Increased cross-border violence in Gaza results in fatalities, injuries to children

 

Hala Ahmad Salman Abu Sabikha, 2, sustained fatal injuries to her head and chest when an Israeli tank targeted her home in Al-Mughazi refugee camp, central Gaza, on December 24.

Ramallah, January 3, 2014—A Palestinian teen injured by Israeli gunfire east of Jabaliya near Gaza’s border fence with Israel on Thursday died of his wounds this morning, according to news sources.

Israeli soldiers shot Adnan Abu Khater, 16, in the leg with live ammunition, which led to his death. An Israeli army spokeswoman said soldiers spotted “a number of suspects” damaging the border fence, Agence France-Presse reported. They ordered them to stop “numerous times but the suspects continued vandalizing the fence,” she told AFP. “Soldiers then resorted to aiming fire at the individuals’ lower extremities.”

Israeli forces also killed a young Palestinian girl and injured at least two other Palestinian teenagers in escalating cross-border violence in north Gaza since mid-December.

“Israel routinely targets civilians in Gaza in violation of international law,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Accountability Program Director at Defense for Children International Palestine. “Lack of accountability for these and previous incidents all but ensure that Israeli forces will continue to target civilians and pursue a campaign of collective punishment in Gaza.”

Hala Ahmad Salman Abu Sabikha, 2, sustained fatal injuries to her head and chest when an Israeli tank targeted her home in Al-Mughazi refugee camp, central Gaza, with three shells around 3:30 pm on December 24. Hala was reportedly outside in the yard at the time of the strike, according to evidence collected by Defense for Children International Palestine. Earlier in the day an Israeli civilian contractor, Saleh Abu Latif, 22, was shot and killed by a Palestinian sniper while working near Gaza’s border fence, according to news reports.

On December 20, Diya Ahmad Asad al-Natour, 17, was shot and wounded in the left knee during clashes between Palestinian youth and Israeli soldiers east of Jabaliya near the border fence.

Another Palestinian teen, Mohammad Rafiq Shinbari, 17, from Beit Hanoun, was shot and wounded in the leg by live ammunition fired by Israeli forces around 7:45 am on December 15 while working on farmland north of Beit Lahiya, about 500 meters (1,640 feet) from the border fence. Mohammad was transferred to Kamal Adwan Hospital, where he was operated on immediately. Surgeons used 12 platinum screws to repair the shattered bones in his leg.

Just before Mohammad was shot, a homemade rocket was reportedly launched from an unknown location about 1.5 kilometers (4920 feet) away, according to evidence collected by DCI-Palestine.

According to reports by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, at least 11 other children, including a two-year-old girl, have been shot by the Israeli military in Gaza since the beginning of 2013, 10 of which occurred near Gaza’s border fence with Israel.

Israel has imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip since mid-2007 by strictly controlling and limiting the entry and exit of individuals; maintaining harsh restrictions on imports including food, construction materials, fuel and other essential items; as well as prohibiting exports. Israel continues to maintain complete control of the Gaza Strip’s borders, airspace and territorial waters.

The last major Israeli military offensive on the Gaza Strip, Operation Pillar of Defense, occurred between November 14 and 21, 2012. During the eight-days of Operation Pillar of Defense more than 30 Palestinian children were killed in attacks characterized by disproportionate force directed at government and civilian infrastructure and residential neighborhoods.


Surgeons used 12 platinum screws to repair the shattered bones in 17-year-old Mohammad Rafiq Shinbari’s leg.

(Source / 03.01.2014)

ISIS condemned for brutal murder of fellow jihadist

 

ISIS condemned for brutal murder of fellow jihadist

BEIRUT: An alliance of seven Islamist rebel militias has accused the hard-line jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) of being “worse than the Assad regime,” after the latest outrage against a fellow jihadist.

ISIS militants were blamed this week for the kidnapping and killing of Hussein al-Suleiman, a physician who was also a commander in the Ahrar al-Sham militia.

Ahrar al-Sham is one of the country’s biggest rebel groups, and is a member of the Islamic Front alliance along with six other militias, most of which enjoy a nationwide presence.

A gruesome photograph of Suleiman’s disfigured body has circulated widely on social media.

The Front said that Suleiman was arrested after he went to meet with an ISIS delegation in order to settle a dispute that arose in the village of Maskaneh in rural Aleppo.

In a statement Wednesday, the Front demanded that ISIS hand over those responsible for Suleiman’s killing, while pointing to the blanket refusal by ISIS militants to cooperate with the Shariah Committees that have been established in rebel-held areas to handle local disputes.

