Israel’s arrest of Palestinian lawmaker ‘a farce’

Khalida Jarrar’s arrest exposes the plight of thousands of Palestinian political prisoners languishing in Israeli jails.

‘I have experienced firsthand the occupation forces’ savagery,’ wrote Jarrar from jail

Ramallah, occupied West Bank – Yafa Jarrar, 28, says she was surprised when she learned that her mother had been arrested by a large contingent of Israeli soldiers from her home in al-Bireh, a Ramallah-area town in the occupied West Bank.

“It was late at night here in Canada when I heard the news and I couldn’t believe it at first, but nothing this occupation does is shocking,” she told Al Jazeera.

Her 52-year-old mother, Khalida Jarrar, is an influential female lawmaker and leader in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a leftist organisation considered illegal by Israel. “No one from my family – not my sister, my father or me – has been allowed to speak to her since the arrest,” she said. “It has been hard on all of us, especially my father.”

Shortly after her arrest, Khalida penned an open letter from jail calling for solidarity with her and other Palestinian political prisoners. “I was kidnapped from my home, from my family, from my husband’s side, and from my people. I became deprived of delivering the services to those who elected me,” she wrote from behind bars. “I have experienced firsthand the occupation forces’ savage and brutal invasion of my house, where they shackled me and kidnapped me to an unknown place.”

RELATED: Israel jails Palestinian girl, 14, for throwing stones

Last month an Israeli military judge ruled that Khalida should be released. Yet, a week later, a military court rejected the order to release her on bail following an appeal filed by Israel’s military prosecutor. The West Bank Military Court of Appealsordered that Khalida remain in jail until her trial has concluded. Her next hearing is scheduled for June 22.

Israel’s courts are kangaroo courts because really the judges are part of the military and their decisions are not independently made through legal proceedings but are informed by Israeli intelligence.

Yafa Jarrar, daughter of Khalida Jarrar

Khalida’s legal problems started back in August 2014, when she first received an Israeli military order informing her that she had to leave the city and relocate for a period of six months to Jericho, a Palestinian city about 30 minutes away from her home. She refused to sign the order and instead set up a solidarity tent outside the Palestinian Legislative Council compound in Ramallah.

Eight months later, on April 2, Israeli soldiers surrounded her home, entered and searched the residence, arrested the lawmaker and confiscated two computers.

Her arrest brought the number of Palestinian lawmakers in Israeli detention to 16, and she is currently one of 22 female prisoners in Israeli lockup, according to the Ramallah-based Addameer Prisoner Support Network. Before eventually being dealt charges, Khalida was held in administrative detention, a practice in which Israel detains Palestinians on “secret evidence” without charge.

An estimated 422 Palestinians are currently classified as administrative detainees.

At the time, Amnesty International released a call for urgent action on Khalida’s behalf, maintaining that she was being held under administrative detention because Israeli authorities feared that charging her would make her eligible for being released on bail.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, an Israeli military spokesperson said Khalida was arrested for being “a senior member of an active terrorist organisation”, adding that the lawmaker “poses a clear and present danger” to Israel’s security.

She has now been hit with a dozen charges, including membership in an illegal organisation (the PFLP), incitement to kidnap a soldier and visiting former Palestinian prisoners released by Israel.

The Israeli military spokesperson argues that Khalida ought to remain in prison until the legal proceedings conclude due to her alleged history of noncompliance with Israeli military orders, alluding to the order mandating that she relocate to Jericho for six months. “In light of the significant sentence that awaits her if she is convicted, there is concern that she will choose not to [willingly] stand trial or serve her sentence,” the spokesperson commented.

RELATED: Palestinian couple kept apart by Israel

Her family isn’t holding out hope for a fair trial. According to a 2011 military document leaked to the Israeli daily Haaretz, Palestinians are convicted at a rate of more than 99 percent in Israel’s West Bank military courts.

“Israel’s courts are kangaroo courts because really the judges are part of the military and their decisions are not independently made through legal proceedings but are informed by Israeli intelligence,” Yafa remarked. “Israel wants to drag the legal process out as long as possible so the uproar will die down. It’s intentional.”

Human rights groups, as well as Khalida’s supporters, reject the claim that she is a security threat to Israel and instead say she has been targeted because of her political activism and views. Jarrar has a long history of progressive activism and advocating for Palestinian political prisoners.

“My mother’s work has always been humanitarian work and she has devoted her whole life to being a human rights advocate,” said Yafa. “That’s dangerous for Israel.”

People and Power – Boycott Israel

According to a statement released by Addameer last month, the reversal of Khalida’s bail confirms that her arrest is “vengeful, arbitrary and political, with an aim to punish her for her political opinions and activism for Palestinian human rights, especially in supporting Palestinian prisoners and detainees”.

