Saturday, 31 May 2014

Israeli troops open fire at Gaza farmers collecting wheat

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces early Saturday opened fire at Palestinian farmers in the southern Gaza Strip, witnesses told Ma'an.

Locals said Israeli troops stationed in watchtowers near the village of Khuzaa east of Khan Younis shot at Palestinian farmers as they were collecting wheat.

No injuries were reported.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said she was not familiar with the incident.

Israeli forces regularly shoot at farmers and other civilians inside the Gaza Strip if they approach large swathes of land near the border that the Israeli military has deemed off-limits to Palestinians. more

Friday, 30 May 2014

Israel denies family of hospitalized hunger striker right to visit

RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Israeli prison officials on Thursday rejected a request made by the family of a hunger striker to visit him in hospital, nearly a month after he stopped eating in protest against his detention without trial.

The Palestinian prisoners' rights association Addameer filed a request for the family of Abdulrazzaq Farraj, 51, to visit him at Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba inside Israel, where he has been held since he was recently hospitalized.

Israeli prison officials said they were denying Farraj visitation rights until June 5, without providing further details.

Farraj has been held in Israeli administrative detention for a total of around nine years, and his most recent arrest was on Feb. 25 when he was placed under administrative detention for six months.

More than 100 Palestinian administrative detainees launched a hunger strike in late April in protest against their continued detention without trial or charge, a practice Israel in 2012 promised to put an end to outside of exceptional cases as part of a deal to end a previous hunger strike.

Since then, more than 100 others have joined the strike, and thousands have taken part in day-long solidarity strikes. more

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Israel navy detains 4 fishermen in Gaza

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israel's navy on Thursday detained four Palestinian fishermen off the coast of northern Gaza, a fishermen's union said.

Union spokesman Niza Ayyash said Israeli gunboats obstructed a Palestinian fishing boat and detained Haytham Ali al-Habeel, his brother Fuad, Saadi Salih al-Adgham and Yahya Jamal Watfah.

The boat was taken to Israel's Ashdod port.

It is unclear why they were arrested.

Palestinian fishermen are only allowed to go three nautical miles from Gaza's shore, even though Israeli-Palestinian agreements previously settled on 20 nautical miles.

Israeli naval forces frequently harass Palestinian fishermen who near the three-mile limit, as well as those inside the zone. more

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Sources: Announcement of unity govt postponed

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) – The expected Palestinian unity government will not be announced Thursday as scheduled, sources privy to the ongoing unity talks between Fatah and Hamas have told Ma’an.

The announcement of the government is likely to be postponed for one week, according to the sources close to the talks who spoke to Ma'an on Wednesday.

But Hamas officials have insisted that President Mahmoud Abbas will announce the unity government on Thursday as scheduled.

Senior Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzouq told Ma'an that consultations over the formation of the unity government would come to an end by Thursday and the government would be announced as agreed.

With more dialogue, added Abu Marzouq, the upcoming government will be better equipped to carry out its tasks. He added that very important issues had been tackled during the latest rounds of talks including restructuring the PLO. more

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Medics: Palestinian dies after inhaling Israeli tear gas

JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- A Palestinian man died Tuesday after suffering from excessive tear gas inhalation days before, medical sources said.

Samih Wahish, a 64-year-old physician from Abu Dis, was pronounced dead early Tuesday in al-Maqasid hospital in Jerusalem.

Dr. Abdullah Abu Hilal told Ma'an that Wahish was in his house on Friday when Israeli troops showered the area with tear gas during clashes with Palestinians.

He suffered from "serious asphyxia," but was unable to leave the house due to the clashes, Dr. Abu Hilal said.

On Saturday, Wahish was having difficulty breathing and was taken to a medical center in Abu Dis. The next day he was transferred to al-Maqasid hospital's ICU, where he was pronounced dead Tuesday.

Wahish had a history of lung disease in the past, Dr. Abu Hilal added. more

Monday, 26 May 2014

Israel okays 50 new settler homes in East Jerusalem

JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israel on Monday approved plans for 50 new settler homes in annexed East Jerusalem as Pope Francis wrapped up a visit to the region, city officials said.

