Saturday, 28 February 2015

Hamas slams Egyptian court for 'terrorist' label

From Middle East Monitor - The Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, denounced as "shocking" on Saturday an Egyptian court decision to designate the group as a "terrorist organisation". This, spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told Anadolu, is a "dangerous" decision which represents a "shift" in Egypt-Palestine relations.

"Unfortunately, the situation has been turned upside down," said Abu Zuhri. "Israel the enemy has become a friend of Egypt while Hamas - which is an integral part of the Palestinian people – has become a terrorist." Nevertheless, he insisted that Hamas will not be affected by the court's decision." "It has been made," he said, "to export Egypt's domestic problems."

Earlier on Saturday the Egyptian court made the "terrorist" designation of Hamas following claims that the movement had carried out terrorist attacks in Egypt through tunnels linking the Sinai Peninsula to the Gaza Strip. In March last year the same court outlawed Hamas activities in Egypt and closed its offices, confiscating all of the contents. more

Audio: 11-year-old Gaza musician - "The only shelter for me was my music"

From The Electronic Intifada - Eleven-year-old Firas al-Shirafi has experienced three major offensives against Gaza during his short life. Last summer, he was confined to his home in the Tal al-Hawa neighborhood of Gaza City as it was too dangerous to venture outside. As Israel bombed and shelled buildings and infrastructure across the Strip, Firas did his best to replace the sounds of destruction with life-affirming tunes.

“The only shelter for me was my music,” said Firas, who plays the qanun, a traditional string instrument.

Firas has been studying at the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music since he was five. “We immediately realized that this boy would have a promising musical future,” Ibrahim al-Najjar, director of the conservatory’s Gaza branch, told The Electronic Intifada. “His father and grandfather were musicians.”

The conservatory, which also operates at several locations in the occupied West Bank, took over Gaza’s previous music school (which was affilated with the not-for-profit A.M. Qattan Foundation) in April 2012. more

Hamas: Dagan's remarks on Gaza admission of Israel's military defeat

GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement said that the former Mossad chief's remarks about the military failure of premier Benjamin Netanyahu in the Gaza Strip was an additional Israeli admission that the Palestinian resistance had soundly defeated the Israeli army.

Spokesman for the Movement Sami Abu Zuhri stated on Friday that all the Israeli government's attempts to mitigate the impact of its defeat by the resistance in Gaza would be doomed to failure.

Former head of the Mossad Meir Dagan had said that Netanyahu's attitude towards regional issues caused great strategic damage to Israel, admitting, in particular, that the last war on Gaza had failed miserably.

Dagan stated in an interview conducted by Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper that the way Netanyahu always dealt with internal and external issues would not serve Israel's interests and would inflict, instead, strategic losses upon Israel. more

One person killed and one wounded in bomb explosion east of Rafah

One man was killed and his brother wounded, this Saturday afternoon, as result of the explosion of a suspicious object in the airport area, east of Rafah.

A spokesman of the Ministry of Health in Gaza, Dr. Ashraf, reported on his Facebook that Naji Abu Sabaleh (21) died today, and his brother Akram (18) was severely wounded on the face and abdomen. more

6 months after war - Gaza counts cost of failed reconstruction promises

Six months after a ceasefire agreement ended Israel's 50-day military offensive on the Gaza Strip, Palestinians in the war-torn territory remain hostage to a UN-brokered reconstruction mechanism which has failed to deliver.

On Sept. 16, Robert Serry, the UN envoy for the Middle East, announced a deal to ease restrictions on imports of construction materials to Gaza to enable the reconstruction of the territory.

Over 100,000 homes were destroyed or damaged during the conflict, with thousands of other structures, including 24 schools, razed to the ground.

The Shelter Cluster, an international group co-chaired by the UN refugee agency and the Red Cross, estimates that an average of 440 trucks of building materials would be required to enter Gaza each day to complete the reconstruction process within five years.

Figures published by OXFAM on Thursday show that 1,661 trucks of the most essential construction materials -- aggregates, steel bars and cement -- have entered Gaza in the three months since a donor conference pledged $5.4 billion for reconstruction in October, less that 0.25 percent of what is needed.

At current rates it would take up to 100 years to rebuild homes, schools and other damaged infrastructure, OXFAM said. more

Friday, 27 February 2015

Israel to increase West Bank power cuts

The Energy and Natural Resources of the Palestinian National Authority said, on Thursday, that they had received an official notice from the Israeli power company stating their attention to cut power in areas extending over north and south of the West Bank.

The Chief Assistant of the Energy Authority, Zafer Melhem, said that the Israeli company notice included reduction of power loads, provided to the population centers in the Palestinian Authority areas, up to 50%, but did not specify the exact date.

The power company has cut off the electricity to a number of areas in Nablus and Jenin twice during this past week, 45 minutes on Monday and an hour on Wednesday, after only one hour of issuing a warning notice in this regard.

According to the notice, the current power cut is the "last warning", the Israeli company will cut off electricity in the coming times without any warning. more

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Greek Orthodox Church decries attacks by settlers

The Patriarch of the Holy City of Jerusalem and all Palestine, Theophilos III, denounced on Thursday what he called "repeated" attacks on Christian and Muslim places of worship in the Palestinian territories by extremist Jewish settlers.

"The targeting of churches and mosques is caused by pervasive racism and hatred," he said in a statement.

Earlier Thursday, Jewish Settlers set fire to part of a religious school affiliated with Jerusalem's Greek Orthodox Church, Which they sprayed with anti-Christian graffiti. On Wednesday, settlers torched and sprayed graffiti on a West Bank mosque.

