Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Israel deports Tunisia ex-president after Gaza flotilla


JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israel deported Tunisian ex-president Moncef Marzouki and European parliament member Ana Miranda on Monday after they took part in a flotilla seeking to defy its Gaza blockade, an official said.

"The (former) president of Tunisia and the Spanish lawmaker flew this morning. There are another 14 who have begun the expulsion process," a spokeswoman for Israel's immigration authority told AFP.

Marzouki, who is widely known as a human rights activist, sailed aboard the Swedish ship the Marianne of Gothenburg as part of a four-boat flotilla that set sail from Europe last month.

Israel commandeered the Swedish-flagged Marianne on Monday and accompanied it to the port of Ashdod.

Sixteen foreign nationals were on board along with two Israeli citizens, Palestinian Knesset member Basel Ghattas and a television reporter.

The two Israelis have been released, though Ghattas could face a parliamentary hearing on whether he should face sanctions.

The four-boat flotilla of pro-Palestinian activists had been seeking to reach the Gaza Strip to highlight the Israeli blockade of the territory that they called "inhumane and illegal". more

Israeli forces, settlers carry out reprisals for West Bank shooting


RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces carried out multiple detention raids across the occupied West Bank overnight Monday after three Israeli settlers were injured in a shooting south of Nablus and an explosive device was allegedly hurled at a settler vehicle near Ramallah.

Dozens of settlers from the illegal settlement of Beit El were also reported to have attacked Palestinian vehicles on the road between Ramallah and Nablus.

The violent reprisals come as the president of the Shomron regional council, which groups together illegal Israeli settlements in the northern West Bank, said in a statement that "we must not let terrorism spread."

"I call on the government to authorize the army to act without pity against these savages who take civilians for targets," he said.

The Israeli army reported that three Israeli settlers were injured in Monday's shooting while driving near the West Bank village of al-Mughayir.

Israeli media said four settlers were injured in the attack.

Israeli forces in the early hours of Tuesday stormed al-Mughayir and made multiple detention raids.

Witnesses said large numbers of Israeli soldiers ransacked Palestinian homes, "detaining young men haphazardly."

They added that the soldiers deployed on every street corner in the village after setting up military checkpoints at its entrances. more

Monday, 29 June 2015

Israel once again commits an act of state piracy in the Mediterranean


updates at freedomflotilla.org - At 02:06AM today (Gaza time) the “Marianne” contacted Freedom Flotilla Coalition (FFC) and informed us that three boats of the Israeli navy had surrounded her in international waters, while sailing approximately 100NM from Gaza coast. After that we lost contact with the “Marianne” and at 05:11AM (Gaza time) the IDF announced that they had “visited and searched” Marianne. They had captured the boat and detained all on board “in international waters” as they admitted themselves. The only positive content in the IDF announcement was that they still recognize that there is a naval blockade of Gaza, despite Netanyahu’s government recent denial that one exists.

We have no reason to believe that Marianne’s capture was “uneventful”, because the last time the IDF said something like that, in 2012, the people on board the “Estelle” were badly tasered and beaten with clubs. Back in 2010, ten passengers of Mavi Marmara were murdered by the IDF during a similar operation in international waters.

It is disappointing that the Israeli government chose to continue the absolutely fruitless policy of “no tolerance”, meaning it will continue to enforce an inhumane and illegal collective punishment against 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza. Israel's repeated acts of state piracy in international waters are worrying signs that the occupation and blockade policy extends to the entire eastern Mediterranean. We demand that the Israeli government cease and desist the illegal detainment of peaceful civilians travelling in international waters in support of humanitarian aid. We call on our governments to ensure that all passengers and crew from the “Marianne” are safe, and to strongly protest against the violation of international maritime law by the Israeli state. We call on all civil society organizations to condemn the actions of Israel. People all over the world will continue to respond and react to this injustice, as will we, until the port of Gaza is open and the siege and occupation is ended. more

Israel seizes flotilla seeking to break Gaza blockade


JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israel's navy boarded and took over an activist vessel seeking to break its Gaza blockade and was escorting it to port on Monday in an operation that did not use force, the military said.

A flotilla of four boats carrying pro-Palestinian activists had been seeking to reach Gaza to highlight the Israeli blockade of the territory, with the attempt coming five years after a similar bid ended in a deadly raid.

Three of the boats were said to have turned back while a fourth, the Marianne of Gothenburg, was boarded by the Israeli navy and was being escorted to an Israeli port.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lauded the operation insisting his government was right to take action against Hamas, the group that rules Gaza.

"In accordance with international law, the Israeli navy advised the vessel several times to change course," the military said in a statement.

"Following their refusal the navy visited and searched the vessel in international waters in order to prevent their intended breach of the maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip.

"The forces have reported that use of force was unnecessary, and that the process was uneventful," it added. "The vessel is currently being escorted to Ashdod port and is expected to arrive within 12-24 hours."

A military spokeswoman confirmed to AFP that the vessel was the Swedish-flagged Marianne of Gothenburg, part of the so-called Freedom Flotilla III.

Among the passengers on the four vessels were Palestinian Knesset member Basel Ghattas, Tunisia's former president Moncef Marzouki and at least one European lawmaker.

A statement Friday from the flotilla's media team said its goal was "to highlight the violation of the rights of 1.8 million Palestinians living in the world's largest open-air prison. more

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Third Gaza flotilla: ‘This is about human rights and dignity’


From RT blog - Richard Sudan, is a London based writer, political activist, and performance poet. Follow him on Twitter

I never heard the word Palestine when I was in school. I can't speak for all of my former classmates, nor can I speak for all of my teachers.

But as I first began to write about the Palestinian cause a few years back, and began to understand what was happening, I became increasingly frustrated when newspapers would ask me to be ‘balanced’. On one level I get it. I understand that if a person is talking about a political event, a dispute, or a war, or something clear cut, both sides of the story must be told. The so-called Israel/Palestine question however, is not a conflict.

The Palestinians are defenseless and are constantly attacked by a state which has the unconditional support of the US. The word conflict evokes images of two even sides pitted against one another. Israel/Palestine is not a conflict, nor is it close to war. It's not even David and Goliath. It's more like a heavyweight boxer beating a small child, while people stand around like confused sheep insisting on the boxer's right to exist and defend himself. It's the kind of sickness and twisted psychology we've seen repeated throughout history, at which people gasp at in horror, but yet remains allowed to take place today. When Jews were massacred during WWII, people allowed it because they did not view Jewish people as complete human beings. Today, Palestinians are also being massacred, and people allow it because they view the Palestinians as less than human. This perception must be dealt with.

What do you do when talking about a people who have almost no voice, the Palestinians, and who have been oppressed for decades? How are they supposed to be heard when for the most part the media, and one of the most sophisticated armed forces in the world, are constantly attacking them?

The Palestinians have nowhere to go, and are held as prisoners in what remains of their own land. We must tell the truth about the Palestinians because they are fighting for their very existence. Painful as it may be for liberal ears (and my heart bleeds for them) conditioned by a 24 hour revolving door of bulls**t from the mainstream media, people must accept the truth. Confronting the truth is necessary, and as painful as it may be for some, we owe it to the Palestinians to speak up for them. Like all wounds, there is a chance things can heal if we'd only be honest. Daily life for the Palestinians is like nothing we can imagine in Britain, or indeed anywhere in the 'developed' world. In Britain it was within the walls of the British parliament that Palestinian land was partitioned to a third party. We have a special responsibility to raise our voice for the Palestinians. Silence is no option. To ignore this issue is not the same as to remain neutral. To stay silent on Palestine is to side with the state of Israel.