"The municipality has given the green light to build 50 new housing units in five buildings in Har Homa," city Councillor Yosef Pepe Alalu told AFP.

Har Homa is a settlement neighborhood in the southern sector of East Jerusalem, which was occupied by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War then annexed, in a move not recognized by the international community.

The settlement was built in 1997 on a wooded hill top known as Jabal Abu Ghneim.

It was the first such announcement of Israeli plans to build on land seized in 1967 since the collapse last month of the US-led peace talks. more

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Explosion kills 2 militants, injures 2 in southern Gaza

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Two Palestinian militants were killed and two others were injured Saturday in an explosion at a military training site in the southern Gaza Strip, an official said.

Ashraf al-Qidra, Gaza's health ministry spokesman, said two "unidentified citizens" were killed and two sustained serious injuries in an explosion in Khan Younis, without providing details about the cause of the explosion.

He said the injured were taken to nearby Nasser Hospital. more

Hunger strike in 5th week as activists call for pressure on Israel

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- As hunger striking prisoners in Israeli jails began a fifth week of refusing meals, activist organizations on Saturday called on Israel to respect prisoners' rights and end its policy of administrative detention.

Some 125 Palestinian prisoners are currently on hunger strike, many of whom are administrative detainees held without charge or trial. Most of the prisoners began their strike on April 24, demanding Israel change its detention policy.

"We demand that the Israeli Prison Service (adhere) to the international treaties and declarations of which Israel is a signatory," three organizations said in a joint statement Saturday. more

Friday, 23 May 2014

Contaminated water lands striking detainees in hospital

The Palestine Detainees Study Center quoted lawyer Rami al-Alamy stating that the Prison Administration at the Be’er As-Sabe’ (Beersheba) Israeli Prison had to move all hunger striking Palestinian detainees to the Soroka Medical Center due to contaminated water.

Amina Tawil, media spokeswoman of the Center, stated that a doctor at the hospital said the detainees drank contaminated water that directly affected them, especially due to their ongoing hunger strike.

She added that the Israeli Prison Authority refused to provide the detainees the detainees with distilled bottled water, as a punishment for continuing their strike demanding an end to their illegitimate Administrative Detention, without charges or trial.

Tawil said that detainees were given contaminated water, with high concentration of salt, an issue that landed them in hospital.

The detainees said they would stop drinking water should the Prison Authority deny their legitimate demands, and affirmed their strike continues despite their illness, weakness and the significant weight loss. more

Gaza merchants protest near Erez crossing

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Gaza Strip merchants on Thursday morning demonstrated in front of the Erez crossing in protest against new Israeli restrictions that have severely limited the number allowed to cross into Israel on a daily basis, witnesses told Ma'an.

A protester at the crossing near Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip told Ma'an that although around 1,000 Gazan merchants have permits to travel to Israel, recently Israel has been allowing no more than a few to cross on a daily basis.

"We collectively decided to abstain from entering in protest against the reduction," the protester said, noting that many were not being allowed through even though they have valid permits.

The group refused to go through the crossing on Thursday morning in order to highlight the new Israeli restrictions on their movement.

According to B'Tselem, a limited number of Gazan merchants are permitted into Israel and the West Bank via Erez. more

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Israel court hears appeal over Rachel Corrie's death

JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israel's Supreme Court on Wednesday heard an appeal by the parents of a US activist who was crushed to death by an Israeli army bulldozer in 2003.

The parents of Rachel Corrie asked for a decision clearing the military of any responsibility for her death to be overturned, alleging "negligence" in the treatment of the case by an Israeli court.

"I think they've set a very low threshold in terms of what would be considered negligence, and just ignored the lack of a credible and thorough investigation," Rachel's father Craig Corrie said, referring to the 2012 court ruling.

"If you take (all the material for the appeal) together, what you have is a mechanism that allows the Israeli military to act with impunity," he told journalists before the hearing. more

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Palestinian militants, Israeli forces clash in southern Gaza

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli military vehicles entered the southern Gaza Strip early Wednesday, and Palestinian militants responded by detonating an explosive device near the vehicles, locals and an army spokeswoman said.