Theophilos III said Christians represented an "integral part" of the Holy Land, its history and its future, going on to assert that the Greek Orthodox Church was one of the world's most important churches.

"Criminals will not intimidate this church or its flock," he declared. more

Photos and Video: Think on: Banksy's tour of a ruined Gaza

From The Guardian - The street artist, who previously created works on the wall of the West Bank, has made a series of new paintings across ruins in Palestine Banksy Gaza

The Bristolian street artist Banksy has returned to Palestine to create another series of works, following his famous 2005 series painted on the West Bank barrier wall.

The works, which he trailed on his Instagram account last night, include one piece which somewhat resembles Rodin’s sculpture The Thinker, with the figure’s hand gone from thoughtfully supporting his face to covering it in despair – or perhaps Niobe, the classical figure weeping for the loss of her children. Another features a kitten sprayed on the remains of a wall, posed playing with a coiled ball of rusted metal as if it were wool. A third features children swinging around a watchtower as though it were a fairground ride.

The artist made a film to go alongside the works, documenting the devastation wrought by Israeli militia and bombing campaigns. “Make this the year YOU discover a new destination,” he sarcastically writes in its captions, recalling the banal exhortations of holiday brochures. One local is recorded saying of the kitten painting: “This cat tells the whole world that she is missing joy in her life. The cat found something to play with. What about our children?” The camera then rests on text that reads: “If we wash our hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless we side with the powerful – we don’t remain neutral.” more

Farmers continue to face hardship months after Gaza war

Farmers in the Gaza Strip continue to suffer the consequences of massive losses incurred during Israel's military offensive last summer, a French humanitarian NGO said Thursday.

Première Urgence – Aide Médicale Internationale said that over 88 percent of crops provided to farmers by the group were damaged during the 51-day conflict, with farmers continuing to suffer from access restrictions and violations of International Humanitarian Law.

A survey of 285 farmers conducted by the group found that 84 percent assessed had been forced to take out loans to cope with the loss of income incurred by damage to their land.

"Before 2005, I used to have greenhouses here where I grew tomatoes and I used to earn good money exporting these tomatoes to the West Bank, Israel and abroad," farmer Amona Ahmed Abu Rejalaa, from Khuza, told PU-AMI.

"Since the imposition of access restrictions in 2005 and the blockade in 2007, the situation has been totally different. Exportation is not allowed, access is limited and risky (as we often hear warning shots and have to leave), (…), and we are left with very low income and increasing debts."

Nearly 87 percent of irrigation systems were damaged during the war, the group said, and the high cost of water means most farmers cannot afford to irrigate their crops. more

Israeli forces open fire at farmers in central Gaza

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces opened fire at farmers in the central Gaza Strip on Wednesday, witnesses said.

Locals told Ma'an that soldiers stationed in military towers on the border east of Deir al-Balah opened fire at farmers in the area.

Farmers fled the area, with no injuries reported.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said "two people approached the border fence in a prohibited area and Israeli forces opened fire in the air."

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

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Settlers burn mosque near Bethlehem

Extremist Jewish settlers set fire overnight Tuesday to a mosque in the southern West Bank town of al-Jabaa west of Bethlehem, locals told Ma’an.

As worshipers arrived around 4:30 a.m. Wednesday to prepare for the dawn prayer at al-Huda mosque, they saw smoke and flames rising from inside the mosque.

Worshipers alerted the neighbors and together they joined forces until they managed to put out the fire.

Racist slogans calling for killing Arabs and Muslims were sprayed on the walls in Hebrew. more

Tuesday, 24 February 2015 offers hotel rooms in Israel’s illegal settlements

I travel frequently to Palestine. Usually, I avoid tourist attractions but last year I decided to make a short trip to the Dead Sea. Searching for a place to stay, I checked the travel website

Immediately, I felt uneasy. Could some of the hotels it had listed be located in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank?

Rather than making a reservation, I drove to one of these hotels. Although the address given for the Kalia Kibbutz Hotel on indicates that it is inside present-day Israel, the truth is quite different. It can be found within Kalia, a settlement in the West Bank that is one of the main shareholders in the cosmetics company Ahava.

The settlement is located within a gated village. This means that Palestinians are forbidden from entering. The hotel had few guests when I called. But the deceptive details on could easily lead unsuspecting tourists to think they are staying inside Israel, when in reality they are in an illegal colony. more

Autopsy shows Palestinian teen was shot at close range

< br>Autopsy results for a young Palestinian man killed by Israeli forces near Bethlehem early Tuesday show that he was shot in the upper body at close range, a forensic expert told Ma'an.

Sabri al-Aloul said that the autopsy results show that 19-year-old Jihad al-Jaafari bled to death after being hit with an M16 bullet that penetrated his body through the left shoulder and struck his lungs before exiting and causing severe bleeding in his arteries and around his spine.

The killing was "similar to an execution" because he was shot from very close range, al-Aloul said.

The autopsy was performed between 10:45 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. and adhered to international standards, he added.

He said the autopsy was significant given that the report could be used to hold Israel accountable in international courts. more

Israeli forces kill Palestinian teen in Duheisha refugee camp

Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian teenager during a predawn arrest raid in Bethlehem's Duheisha refugee camp, locals and medics said.

Jihad Shehada al-Jaafari, 19, was shot under his left shoulder while standing on the roof of his family home near the main road by the camp, witnesses said.

