Monday, 31 August 2015

Soldiers open fire on farmers and homes in southern Gaza

Israeli soldiers, stationed across the border fence, opened fire on Monday morning at a number of Palestinian farmers, on their lands, and at several homes, east of Khan Younis in the southern part of the Gaza Strip.

The WAFA News Agency has reported that the soldiers fired dozens of rounds of live ammunition targeting farmers and homes, east of Khuza’a border town, causing anxiety attack among several children.

The Palestinians had to leave their lands, and try to seek shelter in their homes that also came under Israeli army fire. more

6 Palestinians detained without trial continue hunger strike protest

RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Six Palestinian prisoners entered their 13th day on hunger strike Monday in protest against being held under the Israeli policy of administrative detention in solitary confinement, a prisoner rights group said.

Nidal Abu Aker, 48, Shadi Maali, 39, Ghassan Zawahreh, 32, all from Bethlehem, and Badr al-Ruzza and Munir Abu Sharar from Hebron began a hunger strike on Aug. 18 to protest their detention without trial, the Palestinian Prisoner's Center said.

The detainees -- who are being held in isolation at the Negev jail -- have given Israel's Prison Service until Sept. 1 to respond to their demands, at which point they will stop taking fluids and boycott Israeli military courts.

Another detainee, Kayid Fawzi Abu al-Rish, 42, from Nablus, entered his 26th day on hunger strike Monday to protest his detention without trial, which has been renewed twice for a period of six months.

He is currently being held in isolation in the Megiddo jail.

Administrative detention allows for internment without trial or charge for six-month intervals that can be renewed indefinitely. The policy has been strongly criticized by the international community as well as both Israeli and Palestinian rights activists. more

Friday, 28 August 2015

PLO present resolution to raise Palestinian flag at UN

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) -- The PLO on Thursday asked the United Nations to allow their flag to be raised at the world body ahead of next month's meeting of heads of state.

The move comes as the Palestinians seek to bolster their bid for statehood despite fierce opposition from Israel.

A draft resolution was presented to the General Assembly requesting that the flags of the state of Palestine and the Holy See be hoisted alongside those of the 193 member states.

The Vatican and the Palestinians both have non-member observer status at the United Nations.

The resolution, co-sponsored by 21 countries including Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, could come up for a vote before September 15.

The Israeli mission to the United Nations did not respond to requests for comment. more

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Israeli fighter jets strike Hamas 'weapons facility' in Gaza

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces launched an air attack on the Gaza strip during the early hours of Thursday morning, an official Israeli statement said.

The statement said the airstrikes "targeted a Hamas weapon manufacture facility located in the Central Gaza Strip."

No injuries have been reported.

Israeli authorities said the airstrikes followed a rocket allegedly fired from the strip, which landed in Israel's Eshkol Regional Council, but caused no injuries or damage.

"The rocket attacks emanating from the Gaza Strip put Israeli civilians in harm's way and endanger entire communities. The IDF does not tolerate any attempt to undermine the security of Southern Israel. The Hamas terror organization is responsible for today's attack against Israel," Israeli army spokespersonPeter Lerner, said in the statement.

No group has taken responsibility for the alleged rocket fire, but Israeli authorities have previously expressed that the Israeli government holds Hamas, as the elected ruling party, responsible for any activity within the enclave.

Earlier this month Israeli forces injured four Palestinians during a bombing near Nuseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip. more

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Aid groups appeal for end to Gaza blockade

PARIS (AFP) -- Some 35 aid groups from around the world, including ActionAid and Oxfam, launched a joint call Wednesday to end Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip, which is in dire need of reconstruction.

Last summer's devastating war in Gaza caused mass casualties, killing 2,251 Palestinians, mostly civilians, including more than 500 children. Seventy-three people were killed on the Israeli side, including 67 soldiers.

"For a whole year the Israeli government has restricted basic and essential construction materials from entering Gaza," said a statement signed by the NGOs and posted on the site of activist group Avaaz.

"Not one of the 19,000 homes that were bombed and destroyed has been fully rebuilt.

"One year on, around 100,000 Palestinians in Gaza are still homeless, hospitals and schools still lie in ruins, and whole neighborhoods have no access to running water."

Over 35,000 meters of water and sewage pipelines were damaged or destroyed during the war and 120,000 Gazans have no access to the water network.

At least 11 schools and universities were totally destroyed, with 253 severely damaged. Over 81 hospitals and clinics were also damaged or destroyed.

“With sewage spewing onto pavements, electricity and water supplies still severely limited and schools that look more like bomb-sites than places children get an education, hope is dwindling and Gaza’s future looks bleak,"William Bell, Christian Aid's Policy and Advocacy Officer for Israel/Palestine said.

Israel imposed its blockade on Gaza in 2006 after Hamas captured an Israeli soldier, and tightened it a year later when Hamas won Palestinian elections. more

Israeli forces demolish 2 homes, 7 stores in al-Eizariya

JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces on Wednesday morning demolished nine tin shacks, including two homes, in the town of al-Eizariya, east of Jerusalem, on land Israeli authorities have earmarked for construction of the separation wall, locals said.

A popular resistance committee spokesperson, Hani Halabiya, told Ma'an that large numbers of Israeli troops escorted bulldozers and Israeli Civil Administration inspectors into the town.

The bulldozers then demolished nine shacks without any prior warning, saying that they had been built without the necessary licenses, he said.

Halabiya said that some of the structures belonged to Sami Abu Ghaliya, a local Fatah official representing Bedouin tribes on the outskirts of Jerusalem, while the others were being rented by Palestinians from Jerusalem, Hebron, al-Eizariya, and the Bedouin al-Jahalin tribe.

Two of the structures served as homes and seven as commercial stores, including a grocery store, a car wash, and shops selling brassware and used furniture, Halabiya said.

He said that the same structures had been demolished five times, and added that they would be rebuilt as soon as possible, "in order to prevent construction of a section of the separation wall in the area." more

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

US judge orders Palestinian deposits over attacks

NEW YORK (AFP) -- A US judge Monday ordered Palestinian authorities to post $10 million in cash or bond while they appeal a ruling to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to American victims of attacks.

Judge George Daniels said the Palestinian Authority and Palestine Liberation Organization must also deposit $1 million every 30 days, pending appeal of the February verdict.

A New York jury found the PA and PLO liable for six attacks in Jerusalem between 2002-2004, awarding American victims and their families damages that amounted to $655.5 million.

Daniels said the judgment in favor of the plaintiffs would be entered in the next 60 days, but would be stayed pending appeal as long as the deposits were made with the clerk of the court.

Two weeks ago, the Obama administration urged Daniels to "carefully consider" the PA's precarious finances in deciding whether to impose a bond requirement.

Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken raised "significant concerns" about what could happen if a bond "severely compromised the Palestinian Authority's ability to operate as a governmental authority."

He said that depriving the PA "of a significant portion" of its revenue would "severely compromise" its ability to operate and warned that any collapse of the PA would "undermine" US foreign policy and "add a new destabilizing factor to the region." more

Monday, 24 August 2015

UNRWA staff in Gaza announce strike on 1st day of school year

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Around 225,000 Gazan schoolchildren were forced to return home on Monday after local staff at the UN agency for Palestinian refugees in Gaza went on strike on the first day of the new school year.

The strike comes amid a financial crisis in the agency that earlier threatened to delay the start of the school year.

"We didn’t want to suspend classes, but the administration of UNRWA pushed us to take that step," secretary general of the union of UNRWA employees, Raafat Hamdouna, said.

The union met with UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl on Sunday and said the "atmosphere wasn’t positive."

The union is protesting against overcrowding at UNRWA schools and unpaid vacations. At present, there are over 50 children in each classroom, with employees urging the agency to reduce the maximum capacity to 38.

Hamdouna said union members will protest in five locations across Gaza, including a sit-in strike inside UNRWA's Gaza City headquarters to be attended by 13,000 employees. more

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Hamas fighter wounded in 2006 dies in northern Gaza

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) – A member of Hamas’ military died on Sunday morning, sources in Gaza told Ma'an.

The sources said 30-year-old Ibrahim Ihsan Dmeida from Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip went into coma late on Saturday night shortly before he passed away.

Dmeida was being treated of wounds he sustained previously when an an explosive device went off severing his foot and hand in 2006. During 2006, Israeli Security Forces fired some 14,000 artillery shells into the Gaza Strip. more

Video: Israelis celebrate child slaughter outside hunger striker’s hospital

From the Electronic Intifada - This video shows Israeli police and right-wing extremists violently attacking and assaulting Palestinians who had gathered outside the hospital where a Palestinian hunger striker is gravely ill.

Flag-waving Israeli extremists sing songs celebrating and calling for the slaughter of Palestinians, especially children.

The events occurred on Sunday, when hundreds of Palestinians and supporters protested in Askalan (Ashkelon) in the south of present-day Israel in solidarity with Muhammad Allan, the Palestinian who has been on hunger strike for two months against his “administrative detention” – without charge or trial – by Israel.

As Allan struggled for his life, his supporters arrived aboard buses from Jerusalem, Jaffa and the north to hold a vigil outside Barzilai Medical Center where he is being treated and detained.

“Allan come and see, your people are supporting you openly,” the supporters call out in the video before they are attacked.

An Israeli police officer shouts through a megaphone: “This is an illegal gathering.”

Police assault protestors, dragging them away and confiscating Palestinian flags, and use a water cannon and pepper spray.

Genocidal songs

Haneen Zoabi, a Palestinian member of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, who tries to intervene to prevent the police violence, says: “The police are beating people, young women and men.”

At the same time, extreme right-wing Israeli Jews can be seen assaulting protestors without police intervention and indeed with police protection.

“Zoabi, you are whore! You are a terrorist,” one of the right-wing demonstrators shouts at her. The mob then starts to chant “Zoabi is a terrorist! Death to terrorists!”

Many openly declare support for Meir Kahane, the founder of the violent anti-Palestinian organization Kach.

They chant anti-Arab slogans including a song celebrating the mass killing of children in Gaza: “Why is there no studying in Gaza? Because there are no children left there.”

“Gaza is a cemetery,” they sing, and “Death to reporters!”

These same genocidal songs were heard on Israel’s streets during last summer’s 51-day assault on Gaza that killed more than 2,200 Palestinians, including 551 children. more

Video by Keren Manor, Faiz Abu Rmeleh and Oren Ziv of the ActiveStills collective.

Many injured by army fire near Hebron

Israeli soldiers invaded ‘Aseeda and Safa areas, in Beit Ummar town, north of the southern West Bank city of Hebron, and clashed with local youths, causing scores of injuries.

Coordinator of the Popular Committee against the Wall and Settlements in Beit Ummar, Mohammad Ayyad Awad, said several Israeli military vehicles invaded the town, and installed roadblocks in the two areas, before stopping and searching dozens of cards while interrogating the residents. He added that clashes took place between the soldiers and local youths, who hurled stones and empty bottles on the invading troops, while the army fired several gas bombs and concussion grenades. more

Saturday, 22 August 2015

61-year old female Palestinian held in solitary confinement

RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Palestinian prisoner Fathiyeh Abd al-Fattah Khanfar, 61, is currently being held in solitary confinement in Israeli jail, the lawyer of a prisoners' committee said Saturday.

Khanfar, from the village of Silat al-Thahr in Jenin in the occupied West Bank, is being held in a "tomb-like" room in unbearable living conditions, lawyer Hanan al-Khatib of the Prisoners and Former Prisoners' Committee told Ma'an.

Al-Khatib visited Khanfar in the Al-Ramla jail and said she is suffering from foot and back pain and infection in her trachea.

The detainee reported to al-Khatib that the room she is being held in lacks electrical appliances and is infested with cockroaches. She said she sleeps on a thin mattress on top of the concrete and is prevented from receiving visits or contacting her family.

Khanfar added that she needs to request water from the prison personnel as prisoners held in solitary confinement don't have access to water or restrooms except by permission.

Solitary confinement is one of several practices enforced routinely inside of Israeli prisons, according to prisoners' rights group Addameer, in addition to torture, forcible transfers, and medical negligence. more

Why has there been almost no reconstruction in Gaza?

Until this summer, not a single one of the homes totally destroyed during Israel’s assault on Gaza last year had been rebuilt.


The Israeli rights group Gisha, which monitors Israel’s siege of Gaza, tries to provides answers in a recent analysis, “Where’s the housing boom?”

The 51-day assault last summer destroyed or rendered uninhabitable 19,000 homes. More than 100,000 were damaged and more than 100,000 people in Gaza remain without permanent shelter.

A major reason for the fact that reconstruction is only just beginning is that between last August’s ceasefire and the end of July this year, Israel has allowed into Gaza just 6.5 percent of the construction supplies needed to repair years of destruction and accumulated housing needs.

But the story is more complex than that.

“Dual use”

A basic fact is that Israel still tightly regulates what comes in and out of Gaza, home to 1.8 million Palestinians.

Starting in June 2007, Israel has totally banned or severely restricted the entry of construction materials to Gaza. Since that time, Israel waged three devastating wars on the territory – in 2008-2009, 2012, and the most destructive yet, last summer.