Arab members of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, have also called for her to be freed. “This is a political detention of an elected official who is opposed to the occupation,” Aida Touma-Suliman, a parliamentarian from the Joint List, a coalition of Palestinian-majority parties, said last month.

Palestine solidarity groups and Israeli activists have protested against Khalida’s detention, and Yafa says she has also been contacted by parliamentarians from across the world.

Though international campaigning for Khalida’s release “has been very strong”, Yafa notes that the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority’s response has been disappointing.

“I’m not surprised at all,” she said, “because the only representatives we have in the Palestinian Authority right now are the architects and guardians of security coordination with Israel.

“My mother’s imprisonment is a farce, and any judgement [Israel’s] courts make is a farce,” she continued. “Our campaigning doesn’t stop with her – it is about all of the more than 6,000 Palestinian political prisoners.”

(Source / 13.06.2015)


By Peter Clifford                ©                (


As the YPG and their allies closed on Silûk on Thursday, Islamic State controlled mosque loudspeakers were heard to tell the remaining residents to evacuate the town, though local reports suggest most have already done so.

Reports are thin on the ground, but latest information suggests that the Kurds have taken around 25% of the town, entering it from the east, north-east and south and driving IS out to the western suburbs.

Silûk lies 15 kilometres south-east of Tel Abyad and the Turkish border in between the Kurdish Cantons of Kobane and Cizire. The “Euphrates Volcano” combined YPG/YPJ and Free Syrian Army (FSA) forces, coming from the west, are now only 27 kilometres from Silûk and 18 from Tel Abyad.



Tal Abyad Situation Map 11.06.15

The YPG has reported today, Friday, that their force coming from Cizire Canton to the east has liberated in the last 24 hours the villages of Tabxan, Hos, Daman, Mefer Esala Rojava, Bîr Me’alcê, Mixtar, Semalk, Xanik, Gamiş, Til Saxîr, Til Qilec Xanik, Semal, Za’zu, Ubeyd, Zerawî, Şerîf, Zarafî, Arbîd and 8 farms.

The number of IS Jihadists killed is not clear at the moment but 7 met their deaths when the YPG destroyed 2 vehicles loaded with ammunition and a pick-up truck when they tried to withdraw from the Silûk area.

On Wednesday through to Thursday another 8 villages, Resim, Gulê, Berkevir, Çêlek, Hawiz, Heşîşiyê, Meqer, and Eastern Esal, and 16 farms had also been freed from IS, so clearly the situation is very fast moving. The YPG also seized AK-47s, a machine gun and rockets.

Reports from local sources suggest that the Coalition has attacked 3 x IS sites within Silûk, successfully destroying heavy artillery and made at least 6 airstrikes on IS positions around Tal Abyad, as well as obliterating an IS convoy between Ain Issa and Sharakak heading north towards Tal Abyad.



YPG Now at Siluk and Closing Gap to West

Elsewhere in Cizire Canton, early this morning, Friday, the Islamic State staged an attack on YPG positions south of Til Berak at the villages of Elî and Ebû Xezalê.

According to local reports the IS Jihadists infiltrated from Assad regime territory near Hasakah and retreated there with their dead and wounded after their incursion had been repulsed. Nearby Haydar and Xizêla came under IS heavy weapons fire but with no casualties immediately reported.

Thousands of people, mainly Arabs rather than Kurds, that normally live in the area between the 2 Cantons have fled across the border into Turkey because of the heavy fighting. Al Jazeera says that Turkish authorities have registered 8,800 refugees, for whom there are no places in camps, in the last week.

On Kobane Canton’s eastern front on Thursday, combined YPG/FSA forces killed 2 x IS Jihadists at Bîrerep and recovered ammunition, weapons and equipment. An earlier fight near the same village on Wednesday had resulted in the death of an estimated 20 x IS fighters and the destruction of an armoured personnel carrier.

On Kobane Canton’s south-eastern front the combined force had liberated by Wednesday evening the villages of Fêleh, Hêymir, Ebû Sirê, Suwahan, Lûtka, Bozê Kerzê and Girê Kêlê and on the southern front IS attempted assaults on Qirat and Sina villages were driven back with the death of 4 more IS Jihadists.

On Kobane’s western front on Wednesday a YPG unit targeted a moving IS vehicle in IS territory on the west bank of the Euphrates River and managed to destroy it, including its occupants.

Local reports also say that IS mosque loudspeakers in Raqqah, IS’s Syrian “capital”, have been urging residents to store food items because of the “circumstances of the war with the FSA.”

US Central Command (Centcom) officially reports 5 airstrikes in Syria on Tuesday through to Wednesday am, one hitting an IS fighter staging area near Hasakah and 3 near Raqqah destroying 3 x IS fighting positions and an IS armoured vehicle as well as hitting 2 x IS tactical units. The fifth strike was on a IS crude oil collection point near Deir Ez-Zour.

