Israel Cuts Off Access to Ramallah for 20 Villages

Israeli forces, on Thursday, closed a main road west of Ramallah city, which connects 20 villages to the economic and cultural hub, the mayor of Ramallah said.

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Israeli forces gather where a road block is being set up on a road closed to Palestinian neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem, on Oct.14, 2015

Ras Karqar Bahjat Samhan said Israeli troops closed the road with large concrete blocks without prior notice, preventing residents from being able to access Ramallah city, in the central occupied West Bank. He added that the closure affects 45,000 Palestinians from 20 villages and neighborhoods from reaching their families, work, universities and schools.

A spokesperson with Israel’s Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) did not immediately respond for comment on the closure, according to Ma’an.

On Sunday, the mayor said Israeli forces also closed the road between Beit Owr junction and route 443 which separates five other villages from Ramallah city.

Roadblocks, temporary checkpoints, and security checks upon entrance and exit into many Palestinian villages and towns are among the increased restrictions that Israeli forces have initiated since a wave of unrest swept the region at the start of October.

Israel’s security cabinet in November 2015 gave the Israeli army the liberty to seal Palestinian villages in the occupied West Bank without first receiving approval from the government.

A senior Israeli official told Israeli daily Haaretz, at the time, that military commanders would be authorized to independently implement the total closures while “searching for suspected terrorists.”

The military was already carrying out the decision without such approval prior to the cabinet’s meeting, the report added.

(Source / 29.01.2016)

‘Hares boys’ sentenced to 15 years after families pay fines

Free the Hares Boys Facebook page

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — After a nearly three-year long battle in Israeli military courts, five Palestinian teens from the occupied West Bank village of Hares accused of manslaughter after reportedly throwing stones were on Thursday issued sentences of 15 years, a prisoners’ rights group said.The case has been disputed in the past by relatives and rights groups, who say that insufficient evidence was provided to prove that the five had any involvement in the death of an Israeli toddler who passed away two years after the teens were accused of throwing stones at her mother’s vehicle, causing it to crash.

A lawyer from the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society, Iyad Mahamid, told Ma’an that the military court issued the sentences to Muhammad Suleiman, Tamer Souf, Ammar Souf, Ali Shamlawi, and Muhammad Kleib.Relatives of the detainees told Ma’an following a court hearing in December 2015 that the teens would be sentenced to prison terms of 15 years on the grounds that their families pay fines of 30,000 shekels ($7,700) by Jan. 28.”Hares Boys,” an activist blog dedicated to raising awareness of the teens’ case, posted on their Facebook page “Free the Hares Boys” on Thursday that the families were able to pay the fines in full with the assistance of outside donations.Failure to pay the fines could have resulted in prolonged sentencing to at least 25 years in prison, according to the Hares Boys blog.Thursday sentencing marks a poor end to a drawn-out court battle that began after the five were detained by Israeli forces on March 15, 2013. All were 16 and 17 years old at the time of their detention.Their arrest followed the hospitalization of a three-year-old Israeli girl, Adele Biton, who suffered severe head injuries when her mother’s car collided with a truck near the Israeli mega-settlement of Ariel. The toddler died two years later after suffering complications from pneumonia.

The family believes that while the child died of pneumonia, the severity of her complications was due to injuries sustained after the vehicle accident, according to Israeli media.The Israeli vehicle had reportedly lost control after being hit by a stone, and the five teens were later accused of throwing stones that day at vehicles driving on Route 5, a highway leading to several nearby Israeli settlements.Twenty Israeli drivers afterwards filed insurance claims stating that stones hit their cars, but the incidents lacked eyewitness testimony and the police received no calls at the time the teens were throwing stones.All five denied the allegations, but later signed confessions “after being repeatedly abused in prison and during interrogations,” according to the Hares Boys blog.The mother of the toddler told Israeli media following Thursday’s sentencing: “It is not much consolation, we would have preferred [the] death [penalty] or life-sentencing. The state did not properly tend to the matter and it didn’t fully enforce the punishment to the fullest.”
The British Parliament on Thursday in response to an online public forum inquiry said an official from the British Embassy in Tel Aviv had met with Chief Military Prosecutor Maurice Hirsch in November to express its concern over the case of the Hares boys, adding that the government would continue to raise the case to Israeli authorities.
The teens’ families as well as rights groups have repeatedly argued over the past three years that the youth were being held without evidence and unjustly prosecuted in a military court system that convicts over 99 percent of Palestinians.The Hares Boys blog wrote in their defense in 2013: “If the boys are convicted, this case would set a legal precedent which would allow the Israeli military to convict any Palestinian child or youngster for attempted murder in cases of stone-throwing.”Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in September declared a “war on stone throwing,” establishing a minimum prison sentence for adults who throw stones as well as allowing Israeli forces to use sniper fire against stone throwers in circumstances that pose mortal danger.The PM said at the time that there would be “significant fines” for minors who commit such offences, as well as for their parents.
The Knesset had already passed a law in July making penalties for stone-throwing more severe. The new law allowed for stone-throwers to receive a 20-year prison sentence where intent to harm could be proven, and 10 years where it could not.At the time the bill was passed, Palestinian MK Jamal Zahalka said: “Who will the judge send to prison? He who demolished the home, seized the land, killed the brother, or the boy who threw a stone?”
(Source / 29.01.2016)

