident had taken place east of the southern city of Khan Yunis with Tayseer al-Ismary, 33, killed “as a result of gunfire and shrapnel from a tank shell.”

Hamas sources said he was a member of its military wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades.

Israeli army spokesman Peter Lerner denounced the attack.

“Hamas sniper attack is an outrageous act of aggression. IDF will continue to protect its forces and the border area,” he wrote on Twitter, noting that the military had instructed Gazan farmers to keep away from the border area “for their own safety.”

Hamas blamed Israel. more

Palestinian killed, Israeli soldier injured in Gaza gunfight

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- A Palestinian man was killed and an Israeli soldier seriously injured during a gun battle in the southern Gaza Strip on Wednesday.

Witnesses told Ma'an that Israeli forces fired heavily in border areas in Khuzaa and al-Qarara east of Khan Younis, killing Taysir al-Smeiri, 33, and injuring two others.

Hamas said al-Smeiri was the head of its reconnaissance unit in southern Gaza.

"In response to the firing at our forces who were east of the fence in the southern Gaza Strip, we carried out immediate attacks against the relevant targets. There was an air strike and one by a tank," an Israeli army statement said.

Israel's army confirmed that an Israeli soldier suffered a severe chest injury and was evacuated to hospital.

Last weekend, for the first time since the war ended on August 26, Israeli warplanes struck southern Gaza after militants fired a rocket over the border.

On Nov. 23, Fadil Muhammad Halawah, 32, was shot dead by Israeli forces while hunting birds east of Jabaliya. more

BBC’s Kafkaesque response to complaint over Gaza coverage

Last month, the BBC sent an email to the UK-based campaigning organization Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), which was almost comical in its arrogance.

It was a response to a complaint made by PSC in October that BBC online reports were referring to the Gaza ceasefire as holding, despite the fact that by the end of October, Israel had breached the ceasefire numerous times since it was signed on 26 August.

In fact, Israel has fired on Palestinians in Gaza almost on a daily basis.

In its initial complaint, PSC referred to the website of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), which documents incidents of ceasefire breaches. These breaches had been collated in an article published by Middle East Monitor (MEMO), which reported that there was more than one Israeli attack on Gaza every day in September. The MEMO article was also included in PSC’s submission.

At the beginning of November, the BBC emailed to say: “You direct us to a non-BBC online report as evidence that the ceasefire has been violated by Israel. While we will not comment on the content or accuracy of what is published elsewhere, we would assure you that we are committed to due impartiality in respect of all our news reports and we are careful that this is maintained.”

There is more than a touch of Kafka about the first sentence of the BBC’s response, which seems to be suggesting that if anyone wants to prove that the ceasefire has been broken, and the BBC is wrong to say it is holding, then the proof that it has been broken must come from a BBC report — a report which doesn’t exist — as the BBC will not accept “a non-BBC online report as evidence.”

Laughable arrogance

And why won’t the BBC accept non-BBC reports as evidence that Israel has been continually violating the August truce? Because, as the email’s second sentence indicates, the BBC feels it can’t trust the veracity of any news or factual sources other than its own, not even the reports of PCHR.

And there’s the laughable arrogance of a news organization which apparently sees only itself as a trustworthy source of news and yet, as The Electronic Intifada exposed in October, produces maps so wildly inaccurate that they place Jerusalem entirely within Israel, even though under international law the eastern part of the city, occupied by Israel in 1967, is part of the West Bank.

A news organization which places such little value on accurate reporting that its governing body, the BBC Trust, has ruled that BBC journalists can refer to Jerusalem as a wholly Israeli city because Israel has “de facto control over the entire city in a political, administrative and military sense.”

It’s a news organization, which while seemingly saying it can’t trust MEMO or the fact-collecting of PCHR, can’t get its own news reports right.

It defends its senior presenters such as Martha Kearney, of Radio Four’s World at One, when they falsely report that Israeli soldiers were killed on the same day that Rachel Corrie was crushed by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza, and only admits to false reporting after seven months of twisting and turning in an attempt to justify Kearney’s erroneous remarks.

This is a news organisation which bends so far away from accurate reporting on Palestine and bows towards an Israeli viewpoint instead, that it even tries to blur the line on the occupation of Gaza and additionally tells its journalists to downplay the siege.

As The Electronic Intifada revealed last year, the BBC’s Online Middle East editor Raffi Berg sent an internal email to BBC journalists asking them to minimize Israel’s siege on Gaza in their reporting. The leaked emails were quickly posted, with approving comments, on a pro-Israel website. more

After the war, a bittersweet Christmas in Gaza

GAZA CITY (AFP) -- A garland in hand, 11-year-old Sara decorates the family Christmas tree with her parents. But this year, the young Palestinian in Gaza will be spending the rest of the holiday alone.