On Wednesday through to Thursday am, yesterday, 4 airstrikes destroyed 4 x IS fighting positions in Kobane Canton, plus 2 x IS vehicles, an IS building and an IS mortar firing position. Another 3 x IS tactical units were hit.

During the same time period 4 additional crude oil collection points were hit at Deir Ez-Zour and 7 airstrikes near Raqqah destroyed 7 x IS improvised rocket-assisted munitions, 2 x IS fighting positions, 2 x IS resupply points, 2 x IS vehicle bombs, an IS vehicle and an IS vehicle bomb warehouse. 6 x IS tactical units were also hit in the same area.

And over near Hasakah another IS fighting position and a heavy machine gun were destroyed and a further IS tactical position hit. (EDITOR: All in all, a good week’s work Coalition! Well done!)



US Fighter Keith Broomfield, RIP

In Kobane city itself, celebrations on Sunday night over the advance of the Kurdish party, the HDP in the Turkish elections, where they crossed the critical 10% of the vote threshhold and got themselves 80 seats in Parliament, were overshadowed on Thursday by the funeral of Keith Broomfield, 36, from Massachusetts in the US, the first American to join the YPG and who was killed on the battlefield a week ago.

Hundreds of Kurds turned to out honour him for his participation in their war and to send his body back on its journey to his family in the United States. An estimated 400 men from Europe, Australia and North and South America have joined the YPG to fight the Islamic State in the last few months.

The BBC has just interviewed some of them who have completed a tour of duty and are returning to their previous lives. First an interview with “Harry”, a former London city trader – BBC .

Along with Harry from Cambridge in the UK, the BBC also interviewed Jac Holmes from Bournemouth who arrived back in the UK yesterday, Thursday, from Istanbul to be detained by UK police for 3 hours but later released. BBC Syria News.

And interviews with more foreign fighters, HERE:

Lastly, the latest Situation Map for Kobane and Cizire Cantons, courtesy of @ChuckPfarrer, here:



Kobane/Cizire Situation Map 11.06.15


In southern Syria in Deraa and Suweida provinces, the Opposition having captured the base of Assad’s Brigade 52 are now attacking the Al-Tha’lah airbase, though it is not used as such but as a staging post for Assad’s troops to attack Opposition fighters in Deraa province.

As of yesterday, Thursday, the Opposition had made good progress, getting inside the sprawling base and driving back Assad’s troops, pounding them with shells and mortars, HERE:  and HERE:

However, the situation seems to have been complicated by the mobilisation of the Druze community, the majority sect in Suweida province. Though the Druze are no great lovers of Assad and their young men will do almost anything to avoid conscription, they also have no wish to be overrun and dominated by another religious sect.



Remains of Downed Assad Aircraft in Deraa Province

Walid Jumblatt, a Lebanese Druze leader who backs the uprising against Assad, has urged the Druze of Suweida to reconcile their differences with the Syrian opposition, while another Druze leader, Sheikh Waheed Balaous, accused the Assad regime of deliberately dropping mortar shells on Suweida city, just at the eastern edge of the airbase, in order to provoke the Druze into attacking the Opposition.

Just to complicate things further, a dispute broke out in north-western Idlib province on Wednesday at the village of  Qalb Lozeh, when a Al Nusra Front (ANF) commander tried to commandeer a house belonging to a local Druze leader.

In the subsequent argument an ANF fighter was shot dead and Al Nusra fighters opened fire killing between 20 and 24 Druze villagers including women and children.

While some Druze leaders have described it as an “isolated incident”, the large Druze population in Israel, which is well integrated into the Israeli society and military, is demanding that the Israeli Government arm their brethren in Syria.

As a result of some of these conflicting emotional currents, which the Assad regime will undoubtedly try to exploit, some young Druze men signed up to help Assad’s National Defence Force (NDF) as they sought to hold Al-Tha’lah airbase on the Suweida/Deraa border, thereby stalling the Opposition advance.

Yesterday, came the news that one of Assad’s MIG jets was downed this week in Deraa province near Busra Al-Harir. One of the Opposition brigades is equipped with a Manpad ground to air missile launcher, but it remains unclear whether the plane was brought down by a missile or anti-aircraft fire, HERE:



Dr Assad Checks His Failing Eyesight

Palestinian Shot and Injured by Israeli Forces in Southern Gaza

Israeli soldiers deployed near the Sufa crossing, in the southern Gaza Strip, opened fire at and injured a Palestinian, Saturday, local sources told Ma’an News Agency.

Bezettende macht2

An Israeli army spokesperson confirmed the report, telling Ma’an that a “Palestinian suspect approached the security fence” and Israeli forces opened fire at his lower extremities after firing warning shots into the air. One hit was confirmed, and Israeli forces took the man to a hospital in Israel for treatment, she added. The spokesperson did not have confirmation if the injured man would be detained after treatment or returned to the Gaza Strip.

