Monday, 30 June 2014

Netanyahu hints at new war on Gaza as tensions soar


JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israel on Monday issued a brusque warning to Hamas, demanding it prevent rocket fire from Gaza as fears grow of a new confrontation around the coastal Palestinian enclave.

Militants fired 14 rockets at southern Israel during the morning, sending tension soaring and drawing a warning from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that unless the Islamist movement cracked down on those behind the attacks the Israeli military would step in.

"If this fire continues there are two possibilities: either Hamas stops it as the responsible authority in the area, or we will stop it," Netanyahu said in remarks broadcast on army radio.

"I strongly suggest that Hamas take into account the fact that we will not let this firing continue or expand," he told ministers at the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs and defense. more

14 rockets fired at Israel, Palestinian killed in airstrike


BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Fourteen rockets were fired at southern Israel from the Gaza Strip overnight after an Israeli airstrike killed one Palestinian and injured at least three others late Sunday.

At least 14 rockets were fired at southern Israel, with one causing damage to a residential property in the Sdot Negev regional council, Israel's army said.

The Iron Dome intercepted two rockets, an army spokeswoman added.

Israeli warplanes struck 12 targets overnight, which the army said were being used for "terrorist activity". One man was killed and three others injured in the attacks. more

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Israeli air force launches airstrikes across Gaza


The Israeli Air Force carried out, on Sunday at dawn, a series of air strikes targeting different areas in the besieged and impoverished Gaza Strip, causing excessive property damage.

The Palestinian News & Info Agency (WAFA) has reported that an F16 Israeli fighter jet fired a missile into an area, northwest of the Nusseirat refugee camp, in central Gaza, causing excessive property damage, and anxiety attacks among the resident, especially the children.

The area has been repeatedly targeted, over the last few days.

Two more missiles were fired into an area, east of Rafah, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, causing damage to several buildings and homes.

The Israeli Air Force also fired two missiles into what is believed to be a resistance camp, in the al-Boreij refugee camp, in central Gaza, causing damage but no injuries.

Another site was also shelled in the Zeitoun neighborhood in Gaza City, causing excessive property damage.

WAFA said the army also fired a missile at a hothouse in a land located close to the al-Farouq Mosque, also in the Zeitoun neighborhood, causing damage and anxiety attacks among the residents.

In Khan Younis, the Israeli Air Force fired missiles into two areas, causing excessive property damage to a number of homes. more

Video: Hunger strike over, but Israel prison torture continues


Dozens of Palestinians held without charge or trial by Israel ended their 63-day-long hunger strike protest yesterday — marking the longest hunger strike in the history of the Palestinian prisoners movement.

Palestinian and Israeli human rights groups stated today that approximately eighty of the hunger strikers are still hospitalized and shackled to their beds.

Meanwhile, the Israeli government is set to push through legislation which would permit the force-feeding of hunger strikers, a threat wielded by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in an attempt to break the two-month strike.

United Nations experts yesterday called on Israel to abandon the draft law, describing the plan to break the hunger strike as “cruel and inhuman” treatment.

Gavan Kelly of the Palestinian human rights and prisoner advocacy group Addameer told The Electronic Intifada last week that the force feeding tactic amounted to “torture … on an industrial scale.”

Kelly added that “since the second half of 2011, not one day has passed where there hasn’t been at least one Palestinian on hunger strike. And the Israelis have failed to deal with the hunger strikes … we consider that their way to deal with the hunger strikes is through introducing force-feeding.”

In a short video published yesterday, Hassan Jabareen, the founder and general director of the Palestinian human rights group Adalah, explains the goal of the mass hunger strike and Israel’s motivation to break it: more

PRC claims responsibility for rockets fired from Gaza


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Al-Nasser Salah al-Din Brigades, the military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, on Sunday claimed responsibility for launching rockets from the Gaza Strip toward southern Israel.

The group, which has no connection to the local popular resistance committees that exist throughout the West Bank, said in a statement that its fighters fired four rockets toward Eshkol regional council, three rockets toward Sderot and three toward other Israeli towns.

The shelling is part of "our retaliation to the Israeli crimes against our Palestinian people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and the ongoing violations against prisoners," according to the statement. more

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Gaza rocket hits factory in southern Israel, causing fire


BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Four rockets fired from Gaza landed in southern Israel Saturday evening, one of them hitting a factory and causing a fire, Israeli media and the Israeli army said.

"At least 2 rockets hit the city of Sderot in the Sha'ar HaNegev Regional council. The rockets hit an industrial factory causing a fire," the army said in a statement.

"Rescue and emergency teams are on the site," the statement said.

Israeli media said that no injuries were immediately reported.

