Friday, 31 October 2014

Thousands march across Gaza in solidarity with Jerusalem

Thousands of Palestinians marched on Friday across the Gaza Strip to condemn Israeli violations against the Al-Aqsa mosque compound and against policies of discrimination against Palestinians in Jerusalem.

In the Jabaliya refugee camp Palestinians affiliated with the Hamas movement marched holding pictures of Mutaz Hijazi, a Jerusalemite slain by Israeli soldier early Thursday, and chanted slogans in support of Palestinian rights in Jerusalem.

Hamas leader Fathi Hammad said that the Palestinian resistance would not remain silent toward violations against Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa mosque, which was closed for the first time since 1967 by Israeli authorities on Thursday.

In Gaza City, meanwhile, Islamic Jihad-affiliated Palestinians and dozens of armed al-Quds brigades fighters took part in a march condemning Israeli violations in Jerusalem.

Islamic Jihad leader Ahmad al-Mudalal said the arms of the Palestinian resistance could fight Israel and would keep fighting until the liberation of the Al-Aqsa mosque, considered by many to be the third-holiest site in Islam. more

UN watchdog slams Israel abuses, demands Gaza war probe

A UN human rights watchdog on Thursday urged Israel to respect the rights of Palestinians, and demanded the country probe violations committed during repeated assaults on Gaza.

With tensions soaring in East Jerusalem and months of almost daily clashes, the UN Human Rights Committee published conclusions Thursday from its review earlier this month of Israel's human rights record.

The committee lamented continued punitive demolitions of Palestinian homes in the West Bank, excessive force by the Israeli military and decried reports of the use of torture and ill-treatment of Palestinians, including children, in Israeli detention facilities.

It also slammed the "continuing confiscation and expropriation of Palestinian land and restrictions on access of Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem."

The body, which oversees global rules on civil and political rights, and submits governments to regular reviews, also voiced concern over alleged human rights abuses during three Israeli military operations in Gaza since late 2008, including the nearly two-month war this summer that killed nearly 2,200 mainly civilian Palestinians and 73 people in Israel, mostly soldiers.

Israel "should ensure that all human rights violations committed during its military operations in the Gaza Strip in 2008-2009, 2012 and 2014 are thoroughly, effectively, independently and impartially investigated," the Geneva-based committee said in its conclusions. more

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Torture in Israeli prisons: 200 methods used against Palestinian prisoners

Hundreds of torture methods used against Palestinian prisoners during interrogations conducted in Israeli prisoners have been observed by human rights organisations and prisoners' rights associations.

A report by the United Nations lists around 200 methods of torture. The Israeli rights group B'Tselem listed around 105 torture methods. Regardless of the number, all these reports indicate a grave level of violations perpetrated against Palestinians following their arrest.

Fouad Khuffash, director of the Ahrar Centre for Prisoners' Studies and Human Rights, suggests that torture can be divided into two categories; physical and psychological. Some believe that psychological torture is less harmful than physical torture, but the mental scars left by both can leave prisoners traumatised long after their release.

Khuffash adds: "Torture in Israeli prisons is systematic and starts from the moment a prisoner is arrested, not from the moment they begin interrogation. This is a premeditated and staged scenario that changes according to the case of the detainee and the nature of their file. Investigators alternate and play various roles assigned in advance to each investigator."

Fahd Abu Al-Hajj, director of the Abu Jihad Centre for Prisoner Affairs at the University of Jerusalem, noted that there are 73 methods of interrogation considered to be the "most popular" in Israeli jails. These methods demonstrate the barbarism of the occupation and its lack of respect for basic standards of human rights, he stated. more

Abbas: Closure of Aqsa 'declaration of war'

Israel's closure of the flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound to all visitors following the shooting of a Jewish hardliner is tantamount to a "declaration of war," President Mahmoud Abbas said Thursday.

"This dangerous Israeli escalation is a declaration of war on the Palestinian people and its sacred places and on the Arab and Islamic nation," his spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina quoted him as saying.

"We hold the Israeli government responsible for this dangerous escalation in Jerusalem that has reached its peak through the closure of the Al-Aqsa mosque this morning," he added.

Abu Rdeina added, according to the official Palestinian news agency Wafa, that Abbas confirmed that “Jerusalem and its holy Muslim and Christian places are a red line and we won’t accept any harm to them.”

Abu Rdeina said that Israel’s decision to seal Al-Aqsa mosque for the first time “was a brazen challenge and dangerous behavior, and will lead to more tension and instability and create very dangerous atmosphere.”

The state of Palestine, he added, will carry out all the procedures needed to call Israel to account and stop these ongoing attacks.

Abbas’ spokesman urged the international community to “take action immediately in order to stop this aggression because with such attacks and dangerous escalation “Israel is declaring war against the Palestinian people and their holy places and against both the Arab and Islamic nations.” more

Israeli forces kill Palestinian man in Jerusalem shooting

Undercover Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian man in East Jerusalem early Thursday suspected of shooting a prominent Israeli extremist hours earlier.

Special forces raided the al-Thuri neighborhood near Silwan at 2:30 a.m. and began searching rooftops before shooting dead Muataz Ibrahim Hijazi, 32, after exchanging fire.

Witnesses said that Hijazi was shot and unable to move or fire back, at which point Israeli forces broke into his home and went to the rooftop.

The special units then threw a water tank on him as he bled to death.

Chairman of a local sports club, Hani Gheith, told Ma'an that Israeli forces only broke into Hijazi's house after they were sure he was critically wounded.

Dozens of locals tried to access the home after the shootout to take Hijazi to hospital but Israeli forces fired at them, injuring 15.

Four were taken to hospital for treatment. more

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Army demolishes homes and structures near Hebron, several residents hurt

Dozens of Israeli soldiers, accompanied by a number of military bulldozers, invaded on Wednesday morning the Khashm ad-Daraj and Um al-Kheir villages, east of Yatta town south of the southern West Bank district of Hebron, and demolished several structures. The soldiers also assaulted a pregnant woman, causing internal bleeding.

Coordinator of the Popular Committee against the Wall and Settlements Rateb Jabour told the Palestine News Network that a large military force invaded Khashm ad-Daraj village, and demolished a cave, an external toilet, sheds and barns, and homes belonging to three residents identified as Mustafa Salem at-Tanbi, Ahmad Awwad at-Tanbi, and Eid at-Tanbi.

Soldiers also invaded Um al-Kheir village, east of Yatta, and demolished a clay oven used by the residents, and violently assaulted several Palestinians causing cuts and bruises.