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

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

The parameters of the buffer zone are regularly changed by Israeli authorities, and Israeli forces have repeatedly opened fire toward Palestinian civilians inside of the buffer zone since the signing of a ceasefire agreement that ended a more than 50-day war between Israel and Hamas last summer, according to documentation by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR).

Despite shorter distances set by Israeli authorities, PCHR reports that attacks against Palestinians have taken place up to approximately 1.5 kilometers inside the border fence. Constituting around 17 percent of the total territory of the Gaza Strip, the buffer zone effectively turns local farms into no-go zones. The buffer zone, which Palestinians are prohibited from entering, “is illegal under both Israeli and international law,” according to PCHR.

(Source / 13.06.2015)

Oslo Accords have been “a complete disaster” for the Palestinians

Article of 14 September 2013

MEMO Conference: The illusive peace

MEMO Conference: the illusive peace   the legacy of Oslo 20 years on

The Oslo Accords, now 20 years old, have been a “complete disaster” for the people of Palestine. That was the near-unanimous verdict of the speakers at the Middle East Monitor (MEMO) conference in London on Thursday. “The illusive peace: the legacy of Oslo 20 years on” brought together a wealth of knowledge and experience on the subject, with experts and activists alike on the platform and in the invited audience.

Opening the programme, MEMO’s Director, Dr Daud Abdullah pointed out that no public debate or discussion had taken place before Oslo. The conference would be considered a success, he added, if MEMO can stimulate discussion on this important topic.

The keynote speaker for the day was Dr Bichara Khader, who spoke on “Towards a greater political role for the EU in the search for Middle East peace”. The Director of the Arab Study & Research Centre at Louvain University in Belgium noted that Europe has been “part and parcel” of the Palestinian question since its beginning. “The EU’s forerunner, the European Economic Community,” he said, “regarded the Palestinian issue with ‘total neglect’ in the late fifties; today, however, the EU acknowledges the right of the Palestinians to a state with East Jerusalem as its capital.” Sadly, the 1948 Palestinian Nakba [Catastrophe] is regarded as ‘collateral damage’ of the creation of the State of Israel and so the issue has become one focused on refugees and is treated as a humanitarian crisis, said Dr Khader.

In order to achieve the political goals of the Palestinians, he suggested, the EU must reach out to all sectors of Palestinian society. “It has to reach out and engage with Hamas, for example, as it is a legitimate player on the political scene.”

Professor Manuel Hassassian is the Palestinian Ambassador to the United Kingdom but was present in a personal capacity as an academic and political scientist. He predicted 20 years ago that the only thing Oslo would do is “legitimise” the occupation of the Palestinian territories: “I was right.” The peace process, he said, was set up not to solve the conflict but to solve Israel’s acceptance problem in the Middle East. Who is to blame for Oslo’s “failure”? He is under no illusions: “Oslo has failed due to Israel’s disregard for international law and continued settlement,” he insisted, “which has expanded the occupation.” Israel’s “procrastination” has prolonged the occupation, giving time for ever more “cancerous” settlements to be built. “Oslo was never an agreement between equals in any case; the Palestinians were rushed into creating something in secrecy which only liberated Israel from the responsibility of looking after the people living under its occupation.”

The Palestine Liberation Organisation’s recognition of Israel turned occupied land into “disputed territory”, he added while claiming that “the idea of a two-state solution is dead; it’s a fantasy.” With supposedly “honest broker” America always on the side of the top dog, Israel, the negotiations “will be futile”.

The absence of international law from the Oslo Accords was highlighted by John Dugard. Article 47 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, said the South African law professor an acknowledged expert on apartheid, has a clear prohibition on any agreement which prejudices the rights of people; Oslo’s Declaration of Principles, he reminded the audience, makes no mention of the Palestinians’ right to self-determination or the refugees’ right of return. “As such,” said Prof. Dugard, “international law is definitely on the side of the Palestinians.”

Red lines are in vogue at the moment, he added, but the red lines for the Palestinians are actually international laws and conventions. “We need ways to enforce the law, especially in dealing with the two main violators of international law, the United States and Israel.” In his learned opinion, Prof. Dugard said, the situation in the occupied territories meets the criteria for the legal definition of apartheid and should be dealt with as such: apartheid is, of course, a crime against humanity. Israel’s “colonialism” and “apartheid” is no more acceptable in the 21st century than it was in the late 20th.

Historian Avi Shlaim, from Oxford University, recalled articles that he and the late Edward Said had written in 1993 for and against Oslo. Said believed that the accord “set aside international legality and compromised the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people”. The US-based Palestinian academic called the agreement “an instrument of Palestinian surrender, a Palestinian Versailles.”