Right off the bat, I want to address the fairy-tale notion of democracy many people hold, regarding the state of Israel. more

Ambassador: Qatar to employ 20,000 Palestinians


BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Qatar is to create work opportunities for up to 20,000 Palestinians, the Palestinian ambassador to Qatar said Saturday.

Munir Ghannam told Ma’an that "practical steps have started to embrace Palestinian workers in Qatar, as the country plans to host the first group of Palestinian workers after the holy month of Ramadan."

Qatar agreed in January 2014 to grant work visas to 20,000 Palestinians, following 20 years in which Palestinians had been unable to apply for work in the prosperous Gulf state.

The first group of Palestinian employees will include 200 Gazans and an unspecified number from the West Bank, and are expected to work in the field of education, the ambassador said Saturday.

He added that the embassy had asked Qatari officials to employ Palestinian refugees living in the Diaspora as well.

Ghannam said that a number of Qatari companies were scheduled to submit applications Saturday asking for permission to bring about 2,000 Palestinians into the country to work for them.

The ambassador said that Palestinian employees will be treated according to Qatari work laws and regulations, adding that Qatari companies and organizations "prefer to contract employees directly without a need for brokers." more

Friday, 26 June 2015

Freedom Flotilla III is Sailing to Open the Port of Gaza


More than three boats, with more than 50 crew and passengers from about twenty countries are prepared to reach the port of Gaza and call on the international community to open it

This year’s mission, organized by the Freedom Flotilla Coalition against the blockade and the siege of Gaza, is about to sail to highlight the violation of the rights of 1.8 million Palestinians living in the world’s largest open-air prison.

The Israeli government claims that there are ‘unauthorized boats trying to illegally enter Israeli territorial waters’. There are no ‘unauthorized boats’, only an illegal and inhumane blockade; the UN has recently called to end it and Freedom Flotilla III sails to challenge it, without any need or desire to enter Israeli territorial waters. This fact is highlighted by the practices of Israeli naval forces against previous sea missions, which have intercepted all boats since 2009 in international waters, headed towards Palestinian waters off Gaza, never towards Israel or Israeli waters.

Freedom Flotilla III is invited by Palestinians in Gaza through various organizations that work for a relief of the thousands that were left heavily wounded, homeless, jobless, and displaced after recent Israeli operations in the Gaza Strip. We also have among our passengers Dr. Basel Ghattas, Member of the Israeli Knesset, who called in an open letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu to allow our mission to reach the port of Gaza.

Israel’s right-wing is now moving to penalize MK Ghattas for his participation in a legitimate political action of people from all around the world, while Deputy MFA Hotovely has announced international diplomatic action against the Freedom Flotilla III. Lawyers around the world are making legal moves against the mission, just as they did in 2011. We regret that “the only democracy in Middle-East” thinks this is the best course of action, instead of addressing the real problems of occupation, blockade and division of Palestine, as well as the openly legal discriminations against Palestinians and Israeli Arabs.

We remain undeterred, because our purpose is not to act against Israel, but against occupation. Our actions would not be needed, if governments worldwide and international bodies like the EU and the UN would take steps to ensure accountability of Israeli governments for war crimes and collective punishment against the 1.8 million Palestinian population in Gaza Strip. We welcome voices from Israel who publicly state that the State of Israel is not threatened by the action against the blockade.

The international community should stop turning a blind eye on the blockade and occupation and take steps urgently towards the direction of ensuring the opening of the port in Gaza, the only port of Palestine to the rest of the world.:

Freedom Flotilla III media team

Phone: +30 2110115937
E-mail: media@freedomflotilla.org http://ff3.freedomflotilla.org
More press contacts:
https://ff3.freedomflotilla.org/press-room/ more

Israel prevents hundreds of Gazans from entering Jerusalem


Hundreds of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip were prevented from reaching Jerusalem to pray in the Al-Aqsa Mosque on Friday.

Israeli authorities revoked this week’s permits for Gazans to visit the holy site after a rocket fired from the territory hit an open area near the town of Ashkelon in the western Negev early Wednesday, sources at the Palestinian liaison told Ma'an.

Israeli official Yoav Mordechai told Ma'an at the time that the 500 men and women scheduled to leave Gaza would not be allowed to travel because “the security conditions around the crossing aren’t stable," adding that the recent rocket fire landed “not far from the Erez crossing" on the Gaza-Israel border.

While Israel initially eased travel restrictions for Palestinians during the holy month of Ramadan, authorities said such increases in movement came on the condition that security wasn't "breached."

Mordechai said Wednesday that Israeli authorities would reevaluate the security conditions next week in order to determine future travel by Gazans into Jerusalem, adding that he held Hamas "responsible for depriving worshipers of prayer in Al-Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan," acknowledging that while the group was not responsible for firing the rocket, they are responsible for controlling the Gaza Strip. more

Gaza flotilla ship sabotaged days before expected arrival


BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- One of the ships taking part in a flotilla headed towards Gaza strip was sabotaged south of Crete, an activist aboard one of the ships said Thursday.

Israeli-born Swedish activist Dror Feiler told Nazareth-based al-Shams radio that the ship had been sabotaged by professionals, and would have sunk if sailed at sea.

"Somebody went underneath the ship at night and sabotaged its propellers, just like they sabotaged the same ship in 2011,” Fieler said referring to similar damage that was inflicted upon a ship participating in a previous flotilla.

Feiler, who relinquished his Israeli citizenship after moving to Sweden, boarded the trawler Marianne of Gothenburg in Sweden with 18 other activists six weeks ago. The crew had refrained from stopping at European ports prior to avoid being held by authorities, but their trip was cut short after realizing that they might have drowned had they continued.

Despite the sabotage, the remainder of the flotilla convoy will move as planned with the ships expected arrive in Gaza in succession within three days, Feiler said.

The flotilla is the third of it's kind to attempt to access the Gaza Strip by sea since 2010, aiming break the nearly nine-year Israeli blockade causing what is termed by rights organizations as a humanitarian crisis for the strip's 1.8 million residents.

In May 2010, Israeli forces staged a raid on a six-ship flotilla which ended in bloodshed, claiming the lives of 10 Turkish rights activists and sparked a crisis with Ankara. more

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Israeli airstrikes hit Gaza again


The Israeli air force attacked a target in the northern Gaza Strip in the early hours of Wednesday after another missile fired from the Gaza Strip hit an open area near the town of Ashkelon, in the western Negev. Ramadan celebrants from the Gaza Strip will be barred from travelling to Jerusalem for prayer in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, this week, following the rocket fire.

The Israeli strike landed in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, witnesses told Ma'an, with the Israeli army stating that the strike had targeted "the launcher from which the rocket was fired at Israel earlier."

The strike came hours after the rocket fired from the Gaza Strip fell on open ground in the vicinity of Yad Mordechai, a kibbutz near the Israel-Gaza border.

No injuries were reported in either the rocket launch or the Israeli strike.

Wednesday's exchange was the fifth in just under a month, with the most recent rocket fired from Gaza landing in Israel on June 6 answered within hours by an Israeli air strike into the coastal strip.

A rocket was fired on June 11 but it fell short and landed on the Palestinian side of the Gaza border.