The ban is implemented under the pretext that construction materials are “dual use” – they can be used for military purposes, such as building tunnels, as well as for civilian need.

Palestinian resistance fighters used such tunnels only to attack “legitimate military targets,” according to the recently published independent inquiry commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council into the last Gaza war.

Israel, the occupying power in Gaza, however, does not recognize any Palestinian right to resistance or self-defense.

The Israeli ban and Egypt’s closure of underground supply tunnels under its frontier with Gaza led to an almost total collapse of Gaza’s construction sector and helped push unemployment from an already staggering 28 percent in mid-2013 to 42 percent today.

Gisha says it “continues to object to the definition of a basic civilian commodity such as construction materials as ‘dual use,’ thus paving the way for blanket bans, especially when considering the fact that the ban has not proven effective in preventing tunnel building.” more

Friday, 21 August 2015

Within 9 days, Israel kills 3 Palestinian civilians at military checkpoints

Israeli forces stationed at military checkpoints have used excessive lethal force against Palestinian civilians. During the past few days, Israeli forces have killed 3 Palestinian civilians in similar circumstances which did not require the use of excessive force. pchr_3.jpg In addition, Israeli forces claimed in these 3 crimes that Palestinian civilians attempted to stab Israeli soldiers. Two of these crimes took place 42 hours apart at 2 checkpoints south of Nablus. Investigations conducted by PCHR confirm that these crimes violate the principles of necessity and discrimination, and the use of force was excessive, especially that Israeli forces could have used less lethal force against the victims or arrested them, even if the Israeli allegations were true.

PCHR points out that the Israeli Prime Minister and Defense Minister praised the Israeli soldiers who committed these crimes, which will serve to encourage other soldiers to commit similar crimes against Palestinian civilians.

According to investigations conducted by PCHR regarding the latest of these crimes, at approximately 12:15 on Monday, 17 August 2015, a Palestinian civilian, 24-year-old Mohammed Basam Mustafa al-Atrash, from Kafer Ra'ei village southwest of Jenin, arrived at Za'tara checkpoint , south of Nablus, coming back from Ramallah.

Israeli soldiers stationed at the checkpoint stopped a taxi which was carrying al-Atrash, and while checking the passengers' IDs, Israeli soldiers got him out of taxi because he wasn’t carrying his ID card and forced him to wait at the checkpoint.

An eyewitness who was crossing the checkpoint stated that he saw two Israeli soldiers, who were checking cars coming from Ramallah, opening fire at al-Atrash and running towards him.

They eventually killed him. Soon after, Israeli forces closed the checkpoint and did not allow a Palestinian ambulance to attend al-Atrash.

They brought an Israeli ambulance to transfer to Huwwara Camp, south of Nablus. At approximately 15:15, the body of Mohammed al-Atrash was delivered to a Palestinian ambulance at Awarta checkpoint at the northeastern entrance of Nablus.

The victim's body was then transported to Rafidia Hospital in Nablus. According to medical sources, the victim was hit by 10 gunshots to the chest, the abdomen and limbs.

Israeli forces claimed that al-Atrash attempted to stab an Israeli soldier before they killed him. At midnight, Israeli forces raided the house of Mohammed al-Atrash in Kafer Raie village, and checked all the house's knives in order to compare them with a knife which they claimed that Mohammed used to stab the Israeli soldier. However, they did not found such knife.

PCHR notes that this is the third crime committed by Israeli forces in similar circumstances within 9 days on the same ground.

On 15 August 2015, Israeli forces shot dead Rafiq Kamel Rafiq al-Taj, 21, from Tubas, at a military checkpoint ahead of the intersection of Bitaa village southern Nablus, with 4 bullets to the head, the back, the abdomen and the left thigh.

Also on 09 August 2015, Anas Ibrahim Mohammed Taha,21, from Qanta village northwest of Jerusalem, was killed by Israeli soldiers who opened fire at him at Khawaja petrol station which is located at (443) road that links Jerusalem with Israel, adjacent to Kharabtha al-Mosbah village, southwest of Ramallah.

PCHR strongly condemns these crimes which further prove the continued use of excessive force by Israeli forces against the Palestinian civilians in disregard for their lives. more

Egypt closes Rafah crossing with Gaza

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Egyptian authorities closed the Rafah crossing with Gaza on Friday after it had been open for four days to allow emergency cases through, a Gaza official said.

Iyam al-Bazem, spokesperson for the Ministry of Interior, said that 2,579 humanitarian cases left Gaza while 3,178 people entered the coastal territory.

Egypt prevented 146 Palestinians from leaving Gaza, he added.

Some 17,000 Palestinians need to urgently leave the territory, either for medical treatment or to continue their studies abroad, al-Bazem said. Egypt did not indicate when the crossing would next be opened.

The Rafah crossing, Gaza's only connection to the outside world, has been virtually closed since October 2014, allowing only a fraction of Gazans to leave or enter the blockaded enclave. more

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Palestinian detained by Israel ends 2-month hunger strike

ASHKELON, Israel (AFP) -- Palestinian detainee Muhammad Allan ended a two-month hunger strike Thursday that had put his life at risk and sparked intense debate over his detention without trial by Israeli authorities, his lawyer said.

"Muhammad Allan regained consciousness and is not on hunger strike," Jamil al-Khatib told journalists of his 31-year-old client, after Israel's top court late Wednesday temporarily lifted his detention without trial.

Khatib spoke after visiting Allan in hospital in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon and said his health was improving, though he remained bedridden.

He was receiving vitamins and minerals intravenously.

"He is in a good health condition and can communicate with others," Khatib said. "He can't eat food in his mouth because it needs a while. Now he is drinking water and it will be gradual, and I imagine this will be next week."

The Islamic Jihad group says that Allan, a lawyer from the West Bank, is a member of the Palestinian movement, as does Israel. He has been held since November in a form of internment without trial known as administrative detention, which was temporarily lifted by Wednesday's High Court ruling. more

Gunmen Kidnap Four Palestinians In Egypt's Rafah

The Egyptian Interior Ministry has reported that unknown gunmen have kidnapped four Palestinians, on Wednesday at night, while traveling in the Egyptian city of Rafah, in the North Sinai Governorate.

Spokesperson of the Egyptian Interior Ministry Eyad al-Bozom said the Palestinians were traveling in a deportation bus, guarded by Egyptian security officers, in the Egyptian Rafah city, before several gunmen intercepted the bus, and abducted the four Palestinians.

He added that Egypt is holding extensive talks with various parties in an attempt to secure the safe release of the kidnapped Palestinians. more

Israel court lifts detention order against Palestinian hunger striker

JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israel's High Court on Wednesday suspended a detention-without-trial order on hunger-striking Palestinian prisoner Muhammed Allan but said he must remain in hospital pending a decision on his future.