Shlaim, on the other hand, was optimistic: “I believed that it would set in motion a gradual but irreversible process of Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories and that it would pave the way to Palestinian statehood.” Twenty years later, he told the conference, “It is clear that Edward Said was right in his analysis and I was wrong.” He shared the belief that “Israel is largely responsible for the failure of Oslo”. The accord, he noted, did not set out “an ending”.

The Director of International Relations for Fatah, Dr Husam Zomlot, picked up on this point. “The peace process is designed to prevent an outcome,” he said from his office in Ramallah. The Palestinian Authority, he claimed, provides “comfort” for the Israelis and their occupation.

Speakers and participants alike expressed their dismay that the EU and other donor agencies basically subsidise Israel’s “brutal” occupation by relieving the Zionist state of its duty to provide education and health care for the Palestinians in the occupied territories.

Other speakers, including Daniel Levy and Dr Azzam Tamimi, also pointed fingers of blame at the Palestinian political leadership, whose “paralysis” has “fed and fuelled Israeli impunity” over the years. According to Palestinian exile Tamimi, this highlights the need to reform the PLO “or replace it with another, more representative” organisation.

The other speakers were Dr Salman Abu Sitta, Robert Blecher and Alastair Crooke. The sessions were chaired by Oliver McTernan, John McHugo, Peter Oborne and Clare Short.

(Source / 13.06.2015)

Turkish forces push massing Syrians from border

Syrian refugees run away as Turkish soldiers use water cannon to move them away from fences at the Turkish border near the Syrian town of Tal Abyad, at Akcakale in Sanliurfa province, on June 13, 2015

Turkish security forces on Saturday used water cannon and fired warning shots to push Syrians back from the frontier as thousands massed at a border crossing to escape escalating fighting, an AFP photographer said.

The Syrians were being held behind barbed wire fences around the Turkish crossing of Akcakale in the southeast of the country.

They are fleeing a looming battle as Kurdish forces advance on the Syrian town of Tal Abyad, which is held by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) (ISIS) militants and lies just across the Turkish border.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said earlier that Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) had advanced to within 10 kilometers of Tal Abyad.

The Turkish forces used water cannon and fired warning shots into the air to keep the Syrians away from the border fences, the correspondent said.

With more Syrians still arriving from Tal Abyad, tensions remained high with Turkish police and soldiers deployed right on the border fence to ensure no one slipped through.

Most of the women arriving from the ISIS-controlled town were clad in black with full face veils. Many carried white sacks of possessions on their head.

Turkish forces were not allowing any Syrians through the border gate.

Despite the Kurdish advance, the black flag of ISIS could however still be seen flying over the town of Tal Abyad, the correspondent added.

Turkey had said on Thursday it was taking measures to limit the flow of Syrian refugees after an influx of thousands more over the last days due to the fighting between Kurds and militants.

Under an “open-door” policy championed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey has taken in 1.8 million Syrian refugees since the conflict in Syria erupted in 2011.

But Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said at Akcakale crossing on Thursday that new entries would only be considered in case of a humanitarian tragedy.

The government has emphasized that this does not mean any end to the “open door” policy. But it is not clear if the Syrians caught in the current situation will be allowed through.

Officials have said that Turkey had taken in over 13,500 refugees over the last days escaping the fighting for Tal Abyad.

The Turkish government has over the last months expressed increasing bitterness that it has been left to shoulder the burden of refugees while the West stands by.

The government said in April it has spent almost $5.5 billion (4.8 billion euros) to provide for Syrian refugees since the crisis began in 2011.

(Source / 13.06.2015)

Syrian Coalition Participates In the Iranian Opposition Conference in Paris

Head of the legal committee Haitham al-Maleh said that Syrian people differentiate between Iranian Mullah’s regime and the oppressed Iranian people, during the annual general conference of the National Resistance Movement of Iran held today in Paris, adding that the Iranian regime’s policies have transformed Iran into a hotbed of religious extremism and terrorism around the world.

The Syrian Coalition’s delegation to the conference was Haitham al-Maleh, Nazir al-Hakim and Hassan al-Hashemi. The conference was attended by politicians and members of the Iranian community outside Iran who oppose the Iranian regime.

“It is an honor to have a chance to advocate and defend the oppressed Iranian people through all of its components: Persian, Arab, Kurdish, Azeri and Baluchi against an unjust regime that seeks to make the Iranian people an enemy to all peoples of the region,” Maleh said during a speech he delivered during the meeting.

“The historical ties that bind us together are stronger than the attempts of the Iranian regime to ruin them. The ruling Iranian regime has severely aggravated the plight of the Syrian people by supporting the Assad regime along sectarian lines, causing rivers of blood being similar to those it previously caused in Iraq.”