“They kidnapped him and tortured him, and then killed him and disfigured his corpse, in a way unknown to the Syrian people prior to the revolution, even when it came to the branches of the criminal Assad regime’s security bodies,” the statement said.

“We hereby warn that if ISIS continues with its methodical avoidance of refraining from … resorting to an independent judicial body, and its stalling and ignoring in settling its injustices against others, the revolution and the jihad will head for the quagmire of internal fighting, in which the Syrian revolution will be the first loser,” it added.

While the various factions of Islamists in Syria’s war are often lumped together in the minds of some people, the Front used the word “thawra,” which can mean revolution or revolt – the term is anathema to ISIS and the Nusra Front, both affiliates of Al-Qaeda, who denounce any struggle other than “jihad.”

Observers believe that the Islamic Front, which was formed in November, is trying to position itself as the most powerful rebel force on the ground.

However, its various groups have become embroiled in a series of disputes and clashes with both mainstream rebels from the Free Syrian Army as well as the ultra-extremists of ISIS and the Nusra Front.

One of the leading figures in the Islamic Front, Hassan al-Abboud of Ahrar al-Sham, tweeted about the recent infighting between the Islamists, but refrained from making harsh accusations against ISIS.

Some observers believe that the Ahrar al-Sham movement, one of the most powerful in the country, is for now seeking to avoid an all-out clash with ISIS even though other members of the Islamic Front favor such a move.

The mainstream opposition-in-exile, the National Coalition, also strongly condemned the crime and accused ISIS of being in league with the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

“The coalition believes that ISIS is closely linked to the terrorist regime and serves the interests of the clique of President Bashar Assad, directly or indirectly,” it said in a statement Wednesday.

“The murder of Syrians by this group leaves no doubt about the intentions behind their creation, their objectives and the agendas they serve, which is confirmed by the nature of their terrorist actions hostile to the Syrian revolution,” the statement added.

It called on rebels who had joined ISIS to abandon the group and for the “prosecution of the leaders of this terrorist organization along with the criminals of the regime.”

The statement said that Suleiman was shot to death after being subjected to “the worst forms of torture,” while according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, one of Suleiman’s ears was cut off before he was killed.

The Observatory said his body was handed over to representatives of the Islamic Front Tuesday, as part of a prisoner exchange.

The incident is merely the latest in a series of widely condemned actions by ISIS, which is believed to count a large number of non-Syrians within its ranks.

Some observers have focused on the growing clout of ISIS, as well as the notion that the Al-Qaeda-inspired group supposedly “learned its lessons” from years past in Iraq, where it had engaged in terrorizing civilian populations.

But in many areas, the group has been accused of engaging in systematic arrest campaigns of civilian activists, as well as clashing with rebel groups that are either mainstream or Islamist.

In November, a wounded commander from Ahrar al-Sham was murdered by ISIS militants, who reportedly heard him muttering prayers to figures venerated by Shiites while recovering under anesthesia in a hospital.

In the village of Sarmada in Idlib province, pro-opposition media outlets said that ISIS militants clashed Wednesday with fighters from the Islamic Front, reportedly over control of a checkpoint.

And ISIS has also angered Idlib’s famous small town of Kafranbel, where supporters of the uprising have regularly churned out posters and banners promoting the struggle against the regime as well.

After militants from ISIS attacked several media facilities there last week and briefly detained six people, they followed it up this week with a brief kidnapping of an activist.

An activist from the town said that due to “security reasons,” the town won’t take part in the nationwide Friday protests, which have been called for to denounce the “treacherous” killing of Ahrar al-Sham’s doctor-fighter, referring to him by his nickname Abu Rayyan.

Also last week, ISIS was obliged to release an FSA commander it had captured and held hostage – it came after hundreds of people demonstrated in the Idlib town of Maaret al-Numan against ISIS, demanding that that the group set free all of those it has seized.

(Source / 03.01.2014)

Israel rejects 1967 borders plea, says deputy FM

Israel rejects 1967 borders plea, says deputy FM
Israel rejects 1967 borders plea, says deputy FM
Israel’s deputy foreign minister Ze’ev Elkin said Israel would not contemplate going back to their 1967 borders.
Israel’s deputy foreign minister Ze’ev Elkin said that Israel would not accept any peace deal with the Palestinians that mentioned the 1967 borders and the release of the recently annexed Jordan Valley.

Elkin told Israeli radio on Thursday: “Israel has to refuse any American framework agreement if it includes the issue of the 1967 borders, or if it does not approve Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley.”