Some of the wounded have been identified as Mo’tasem, Mousa, Tareq, Yasser, Amna, Maleeha and Suleiman al-Hathalin.

Jabour said the soldiers also attacked a pregnant woman, causing her internal bleeding before she was rushed to a local hospital.

The soldiers said settlers of the nearby illegal Karmiel settlement are “annoyed” by the wood smoke of the oven, adding that this is the third time the soldiers demolish the clay oven this week alone. more

Israeli forces shoot, injure Palestinian on beach in northern Gaza

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces shot and injured a Palestinian man on the beach in the northern Gaza Strip on Wednesday, medical sources said.

Gaza's health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra told Ma'an that a 27-year-old man was seriously injured after being shot in the thigh in Beit Lahiya.

The man, identified only by his initials "S.Gh." was taken to Kamal Udwan hospital.

An Israeli army spokesman confirmed the incident, saying that two Palestinians had "approached the security fence" in the northern Gaza Strip.

He said Israeli forces called on them to leave, but when they "failed to comply," soldiers fired warning shots in the air, then at "their lower extremities, identifying a hit."

The Aug. 26 ceasefire agreed upon by Gaza militants and Israeli forces stipulated an end to hostilities, with Israel pledging to ease its crippling siege on the Strip and expand tight fishing regulations.

The sides also agreed to hold further indirect meetings in Egypt to iron out further details of the truce. The meetings were postponed to November in the wake of a deadly attack on security forces in Egypt. more

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Rain floods exacerbate life for embattled Gaza residents

Moataz Sukkar no longer runs to his home's balcony in the Gaza Strip to welcome the year's first autumn rain.

The Palestinian young man had to carry out an urgent chore after rainwater spread through the floor of his house: fix the fragile spread of nylon sheets and cloth rags he had installed to cover the roof after it was blown off by Israeli warplanes during the latter's recently-ended devastating offensive on the coastal enclave.

"This is exactly what we have feared; that the rain season will begin before the reconstruction process [for the strip] does," Sukkar, 23, told Anadolu Agency on Sunday. "This morning the rain ruined our only option for covering up the roof."

In Gaza City's eastern Shujaya district, which had been heavily targeted by Israeli bombardments, Mohamed al-Moghni screams at his children to stay away from the streets surrounding their partially-destroyed home after they were flooded with rainwater.

"We were flooded with rain inside our damaged house because I haven't been able to repair it," he said as he attempted to get rid of the water inside his house using a number of buckets.

Already underdeveloped as a result of a years-long Israeli siege as well as two past wars in the recent past, the Gaza Strip's infrastructure was substantially damaged during Israel's latest offensive, which spanned 51 days of deadly bombardments between July and August.

Much of the embattled territory's sewage system and road networks, as well as water wells, have been destroyed during the bombings, leaving large pools of rainwater mixed with sewage all over Gaza as wet weather threatens to exacerbate the strip's post-war affliction.

Over 2,160 Palestinians were killed and over 11,000 injured during Israel's latest offensive, in addition to an estimated $5 billion in economic losses, according to the Palestinian government.

"Unfortunately, the rain in the Gaza Strip now brings more pain," said Marwa Hassanein, 54. more

How Israel is turning Gaza into a super-max prison

From Mondoweiss - It is astonishing that the reconstruction of Gaza, bombed into the Stone Age according to the explicit goals of an Israeli military doctrine known as “Dahiya”, has tentatively only just begun two months after the end of the fighting.

According to the United Nations, 100,000 homes have been destroyed or damaged, leaving 600,000 Palestinians – nearly one in three of Gaza’s population – homeless or in urgent need of humanitarian help.

Roads, schools and the electricity plant to power water and sewerage systems are in ruins. The cold and wet of winter are approaching. Aid agency Oxfam warns that at the current rate of progress it may take 50 years to rebuild Gaza.

Where else in the world apart from the Palestinian territories would the international community stand by idly as so many people suffer – and not from a random act of God but willed by fellow humans?

The reason for the hold-up is, as ever, Israel’s “security needs”. Gaza can be rebuilt but only to the precise specifications laid down by Israeli officials.

We have been here before. Twelve years ago, Israeli bulldozers rolled into Jenin camp in the West Bank in the midst of the second intifada. Israel had just lost its largest number of soldiers in a single battle as the army struggled through a warren of narrow alleys. In scenes that shocked the world, Israel turned hundreds of homes to rubble.

With residents living in tents, Israel insisted on the terms of Jenin camp’s rehabilitation. The alleys that assisted the Palestinian resistance in its ambushes had to go. In their place, streets were built wide enough for Israeli tanks to patrol.

In short, both the Palestinians’ humanitarian needs and their right in international law to resist their oppressor were sacrificed to satisfy Israel’s desire to make the enforcement of its occupation more efficient. more

Egypt to create buffer zone along Gaza border

CAIRO (Ma'an) -- Egyptian authorities are set to create a buffer zone along the shared border with Gaza following an attack that killed 30 soldiers on Saturday.

Egyptian military sources told Ma'an that all houses and farmland 500 meters deep along the 13-kilometer (eight-mile) border will be evacuated, with the exception of Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid.

A 20-meter wide and deep channel will also be constructed along the Gaza border, the sources added.

The decision was taken by the Egyptian Defense Council and all work will likely be completed by the end of 2014.

Following a survey with residents along the border, house owners will receive compensation in return for leaving their homes, with some 200 families having already accepted the financial package to leave.

Around 680 more families live along the border. more

Jordan requests UN meeting over Israeli settlements

Jordan requested an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss Israeli plans to build more illegal Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem, diplomats said.

The request followed a letter from Palestinian representative to the United Nations Riyadh Mansour calling for a urgent meeting to "address this crisis situation in occupied East Jerusalem."

Jordan, a Security Council member, put forward the request late Monday and was awaiting a response from Argentina, which chairs the 15-member council, on setting a date.

Diplomats told AFP the meeting was unlikely to be held on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Israel pledged to build more than 1,000 new settler homes in East Jerusalem on Monday, angering Palestinians who warned it could trigger an "explosion" of violence.

In his letter, the Palestinian representative called on the council to demand that Israel rescind its plan immediately and "commit to the path of peace that it has clearly and recklessly abandoned." more

Monday, 27 October 2014

Remains of Palestinian man found under rubble in Gaza

Search crews in Gaza on Monday found the remains of a Palestinian who was killed during the recent Israeli assault on the Strip, a Ma'an reporter said.

The body of Zuhdi Abd al-Hamid Abu al-Rus, 22, was found under the rubble of a destroyed mosque in al-Nuserat.