Witnesses told Ma'an that the military vehicles levelled Palestinian agricultural fields dozens of meters away from the border with Israel in al-Qarara east of Khan Younis.

Militants detonated an explosive devise remotely, damaging a vehicle but causing no injuries.

Israeli forces responded by firing mortar shells into open fields without causing any injuries, locals said.

Military helicopters hovered over the area throughout the exchange. more

Video: US calls for Israeli investigation into Nakba day killings

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The US State Department on Tuesday called on Israel to investigate the killing of two Palestinian teenagers on May 15.

"We look to the Government of Israel to conduct a prompt and transparent investigation to determine the facts surrounding this incident, including whether or not the use of force was proportional to the threat posed by the demonstrators," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.

"We express, of course, our condolences to the families of those deceased and urge all parties to exercise restraint," Psaki said during a press briefing in Washington.


Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Israeli forces fire at Gaza fishermen, injuring 2

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces fired at Palestinian fishermen late Monday, injuring two off the coast of Rafah in southern Gaza, security sources told Ma'an.

Ashraf al-Qidra, Gaza's health ministry spokesman, said the two sustained minor injuries after being hit by rubber-coated steel bullets.

They were transferred to Abu Yousif al-Najjar Hospital in Rafah, al-Qidra said. more

Barghouthi, Saadat to go on hunger strike Wednesday

RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Jailed Palestinian leaders Marwan Barghouthi and Ahmad Saadat have announced that they will go on hunger strike on Wednesday, a senior official said.

Minister of Prisoners' Affairs Issa Qaraqe said Tuesday that over 120 Palestinian prisoners, including the two jailed leaders, will go on hunger strike for one day in support of administrative detainees who have been refusing meals for nearly four weeks.

The day-long solidarity hunger strike will be a warning to the Israeli Prison Service, urging it to comply with the demands of hunger striking prisoners held without trial, Qaraqe said in a statement.

Marwan Barghouthi is a key figure in the Palestinian Fatah movement and a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council. Ahmad Saadat is the secretary-general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Some 120 Palestinian prisoners are currently on hunger strike in protest of their detention without charge or trial in Israeli jails. Most of them started their hunger strike 26 days ago. They are demanding Israel change its policy of administrative detention.

Fifteen administrative detainees have been hospitalized since the strike began on April 24, Qaraqe's statement said. more

Monday, 19 May 2014

Gaza, West Bank govts to resign when unity govt announced

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- An adviser for the Gaza prime minister said the governments in the coastal enclave as well as the West Bank will offer their resignations once a unity government is agreed upon.

Issam al-Daalis told Ma’an that “the Gaza and West Bank governments will offer their resignations to the president at the moment of agreeing on the unity government.”

“The legal period for announcing the government is nearing the end. There are five weeks of which three have passed and two remain. And the president can present his government,” he said. more

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Israeli forces shoot teen near border in Gaza

GAZA CITY (AFP) -- Israeli troops shot and lightly wounded a Palestinian boy in the Gaza Strip Saturday, the health ministry said.

A 16-year-old youth was shot near the separation barrier with Israel in Khan Yunis, ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said.

The Israeli army said troops had opened fire at a Palestinian who was approaching the separation barrier on foot. more

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Venezuela to send oil to Palestine

CARACAS (AFP) -- Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro pledged to send oil and diesel to the Palestinian Authority, as part of agreements signed with its leader Mahmoud Abbas during his visit to Caracas.

Venezuela, which sits atop the world's largest oil reserves, said it would provide an initial shipment of 240,000 barrels of oil, but gave no details as to how it would send them.

"Thanks to Venezuela for supporting Palestine ... to break Israel's monopoly on our economy, for your response to our needs, for your willingness to support the Palestinian people in their long struggle," Abbas said, according to an official translation. more

Friday, 16 May 2014

Thousands bury youths slain by Israel on Nakba Day

RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Thousands of Palestinians turned out on Friday to bury two youths killed by Israeli soldiers a day earlier during protests to commemorate the 66th anniversary of the Nakba, or "catastrophe," of the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians in 1948.