Another rocket fell in an open area near the city, without causing any damages or injuries, the Israeli news site Ynet reported. more

Friday, 27 June 2014

2 Palestinians killed after missiles hit car in Gaza's al-Shati camp


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Two Palestinians were killed and two others wounded on Friday afternoon after Israel's air force bombed a car traveling near al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City.

A Ma'an reporter said that an Israeli plane targeted a black Kia vehicle with two missiles, killing Muhammad al-Fasih and Usama al-Hassumi.

Ashraf al-Qidra, the Gaza spokesperson for the Ministry of Health, said the bodies of the two men, who were residents of the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood of Gaza City, were taken to Shifa medical center.

The killing is the first targeted assassination by Israel since the formation of the Palestinian national unity government at the beginning of June.

The two were apparently affiliated with the Al-Nasser Salah al-Din Brigades, the military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees. more

6 Palestinians wounded as Israeli tanks fire into Gaza after explosion


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Six Palestinians were injured on Friday morning after Israeli tanks fired into the southern Gaza Strip from the border, medical officials said.

Spokesman for the Ministry of Health in Gaza Ashraf al-Qidra told Ma'an that five Palestinians including a pregnant woman and an 11-year-old boy were injured by the artillery fire, and were taken to the Algerian Hospital in Abasan al-Kabeera southeast of Khan Younis.

Al-Qidra added that the sixth victim, a 27-year-old, was taken to the Gaza European Hospital with broken fingers suffered as a result of the attack.

Eyewitnesses said that the tank fire damaged the Hoda and Taqwa mosques in the area as well as a number of nearby homes. more

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Israeli forces shoot Palestinian teen in Gaza


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- A Palestinian teenager was shot by Israeli forces in the Hajar al-Deek area near the border in the northern central Gaza Strip on Thursday evening.

Spokesman for the Ministry of Health Ashraf al-Qidra told Ma'an that an unnamed 17-year-old was shot in the foot while he was collecting gravel near the border.

He was taken to Shifa hospital with moderate injuries, al-Qidra added.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said that Israeli forces had fired "warning shots in the air" in the area, which is just east of El-Bureij refugee camp. more

78-year-old woman dies of heart attack during Israeli raid


HEBRON (Ma'an) -- An elderly Palestinian woman died early Thursday after suffering a heart attack during a raid by Israeli soldiers in el-Arrub refugee camp north of Hebron.

Fatima Ismail Issa Rushdi, 78, was evacuated to al-Ahli Hospital in Hebron after she suffered a heart attack.

"Fatima arrived at the emergency department suffering from a sudden heart and lung failure. Doctors tried to resuscitate her twice but there was no response and she was pronounced dead," Dr. Ashraf Zghayyar told Ma'an.

The Israeli raid on the camp started after midnight on Wednesday following a power cut. Soldiers ransacked several homes and handed summons orders to several young men, demanding that they go to an Israeli military center for interrogation. more

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

In ‘turning-point’ vote, Presbyterians divest from occupation-linked corporations

Image of jumbo screen at Presbyterian assembly, by Jordan Tarwater

Nearly 30 years after it divested from corporations complicit in South African apartheid, the Presbyterian Church voted 310-303 to divest from three corporations involved with the Israeli military and its occupation. The vote means that $21 million of Presbyterian stock in Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard and Motorola Solutions will be divested.

The extraordinarily close vote (51% to 49% of delegates) came after an intense hours-long debate that featured emotional pleas on all sides.

“It hurts me to know that we invest in the tearing apart of Palestinian lives,” said Emma Warman, a youth delegate, before the vote took place. The advisory voters, including the youth delegates, overwhelmingly recommended a positive vote for divestment.

This close vote came two years after another close vote that went in the opposite direction. In 2012, the Presbyterian Church rejected divestment by just two votes.

“After a decade of corporate engagement with Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola Solutions, these companies have failed to modify their behavior and continue to profit from Israeli human rights abuses and non-peaceful pursuits,” said Rev. Dr. Walt Davis in a statement released by the Israel/Palestine Mission Network, a Presbyterian group that supported divestment. “This is a historic vote and the culmination of a long and deliberate internal process within the church.” more

63 Palestinian prisoners suspend hunger strike


RAMALLAH (AFP) -- Sixty-three Palestinian prisoners have suspended the hunger strike which they have observed in Israeli jails since late April, one of their lawyers said Tuesday.

"The strikers, who have reached an agreement with the Israeli prison authorities, have decided to suspend their action with the approach of (the Muslim holy month of) Ramadan," lawyer Abu Snena said.

Details of the deal will be made public on Wednesday, he added.

Shawqi al-Ayasa, the minister of prisoner affairs for the newly-formed Palestinian unity government, confirmed the suspension of the hunger strike, saying a major portion of prisoners' demands had been met.