He was hit by a bullet after Israeli forces opened fire in the densely-populated refugee camp following clashes with locals during an arrest raid.

An Israeli soldier was struck by a Molotov cocktail during the clashes and sustained burns.

Al-Jaafari was taken to al-Yamama hospital in nearby al-Khader, where he was pronounced dead.

Medics said the teenager died of internal bleeding, with witnesses at the scene saying Israeli forces stopped ambulances from reaching his body.

The funeral will be held after noon prayers on Tuesday. Mourners will perform prayers in the main mosque in Duheisha camp before walking to the Martyrs Courtyard where al-Jaafari will be laid to rest.

A spokeswoman for the Israeli army said that troops were attacked by people throwing stones and incendiary devices, adding that one soldier was wounded. more

Monday, 23 February 2015

Group: Israeli authorities shut down 2 prisons after attack on guard

The Israel Prison Service shut down the Eshel and Nafha jails on Monday after a Palestinian prisoner attacked an officer in Rimon prison, a prisoner's rights group said.

The Palestinian Prisoner's Society warned that IPS would likely be carrying out retaliatory measures against Palestinian prisoners following the attack.

The group had said earlier that a prisoner had stabbed an Israeli officer in protest against sanctions imposed on prisoners. more

Israel purchases 14 additional warplanes from US

Israeli occupation Defense Ministry has announced that it signed a deal with the United States to purchase 14 more F-35 planes for the Israel Air Force at $110 million dollars each.

The transaction adds another 14 F-35 warplanes, with the option for an additional 17 aircraft, on top of the 19 placed on order in 2010.

The whole deal is worth $2.82 billion, and supports high-tech aircraft, therefore will boost the US air industry. The first F-35 aircraft is due for delivery at the end of 2016 and the rest by 2021.

According to Haaretz, the Israeli Air Force will receive a total of 33 F-35 planes. more

Hundreds of Palestinians flee as Israel opens dams into Gaza Valley

Hundreds of Palestinians were evacuated from their homes Sunday morning after Israeli authorities opened a number of dams near the border, flooding the Gaza Valley in the wake of a recent severe winter storm.

The Gaza Ministry of Interior said in a statement that civil defense services and teams from the Ministry of Public Works had evacuated more than 80 families from both sides of the Gaza Valley (Wadi Gaza) after their homes flooded as water levels reached more than three meters.

Gaza has experienced flooding in recent days amid a major storm that saw temperatures drop and frigid rain pour down.

The storm displaced dozens and caused hardship for tens of thousands, including many of the approximately 110,000 Palestinians left homeless by Israel's assault over summer.

The suffering is compounded by the fact that Israel has maintained a complete siege over Gaza for the last eight years, severely limiting electricity and the availability of fuel for generators. It has also prevented the displaced from rebuilding their homes, as construction materials are largely banned from entering.

Gaza civil defense services spokesman Muhammad al-Midana warned that further harm could be caused if Israel opens up more dams in the area, noting that water is currently flowing at a high speed from the Israel border through the valley and into the Mediterranean sea.

Evacuated families have been sent to shelters sponsored by UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, in al-Bureij refugee camp and in al-Zahra neighborhood in the central Gaza Strip.

The Gaza Valley (Wadi Gaza) is a wetland located in the central Gaza Strip between al-Nuseirat refugee camp and al-Moghraqa. It is called HaBesor in Hebrew, and it flows from two streams -- one whose source runs from near Beersheba, and the other from near Hebron. more

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Israel is still banning Gaza students from West Bank universities

Israel's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) announced that a quota of 50 students would be permitted to exit Gaza "for the purpose of academic studies" in the West Bank. However, as related by NGO Gisha, the very same evening, COGAT clarified that there had been a "clerical error" in the relevant document, and that there would be no such permits.

The Israeli government has opposed Palestinians from Gaza studying in the West Bank on the grounds of 'security'. The High Court of Justice has also rejected petitions by human rights groups on the matter, including one filed on behalf of five women studying gender, democracy and law.

In 2009, 21-year-old, Bethlehem University student Berlanty Azzam was arrested at a West Bank checkpoint and immediately returned to the Gaza Strip, after a solider noted Gaza City as the town of residence on her ID.

The ill-fated announcement was included on a list of various measures apparently prepared by Israel to "ease" restrictions. According to reports from COGAT and Palestinian officials, it would appear that the number of merchant permits will rise, as will the type and quantity of goods permitted to exit from Gaza for sale in the West Bank. more

Palestine shuts down as snow, frigid rain pummel Holy Land

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Shops and offices in cities across the West Bank were closed Friday after a major winter storm pummeled the region and left nearly half a meter of snow in some places.

Snowfall began late Thursday and continued into the early morning Friday, blanketing hilltops across the region with a thick layer of snow that shut streets and major thoroughfares.

Frigid rain continued to pummel the region Friday night, and was expected to continue into Saturday as temperatures slowly rise from the storm -- named "Jenny" by meteorologists -- as it continues south.

Emergency services said that as of the afternoon there had been 16 storm-related car accidents and that rescue services had been involved in at least 215 cases since the beginning of the storm. The majority of those cases involved individuals being brought to the hospital. more

Friday, 20 February 2015

Gaza: A step forward as ICRC helps to restore hope for legless Osama

Osama lost a leg during the 2014 Gaza conflict. He was sure that he would never again live a normal life, or be able to support his wife and four children.