He also added: “It is good to have negotiations going on, but it is important that they do not cost Israel an existential price.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Israel on Thursday afternoon to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas in the hope of reviving deadlocked peace talks.

Although as part of the ongoing talks Israel has released dozens of Palestinians prisoners from Israeli jails, Israel has increased its illegal settlement activity in the West Bank and arrested scores of Palestinians in scuffles, putting talks into doubt. If the talks fail, many commentators have warned of a third Palestinian intifada.

(Source / 03.01.2014) 

Israel killed most AMIA perpetrators: Ex-envoy

A former Israeli envoy says the Tel Aviv regime has killed most of the people behind the deadly attacks on its embassy and a Jewish center in Argentina in the 1990s.

Itzhak Aviran, who was the Israeli ambassador to Argentina from 1993 to 2000, said the perpetrators were mostly eliminated by Israeli security agents operating abroad.

“The large majority of those responsible are no longer of this world, and we did it ourselves,” Aviran said in an interview with Buenos Aires-based Jewish news agency (Agencia Judía de Noticias) on Thursday.

Aviran also accused the Argentinean government of not doing enough “to get to the bottom” of the incident.

Under intense political pressure imposed by the US and Israel, Argentina formally accused Iran of having carried out the 1994 bombing attack on the AMIA building that killed 85 people.

AMIA stands for the Asociacion Mutual Israelita Argentina or the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association.

The Islamic Republic has categorically and consistently denied any involvement in the terrorist bombing.

Two years earlier, in March 1992, a car bombing in front of the Israeli embassy in the capital killed 29 and wounded 200 others.

Tehran and Buenos Aires signed a memorandum of understanding in January to jointly probe the 1994 bombing.

The Israeli regime reacted angrily to the deal a day after it was signed. “We are stunned by this news item and we will want to receive from the Argentine government a complete picture as to what was agreed upon because this entire affair affects Israel directly,” Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson Yigal Palmor said on January 28.

On January 30, however, Argentina said Israel’s demand for explanation over the “historic” agreement is an “improper action that is strongly rejected.”

(Source / 03.01.2014)

Settlement construction rose by 130% in 2013

 

Jessica Purkiss‘The Jordan Valley, which runs the length of the West Bank and makes up one-fifth of its total area, has an abundance of fertile terrain and water’

As people across the world welcome in the New Year, they will also reflect on the year just past. For Palestine and Israel, 2013 was a year that saw the resumption of “peace talks”. The US-brokered talks are projected to continue until April 2014, at the end of which Secretary of State John Kerry hopes desperately that there will be a final peace agreement.Just after midnight on the 31st December, as a “goodwill” gesture, Israel released 26 Palestinian prisoners. They were the third group of 26 detainees out of the 104 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to release in four stages following the revival of peace talks. All of the prisoners were sentenced before the 1993 Oslo Accords.

However, even before the prisoners returned home, Netanyahu had announced plans to build a further 1,400 homes in settlements across the occupied West Bank and in East Jerusalem. The announcement did not come as a surprise as both of the previous prisoner releases were accompanied by the publication of tenders for new settlement construction in the West Bank and illegally-annexed East Jerusalem.

As settlements and their continued expansion are considered to be one of the major obstacles in reaching a peace agreement, the expected announcement only deepened concerns that the fragile peace talks could derail. The issues of the settlements, which are deemed illegal under international law, resulted in the last breakdown of talks 3 years ago.

Despite the threat that settlement construction poses to the peace talks, Israel’s building plans have not ceased, or even slowed. According to statistics released in November, in 2013 the number of settlement building projects across the Green Line rose by nearly 130 per cent compared to 2012, with seven per cent of new Israeli construction sites erected last year located in the West Bank. According to settlement watchdog Peace Now, tenders have been issued for 3,472 new settlement units beyond the 1967 lines in the eight months since March 2013.

From January to June, in the months prior to the resumption of talks, Israeli construction in the West Bank increased by 70 per cent compared with the same period in 2012. Compared with the last quarter of 2012, the first quarter of 2013 saw settlement construction in the West Bank increase by 335 per cent, the highest rate in seven years, according to data issued by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics.

There are currently 125 Israeli settlements and approximately 100 Israeli settlement “outposts” (some of which are illegal even under Israeli law), which are home to around 367,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank alone, a number which is growing. According to Israeli military radio, the population in Israel’s illegal West Bank settlements has grown twice as much as in Israel itself. Figures apparently show an increase of 7,700 settlers in the occupied West Bank during the first six months of 2013. This represents a 2.1 per cent increase in six months compared with an annual population growth of two per cent registered in Israel.