The bodies of Nadim Siyam Nuwara, 15, and Muhammad Audah Abu al-Thahir, 17, were brought to their final resting place in the villages of Abu Shukheidim and al-Mazraa al-Qibliya in the hills north of Ramallah.

The two youths were shot directly in the chest while protesting near Israel's Ofer prison, located in the central West Bank near Ramallah.

The funeral ceremony for the pair was held in the Petrol neighborhood between the two villages, where thousands prayed beside their bodies. more

Aid convoy to arrive in Gaza Sunday

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) – A humanitarian aid convoy is scheduled to arrive in the besieged Gaza Strip Sunday via Egypt’s Rafah crossing, coordinator Issam Yousuf said Thursday.

More than 20 solidarity activists from Jordan will accompany the convoy known as “Miles of Smiles 27/Ansar 5.” The convoy adopted a slogan of national unity as its arrival coincides with a unity agreement signed between Hamas and Fatah. more

Thursday, 15 May 2014

2 Palestinians shot dead at Nakba rally

RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces shot and killed a young Palestinian man and a teenage boy Thursday during a protest rally marking the 66th anniversary of the Nakba west of Ramallah in the central West Bank.

Witnesses and medical sources identified the victims as 22-year-old Muhammad Audah Abu al-Thahir from the Ramallah-area village of Abu Shukheidim and 17-year-old Nadim Siyam Nuwarah from al-Mazraa al-Qibliyya village in Ramallah district.

The victims, according to medical sources, were shot by live ammunition in the chest. Their bodies were evacuated to Ramallah Medical Complex.

Medics said three teenagers were also injured by live bullets. One was struck in the chest, one in the foot, and one in the leg. Doctors say they are in stable condition.

An Israeli military spokeswoman did not immediately return calls. more

Danny Glover calls for cultural boycott of Israel

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Danny Glover and other actors featured in a US documentary on a prominent social justice activist protested the film's screening at a Tel Aviv festival this week, announcing their support for the cultural boycott of Israel.

In a statement released on Monday, the group said they "stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine, and support their call for cultural and academic boycott of Israel" and were "shocked to find the film slated to be screened" at an Israeli festival.

"We immediately took action to have the film withdrawn from the festival," the statement added, but highlighted that festival organizers say it was not "possible" to change the schedule that they would "move forward with the screening, over our objections."

The film "American Revolutionary: the Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs," is scheduled to be shown in Tel Aviv at DocAviv, a festival dedicated to documentary film which runs through May 17 and purports to be the largest film festival in Israel. more

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Fatah official: Egypt to open Rafah permanently after unity

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- A senior Fatah official told reporters Tuesday that Egypt would open the Rafah crossing permanently after the Palestinian unity government was set in place.

Following a meeting between Fatah and Hamas delegations in Gaza City, Azzam al-Ahmad told reporters that Egypt welcomed the establishment of a "legitimate," internationally recognized government in the Gaza Strip.

"Egypt is looking forward to Palestinian reconciliation and they encouraged us," al-Ahmad said.

Egyptian authorities will keep the crossing with Gaza open after the new government is installed, he added.

Al-Ahmad arrived in Gaza on Tuesday for what a Fatah spokesman said were meetings to select Palestinian leaders for the unity government.

The Fatah delegation at the meeting included Azzam al-Ahmad, Faysal Abu Shahla, and Zakariyya al-Agha. The Hamas delegation was made up of Mousa Abu Marzouq, Khalil al-Hayyah and Imad al-Alami. more

Israeli military vehicles enter Gaza border area

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Several Israeli military vehicles crossed into the Gaza Strip early Wednesday, witnesses told Ma'an.

Locals said the vehicles escorted six Israeli bulldozers, which leveled Palestinian fields near the separation barrier in the northern Gaza Strip.

The military vehicles came from the Nahal Oz military base east of Gaza City, locals said. more

Palestinians pledge support as hunger strike nears 4th week

AL-BIREH, West Bank (Ma'an) -- Mothers, wives, and sisters of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails delivered petitions to the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross on Tuesday, calling for the organizations' intervention for the lives of their imprisoned relatives.