"Due to the petitioner's medical condition he will remain in intensive care," said the ruling, seen by AFP.

"This means that for now, owing to the hunger striker's medical condition, the administrative detention order is no longer operative."

The court said that for now he should be treated like other hospital patients.

"His family and friends will be able to visit him, not as a prisoner, subject to the usual medical instructions on visiting the sick," the ruling said.

"After his condition stabilizes, if Allan asks to be moved to another hospital he is to apply to the authorities and in the case of difficulty or disagreement it will be possible to turn to the court," it added. Earlier, an MRI scan revealed that Allan had suffered brain damage as a result of his hunger strike.


Women in Gaza: 'If we want to live here, we want to live in dignity'

From the Guardian - During the worst of the violence between Israel and Palestine last summer, Gaza student Hoda Elrayes shared her experiences of living on the frontline with GuardianWitness. One year on she tells us about three women in her community whose lives are still affected.

The conflict between Israel and Gaza last July has left the most acute humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip for decades. An international donors’ conference in Cairo last October raised $5.4bn (£3.4bn) to rebuild Palestine – however, according to a World Bank report in May, only a quarter of that sum has actually been delivered to those desperately in need.

Life for women in Gaza has never been easy but last summer’s escalation of violence has made the situation much worse for many. Over the last year I have have been in contact with three women whose lives were shattered – and I have approached the authorities in Gaza to find out the reasons why their situation has still not improved.

On the outskirts of Khuzaa, a farming village in the southern Gaza Strip that was destroyed during last summer’s conflict, a poster with pro-resistance slogans defiantly declares a self-proclaimed victory over Israel. Inside the village, young activists have decorated the caravans that have replaced the destroyed homes, with colourful spraypaint in an attempt to show the sheer force of will of the families now living in them. However, the reality is very different; after a year the resilience of residents here has been seriously reduced by the slow delivery of reconstruction. more

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Israel's top court weighs release of hunger striker as health worsens

JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israel's top court considered Wednesday whether to free a Palestinian detainee who has been on hunger strike 65 days, as Palestinian officials said his health had further deteriorated making him unable to communicate.

The case of Mohammed Allan, a 31-year-old lawyer from southern Nablus, has put intense pressure on Israeli authorities, who have detained him without charge since November.

Israel's High Court began a hearing on Wednesday afternoon on whether to release him due to his health. The proceedings were being held in secret in order to discuss his medical condition and security files.

Discussions were also said to have taken place outside the court with the aim of reaching a deal.

Issa Qaraqe, the head of the Palestinian Authority Committee for Prisoners' Affairs, said Wednesday morning that the Israeli military prosecution had offered to release Allan when his administrative detention expires on Nov. 3.

Qaraqe said that Israel would also pledge not to detain Allan under administrative detention again.

However, the head of the Palestinian Prisoner's Society, Qadura Fares, said that no deal was reached because Allan was no longer able to communicate.

Fares said that the hunger striker was undergoing an MRI scan to check the state of his brain, adding that his state of health was now critical.

The hunger striker regained consciousness on Tuesday after being in a coma more than four days, but pledged to resume fasting if Israel did not resolve his case within 24 hours, the prisoner's society said. more

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

PA accuses Hamas of 'Gaza split' talks with Israel

Arab and Turkish media have carried reports, picked up by Israeli media, claiming Israel and Hamas were holding talks.

The talks were reportedly aimed at reaching an eight- or 10-year truce, with Israel removing its blockade on the coastal Palestinian territory.

Israel on Monday denied it was engaged in "any meetings with Hamas, neither directly, nor via other countries or intermediaries". more

Israel denies talks with Hamas

JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israel said Monday it was not engaged in talks with Hamas following a flurry of media reports suggesting the two sides were discussing a long-term ceasefire. "Israel is officially clarifying that it is not holding any meetings with Hamas, neither directly, nor via other countries or intermediaries," the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement.

Arab and Turkish media have in recent weeks carried reports, that were picked up by Israeli media, claiming Israel and the Palestinian militant movement that rules the Gaza Strip were holding talks. According to the reports, the talks were aimed at reaching an eight-year or 10-year truce, with Israel removing its blockade on the coastal Palestinian territory.

A 50-day war between Israel and Hamas in July-August 2014 killed about 2,200 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 73 on the Israeli side, mostly soldiers, and destroyed or damaged tens of thousands of homes in Gaza. more

Monday, 17 August 2015

Cremisan valley: new section of apartheid wall underway

Israeli occupation forces, on Monday morning, have invaded Beit Jala town, northwest of Bethlehem, using bulldozers, to proceed with building a new section of the apartheid wall.

The razing is taking place in Bir ‘Ona archaeological site, and the wall will split the Cremisan Monastery valley in half.

According to the PNN, Israel’s Supreme Court, in July, issued a decision giving the occupation army the green light to proceed with building the separation wall in the valley.

The Court overturned its previous decision to halt the construction of the wall in Cremisan and its surroundings, including Alszayan nunnery (represented by Yves Saint Foundation) and the monastery (represented by lawyer Nihad Irsheid), in addition to the monastery’s lands.

The army will begin building the wall on family lands in Beit Jala, leaving just a small piece undeveloped at the current time along the edges of the monastery’s lands.

This decision came after the Israeli Ministry, in May, notified all concerned parties of its intention to begin building the eastern section of the wall on the lands of Beit Jala families. The Ministry of Defense alleged that the Supreme Court’s decision would make sure that the wall was to be built on unclaimed lands and that it would not separate the monastery from its lands and sheep. more

Israeli forces shoot dead Palestinian at southern Nablus checkpoint

NABLUS (Ma'an) -- Israeli troops shot dead a young Palestinian man in the northern West Bank on Monday after he allegedly attempted to stab an Israeli Border Police officer, the Israeli army said.

An Israeli army spokeswoman alleged that the Palestinian man approached Israeli Border Police officers at Tappuah junction, known to Palestinians as Zaatara military checkpoint, asking for "medical assistance."

She said that he struggled with the officer, before other officers opened fire on him.

The spokeswoman confirmed that he had been killed. She added that the police officer was lightly injured.

Palestinian witnesses said that Israeli forces closed the checkpoint to traffic as large numbers of troops deployed in the area. more

Israeli military vehicles raze land in Gaza border area

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- Israeli military vehicles entered agricultural lands in a border area in southern Gaza on Monday, local residents said.

Witnesses told Ma'an that five Israeli excavators raided the al-Nahda neighborhood near Rafah and leveled Palestinian land.

Israeli reconnaissance planes flew overhead during the operation, with Israeli military tanks positioned on the border between Gaza and Israel.