Israeli forces targeted the mosque on Aug. 9.

The Israeli offensive on Gaza lasted five weeks, killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians, and left over 100,000 homeless. more

Unilateral Israeli action will lead to 'explosion' as 1,000 more settler homes announced

Palestinian officials strongly condemned Israel on Monday after it announced plans for 1,000 new settler homes in East Jerusalem.

Jibril Rajoub, a senior member of Fatah, warned of violent consequences likely to follow the latest settlement plans.

"Such unilateral acts will lead to an explosion," he told a gathering of foreign journalists in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

"If he wants to keep pushing us all into a vicious circle of bloodshed and killing he must draw the right conclusion from what happened in Gaza," Rajoub added.

Senior PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat said the decision "amounts to evidence of an intent to further commit crimes defined by and punishable under international law."

"The announcement by Israel's housing minister, Uri Ariel, who is already a settler, of his intent to occupy a seized Palestinian home in Silwan is just another shocking reminder of Israel's accelerating efforts to forcibly displace Palestinians from Jerusalem and turn the Holy City of three faiths into an exclusive Jewish city." more

Interior ministry rejects attempts to blame Gaza for Sinai attacks

Gaza's Interior Ministry in Gaza issued a statement, on Saturday, which refuted all accusations that Gaza is behind the recent attacks on Sinai, by affirming that the southern border with Egypt is under tight supervision and strict security measures.

Al Ray reports that spokesman for the Interior Ministry, Iyad al-Buzom, confirmed that the Egypt's national security is a top priority for Palestinians, stating: “We will not allow the security of our borders to be harmed.”

He said that the Gaza Strip had nothing to do with events currently unfolding in Egypt, and that the underground tunnels which lie on the border had already become something of the past.

Mr. Al-Buzom called on Egypt to exclude the Strip from any post-attack measures which might worsen the suffering of its population, amidst the all-out blockade initiated by Israel and backed by Egypt since 2007.

The Ministry described Friday's attack against the Egyptian troops as a "despicable crime", offering condolences to the Egyptian people and their government.

Israeli media made clear, according to Al Ray, that the new measures will ban Palestinian workers from Israeli public buses, though the army sees no potential security danger to be noted.more

Video: London activists occupy Airbus to protest Israel weapons deals

More than twenty activists occupied the London offices of Airbus on Friday to protest the aerospace company’s military cooperation with Israel.

“Staff were unable to arrive for work and senior executives agreed to meet the campaigners in a bid to end the occupation of the second floor office on the Strand,” says a statement from London Palestine Action. “The occupation lasted more than an hour, whilst others distributed leaflets and spoke to the public outside the offices.”

The video shows activists inside Airbus’ offices and at a certain point police are called.

Activists occupy the London offices of aircraft and weapons manufacturer Airbus. (Coralie Datta) “Airbus writes on its website that ‘contributing to the wellbeing of the communities in which it works is an ethical imperative,’ but there is nothing ethical about profiting from Israel’s war crimes against the Palestinian people,” London Palestine Action states.

“Airbus has close ties with Israel Aerospace Industries, which is an Israeli state-owned company that is a key supplier of drones to the Israeli military. Drones were widely used in attacks on civilians during the recent Israeli attack on Gaza in which more than 2,100 Palestinians were killed,” the statement adds.

Airbus and Israel Aerospace Industries are currently working together to build a drone based on the Heron model extensively used in Israeli war crimes against Palestinians.

Among the companies’ other collaborations, London Palestine Action notes, are an “early warning system” for warplanes and a “semi-robotic pilot controlled vehicle” called Taxibot. more

Thousands attend funeral of slain US-Palestinian teen

Thousands of Palestinian mourners in Silwad near Ramallah on Sunday attended the funeral procession of a 14-year-old Palestinian-American boy who was shot dead by Israeli forces on Friday.

All shops in the the town were closed in honor of the victim, Orwa Abd al-Hadi Hammad.

The funeral had been delayed until Sunday as locals awaited the arrival of Orwa's father from the US and his mother from Jordan.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said at the time of the killing that soldiers fired at a "Palestinian adult" who was preparing to throw a Molotov cocktail at forces in the area.

Witnesses said Hammad was hit by an Israeli sniper from close range, insisting the soldier shot to kill.

US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the US "expresses its deepest condolences to the family of a US citizen minor who was killed by the Israeli Defense Forces."

Calling for "a speedy and transparent investigation," Psaki said officials from the US consulate in Jerusalem were in touch with the family of the slain youth. more

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Egypt postpones Gaza ceasefire talks

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Egyptian officials on Sunday notified Palestinian factions that the upcoming round of indirect talks regarding a ceasefire agreement between Gaza militants and Israel has been postponed.

The talks, set up to iron out details of an August truce that ended five weeks of deadly fighting in Gaza, were scheduled for Monday.

Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman of the Hamas movement, told Ma'an that Egypt informed Hamas officials that the talks had been postponed.

There were no details given regarding the reason for the postponement nor any information about when the negotiations would be held.

"It's Egypt that will set a new date for indirect talks brokered by Egypt, and Hamas will be invited to that round of talks," Barhoum said.

The announcement comes in the wake of a deadly attack in the northern Sinai Peninsula in which a militant drove a car rigged with explosives into a military checkpoint, killing 30 Egyptian officers in addition to himself. more

Saturday, 25 October 2014

US BDS action: Why we are blocking the boat

Why we are blocking the boat.

Because it’s time to disrupt Israeli business as usual. It has been time since 1948. And the summer of 2014 only served us a reminder to the world that the Palestinian struggle for liberation is calling on us to join them in their fight to end colonialism.

During the summer of 2014 thousands of Palestinians lost their lives, hundreds of thousands were displaced, and entire neighborhoods flattened to rubble. The physical destruction compounded with the environmental and psychological impact of the Israeli assault on Palestine is now etched in the story of the Palestinian struggle for liberation. People all over the world flooded the streets in protest, demanding an end to the siege on Gaza, an end to the colonial occupation of Palestine, and the freedom of all our political prisoners and the right of return of all of us Palestinians refugees. People in Palestine heard our chants, they felt the rumble of our marches. But Israel continued its assault. What forced Israel to stop their bombings was indeed the resilience and resistance of Palestinians. So this leaves us to wonder what exactly is our role as activists, allies and Palestinians in diaspora? Beyond massive demonstrations, many of us know that we must economically, politically and culturally weaken the state of Israel. And we see Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) as the way to do just that—de-normalize Zionism and end apartheid once and for all.