Prisoners will be returned to the jails from which they were moved when they started striking, and more details of the deal will be revealed "Wednesday or Thursday," said Qaddura Faris, chairman of the Palestinian Prisoners' Society. more

2 Palestinian navy officers injured in Israeli airstrikes on Gaza


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Two Palestinian navy officers were injured in Israeli airstrikes on Gaza overnight, an official said Wednesday.

Ashraf al-Qidra, the Gaza spokesman of the Palestinian ministry of health, said that two navy police officers were hospitalized after sustaining injuries from an Israeli airstrike on a police station west of Gaza City.

The two are in stable condition, al-Qidra said.

Iyad al-Buzum, spokesman of the Ministry of the Interior in Gaza, said "Palestinian police and other security services continued to fully operate despite the Israeli aggression and the daily strikes."

Airstrikes also hit a military base belonging to Islamic Jihad's al-Quds Brigades, an agricultural area in northern Gaza, a poultry farm east of Khan Younis and a military base on the city's outskirts, and open areas in Deir al-Balah, without causing injuries.

Israeli warplanes also struck a military base in northwest Gaza, causing damages. more

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Gaza power plant 'to shut down' as Qatar-donated fuel runs out


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- The Gaza Strip's sole power plant is expected to shut down Tuesday after the last shipment of Qatar-donated fuel runs out, Gaza's power authority said.

Fathi Sheikh Khalil, the deputy chairperson of Gaza's power authority, said that the plant would run out of fuel Tuesday.

Gaza will then depend on 140 megawatts of electricity from Israel and 20 megawatts from Egypt, only a third of the electricity needed to power the Strip, Khalil said.

He said the Gaza power authority had contacted the newly-formed national consensus government seeking a solution to the power crisis, but that nothing had been done so far.

Qatar had in March agreed to continue to donate money to fuel Gaza's power plant for three months. more

Monday, 23 June 2014

Israel detains 37 Palestinians as arrest operation continues


NABLUS (Ma'an) -- Israeli military forces detained 37 Palestinians overnight Sunday in the occupied West Bank as a search operation launched to find three missing Israelis continued for the 11th day.

Israeli soldiers carried out house-to-house inspections in Nablus and Balata refugee camp and detained Salih Saadi al-Amir, Taha Salous, Ahmad al-Tanbour, Abd al-Rahman al-Bishtawi, and Amir Ishtayya, locals said.

In Bethlehem, Israeli forces confiscated computers and surveillance cameras from a money changing shop and damaged a safe while trying to open it.

Israeli forces also raided four money changers in Hebron, confiscating all computers and security cameras.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said 37 Palestinians were detained overnight as Israeli forces raided 80 locations, focusing on northwest Hebron, Jenin and Beit Awwa.

Soldiers also raided seven Hamas-affiliated charities, she added. more

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Israeli settlers open fire at mourners in Ramallah, 1 hurt


RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Israeli settlers on Sunday opened fire at Palestinians in al-Bireh near Ramallah as they gathered for the funeral of a man killed by Israeli forces earlier that day, a Ma'an reporter said.

After the funeral procession of Muhammad Tarifi in the Jabal al-Tawil neighborhood, settlers from the Psagot settlement opened fire at mourners, injuring one of them.

When Israeli forces arrived at the scene, clashes broke out as Palestinians hurled rocks at settlers and soldiers.

Soldiers fired stun grenades, tear gas, rubber-coated bullets, and live fire at Palestinians.

The Palestinians then retreated into al-Bireh's Jabal al-Tawil and al-Jinan neighborhoods. more

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Ongoing arrest campaign brings total Palestinians in jail to 5,700


RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces detained 39 Palestinians in overnight raids across the West Bank on Saturday morning, bringing the number of prisoners in Israeli jails to 5,700 amid the widest deployment of Israel forces in the region since the Second Intifada.

Around 370 Palestinians have been detained just in the past week as part of an arrest campaign carried out by Israel with Palestinian Authority coordination that began after the disappearance of three Israeli teenagers from the Jewish settlement of Gush Etzion.

Former minister of prisoner affairs Issa Qaraqe said on Saturday that he expects the numbers of detentions to rapidly increase in the coming days, as the campaign shows no signs of abating.

At a lecture organized by the Youth Council of Bethlehem, Qaraqe said that the number of Palestinians being held without charge or trial had jumped to 260 detainees in recent days, while the number of minors being detained had hit 241.

Qaraqe added that 75 of the newly detained are former prisoners who were released in the 2011 prisoner swap that freed Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinians.

Qaraqe said that "re-sentencing prisoners who were released in the Shalit deal is a form of immoral and illegal revenge, an offense to Egypt who sponsored the deal, and collective punishment that is against the human and legal rights of prisoners."