The Iranian regime has teamed up with the Assad regime since the outset, supporting it with money, weapons and fighters at the expense of the Iranian citizens, Maleh outlined. Iran’s unwavering support for Assad proves that it is based on the idea of ​​obliterating the other and making everlasting enmities with peoples of the region, a policy in which the peoples, who aspire to for freedom and dignity, are paying the heaviest price.

The Iranian regime has deployed doctrines to serve the ambitions of Khomeini and has committed all state resources to serve its expansionist and disruptive projects in the region. It has produced a group of malicious mullahs who are waging a fierce war on whoever disagree with them and do not succumb to the Wali al-Faqih mandate. It has thus turned Iran turned into a theocratic state and a hotbed of terrorism.

(Source: Syrian Coalition / 13.06.2015)

Globe reporter recalls air force strike on Gaza beach that killed four boys

Palestinian firefighters walk around a boat hit in an missile strike at the port in Gaza City, Friday, July 11, 2014. (Hatem Moussa/AP)

Israeli military personnel have been cleared by an internal investigation of any wrongdoing in an air force attack on the port of Gaza City that killed four Palestinian boys during last summer’s war on Hamas in Gaza.

However, one of the investigation’s fundamental findings is very much in question.

Israel’s Military Advocate General, after reviewing the investigation’s findings, “found that the attack process in question accorded with Israeli domestic law and international law requirements,” said military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner in a lengthy statement on his Facebook page.


The inquiry had been called following a public outcry that the four boys, all between the age of nine and 11, had been struck down apparently while they played. It was, perhaps, the most tragic of all events in a 50-day war that killed more than 2,000 Palestinians and 72 Israelis.

I remember the attack vividly. I had arrived in Gaza that day, July 16, to report on the conflict and was meeting with my fixer/interpreter on the patio of the al-Deira Hotel, a modest place frequented by journalists.

I had just sat down at a table overlooking the beach, when a deafening blast shook the ground. A ball of black smoke billowed into the air above the port area less than 300 metres away. Another blast followed. My fixer told me it was a lucky thing the port was closed that day – the Israelis had refused to allow any fishermen to venture out. “No one’s there,” he said.

But, apparently because the place was empty, a group of boys from the nearby Beach Camp for refugees had gone into the port area to explore and play soccer on the sand. There, they were mistaken for Hamas militants.

The Israeli investigation showed that one was killed as he entered the remains of a container, said to be part of a Hamas military storage area, and the three others were killed as they ran away.

Four wounded people, three of them children, were brought up to the al-Deira where they were treated by staff until ambulances arrived. All survived, including a 13-year-old with a piece of shrapnel embedded in his chest.

In the Israeli investigation, testimonies were said to have been collected from “a large number of IDF soldiers and officers who were involved in the planning and execution of the attack.”

Its conclusion ultimately rested on this finding of fact: that the place in which the boys were killed had “long been known as a compound belonging to Hamas’s Naval Police and Naval Force (including naval commandos), and which was utilized exclusively by militants,” wrote Lt. Col. Lerner.

It was for this reason, the Advocate General ruled, that the Israeli military could reasonably assume that any people in the compound were militants. It was a matter of mistaken identity – a “tragic accident” – he said.

However, the compound in question, which investigators described as spanning “the length of the breakwater of the Gaza City seashore,” was used more by fisherman than by anyone else.

As satellite images show, numerous boats are tied up along the perimeter of the compound. They are fishing boats, not Hamas naval vessels. That is the case today, and it was the case last July 16 when the attack in question took place.

Any people in this area would most likely be fishermen, or children, not militants.

The Israeli investigation reported that “shortly before the incident, an intelligence assessment was established which indicated that operatives from Hamas’s Naval Forces would gather in the military compound in order to prepare for military activity against the IDF.”

“Aerial surveillance,” investigators said, “identified a number of figures entering the compound at a running pace.” These figures entered the military storage area that had been shelled just the day before.

At no point during the incident were these “figures” identified as children, the investigation concluded.

Against the backdrop of the intelligence assessment, “it was decided to conduct an aerial attack against the figures which had been identified, after all the necessary authorizations for an attack had been obtained, and after a civilian presence in the area had been ruled out,” the investigators reported.

Video footage documenting the attack in real time also was reviewed, as were media images and video footage documenting parts of the incident, Lt. Col. Lerner said.

As well, “efforts were made to collect the testimonies of Gaza Strip residents who were, allegedly, witnesses to the incident,” he said. “Regretfully,” the spokesman said, “the witnesses eventually declined to meet the investigators, and instead provided affidavits in regard to the incident.”

The father of one of the four boys said Friday he was outraged that the Israeli military was closing its internal inquiry without any indictments.

He told Associated Press he hopes the International Criminal Court, which is in the preliminary stage of investigation following a request by the Palestinian Authority, will reach a different conclusion.

Israel has, in the past, pointed to the credibility of its internal investigations as evidence that the involvement of the ICC is unnecessary.