In July and August 2014, the San Francisco Bay Area saw some of the largest local demonstrations for Palestine. We raised our anti-Zionist and anti-colonial slogans and together and raised the bar on Bay Area solidarity with Palestine. And with Block the Boat, we raised the bar on BDS.


Israel troops kill US-Palestinian teen in West Bank

WASHINGTON (AFP) -- Washington confirmed that a Palestinian teenager shot dead by Israeli troops was a US citizen -- the second time this week an American child has fallen victim to the ongoing conflict.

The army said that the youth killed Friday had been about to hurl a petrol bomb at Israeli motorists near the West Bank city of Ramallah.

An army spokeswoman said troops posted at the village of Silwad to protect a major road widely used by Jewish settlers in the occupied territory spotted a person about to hurl a petrol bomb.

"The forces fired immediately to neutralize the danger ... and confirmed a hit," she said.

Palestinian officials named the youth as Orwa Hammad, 17, saying he was shot during a stone-throwing protest against troops, a regular occurrence at Silwad, near Ofra settlement.

US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the US "expresses its deepest condolences to the family of a US citizen minor who was killed by the Israeli Defense Forces."

Calling for "a speedy and transparent investigation," Psaki said officials from the US consulate in Jerusalem were in touch with the family of the slain youth.

"We continue to urge all parties to help restore calm and avoid escalating tensions in the wake of the tragic recent incidents in Jerusalem and the West Bank," said Psaki.

Locals in Silwad said Hammad's father lives in the United States.

Also on Friday, police in annexed east Jerusalem clashed with Palestinians, firing tear gas to disperse stone-throwing protesters.

They were deployed in force ahead of weekly Muslim prayers as the army restricted access to a flashpoint mosque, after a deadly Palestinian attack sent tensions soaring. more

Israeli forces shoot, kill Palestinian teenager near Ramallah

RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian teenager late Friday during clashes in Silwad village near Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, medical officials said.

Orwa Abd al-Wahhab Hammad, 14, was shot multiple times with live bullets. He was taken to Palestine Medical Complex where he was pronounced dead.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said that soldiers fired at a Palestinian adult who was hurling a Molotov cocktail at forces in the area.

Witnesses said Hammad was hit by an Israeli sniper from close range, insisting the soldier shot to kill.

Orwa was a US national. His uncle was killed during the First Intifada. more

Friday, 24 October 2014

Bloodied and crumbling sculptures installed in destroyed Gaza neighbourhood

Broken, crumbling and splattered with “blood”, these haunting sculptures have been made by an artist in Gaza to show the pain of conflict.The 50-day war between Israel and Hamas earlier this year left more than 2,200 people dead and razed thousands of homes in the narrow strip to the ground.

Most of the casualties were civilians, including hundreds of children, according to the UN, reflected in artist Iyad Sabbah’s depiction of a family.

The sculptor, who is Palestinian and lives and works in Gaza, created them using mud and waste materials found in bombsites.

In an installation entitled Worn Out, the family of sculptures including a small child and a baby appear to move through debris and rubble and past shelled homes.

“Shuja’iyya neighborhood is one of the places that was completely destroyed, and the idea came to my head to do something about the war, to focus on displacement of the Palestinians,” he told the Cairo Post.

“The displacement scene is very influential, so the sculptures were put amid the wreckage of the destroyed houses in Shuja’iyya to show the suffering of the residents.”

They were also placed on a beach to symbolise the refugees fleeing to other countries illegally in a desperate attempt to escape the conflict.

Mr Sabbah, who lived through the most recent conflict in Gaza as well as violence in 2012 and 2008, said he wanted to represent the “psychological impact” of war and commemorate those who died. more

World Bank to approve emergency funds for Gaza

The World Bank is set to allocate millions of dollars for emergency aid to the war-torn Gaza Strip, a top official says.

Inger Andersen says the aid, expected to be approved Oct. 30, will fund repairs to damaged infrastructure and help the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority recover losses incurred in Israel’s five-week assault.

“We’re rushing through four emergency projects right now,” Andersen, the World Bank’s vice president for the Middle East and North Africa, said in an interview with Ma’an, which will air over the weekend.

“We are trying very much to respond to this crisis and respond quickly enough.”

The budget assistance will allow the Palestinian Authority to recoup the costs of medical bills from treating thousands of Palestinians hurt in the 50 days of violence.

The rest of the $63 million will go toward repairing water, power and municipal infrastructure. Existing World Bank projects are worth a combined $180 million, of which half is designated for Gaza.

Over 11,000 Palestinians suffered injuries during fighting between Israel and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza during July and August, according to United Nations estimates. More than 2,000 Palestinians and 73 Israelis died.

The UN also counts 18,000 households as destroyed or damaged, while over 100,000 Palestinians remained displaced by September. The enclave’s sole power plant has operated only a few hours per day since it came under fire. more

Israel imposes Aqsa restrictions amid police crackdown

Israeli forces imposed strict restrictions on Palestinian Muslim worshipers entering the Al-Aqsa Mosque on Friday, as police continue to deploy heavily across the city.

Men under 40 will not be allowed entry to the holy site, while women of all ages will have access.

Israeli border police have been deployed since the early morning in East Jerusalem and areas of the Old City to prevent crowds gathering to protest.

Two women, Hiba al-Tawil and Latifa Abd al-Latif, were detained late Thursday while leaving the mosque, witnesses said.

Israeli forces launched a widespread crackdown on Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem late Wednesday following a suspected car attack on pedestrians waiting for a light rail tram. more

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Video: Activists occupy Israel pavilion at Paris trade show

Activists occupied the Israel pavilion at the SIAL 2014 food industry trade fair in the Paris suburb of Villepinte on Tuesday.

As the video below shows, the activists held up signs condemning Israeli abuses of Palestinian rights and chanted slogans including: “No trade with apartheid,” “Boycott Israeli apartheid” and “Gaza, Gaza, We won’t forget!”

The dozen or so protestors belong to Campagne BDS France and a group called les Désobéissants (The Disobedient Ones).

“This action aimed to challenge the SIAL organizers and management and demand that in the future they cease to accept the participation of companies involved in Israel’s colonization, apartheid and war crimes,” Campagne BDS France said in a statement.

The video shows the activists being forcibly removed from the exhibition hall. Although police took down the names of the protestors, none were arrested. French activists have frequently faced prosecution for protests calling for the boycott of Israel. more

Tensions rise in Jerusalem following light railway attack

Renewed clashes broke out early Thursday in East Jerusalem following the death of a Palestinian suspect who rammed his car into pedestrians at a light railway station killing a 3-month old Israeli infant.