While not commenting directly on the West Bank rise, Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel said, “I am delighted that construction starts exceeded predictions and erroneous statements in different media outlets.” In 2014, he added, the world will see the marketing of “thousands” of housing units in places like Kiryat Gat, Modiin, Beit Shemesh, Kiryat Bialik, Rosh Ha’ayin and more.

Alongside the increased construction, there has also been an increase in settler violence. Compared to the 353 settler attacks against Palestinians and their property recorded in the West Bank during 2012, there had already been 492 attacks by October 2013, according to PA monitoring official Ghassen Daglas.

In addition to the illegality of settlements, any act of violence perpetrated by residents of settlements that is not investigated efficiently by the Israeli police is also a breach of Israel’s international legal obligations. Out of the hundreds of attacks on Palestinians and their property, only 8.5 per cent of the complaints raised have led to an indictment.

Netanyahu has requested Uri Ariel to delay the publication of tenders for the 1,400 new housing units until after Kerry’s visit, scheduled to begin on 2 January, signalling his awareness of the sensitivity of settlement construction. However, a recent plan being drawn up could mean that, in future, Israel will not be obliged to publish tenders, as it is now.

creative plan advanced by the prime minister’s advisor on settlement affairs, Gabi Kadosh, will see “urban” settlements, in which the Israeli government is legally obliged to issue public tenders to market land, being redefined as “rural” settlements, in which there is no such obligation, shielding settlement construction from public scrutiny. Despite Peace Now reporting that settlement construction in the first half of 2013 rose by a drastic 70 per cent compared with the first half of 2012, 86 per cent of the new construction was carried out in areas where tenders were not required.

Meanwhile, a bill sponsored by right-wing politician Miri Regev proposing to extend Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley – a de facto annexation – was passed by a ministerial committee with the support of eight members of the government, less than a week ago. The Jordan Valley is another of the stumbling blocks for reaching a peace agreement.

The Jordan Valley, which runs the length of the West Bank and makes up one-fifth of its total area, has an abundance of fertile terrain and water; the first settlement was built there in 1968. Within a decade 19 settlements had sprung up, all illegal under international law. In the 5 years after that, another 11 went up; today there are 38 settlements in the area. The settlement farms in the valley, which make use of the fertile land and water resources, bring Israel an export income of around $128 million a year. The Palestinian farmers in the region are, on the other hand, reportedly experiencing a 20-60 per cent decline in revenues from the export of peppers, for example.

Israel estimates the value of goods produced in settlements across the West Bank and sold to European countries to be $300 million per year. This means that the settlements are an enterprise, which despite being understood as illegal in most countries, are propped up by foreign support from Europe at the expense of the local Palestinian population. For example, the confiscation of water resources by the settlements in the Jordan Valley sees the 9,400 Israeli settlers consume 6.6 times more water than the 56,000 Palestinian residents living in the same area, according to Save the Children.

Last year the European Union issued a directive that will prohibit EU states from signing deals issuing grants, funding, prizes or scholarships with Israel unless a settlement exclusion clause is included in the agreement. Yet, some argue that harsher measures are needed.

For Palestine, 2013 will be remembered as a year of records. According to data compiled by the rights group, three times as many Palestinians were killed in the West Bank in 2013 compared with 2012, the highest number in 5 years. The arrest rate in 2013 was only one per cent higher than the rate in 2012; however, it was 17 per cent higher than 2011. While 2013 will be remembered as the year that peace talks resumed the facts on the ground show that real “peace” is far from being a reality.

(Source / 03.01.2014)

Palestinian youth shot by Israeli troops dies

An Israeli army vehicle stands along the border fence between Israel and Gaza at northern Gaza Strip during a demonstration of Palestinians on the other side of the border fence Dec. 27, 2013.
A Palestinian youth shot by Israeli soldiers in the Gaza Strip has died of his wounds, a medical official said on Friday.

The 16-year-old, identified as Adnan Abu Khater, was shot on Thursday near the border fence in the northern Gaza Strip, sources on both sides said.

Ashraf al-Qudra, a spokesman for the emergency services in the Islamist Hamas-run enclave, said in a statement that Khater died of his wounds after soldiers shot him in the leg east of Jabaliya.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said of Thursday’s incident that soldiers identified “a number of suspects” damaging the border fence.

She said the soldiers asked them to halt “numerous times but the suspects continued vandalising the fence”.