No damage or casualties have been caused by the recent rockets fired from Gaza, and Israeli airstrikes have left structural damage only.

The exchanges come as Israel and Hamas have allegedly been holding indirect talks for cementing a long-term truce in the Gaza Strip, Hamas sources said last week. more

Rebuilding of Gaza's destroyed homes set to begin


GAZA CITY (AFP) -- The rebuilding of thousands of homes destroyed by Israel in last summer's Gaza war is to begin in the coming days, almost a year after the conflict began, the Palestinian housing minister said Wednesday.

The July-August war in the besieged Gaza Strip destroyed or partially damaged tens of thousands of homes, leaving 100,000 Gazans homeless.

"Some 90,000 partially-damaged homes have already been repaired in coordination with the United Nations," Mufid Hasayneh told journalists in Gaza City.

"In the coming days, the operation of reconstructing those totally destroyed will begin," he said.

Some 18,000 homes were destroyed or severely damaged, according to UN figures, and reconstruction of the war-wracked coastal territory has been slow.

Israel's ongoing blockade of Gaza, now in its ninth year, has been blamed, as well as the lack of international donor support to the territory, which is ruled by Hamas.

Hasayneh said that Israel had allowed only 128,000 tonnes of cement into the Strip since the war ended.

more

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Israeli air force hits target in Gaza Strip


BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The Israeli air force attacked a target in the northern Gaza Strip in the early hours of Wednesday after a missile fired from the Gaza Strip hit an open area near the town of Ashkelon in the western Negev.

The Israeli strike landed in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, witnesses told Ma'an, with the Israeli army stating that the strike had targeted "the launcher from which the rocket was fired at Israel earlier."

The strike came hours after the rocket fired from the Gaza Strip fell on open ground in the vicinity of Yad Mordechai, a kibbutz near the Israel-Gaza border.

No injuries were reported in either the rocket launch or the Israeli strike.

Wednesday's exchange was the fifth in just under a month, with the most recent rocket fired from Gaza landing in Israel on June 6 answered within hours by an Israeli air strike into the coastal strip.

A rocket was fired on June 11 but it fell short and landed on the Palestinian side of the Gaza border.

No damage or casualties have been caused by the recent rockets fired from Gaza, and Israeli airstrikes have left structural damage only.

The exchanges come as Israel and Hamas have allegedly been holding indirect talks for cementing a long-term truce in the Gaza Strip, Hamas sources said last week.

more

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Egypt to open Rafah crossing for 3 days


GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- Egyptian authorities will open the Rafah crossing with Gaza on Tuesday for three days, a Palestinian crossings official said.

Maher Abu Sabha told Ma'an that the crossing --Gaza's only connection to the outside world -- will be open both ways until Thursday.

The crossing closed last Friday after having been open for seven consecutive days, a rare exception for the border terminal which has otherwise been virtually sealed by Egypt since October 2014.

Thousands of medical patients, students, and foreign residents used the crossing over the past week.

Egyptian authorities have done little to alleviate Israel's eight-year blockade on the Gaza Strip, compounding the devastating effects of a blockade which severely restricts imports, exports and prevents 1.8 million Palestinians from freely leaving and entering the Gaza Strip.

Israel first imposed a blockade on Gaza in 2006 after Hamas rose to power in democratic elections. more

Monday, 22 June 2015

UN report: 'War crimes' likely by both sides in 2014 Gaza war


GENEVA (AFP) -- Both Israel and Palestinian militants may have committed war crimes during last year's Gaza war, a widely anticipated United Nations report said Monday, decrying "unprecedented" devastation and human suffering.

The Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza conflict announced it had gathered "substantial information pointing to the possible commission of war crimes by both Israel and Palestinian armed groups."

On Jan. 16 the ICC announced "a preliminary examination" into Israel's actions over a period including the Gaza war in which over 2,200 Palestinians were killed, mainly civilians.

On the Israeli side 73 people were killed, 67 whom were soldiers.

On April 1, the PLO acceded to the ICC with the goal of trying Israeli leaders over alleged abuses in the Gaza war and alleged crimes relating to the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. more

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Egypt continues to ease restrictions on Gaza border


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Egyptian authorities will re-open the Rafah border for traffic crossing both ways for three days this week, officials say.

The Palestinian Authority was informed of the decision to open the crossing after President Mahmoud Abbas had contacted his Egyptian counterpart on the matter, General Director of the PA's Crossings and Border Department, Nathmi Mhanna told Ma'an.

Mhanna thanked the Egyptian president and Egyptian security parties, emphasizing that the PA is continuing its efforts to ease the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza and hopes the crossing remains open for the duration of Ramadan and after.

The decision was made shortly after Egyptian security sources reported Saturday that the country’s president Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi would soon make decisions towards opening the Rafah crossing in the southern Gaza Strip on a more regular basis.

Sisi opened Rafah during the first week of Ramadan to "ease the humanitarian situation of the Palestinian people in Gaza," according to Egyptian border officials.

The border's much-needed opening comes as Egyptian authorities have done little to alleviate Israel's blockade on the Gaza Strip, keeping the Rafah crossing -- Gaza's primary connection to the outside world -- virtually sealed since October 2014.

Sustained closures rose amid accusations by Egyptian authorities that Hamas was backing militants who have carried out deadly attacks on security forces in the Sinai Peninsula, allegations Hamas has denied.

Egypt's easing of restrictions have been requested by PA officials and rights groups as Israel's military blockade of the strip nears nine years. more

Friday, 19 June 2015

Palestinian kills Israeli, wounds another near West Bank settlement


BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- An Israeli was killed and another wounded after a Palestinian opened fire on them near the illegal settlement of Dolov in the West Bank district of Ramallah Friday, the Israeli army said.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said that at around 4:15 p.m. the two Israelis were driving to go on a hike in the occupied West Bank when a Palestinian called on them to pullover, appearing to want to ask about a nearby spring.

He then opened fire on them using a 9mm handgun before fleeing the scene, she said.

Both Israelis were evacuated by military helicopter to Tel HaShomer hospital in Tel Aviv, where one of them "succumbed to his wounds."

A hospital spokeswoman said that the dead man had arrived without any vital signs, having been shot in the chest.

She said the other Israeli had been shot in the hand and was "not seriously injured."

Israeli news site Ynet said they were both 25 years old and identified the dead man as Danny Gonen, a resident of the Israeli city of Lod, though neither police nor hospital spokespeople were able to confirm his identity.

Earlier reports incorrectly suggested they were settlers.

An Israeli manhunt is underway for the Palestinian attacker.

The UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, condemned the shooting and called on "all sides to exercise the utmost restraint, to maintain calm and promptly bring the perpetrators to justice."

West Bank settlements are illegal under international law, and Israelis have been attacked previously in and near them as well as in annexed east Jerusalem. more

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Palestinian factions meet, Hamas denies Israel talks


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- The Hamas movement has denied that it reached a long-term agreement with Israel, member of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine’s politburo said Wednesday.

Saleh Zeidan’s statement came after a Palestinian faction meeting that included the Hamas movement, the DFLP, PFLP, Islamic Jihad and the PPP in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday.

Zeidan added that Hamas must issue an official statement affirming its denial.

He warned that any unilateral long-term agreements between Hamas and Israel would have "dangerous consequences" and would be to the benefit of an Israeli plan to separate the Gaza Strip from the Palestinian national project.