Two prisoners in critical health conditions, a third on hunger strike

RAMALLAH, (PIC)– Two Palestinian prisoners, Mohammad Abrash and Omar Akkawi, are suffering critical health conditions in Israeli jails in light of the continuation of the Israeli prison administration’s procrastination in providing medical treatment for captives. Palestinian Prisoners Society said on Thursday that detainee Abrash, 33, from al-Amari refugee camp, complains of loss of vision and partial hear loss. Besides, he has one of his legs amputated due to  a severe injury at the hands of Israeli forces who shot him at arrest time in 2000.  He needs to undergo surgeries in the eye, ear as well as in his leg. He is held in Eshel jail and sentenced to three life-imprisonments and additional 35 years.   As for captive Akkawi, from Tulkarem, he suffers urine bleeding and enlarged prostate. He is in urgent need of treatment. He has been arrested since 2002 and sentenced to 25 years and detained in Raymond jail. In a similar context, a third Palestinian prisoner, Wisam al-Heimouni, has been on hunger strike for 15 days in Megiddo jail in protest at his administrative detention without trial or charge.  The Society also stated on Thursday that captive Heimouni, 36, from al-Khalil, was previously arrested for five times. The last arrest was on December 24, 2015 under administrative detention for four months.

(Source / 29.01.2016)

IOF invade Al-Quds University, raid faculties, confiscate property

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Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) on Friday overnight broke into the campus of Al-Quds university in Abu Dis town, north of Jerusalem.

The Dean of students, Dr. Abdul-Rauf Al-Sinnawi said that enforced amounts of soldiers broke into the university at around 3 AM, exploded the doors of the headquarters for the Student Islamic and the Popular Front leftist party, confiscated computers, flags and messed up documents.

According to locals, IOF also exploded the gates of the medical, engineering and law faculties, then raided them causing severe damage inside the buildings.

Following the raid, intense clashes broke out in the university surrounding between youths and armed Israeli forces, who opened fire and teargas towards them.

Luckily, no one was injured, but the university was left partially damaged.

Al-Quds University, where some 12,000 students go to everyday, has been subjected to numerous attacks by Israeli Forces and partially damaged and fixed due to these attacks.

The students recently issued an open letter video in multiple languages to the international community to stop these attacks, which also showed the aftereffects on the students life.

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(Source / 29.01.2016)

ROJAVA UPDATE 179: KURDS RETALIATE AGAINST BOMBARDMENT FROM THE ISLAMIC STATE IN JARABLOUS AND ASSAD REGIME BARREL-BOMBS KURDISH DISTRICT IN ALEPPO:

By Peter Clifford         ©              (www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-and-iraq-news/)

SYRIA AND IRAQ NEWS

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news-3

As the Kurds across Rojava celebrated the first anniversary this week of their victory over the Islamic State (IS) at Kobane in January 2015, YPG units launched an attack on IS positions in Jarablous west of the Euphrates.

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Kurdish Forces on the Move to Jarablous?

Attacking from the western countryside of Kobane Canton, the YPG bombed the IS-held town with artillery shells and mortars.

According to reports the YPG assault hit an IS security centre, several IS vehicles and a Sharia Court building, as well as killing 21 x IS Jihadists.

Jarablous, which is thought to be a main route for IS recruits and supplies entering Syria from Turkey is a major target of the YPG, despite Turkey’s objections to a Kurdish presence along a 100 kilometre stretch of the Aleppo/Turkey border, currently controlled by IS.

The US has been requesting Turkey to secure this border against IS infiltration for months but the Turkish authorities, who tend to support Islamist groups, have failed to act effectively.

Strong reports persist the the Syrian Democratic Force, consisting of the YPG and Arab, Turkman and Assyrian Christian units, is about to launch a major campaign in Aleppo province to take Manbij and Jarablous away from IS control.

It is also expected to target Azaz which is held by various Opposition brigades, but which from where the Islamist Al Nusra Front threatens the Kurdish enclave of Afrin.

Separately, Assad and his Russian allies are closing in on IS-held Al-Bab, 50 kilometres south-west of Manbij.

Other reports from Jarablous say that Sharia officials brutally beat 30 women there on Wednesday evening in the central market, before arresting them on charges of violating the IS dress-code.