Around two-thirds of those detained in recent days have been members of the Palestinian political party Hamas, which Israel accuses of being behind what it calls the kidnapping of the youths. more

Friday, 20 June 2014

2nd Palestinian youth dies after being shot by Israeli forces


RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- A 22-year-old youth on Friday succumbed to wounds sustained during an Israeli military raid on Qalandiya refugee camp south of Ramallah, making him the second Palestinian to be killed by Israeli forces since the morning.

Mustafa Hosni Aslan was shot in the head by Israeli forces when they raided the camp before dawn on Friday, one of three Palestinians wounded in the camp.

After being taken to Ramallah Governmental Hospital he was subsequently moved to Jerusalem's Hadassah hospital earlier in the day, and he was pronounced dead by Israeli medical officials there just after noon.

His death was announced in Qalandiya refugee camp only hours after it had been announced that he was injured, not killed, leading to a state of shock for many residents upon hearing the news. more

13-year-old Palestinian shot dead by Israeli forces in Dura


HEBRON (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces shot and killed a 13-year-old Palestinian boy after clashes erupted early Friday morning during a raid on the southern West Bank village of Dura, near Hebron.

Local sources told Ma'an that Mahmoud Jihad Muhammad Dudeen was struck by live bullets in the chest before being taken to Hebron Governmental Hospital, where he was shortly pronounced dead.

The local sources said Israeli forces opened fire directly on Mahmoud during the clashes which occurred in the Haninia neighborhood of Dura.

The clashes broke out after Israeli forces stormed the village in a dawn raid and began conducting home raids. In response, local youths threw rocks at the soldiers.

An Israeli army spokesperson said that during a "mission to detain the known terrorist in Dura, Palestinians hurled rocks and molotov cocktails at Israeli forces, who responded with riot dispersal means." more

Thursday, 19 June 2014

5 Hamas fighters die in explosion


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Five members of Hamas' al-Qassam Brigades died in an explosion inside a tunnel in the al-Tuffah neighborhood near a Hamas military site in eastern Gaza City on Thursday.

The dead were identified as Raid Marshoud, Ibrahim al-Arqan, Khalil al-Ghurabli, Ahmad Ayyad and Salim al-Harrazin.

Witnesses told Ma'an that an explosion shook a house in the al-Tuffah neighborhood, and ambulances and civil defense services rushed to the scene. more

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Israeli airstrike targets Gaza City and Khan Younis


[Tuesday At Dawn, June 16, 2014] The Israeli air force fired several missiles targeting different areas in Gaza City, and Khan Younis in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, causing excessive property damage. Gaza fishermen were also attacked in Palestinian waters.

The Palestinian News & Info Agency (WAFA) has reported that the soldiers fired at least two missiles into farmlands, west of Khan Younis city, burning trees and causing damage to nearby Palestinian homes and property.

The air force also fired several missiles into an area north of Khan Younis, in the southern part of the coastal region, causing damage in several homes, while several Palestinians suffered anxiety attacks. more

Palestinian critically injured in clashes near Ramallah


RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Six Palestinians were injured including one critically in clashes with Israeli forces near Qalandiya checkpoint near Ramallah.

Israeli forces fired live and rubber-coated steel bullets at protesters who threw rocks at Israeli forces deployed near the checkpoint, injuring six of them.

Yazan Yacoub, 17, was shot in the chest and abdomen with a live bullet. He underwent an operation and is currently in the ICD, medical sources said.

Hundreds of Palestinians marched toward the checkpoint to protest the killing of young Palestinian from al-Jalazun refugee camp. more

Monday, 16 June 2014

Israeli authorities close Gaza crossings


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli authorities closed the Kerem Shalom crossing with the Gaza Strip on Monday, having briefly reopened it earlier in the day.

Palestinian crossings official Nathmi Muhanna told Ma'an that Israel prevented trucks from entering Gaza and declared the crossing closed.

Israel closed the both the Erez and Kerem Shalom crossing last Thursday, after three Israeli youths were reported missing from a settlement in the West Bank, but briefly reopened it early Monday.

A popular committee activist in Gaza, Jamal al-Khudari, said the frequent border closures exacerbate the humanitarian crisis for Gazans. more

Israeli forces kill Palestinian during arrest raids in Ramallah


RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Israeli troops shot dead a young Palestinian man in al-Jalazun refugee camp north of Ramallah during overnight clashes with locals, medics said.

Palestinian Red Crescent officials said the victim, 20-year-old Ahmad Sabarin, was killed by a gunshot wound to the chest.

Local residents told Ma'an that clashes broke out after midnight as a large group of Israeli forces raided the camp. Sabarin and two others were injured and taken to hospital for treatment, where he was pronounced dead shortly afterwards.