Their sons, husbands, and brothers are among some 120 Palestinian administrative detainees held in Israeli jails without charge or trial who refused meals for the 20th day in a row on Tuesday.

"We are calling for immediate action to end the harrowing policy of administrative detention forever," the petitions read, according to a statement from the prisoner rights group Addameer.

"We also express our deep concerns and fears with respect to additional violations perpetrated against the prisoners such as solitary confinement, arbitrary transfers, raids, and strip-searches, all of which are committed by the administration of the Israeli Prison Service." more

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

'Blindfolded & bound': Israel puts more Palestinian kids in solitary confinement

Israel is placing more and more Palestinian children in solitary confinement as part of the interrogation process, a new study reveals. The children are often blindfolded, bound and sleep deprived. Neither they nor parents know the reasons for arrest.

“Solitary confinement for detained Palestinian children was used in 21.4 percent of cases in 2013,” says the report released by Defense for Children International Palestine (DCI-Palestine), a national section of the international non-governmental child rights organization and movement. The numbers have shown a 2-percent rise since 2012.

The organization took at least 98 sworn affidavits from Palestinian children between the ages of 12 to 17 in 2013 and submitted the information to UN bodies.

“The average number of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention at the end of each month during 2013 was 199,” says the organization which took the data from the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) and from Israeli army temporary detention facilities, including Petah Tikva detention center, Kishon detention center and Shikma prison in Ashkelon which lead the interrogations.

According to the report, detained children spent an average of 10 days of isolation, with the longest period being 28 days. It also adds that about 32 children between 12 and 15 years old were arrested at the end of each month in 2013. The highest number of detained teens of this age was in May, at 48. more

Monday, 12 May 2014

Palestinians demand action against 'wave of hatred' in Israel

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- A recent wave of hate crimes targeting Palestinians and church property in Israel has prompted community leaders to express outrage at the culture of impunity and growing extremism which allow attacks to go unpunished.

On Friday, vandals spray-painted anti-Christian graffiti on a Jerusalem church, one of at least a dozen attacks in the past two months by Jewish extremists who have also set fire to mosques, slashed tires of Palestinian cars, and vandalized church property and religious cemeteries.

The pope's visit to the Holy Land on May 25 has increased attention surrounding the incidents, but Palestinian religious and community leaders say hate crimes targeting Palestinians have always existed, and are in some cases encouraged by Israeli government policy.

"The (Israeli) government is not doing enough; with all these attacks we didn't see any arrests. We fear there is a political cover-up from parties in Israel who don't want the incidents to be exploited," Rev. Jamal Khader, spokesman for the pope's visit to Palestine, told Ma'an.

Khader says that there is most likely no link between the increase in attacks and the pope's visit, but he worries that impunity for incidences of vandalism will eventually lead to more serious crimes against Palestinians.

"If they create this wave of hatred the next move will be attacking people. We should not wait until they translate into physical attacks against clergy and local Christians." more

Israeli forces demolish houses, steel structures near Nablus

NABLUS (Ma'an) -- Israeli military forces demolished a number of homes and steel structures south of Nablus on Monday, a Palestinian official and an Israeli spokesperson said.

Ghassan Daghlas, a PA official who monitors settlement activity in the northern West Bank, told Ma'an that dozens of military vehicles raided the village of Khirbet al-Tawil and demolished steel structures, water wells, and several homes made from corrugated iron, without providing further details.

An spokesperson for Israel's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories confirmed the demolitions in a statement.

"Today (Monday) early in the morning security forces carried out the demolition of 7 buildings that were built illegally inside firing zones," the statement said. more

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Israeli soldiers shoot Palestinian near border in northern Gaza

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli troops shot and injured a Palestinian man in the northern Gaza Strip on Sunday, locals and an army spokeswoman said.

The man was collecting small stones used to make concrete on the outskirts of Beit Hanoun near Erez crossing when Israeli forces opened fire at him, locals said.

He was taken to Kamal Udwan Hospital in Beit Lahiya for treatment.