The women are expected to be flogged with 50 lashes in a public display before being released.

By contrast, a number of Kurdish women journalists have launched their own radio station in Hasakah province broadcasting programmes in both Arabic and Kurdish and specialising on topics relevant to the full role of women in society (English sub-titles) here,

In the north-western countryside of Raqqah province this week, IS fired a number of missiles into Ain Issa, though no heavy casualties have so far reported.

Also for the first time, the Assad regime targeted Sheikh Maqsoud, the Kurdish neighbourhood of Aleppo, with barrel-bombs this week. 5 civilians were killed, including 2 children and nine people were injured. 3 of the barrel-bombs hit a crowded market place.

US Central Command (Centcom) reports 10 airstrikes in Syria yesterday, Thursday, one hitting an IS tactical unit and a checkpoint near Hasakah, one hitting an IS oil and gas separation plant near Raqqah and 2 strikes near Manbij hitting 2 separate tactical units and destroying an IS building.

A further 5 strikes near Ma’ra in Aleppo province (probably in support of the SDF) hit 4 separate IS tactical units, destroyed 2 x IS fighting positions and disabled an IS vehicle. The tenth strike on Thursday hit an IED explosive manufacturing area in Palmyra in Homs province.

Over in Iraq on Thursday there were 14 airstrikes across the country, all with similar targets to those in Syria.

One of the Coalition’s airstrikes on Thursday evening in Iraq is reported to have killed the Islamic State’s supposed “minister of war”, Jalal Hamdan Al-Naama. The Coalition monitored a convoy which was taking senior IS members to a meeting in a building near Mosul and once everyone was inside, they destroyed it.

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Mosul Dam – A Catastrophe Waiting to Happen?

Around 20 x IS Jihadists are believed to have been killed in the operation on the building in the Al- Hadra suburb of Mosul city.

3 senior IS members in charge of security and finance were also reported killed on Wednesday near Tikrit in another Coalition raid.

The US military has also expressed concern over the state of Mosul Dam which has suffered from poor maintenance for a long time.

U.S. Army Lieutenant, General Sean MacFarland, said on Thursday that he had been working with the Iraqi government on a plan to protect civilians should the dam collapse when snow melt water fills the lake behind the dam in early Spring.

A collapse of the dam would send a surge of water down the heavily populated Tigris river valley. The dam was held for some time by IS but was later recaptured by the Kurdish Peshmerga.

An Italian company is negotiating with the Iraqi Government to sign a contract to reinforce the dam. Hopefully this will not be too late as a complete collapse would be catastrophic.

Latest reports from Europe say that the Dutch Parliament has agreed for its military to send jets to join the Coalition strike force in Syria.  Further details awaited.

Palestinian journalist imprisoned by Israel without trial on verge of death, entering third month of hunger strike

Al-Qiq has spent 65 days on hunger strike & says Israel is torturing him. Rights groups are calling for his release

Palestinian journalist imprisoned by Israel without trial on verge of death, entering third month of hunger strike

A Palestinian protester standing in front of Israeli soldiers holds the picture of imprisoned journalist Mohammad al-Qiq, near the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah on Jan. 22, 2016

Mohammad al-Qiq is on the verge of death. The 32-year-old Palestinian journalist was imprisoned by Israel without charge or trial. In protest of his extralegal administrative detention, al-Qiq has refused food for more than two months. This week marks more than 65 days on hunger strike.

Human rights organizations including Amnesty International have called on the Israeli government to release al-Qiq immediately if he is not given a fair trial.

For 24 hours a day, al-Qiq is shackled to a bed, over which two prison guards stand watch. He and his attorney told Israeli publication +972 that doctors at the Haemek Medical Center are forcing him to receive liquids intravenously through an IV against his will.

Nonprofit humanitarian organization Physicians for Human Rights is legally representing al-Qiq. The rights group says medical treatment of the detained Palestinian journalist against his will violates numerous medical rules, treaties and agreements, 972 reported, including patients’ rights laws.

The Israeli hospital’s alleged forcible treatment of al-Qiq, along with the shackling of his limbs, likely amounts to abuse, the medical rights group noted.

A lawyer with the Palestinian Authority’s Committee for Prisoners’ Affairs observed that al-Qiq has exhibited “sudden symptoms that could lead to his death,” and is unconscious and unable to speak, leading Palestinian news outlet Ma’an reported.

Amnesty International has stated Israeli “authorities have undertaken a number of measures aimed at pressuring him to end the hunger strike, some of which violate the prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment.” The international human rights organization called on Israel to immediately end ill-treatment of al-Qiq.