Her family applied for Israeli permits to leave the Gaza Strip and travel to Bethlehem to celebrate Christmas in the not-so-little town in the occupied West Bank where Jesus was born.

Although her parents received them, she and her older brother and sister did not.

This year, Israel granted around 500 permits to Palestinian Christians, allowing them to travel from Gaza to the West Bank so they can visit Bethlehem's Nativity church and attend the traditional midnight mass.

"Christmas is a happy time but it's also a bit sad because I didn't get the permit to go with my parents," Sara admits.

Her mother, Abeer Mussad, spoke of a "joy tinged with sadness" as she and her husband celebrate Christmas Day in Bethlehem without their children who will on Thursday be "meeting Santa at church in Gaza".

"He will give us our presents," says Sara who will stay with her older sister and celebrate Christmas at St Porphyrius Greek Orthodox church in Gaza City.

In Gaza, the adults have done everything they can to ensure the holiday is not spoilt, but nobody can forget the deadly 50-day summer war which killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians and left the densely populated territory in ruins.

"We're going to celebrate Christmas in order to forget the suffering of the war," says 60-year-old Umm George, who lost her sister in the conflict and will be one of those traveling to Bethlehem.

In streets which still bear the scars of war, shops are spruced up with Christmas decorations and ornamented trees covered in sweets take pride of place in front windows. more

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

IDF open fire at Palestinian farmers in southern Gaza for third day

KHAN YOUNIS, (PIC)-- Israeli occupation forces (IOF) opened fire at Palestinian farmers south of the Gaza Strip on Tuesday morning for the third day running.

Eyewitnesses said that IOF soldiers in military positions and army vehicles opened fire at farmers and houses in Abbasan in eastern Khan Younis.

The shooting for the third day running on that same area did not inflict any casualties, the sources said, adding that reconnaissance planes were flying over the area at the time of the incident. more

Egypt keeps Rafah crossing open for third day on humanitarian grounds

RAFAH, (PIC)-- The Egyptian authorities have unlocked the Rafah crossing on Gaza borders before incoming passengers from the blockaded Strip for the third day, the Palestinian Interior Ministry said.

Egypt has opened the Rafah border crossing for passengers from the Gaza Strip for the first time in almost two months, allowing sick Gaza residents and students access out of and into the Strip.

Some 1,000 Palestinian passengers, among 35,000 stranded travelers registered in wait-lists, gained smooth access out of and into the Gaza Strip for the first time since a two months’ time.

The state of affairs in the Gaza Strip has gone from bad to worse ever since the Egyptian authorities shut the crossing on October 24, resulting in tightening the noose around Gazans’ necks and amplifying the number of passengers already stuck in the border crossing.

The Popular Committee against the Siege called on Egypt to keep the Rafah crossing open unconditionally rather than sporadically.

“The blockade policy makes Gazans’ agony even worse,” head of the committee, Hamdi Sha’at, said. “People’s needs cannot be met in single days and nights.” more

Gaza's Christians seek better life outside the prison

From his office in Gaza Suheil Tarazi, chairperson of the YMCA, is reflecting on the steady decline of the Christian community in the Gaza Strip: "You were born free by default and then you have the siege. Those that have the opportunity to get out, they get out. Some people never return because they find their freedom somewhere else," he says.

It appears that leaving, whether permanently or temporarily, plays on the mind of many Christians in Gaza. Over the Christmas period, the Israeli authorities decide who will be granted permission to travel to Jerusalem and Bethlehem to visit family and friends in the West Bank.

One of the holiest sites in Christianity, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, is located in Jerusalem yet authorisation is not given to everybody who applies. Those under 35 are refused, which could mean that a husband is granted permission to leave, but his wife is not. Ironically, Christians from across the world can travel to visit the birthplace of Jesus and the site where he was resurrected.

Members of the community at home still celebrate during the festive period. They decorate their houses with a Christmas tree - a symbol of joy - pray together and visit their family and friends. "It's peace and love during this time," says Tarazi.

These days there are roughly 1,300 Christians, made up of 350 families, living within a population of around 1.8 million in Gaza. The majority are Greek Orthodox; there are a few hundred from the Latin Church and very few Baptists. During the 1948 Nakba up to 50,000 Christians were forced from their homes in Palestine, some settled in Gaza. more

Monday, 22 December 2014

Gaza: 'genocide' not too strong a word for Israeli actions says EU delegation member

An official European Parliament delegation has visited the Gaza Strip after the recent Israeli onslaught on the blockaded and besieged area, and says that Israel has committed genocide against defenceless Palestinians.