Zeidan added that the DFLP backs forming a national consensus government that would include all factions, including Hamas, calling upon the president to hold an immediate meeting to form a national unity government.

Hamas sources said Tuesday that Israel and the movement have been holding an indirect exchange about ideas for cementing a long-term truce in the Gaza Strip.

The exchanges have gone through a number of Arab and European channels in a bid to firm up a ceasefire agreement that took hold last August, ending a 50-day war in Gaza.

"There has been indirect contact between Israel and Hamas, messages passed via Arab channels as well as through European and Turkish sources," one of the sources told AFP, describing it as "an indirect exchange of ideas."

The contacts were confirmed by an Israeli source. more

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Palestinian split widens as unity government quits


RAMALLAH (AFP) -- The Palestinian unity government formed last year in a bid to heal rifts between Hamas and president Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party resigned on Wednesday, an official said.

An aide to president Mahmoud Abbas said that prime minister Rami Hamdallah "handed his resignation to Abbas and Abbas ordered him to form a new government."

Discussions to form a new government would include consultations with the various Palestinian factions, including Hamas, he said.

Abbas' spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh, however, told the official PA news agency WAFA that Hamdallah had not handed in his resignation.

Officials have said the planned dissolution of the government, made up of technocrats, had been under discussion for several months because of the cabinet's inability to operate in the Hamas-dominated Gaza Strip.

Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad have condemned the unilateral dissolution of the government, a decision they say they were not consulted over.

"No one told us anything about any decision to change and no one consulted with us about any change in the unity government. Fatah acted on its own in all regards," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told AFP Wednesday.

Khalid al-Batsh, a senior leader in Islamic Jihad, also condemned the "unilateral" move to dissolve the unity government. more

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

UNRWA: worst financial crisis in 65 years


According to an official source, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) is facing a financial crisis due to a widening gap between the needs of the agency and support from donor nations, reported US News.

Jordanian Minister of State of Media Affairs Mohammad Momani said at a UNRWA committee meeting that a widening gap between demand and supply was the reason for what is being called the worst financial crises that has ever faced UNRWA in its 65 year history.

According to Shanghai Daily, Momani added that Jordan was ‘deeply concerned’ over the crisis, and reminded the committee that Jordan hosted the largest number of Palestinian refugees in the world.

Kuwait yesterday donated $15 million to UNRWA in a ceremony held in New York yesterday.

UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl said: “This welcome donation comes at a crucial time for UNRWA as developments in the region dramatically increase the needs of our refugees, many of whom are caught up in the civil war in Syria and who are living under blockade and occupation in Gaza and the West Bank.”

He added that there were ‘unprecedented pressures’ on the agency’s resources, and thanked the Emir and people of Kuwait for the ‘timely’ donation. more

Reports: Hamas' Abu Marzouq heads to Doha to discuss Gaza ceasefire


CAIRO (Ma’an) – Senior Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzouq left the Gaza Strip to Egypt via the Rafah crossing on Sunday for the Qatari capital Doha where he is scheduled to propose a long-term ceasefire agreement between Hamas and Israel, Egyptian officials say.

The officials say that Abu Marzouq traveled via Egypt with consent of the Egyptian national security department.

The same sources pointed out that Abu Marzouq met in Gaza recently with former Bulgarian foreign minister Nickolay Mladenov who serves as UN’s top Middle East envoy. The two, according to the Egyptian sources, have reached a long-term ceasefire agreement between Israel and the Islamic movement Hamas.

Abu Marzouq has traveled to Doha to discuss the agreement with Hamas chief in exile Khalid Mashal and add “final touches,” according to the sources.

“Both Hamas and Israel understand the importance of a ceasefire agreement so they can face the fundamentalist Salafi groups in the Gaza Strip which has recently announced support to IS,” an Egyptian official claimed. more

Monday, 15 June 2015

Israel blocks visit of UN human rights envoy


JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israel has blocked a visit to the Palestinian territories by a UN rights envoy, an official said Monday, just ahead of the publication of a United Nations report on last year's Gaza war.

It was the second time Makarim Wibisono, the UN's special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, had been barred entry.

"We didn't allow this visit," which was to take place last week, foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon told AFP.

"Israel cooperates with all the international commissions and all rapporteurs, except when the mandate handed to them is anti-Israeli and Israel has no chance to make itself heard."

The UN Human Rights Council, to which Wibisono reports, has been conducting an investigation into the actions of both Israel and Palestinian militants during last year's conflict.

Its report is expected to be published in the coming days, and the council is scheduled to debate it on June 29.

The UN's human rights chief, speaking at the opening of the council's 29th session in Geneva on Monday, confirmed the publication was imminent.

"It is my hope the report will pave the way for justice to be done to all civilians who fell victim to the fighting last year, by holding to account those alleged to have committed grave and other serious violations of international humanitarian law," High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said. more

Israel cabinet approves bill to force feed prisoners


JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israeli ministers approved a bill Sunday that would allow prisoners on hunger strike to be force fed if their life is in danger, sparking criticism from health experts and rights groups.

The cabinet's endorsement of the controversial bill was led by Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who said that prisoners observing a hunger strike, namely Palestinians, pose a "threat" to Israel.

"Alongside attempts to boycott and delegitimize Israel, hunger strikes of terrorists in prisons have become a means to threaten Israel," Erdan said on his Facebook page.

The same bill was approved by the Israeli government last year and sent to parliament for debate but the Knesset was dissolved before it could start deliberating.

The bill was initially approved in June 2014 at the height of a mass hunger strike of Palestinian prisoners during which 80 were hospitalized.

Chairman of the Israeli Medical Association, Leonid Eidelman, slammed the bill, saying force feeding prisoners against their will is "unethical".

In a letter addressed to Erdan and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, Eidelman also insisted that the IMA would "order doctors to act solely according to the rules of ethics, and not feed or nourish hunger strikers against their will." The Association for Civil Rights in Israel stressed that force feeding was forbidden. more

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Egypt opens Rafah crossing in both directions


The Egyptian authorities opened the Rafah crossing in both directions on Saturday, and is expected to keep the crossing open for the next three days, ministry says. The Gaza Ministry of Interior announced the opening, noting that is was the first time the crossing was opened since Egyptian authorities had allowed Palestinians stuck in Egypt to return to Gaza last month, opening Rafah for one day in one direction. Some 15,000 Gazans registered at the Ministry of Interior are currently waiting to travel via Rafah, including 3,000 patients and more than 2,500 students. The number registered is a fraction of the 1.8 million residents who have remained under the Israeli-imposed blockade since 2007 and struggle to meet their basic needs due to restrictions on goods coming in and out of the strip. Saturday's much-needed opening comes as Egyptian authorities have done little to alleviate Israel's blockade on the Gaza Strip, keeping the Rafah crossing -- Gaza's only connection to the outside world -- virtually sealed since October 2014. Sustained closures rose amid accusations by Egyptian authorities that Hamas was backing militants who have carried out deadly attacks on security forces in the Sinai Peninsula that borders strip, allegations Hamas has denied. Also in efforts to prevent attacks, the Egyptian army says it has destroyed hundreds of tunnels used for smuggling supplies and arms between Sinai and Gaza, and also used by militants to infiltrate into Egyptian territory. more

Israeli forces shoot, injure Palestinian in southern Gaza


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces deployed near the Sufa crossing in the southern Gaza Strip opened fire at and injured a Palestinian Saturday, local sources told Ma'an.