Many Gazans collect pebbles in order to make concrete as the Israeli economic blockade has prevented the import of civilian construction material, including concrete, since 2007.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said there were "a few suspects in the area" near Erez crossing who were "tampering with the ground." more

Israel hate crimes 'poison atmosphere' for pope visit

HAIFA (AFP) -- The head of the Roman Catholic church in the Holy Land said Sunday that Israeli hate crimes against local Muslims and Christians are souring relations ahead of a papal visit.

"The unrestrained acts of vandalism poison the atmosphere -- the atmosphere of co-existence and the atmosphere of collaboration, especially in these two weeks prior to the visit of Pope Francis," Latin Patriarch Fuad Twal said.

"It is also a blight on the democracy that Israel ascribes to itself," he told a news conference in the northern port city of Haifa.

The pope's visit is scheduled to begin in Jordan on May 24, and he is then due to spend two days in the Holy Land from May 25. more

Saturday, 10 May 2014

2 detained after crossing into Israel from Gaza

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces detained two Palestinians as they were reportedly trying to cross into Israel near Juhor al-Dik northeast of Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip.

Eyewitnesses said Israeli forces detained two men after they successfully crossed the border near an area known as "the Camera."

The two men were forced by the soldiers to remove their clothing and were then taken to an unknown location. more

Friday, 9 May 2014

Israeli army invades farmland near Khan Younis

[Friday Morning, May 9, 2014] Several Israeli military vehicles and bulldozers invaded Palestinian agricultural lands, east of Khuza’a town, east of Khan Younis, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, and uprooted the lands while firing rounds of live ammunition.

Local sources said two Israeli military bulldozers and five tanks advanced more than 200 meters into Palestinian farmlands, and placed sand barriers in the area after uprooting the farmlands.

The sources said the army fired dozens of rounds of live ammunition; no clashes were reported.

Israeli soldiers frequently invade border areas in the eastern and northern parts of the Gaza Strip, uproot lands, and prevent Palestinian farmers and workers from entering them. more

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Egyptian navy detains 3 Gaza fishermen

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- The Egyptian navy detained three Palestinian fishermen off the coast of the southern Gaza Strip early Tuesday, a union official said.

Nizar Ayyash, spokesperson for the Gaza fishermen's union, told Ma'an that Egyptian naval squadrons obstructed a fishing boat off the coast of Rafah.

The navy then took Amir Jamal al-Aqraa and his two brothers Muhammad and Fahd into custody, Ayyash said, without providing further details.

Gaza fishermen face severe restrictions imposed by both Israel and Egypt, whose navies often fire on fishing boats that stray outside small "designated fishing zones."

In August, Egyptian forces fired at Gaza fishermen, injuring two men and arresting six others. more

Israeli warships 'fire at Gaza fishermen,' 2 injured in boat collision

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Two Palestinian fishermen were injured late Tuesday when fishing boats collided after being fired upon by Israeli warships off the coast of Gaza City, witnesses said.

Witnesses told Ma'an that fishermen -- members of the al-Bakr family -- were taken to al-Shifa hospital for treatment and the boats were seriously damaged.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said she was not familiar with the incident.

In the Oslo Accords, Israel agreed to a 20-nautical-mile fishing zone off Gaza's coast but has imposed a three-mile limit for several years, opening fire at fishermen who strayed further. more

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

5,100 Palestinian prisoners to go on hunger strike Thursday

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Nearly all Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails will go on hunger strike for one day on Thursday in solidarity with administrative detainees who have been on strike for nearly two weeks, an official said.

Ziad Abu Ein, undersecretary of the ministry of prisoners' affairs, told Ma'an Wednesday that some 5,100 Palestinians in Israeli jails would be going on hunger strike the following day.

Additionally, some 50 convicted prisoners will be starting an open hunger strike Thursday in solidarity with administrative detainees, who are held without charge or trial.

More than 100 Palestinians in Israeli prisons launched a mass, open-ended hunger strike on April 24 in protest against their detention without trial. more

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

BDS: Wesleyan Student Fund Bars Investment in Israeli Occupation Profiteers

Student representatives at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, voted on Sunday to support divestment from companies profiting from Israeli military occupation in Palestine.