(Source / 13.06.2015)

Expelled For Life: A Palestinian Family’s Struggle To Stay On Their Land

“They Demolish and We Rebuild”

The Israeli West Bank "Barrier", often called the 'apartheid wall',

The Israeli West Bank “Barrier”, often called the ‘apartheid wall’, which surrounds much of the territory illegally occupied by Israel, as it passes through Bethlehem Aida refugee camp. The wall and its security checkpoints are a very literal barrier to Palestininan economic growth and movement

Nasser Nawaj’ah held Laith’s hand as, beside me, they walked down the dirt and pebble path of Old Susya. Nasser is 33 years old, his son six. Nasser’s jaw was set and every few moments he glanced over his shoulder to see if anyone was approaching. Until Laith piped up with his question, the only sounds were our footsteps and the wind, against which Nasser was wearing a wool hat and a pleated brown jacket.

“Why did they take our home?” the little boy asked.

“Why did they take it? Good question,” replied Nasser, pausing to choose his words carefully. “They don’t want Palestinians. They don’t want us here.”

Laith was, in fact, asking about something that had happened 29 years ago when his father was a young boy. But he could just as well have been referring to the imminent threat of expulsion facing his family and his community today.

I had spent the previous night with Nasser and his family in their tent on their farmland in Khirbet Susya in the South Hebron Hills of the West Bank. Since 1986, they have have lived there, one-third of a mile from their old home, which is now an Israeli archeological park.  Perched on the hill above us is an Israeli settlement built on land occupied by Israel in 1967. That settlement, which is considered illegal under international law, was established in 1983 and is also called Susya. Where we now are, a few hundred meters away across the road, was once Old Susya, the former village of Nasser’s family.

I had mentioned to Nasser earlier that morning that I wanted to see Old Susya. As a foreigner, I could purchase a ticket to the archaeological site and enter without any problem. For Nasser, a Palestinian, it was a different story. He had tried twice to visit the site of the village and cave where he was born without much success, but decided to try again with me. This time he would bring along his six-year old son.

Nasser’s parents were born in El-Jaretain, a village in the Naqab desert in what is now Israel. They were pushed out of their home in 1948, during the mass displacement accompanying the founding of that country.  After their expulsion from El-Jaretain, they joined relatives who had lived for decades in the ancient caves of Old Susya. A Palestinian village had existed there since at least 1830, when it was first mentioned in written records.

Though his family’s origin is in El-Jaretain, Old Susya is home for Nasser.

“Our village resides in our memory, and I want it to be in our children’s memory, the memory of the children of Susya,” Nasser said, explaining why he decided to bring Laith with him today. “This is their village, their real village, from which they were expelled in 1986. They have to see it, feel it, remember it, know its features. This is our heritage.”

Nasser first attempted to return to Old Susya several years ago, accompanied by his father and an Israeli friend from the human rights organization B’Tselem for which Nasser works. The Israeli army kicked them out, but not before his father was able to show him the cisterns where he had watered his sheep and the cave in which Nasser had been born.  A few weeks before my visit, he tried a second time, buying tickets to the archaeological park and briefly getting in. Once again, he told me, Israeli soldiers wouldn’t let him stay. “They told us Palestinians were not allowed in, that this is a closed area, and kicked us out.”

Nasser fully expected to be ejected again, but for some reason, the soldiers stayed in their jeep at the entrance to the site and left us alone.

“Where is our home?” Laith asked as soon as we were inside.

“You want to see our home? Okay, I’ll show you,” Nasser replied, taking his young son by the hand and guiding him deeper into the village.

“Is this our house?” Laith asked again moments later with the persistence only a six-year-old can muster.

“We’re coming to it, hold on.”

Nasser pointed out the cistern from which their family used to draw water, now covered with iron bars and filled with pigeons.  Laith peered inside. “Are these pigeons ours?”

“No, pigeons belong to God.”

Nasser stopped walking and stood looking at one particular cave.

“Here?” Laith asked, tugging his father’s arm.

Nasser was silent for a moment before replying, “Here.”

He led his son down stone steps and through a rectangular entrance hewn from white and pink rock. “Here it is,” he said, pausing before entering the dark, damp underground structure. “This is our cave. My mother gave birth to me here.”

Laith wanted to know if water dripped from the ceiling back then as it does now, if the entrance had been open then, and if there had been electricity in the cave when Nasser was a child. But he had an even more pressing question, one he kept asking throughout the day: “Why did they take it from us, Daddy?”

Click here to view the video clip if it does not load for you.

(Source / 13.06.2015)

Israeli soldiers beating restrained Palestinian protester caught on tape

The IDF said in response that local Palestinians had attacked the soldiers with stones, but that ‘if need be, disciplinary action will be taken.’

IDF detain Palestinian during clashes in the Jalazone refugee camp in the West Bank. June 12, 2015.

