Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Jailed schoolgirl becomes Palestinian symbol


A 14-year-old Palestinian schoolgirl jailed by Israel has become a symbol of Palestinian anger over the arrests of children in the occupied territories.

The two-month sentence for Malak al-Khatib, who was accused of stone-throwing and possession of a knife, has unleashed a wave of solidarity and support among Palestinians.

"My heart broke when I saw her in court, cuffed and shackled," her mother Khawla al-Khatib told AFP from her home in the town of Beitin near Ramallah.

"I brought in a coat for her to wear because it was cold, but the judge refused to let her have it," the distressed 50-year-old said.

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

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

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

Amani Sarahna, spokeswoman for the Ramallah-based organization, said it was the first time in years that four female minors were held in Israeli jails, out of the 6,500 Palestinians incarcerated.

Following Malak's arrest, the Palestinian leadership sent a letter to the United Nations denouncing the Israeli practice of "seizing children in the dead of night", detaining Palestinian children "for extended periods of time" and subjecting them to "psychological and physical torture." more

Israeli soldiers raid, shut down Palestinian school at gunpoint


Israeli forces raided a Palestinian high school in the northern West Bank on Wednesday morning, storming the facility and forcing students to leave at gunpoint while detaining school administrators.

Ghassan Daghlas, a Palestinian official who monitors Israeli settlement-related activities, told Ma'an that the incident occurred near the villages of al-Lubban and al-Sawiya south of Nablus, both of which are served by the school.

Daghlas said that several Israeli military vehicles stormed the high school and forced the students to flee as they detained the school principal and his assistant.

Daghlas said that the soldiers interrogated the two school administrators and claimed that students from the school had hurled stones at vehicles driven by Israeli settlers on the main road between Nablus and Ramallah. more

UN Gaza war crimes inquiry to continue under new chair, despite Israeli objections


(Reuters) - A U.N. inquiry into possible war crimes in the Gaza conflict will produce its report on time next month, officials said on Tuesday, brushing aside a demand from Israel's prime minister to shelve it after the chairman resigned.

It marked the latest chapter in fraught relations between Israel and the main U.N. rights forum, which the Jewish state and its ally Washington accuse of bias against Israel. Activists voiced concern that Israel was trying to derail the inquiry.

Mary McGowan Davis, already a member of the independent commission of inquiry on Gaza and a former justice of the Supreme Court of New York, will replace Canadian academic William Schabas, a United Nations statement said.

"Her work will necessarily involve reviewing the commission of inquiry's work to date and ensuring that it impartially fulfils its important mandate," Philippe Dam of Human Rights Watch told Reuters. "We hope all parties will cooperate fully."

Schabas said on Monday he would resign after Israeli allegations of bias due to consultancy work he did for the Palestine Liberation Organisation.

Netanyahu said in a statement that following the resignation, publication of the report ought to be shelved and that the Islamist Hamas group ruling Gaza should be investigated rather than the Jewish state.

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel were killed in last summer's conflict. more