“While the resolutions passed by student governments at other universities have had largely symbolic implications, the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) holds a separate endowment that will soon be divested from companies implicated in the Israeli occupation,” Wesleyan University students involved in the initiative said in a statement sent to The Electronic Intifada.

The Wesleyan Student Assembly endowment, worth several hundred thousand dollars, is the first in the US to be funded and managed by a student government. The endowment supports the activities of student organizations on campus. more

Rafah crossing closed again

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Egyptian authorities on Tuesday evening closed the Rafah crossing after it was exceptionally opened for three days for pilgrims and people stranded in Egypt.

The Egyptian ministry of interior said there were no set dates for the re-opening of the crossing.

Some 840 Muslim pilgrims and a few others stranded in Egypt returned to Gaza through the crossing. more

'iNakba' app finds former Palestinian towns in modern-day Israel

JERUSALEM (AFP) -- An Israeli NGO is on Monday launching a smartphone app that allows users to find the remains of Palestinian villages that now lie inside modern-day Israel.

The launch is timed to coincide with Israel's 66th independence day, which begins at sundown, when the Palestinians remember the "Nakba" or "catastrophe" that befell them when Israel came into existence in 1948, and 760,000 of them fled or were forced into exile.

"iNakba" features an interactive map and photos of buildings and houses that Palestinians fled or were driven out of during the conflict surrounding Israel's creation in 1948.

"Many Palestinians have difficulty locating their home towns and villages (in Israel and the West Bank), because cities or Jewish settlements have been built on top of them," said Raneen Jeries of Zochrot, the NGO that developed the app.

"There's a file on each of hundreds of Palestinian villages or cities, and you can find information and see old and new user-uploaded photos about the locality," she told AFP.

Zochrot, based in Tel Aviv, campaigns for Israelis to recognize the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, along with their descendants. more

Monday, 5 May 2014

Qatar contributes $5 million to Gaza govt to support reconciliation

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Qatar has donated $5 million to the Gaza government to support Palestinian reconciliation, an official said Sunday.

Ismail Radwan, the Gaza government's minister of endowment, told reporters Sunday that Qatar had contributed $5 million to provide financial support for "community reconciliation," especially focused on bereaved families who lost relatives to the Fatah-Hamas conflict.

Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh spoke to Qatar Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani via telephone to ask for financial support, Radwan said. more

Sunday, 4 May 2014

3,000 PA officers 'to join Gaza security forces' in unity step

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Arrangements are being made for some 3,000 Palestinian Authority policemen to join the Gaza government's security forces, a statement said Sunday.

Abd al-Salam Siyam, secretary-general of the Gaza government's cabinet, said in a statement that the officers would be sent to Gaza in order to begin implementing the Hamas-PLO unity deal reached on April 23.

The officers worked in Gaza before the PA left the coastal enclave in 2007.

Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmad will visit the Strip to discuss the formation of the unity government, the statement said, without specifying when the visit would take place.

"Hamas and the Gaza government have made a strategic decision to move on with reconciliation and so they will do what is needed to implement the agreement," the statement added. more

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Israeli forces enter border area in southern Gaza

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli military vehicles and bulldozers entered a border area in the southern Gaza Strip on Thursday, witnesses told Ma'an.

Locals said that Israeli military forces escorted eight bulldozers as they leveled Palestinian land east of Khan Younis in Khuzaah.

Israeli forces fired smoke bombs during the operation, witnesses added.

An Israeli army spokeswoman did not immediately return calls seeking comment. more

Remembering the Nakba: Israeli group's app puts 1948 Palestine back on map

In a run-down office in the busy centre of Tel Aviv, a group of Israelis are finalising preparations for this year's independence day holiday. But their conversation – switching between Arabic and Hebrew – centres not on celebrating the historic realisation of the Zionist dream in May 1948, but on the other side of the coin: the flight, expulsion and dispossession that Palestinians call their catastrophe – the Nakba.

Maps, leaflets and posters explain the work of Zochrot – Hebrew for "Remembering". The organisation's mission is to educate Israeli Jews about a history that has been obscured by enmity, propaganda and denial for much of the last 66 years.