According to the PNN, a delegation including 13 members of the European Parliament, has called on the EU to break diplomatic ties with Israel and implement sanctions against Tel Aviv because of war crimes it has committed against the Palestinian people.

"I don't think it is too strong a word, not when you think of how genocide is described; it's described as the partial or the whole destruction of people; and what we are seeing happen in Gaza, in Palestine, is the destruction of Palestinians," Martina Anderson, an Irish member of the European Parliament, told Press TV.

The delegation, which has just returned to the Belgian capital of Brussels, from the Middle East, has also accused the West of turning a blind eye to Israel's crimes against Palestinians. more

Israel issues demolition orders to East Jerusalem homes

JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces on Monday issued five demolitions orders to Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem, the owners said.

Akram al-Shurafa told Ma'an that his home in al-Tur, which was built in 1938 and inherited from his grandparents, was slated for demolition.

The property has all the required legal documents and is registered in his mother's name, he said.

Al-Shurafa says the demolition order is a way of targeting him after he was recently exiled from the city of Jerusalem for five months, together with four other Palestinian community activists.

No reason was given for the exile of Faris Abu Ghannam, Daoud al-Ghoul, Majd Darwish, and Salih Dirbas.

Meanwhile, Israel issued two other demolition orders to Talal al-Sayyad and Basil al-Sayyad despite the fact neither of them own any properties.

Another man, Abdullah al-Hadera, also received a demolition order for his al-Tur home, which was built over 50 years ago, and Nadia al-Moghrabi, who was recently detained with her daughter, also received a demolition order for her home in al-Tur.

The Israeli municipality last Wednesday distributed demolition orders to 11 houses, some as old as 30 years, in the Silwan neighborhood for "building without permits." more

Analysts: Gaza reconstruction delays could lead to escalation

Barely four months after a bloody Israeli military offensive battered Gaza, experts warn that a new war could be in the offing if reconstruction is not accelerated and political divisions remain.

Since the end of the deadly 50-day war between Israel and Hamas, which killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians and 73 in Israel, little has changed on the ground in Gaza.

Swathes of the territory lie in ruins and tens of thousands of people remain homeless.

With reconstruction still conspicuous by its absence and talks to bolster the August truce repeatedly postponed, frustration is growing in Gaza -- and with it the danger of a new outbreak of violence.

This weekend, for the first time since the war ended on August 26, Israeli warplanes struck southern Gaza after militants fired a rocket over the border, the third time this has happened in four months.

Although nobody was hurt on either side, the exchange of fire raised concerns that the fragile truce could deteriorate rapidly.

Last week, as Hamas militants marched through Gaza with rocket launchers and missiles in a show of force to mark the 27th anniversary of the group's founding, they were quick to warn that the situation was unsustainable.

"If there is no reconstruction of what Israel destroyed, we warn you that there will be an explosion," warned the al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas's military wing.

"If our demands are ignored, there will be consequences for the enemy, its people and its leaders." more

Israeli court extends detention of 7 Palestinians for Facebook posts

An Israeli court extended the detention of seven Palestinians from Jerusalem for "incitement" via Facebook for at least three more days on Friday.

The head of a committee for the families of prisoners in Jerusalem, Amjad Abu Asab, identified the seven prisoners being held by Israeli authorities as Omar al-Shalabi, Uday Sunuqrut, Tareq al-Kurd, Sami Ideis, Ibrahim Abdeen, Nasser al-Hidmi, and Fouad Ruweidi.

The seven were detained last Monday, apparently as a result of Facebook posts that authorities found to contain messages of "incitement" to violence.

Israeli authorities have in recent years detained numerous Palestinians inside Israel and Jerusalem for posting comments or statuses on Facebook they said somehow praised violence against Israel.

Reporters Without Borders ranked Israel 112th in the world for press freedom in its 2013 report, arguing that while Israeli journalists enjoy freedom of expression, there are major structural barriers related to military control and security issues that prevent a free press more generally. more

Prisoner from Gaza barred from seeing son for nine years

Jehad Saftawi has not seen his father in more than nine years. After being denied entry permits to present-day Israel multiple times, the 23-year-old Gaza City-based journalist eventually stopped bothering to apply for prison visits through the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Because his 52-year-old father Emad was imprisoned while Jehad, the oldest of five siblings, was just nine years old, his mother “more or less had to raise us alone. It was very difficult because all of her relatives live in Syria,” Jehad told The Electronic Intifada.

Countless Palestinian families have faced such difficulty.