Israeli forces and Palestinians clashed in the al-Issawiya, Ras al-Amud, Silwan and a-Tur neighborhoods early Thursday, witnesses said.

Locals said the entrance to al-Issawiya had been closed shut by concrete blocks, with Israeli forces firing rounds of tear gas at locals protesting the closure.

A Palestinian youth was shot in the foot with a rubber-coated steel bullet in the Ras al-Amud neighborhood, witnesses said.

On Wednesday evening, Abd al-Rahman al-Shaludi, 21, rammed a car into pedestrians in Jerusalem, killing a three-month-old Israeli girl, Haya Zissel Braun.

He was shot by police at the scene and later died in hospital.

Footage of the incident posted on YouTube showed a car driving at full speed off the main road and down the pavement where people were standing as two trams passed each other.

Another clip shot on a cellphone showed the driver lying on the ground in a T-shirt and ripped jeans as a man pointed a gun at him.

Al-Shaludi's 15-year-old brother was detained following the incident and released at dawn Thursday after being interrogated at the Russian Compound detention center.

In Silwan, where al-Shaludi is from, scores of police raided the family home, leading to clashes with local residents. more

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Palestinian child killed by unexploded Israeli ordnance in Gaza

A Palestinian child died on Wednesday after he touched an unexploded Israeli ordnance left over from the most recent offensive over the summer, causing it to explode.

Ministry of Health spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra said that 4-year-old Muhammad Sami Abu Jrad from the northern Gaza city of Beit Hanoun was killed after he came into contact with the ordnance.

Muhammad was severely injured when the ordnance exploded as a result of contact, and passed away after beign transferred to al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City.

Muhammad is at least the 10th person to be killed by unexploded Israeli ordnance, including six in August and three in September. more

Israel troops under fire on Egypt border, 2 injured

Israeli troops came under fire on the Israeli-Egyptian border on Wednesday afternoon, with two soldiers injured, news reports and Israel's army said.

Israel's Ynet news agency said the army dispatched large numbers of troops to the scene of the shooting.

An Israeli military spokeswoman confirmed the reports. more

Israeli forces open fire at Gaza fishermen, detain 5

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces detained five Gaza fishermen off the coast of Gaza City early Wednesday, an employee of a human rights group told Ma'an.

The employee, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Ma'an that Israeli naval forces opened fire "heavily" on a group of Palestinian fishermen.

Israeli forces "forced a boat of five fisherman from the Bakr family to stop, detained them, and dragged the boat to an unknown location."

No injuries were reported.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said that there were two "Palestinian vessels" carrying seven people near the northern Gaza Strip that "deviated from the designated fishing zone."

Israeli forces called on them to stop and fired warning shots into the air, and when the boats did not stop, in the "vicinity of the vessels."

The forces then took the Palestinians in for questioning, the spokeswoman said.

She said the Palestinians were 3,600 yards (1.8 nautical miles) from the fishing zone. more

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Video: Settlers cheer as Israeli soldiers attack disabled Palestinian child

This disturbing footage shot by Palestinian videographer Samih Da’na and published by the Israeli nongovernmental organization B’Tselem documents the violent abuse of a developmentally disabled Palestinian child.

As Israeli occupation soldiers abuse the child, settlers and their children cheer and shout abuse at Palestinians.

Da’na shot the footage on 19 October from his home in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron, whose Palestinian residents are relentlessly targeted by occupation army and settler violence.

According to B’Tselem’s description of the video, “soldiers are seen holding the boy, handcuffing him, blindfolding him and closing him in the jeep, despite cries by Palestinian residents that the boy is mentally disabled. The footage also shows settlers from Kiryat Arba, watching the incident from behind the settlement’s fence. Some are seen calling out encouragement to the soldiers, including several racist remarks.”

Kiryat Arba, an illegal colony adjacent to Hebron, is home to some of the most notoriously racist and violent Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank.

In the description of the video, B’Tselem says that the occupation soldiers detained “a developmentally disabled Palestinian boy, who is under the age of criminal responsibility, on suspicion that he had thrown stones.”

“The boy, A. a-Rajbi (full name withheld in interest of privacy), who will be twelve in a month, was detained after Palestinian children threw stones at soldiers on the main road of the Jabel Johar neighborhood in Hebron, close to the settlement of Kiryat Arba,” B’Tselem says. more

Hamas: Gaza ceasefire talks to restart next week

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are to resume talks on a durable Gaza ceasefire next week in Cairo, a senior official of the Hamas movement said Monday.

"Hamas and the Palestinian factions will take part in a session of indirect negotiations with the (Israeli) occupation on the 27th of this month at the invitation of Egypt," said Hamas deputy leader Mousa Abu Marzouq.

He said on the movement's al-Ray website that the Palestinians would from the outset demand the opening of a Gaza port and reopening of the territory's airport.

Abu Marzouq told Ma'an via telephone that the talks would also focus on prisoners, reconstruction efforts, and other "unfinished cases and issues."

He said the same officials that took part in a previous round of Cairo negotiations would take part in this round.

Any step taken to ease the Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip "will be met with a positive attitude," he added.

A source close to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, contacted by AFP, gave no comment on the reported resumption of talks.

The two sides last month held their first Egyptian-mediated negotiations since the end in August of their devastating 50-day war in Gaza and agreed to schedule new talks for the last week of October.

The conflict killed more than 2,140 Palestinians, most of them civilians, and 73 on the Israeli side, mostly soldiers. more

Israeli forces demolish 3 Jerusalem houses, leaving 23 homeless

JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli bulldozers demolished three Palestinian homes and three structures used for livestock in al-Tur east of the Old City of Jerusalem on Tuesday, residents said.

They said bulldozers of the Beit El settlement municipality were escorted by Israeli forces into al-Tur, where they demolished houses belonging to the al-Zari family, leaving 23 Palestinians homeless.

The Israeli officers first destroyed the main doors of the houses and forcibly evicted residents, homeowner Khader al-Zari told Ma'an.

"Israeli forces broke the main doors, forcibly evicted us and did not allow us to take out furniture or any possessions, but instead gave their workers 30 minutes to take our possessions out of the houses," al-Zari said.

Several pieces of furniture were still inside the houses as they were demolished, he added.

Al-Zari said the houses and structures were built in the 80s, and that the family had been attempting to obtain the necessary permits and licenses from the Israeli civil administration for years.

He said the family had paid over 150,000 shekels (about $40,000) for lawyers and engineers in order to escape demolition, "but to no avail."