An Israeli army spokesperson confirmed the report, telling Ma'an that a "Palestinian suspect approached the security fence" and Israeli forces opened fire at his lower extremities after firing warning shots into the air.

One hit was confirmed, and Israeli forces took the man to a hospital in Israel for treatment, she added.

The spokesperson did not have confirmation if the injured man would be detained after treatment or returned to the Gaza Strip.

Sufa was one of several crossings between Gaza and Israel to be sealed by Israeli authorities in 2007 and was permanently closed in 2009, however is sporadically opened for humanitarian needs, according to Israeli rights group Gisha: Legal Center for Freedom of Movement.

The border area where Israeli forces opened fire Saturday is part of an Israeli-enforced "buffer zone" along the Gaza-Israel border as well as on the western seaside border of the strip. more

Friday, 12 June 2015

5 injured, 2 critically as Israeli forces fire on Kafr Qaddum march


QALQILIYA (Ma'an) -- Five Palestinians were injured, two critically, when Israelis forces opened live fire on the Kafr Qaddum weekly march Friday.

A coordinator for the village's popular resistance committee, Murad Shtewi, said that Muhammad Majid, 20, had been shot in the stomach and chest with live rounds and is in critical condition.

Ibrahim Mousa, 35, is also in critical condition after he was shot in the abdomen while in his house.

Shtewi also said that Muhammad Nidal, 20, and Mouiz Khader had been shot in the leg, and Ayman Farouq, 38, in the hand.

Dozens others suffered from excessive tear gas inhalation.

Israeli forces had closed down the village's entrance since the early morning after they declared it a closed military zone. As a result, those injured had to be evacuated from the village in private cars using dirt roads.

An Israeli army spokeswoman contacted by Ma'an said she would look into it.

Israeli forces routinely suppress weekly marches by violent means. more

No charges as Israel closes probe into deadly Gaza beach bombing


JERUSALEM (AFP) -- The Israeli army said on Thursday that it was dropping proceedings over a July 16 bombing of a Gaza beach where four children were killed during last summer's war.

"The... case has been closed following the completion of a criminal investigation," it said in a statement, adding that two other cases involving Palestinian deaths in the fighting had also been closed, but a criminal investigation had been launched in an attack on a cafe in which nine were killed.

Cousins Ahed Atef Bakr and Zakaria Ahed Bakr, both aged 10, nine-year-old Mohamed Ramez Bakr and 11-year-old Ismail Mohamed Bakr were playing on the beach in Gaza City when they were hit in strikes witnessed by journalists staying at a beachfront hotel.

The death of the four boys was well documented and brought international outcry against policies that allegedly enabled the Israeli military to kill civilians.

Israeli military police carried out an "extensive criminal investigation," Israeli army spokesperson Peter Lerner explained in a statement released on Facebook.

"From the factual findings collected by the investigators, it [the investigation] revealed that the incident took place in an area that had long been known as a compound belonging to Hamas's Naval Police and Naval Force (including naval commandos), and which was utilized exclusively by militants," Lerner wrote, adding that the military had carried out a series of attacks on the compound in days prior The boys were allegedly playing hide and seek in the compound when the military attacked.

Lerner explained that on July 16, aerial surveillance had identified "a number of figures entering the compound at a running pace," which entered a shed near a container which had been attacked the day before.

"Against the backdrop of the aforementioned intelligence assessment," Lerner writes, "these were believed to be militants from Hamas's Naval Forces, who had arrived at the compound in order to prepare to execute the aforementioned military activity against the IDF. It should be stressed that the figures were not identified at any point during the incident, as children."

The investigation into the beach bombing closed just one month after testimonies from Israeli soldiers and officers who fought during last summer's war were released to the public, raising serious concerns over whether Israel's military adhered to the most basic principles of International Humanitarian Law.

The testimonies -- collected by Israeli military watchdog Breaking the Silence -- tell accounts of indiscriminate fire in civilian areas, orders to regard every individual inside of Gaza as a "threat," and the shelling of buildings in revenge without any military objective. more

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Gaza activists announce hunger strike in support of Khader Adnan


A group of activists, institutions and prominent figures in the Gaza Strip Wednesday announced a hunger strike in solidarity with detainee Khader Adnan who went on a hunger strike to protest his detention without charges or trial, widely known as administrative detention.

In front of the headquarter of the International Red Cross (ICRC) in Gaza city, the committee to defend Adnan announced a hunger strike in an attempt to garner support and call on the world to pressure Israel to release him.

Adnan, who is a father of five, has been protesting his illegal detention without charges or trial for 37 days. He went on a hunger strike when he was arrested by the Israeli Army on December 17, 2011 from his home in Arraba in the middle of the night. The next day, he began a hunger strike that ended after 66 days later on February 21, 2012.

WAFA Palestinian News & Info Agency reports that, in a recent press statement, Adnan’s wife, Randa said that her husband’s health condition is gradually deteriorating, with a significant weight loss and vision weakness. She said that her husband can no longer walk and is being moved on a wheelchair.

Adnan’s lawyers reported that the Israeli Prison’s Administration has classified his health condition as critical, which necessitated his immediate transfer to the Assaf HaRofeh Medical Center.

Randa said that Israeli lawyers who were able to visit Adnan reported that he was being kept cuffed to the hospital’s bed with three prison guards watching him around the clock. more

Poll: Half of Gaza residents considering emigration


BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Half of Gazans say they are considering emigration from the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research reported Tuesday.

The 50 percent of those polled in Gaza thinking of leaving the coastal enclave is the highest percentage ever recorded, amidst decreasing satisfaction of achievements attained by Hamas last summer's war.

Increasing frustration comes the IMF reported last month that reconstruction since the most recent war between Israel and Hamas has been significantly lower than expected, while the World Bank reported that the strip was facing a "dangerous fiscal crisis."

Unemployment in Gaza increased in 2014 "to reach 44 percent -- probably the highest in the world," the World Bank reported, with the poverty rate in the occupied Palestinian territory reaching 39 percent, despite the fact that nearly four of every five Gazans receive "some aid."

"Gaza's unemployment and poverty figures are very troubling and the economic outlook is worrying," the World Bank quoted Palestinian territories director Steen Lau Jorgensen as saying in a statement.

The UN has repeatedly warned of further conflict in the area if the reconstruction process continues at such slow pace, emphasizing that Gaza's humanitarian crisis is worsened by Israel's eight-year blockade on the strip.

Despite the new record high levels of desire for emigration from the war-ravaged strip, Gaza residents would still favor reelection of Gaza's governing party Hamas' Ismail Haniyeh to Fatah's leader Mahmoud Abbas, PSR polls also said in the June report. more

Photographer barred from treatment after being shot by Israeli forces


JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israel has barred a Palestinian photographer allegedly shot in the eye by Israeli forces from entering occupied East Jerusalem for specialist treatment, the injured photographer told AFP on Wednesday.

Nidal Shtayyeh, who works for Chinese news agency Xinhua, was wounded while covering a small demonstration at Huwarra checkpoint near the northern West Bank city of Nablus on May 16.

As he was covering the rally, Shtayyeh was hit in the face by a rubber bullet which entered his eye, causing serious damage, he told AFP.

"The march was peaceful and no stones were thrown, no photographers were taking any pictures," he said, accusing soldiers of firing sound bombs at the photographers without any provocation.