There were an estimated 6,500 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli detention as of 1 October, according to Addameer, a Ramallah-based group that monitors Israel’s arrests of Palestinians.

At least 381 of the prisoners were from the Gaza Strip.

Though Israel’s restrictive policies translate into hardship for all Palestinian political prisoners, those from Gaza have faced a number of unique hardships, particularly in recent years.

Gavan Kelly, advocacy officer for Addameer, explained that Palestinians in Gaza were banned from visiting relatives in Israeli prison during the 51-day military offensive against the Strip this summer.

The “denial of family visits has been used as a form of collective punishment” for Palestinians in Gaza, Kelly told The Electronic Intifada. He added that since 20 October, “visits have resumed, but are only taking place every two months as opposed to every two weeks as required under international law.”

On 8 December, 21 relatives of prisoners were granted entry to present-day Israel via the Erez crossing in northern Gaza, the Ma’an News Agency reported.

“Hardest years”

Jehad Saftawi said the last nine years have been the hardest of his life. His father, who was arrested in 2000, is always on his mind.

Along with his mother, two brothers and two sisters, he was on a family vacation in Amman, Jordan, shortly before his father’s arrest. “My dad was an employee working with the Palestinian Authority at the time,” he recalled. “He was in Dubai for his job and was supposed to return to Gaza two days after us.”

“We made it back to Gaza and waited for him. My mom got a call from the Israeli military saying that my father had been arrested while crossing Rafah,” he added, referring to the border post between Gaza and Egypt.

“My mother started to scream and cry a lot,” he said. “She was pregnant with my youngest sister at the time and knew that it would be bad.”

For Jehad’s mother, it brought back memories of a difficult past. Israel imprisoned her husband in 1992, during the first intifada — a popular uprising that spanned from 1987 to 1993 — for charges related to his activism with the Palestinian political organization Fatah.

But it was not long before Emad escaped from detention along with five fellow prisoners. Jehad said four of the prisoners who took part in that jailbreak were shot and killed by Israeli soldiers.

The surviving prisoners escaped to the Sinai desert region of Egypt, where Emad was imprisoned for several months before negotations between Fatah and the Egyptian government secured his release. But he remained in Egypt and was only able to return to Gaza in 1994 when the Palestinian Authority was established.

Upon returning to Gaza, Emad abandoned his ties with Fatah and became a supporter of Islamic Jihad, a Palestinian political group banned by Israel. more

Sunday, 21 December 2014

200 Gazans enter Egypt as Rafah reopens for two days

RAFAH (AFP) -- Around 200 Palestinians left Gaza and entered the Egyptian Sinai through the Rafah crossing on Sunday after Cairo authorized a temporary reopening of the border, a Palestinian official said.

It was only the second time in two months that Egypt had opened the Rafah terminal.

All of those crossing were either seeking medical treatment or were holders of a permit to stay overseas, according to Maher Abu Sabha, director of border crossings in the Gaza Strip.

The southern Rafah crossing is Gaza's only gateway to the world that is not controlled by Israel.

An AFP correspondent at the scene said hundreds of people had gathered in front of the terminal.

"At around midday, three buses carrying around 200 people left Gaza through the Rafah terminal and entered Egypt," Abu Sabha said. more

Hamas warns of Israeli 'foolishness' as leftists denounce Gaza attack

The Hamas movement on Saturday called Israeli airstrikes against a military base in Gaza a "dangerous escalation" as political parties across the Palestinian political spectrum condemned the first bombing since a ceasefire ended the summer's 51-day conflict.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri warned Palestinians in a statement of another "foolish" Israeli act, calling upon the international community to carry out its responsibilities toward renewed Israeli aggression.

The statements come in the wake of Israeli airstrikes that targeted a Hamas military site in the early morning hours Saturday, causing no injuries but bring back memories of the Israeli offensive over summer that left nearly 2,200 Palestinians dead and almost 110,000 homeless.

The Israeli military said it launched the attack in retaliation for a rocket from Gaza the day before that landed near the border in Eshkol but caused no injuries. Hamas denied any responsibility for the rocket but Israel has said it holds Hamas responsible for any rocket fired by any group inside Gaza.

Palestinian political organizations widely denounced the bombing, condemning Israel for its repeated violations of the August ceasefire. Israeli forces have opened fire on Palestinian fishermen at sea and civilians near the border repeatedly, injuring dozens and killing one.

The leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine called upon the Palestinian people and political parties to be prepared for an Israeli escalation against the Gaza Strip and called for political and social unity in resistance.