But the treatment he received at the ICRC-supported Artificial Limbs and Polio Center restored his hope in the future and enabled him to return to work. Last year, the Centre provided physical rehabilitation services to over 2,500 people in the Gaza Strip. In this video, we follow Osama as he takes a big step forward -- learning to walk again. more

Amid Israeli restrictions on materials, makeshift homes sprout in Gaza

(Reuters) - Aid agencies struggling to shelter thousands of Gazans made homeless by war have resorted to building makeshift temporary homes out of metal and wood to evade Israeli restrictions on imports into the territory.

Around 150,000 families are still homeless after last year's war between Israel and Hamas, in which Israeli bombardment destroyed thousands of apartment buildings and homes.

Israel tightly limits the flow of concrete, cement, iron bars and other materials into Gaza, as "dual use" items that could have a military purpose if they were seized by Hamas to rebuild tunnels used to launch attacks.

That means few homes have been rebuilt despite international pledges of billions for reconstruction. Rather than wait to rebuild permanent homes, some relief agencies have decided to build temporary structures with materials they can get.

"We designed the transitional shelters without any dual use items so that within the existing restrictions, we could get as many vulnerable families as possible out of the elements,” said Matt McGarry, Catholic Relief Services local representative.

His agency has built 70 single storey wooden temporary homes amid the rubble and smashed concrete of Khan Younis, a town in southern Gaza heavily damaged in the July-August war, and has funding for 100 more.

Forty families have moved in so far. While the homes provide a roof over the head amid heavy rain and freezing temperatures, large numbers of people are cramped into a small space that residents say feels like no replacement for the permanent houses that still lie in rubble nearby.

"It is only temporary," said Maryam Baraka, 58, sitting on a plastic chair outside the shelter which now houses 13 members of her family. The rubble of their two-story home nearby has not been cleared away since it was destroyed by Israeli bombardment. For now, rebuilding it is still a dream.

"There is no alternative to a brick house," she said. more

Gaza an 'increasingly toxic environment' UN warns, calls for release of PA tax revenues

Briefing the UN Security Council on the situation in the Middle East, Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman discussed what he described as ‘another tumultuous and deadly month in the Middle East’, taking the opportunity to warn about “steadily increasing tensions and swelling violence.”

“We see the circumstances in Gaza as becoming increasingly worrisome as we approach the six-month mark since the end of last summer’s conflict. The combination of the failure to rectify the persistent governance and security issues and the slow pace of reconstruction has created an increasingly toxic environment.”

Expressing his concerns about the adverse impacts on the two-state solution, Feltman said, according to WAFA: “The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians continues to threaten further escalation. As we warned this Council last month, if this occurs it may have highly damaging, and potentially irreversible, consequences for both parties and for the two-state solution.”

Pointing to a total of $200 million in Palestinian tax revenues withheld by the Israeli Government, Feltman said that the Palestinian Authority (PA) is facing “acute fiscal challenges that must be urgently addressed,” and described PA’s approach to lend from private banks to pay portion of its civil servants’ salaries as “neither sufficient nor sustainable.” more

Hamas fighter, civilian killed in Gaza tunnels near Rafah

Two Palestinians died in separate incidents in underground tunnels beneath the besieged Gaza Strip and Egypt on Thursday.

The al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Hamas movement, said that a fighter in the group was killed during a military mission in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.

The brigades said in a statement that "Muhammad Talal Abu Matar, 25, from western Rafah was killed in a jihadi mission," without providing further details.

However, a spokesperson for the Gaza Ministry of Health said that Abu Matar was killed in an accident in one of the tunnels.

Also Thursday, a young Palestinian man died after being accidentally electrocuted inside a smuggling tunnel connecting Rafah to Egypt.

A spokesman for the Gaza Strip's civil defense forces, Muhammad al-Midana, identified the victim as 19-year-old Abd al-Majid Othman.

The ministry said he was from Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip. more

Thursday, 19 February 2015

‘Complicit in Gaza’s misery’: Pro-Palestine activists shut down UK arms factory

An arms factory in southeast England was occupied by activists on Tuesday morning in protest against its sales to Israel and Afghanistan. Protesters say the company is complicit in “Gaza’s misery,” where 2,137 Palestinians were killed last summer.

Instro Precision Ltd in Kent was besieged by activists at 5am on Tuesday, who occupied and shut down the factory.

Taking to the roof, campaigners unfurled a banner demanding Instro “stop arming Israel.” Four protesters remained on the building’s roof, while 10 stood at ground level.

The firm manufactures high-tech camera systems used in drones that have been deployed in Israel and Afghanistan. Located near the coastal town of Broadstairs, Kent, it is a subsidiary of Israeli arms company Elbit Systems.

Elbit’s drones have been deployed by the Israel Defense Force (IDF) to kill countless Palestinian civilians in Gaza, according to UK think tank Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT).

The think tank adds the camera technology is used in Israel’s “apartheid wall,” and in drones flown across Afghanistan. more

Israeli forces open fire at farmers near Gaza border

Israeli forces on Wednesday evening opened fire at Palestinian farmers near the border east of the town of al-Maghazi in the central Gaza Strip.

Witnesses said that Israeli soldiers stationed at the border opened fire at the farmers as they were standing in their farmland, forcing them to flee the area.

An Israeli military spokeswoman did not return a call seeking comment.

Witnesses told Ma'an that similar shooting incidents have recently been occurring on an almost daily basis along the Gaza border.

Israeli forces have repeatedly opened fire on Palestinian civilians near the border in the five months since the signing of a ceasefire agreement that ended a more than 50-day assault by Israel on Gaza that left around 2,200 dead and 11,000 injured.