"I raised my camera to my right eye to take a picture, but a soldier shot me in my left eye with his rifle, and the rubber bullet went through my gas mask's glass eye cover and into my eye."

An Italian camerawoman was also injured during the same demonstration which came as Palestinians commemorated 67 years since the "Nakba," or "catastrophe," when an estimated 760,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes during the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.

At the time, Israeli forces said at least 100 Palestinians had been throwing stones and petrol bombs, and that the forces had responded with "riot dispersal means."

Shtayyeh's injury comes as rights groups criticize Israel for disproportionate use of force against unarmed civilians during such demonstrations.

While crowd control weapons are intended to be non-lethal, many methods used by Israeli forces can cause death, severe injury, and damage to property, according to Israeli rights group B'Tselem.

Shtayyeh was rushed to Rafidiya hospital in Nablus for initial treatment but was prescribed specialist help at St John's eye hospital in occupied East Jerusalem.

more

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Egypt to open Rafah crossing for 3 days


Egyptian authorities will open the Rafah crossing with Gaza for three days next week, a Palestinian Authority official said Wednesday.

Nathmi Muhanna, general director of border crossings, told Ma'an that Egypt notified his department that the terminal will be open Saturday, Sunday, and Monday in both directions.

Priority will be given to Palestinians with foreign passports, students and patients seeking medical treatment.

Use of the crossing will be based on lists of travelers already registered with Gaza' Ministry of Interior.

Egyptian authorities have done little to alleviate Israel's blockade on the Gaza Strip, keeping the Rafah crossing -- Gaza's only connection to the outside world -- virtually sealed since October 2014.

more

Israeli forces shoot, kill Palestinian in Jenin camp


Israeli forces shot dead a young Palestinian man in the Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank early Wednesday morning, Palestinian security sources say.

Izz al-Din Walid Bani Gharra, 21, was shot in the chest during clashes with Israeli forces who raided the camp at dawn. He was evacuated to the public hospital in Jenin where he died shortly after, sources told Ma'an.

An Israeli army spokesperson did not have information on the incident and an Israeli border police spokesperson did not immediately respond for comment.

Gharra is the twelfth Palestinian to be killed by Israeli forces in occupied East Jerusalem, West Bank, and Gaza since the start of 2015, according to UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, with over 900 injured, not including injuries resulting from settler violence.

One Israeli has been killed in the same time period.

more

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Israel frees Palestinian speaker after year behind bars


RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Israeli authorities on Tuesday released the speaker of the Palestinian parliament, Aziz Duweik, following a year in administrative detention.

The Ahrar Center for Prisoners and Human Rights Studies said that Duweik, 67, was released from the Ofer prison near Ramallah after paying a fine of 6,000 shekels ($1,565).

Duweik, who is a member of Hamas, was detained from his home in Hebron during a massive arrest campaign in June 2014, known as "Operation Brother's Keeper," which was carried out in search of three missing teenage settlers. During the campaign, which lasted until June 30 when their bodies were found, Israel arrested hundreds of Palestinians, most of them members of Hamas, including leaders and members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), Palestine's parliament. Commentators suggested that Israel's real motive had been to drive a wedge between Hamas and Fatah, which earlier that month formed a national unity government.

More than 14 court sessions were held for Duweik during his year-long detention, the Ahrar Center said. Elected Speaker of the PLC in 2006, Duweik had previously been arrested by Israel forces three separate times between 2006 and 2014. more

Israel experiments with 'dirty' bomb


A series of experiments have been conducted by Israel to examine the effects of and damage caused by so-called "dirty" bombs, a combination of conventional explosive and radioactive materials. The tests were part of the "Green Field" project over the past four years at the nuclear reactor in Dimona. The project supervisors insisted that the objectives were defensive rather than offensive.

According to Haaretz, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in the USA concerns grew about the possibility of terrorist gaining access to "dirty" bombs, as threatened by Al-Qaeda at the time. Such threats have not materialised. Israel, however, has been conducting the tests to see what might happen in the event that such a weapon is used.

In 2006, the Israeli Ministry of Health issued instructions about the treatment necessary if dirty bombs were deployed against targets in the country. The experiments started in Dimona in 2010 and ended last year; their findings were published in scientific circles. Twenty bombs weighing between a quarter kilogram and 25 kilogram mixed with "Technetium-99m", which is used in the pharmaceutical industry, were built for the programme of tests. more

A Jewish reporter in Gaza responds to Jane Eisner


Today, Jane Eisner, editor in chief of the of The Jewish Daily Forward wrote a piece called “Why the Forward Sent a Brave Reporter to Gaza,” in which she described the decision to send their Middle East correspondent, Naomi Zeveloff, to Gaza for a three day reporting trip. She writes that the decision to send Zeveloff, who is Jewish, was “mulled over for many months” and required “complex planning.”

Eisner’s assumption is that Gaza is a dangerous place for a Jewish journalist to visit, even for a couple of interviews on a subject as non-controversial as psychological trauma. This viewpoint is shared by Eisner’s colleague at the Forward, JJ Goldberg, who put it into blunt terms last summer while debating The Electronic Intifada’s Ali Abunimah on Democracy Now!, claiming “I’d be shot” upon stepping foot into Gaza. Ironically, Goldberg’s claim is a succinct description of Israel’s “buffer zone” policy, in which any Palestinian who walks within a loosely-interpreted 300 meters of the border is shot by an Israeli soldier or remote-control machine gun.

As a journalist who happens to be Jewish and having spent almost four months on the ground in Gaza including the last weeks of the war last summer, it is clear to me that Eisner knows nothing of reality on the ground in Gaza. More than anything else, Eisner’s hysteria over sending Zeveloff to a place where journalists – Jewish and gentile — make regular visits, exposes her anti-Palestinian racism.

Eisner wrote about a rocket launch Zeveloff heard while she sat in a beachside hotel as “a frightening introduction to everyday life in Gaza.” Zeveloff featured a quote from an interviewee saying the rocket is the “soundtrack to Gaza.”

Since the final ceasefire last summer, however, rockets have been few and far between. If there is a soundtrack to Gaza, it is the incessant hum of drones and roar of F16s punctuated by Israeli gunfire and the laughter of children.

It is notable that Zeveloff’s piece doesn’t mention the subsequent 3am bombing campaign that was heard much farther away than that rocket. Following that night’s bombing, I visited Khuza’a, a village several miles away where Palestinians, whose homes across the street Israel flattened, are reduced to living in a caravan of shipping containers. A resident of the shipping containers, Ahmad Qudeh, told me his two-year-old son cried during the night that it was time to flee, again. Days later, two twelve-year-old neighbors told me that the bombs were so loud that they were certain Israel was targeting their building — a reasonable thought after Israel bombed Gaza’s landmark towers hours before the final ceasefire took effect last summer. more

UN keeps Israel off child rights blacklist


The United Nations on Monday released a "List of Shame" of children's rights violators but did not include Israel, despite an outcry over the death of more than 500 children in the Gaza war.

Rights groups had called on Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to add Israel to the list, and there was much debate among UN agencies ahead of the final decision that rested with the UN chief.

Ban decided that last year's list would remain unchanged, but said he was "deeply alarmed" by the "grave violations suffered by children as a result of Israeli military operations in 2014."

"The unprecedented and unacceptable scale of the impact on children in 2014 raises grave concerns about Israel's compliance with international humanitarian law, notably the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution in attack, and respect for international human rights law, particularly in relation to excessive use of force," he said.