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.

The "security buffer zone" extends between 500 meters and 1500 meters into the Strip, effectively turning local farms into no-go zones. more

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Gaza woman dies of wounds from Israeli ordinance explosion

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- A Palestinian woman from Rafah city in the southern Gaza Strip died Sunday morning from wounds she sustained more than a week ago when an unexploded ordnance from last summer's Israeli military offensive went off while a family was clearing rubble from a destroyed house in the Shabora neighborhood of Rafah.

Palestinian medical sources at Abu Yousif al-Najjar hospital in Rafah said 77-year-old Amina Abu Naqira was in a critical condition before she succumbed to her wounds on Sunday morning after fighting for life for more than one week.

At least four Palestinians were killed the day of the explosion, and over 30 were injured.

The other fatalitieswere all from the same family as the 77-year-old and were identified earlier this month as Bakr Hasan Abu Naqira, Abdul-Rahman Abu Naqira, Ahmad Hasan Abu Naqira, and Hassan Ahmad Abu Naqira.

Over 7,000 unexploded ordnance were left throughout the Gaza Strip following last summer's war between Israel and Palestinian militant groups, according to officials of the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the Palestinian territories (OCHA). more

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Israeli forces shoot, injure Palestinian near Ramallah

RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces shot and injured a young Palestinian man twice in the hand on Saturday near the village of Beit Ur al-Tahta west of Ramallah, sources at the Palestinian Red Crescent Society told Ma'an.

And Israeli army spokesperson told Ma'an that Israeli forces shot the Palestinian after he reportedly stabbed and lightly injured an Israeli soldier on route 443.

The PRCS said an ambulance was sent to aid the Palestinian man, who is currently in Israeli custody. more

Friday, 14 August 2015

More than 450,000 kids set to miss school due to UN funding shortfall

From Vice News - A United Nations funding shortfall means that more than 450,000 Palestinian child refugees are set to find their classrooms are closed on the first day back to school.

In a report to the UN's Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, UNRWA, the branch of the body charged with providing aid to Palestinian refugees, warned that the "financial crisis" looked set to "force the suspension of services relating to the agency's education program."

"At a time of growing instability [and] rising extremism, there's going to be an extra half million kids on the streets of the Middle East," Chris Gunness, a spokesperson for the agency, told VICE News. "Radical groups are in full recruitment mode… these children should be in UN schools."

In a bid to stave off the crisis UNRWA has issued an urgent appeal to donors, including the United States, Australia, and the Gulf countries, to help plug the $101 million dollar hole in its education budget, but now with just nine days to go until the start of the school year in many places the funding pot is still short.

UNRWA is mandated to provide life-saving humanitarian aid as well as state-like services, including schools and hospitals, to millions of Palestinian refugees scattered across the region but it does not have a guaranteed budget. Instead the organization depends on donor contributions, which it says have not kept pace with the huge increase in demands on its services. more

Israeli paramilitary settler gang beats Palestinian worker with steel rods

A gang of Israeli settlers attacked a Palestinian worker who was repairing a traffic light in an illegal Israeli settlement near Jerusalem Thursday, landing the worker in the hospital with a broken hand and a number of other injuries, according to local sources.

The worker, Loav Bakri, 31, works as an electrical contractor, and was sent to the illegal Israeli settlement of Pisgat Ze'ev to fix a broken traffic light.

When he arrived on the worksite, he was attacked by a gang of six extremist settler youth who beat him severely with metal rods, fists and boots.

Bakri suffered multiple injuries in the attack, and was taken to a Jerusalem hospital for treatment.

This attack follows a series of escalating attacks on Palestinian civilians by armed Israeli paramilitary forces, who have burned churches, vandalized mosques, beaten numerous civilians including children, and firebombed homes. more

Hunger striker enters coma as protest enters 60 days

RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Palestinian prisoner Muhammad Allan, who has been on hunger strike for two months, lost consciousness Friday morning, the Palestinian Prisoner's Society said. The society said that Allan's health had dangerously deteriorated overnight, and that the hunger striker entered a coma after severe shivering.

They added that he is currently connected to ventilators.

Israeli authorities previously said they would make use of a controversial new law to force feed Allan if his health became critical.

However, Usama al-Saadi, a Palestinian member of the Israeli Knesset, told Ma'an: "Allan might be a martyr in hours as his health condition is very critical." more

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Hamas military wing claims to have captured Israeli drone

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Hamas' military wing on Wednesday claimed that it had taken over an Israeli drone last month and rebuilt it to make it operational, a statement said.

The Al-Qassam Brigades said it had captured an Israeli SKYLARK1 drone on July 22.

"Security checks were conducted, and the systems and technologies installed in the drone were examined, and then the unit rebuilt it and put the drone to use in the service of the al-Qassam Brigades," the group said.

Hamas said the achievement was dedicated to the Palestinian youth.

Last July Israel shot down a Hamas drone near the southern city of Ashkelon close to the Gaza border and in a separate incident downed another off the Mediterranean port of Ashdod, 17 miles north of Gaza and a similar distance south of Tel Aviv. more

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

UK petition to arrest Netanyahu attracts growing support

An online petition that is calling for the British government to arrest Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has attracted more than 40,000 signatures in a few days with campaigners hoping public support for the proposal could force a debate on the subject in parliament.

Netanyahu is scheduled to meet British Prime Minister David Cameron for talks in September when among other matters he is expected to issue his objections over the nuclear deal with Iran.

The petition, published on the British parliament’s website, has a very short text.

“Benjamin Netanyahu is to hold talks in London this September,” the statement reads. “Under international law he should be arrested for war crimes upon arrival in the UK for the massacre of over 2,000 civilians in 2014.”

Israel launched a 51-day offensive on the Gaza Strip last summer, killing over 2,200 Palestinians. The majority of those killed were civilians, including 539 children.

Amnesty International published a report into the summer war, dubbed Operation Protective Edge by the Israelis, saying that based on testimonials, field research it found “strong evidence” of Israeli war crimes.

According to British law, any petition that has over 10,000 signatures must be met with a response from the government. If a petition has over 100,000 signatures, the topic at hand must be officially considered by parliament for debate.

As of 1300 GMT on 12 August, the petition had attracted more than 40,000 signatures. more

Saudi Arabia donates $35 million to UNRWA

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Saudi Arabia has announced that it will provide $35 million to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees in a bid to avert a financial crisis within the organization, a statement said.

Yousef al-Bassam, Managing Director of the Saudi Fund for Development, said the donation aims to mitigate a funding crisis within UNRWA, which has threatened to delay the start of the school year for hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees.