IDF detain Palestinian during clashes in the Jalazone refugee camp in the West Bank. June 12, 2015

IDF soldiers were captured on video Friday beating a Palestinian man, even after forces had restrained him after he was arrested in a protest in the Palestinian refugee camp of Jalazone this Friday. [Scroll down for video].

During the demonstration, clashes erupted between Palestinians and forces from the Netzah Yehuda Battalion – a predominantly religious military outfit from the Kfir Brigade – that were caught on video by local Palestinian media.

In the video, a soldier is seen cursing a Palestinian man, which the forces claim tried to touch their gun. The soldier can be heard screaming expletives at the Palestinian, taunting him to talk back, and vowing that should he say one more word then he will “f*** his mother.” The soldier then proceeds to attempt to hit him and a few seconds later another soldier is seen swinging his rifle at the Palestinian, who has words with the soldiers and attempts to push them away.

After the initial altercation, the video shows a group of five soldiers trying to overtake the Palestinian, violently hitting his hands and legs. The video also seems to show two soldiers holding the Palestinian man, with a third standing behind him, as a fourth soldier hits the Palestinian with his rifle, causing him to collapse. While on the ground, a fifth soldier is seen punching him in the face, while another soldier kicks him in his face. Another soldier then pins the Palestinian to the ground by stepping on his head, and his face can be seen to be bleeding. The video ends with the forces taking the now handcuffed Palestinian away.

According to an initial investigation conducted Saturday morning, the soldier reported the arrest, but failed to mention the events as they were caught on video. The IDF claim that the incident took place after Palestinians pelted the forces with stones and the clash erupted in the Jalazone refugee camp. According to the IDF, the soldiers fired rubber bullets, injuring one Palestinian, and then fired live round into the air in an attempt to disperse what they described as a riot. The IDF noted that the commanding officer at the scene was himself lightly wounded after a stone struck his head.

In an official response, the IDF said: “Those [soldiers] involved in the incident were summoned to meet with the brigade commander [Sunday] morning for a clarification and debriefing of the event; if need be, disciplinary action will be taken against them. From a preliminary probe it seems their behavior does not befit that expected of an IDF soldier.”

(Source / 13.06.2015)

Settlers Fail to Attack Hebron Mosque

Israeli settlers, last week, attempted (but failed) to attack a mosque during dawn prayers in the city of Hebron, local sources recently revealed.

Hebron oude centrum

A net installed in the Old City to prevent garbage dropped by Israeli settlers into a Palestinian area

WAFA sources said that two masked settlers attempted to carry out an attack against the mosque during the dawn prayers, but that the attempt failed, while settlers fled the scene and were seen running toward the illegal settlement of Ramat Yishai.

The attack attempt was caught on surveillance cameras placed in the area.

Moreover, one of the residents living near the mosque reported his daughter as witnessing the two armed settlers from her window at dawn, stating that the presence of a taxi cab which stopped in front of the mosque to drop off one of the worshipers to attend the dawn prayers, prevented them from resuming with their attack plan and forced them to flee the scene.

Residents chased after them, but did not manage to catch them.

In an analysis conducted by the Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem (ARIJ) on Israeli settlers’ attacks in the occupied Palestinian territory during the year 2014, ARIJ recorded 763 Israeli settler groups’ attacks against civilians, lands, properties, livestock, and agriculture. These attacks inflicted huge losses and suffering among Palestinians.

ARIJ also recorded a total of 226 attacks that were committed by settlers against mosques, includingAl-Aqsa Mosque, and churches and monasteries through spray-paiting racist slogans against Palestinians (Christians and Muslims alike), setting mosques ablaze, attacking worshipers, which showed the feelings of hatred and extremism these settlers hold for Palestinians, reported POICA.

It said that most of the violations that have been recorded during the year 2014 were in the vicinity of Israeli settlements and outposts.

According to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, Israeli security forces do not always deploy in advance to protect Palestinians from settler violence, even when such violence could be anticipated. “In some cases, rather than restricting violent settlers, Israeli security forces impose restrictions on the Palestinians.”

“As the occupying power in the West Bank, Israel is obligated to maintain public order and ensure the safety of the Palestinians in the West Bank, who are classified a protected population in international law,” says B’Tselem.

“The establishment of settlements on the West Bank violates international humanitarian law, which establishes the principles applying during war and occupation. Moreover, the settlements lead to the infringement of international human rights law,” stated B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.

The center added that, “International humanitarian law prohibits the occupying power to transfer citizens from its own territory to the occupied territory (Fourth Geneva Convention, article 49).”

“The Hague Regulations prohibit the occupying power to undertake permanent changes in the occupied area, unless these are due to military needs in the narrow sense of the term, or unless they are undertaken for the benefit of the local population,” added the center.

(Source / 13.06.2015)