The PFLP said in a statement that Israel had never ended its offensive against the Strip as it had continued even after the end of bombings through the ongoing siege and blockade, as well as the obstacles placed by authorities to importing materials to rebuild Gaza. more

Rafah crossing to open for 2 days starting Sunday

Egyptian authorities have decided to open the Rafah crossing with Gaza for two days starting Sunday for those stuck in the Gaza Strip trying to reach Egypt as well as to allow humanitarian aid to enter the besieged coastal enclave.

The Palestinian embassy in Cairo told Ma'an that Egypt decided to open the crossing after intensive discussion between the embassy and the authorities.

Director of the Gaza crossings Maher Abu Sabha said that he is working to deliver the messages of patients in need to travel and of foreign passports holders in order to get the crossing opened in both directions.

Abu Sabha said that on Sunday the crossing will be open only for patients and foreign passports holders, and that Monday will be for students registered at the crossings department.

The Egyptian authorities opened the Rafah crossing in late November for four days to allow those stuck in Egypt and other countries to enter the Gaza Strip.

The crossing had been closed for more than 56 days before that, however, in the wake of a bomb attack in North Sinai in October that left more than 30 Egyptian policemen dead. more

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Israeli forces open fire on Palestinians at Gaza border, injuring 6

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces opened fire and shot six Palestinians in the northern Gaza Strip on Friday afternoon while they were taking part in a protest near the border, witnesses said.

Israeli forces reportedly opened fire at the group of Palestinians as they marched near al-Shuhada cemetery, near the so-called security buffer zone beside the Israeli border.

Medical sources said that the six were shot in their lower extremities and were in light to moderate condition. more

Israeli aircraft bomb Gaza in first airstrike since 'ceasefire'

Israeli aircraft bombed a Hamas militant base in the Gaza Strip on Friday for the first time since the end of a war in the territory.

The bombs struck in the Khan Younis area in the southern Gaza Strip. Local hospital officials said there were no casualties.

The army said the move was in response to a rocket that militants launched earlier in the day, which landed in a field in southern Israel and did not cause casualties.

“The IDF (military) will not permit any attempt to undermine the security and jeopardise the wellbeing of the civilians of Israel. The Hamas terrorist organization is responsible and accountable for today’s attack against Israel,” military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner said in a statement.

Two previous cases of militant rockets landing in Israel have been recorded but there was no retaliation to them.

Israel launched its Gaza offensive on 8 July with the declared aim of halting cross-border rocket salvoes by Hamas. The fighting was ended by an Egyptian-brokered truce on 26 August.

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in seven weeks of fighting, according to the Gaza health ministry. Sixty-seven Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel were killed. more

Friday, 19 December 2014

Rocket fired from Gaza hits southern Israel

A rocket fired from he Gaza Strip landed in southern Israel on Friday, with no damage or injuries reported, Israel's army said.

A rocket siren sounded in the Eshkol regional council at around noon, with residents reporting blasts shortly afterwards.

Israeli army forces searching the area found a rocket in an open area.

Another rocket fired from Gaza hit southern Israel on Nov. 1.

On Nov. 23, Fadil Muhammad Halawah, 32, was hunting birds east of Jabaliya when Israeli soldiers shot him dead. more

Warning on funds, UN doubles estimate of destroyed Gaza homes

The UN warned Thursday it was running out of funds to house families in Gaza, as it doubled its estimate of the number of homes damaged or destroyed in this summer's war with Israel.

"Unless the situation changes urgently, we will run out of funds in January, meaning we will not be able to provide rental subsidies to many affected families nor provide the support required to carry out repairs," said Robert Turner, the operations director for the UNRWA Palestinian refugee agency.

He said more than 96,000 homes were damaged or destroyed in the 50-day war, more than twice the UN's original estimate.

Based on satellite imagery and preliminary field work immediately after the war, "we estimated about 42,000 refugee family shelters had been affected by the war," he said.

"We now know that over 96,000 homes were damaged or destroyed."

Turner said more than 7,000 homes were completely lost, affecting some 10,000 families. An additional 89,000 homes were damaged, about 10,000 of them severely.

UNRWA has estimated $720 million (585 million euros) will be needed to provide rental subsidies to families with no alternative shelter, to rebuild destroyed homes and repair damaged ones.

However, only some $100 million has been pledged. more

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Israeli naval forces open fire at Gaza fishermen

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli naval forces on Thursday opened fire at fishing boats off the coast of the northern Gaza Strip, fishermen told Ma'an.

Several boats sustained material damage but no injuries have been reported. The fishermen managed to sail back to shore following the incident.

Last week, Israeli naval forces detained 11 fishermen claiming they had deviated beyond the designated zone.