"The closure of schools for half a million Palestinian children would be a catastrophe. I hope the rest of UNRWA’s steadfast partners will take heart in the continued confidence placed in the agency by the Kingdom with this latest contribution, and step forward with their own pledges to keep UNRWA’s operations going,” al-Bassam said.

The money will be spent on education and health in the Gaza Strip, upgrading schools and health centers in Jordan, and constructing three health centers in the occupied West Bank. Around $19 million will contribute to reducing the current financial deficit within UNRWA, estimated at some $101 million. more

New illegal colony planned in Silwan, in occupied Jerusalem

Palestinian researcher in settlement affairs, Ahmad Sob Laban, has reported that the Israeli colonization organization “Ateret Cohanim”, based in the Muslim Quarter in occupied Jerusalem, has presented a construction plan to the Jerusalem City Council, in preparation to build a new illegal colony near Bet Yonatan colony, in Silwan town, in occupied East Jerusalem.

Sob Laban said the new plan aims to construct three outposts, each composed of four floors, in addition to expanding the road between Bet Yonatan (illegally installed on Palestinian property in 2004) and the new outpost, which would also be built on illegally-seized Palestinian property adjacent to Bet Yonatan.

He added that Silwan, especially Batn al-Hawa neighborhood, is facing serious threats from Ateret Cohanim, an organization that is responsible for the construction of 71 illegal outposts in the Old City, in both the Muslim and Christian Quarters, since 1967.

The official also said that Batn al-Hawa became a target for colonization in 2004, when Bet Yonatan was illegally established in a building consisting of six floors through forged sale documents, while at the same time the organization established another outpost, known as Beit al-'Asal, in the heart of the neighborhood.

Last year, Ateret Cohanim managed to control two residential buildings, each composed of ten apartments, and a plot of land in Batn al-Hawa, after Israel removed the owners, the Abu Nab Family, and Palestinian renters of the apartments, allegedly because "the land it was built on used to contain a synagogue, and was inhabited by Jews, before 1948." more

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Palestinians occupy ICRC offices in support of hunger striker

JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Up to 80 Palestinian activists on Monday evening occupied the headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross in occupied East Jerusalem to express solidarity with a Palestinian prisoner who has been on hunger strike more than 50 days. The Palestinian youths were reported to have set up tents and raised Palestinian flags and posters inside the offices in East Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.

Activist Muhammad al-Shalabi said that around 80 Palestinians had declared an open sit-in that will last until Israel ends the administrative detention of hunger striker Muhammad Allan.

Allan, who has been held without trial or charge since November, has been on hunger strike for at least 56 days, although the exact length is unclear.

On Monday, he was transferred to Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon, where it is feared Israeli doctors intend to force feed him. more

Gazans plan new round of protests against UNRWA cuts

Palestinian factions together with committees representing UNRWA employees on Monday agreed to ramp up protests against the embattled UN agency for Palestinian refugees, an official with the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine said.

Mahmoud Khalaf said that factions had agreed to stage a rally next Monday in front of the UNRWA headquarters in Gaza City, as well as a number of sit-in protests outside UNRWA offices and UNRWA-run schools in refugee camps across the Gaza Strip.

Khalaf described ongoing cuts to UNRWA's services as "unjust," and claimed that they were part of a plot to undermine the Palestinian refugees' right of return to land inside Israel from which they were expelled in 1948.

He said that "the alleged financial crisis in UNRWA" had been made up as a pretext to shut down the UN agency and forego the refugees' right of return.

UNRWA was established in 1948 to provide relief to more than 700,000 Palestinians who were violently expelled from what became the state of Israel. more

Monday, 10 August 2015

32 detainees join hunger strike; 180 striking, more to join

The head of the Palestinian Detainees’ Committee Issa Qaraqe has reported that 32 Palestinian detainees, held by Israel, have joined the hunger strike, and that the current number of striking detainees is 180, while dozens are expected to join.

Qaraqe said all meetings between the detainees and the Israeli Prison Authority have failed, while Israel vowed to escalate its violations against them should they continue, or expand the strike.

He added that 32 detainees, members of the Islamic Jihad, have joined the hunger strike in Nafha and Ramon Israeli prisons, on Sunday evening, and that the current number of striking detainees have arrived to 180.

On Sunday morning, the number of striking detainees reached 148, after the Israeli Prison Authority refused to listen to the detainees’ demands, and decided to impose further restrictions on them.

Among the striking detainees are 120 members of the Fateh movement, held in Nafha; they started their strike five days ago, in addition to 26 detainees, members of Fateh, the Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) held in Ramon prison, and joined the strike Sunday. Two detainees, held in Eshil Israeli Prison, have also joined the strike on Saturday. more

Israeli forces shoot dead Palestinian after alleged stabbing attack

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces on Sunday shot dead a Palestinian man after he allegedly took part in a stabbing attack that left an Israeli civilian lightly injured in the occupied West Bank, the Israeli army said.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said that "a group of Palestinian assailants" attacked and lightly injured the Israeli near Ofer checkpoint on Route 443, southwest of Ramallah.

Israeli news site Ynet reported that the 26-year-old Israeli was filling his car at a gas station when the attack took place.

The army spokeswoman said that Israeli soldiers then opened fire on the Palestinian "suspects."

She had no immediate information on whether warning shots were fired, but said that Israeli forces opened fire "to prevent the suspect from escaping."

She confirmed that one of the Palestinians died of his wounds. more

Sunday, 9 August 2015

One year after shelling Gaza’s hospitals, Israel starves them of power

From the Electronic Intifada - Nabeel Muhammad’s job would be demanding under any circumstances. He is a nurse working with seriously ill patients. The difficulties that he faces have been multiplied by a power crisis in the Gaza Strip.

“The machines in the intensive care units do not work without electricity,” he explained. Incubators for premature babies in al-Aqsa hospital in central Gaza, where he is based, have even been affected.

The problems besetting this hospital illustrate how it has been under constant attack by one means or another for many years. In July 2014, it was shelled during Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s 51-day bombardment of Gaza. The power cuts that imperil the provision of basic services across Gaza have occurred repeatedly since Israel bombed the Strip’s only power plant in 2006.

Zauhdia Attia — also known as Um Waleed — receives treatment for a kidney complaint at the same hospital. The 56-year-old is supposed to undergo dialysis four or five times a week, she said.

“The number of machines in the hospital is few,” she added. “And during a power cut only one or two machines can be operated for more than 100 patients — using a small generator on our ward.”

The crisis has been especially acute since Egypt closed tunnels between it and Gaza in 2013. Those tunnels were used to smuggle fuel on which the people of Gaza depended. more

Silwan: zionists issue eviction notices to drive out Arabs

A lawyer representing a right-wing Israeli Jewish organization, Sunday, issued evacuation notices for three Palestinian homes in the Batn al-Hawa area of Silwan, occupied East Jerusalem.