Palestinian security sources could not immediately say whether the army had intended on arresting Sabarin. They noted he had been released from Israeli prison one week ago.

Earlier, Israeli forces raided al-Bireh and Beitunia, clashing with local youths.

Young men hurled stones and empty bottles at Israeli soldiers, who fired tear gas canisters at rubber-coated steel bullets.

The raids took place as part of efforts to locate three settlers who are suspected of being kidnapped near Gush Etzion settlement on Thursday. more

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Israeli army: Gaza rockets land in open area near Ashkelon


BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Three rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip on Saturday, two of which hit the Hof Ashkelon region in southern Israel, the Israeli military said.

The rocket fire came just after a seven-year-old Palestinian child died of injuries sustained in an Israeil missile attack on the Gaza Strip on Wednesday.

Earlier Saturday, one rocket hit the Sdot Negev regional council in southern Israel.

None of the strikes caused any damage or injuries. more

Israeli imposes siege on Hebron and Bethlehem


[Sunday Morning, June 15, 2014] The Israeli army imposed a strict military siege on the Hebron district, in the southern part of the occupied West Bank, and on the West Bank district of Bethlehem.

Palestinian sources said the army installed dozens of roadblocks around Hebron, preventing the Palestinians from entering or leaving their communities, while hundreds of soldiers were deployed in the area, breaking into and searching homes, amidst a massive arrest campaign.

However, the army alleged there is no tight siege on Hebron, and that what is happening is a “breathable closure” on a number of areas.

On Saturday at night, Israeli Army Chief of Staff, Moshe Ya’alon, said he ordered the army to impose a comprehensive siege on the Hebron district, until further notice, and that the decision was made following extensive security meetings, the Maan News Agency has reported.

Israel also closed the Karem Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom), and Erez terminals leading to Gaza.

Israeli sources said only urgent and humanitarian cases will be allowed to cross, after obtaining special permits from the Israeli military – permits that are largely denied. more

Name Israel an “apartheid state” and divest, Tutu tells US Presbyterians


As the Presbyterian Church USA holds its 2014 general assembly in Detroit from 14-21 June, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town Desmond Tutu has issued this call on delegates to vote in favor of divestment from companies that assist “apartheid” Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian people:

As the Presbyterian General Assembly gathers for its biennial meeting, I reach out in prayer and solidarity that the Assembly will make a strong witness for reconciliation, justice and peace. I am aware that the Assembly will consider eight overtures on the confounding and intractable conflict in Israel and Palestine, however I am especially urging the Assembly to adopt the overture naming Israel as an apartheid state through its domestic policies and maintenance of the occupation, and the overture calling for divestment of certain companies that contribute to the occupation of the Palestinian people.

Both are worthy of adoption, by speaking truth in the first instance, and owning up to the Church’s complicity in maintaining the occupation through its investments in the second.

The sustainability of Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people has always been dependent on its ability to deliver justice to the Palestinians. I know firsthand that Israel has created an apartheid reality within its borders and through its occupation. The parallels to my own beloved South Africa are painfully stark indeed. Realistic Israeli leaders have acknowledged that Israel will either end its occupation through a one or two-state solution, or live in an apartheid state in perpetuity. The latter option is unsustainable and an offense to justice. We learned in South Africa that the only way to end apartheid peacefully was to force the powerful to the table through economic pressure.

The overtures proposed at the General Assembly are not about delegitimizing the State of Israel, but about ending its suppression of four million Palestinian sisters and brothers. It’s about naming an unjust system and refusing to participate in it. The stubbornness of Israel’s leaders in wanting to hold onto and settling land that is not theirs can only lead to tragedy for both peoples. For the sake of them both as God’s cherished, the strong witness of the two overtures is the only peaceful route left in the cause of justice and ultimate reconciliation. My prayers today are with the members of the General Assembly and with all the peoples of the Holy Land in Israel and Palestine.

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu 10 June 2014


Electronic Intifada

2 Palestinian women injured as Israel pounds Gaza overnight


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- A Palestinian woman and a teenage girl sustained wounds Saturday night in two separate Israeli airstrikes on the Rafah district in the southern Gaza Strip, medical sources said.

The injuries occurred as Israeli launched eight air strikes against the Gaza Strip overnight, in what they said was a response to three rockets fired from the besieged coastal enclave the day before.

Spokesman for the Gaza Ministry of Health Ashraf al-Qidra told Ma'an on Sunday that a 15-year-old girl was hit by shrapnel after an Israeli missile hit southern Rafah.

The girl, he said, was in her courtyard when an Israeli missile fired from the air hit a military camp near her house.