The attacks come despite Israeli promises at the end of the ceasefire that restrictions on Palestinian access to the border region would be lessened.


Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Cyber attacks on Israel traced to Gaza, claims US research group

A series of cyber attacks against Israel since mid-2013 appears to be coming from "Arab parties located in the Gaza Strip" and elsewhere, US security researchers say.

A research report by Trend Micro said the effort appears to be using "spear phishing" emails with an attachment disguised as a pornographic video.

When a user clicks on the attachment, it installs malware that allows for remote access of documents on the infected computer, the report said.

The researchers said in a report released Sunday that this highly targeted campaign dubbed "Arid Viper" is a sort of "smash-and-grab" first seen in the middle of 2013, and which uses network infrastructure located in Germany.

The security firm said those behind the scheme are using sophisticated methods with the goal of stealing sensitive data from Israeli-based organizations -- government, transport, military and academia and one organization based in Kuwait.

A similar campaign which uses some of the same techniques and infrastructure has also been hitting targets in Egypt. This less sophisticated effort has been called Operation Advtravel by Trend Micro.

The researchers said both campaigns are hosted on the same servers in Germany and can be tied back to activity from Gaza. more

Abu Marzouk: Blair visited Gaza to demand new preconditions

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Deputy head of Hamas Mousa Abu Marzouk says the last visit to Gaza by international Quartet envoy Tony Blair came to notify the Hamas movement of a new set of preconditions before the war-torn coastal enclave could be rebuilt.

In a statement posted on Facebook, Abu Marzouk said that Blair's remarks were completely different from what he used to propose when he served as the UK prime minister.

"In January 2009, Blair admitted he was mistaken and explained then that Hamas was a major player in the conflict and in the peace process. He didn't then talk about the Quartet’s three preconditions of recognition of Israel, renouncing violence and accepting what the Palestinians have already signed, but rather he spoke of appropriate preconditions," argued Abu Marzouk.

Blair is now talking about five new preconditions to be imposed on Hamas before Gaza reconstruction and improvement to the living conditions, the official said.

"He is now using the tragedy inflicted on Gaza by the Zionist enemy who demolished Gaza houses leaving children in the open."

Blair's five new preconditions, says Abu Marzouk, include Palestinian reconciliation, a Palestinian political program based on a Palestinian state on the pre-1967 borders, and confirmation that Hamas is a Palestinian movement seeking to achieve Palestinian goals rather than being part of an Islamic movement with regional dimensions. more

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Ministry to rebuild tower block destroyed during Gaza war

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- The Palestinian minister of public works and housing said Tuesday that the ministry has laid a cornerstone for the reconstruction of a residential tower block in Gaza City.

Mufid al-Hasayneh said: "The rebuilding of this tower is a significant event and is the start of the rebuilding of all towers destroyed during the war"

"The ministry is continuing its efforts to distribute aid money to people whose houses were partially damaged, and hand out mobile homes and construction materials."

Several multistory residential buildings in Gaza City were targeted by Israeli forces during the war, killing dozens of civilians. more

Soldiers open fire on Palestinian homes, land, near Gaza

Israeli soldiers, stationed across the border fence on the eastern border with Gaza city, fired on Tuesday morning rounds of live ammunition, and one shell, targeting a number of farmlands and homes.

The Palestinian News & Info Agency (WAFA) said the soldiers, and armored vehicles, fired dozens of rounds of live ammunition, and a tank shell, hitting farmlands and homes, causing property damage but no injuries.

Earlier on Tuesday, the soldiers claimed a mortar shell, allegedly fired from Gaza, landed and exploded near the border fence, east of Rafah, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip.

Israeli soldiers conduct daily violations and assaults against the Palestinians and their lands in different parts of the Gaza Strip, especially in areas close to the border fence in the northern and eastern parts of the coastal region. more

Israel steps up war against children in East Jerusalem

Israeli troops broke into a Palestinian home in the al-Tur neighborhood of East Jerusalem and handed a warrant to the owner demanding that he send two of his boys to the Russian Compound police station for questioning.

The boys' father Arafat Abu Sbeitan told Ma'an in Jerusalem that Israeli troops wanted at the beginning to arrest his sons Muhammad, 12, and Ibrahim, 10.

However, he refused to turn the boys in.

He told the soldiers that Muhammad had an appointment at the doctor after he was bitten by a dog and Ibrahim has recently underwent eye surgery. The soldiers then ordered Abu Sbeitan to bring his sons to Israeli police station for questioning.

"The occupation soldiers forced me to wake my sons up so they can make sure that there was a sign of a dog bite on Muhammad's hand. They then took photos of the boys and handed me a summons demanding that I bring them to the Russian Compound police station for questioning."

Israeli forces have detained more than 20 teens and youths from al-Tur since the beginning of February accusing them of different charges including manufacturing improvised weapons and devices to be used against Israeli forces. more

Monday, 16 February 2015

Palestinian rap group to take legal action against Netanyahu

An Amman-based Palestinian rap group intends to take action against hardline Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for using one of their songs in an election campaign video.

Torabyeh “will take all necessary legal action against those responsible” for the “infringement of intellectual property rights and the distortion of the reputation of Torabyeh,” the group announced in a Facebook posting on Saturday.

Netanyahu’s video depicts a group of fighters ostensibly from the Islamic State (also known as IS, ISIL or ISIS) riding in a pickup truck as Torabyeh’s song “Ghorbah” blasts in the background.