The Aug. 26 ceasefire agreement between Israel and Palestinian militant groups stipulated that Israel would immediately expand the fishing zone off Gaza's coast, allowing fishermen to sail as far as six nautical miles from shore, and would continue to expand the area gradually. more

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

EU court orders Hamas removal from terror blacklist

LUXEMBOURG (AFP) -- A European court ruled Wednesday that Hamas must be removed from the EU's terrorism blacklist.

The 2001 listing of Hamas was based not on sound legal judgements but on "factual imputations derived from the press and the Internet," the General Court of the European Union said in a statement.

But it stressed that Wednesday's decision to remove Hamas was based on technical grounds and does "not imply any substantive assessment of the question of the classification of Hamas as a terrorist group."

The freeze on Hamas' funds will also temporarily remain in place for three months pending any appeal by the EU, the Luxembourg-based court said.

Hamas' military wing was added to the European Union's first-ever terrorism blacklist drawn up in December 2001 in the wake of the September 11 attacks on the United States.

The EU blacklisted the political wing of Hamas in 2003. more

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Israeli soldiers kill Palestinian during Ramallah arrest raid

RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Israeli soldiers shot and killed a young Palestinian man during a dawn detention raid in Qalandiya refugee camp near Ramallah, medics said Tuesday.

Mahmoud Abdullah Udwan, 21, was shot in the head while standing on the rooftop of his family home in the camp, medics said.

He was hit as Israeli soldiers ransacked homes to make arrests at around 3 a.m.

Clashes broke out as a result of the raid, with youths throwing stones at Israeli soldiers.

Despite the confrontations, Israeli soldiers managed to detain 26-year-old Mujahid Hamad, who works with the Palestinian football federation as a security guard at stadiums.

Four Palestinians have been killed by Israeli soldiers in Qalandiya refugee camp this year during arrest raids. more

Monday, 15 December 2014

Hamas leader: Too soon to discuss prisoner swap

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouq says it's still early to talk about a prisoner exchange deal with Israel, and Hamas will not consider one until Israel implements a ceasefire deal.

Abu Marzouq told Ma'an TV in an interview airing Monday that reconciliation with Fatah depended on a decision from President Mahmoud Abbas and the will to "immediately implement it" when he says to do so.

The official also said that a unified political decision is needed to set the date and mechanism for Palestinian elections, adding that the Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah's unity government is the "only choice."

Abu Marzouq added that Hamas still remains strong in the West Bank, and that it had the support of Palestinians. more

Israeli forces fire tear gas in Nablus school

Israeli soldiers surrounded a high school near Nablus on Monday and fired gunshots and tear gas canisters into the yard, a local official said.

Ghassan Daghlas, who monitors settlement activity in the northern West Bank, said hundreds of children were trapped in the secondary school in Burin as Israeli forces fired tear gas and stun grenades outside.

Witnesses said they also fired gunshots in the air.

The Israeli liaison department notified its Palestinian counterpart that Israeli soldiers raided the school after youths from the village threw stones and empty bottles at settler vehicles on a nearby main road. more

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Seventy Palestinian detainees continue solidarity hunger strike

The Palestinian Detainees Committee has reported that seventy Palestinian political prisoners, held by Israel, are ongoing with the hunger strike they started more six days ago, demanding an end to Israel’s solitary confinement policies.

The Committee said the detainees are also holding their strike in solidarity with detainee Nahar as-Sa’dy, held in solitary confinement, and ongoing with his strike for the third week.

In a statement released Saturday, the Committee said the Israel Prison Authority is threatening to transfer the detainees to a number of prisoners, including them holding them with Israeli prisoners, held for criminal violations.

The detainees said the strike will be expanded to include hundreds of detainees should the Prison Authority continue its assaults and violations against them, and against their visiting family members.

They added that more than thirty detainees have been recently moved into solitary confinement, in cold cells that lack the basic requirements for human use.

“Forcing the detainees into solitary confinement is an illegal, vindictive and punitive measure,” the detainees said, “Solitary confinement is like graves for the living; we call for urgent and serious measures to oblige Israel to end its violations of international law.”

They said that some of the sanctions imposed on them include denying them the right to family visits, and transferring them to different prisoners, adding that the Prison Administration is refusing to negotiate with them, or even listen to their legitimate demands. more

Hamas organizes massive military parade in Gaza on anniversary

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) – ALthough Hamas officials announced two weeks ago that the movement decided to cancel Gaza City celebrations for the 27th anniversary of the movement's founding, it organized a massive military parade Sunday on the occasion as top officials delivered zealous speeches.