Al-Qidra added that a 27-year-old woman was moderately injured by shrapnel from an Israeli missile that landed in the Saudi neighborhood in southern Rafah. The woman suffered a fracture in the foot as a result of the attack.

Israeli warplanes also fired two missiles at open areas in al-Salam neighborhood in Rafah and the Saad Sayil military base in the city, though no injuries have been reported.

Two missiles were also fired at a military base for the military wing of the Islamic Jihad south of Rafah.

In Khan Younis, also in the southern Gaza Strip, Israeli jets targeted a military base belonging to Hamas' military wing Al-Qassam Brigades and an open area near an evacuated Israeli settlement. No injuries were reported in those strikes either. more

Hamas denies accusations that it kidnapped settler youths


BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Hamas on Sunday denied accusations that its members were behind the disappearance of three Israeli youth just minutes after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused them of being responsible.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri called the accusations "stupid" and said that they were a bluff intended to acquire information.

Abu Zuhri told Ma'an that the arrests carried out by occupation forces in the West Bank were "designed to break Hamas," but they would not succeed in achieving their goal.

The spokesman also said that Israeli authorities are responsible for "all of the consequences of the arrest campaigns" in the West Bank, adding the Israeli escalation in the West Bank and Gaza reflects their "state of confusion."

The Hamas spokesperson's comments come in response to Netanyahu's declaration earlier Sunday that Hamas was responsible for the abduction of three settler youths on Thursday evening. more

Friday, 13 June 2014

Israel deploys heavily near Hebron after disappearance of 2 settlers


HEBRON (Ma'an) -- The Israeli military has sent a large number of military reinforcements to the Hebron district in search of two missing Israeli settlers they fear may have been kidnapped, sources exclusive to Ma'an said Friday.

Israeli forces raided a number of homes in the Sanjar area of Dura, a city southwest of Hebron, on Friday in search of the settlers after they disappeared from Hebron earlier in the day, sources told Ma'an.

The Israeli media has apparently still not reported on the incidents, but unofficial sources have confirmed that the the two settlers disappeared earlier this morning.

The settlers were able to contact the army earlier today but the line of communication was reportedly cut, however the army was able to identify the source of the call as being in the region of Sanjar.

Local sources said that Israeli forces had raided a number of private homes in the neighborhood, although it was unclear if there had been any detentions, and a military reconnaissance plane was reportedly flying over southern Hebron. more

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Israel kills Palestinian in Gaza airstrike, blames Abbas for rockets


JERUSALEM (AFP) -- An Israeli airstrike killed a Palestinian in Gaza on Wednesday after new rocket fire from the territory prompted Israel's premier to warn he holds President Mahmoud Abbas responsible.

Two Palestinians were also wounded in the evening raid in the northern Gaza Strip, the emergency services said.

The dead man and one of the wounded were traveling on a motorbike and were the apparent targets. A young boy, who was passing by on foot, was also wounded.

Ashraf al-Qidra, spokesman for Gaza's health ministry, identified the victim as Muhammad Ahmad al-Arour, 30.

The An-Nasser Salah al-Din Brigades, the military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, said that al-Arour was affiliated to the group.

The Israeli military said it had targeted "terrorists affiliated to the international jihad," its designation for Al-Qaeda inspired groups in Gaza. more

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Gaza banks open gradually after week of closure


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Banks in the Gaza Strip gradually began operating on Wednesday after a week of closure, a Palestinian official said.

Jihad al-Wazir, governor of the Palestinian Monetary Authority, told Ma'an that clients had begun to withdraw money as Hamas-affiliated police officers were given orders to allow banks to open.

Hundreds of Palestinian Authority government employees lined up at banks to withdraw their salaries, a Ma'an reporter said.

The banking crisis started last Wednesday when Hamas employees of the former Gaza government were angered to find out they had not been paid, with Hamas-affiliated police officers preventing PA employees from collecting their wages.

Employees of the previous government see it as Ramallah's responsibility to pay their salaries, but the new unity government says no such agreement was ever made with Hamas. more

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Current hunger strike 'longest in Palestinian history'


BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Jailed Palestinians who have been refusing meals since April 24 are taking part in the longest collective hunger strike in Palestinian history, a prisoner rights group said Monday.

"This is the longest mass hunger strike among prisoners in Palestinian history since a 45-day strike in 1976," Addameer said in a report on its website as the current strike neared its 48th day.

"The hunger strikers remain steadfast in their demand to end the policy of administrative detention."

Some 125 prisoners in Israeli jails began a hunger strike on April 24 against Israel's policy of holding Palestinians in custody indefinitely without charge or trial.

Hundreds have joined the strike since then, and others have taken part in one-day solidarity strikes.

The report said that nearly 80 prisoners are being held in civilian hospitals in Israel.