“Soldiers then resorted to aiming fire at the individuals’ lower extremities… and “reported one hit”.

Later Thursday, Palestinians fired a projectile that hit near the border fence in Israel, a police spokeswoman said, causing no harm or damage.

Israeli warplanes early on Friday carried out a series of strikes against Gaza in response, the military said.

A statement from the army said that “in response to rocket fire toward Israel”, its “aircraft targeted a terror infrastructure site in the central Gaza Strip and three concealed rocket launchers in the northern Gaza Strip”.

“Direct hits were confirmed,” the statement read.

There were no immediate reports of injuries in Gaza.

On Sunday, Palestinians said two people were wounded by Israeli tank fire in central Gaza.

Exchanges of fire between the sides peaked last Tuesday, when a sniper inside Gaza killed an Israeli repairing the border fence.

Israel retaliated against “terror sites” in Gaza with warplanes and tanks, killing a toddler and wounding at least six people.

(Source / 03.01.2014)

Israel’s West Bank torture regime

 

Asa WinstanleyThe slow disintegration of living conditions in the West Bank continues apace. But this is no natural disaster or complicated economic malaise. This is a very deliberately created policy, one designed and implemented by a state – the occupying power Israel.

The Zionist project in the land of Palestine shares much with the toppled South African apartheid regime. But there are important differences. Unlike South Africa, which relied on the black masses as a subservient labour force, ideologically, Israel would simply wish for Palestinians to disappear.

Hence the project of Zionist colonisation that began even before 1948, but reached a peak then, with the Nakba – the deliberate ethnic cleansing of the majority of the Palestinian population through force of arms. This project never ended and continues today.

Palestinians on both sides of the “Green Line” ceasefire line (drawn in 1949) constantly face down direct expulsions from the Israeli terrorist army. A new project of Israeli ethnic cleansingthe in southern desert, the Naqab, has been thwarted by a concerted Palestinian protest movement. Or thwarted for now, we should say, since the Prawer Plan is likely to return to the Knesset in another form.

But a less obvious form of this creeping, slow-motion Nakba is the everyday grind of occupation – the deliberate Israeli policy of enforced misery in the West Bank and the siege on Gaza.

A glaring example is the apartheid wall that cuts Palestinian farmers off from their lands. The checkpoints that break up Palestinian life and economic activity – these are monuments to Israel’s inhumanity towards Palestinians, simply because they are not Jews. Israeli checkpoints, with their turnstiles and cages, would not be tolerated in the West as fit conditions for animals.

Israel’s torture regime in the West Bank is very real. Palestinian prisoners are frequently subjected to torture by Israeli soldiers, police and other agents. It is a routine act of Zionism towards Arabs. Israeli torture techniques are well documented by human rights groups such as Al Haq and Amnesty International. The book of essays Threat contains many such accounts, both by Palestinian prisoners themselves, as well as their lawyers.

More recently, Israel has hit on a new physiological torture technique on Palestinians – but it is one carried out on entire villages and neighbourhoods. It affects innocent men, women and children, who are not even accused of a crime. Israeli soldiers do this simply because they can.

They are calling them “training exercises” or “mock raids”. Soldiers invade Palestinian homes and make arrests without explaining what is going on. Lovingly-built homes are upended in apparent searches for weapons. Houses are surrounded with armed soldiers. Children are terrified.

However, the whole thing is a sham. There is not even the suspicion of weapons in the homes in question. The phenomenon is described by the sadistic Israeli army spokesperson as a “navigating run” – it is done as a way of “demonstrating IDF [sic] presence in the area” – an Israeli army spokesperson told the Guardian in November. In other words, so shown them who’s boss.

“We used houses, streets, people like cardboard practice targets,” one former Israeli soldier admitted.

The policy is deliberate, and it is yet another aspect to the ongoing Nakba.

Although the Nakba – Arabic for the catastrophe that befell Palestine in 1948 – is a historical event, it is also a long-term Israeli policy – one that has never ended. This is an important concept, something that was likely first spelled out by the eminent Palestinian academic Joseph Massad in a 2008 essay.

The Zionist project will not be satisfied until every last Palestinian is removed. But it’s a testament to Palestinian resilience over more than a century; that this project has been unable to succeed.

(Source / 03.01.2014)

Last Palestinian family vows to remain as Israel gentrifies historic Haifa neighborhood

Israeli municipality plans to take over Haifa’s historic Wadi al-Siyah neighborhood.

A local authority plans to demolish a Palestinian neighborhood in Haifa, a coastal city in theGalilee region of present-day Israel.