“I want to be buried in the same graveyard as my grandfather. Ever since I was young I’ve dreamed of being a soldier. With time I discovered who I belong to: Mahmoud Abbas, Fatah, Hamas or the Jabha,” one of the rappers sang, referring at the end to the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

“Let me be free because they are all mercenaries,” the song continues.

In Netanyahu’s campaign video, actors playing ISIS fighters pull up next to another car and ask in Hebrew for directions to Jerusalem. An Israeli driver replies, “Turn left.” The fighters then speed off down the road as one of them fires an automatic weapon into the air. As the Israeli vehicle drives off, a bumper sticker becomes visible. ”Anyone but Netanyahu,” it reads.

A message to Israeli voters then appears on the screen: “The left will surrender to terrorism.” more

Irish foreign minister arrives in Gaza

An Irish delegation of 14 officials, including foreign minister Charles Flanagan, entered the Gaza Strip on Monday via the Erez crossing.

The visit is expected to last several hours and the delegation will tour areas of the territory destroyed by Israel's military offensive last summer. more

Gunmen open fire at Fatah official in Gaza

A Fatah official said Monday that masked gunmen opened fire at him in Gaza City, injuring two bodyguards.

Mamoon Sweidan, a Fatah official in the Gaza office for foreign relations, told Ma'an that two masked gunmen driving a Subaru car opened fire at him as he attempted to enter his vehicle outside of the al-Saadi building where he lives.

Two of his bodyguards exchanged shots with the gunmen and were hit during the attack, he added.

Sweidan said that the shooting was a clear assassination attempt.

The incident is the latest in a string of tit-for-tat attacks between Fatah and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

On Sunday, attackers in Gaza poured flammable liquid on the car of Fatah official Abed al-Munim Ramadan Tahrawi before setting it ablaze and fleeing the scene.

Earlier in the day, arsonists in Jabaliya in northern Gaza set fire to a car belonging to a senior official in the interior ministry of the former Hamas-run government.

In January, the car of Fatah official Adil Udeid was set on fire in Gaza after flammable liquid was poured on the vehicle, which was parked in front of the official's home. more

Non-profit humanitarian organization to bring solar energy to Gaza

Gaza is in desperate need of power. One organization hopes to bring clean, renewable energy to Gaza with the installation of solar panels.

Over the past few months an international team of humanitarians have been organizing a project which would bring solar power to Gaza. Gaza engineer, Naji Abu Shaaban, along with his group of engineers in Gaza have been working around the clock to make this solar project a reality.

Outside of Gaza are a number of supporters of this project which include internationally recognized artist, Martha Tjoe Nij, who has supported the project from her home in Suriname. A Turkish webmaster, Hatice, volunteered her time to create a website for the Solar Gaza project, which has evolved from #SolarGaza when it was started on Twitter as an idea, to its new official title Solar Gaza Lights.

The goals of the project are aimed specifically at solar power restoration of electricity for the most needy in Gaza. The organization has teamed up with the Jerusalem Development Fund's office in Gaza to help with alleviating electricity shortages by donating solar power units. The project also intends on creating employment opportunities for project engineers in Gaza. Utilizing local talent is part of the strategy the group decided on from the beginning. more

93 Gazans visit relatives in Israel jails

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- A group of 93 Palestinians from Gaza visited relatives jailed in Israel on Monday, the International Committee of the Red Cross said.

Spokesperson Suhair Zaqqut told Ma'an that the group included 28 Palestinians under the age of 14 who visited 43 Palestinians held in Rimon jail.

There are around 450 Palestinians from Gaza in Israeli prison custody.

Israel stopped prison visits for Palestinians in Gaza when Hamas took control of the coastal territory, before reinstating them in July 2012. more

Sunday, 15 February 2015

700 British artists pledge to boycott Israel

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- 700 British artists have signed a pledge to boycott Israel as long as it "continues to deny basic Palestinian rights," the latest major success for the global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions of Israel movement.

"In response to the call from Palestinian artists and cultural workers for a cultural boycott of Israel, we pledge to accept neither professional invitations to Israel, nor funding, from any institutions linked to its government until it complies with international law and universal principles of human rights," the call reads, according to the group Artists for Palestine UK, which organized the pledge.

"We support the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality."

The signatories include artists from many fields, including writers, film directors, comedians, musicians, actors, theater directors, architects, and visual artists. more

Palestine celebrates definance of freed schoolgirl, 14, imprisoned for two months

BEITIN, West Bank (AFP) -- A 14-year-old girl who has become a symbol for Palestinian minors arrested by Israel insisted on Saturday after serving a 45-day sentence that she had been unjustly imprisoned.

"I do not admit to any crime: I was not throwing stones -- I had no knife on me," Malak al-Khatib told AFP.

She was arrested on her way home from school on Dec. 31, and a military court sentenced her in late January to two months as part of a plea bargain in which she admitted to picking up a stone to throw at Israeli cars.

Malak was convicted of being in possession of a knife with the intention of using it to stab security personnel if arrested.

"After two hours of interrogation, a soldier forced me to sign a paper in Hebrew," said Malak, who does not understand the language.

A white and black Palestinian kuffiyeh scarf draped across her shoulders, Malak sat among friends as relatives, Palestinian officials and journalists paraded through the family home, as they have since her release on Friday.

"I'll definitely have plenty to tell my classmates when I go back to school" in three days, she said at her house in Beitin near Ramallah in the West Bank, such as "how cold it is inside prison."