Additionally, it quoted lawyers as saying doctors have been threatening to force-feed prisoners if they lost consciousness. more

Half of Gaza beaches unfit for swimming due to contamination



GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Half of the beaches in Gaza have dangerous levels of contamination and are unfit for swimming, the Palestinian environmental authority said Tuesday.

The Ministry of Health, together with the environmental authority, takes samples along the coast every month to test levels of pollution and contamination.

Khalid Abu Ghali, a spokesman for the environmental authority, told Ma'an that over 50 percent of the beaches are not fit for swimming and the agency has contacted concerned parties and lifeguards to identify areas with high levels of contamination.

Maps explaining which beaches are safe will be posted in public areas, he added. more

Monday, 9 June 2014

HRW: Killing of Palestinian teens could amount to 'war crime'


BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Human Rights Watch said Monday that the killing of two unarmed Palestinian teenagers by Israeli forces on May 15 could amount to war crimes.

"The willful killing of civilians by Israeli security forces as part of the occupation is a war crime," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director.

"Israel has a responsibility to prosecute the forces who targeted these teens, and also those responsible for assigning the use of live ammunition to police a demonstration."

Nadeem Nawara, 17, and Mohammad Abu Daher, 16, were shot dead during a Nakba Day protest outside Ofer military base.

HRW said that video footage, photographs, witness statements and medical records indicate that the two teenagers posed "no imminent threat to the forces at the time." more

Gaza fisherman shot by Israel 2 weeks ago dies


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- A Palestinian fisherman shot by the Israeli navy two weeks ago succumbed to his wounds Sunday morning, Gaza medical authorities said.

Spokesman for the Gaza Ministry of Health Ashraf al-Qidra told Ma'an that 52-year-old Imad Shukri Salim was announced dead Sunday morning.

Salim was shot in the chest by Israeli navy two weeks ago while he was fishing off the coast in the area of al-Sudaniya in the northern Gaza Strip, al-Qidra said.

Israeli forces shot two Palestinian fishermen off the coast of the al-Sudaniya area in the month of May alone. more

Friday, 6 June 2014

Banking chaos in Gaza amid unity govt employee confusion


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- The union of public sector employees in Gaza on Thursday blamed the newly formed Palestinian unity government for banking chaos which started Wednesday and continued into Thursday in the coastal enclave.

When Palestinian Authority government employees went to withdraw their monthly wages from banks on Wednesday, they were joined by government workers from the previous Hamas-affiliated government seeking their pay, too.

This resulted in clashes and closures as executives sought to avoid bank runs.

In a news conference, the union's speaker Muhammad Siyam accused the unity government of "discriminating between civil servants based in the West Bank and those based in Gaza."

After the unity government was sworn in on Monday, the political echelon of both Fatah and Hamas appeared to have failed to address basic arrangements such as who should pay salaries of about 50,000 employees including security officers who were employed by the former Hamas-run government. more

Thursday, 5 June 2014

PLO to appeal to UN over Israel settlements


RAMALLAH (AFP) -- The PLO is to appeal to the UN Security Council over Israel's settlement construction, after it invited tenders for another 1,500 settler homes, a senior official said Thursday.

"The executive committee of the PLO views this latest escalation with the utmost of seriousness," Hanan Ashrawi said in an English-language statement.

The executive committee "will counter it by addressing both the United Nations Security Council and the General Assembly as the proper way of curbing this grave violation and ensuring accountability," she added.

Overnight, Israel's housing ministry unveiled plans for the new homes, 400 of them in annexed East Jerusalem, in what it said was a "fitting Zionist response" to the formation of a Palestinian unity government which includes Hamas.

The PLO threatened an "unprecedented" response to the move, with one senior official telling AFP the leadership was considering an appeal to the international justice system. more

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Gaza crossings with Egypt, Israel closed


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Egyptian authorities closed the Rafah crossing with Gaza on Wednesday after it had been open for three days to allow pilgrims from Saudi Arabia to return.

Over 1,000 pilgrims returned to Gaza on Tuesday. more

Israeli restrictions 'preventing Gaza unity govt meeting'


BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Ministers of the new Palestinian unity government are planning a cabinet meeting in the Gaza Strip, but Israel continues to deny them permits to travel, a government spokesman said Tuesday.

Eyhab Bseiso told Ma'an that the ministers want to meet in Gaza to discuss the situation in the blockaded Strip, but that Israel has revoked the VIP status of Palestinian government members.

Meanwhile, four members of the new unity government still have not been officially sworn into office, given that Israel rejected their requests to travel to Ramallah for Monday's inauguration ceremony, Bseiso said.

He said the government is trying to find a legal way for Gaza ministers to be sworn in despite Israeli restrictions.