Amnesty documented allegations that the Palestinian journalist has been tortured, citing reports that “he was subjected to a stress position commonly known as the ‘banana,’ which involves being tied in a contorted position to a chair, that he was tied to a chair for up to 15 hours at a time and that he was threatened with sexual violence by his interrogators, who told him that he would not see his family for a long time unless he ‘confessed.’”

“The only way Mohammad al-Qiq feels he is able to challenge his detention, without charge, is with his body,” said Sunjeev Bery, Middle East/North Africa advocacy director for Amnesty International USA.

“Mohammad should not be punished for his hunger strike, which is the only option he feels he has to protest his detention without charge. And he most certainly should not be tortured or ill-treated to pressure him to end his hunger strike,” Bery continued.

“He must be released immediately or charged with a recognizable crime and brought before a trial that meets international fair standards,” the Amnesty official stressed.

Al-Qiq works for the news channel Almajd, and is from the village of Dura, which is near Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

(Source / 29.01.2016)

Hijab: De Mistura Adopting Russian-Iranian Agenda, Needs to Force Assad to Stop Killings

Riad Hijab, the general coordinator of the opposition’s High Negotiation Committee (HNC), has doubted the United Nations’ ability to bring about a political transition in Syria. Hijab said the UN envoy Staffan de Mistura is no more calling for the formation of a transitional governing body, but adopting an agenda espoused by Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime.

Hijab went on to say that de Mistura’s message to stop the killings in Syria should have been addressed to the Assad regime.

“We are anticipating positive steps to be taken before we take a final decision about participation in the Geneva III conference. We will not enter the negotiating room before the humanitarian demands are met or if there is a third party at the negotiations,” Hijab said.

Hijab said that US Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated Washington’s opposition to giving any role for Assad in Syria’s future.

“Assad does not believe in the political process and does not want a political solution to the conflict, but it is procrastinating in order to crush the revolution and save his regime,” he added.

Hijab stressed the need for lifting sieges and stopping barrel bomb attacks as confidence-building measures before the launch of the negotiations. “Civilians in Syria are still trapped and starving to death despite the fact that UN Security Council resolution 2254 called for lifting sieges and stopping the bombardment of civilians immediately,” Hijab added.
(Source: Syrian Coalition / 29.01.2016)

Israel launches electronic war against ‘global boycott movement’

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The Israeli government has vowed to launch an “electronic war” against Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, including monitoring, tracking and thwarting their activities in cyber space, as well as attacking it with “special sophisticated tools”.

Israel Hayom newspaper reported: “Israel is facing a campaign to de-legitimise it. It penetrates into a certain extent; up to the secretary-general of the United Nations,” noting that it is a new battle in its “own stadium: the cyber space”.

It quoted the Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs, Gilad Erdan, as saying that the statements of the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, during which he called for ending the occupation of the Palestinian territory, contributes to “distorting Israeli image globally”.

During the Cyber Tech Conference 2016, held in Tel Aviv, Erdan added: “BDS should be forced to defend themselves and not to attack Israel,” noting that his government has allocated more than 100 million shekels ($25 million) for its “electronic war”.

The head of the Institute for National Security Studies, General Amos Yadlin, said: “The most dangerous country in the Middle East is the state of Facebook.”

“Those who will lead the United States in 20 years’ time are learning today in universities where anti-Israel propaganda exists.”

(Source / 29.01.2016)

Detainee Al-Haymouni Continues Hunger Strike

The family of Palestinian detainee, Wisam Sa’adi al-Haymouni, 36, has reported, Thursday, that their son started his hunger strike in the Majeddo Israeli detention center fifteen days ago, protesting his arbitrary Administrative Detention.

Wisam Sa'adi al-Haymouni

The family, in the southern West Bank district of Hebron, said their son went on hunger strike after the army issued an Administrative Detention order against him, holding him captive without charges or trial.

Al-Haymouni was previously kidnapped and imprisoned by Israel five times, including his latest arrest on December 24, 2015.

After his abduction, an Israeli military court issued a four-month Administrative Detention order against him.

In related news, interrogators at the al-Jalama Israeli prison have decided to keep detained journalist, Mujahid Sa’adi, 38, under interrogation for eight additional days upon request of the Israeli Military Prosecutor’s office.

This is the third time Israeli renews the interrogation period of the imprisoned journalist, who previously spent more than five years in Israeli prisons, detention and interrogation centers.

(Source / 29.01.2016)

Tens of thousands bid farewell to Gaza fighters in massive funeral

Tens of thousands of Palestinians bid farewell on Friday to seven members of Al Qassam Brigades who had died when a tunnel they were repairing collapsed two days ago.

Mourners gathered at the grand Omari Mosque in Gaza city where the massive funeral was led by Hamas leaders and members of the Movement’s political bureau.

Seven members of al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s armed wing, had died when a tunnel built for fighting against the Israeli occupation forces collapsed earlier this week in Gaza.


 (Source / 29.01.2016)