The lawyer, representing Ateret Cohanim, told the Sarhan family that the land, on which the three houses were built, allegedly belongs to Jewish settlers.

The Silwan-based Wadi Hilweh Information Center reported that the Sarhan family was given 30 days to respond to the claims in court.

Ateret Cohanim, an organization which tries to create a Jewish majority in occupied East Jerusalem at the expense of Palestinian communities, claims that the land on which the Sarhan family lives belonged to three Jewish men from Yemen who lived there before 1948.

The chief of a local committee representing the Batn al-Hawa area, Zuheir al-Rajabi, said the Sarhan family has been living in the property for more than 80 years. The land and the houses, he said, belong to Ali Sarhan, his son Muhammad and another family member, Muhammad Mahir Sarhan.

Each home measures 80 square meters (861 square feet).

Al-Rajabi highlighted that a few days earlier, another Palestinian family, Abu Nab, received an evacuation notice from the same organization “which has been working on displacing the residents of the area.”

Attempts to aquire meters (56000 square feet) in the central quarter of Batn al-Hawa, the Wadi Hilweh Center told Ma'an News Agency.

The land in question houses around 300 Palestinians (80 families) living in more than 30 buildings, according to the Wadi Hilweh Center.

The center added that it released a report published in May that highlighted Ateret Cohanim's claims that a Jewish community from Yemen have owned six pieces of land in Batn al-Hawa since 1881. more

Hamas requests opening Rafah crossing for humanitarian cases

The Hamas-run Ministry of the Interior in the Gaza Strip on Saturday sent an urgent request to the Egyptian authorities to open the Rafah crossing and allow humanitarian cases to exit the beleaguered coastal enclave.

Iyad al-Buzm, a spokesperson for the ministry, said in a statement that conditions in Gaza represent a "humanitarian catastrophe," with up to 20,000 humanitarian cases and thousands of other Palestinians waiting to leave the territory.

He warned that the continued closure of the border crossing into Egypt threatens the lives of hundreds of patients with cancer and heart and lung-related illnesses, who are in urgent need of operations.

He said that it also threatens the future of thousands of students and holders of foreign passports.

Al-Buzm said that the Egyptian authorities have only opened the Rafah crossing for 15 days since the beginning of this year. more

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Infant mortality rate rises in Gaza for first time in fifty years

rusalem, 8 August 2015: The infant mortality rate in Gaza has risen for the first time in five decades, according to an UNRWA study, and UNRWA’s Health Director says the blockade may be contributing to the trend.

Every five years, UNRWA conducts a survey of infant mortality across the region, and the 2013 results were released this week.

The number of babies dying before the age of one has consistently gone down over the last decades in Gaza, from 127 per 1,000 live births in 1960 to 20.2 in 2008. At the last count, in 2013, it had risen to 22.4 per 1,000 live births.

The rate of neonatal mortality, which is the number of babies that die before four weeks old, has also gone up significantly in Gaza, from 12 per 1,000 live births in 2008 to 20.3 in 2013.

“Infant mortality is one of the best indicators for the health of the community,” said Dr. Akihiro Seita, Director of UNRWA’s health program. “It reflects on the mother and child’s health and in the U.N. Millennium Development Goals it is one of the key indicators.”

“The rate”, Dr. Seita said, “had declined quite smoothly over the last decades across the region, including Gaza. So when the 2013 results from Gaza were first uncovered, UNRWA was alarmed by the apparent increase. So we worked with external independent research groups to examine the data, to ensure the increase could be confirmed. That is why it took us so long to release these latest figures“.

Such an increase here is unprecedented in Dr. Seita’s experience working in the Middle East. “Progress in combatting infant mortality doesn’t usually reverse. This seems to be the first time we have seen an increase like this,” Dr. Seita said. “The only other examples I can think of are in some African countries which experienced HIV epidemics”.

The UN Agency will carry out another region-wide survey of Palestinian refugees in 2018. However, UNRWA will conduct one this year in Gaza alone because of these latest figures. more

Hamas urges confrontation with Israel after second arson death

JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Hamas called Saturday for "open and comprehensive confrontation" with Israel after the father of a Palestinian toddler killed in a firebombing by Jewish extremists last week died of his burns.

"Nothing will stop these murderous settler attacks and... we cannot wait until they come into our villages and our homes," Hamas spokesman Hossam Badran wrote on Facebook from his base in Qatar.

"Our people in the West Bank have only one choice: that of open and comprehensive confrontation against the occupation."

Saad Dawabsha died earlier on Saturday in hospital in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba where he was being treated for third degree burns, Palestinian official Ghassan Daghlas said.

Dawabsha's wife Riham Dawabsha and four-year-old son Ahmed are still fighting for their lives in hospital after the arson attack which killed 18-month-old Ali on Friday of last week.

The family's small brick and cement home in the occupied West Bank village of Duma was gutted by the fire and a Jewish Star of David spray-painted on a wall along with the words "revenge" and "long live the Messiah". more

Father of slain Palestinian infant dies from his wounds

BETHLEHEM, (Ma'an) -- Saad Dawabsha, the father of 18-month-old Ali Dawabsha who was burned alive in an arson attack by Israeli extremists on July 31, died from his injuries early Saturday morning, local sources told Ma'an.

Saad, 30, suffered from third-degree burns covering 80 percent of his body, the Palestinian Minister of Health told Ma'an, and was fighting for his life for more than a week before succumbing to his wounds.

Local sources from the family's village of Duma in the northern West Bank told Ma'an that the family had been notified of the death of Saad soon after he passed, and added that the 30-year-old would be laid to rest on Saturday.

Saad's wife Riham Dawabsha, remains in critical condition and suffers third-degree burns across 90 percent of her body. more

Israeli forces bomb target near refugee camp in Gaza, injure 4

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces injured at least four Palestinians during a bombing near Nuseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip on Friday, witnesses told Ma'an.

The four people injured were rushed to the hospital in ambulances.Their condition is unknown.

Earlier on Friday an Israeli army spokesperson said a rocket was fired at southern Israel from the Gaza Strip,with no injuries or damage reported.

An Israeli army statement released after the bombing on Gaza said the attack was in retaliation to the rocket allegedly fired out of the strip on Friday. more

Friday, 7 August 2015

Israel prevents Gaza football team from entering West Bank

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli authorities on Friday prevented Gaza's Ittihad al-Shujaiyeh football team from leaving the besieged enclave to face West Bank rivals Ahli al-Khalil in the second leg of a cup game, a spokesperson for the club said.

The Gaza-based team was scheduled to leave the coastal territory together with Hebron's Ahli al-Khalil after having played an historic game a day earlier at the Yarmouk stadium.