A spokesperson for COGAT, the Israeli defense ministry unit in charge of civil administration in the Palestinian territories, did not immediately return Ma'an's calls or emails seeking comment. more

Monday, 20 October 2014

Gazans visit relatives jailed in Israel for 1st time since June

Over 60 Palestinians from Gaza visited relatives in Israeli jails on Monday for the first time since June, officials said.

A Palestinian crossings official said two buses carrying the relatives of Palestinian prisoners crossed into Israel, the first such visit since the trips were suspended in June.

The jail visits were banned following the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers.

Gaza families used to visit jailed relatives in Israel every Monday via the Erez crossing on buses run by the International Committee of the Red Cross. more

Rain floods exacerbate life for embattled Gaza residents

Moataz Sukkar no longer runs to his home's balcony in the Gaza Strip to welcome the year's first autumn rain.

The Palestinian young man had to carry out an urgent chore after rainwater spread through the floor of his house: fix the fragile spread of nylon sheets and cloth rags he had installed to cover the roof after it was blown off by Israeli warplanes during the latter's recently-ended devastating offensive on the coastal enclave.

"This is exactly what we have feared; that the rain season will begin before the reconstruction process [for the strip] does," Sukkar, 23, told Anadolu Agency on Sunday. "This morning the rain ruined our only option for covering up the roof."

In Gaza City's eastern Shujaya district, which had been heavily targeted by Israeli bombardments, Mohamed al-Moghni screams at his children to stay away from the streets surrounding their partially-destroyed home after they were flooded with rainwater.

"We were flooded with rain inside our damaged house because I haven't been able to repair it," he said as he attempted to get rid of the water inside his house using a number of buckets.

Already underdeveloped as a result of a years-long Israeli siege as well as two past wars in the recent past, the Gaza Strip's infrastructure was substantially damaged during Israel's latest offensive, which spanned 51 days of deadly bombardments between July and August.

Much of the embattled territory's sewage system and road networks, as well as water wells, have been destroyed during the bombings, leaving large pools of rainwater mixed with sewage all over Gaza as wet weather threatens to exacerbate the strip's post-war affliction.

Over 2,160 Palestinians were killed and over 11,000 injured during Israel's latest offensive, in addition to an estimated $5 billion in economic losses, according to the Palestinian government.

"Unfortunately, the rain in the Gaza Strip now brings more pain," said Marwa Hassanein, 54. more

Settlers take over 2 buildings in East Jerusalem

Armed Jewish settlers took over two buildings in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan on Monday, a local group said.

The Wadi Hilweh Information Center said that a group of armed settlers raided Silwan at 2 a.m. and occupied two buildings consisting of 10 apartments.

The owners of the buildings, Salah al-Rajabi and Imran al-Qawasmi, sold the properties to a Palestinian man identified as Shams al-Din al-Qawasmi, who in turn sold the buildings to Jewish settler groups, the center said.

The previous Palestinian tenants left the buildings over four months ago.

There are now four settlement outposts in the heart of the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan, the center said, increasing fears of a gradual Jewish takeover of the strategic area.

The settler news site Arutz Sheva quoted Jerusalem Councilman Arieh King as saying: "This morning the Jewish population in the Yemenite Village doubled." more

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Hamas blasts PA for failing to begin Gaza reconstruction

The Hamas movement on Sunday urged the Palestinian Authority to facilitate the entry of construction material into the besieged Gaza Strip in order to speed up the reconstruction ahead of winter, as the first major rain of the fall season highlighted the challenges still facing tens of thousands of displaced Gazans.

"Reconstruction of Gaza is one of the most important tasks the PA should carry out according to the reconciliation agreement, but on the condition that there be no obstacles, physical or legal, to the entry of construction material," senior Hamas official Moussa ABu Marzouq said in a statement.

The statement points to growing frustration with the PA's failure to pressure Israel to open the border into Gaza, despite two different negotiation meetings with Israeli officials where it promised to do just that.

It also underlines tension between Hamas and the Fatah-dominated PA despite working together in a technocratic government of national reconciliation, as Hamas has in recent days accused PA security forces of cracking down on members and attacking rallies.

Abu Marzouq reiterated in the statement that Hamas had no problem with the PA coming into Gaza and carrying out reconstruction, expressing frustration that the unity government was failing to fulfill its duties.

"Hamas has questions about several issues which are the duties and responsibilities of the national consensus government," he added, stressing that these responsibilities included the salaries of Gaza civil servants, security arrangements on the border, and managing the Gaza crossings, in addition to the reconstruction process.

PA officials have repeatedly promised that they would take over the crossings between Israel and Gaza -- currently staffed by Hamas, the reason given by Israel for refusing to lift the economic blockade -- but have yet to take meaningful steps. more

Abbas vows legal measures to prevent settler attacks on Al-Aqsa mosque

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday legal measures would be taken to prevent Jewish settlers from attacking Jerusalem's flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound, having said their presence desecrates the site.

His remarks follow days of clashes between Palestinian youths and Israeli police, which erupted when right-wing Jewish groups -- including some that call for the destruction of the mosque -- visited the complex and restrictions were imposed on Muslim worship.

"The Palestinian leadership will be taking the necessary legal measures, at the international level, regarding the aggression of settlers on the Al-Aqsa mosque," Abbas said in a speech to the Revolutionary Council of his Fatah party.

"We will not allow settlers to attack the mosque," he added, referring to the entire compound, which is the third holiest site in Islam.

Non-Muslim visits to Al-Aqsa complex are permitted and regulated by police, but as a result of a 1967 agreement, Jews are not allowed to pray at the site for fear it could trigger major disturbances, nor do they enter the mosques there. more

Saturday, 18 October 2014

CPS: No prosecution of Galloway over Gaza solidarity speech

The UK's Crown Prosecution Service has confirmed that Bradford-West MP George Galloway will not be charged over a speech in made in Leeds, this past August, which asserted that Bradford was an 'an Israel-free zone'.

Following Galloway's speech on August 2, which was posted online, several complaints were made to Yorkshire police that Galloway's comments amounted to hate crime.

According to the PNN, these allegations have been comprehensively dismissed by the CPS.

"This has been an extremely expensive waste of police' and CPS' time forced on them by ultra-Zionists who were pursuing a vendetta against me," Galloway said.

"My comments were aimed at the state of Israel which - I repeat what I said at the time - is an illegal, savage and barbarous state, and had nothing whatever to do with race or religion. And they have the benefit of being true. That country has more censures against it by the United Nations than the rest of the countries in the world put together, refuses to abide by resolutions and continues to illegally grab land and persecute the rightful owners of it and uses its military to blockade and murder the people of Gaza. I take back not a word and I will continue to forcefully condemn Israel."