The first official to address the audience in the televised ceremony was Abu Ubayda, the spokesman of the group’s military wing the Al-Qassam Brigades.

"We warn of the moment of explosion which won’t be in the interest of occupation."

He added that the 27th anniversary wasn't only a Hamas anniversary, but one which awakened the spirit of Jihad in the whole nation. This anniversary, he said, is a major turning point in the region's history. more

Saturday, 13 December 2014

BDS Victory! United Auto Workers Local 2865 Supports Divestment

Historic: UAW 2865, UC student-worker union, becomes first major American labour union to support divestment from Israel by membership vote. In solidarity with Palestinian workers and students, voting members approve call for divestment by 65 percent; 52 percent pledged to support academic boycott.

“This is a decisive victory for justice for Palestinians. After months of campaigning, we are inspired that so many members participated in this vote and made their voices heard. This is a testament to our membership’s engagement with matters of social justice. This vote was a first step in our commitment to solidarity with Palestinians under occupation and facing discriminatory laws, and we will continue to take steps to make that solidarity concrete as part of our involvement in anti-racist and anti-colonial struggles broadly.” –Kumars Salehi, member

“We are committed to linking student and labor movements in the United States to student and labor movements in other parts of the world, including Palestine. As student-workers fighting the attacks on education here in California as well as the decades-long crackdown on labor in the U.S. generally, we know that international labor solidarity makes us stronger and we support Palestinian students, workers and broader society in their decades-long struggle against dispossession, occupation and apartheid.” –Loubna Qutami, member

UAW 2865, a labor union representing over 13,000 teaching assistants, tutors, and other student-workers at the University of California, has become the first major U.S. labor union to hold a membership vote responding to the Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israeli occupation and in solidarity with Palestinian self-determination. The vote passed, with 65% (almost 2/3) of voting members in support. Over 2100 members voted, a testament to union democracy.

The measure calls on

1) the University of California to divest from companies involved in Israeli occupation and apartheid;

2) the UAW International to divest from these same entities;

3) the US government to end military aid to Israel.

4) 52 % of voting members also pledged not to “take part in any research, conferences, events, exchange programs, or other activities that are sponsored by Israeli universities complicit in the occupation of Palestine and the settler-colonial policies of the state of Israel” until such time as these universities take steps to end complicity with dispossession, occupation, and apartheid. more

UN: Circumstances of Palestinian official's death 'disturbing'

GENEVA (AFP) -- The UN's human rights chief on Friday said the circumstances of the death of a senior Palestinian official while manhandled by Israeli soldiers this week were "disturbing" and called for a timely and impartial investigation.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad al-Hussein welcomed an investigation launched by the Israeli military into the death of Ziad Abu Ein in the West Bank on Wednesday.

He said the probe needed to be "quick and utterly transparent if people are to have faith in its findings."

"Peaceful protest is a human right and security forces must exercise appropriate restraint when policing protests in accordance with international standards," he added.

"Because of the well-established illegal nature of the Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, such protests will inevitably continue."

Abu Ein was pronounced dead after the confrontation with Israeli soldiers, which occurred during a march against settlements by about 300 Palestinians who intended to plant olive trees as a symbolic act.

The Palestinian leadership blamed Israel for "killing" the 55-year-old, while Israeli authorities said an investigation had been launched and called for calm.

The UN rights chief also urged a "proper" investigation into the shooting on Wednesday by Israeli troops of a 14-year-old Palestinian boy during a clash at the Jelazoun refugee camp in the West Bank. more

Explosion near French center in Gaza

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- A Palestinian was injured late Friday in an explosion that occurred near the French Cultural Center in western Gaza City.

Gaza police spokesman Ayman al-Batneiji told Ma'an that the explosion injured one Palestinian.

Al-Batneiji added that the Gaza police, explosives engineering and the criminal investigations department arrived to the area and opened an investigation into the incident.

It was the second explosion that occurred at the same site in less than a month.

The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the attack, saying that "the side responsible for such a criminal action does not belong to Palestinians as culture is a major part of the Palestinian identity."

The statement added that those responsible for the explosions are "ignorant and do not appreciate the role of culture in the Palestinian national fight." more

Friday, 12 December 2014

Israeli soldier seen gripping Abu Ein 'did nothing wrong'

The Israeli soldier photographed tightly gripping the now dead Minister Ziad Abu Ein by the neck, said "his senior officer told him he did nothing wrong; he did not do anything that would warrant accountability", local media sources quoted him saying.

The sources noted that "the soldier went home after being questioned for a few minutes by his direct senior officer."

The questioning only took a few minutes during which the soldier said: "The area where the incident occurred was experiencing an event during which Palestinians and foreign activists were planting olive trees, but we blocked the road to prevent them from doing this."