But four of the players and three of the team's staff were refused travel permits, spokesperson Alaa Shamali said.

The players were identified as Hussam Wadi, Maysara al-Bawwab, Omar al-Arier and Hashem Abed Rabbu.

The second leg of the cup game, scheduled for Sunday, has now been postponed and the next 24 hours will prove crucial as to whether talks with FIFA can lift Israel's travel restrictions.

Ittihad al-Shujaiyeh had agreed before the game that they would not leave Gaza unless the entire team was allowed to travel, Shamali added. more

Thursday, 6 August 2015

4 killed, dozens injured as Israeli ordnance explodes in Gaza

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- At least four Palestinians were killed on Thursday and over 30 injured when an unexploded ordnance from last summer's Israeli military offensive went off while clearing rubble from a destroyed house in the southern Gaza Strip, medics said. Palestinian medical sources at the Abu Yousif al-Najjar hospital in Rafah said four bodies and multiple wounded Palestinians arrived at the emergency room.

The victims, who were all from the same family, were identified as Bakr Hasan Abu Naqira, Abdul-Rahman Abu Naqira, Ahmad Hasan Abu Naqira, and Hassan Ahmad Abu Naqira.

Medics said it is likely that the death toll will increase.

Over 7,000 unexploded ordnance were left throughout the Gaza Strip following last summer's war between Israel and Palestinian militant groups, according to officials of the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the Palestinian territories (OCHA).

Even before the most frequent Israeli assault, unexploded ordnance from the 2008-9 and 2012 offensives was a major threat to Gazans. more

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

UN chief seeks urgent funding for Palestinian refugees

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) -- UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday raised alarm over a $100 million shortfall in funding for the UN aid agency for Palestinian refugees and called for urgent donations.

Ban said in a statement that the UNRWA relief agency was "a pillar of stability" for five million Palestinian refugees at a time when the Middle East is in the throes of crises and suffering. He called "on all donors to urgently ensure that the $100 million required be contributed to UNRWA at the earliest possible date so that the children of Palestine can begin their 2015-2016 school year without delay."

Ban has personally spoken to several world leaders in the past weeks about the unprecedented funding crisis at UNRWA, his spokesman said. His comments were made after UNRWA warned in a report that unless funding is secured by mid-August, "the financial crisis may force the suspension of services relating to the Agency's education program."

"This would mean a delay in the school year for half a million students attending some 700 schools and 8 vocational training centers across the Middle East." UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl expressed grave concern that potential cuts "could be necessary at a time of growing instability throughout the Middle East and when the role of UNRWA is increasingly significant." more

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Ofer Military Courts – A hidden portrait of the physical and psychological occupation of Palestinian youths

From MEMO - On the ground of the big dusty square in front of the Ofer military base lie the relics of exploded rubber bullets and discharged live ammunition. These are the remnants of demonstrations for the release of political prisoners, which are often violently repressed by Israeli forces. Last year, Israeli forces unlawfully killed two youths who were participating in a demonstration close to the base. Ofer military base was established on the outskirts of Ramallah, has housed the military courts since 1968. Ofer military courts are one of the judicial arms of the Israeli prolonged occupation of Palestine.

Inside the courtrooms – which are small, metal, prefabricated buildings – the everyday business is focused on the prosecution of young Palestinian prisoners. The proceedings violate of international law.

On 22 July, 2015, a Palestinian child was tried for his involvement in an incident that began in the streets of Hebron. The child flicked a lighter. Israeli soldiers, located approximately 100 meters away, spotted the flame in the dark and shot three times at the boy's leg. The soldiers said they shot him because they thought that he was about to light a Molotov cocktail. Other soldiers, who immediately gathered, testified that they found the remnants of a Molotov cocktail, approximately 30 metres away from the boy. However, the Israeli soldiers destroyed the Molotov cocktail on site, thus it could not be presented in court. Despite the lack of material evidence, the judge convicted the boy who was shot by Israeli soldiers, notwithstanding.

In another military courtroom, four shackled young Palestinians were sitting on a bench to the left of the military prosecutor's desk. The mother of one of the boys came in from the door and showed a two finger sign of victory to her son. She then moved to the second row of seats in the back of the courtroom, where parents are only allowed to sit. She gave her son a reassuring smile and whispered gentle words to him. His eyes became watery. The judge extended the four youths' period of detention after having identified them by reading out loud their names, without further examination of each individual case. more

Qatari fuel enters Gaza Strip via Kerem Shalom crossing

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Qatari fuel entered the Gaza Strip via the Kerem Shalom crossing on Tuesday, a Palestinian official said, as the besieged territory continues to face an energy crisis.

Deputy Head of the Energy Authority, Abed al-Karim Abdeen, told Ma'an that 180,000 liters of fuel entered the coastal territory while another 180,000 liters are due to enter on Wednesday.

There will likely be more shipments next Sunday or Monday, he added.

The Gaza Strip, which receives its electricity from Israel, Egypt, and its one power plant, has been struggling to produce enough power for months.

Earlier this year, the Gaza Strip was reduced to eight hours of electricity per day after its sole power plant shut down because it was unable to afford PA-imposed taxes.

In 2012, Egypt stopped pumping Qatari-funded fuel to the Gaza Strip after 16 Egyptian soldiers were killed in an attack in the bordering Sinai Peninsula. more

Heat wave brings added suffering to displaced Gazans

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- A heat wave sweeping across the occupied Palestinian territories has brought further suffering to Gazan residents whose homes were destroyed during last summer's deadly Gaza war.

"All the citizens who live in caravans are in very dire and disastrous living conditions," said 60-year-old Abu Ahmad, who lives in a mobile home in the Khuzaa neighborhood of Khan Younis in southern Gaza. "Death is better than our life."

Abu Ahmad said that since the war ended a year ago, his children had left him to live with their grandfather as conditions inside the mobile homes were too poor.

"We are humans, not animals, and we can't live in these caravans," he said.

The 60-year-old urged the Palestinian authorities to help improve living conditions for displaced Gazans, saying: "We are not asking for the unattainable, and we don't want them to put us in paradise."

"All we are asking for is to speed up reconstruction of our houses so we can get rid of this suffering."

Gazans have sought to house their families in whatever way they can following last year's devastating war, in which Israeli forces destroyed or severely damaged some 18,000 homes.

At the height of the conflict, the third in six years, the United Nations had transformed 91 of its schools in the Gaza Strip into shelters to house some 300,000 displaced. Short of money, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees recently closed the last shelter.

Some of the displaced have been able to return home, but more than 100,000 remain homeless -- more than five percent of the Strip's 1.8 million population. more