“One day, two years ago, there was an order from the municipality on our door,” Tawfiq Abbas told The Electronic Intifada. He was born and raised in Wadi al-Siyah, a valley on the outskirts of Haifa.

Abbas’ extended family includes more than sixty members, twenty of whom are children. The family holds Israeli citizenship.

“No one actually talked to us. They just left a paper that said we have ten years to leave, according to the municipality and the interior ministry,” he said, adding that all eight homes in the area would eventually be demolished.

Wadi al-Siyah predates the 1948 establishment of Israel. Though it was once a vibrant place with a public swimming area and a large public garden and orchard, Abbas and his family are the last ones left. Only meters away are the crumbling remains of homes, buildings and pathways that once belonged to past residents.

Abbas and his family are being threatened with eviction because of the city’s plans to gentrify the area and generate a larger income for the local municipality.

“My family has documents proving that it has lived here for over a hundred years, but now Israel wants to remove us by any means possible.”

Behind Abbas’ home, his grandfather was born in a cave in the early 1900s, though the exact year is not certain.

Following Israel’s establishment, the state imposed harsh conditions on Wadi al-Siyah’s residents.

“There used to be several families here, but now ours is the only one left,” said Abbas.

“After 1948, Israel didn’t give the neighborhood any services. There was no electricity,water, lights or paved roads.”

Despite their constant presence, Haifa’s municipality has only provided Wadi al-Siyah’s remaining residents with access to water and electricity in the last 15 years. At that point, the municipality also ordered that the residents no longer use the local water well.

Few services

Though all the residents pay municipal taxes, few other services are provided: there are still no paved streets or lights on the dirt path, public transportation does not serve the area and Abbas walks more than a kilometer each day to take out the trash. The lack of lighting makes going out after sunset dangerous, Abbas explained, due to a large wild boar population.

“The city has plenty of money to provide us with services,” he said, pointing in the direction of a large shopping mall within plain sight of Wadi al-Siyah. “But instead they just want us to go.”

Abbas and others want to work with the municipality to find an alternative plan that establishes their neighborhood as a recognized part of the city and prevents their eviction. Yet they have met consistent rejection from Haifa’s municipality, including a number of lawsuits intended to push them out of Wadi al-Siyah.

“We’re not going anywhere because there’s nowhere to go. Even if the state came and offered us millions of dollars, we would refuse. It’s not about money,” Abbas said.

Abbas and four other landowners in Wadi al-Siyah are challenging their eviction orders in a hearing expected to take place in early January. They are receiving legal assistance from the Mossawa Center, a Haifa-based advocacy group for Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Due to the close vicinity of popular hiking routes and two fresh water springs, Haifa’s municipality intends to turn Wadi al-Siyah into a nature resort. For some, the area also has religious significance, believed to be the spot that Elisha — a prophet in Jewish, Christian and Islamic traditions — drank from the springs.

There is also a nearby Jewish cemetery that has been expanded several times, taking the land of former residents and forcing one family to live in the cemetery for a period of time.

In the place of the Abbas family’s homes, the city will renovate the area to make it a profitable nature reserve for locals and tourists.

Broken promises

Jafar Farah, director of Mossawa, told The Electronic Intifada that Haifa’s current mayor, Yona Yahav, promised to recognize Wadi al-Siyah and include it within the boundaries of municipal services like neighboring areas. The city planning council made similar assurances, but in the end neither the mayor nor the city planners followed through with their promises.

“We have appealed on behalf of the residents to the city planning council several times, asking them to recognize Wadi al-Siyah’s legitimacy,” said Farah. “They refused each time, so we are taking the case to court.”

Abbas is doubtful that the court will deliver justice. “There’s no hope,” he said. “They say this is a democracy and we have equal rights, but Israel plays with the laws to use our citizenship against us when it helps them and ignores it other times.”

Another Palestinian neighborhood of Haifa, known as al-Mahatta, is also slated for demolition in order to make way for a new railway that connects the city’s mountaintop to the coast.

Similar gentrification projects, Farah said, “are also going on in Wadi Salib and Wadi al-Nisnas,” referring to historically Palestinian neighborhoods.

“Just like in Wadi al-Siyah, the city did not consult the local residents,” Farah added.

Since its 1948 establishment, Israel’s policies have sought to strategically settle areas in order to break up Palestinian geographic contiguity and implant Jewish-only settlements, agricultural collectives and military installations. For Palestinian citizens of Israel, this has translated into housing demolitions, land confiscation and restrictions on land purchasing and municipal expansion, among other measures.