The four Gaza-based ministers are Mamoon Abu Shahla as minister of labor, Haifa al-Agha as minister of women's affairs, Mufeed al-Hasayna as minister of housing and public works, and Salim al-Saqqa as minister of justice. more

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Gates Foundation begins to divest from occupation profiteer G4S


After campaigning pressure, the Gates Foundation has sold the bulk of its shares in the world’s largest private military and security company, G4S. Over 100 Palestinian and international organisations, including War on Want, launched a campaign calling on the Gates Foundation to divest its £110m ($167m USD) stake from the company. Thanks to everyone who joined the campaign, signed the petition and participated in protests.

“We are glad the pressure on the Gates Foundation to divest from G4S is starting to work. We urge the Foundation to sell any remaining shares it still holds and release a public statement pledging not to invest in corporations profiting from Israel’s military occupation,” said Rafeef Ziadah, Senior Campaigns Officer at War on Want.

War on Want partner, Addameer Palestinian Prisoner and Human Rights Association added, “we have been arguing that it is completely unacceptable for a charitable foundation to be investing in a company, like G4S, which participates in gross human rights violations against Palestinian political prisoners, including child prisoners. We welcome this step in the right direction.”

The impact of the Gates Foundation, as a major shareholder, divesting the majority of its shares from G4S will be felt within the company. Campaigners will continue to target all G4S shareholders and contracts, especially in the Middle East, until the company can no longer ignore the damage its contract with the Israeli prison services is having on its reputation and profit margin. more

UN, EU back Palestinian unity government


RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- The European Union and United Nations on Tuesday offered public backing for the Palestinian unity government sworn in a day earlier in Ramallah.

Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, said during a meeting with PM Rami Hamdallah that the UN backs the unity government and hopes it will meet the needs of Palestinians in the West Bank Gaza and East Jerusalem.

Hamdallah assured Serry that the government would commit to all previous agreements signed by the PLO.

The office of the EU High Representative said in a statement that the government was an "important step in the process of Palestinian reconciliation."

"We welcome the appointment of a government of independent personalities and the declaration by President Abbas that this new government is committed to the principle of the two state solution based on the 1967 borders, to the recognition of Israel's legitimate right to exist, to non-violence and to the respect of previous agreements."

The EU's engagement with the new government will be dependent on whether it adheres to these principles, the statement added. more

Monday, 2 June 2014

Palestinian unity government of Fatah and Hamas sworn in


After seven years of a bitter and at times lethal rivalry between the two main Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, a historic Palestinian unity government has been sworn in, ending years of division.

The signing ceremony, which seems likely to complicate relations with the Palestinian Authority's international aid donors in Europe and the US and increase tensions with Israel, was broadcast live in both Gaza and the West Bank.

The US indicated over the weekend that it would wait to see the policies of the new unity government before deciding whether to recognise it, because of Hamas's involvement.

Before the ceremony the US secretary of state, John Kerry, telephoned the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, to express "concern about Hamas's role in any such government," the state department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, told reporters.

Israel, which suspended peace negotiations in April when a surprise reconciliation deal was signed, opening the way to the appointment of the new government, has threatened punitive sanctions against any government backed by Hamas, saying it would serve as a front for the group and "strengthen terrorism".

Abbas, who heads the mainstream Fatah movement, has said the 17-member cabinet would comprise unaffiliated ministers and would strive to pursue peace, despite Hamas's refusal to accept co-existence with Israel.

"Today, and after announcing the government of national unity, we declare the end of division that caused catastrophic harm to our cause," Abbas said. more

Israeli airstrikes target Gaza Strip


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli airstrikes targeted two sites in the Gaza Strip overnight Sunday, Israel's army and locals said.

A military base used by Hamas' military wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, was hit south of Gaza City, while another strike hit a training site west of Khan Younis in southern Gaza.

No injuries were reported.

Israel's army said in a statement that the "IAF aircraft targeted two terror sites in the central and southern Gaza Strip. Direct hits were confirmed."

Meanwhile in the north, Israeli troops fired across the Syrian ceasefire line in the occupied Golan Heights after a projectile struck Israeli territory, the military said. more

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Israeli forces carry out cross-border raids in southern Gaza


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli military vehicles carried out two separate cross-border military incursions into the southern Gaza Strip on Sunday morning, witnesses told Ma'an.

The first incursion occurred east of Rafah as five bulldozers escorted by military vehicles leveled fields belonging to local Palestinians about 200 meters from the border fence inside the Gaza Strip.

Witnesses said that no gunfire was heard during the raid, but that military helicopters were seen in the sky.

Shortly after the first incursion, several Israeli military tanks crossed the border into the Gaza Strip firing gunshots into the air.

No casualties were reported during either of the raids.

An Israeli military spokeswoman did not return calls seeking comment. more