The UN chief cited a "dramatic increase" in the number of children killed in Israel and in the Palestinian territories in 2014.

At least 561 children (557 Palestinian, four Israeli) were killed and 4,271 injured (4,249 Palestinian and 22 Israeli) last year. more

Monday, 8 June 2015

Gaza’s grandparents endure one trauma after another


From the Electronic Intifada - Rizka Abu Rujeila, 70 years old, holds her grandson outside the hospital in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, on 24 July. The boy was injured during an attack on the village of Khuzaa. Most residents fled following Israel’s ground invasion and some were attacked as they attempted to leave the village. Khuzaa was cut off for days from the rest of Gaza; Israeli soldiers prevented access to medical workers and journalists. Some residents sought refuge at the hospital, which was overwhelmed by the number of dead and injured.

Most of Gaza’s population is very young: the median age is 18, and nearly 45 percent of the Strip’s 1.8 million residents are 14 years old or younger.

Attention was rightly paid to the plight of Gaza’s children during Israel’s 51 days of bombing last summer. But elderly Palestinians are also among the population’s most vulnerable, and have been subjected to repeated trauma during their lifetime...

Anne Paq is a French freelance photographer and member of the photography collective ActiveStills.

See more of Anne's photographic work by clicking the 'more' link more

Gaza families visit relatives jailed in Israel


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Forty-eight Palestinians from the Gaza Strip crossed into Israel Monday morning via the Erez crossing to visit relatives jailed in Israel’s Eshel prison.

The International Committee of the Red Cross in Gaza City said in a statement that they are expected to visit 36 prisoners, adding that there were no children among the visitors.

The ICRC "Family Visits Program" for Gazans was suspended by Israeli authorities in June 2007 when Hamas came to power in the coastal enclave.

All communication between Gazan prisoners and the outside world was effectively cut off, prisoners' rights group Addameer reported, and during a Palestinian prisoners' hunger strike in April 2012, one of the prisoners' key demands was that the program be reinstated. more

7 Palestinian workers narrowly survive Gaza tunnel collapse


GAZA CITY (Ma’an) – Seven Palestinian workers narrowly escaped death after a smuggling tunnel collapsed beneath the southern Gaza Strip’s border with Egypt, sources told Ma'an.

Sources said that Palestinian Civil Defense rescue teams had managed to pull out the workers who were trapped under rubble after the tunnel collapsed while they were inside it.

Smuggling tunnels that pass beneath the Egyptian border have served as a lifeline to the outside world for Gaza's 1.8 million inhabitants since Israel imposed a crippling siege on the coastal enclave in 2007, which is supported by Egypt.

While the tunnels are used by Hamas as a source of tax revenue and inflow of weapons, they also supply highly-demanded necessities for Gazans including food, medicine, as well as infrastructure materials including concrete and fuel.

At the the tunnel economy's height, in 2010, the Peace Research Institute Oslo estimated that as many as 15,000 workers and 25,000 traders were involved in the Gazan tunnel economy, while in 2012, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated that almost four times more construction material was reaching Gaza through tunnels than through Israeli crossings.

However, the industry has declined since 2013 as both Egyptian and Israeli armies bombarded and destroyed the tunnel networks.

more

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Salafists claim responsibility for rocket, Israel launches strikes


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- A Salafist group has claimed responsibility for a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip towards the Israeli town of Ashkelon on Saturday night, as Israel carried out retaliatory airstrikes overnight.

In a statement issued Sunday, the group, calling itself "Sheikh Omar Hadid-Bayt al-Maqdis," claimed that its fighters had fired a Katyusha 130 rocket at Ashkelon on Saturday evening.

The statement is the second released by the group, after another last week claimed responsibility for an earlier rocket fired at Ashkelon. Saturday's rocket fell in open ground with no injuries or damage reported. In response, Israeli jets launched airstrikes on a military training base operated by Hamas' military wing, al-Qassam Brigades, in the northern Gaza Strip.

Locals told Ma'an that the that the strike had caused material damage, but there were no human casualties.

There is no evidence that Hamas had any responsibility for the recent rocket attacks. The coastal enclave's de facto leaders are currently pitched against Salafist groups in Gaza.

Since last summer's devastating war in Gaza, there have been growing signs of internal unrest between Hamas security forces and other militant groups, with a string of small-scale explosions. more

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Khader Adnan in 'critical condition' as hunger strike continues


RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- The health of prisoner Khader Adnan has reached critical condition as he enters his 35th day of hunger strike, head of the Palestinian Authority Prisoner's Affairs Committee said Saturday.

Adnan, who staged one of the longest hunger strikes in history in 2012, is showing sharp weight loss and low heart rate as a result of his ongoing protest of being held in Israeli prison under administrative detention, PA offical Issa Qaraqe said.

Adnan, a father of six children, was detained on July 8, 2014 and sentenced to administrative detention for the 10th time in his life.

Palestinians held in administrative detention can be held without charge or trial for months or years, and are denied access to the evidence that led to their detention.

In an open letter released last month, Adnan wrote that the goal of his strike is to resist Israel and prevent it from tarnishing the achievement of prisoners who secured their freedom by going on hunger strikes in the past, only to be rearrested by military forces.

Qaraqe held the Israeli government responsible for Adnan's deteriorating health, demanding an end to Israel's use of administrative detention, a policy he says is enacted excessively, in contravention to international and humanitarian laws which stipulate the practice be used only in extenuating circumstances. more

Egypt court throws out terrorist classification of Hamas


CAIRO (AFP) -- An Egyptian appeals court on Saturday quashed a February decision by another tribunal branding Hamas a "terrorist" group, a court official said.

The decision comes as relations between Cairo and Hamas have deteriorated since the 2013 ouster of Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi by Egypt's then army chief and now President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Egyptian authorities have accused both Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood of backing militants who have carried out deadly attacks on security forces in the Sinai Peninsula that borders the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

The court offical told AFP Saturday that the earlier ruling labeling Hamas as a "terrorist" group was thrown out because the court that issued it was not "competent" to make such verdicts.

Hamas issued a brief statement in response Saturday saying that the new ruling corrects "a wrong decision."

"Hamas welcomes the Egyptian court's decision," it added.

The ruling, initially made in February, came after Egyptian lawyer Samir Sabri filed a lawsuit against Hamas, saying it was behind attacks in the Sinai Peninsula and that Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal had planned them.

Sabri petitioned the court to classify Hamas as a terrorist organisation, however in March the government appealed against the ruling.

The Islamist movement had strongly condemned the February verdict -- which came just one month after another court had also ruled Hamas's armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, a "terrorist group." more

Israeli navy attacks fishing boats in Gaza waters


Israeli navy ships opened fire, on Saturday morning, on a number of Palestinian fishing boats in Gaza territorial waters. Soldiers open fire on farmers in different areas.

Media sources said the navy attacked Palestinian fishing boats in the al-Waha area, northwest of Beit Lahia in the northern part of the Gaza Strip, in addition to Zawayda and Deir al-Balah in central Gaza.

The attacks led to damage but no injuries; the fishers had to sail to shore to avoid further Israeli violations and assaults. more

Hamas organizes protest against unity government, UNRWA


Hamas, on Friday, organized a march in Jabaliya refugee camp, in the northern Gaza Strip, to protest the national unity government's alleged neglect of the coastal enclave, as well as policies of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.