Nadim Nashif is director of Baladna, a group that works for Palestinian youth in Israel. He told The Electronic Intifada that gentrification of Palestinian neighborhoods in Haifa is part of a broader series of policies aimed at removing the indigenous Palestinian residents across present-day Israel.

Like in occupied East Jerusalem and the broader West Bank, the end goal is to establish new Jewish-only areas or expand existing ones.

Ethnic cleansing as state policy

“This is the Nakba continuing,” Nashif said, alluding to the forced displacement that preceded and followed Israel’s establishment in 1948. “This is one of the many kinds ofethnic cleansing taking place across the country.

“It’s a state policy that takes different forms and has different excuses but it also comes from the policy of ethnic cleansing. Not just the Naqab [Negev] region, but we see home demolitions in Umm al-Fahim, Majd al-Krum, and elsewhere,” he explained, referring to Palestinian towns in present-day Israel.

Abbas echoed these sentiments, saying that his family’s eviction “comes from the same idea of oppressing Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. The same thing happens here.”

Israel recently claimed to have shelved the Prawer Plan, legislation designed to make way for new Jewish-only settlements by removing tens of thousands of Palestinian Bedouincitizens of Israel in the southern Naqab region. Yet home demolitions have continued without pause.

On 26 December, Israeli forces raided and demolished the Naqab village of al-Araqib for the 63rd time since 2010 (“Israeli forces demolish Bedouin village in Negev for 63rd time,” Ma’an News Agency, 26 December 2013).

The World Zionist Organization, which is linked to the Israeli government, recently announced a plan to settle 100,000 Jews in the central Galilee region as a way to “achieve a demographic balance with the Arab population,” the Israeli daily Haaretz has reported (“WZO pushing new Jewish towns to ‘balance’ Arab population in Israel’s north,” 1 December 2013).

Abbas promised that he and his family would stay in Wadi al-Siyah no matter the court’s decision. “We were here before this state and its laws … we’re going to stay on the land of our grandfathers and great-grandfathers.”

(Source / 03.01.2014)

Syrian opposition turn on al-Qaida-affiliated Isis jihadists near Aleppo

Syrian rebel alliance surround forces of hardline Islamic State of Iraq in Syria as fighting against same group continues in Iraq
Fighters of  al-Qaeda linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant parade at Syrian town of Tel Abyad

The most serious clashes yet between the Syrian opposition and a prominent al-Qaida group erupted in the north of the country on Friday as a tribal revolt against the same organisation continued to rage inIraq‘s Anbar province.

Opposition groups near Aleppo attacked militants from the Islamic State of Iraq in Syria (Isis) in two areas, al-Atareb and Andana, which are both strongholds of the fundamentalist Sunni organisation.

Battles also erupted in the Salahedin district of Aleppo itself, where both groups had reluctantly co-existed during recent months as Isis had imposed its hardline influence on parts of the city. Several hundred miles east, Isis remains in control of parts of the Iraqi cities of Fallujah and Ramadi, having raided mosques, sacked police stations and freed prisoners in moves reminiscent of the darkest days of Iraq’s insurgency, in which much of Anbar had been lost to al-Qaida.

Isis is the latest incarnation of the same ruthless group that held sway in Anbar before the Awakening Movement of tribal militias ousted it. The Awakening was led at the time by powerful local sheikhs and backed by the occupying US military and was credited with freeing both cities from the grip of the jihadists.

But over the past year, security there and elsewhere in Iraq has gradually ebbed as the war in Syria has intensified. In the past week, revitalised Isis insurgents stormed into both cities soon after the Iraqi military withdrew from a violent standoff with local tribes.

The same group has been at the vanguard of an increasing radicalisation of the anti-Assad opposition in northern Syria. Its members cross freely between Anbar and the eastern deserts of Syria as the insurgencies in each country steadily seep in to each other.

Tribal figures in Anbar said they were continuing to mount attacks on Isis and were determined to block the Islamists’ efforts to re-establish a foothold there.

“Never will we allow them to return to our towns,” said a senior sheikh from the outskirts of Ramadi. “We don’t trust the Shia regime of Maliki and we don’t trust al-Qaida. We will fight for our futures. No one else has our benefit at heart.”

The US military had placed great significance on Ramadi and Fallujah, having fought two major battles against insurgents in Fallujah in 2004 and having suffered more than one third of its casualties during the eight-year war in the restive province.

With the US having left Iraq three years ago, the government of the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, recently travelled to Washington to seek renewed American intelligence help to get on top of the insurgency. The Obama administration agreed to supply weapons and technicians but it is not yet clear if it also agreed to re-introduce elements of its controversial drone programme.