Mr. Galloway additionally described a visit by the Israeli ambassador to Bradford, shortly after his speech, as a "cheap and vulgar publicity stunt" and condemned local Muslims who had met him as "willing dupes".

He continued: "It remains the case that there is a worldwide boycott of Israel, its goods, its services, its academics. I hope the citizens of Bradford will join me in refusing to treat with the advocates of this hateful and oppressive regime and truly make Bradford an Israel-free zone." more

Young Palestinian 'beaten by Jewish mob' in Jerusalem hotel

JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- A mob of Jewish men assaulted a young Palestinian on Friday evening while he was working at a hotel in Jerusalem in an attack apparently motivated by racial hate, the victim’s father told Ma'an.

Faysal Azzam told Ma'an that 11 "extremist" Jews yelling racial epithets attacked his son Muhammad, 20, at his place of work at the Rimonim Shalom Hotel in West Jerusalem.

The attackers tried to strangle the young Palestinian man, he said, and as a result the youth suffered bruises and cuts in the face and hands.

He was also left bleeding from his nose and mouth, his father added.

Azzam said that before the "extremists" attacked his son, they insulted him and shouted racist curses against Arabs.

After verbally assaulting him, they attacked him with steel bars and tried to strangle him using a piece of rope, Azzam added.

The attack took place on the 8th floor, he said, adding that his son was rescued by security guards who heard his screams from the fourth floor.

The victim was taken to Shaare Zedek Medical Center for treatment.

"It wasn’t just an attack, but rather a murder attempt by spiteful extremists. The signs of (attempted) strangulation are clear on his neck," Azzam said.

The father said that Israeli police had summoned his son for questioning and he had filed a complaint against the attackers. more

Friday, 17 October 2014

Aqsa restrictions force thousands into Jerusalem streets for prayer

Thousands of Palestinians performed prayers in the streets and alleyways of the Old City of Jerusalem on Friday after men under the age of 50 were prevented by Israeli authorities from entering the al-Aqsa mosque compound.

Hundreds of Israeli border guards, police, and special forces were deployed throughout Jerusalem streets, in addition to at least one drone and a surveillance balloon in the sky as authorities sought to prevent Muslim worshipers from reaching the holy site.

Crowds performed prayers in the streets of the many Palestinian neighborhoods that lead out from the Old City including Ras al-Amud, Wadi al-Jouz, Salah al-Din, and al-Musrara.

Israeli forces detained two Palestinians in the Damascus Gate area after assaulting them, a member of the Arab Palestinian Front office, Said Shweiki, told Ma'an.

He identified the detainees as Marwan Majed Shweiki, 22, and Muhammad Nasser Shweiki, 22.

In Ras al-Amud neighborhood, meanwhile, Israeli forces fired stun grenades at worshipers as they finished prayers in order to disperse them, while Palestinians responded by throwing rocks at soldiers.

Tensions also soared in the Wadi al-Jouz area as Israeli forces deployed heavily in the alleyways of the neighborhood and Palestinian youths threw rocks and fireworks at soldiers. more

Thousands attend funeral of slain 13-year-old Palestinian child

Thousands of people in the central West Bank village of Beit Laqiya on Friday attended the funeral of 13-year-old Bahaa Samir Badir, who was shot dead by Israeli soldiers a day earlier.

The funeral procession started after Friday prayers at the Palestine Medical Complex in nearby Ramallah and headed towards the al-Shuhada cemetery, where the boy's body was buried.

Mourners waved Palestinian flags and held aloft pictures of Badir while shouting slogans to demand an end to the murder of Palestinian children.

Other participants demanded that Israel be held accountable for its ongoing "crimes."

Medical sources said Badir was shot in the chest after Israeli forces raided the village of Beit Laqiya on Thursday evening.

An Israeli military spokeswoman confirmed that Israeli forces shot at a crowd in the village, but said Palestinians had hurled "Molotov cocktails" at the troops.

The death of Bahaa brings the total number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank so far this year to 42, in addition to the nearly 2,200 Palestinians slain during Israel's summer offensive across Gaza. more

Israeli forces shoot, kill 13-year-old Palestinian near Ramallah

A Palestinian teenager was shot dead by Israeli forces in the village of Beit Laqiya northwest of Ramallah on Thursday evening.

Medical sources said Bahaa Samir Badir, 13, was shot in the chest after Israeli forces raided the village.

Badir was reportedly shot in the chest from close range, and suffered from severe bleeding shortly before dying at the Palestine Medical Complex in Ramallah.

Clashes broke out in the village of Beit Laqiya after news of Badir's death spread.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said that Israeli forces "encountered an illegal riot in Beit Laqiya," and "while they were exiting the village, rioters hurled Molotov cocktails at the forces."

"They responded to the threat with live fire," she said, adding: "Reports of a dead Palestinian are being reviewed. There will be military police investigation."

She added that the Molotov cocktails had posed a "direct threat" to the lives of the soldiers.

The death of Bahaa brings the total number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank so far this year to 42, in addition to the nearly 2,200 Palestinians slain during Israel's summer offensive across Gaza. more

Israeli navy opens fire, sinks Palestinian fishing boat off Gaza coast

Israeli naval forces on Thursday evening opened fire at a Palestinian fishing boat off the coast of the Gaza Strip.

Head of the fishermen's union in Gaza Nizar Ayyash told Ma'an that Israeli boats opened fire at boats belonging to local fisherman off the coats of Deir al-Balah.

A boat belonging to Jamal Abu Watfa was sunk in the attack.

Ayyash said the fisherman lost consciousness after the incident, but was reportedly saved from the water.

He added that the financial losses to the fisherman could reach more than JOD 100,000 ($140,000).

Since the signing of a ceasefire agreement that ended 50 days of fighting between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants in Gaza on Aug. 26, the Israeli navy has fired at Gaza fishermen in multiple instances under the pretext that they had surpassed fishing zone limits.

The Aug. 26 agreement 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.

The fisherman who have been shot at, and even at times detained by Israeli forces, have insisted that they were well within the six-mile limit. more

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Palestinian prisoner now on hunger strike for over 3 weeks

35-year-old Raed Moussa, currently being held in an Israeli prison, has been on hunger strike for nearly a month, now, in protest against being held without charge or trial for nearly a year, under Israeli Administrative Detention policy.