According to Ma'an News Agency, the march set off from mosques across the refugee camp following Friday prayers, and ended at a home destroyed during last summer's Israeli offensive on Gaza.

Hamas leader Muhammad Abu Askar said before the march that that while the unity government had been formed to serve all Palestinians, one year on the situation in Gaza is continuing to worsen.

"Hamdallah's government prevented employment in Gaza, and today UNRWA has stopped hiring and is shrinking its services for refugees and those who were affected by the war."

UNWRA, the largest service provider for refugees in the Gaza Strip, announced in February that it had been 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. more

Hamas fighter killed in Gaza tunnel collapse


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- A member of Hamas' military wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, died on Friday while working in a tunnel to be used for military activities, Hamas said.

Issam Omar al-Kattani, from the Shujaiyeh neighborhood, died while working inside a "resistance tunnel," the brigades said in a statement, without adding any further details.

A member of Hamas' politburo, Khalil al-Hayya, said at al-Kattani's funeral procession that the "soldiers of al-Qassam brigades will continue to build more tunnels which have become the greatest weapon to defeat the occupation."

A spokesman for the Gaza health ministry told AFP that two others were "moderately injured" in the tunnel collapse. more

Friday, 5 June 2015

Orange's pullout threat from Israel gives lift to boycott movement


JERUSALEM (AP) — French telecom giant Orange SA's declaration that it wants to cut business ties with Israel has given a boost to the burgeoning anti-Israel boycott movement while also drawing a sharp rebuke from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday.

Netanyahu responded angrily on Thursday, calling on "the French government to publicly repudiate the miserable statement and miserable action by a company that is under its partial ownership."

The remarks came a day after Orange's chief executive Stephane Richard said he would end his company's relationship with Partner Communications Ltd. "tomorrow" if he could, but that he was bound by a contract for the time being. He cited the company's sensitivity to Arab countries. Partner licenses the Orange brand name in Israel.

Richard's announcement caused uproar in Israel.

"The absurd drama in which the democracy that observes human rights — the state of Israel — and which defends itself from barrages of missiles and terrorist tunnels, and then absorbs automatic condemnations and attempted boycotts, this absurd drama will not be forgiven," Netanyahu also said.

Pro-Palestinian activists in France have been pushing for Orange to end the relationship over Partner's activities in Israeli settlements. The settlements, built on land the Palestinians want for a future state, are seen as illegitimate by the international community. more

Israeli forces release 5 detained fishermen in Gaza


Israeli forces on Thursday evening released five Palestinian fishermen who were detained near al-Sudaniya beach in the northern Gaza Strip the same morning.

Secretary general of the fishermen union Amjad al-Sharafi told Ma'an that Israeli forces released the five fishermen from the Baker family who were detained earlier.

Also Thursday, the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions in Gaza said that Israeli forces arrested 60 Palestinian fishermen and seized or destroyed 30 fishing boats since the start of the ceasefire last August.

The general director of the union Sami al-Asmi said in a statement that Israeli forces seized 77 boats in the last four years, returned 14 of them and destroyed five. They also killed fisherman Sayed Abu Riyala while he was working last March. He added that among the 60 fishermen arrested, three remain in Israeli custody for the possession of fiberglass, which used to be legal but now isn't according to Israeli regulations. more

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Hunger-striker Khader Adnan to be moved to hospital


RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- The condition of hunger-striking prisoner Khader Adnan, who has been on strike for a month, is deteriorating and he is in serious danger, a prisoners' rights group said Wednesday.

The director of the legal department of the Palestinian Prisoner's Society, Jawad Boulos, who visited Adnan in the Ramle prison's clinic, said that Adnan is only drinking water, without salt, sugar or any vitamins and that he refuses to undergo any medical tests.

Adnan told Boulos that the Israel Prison Service visited him Wednesday morning in his cell and told him that he would be moved to a civilian hospital "by force" if necessary.

The prison service said that according to their rules, a prisoner who has been on hunger strike for over 28 days, without taking medical tests, salt, or vitamins will be treated as someone in critical condition who requires transfer for immediate medical care.

Adnan said he refuses to be moved to any civilian hospital, and is currently being held in the solitary confinement.

His family held a press conference in Ramallah on Wednesday to highlight his plight, with his mother saying that he is barely able to move.

more

After UK student union backs BDS, Netanyahu falsely claim it supports ISIS


The national leadership of the UK’s National Union of Students (NUS) has voted to align itself with the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

In reaction, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded by smearing the millions-strong organization as supporters of Islamic State, the violent extremist group also known as ISIS or ISIL.

“In a 19-4 vote with one abstention, the confederation of 600 student unions across the United Kingdom passed the pro-BDS proposal on Tuesday at a meeting of its National Executive Council,” according to JTA.

The NUS press office could not immediately provide The Electronic Intifada with an official copy of the resolution, but said it would be posted on its website in coming days.

Netanyahu’s smear

“This is less than a year after they refused to support a boycott of ISIS,” Netanyahu said in reaction to the vote, during a meeting with Canada’s foreign minister.

“They boycott Israel but they refuse to boycott ISIS. That tells you everything you want to know about the BDS movement. They condemn Israel and do not condemn ISIS,” the Israeli prime minister alleged.

Netanyahu repeated the same claim on Twitter: more

Israeli jets strike 4 targets in the Gaza Strip


BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) – Israeli warplanes attacked multiple targets in the Gaza Strip early Thursday morning, witnesses and Palestinian security sources said.

Airstrikes targeted three training bases of the Izzadine al-Qassam brigades, the military wing of Hamas, in Gaza City and a fourth in the southern city of Khan Younis.

No injuries or casualties were reported.

An Israeli military statement spoke only of three hits in total and did not give their location or identify the targets.

The airstrikes came after the Israeli army confirmed two rockets fired from the Gaza Strip late Wednesday night.

"Yesterday, June 3, 2015, two rockets were launched at southern Israel from the Gaza Strip," it said adding that they fell on open ground near the southern city of Ashkelon and the town of Netivot, with no injuries or damage immediately reported. A militant Salafi organization, identified in a statement posted on Twitter as Sheikh Omar Hadid Brigade, claimed responsibility for the rocket fire saying it was in response to the "killing of an IS fighter in Gaza a day ago by Hamas militants."

"We are continuing with our jihad against the Jews, the enemies of God and no one will be able to deter us," the statement added. more

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Jailed PFLP leader threatens to start hunger strike


Secretary-general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) threatened Wednesday to begin an open hunger strike in protest of being denied family visits by Israel's prison service.

The left-leaning party's Ahmad Saadat is serving a 30-year sentence in Israeli jails and has been deprived of family visits for two years, lawyer Ashraf al-Khatib of the Palestinian committee of prisoners' affairs said.

Israel's Shin Bet intelligence agency is expected to extend a current ban on visits for six more months from June 18.

Currently held in Gilboa prison, Saadat has been in Israeli custody since March 2006, when Israeli forces detained him from a Palestinian Authority jail in Jericho and put him on trial for allegedly masterminding the assassination of Israeli Minister of Tourism Rehavam Zeevi in 2001.

He was charged in 2008 for heading an "illegal terrorist organization."

The majority of Palestinian political organizations are considered illegal by Israel, including those that make up the PLO, and association with such parties is often used as grounds for imprisonment, according to prisoners' rights group Addameer. Saadat was appointed secretary-general in October 2001 after his predecessor was assassinated in his Ramallah office by Israeli forces. more