She served her time in a cell with three older Palestinian girls. The Palestinian Prisoner's Society said two weeks were deducted from the sentence because of her age. more

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Teen injured In Kufur Qaddoum, scores suffer effects of tear gas inhalation

The Popular Committee against the Wall and Settlements in Kufur Qaddoum, near the northern West Bank city of Qalqilia, said Israel soldiers invaded the village to suppress its weekly nonviolent protest leading to clashes with local youths; one teen was shot by a live round, while dozens suffered the effects of tear gas inhalation.

The protesters marched demanding the army to open the main road leading to their village that the soldiers closed 13 years ago.

Murad Shteiwy, media coordinator of the Popular Resistance Committee said a large military force invaded the village, since morning hours Friday, accompanied by armored bulldozers and vehicles, while the soldiers fired dozens of gas bombs, rounds of live ammunition and rubber-coated metal bullets.

He added that the soldiers shot and injured Jamil Shteiwy, 17 years of age, with a live round in his leg, and that local medics moved him to the Rafidia governmental hospital in Nablus.

Scores of residents, including international peace activists suffered the effects of tear gas inhalation. more

Israeli forces shoot at farmers in northern Gaza

Israeli forces on Friday opened fire at a group of farmers in the northern Gaza Strip, witnesses told Ma'an, the second such attack of the day on Palestinian civilians in the besieged coastal enclave.

Locals said Israeli soldiers at the northern border shot live bullets at farmers who were leaving their lands.

No injuries were reported.

Only hours before, Israeli soldiers opened fire at Palestinian homes and farmers in the southern Gaza Strip, causing material damage. more

Friday, 13 February 2015

Israeli high court rejects appeal by family of murdered activist Rachel Corrie

Israel’s high court has rejected an appeal made by the family of Rachel Corrie, the young American activist crushed to death by the Israeli military while she was protesting against a home demolition in the Gaza Strip.

The Corrie family brought a civil suit against the Israeli army in 2005 after a military prosecutor closed the case with no charges. Rachel’s parents, Cindy and Craig, have been seeking to hold Israel liable for her death. The Corries have alleged that Israel’s defense ministry had either killed her deliberately or was guilty of negligence.

Rachel, who was 23 when she was killed in March 2003, had traveled to Gaza from her home in Olympia, Washington to work with the International Solidarity Movement. She had been in Gaza for two months before she she was run over by a soldier driving a bulldozer. She was killed in Rafah, near Gaza’s border with Egypt.

In August 2012, a lower court in Haifa had ruled in favor of the military; the State of Israel had argued that it was not responsible for damages in “closed military zones.”

In 2010, an Israeli military leader told the Haifa court that “During war there are no civilians.” As part of a policy that is still in effect, the Israeli military and police do not investigate complaints of attacks against civilians in “closed military zones.” more

Israeli forces open fire at Palestinians in southern Gaza

Israeli forces opened fire at Palestinian homes and farmers in the southern Gaza Strip on Friday, locals told Ma'an.

Israeli soldiers deployed east of Khan Younis reportedly fired at Palestinian homes and farmers in the area, causing material damage.

Witnesses said the soldiers were trying to force farmers to stop working on their land in the area.

No injuries were reported.

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

Israel releases Palestinian schoolgirl, 14, from jail

Israeli authorities on Friday released 14-year-old Palestinian schoolgirl Malak al-Khatib after a two month prison sentence.

Al-Khatib, from the town of Beitin near Ramallah, was arrested last December and sentenced to two months in jail on the charge of stone-throwing and possession of a knife.

The Palestinian Prisoner's Society said al-Khatib was also fined 6,000 shekels ($1,500).

Israeli forces arrest about 1,000 children every year in the occupied West Bank, often on charges of stone-throwing, according to rights group Defense for Children International Palestine.

But the case of Malak has brought countless media organizations flocking to her family's door and attracted more public attention than most.

The Palestinian Prisoners' Club estimates that 200 Palestinian minors are held in Israeli prisons, but only four are girls, and Malak was the youngest. more

Thursday, 12 February 2015

UN officials warns of further conflict in Gaza

RAMALLAH (AFP) -- A top UN official warned Thursday of another potential conflict in the Gaza Strip, urging Israel to lift its blockade and Palestinian political parties to end in-fighting to avoid further violence.

The United Nations also called for an additional $705 million in humanitarian aid to the Palestinian territories, most of it for Gaza which saw its bloodiest and most destructive war last year.

"Right now, things are not going well, and we're very concerned about the possibility of a further conflict," James Rawley, UN humanitarian chief for the Palestinian territories, told AFP.

"But it's not inevitable... as long as several things happen.

"To have a complete recovery of Gaza, even to go back to where we were in July (before the 50-day conflict) requires more than construction material going in. It requires a lifting of the blockade," said Rawley.

"In parallel, we have to see a commitment from the militant groups in Gaza to stop firing rockets at civilians in Israel... and Palestinian reconciliation moving forward" to reassure donors that building materials were not falling into the hands of militants, he added.

Rawley called for a "reconstruction hudna (truce) for three to five years" to allow rehabilitation of the increasingly unstable coastal enclave. more

Palestinian children in Israeli custody victims of 'forced confessions'

Palestinian children being held in Israeli military custody following their arrest are falling victim to abuse designed to coerce confessions, a children's rights group said this week.

"The Israeli military detention system subjects Palestinian children to several days of prolonged interrogation and isolation with the apparent goal of obtaining a confession at all costs," said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Accountability Program director at Defense for Children International Palestine, on Monday.