The soldier, a member of the border police, also claimed that one of the minister's companions tried to hit soldiers with a stick and so their reaction was moderate.

Israeli medics accuse the soldier of killing Abu Ein. One Israeli medical source, who examined details of Abu Ein's autopsy, told Israel's Channel 10 that the cause of his death was a heart attack that may have been caused by the tight grip on his neck, which led to low oxygen levels and bleeding in his coronary artery. more

Abbas backs Egypt crackdown on Gaza tunnels

President Mahmoud Abbas said he supported Egypt's crackdown on tunnels linking the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip to the Sinai Peninsula and any other action the country took to protect itself from militants, according to a media report Thursday.

"We have supported all the precautionary measures taken by the Egyptian authorities to close the tunnels and stop the trafficking of arms and the passage of people between Gaza and the Sinai," Abbas said in an interview with Egyptian magazine Al-Ahram Al-Arabi due to be published on Saturday, extracts of which were published by MENA news agency.

"We will continue to support any measure protecting Egypt from danger," Abbas was quoted as saying.

Since the 2013 ouster of president Mohamed Morsi by the Egyptian army, the country's new authorities have accused Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood of conspiring with Hamas.

The Egyptian military has stepped up the destruction of tunnels from Gaza that it says are used by the Palestinian movement to smuggle arms, food and money.

The army says it has destroyed more than 1,600 such tunnels since Morsi's ouster. more

Palestinian hitchhiker shot after throwing acid at settler family

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- A Palestinian man was shot on Friday after throwing acid at a car of settlers after being picked up as a hitchhiker near Bethlehem, Israel's army and media said.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said that a vehicle carrying a family of five picked up a hitchhiker near the tunnel checkpoint between Bethlehem and Jerusalem.

The passenger then threw acid on the family, which included four young girls, and attempted to attack the father with a screwdriver before fleeing the car, the spokeswoman said.

Israeli news site Ynet said three young children aged 8-10 suffered light burn wounds and a 40-year-old man suffered burns to his face and eyes.

Another Israeli civilian shot the suspect in the leg as he fled, the Israeli spokeswoman added. more

Thursday, 11 December 2014

How Gaza families were given just ten minutes’ warning of Israeli attacks

Jehad Saftawi says he is lucky to still be living in the home that he moved into less than a year before Israel’s summertime attack on Gaza.

Saftawi, a 23-year-old journalist, was waiting for a taxi to come back to his home at the Zafir One tower in the Tal al-Hawa neighborhood of Gaza City on 23 August. As Israel’s bombs were striking areas across Gaza, he received a frantic call from a neighbor.

“He told me don’t return to the tower because [Israel] called residents of Zafir Four, the building next to ours, and said they were going to strike the tower with a missile,” he told The Electronic Intifada. “Then they said they’d also hit Zafir One.”

Saftawi explained that all of his belongings, including his passports and personal files, were still in his home. “I was very worried because we just moved into the home eight months earlier, after I got married,” he recalled. “Everything I owned was in the house.”

In the end, the Israeli military struck the twelve-story Zafir Four, but not Zafir One. He waited outside the home for two days before returning because he “was scared that they would strike the building at any moment,” Saftawi said.

After two days, Saftawi returned to his home to find the front door and all of the windows busted. Only four of the more than forty families that live in the building had returned.

“The Zafir Four building across the street remained smoking for more than six days,” he recalled.

Dubbed Operation Protective Edge by Israel, the military assault left 2,257 Palestinians dead, the vast majority of them civilians, according to the United Nations monitoring group OCHA.

Seventy-one Israelis, mostly soldiers, were also killed.

During the 51-day assault, Israel targeted hospitals, homes, mosques, universities and other institutions crucial to the local economy, as it has done during previous attacks. Unprecedented, however, were its bombings of high-rise residential towers across Gaza.


Irish parliament backs recognition of Palestinian state

Irish lawmakers urged their government Wednesday to recognize Palestine as a state in a symbolic motion that sailed through parliament unopposed.

Ireland's parliament is the fourth European assembly to call for the recognition of Palestinian statehood since October.

Lawmakers in France, Britain and Spain also endorsed similar motions, reflecting growing frustration with the deadlocked Middle East peace process.

Sweden has gone even further, officially recognizing Palestine as a state in a move that prompted Israel to recall its ambassador.

The non-binding motion agreed by lawmakers in Dublin called on the government to "officially recognize the State of Palestine, on the basis of the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as the capital, as established in UN resolutions".

This would be "a further positive contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict", it added. more