Next week, Zochrot, whose activists include Jews and Palestinians, will connect the bitterly contested past with the hi-tech present. Its I-Nakba phone app will allow users to locate any Arab village that was abandoned during the 1948 war on an interactive map, learn about its history (including, in many cases, the Jewish presence that replaced it), and add photos, comments and data.

It is all part of a highly political and inevitably controversial effort to undo the decades-long erasure of landscape and memory – and, so the hope goes, to build a better future for the two peoples who share a divided land.

"There is an app for everything these days, and this one will show all the places that have been wiped off the map," explains Raneen Jeries, Zochrot's media director. "It means that Palestinians in Ein Hilweh refugee camp in Lebanon, say, can follow what happened to the village in Galilee that their family came from – and they will get a notification every time there's an update. Its amazing."

In a conflict famous for its irreconcilable national narratives, the basic facts are not disputed, though the figures are. Between November 1947, when the UN voted to partition British-ruled Palestine into separate Arab and Jewish states, and mid-1949, when Israel emerged victorious against its enemies, 400-500 Arab villages and towns were depopulated and destroyed or occupied and renamed. Most of them were left in ruins.

Understanding has deepened since the late 1980s, when Israeli historians used newly opened state archives to revisit that fateful period. Key elements of this new history contradicted the old, official version and partially confirmed what Palestinians had always claimed – that many were expelled by Israeli forces rather than fled at the urging of Arab leaders.

Fierce debate still rages over whether this was done on an ad hoc basis by local military commanders or according to a masterplan for ethnic cleansing. The result either way was disastrous.

Zochrot's focus on the hyper-sensitive question of the 750,000 Palestinians who became refugees has earned it the hostility of the vast majority of Israeli Jews who flatly reject any Palestinian right of return. more

Friday, 2 May 2014

IDF claims rocket fired from Gaza lands in Israel

JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Palestinian militants fired a rocket from the Gaza Strip on Thursday night which hit southern Israel without causing any damage, the army said.

A statement said the rocket hit open ground in the Eshkol area, adding: "No injuries or damage were reported."

A military spokeswoman said that more than 100 projectiles fired by militants in Hamas-ruled Gaza have hit Israel this year.

Last week, militants fired three rockets at southern Israel, the same day Israeli warplanes wounded six people in a "counter-terror operation" north of Gaza City. more

Israel returns remains of Hamas fighters killed in 1998

RAMALLAH (AFP) -- More than 1,000 people gathered in Ramallah on Wednesday for the funerals of two Hamas fighters Israel killed in 1998, whose remains had just been returned.

Israel transferred the remains of Imad Awadallah, 48, and his 46-year-old brother Adel, to Palestinian officials at a checkpoint in the northern West Bank overnight, Palestinian activists said.

They also handed over the bodies of two others, including a suicide bomber who blew himself up at a Jerusalem restaurant in 2001 during the Second Intifada.

The Palestinian National Campaign to Return the Bodies of the Martyrs says Israel still holds the bodies of some 29 Palestinians in a special cemetery for "enemy combatants" in the Jordan Valley.

The exact circumstances of the deaths of the wanted Awadallah brothers, who were killed by Israeli troops in 1998 near the southern West Bank city of Hebron, have never been revealed. more

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Palestinian shot, injured in northern Gaza

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- A Palestinian laborer was shot and injured on Wednesday evening in the northern Gaza Strip.

A Ma’an reporter said Israeli guards in a watchtower at the Erez checkpoint opened fire at a Palestinian laborer in his 20s.

Medics said he was shot in the foot and was in moderate condition.

An Israeli army spokesman told Ma'an that soldiers fired toward Palestinians who approached a security post. more

Israeli forces enter border area in southern Gaza

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli military vehicles and bulldozers entered a border area in the southern Gaza Strip on Thursday, witnesses told Ma'an.

Locals said that Israeli military forces escorted eight bulldozers as they leveled Palestinian land east of Khan Younis in Khuzaah.

Israeli forces fired smoke bombs during the operation, witnesses added.

An Israeli army spokeswoman did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Israeli forces frequently shoot at farmers and other civilians inside the Gaza Strip if they approach large swathes of land near the border that the Israeli military has deemed off-limits to Palestinians. more