"The military courts admit these coerced confessions as evidence to convict these children in a complete mockery of due process and fair trial standards."

DCIP said Monday that in 2014 Palestinian children spent an average of 15 days in solitary confinement following their arrest.

In one case a child was kept in isolation for a total of 26 days for interrogation purpose, the report said.

Over 54 children were held in solitary confinement between 2012 and 2014, and Palestinian children have no right to be accompanied by an adult. more

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Abbas inaugurates new Palestinian embassy in Sweden

President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday inaugurated the new headquarters of the embassy of Palestine in Sweden.

The ceremony took place in the presence of Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstroem together with other government officials and foreign ambassadors.

Abbas praised Sweden for its recognition of Palestine and said the country took a "brave step" which should be emulated by other members of the European Union.

"Such recognitions do not mean that we don't want to negotiate with Israel," Abbas said.

"We call upon the Israeli government to start negotiations on the basis of international legitimacy and to halt the procedures and sanctions it has taken against the state of Palestine by withholding Palestinian money."

Abbas said that the PA would negotiate regardless of international recognition by states or the United Nations Security Council. more

Israel earmarks vast area of Hebron land for annexation

Israel has earmarked around 2,000 dunams (500 acres) of private Palestinian land for annexation in the Hebron district, local activists say.

Muhammad al-Halayqa, an activist in the village of al-Shuyukh northeast of Hebron, told Ma'an that Israel's Civil Administration has posted warning notices on the land slated for confiscation.

The land belongs to the al-Halayqa, Rasna, and al-Hasasna families.

The Mayor of al-Shuyukh, Sharif al-Halayqa, says Israeli forces have prevented locals from accessing their land, adding that the areas slated for confiscation are likely going to be used for settlement building.

The village council will liaise with Palestinian officials and legal groups to try to prevent the annexation. more

Israeli forces detain Gaza businessman at Erez crossing

Israeli forces on Tuesday detained a Palestinian businessman from Gaza en route to the West Bank while he was passing through Erez crossing, a prisoners' rights group said. The organization "Hossam" said in a statement that Hussam Nouredin was detained at Erez crossing, becoming the seventh Palestinian businessman to be arrested at the crossing since the beginning of the year.

It named the other six businessmen as Abd al-Hakim Shubair, Hassan al-Sharaafi, Akram Yaseen, Khaled Lebed, Riyadh al-Mashharawi, and Muhammad Lebed. more

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Palestinian Authority to boycott products of 6 major Israeli companies

The head of a higher Palestinian Authority committee for confronting Israeli practices against the Palestinians announced on Monday evening that the PA officially decided to ban the entry of products by six major Israeli companies into the Palestinian territory.

Mahmoud al-Aloul, who is also a member of the Central Committee of the PA’s ruling party Fatah, announced the decision Monday in a news conference in el-Bireh.

Other members of the committee and PA and Fatah officials attended the news conference including member of the Central Committee Wasil Abu Yousuf, director of the PA's customs agents Ibrahim al-Jazara, secretary-general of Fatah movement in Ramallah district Muwaffaq Suhweil, Fatah spokesman Ahmad Assaf and speaker of the union of Palestinian journalists Abed al-Nasser al-Najjar.

The Israeli companies which will be banned in the Palestinian territory are Tnuva, which produces dairy products, Elite which produces chocolates, candies and other products, the Strauss food and beverage company, Osem, Prigat for beverages, and Jafora.

Al-Aloul pointed out that Palestinian retailers would be given two weeks to remove the companies' products from their shelves. Special inspectors will be touring the markets to make sure all merchants are adhering to the decision. more

Monday, 9 February 2015

Israeli forces open fire at Gaza march

Israeli forces opened fire on a march east of Gaza City on Monday to protest delays to reconstructing the Gaza Strip following Israel's devastating military offensive last summer.

Dozens of demonstrators took part in the march, which was organized by a national committee to end the eight-year blockade of the coastal territory.

Protesters burned tires and waved Palestinian flags.

No injuries were reported.

Last month, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, the largest service provider in the Gaza Strip, announced that it was forced to stop a cash assistance program for tens of thousands of Palestinians to make repairs to damaged and destroyed homes due to a lack of donor funding.

Over 96,000 homes were damaged or destroyed during Israel's assault on the Gaza Strip, which also killed over 2,000 people, the majority of whom were civilians. more

Traumatized by war, Gaza youths join Hamas training camps

GAZA CITY (AFP) -- Hatem is only 14 but has already lived through three wars with Israel. Now the young Palestinian says he is making sure he'll be ready to fight in the next one.

"The Israelis killed my niece last summer. Now I want to kill them," he told AFP after completing a week-long youth training camp with militants from the Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas.

"I will become a resistance fighter," the boy said proudly during a graduation ceremony in Gaza.

Hatem is one of 17,000 youngsters who graduated late last month from two military training camps where Hamas -- the de facto power in Gaza -- said it was preparing the next generation to fight against Israel.

Last summer, Israel and Hamas militants fought a 50-day war that killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 73 Israelis, the majority soldiers, and left swathes of the impoverished enclave in ruins.

It was their third conflict in less than five years, following an eight-day bombardment in 2012 and a 22-day war in late 2008 and early 2009.

Children were on the front-line of the latest conflict, with UN figures showing about 500 were killed.

And just five months after the war ended, thousands of those who survived signed up to join the Hamas training camps.

"I want to join the Qassam Brigades because they are the strongest in Gaza," said 15-year-old Mohammed Abu Harbid, who also took part in the training. more