The Palestinian Prisoners' Society (PPS), in Jenin, said in a statement that Raed was detained in Jenin on Nov. 29, 2013, and sentenced to six months of administrative detention, according to Ma'an.

Moussa's detention was then extended for four more months, the PPS statement added, upon which he began an open-ended hunger strike for 34 days, until he was finally promised by prison authorities that there would be no more extensions to his detention.

He began the strike again, this September, when Israeli Prison Service re-sentenced him for another four months of administrative detention.

Raed is now being held in solitary confinement, at Ktziot prison, in the Negev desert. He has spent a total of seven years in Israeli jails in separate periods, according to Ma'an.

Administrative Detention procedures, the use of which by Israel dates back to the British mandate period, allows them to hold prisoners indefinitely without charge or trial, on the basis of secret information. The conditions under which prisoners are kept are often quite harsh, during such a sentence, with basic needs and medical care being neglected by Israeli authorities.

According to the PPS, the number of Palestinian prisoners held in administrative detention has now doubled, since the beginning of 2014. Some 500 Palestinian are being held under administrative detention, some of whom are members of Palestinian parliament. more

PA security forces kill man during Hebron raid

Palestinian Authority security forces killed a 25-year-old man in Hebron early Thursday during a raid in the southern West Bank city.

Security officials told Ma'an that clashes broke out as PA forces attempted to arrest several known outlaws who had been hiding south of Hebron in Area C.

It is unclear what the men are accused of.

The men opened fire at security forces during the raid, injuring seven security personnel, including one who is in a critical condition.

PA forces responded with live fire and critically injured Bilal al-Rajabi, who later died in hospital. more

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Palestinians clash with Israeli forces amid Aqsa restrictions

Clashes broke out between Palestinian worshipers and Israeli forces at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound amid visits by right-wing Jews on Wednesday, witnesses told Ma'an.

Israeli forces fired stun grenades and rubber-coated bullets towards worshipers and chased them out of the compound, the sources said.

Three Palestinians were injured during the clashes.

Tensions had risen at the holy site early in the day as Israeli authorities imposed restrictions on Palestinians seeking to enter the mosque.

An Israeli police statement said all men under the age of 50 would be prevented from entering.

Though the statement said women would be allowed into the compound, witnesses said all women were denied entry as well.

The Al-Aqsa Foundation for Endowment and Heritage said in a statement that Israeli forces "assaulted" Palestinians who were conducting a sit-in at Lions Gate in protest against the restrictions.

By 9:00, some 100 right-wing Israelis had entered the compound, Palestinian security guards at the mosque told Ma'an.

Palestinians chanted "Allahu Akbar," or "God is the greatest." more

UN's Ban urges probe into Gaza school shelling

GAZA CITY (AFP) -- UN chief Ban Ki-moon demanded Tuesday an independent probe into Israel's deadly shelling of a school during the Gaza conflict, expressing shock at the devastation during a visit to the Palestinian enclave.

Two days after donor states pledged $5.4 billion to rebuild Gaza, Ban toured some of the areas worst hit during the July-August war between Israel and the territory's Hamas rulers.

"No amount of (UN) Security Council sessions, reports or briefings could have prepared me for what I witnessed today," he said after being driven through the ruins of Gaza City's Shujaiyya district and the nearby Jabaliya refugee camp.

The secretary general was speaking at a UN school in Jabaliya, where Israeli tank shells slammed into two classrooms on June 30, killing at least 14 people sheltering there.

"The shelling of the United Nations school is absolutely unacceptable. These actions must be fully and independently investigated," he said.

Relatives of the dead held up posters showing their loved ones and disabled casualties waited to see Ban.

The UN chief also called on Palestinian militant groups to cease firing rockets at Israel from the territory.

"I repeat here in Gaza the rockets fired by Hamas and other military groups must end. They have brought nothing but suffering," he said.

One classroom, now repaired, had the words "every human being has the right to life" written on its walls.

After meeting with members of a new Palestinian consensus government, Ban told reporters the devastation he had seen was worse than that caused in the previous conflict of winter 2008-2009. more

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

UN chief visits war-scarred Gaza Strip

United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon made a brief visit Tuesday to war-ravaged Gaza, two days after donor states pledged $5.4 billion in aid to rebuild after a devastating Israeli offensive.

He was driven through the ruins of Gaza City's Shejaiya neighbourhood and the nearby Jabaliya refugee camp, the scenes of some of the heaviest shelling in Israel's military assault.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians were displaced by the destruction, and on Tuesday people camping outside their ravaged homes were seen waving at the convoy of white UN vehicles as it passed.

After meeting members of the newly convened Palestinian consensus government, Ban told reporters that the devastation he had seen was far worse than that caused in the previous Israel-Gaza conflict of winter 2008-2009.

"The destruction which I have seen while coming to here is beyond description. This is a much more serious destruction than what I saw in 2009. more

Official: Israel, Hamas to discuss prisoner exchange

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- A prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Hamas is expected to take place soon, a Hamas official said, without providing further details.

Muhammad Attoun, originally from Jerusalem but currently banned from the city, told Ma'an that "we hereby confirm there will be good omens very soon and the occupation will yield, whether they like it or not, just as they did before."

"I can confirm that there will be a deal soon to free our prisoners," Attoun added, without providing specific details.

Prisoners freed in the Shalit deal who were rearrested must be released before any serious exchange discussions can take place, the Hamas official said. more

Palestine vote: UK MPs take historic decision to recognise Palestinian state

Parliament took the historic step tonight of voting unilaterally to back the recognition of Palestinian statehood.

Voting by 274 to 12, a majority of 262, MPs on all sides urged the Government to “recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel” as part of a “contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution”.

Support for the motion, while symbolic, marks a significant change in the political landscape, following the failure of successive peace negotiations and the bitter conflict in Gaza over the summer.

Significantly Labour whipped its MPs to vote in favour of the resolution, raising the prospect that the party would defy more

Monday, 13 October 2014

Palestinian prisoner on hunger strike for 24 days

A Palestinian prisoner in an Israeli jail has been on hunger strike for 24 days in a row in protest against being held without charge or trial for nearly a year, a rights group said in a statement.

The Palestinian Prisoner's Society in Jenin said in a statement that 35-year-old Raed Moussa was detained in Jenin on Nov. 29, 2013 and sentenced to six months of administrative detention.

Moussa's detention was then extended for four more months, the PPS statement said.

The prisoner then started an open hunger strike for 34 days, until he was promised there would be no more extensions to his administrative detention.

He restarted his strike in September when the Israeli Prison Service re-sentenced him for another four months of administrative detention. more