Though not thought to be co-ordinated, the attacks on Isis strongholds in Syria and Iraq have mounted the most serious challenge to the group’s authority since it again became a dominant player in the region.

The group’s members have imposed a strict interpretation of Islamic law in much of northern Syria, subverting local authority and intimidating towns and communities. The increasing strength of the group has also further splintered the original armed Syrian opposition, which has at times come to a battlefield accommodation with the better funded jihadis, and had tried to avoid a reckoning with them.

However, opposition leaders told the Guardian that with military momentum at a crawl, they have little option but to try to oust Isis.

“We have surrounded them in Andana,” said a leader of Ahrar al-Sham, an Islamic group within the opposition. “We have told their foreigners that they must come and join us, within 24 hours, or face being killed.”

In al-Atareb, several dozen fighters, including Isis members, are believed to have been killed in the clashes. The group is thought have at least 10,000 members in northern Syria, many of them foreigners from elsewhere in the Sunni Islamic world, including up to 1,000 Europeans.

Isis has kidnapped more than 30 foreign aid-workers and journalists in the north, along with scores more Syrians. The French medical aid agency Médecins Sans Frontières said five of its members had been taken from a house in northern Syria on Thursday. It gave no details about the identities of the captives, or where they were taken from.

(Source / 03.01.2014)

Israeli forces disperse weekly protests across West Bank

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israeli forces injured two Palestinians and detained one after protests broke out in three West Bank towns on Friday.

The weekly protests against the Israeli occupation and the separation wall were dispersed by Israeli forces with rubber bullets and tear gas in Bilin, Kafr Qaddum, and al-Masara.

Bilin 

Two were injured and dozens of Palestinian as well as Israeli and international solidarity protesters suffered from excessive use of tear gas in the weekly protest in the central West Bank town of Bilin on Friday.

Israeli forces opened fire with rubber-coated bullets, tear gas canisters, and stun grenades in the direction of protesters as the demonstration arrived near village lands near the wall.

Abd al-Rahman Beitillu, 16, was shot in the leg and Palestine TV cameraman Najib Sharawna suffered from extremely severe tear gas inhalation and had to be taken to the Palestine Medical Complex in Ramallah.

The march was held in memory of the 49th anniversary of the launch of the “contemporary Palestinian resistance,” which refers to the Jan. 3, 1965 operation that launched the Fatah movement.

The protest also marked the third anniversary of the death of Palestinian activist Jawaher Abu Rahmah, who was died after choking to death on tear gas fired by Israeli forces during a Bilin protest.

During the protest, the Italian Association for Peace “Assopace” in cooperation with the Human Supporters Association in Nablus performed a puppet show depicting their opposition to injustice.

The participants raised Palestinian flags and banners of the Fatah movement, and marched along the streets of the village chanting slogans calling for national unity.

Since 2005, Bilin villagers have protested on a weekly basis against the Israeli separation wall that runs through their village on land confiscated from local farmers.

Previous protests by Bilin activists have forced the Israeli authorities to re-route the wall, but large chunks of the village lands remain inaccessible to residents because of the route.

Al-Masara 

Israeli forces on Friday also dispersed a demonstration in al-Masara near Bethlehem.

The demonstration started at the center of the village, and participants raised Palestinian flags.

The demonstration was held in solidarity with Palestinian refugees under siege in al-Yarmouk refuge camp in Syria, and to refuse land swaps with Israel as a part of ongoing peace negotiations.

Since 2006, the residents of al-Masara have protested on a weekly basis, demanding Israeli authorities return village lands confiscated in order to build the separation wall as it crosses through their town.

Kafr Qaddum 

Israeli forces detained a Palestinian man during clashes with protesters in the village of Kafr Qaddum near Qalqiliya on Friday afternoon, locals said.

Witnesses said hundreds of Palestinians were protesting the closure of the main entrance to the northern West Bank village when Israeli forces fired tear gas at them, causing several protesters to suffer from excessive tear gas inhalation.

Locals said 24-year-old Aqel Mahmoud Eshtawi was detained and taken to an unknown destination after being ambushed by Israeli forces.

An Israeli army spokeswoman did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Protests are held every Friday in Kafr Qaddum against Israel’s closure of a main road linking the village to its nearest city, Nablus. The road has been closed since 2000.

The internationally recognized Palestinian territories of which the West Bank and East Jerusalem form a part have been occupied by the Israeli military since 1967.

(Source / 03.01.2014)