The Plight of Al Samouni Family in Gaza: in their own voices

The story of Al Samouni’s family of Gaza is tragic and appalling. According to Al Haq’s field research members, the story began on Saturday, 3 January 2009, with Israeli incursion into and firing at the Al Zaytoun neighborhood.

The following day, on 4 January 2009, Israeli occupying forces bombed the same area killing one Palestinian.

On Monday at 7:00 Am, 5 January 2009, again Israeli occupying forces bombed the very same area of Hay (neighborhood) Al Zaytoun. One of the missiles struck the third floor of Tallal Hilmi Al Samouni’s home. Traumatized, the family nonetheless managed to extinguish the fire. Earlier the 16-member family—including the grandfather, grandmother, their children and families—had evacuated into the first floor in fear of the bombs that were striking Gaza.

As the situation deteriorated and the shelling intensified, three additional Al Samouni families sought refuge in Tallal’s home. The families included: Ibrahim Al Samouni (12 members), Rashad Al Samouni (11 members), and Nafiz Al Samouni (10 members). Altogether 49 members of Al Samouni’s family gathered at Tallal’s house.

Later on Monday, the Israeli occupying forces knocked on the door of Tallal’s home and asked the congregated family members to move to Wael Al Samouni’s home (11 members). The Israeli occupying forces also asked the men to lift their shirts on their way out (a dehumanizing gesture across all cultures), then surrounded Wael’s home and left the 60 members of Al Samouni family without water for 24 hours. As for electricity, it has been cut off entirely in the strip since Israel’s bombardment began on 27 December 2009.

The next day, 6 January 2009, the family heard shooting nearby, followed by calm. Some thought that the Israeli occupying forces had withdrawn from the neighborhood, and so one of the men left the front door to bring water from a tank placed in front of the house for the children, who were thirsty. To his surprise, the Israeli occupying forces and their tanks were still surrounding the house, which made him immediately turn back inside.

Five minutes later, the tanks shelled a missile into the house and injured seven people. Only three minutes later the Israelis aimed another missile close by, which killed many Al Samouni family members—predominantly children and women.

About 22 of the survivors, many of whom were injured, left the house raising white banners and carrying four bodies of those killed. The Israeli occupying forces began shooting around them, but they continued to walk, and tried to call the ambulance to pick them up and save the injured among them. But the Israeli occupying forces informed them that they have banned emergency services from reaching the area. Indeed, Israeli soldiers, with their heavy weaponry, vehemently prevented medics and ambulances, including the Red Cross, from entering. However, at a crossroad about a kilometer and a half further on, an ambulance managed to collect the injured.

Back at the house, where the dead bodies of Palestinians lay, there were thirteen family members who were still alive. Eight of them were children, some of them injured, who had been locked in for three days with the bodies of their dead parents and family members, with no access to food or water.

The Red Cross was only allowed entry three days later to evacuate the dead and injured, the majority of whom were so critical that they were taken to Belgium, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia for treatment.

Overall, 26 members of Al Samouni family were killed, including 10 children and 7 women.The questions that remain include: who will account for these innocent civilians? Who will hold Israel responsible for their war crimes against humanity? Who will compensate—and clearly, nothing can—for the lives of children, women and men? Will there ever be a time when these children, who were surrounded by the dead bodies of their parents and family members for three days, ever forgive the international silence over the grave violations that struck them and their families? Al Samouni survivors will need answers to these questions including justice to be done.

The information obtained for this report on Al Samouni family and its plight was gathered by Al Haq Research Field Workers based in Gaza. The information was directly solicited from the survivors of Al Samouni family that provided a first hand account.

• Azza Salah Al Samouni, 3 years of age
• Waleed Rashad Al Samouni, 17 years of age
• Ishaq Ibrahim Al Samouni, 14 years of age
• Ismail Ibrahim Al Samouni, 16 years of age
• Rifka Wael Al Samouni, 8 years of age
• Fares Wael Al Samouni, 12 years of age
• Huda Nael Al Samouni, 17 years of age
• Ahmad Atieh Al Samouni, 14 years of age
• Mu’tassim Mohammed Al Samouni, 6 years of age
• Mohammed Hilmi Al Samouni, 5 years of age

• Rahma Mohammed Al Samouni, 50 years of age
• Safa’ Hilmi Al Samouni, 25 years of age
• Maha Mohammed Al Samouni, 22 years of age
• Rabbab Azzat Al Samouni, 32 years of age
• Laila Nabih Al Samouni, 40 years of age
• Rifqa Mohammed Al Samouni, 50 years of age
• Hannan Khamis Al Samouni, 36 years of age

• Tallal Hilmi Al Samouni, 55 years of age
• Attieh Hilmi Al Samouni, 25 years of age
• Rashad Hilmi Al Samouni, 42 years of age
• Tawfiq Rashad Al Samouni, 23 years of age
• Mohammed Ibrahim, 26 years of age
• Ziyad Izzat Al Samouni, 28 years of age
• Nidal Ahmad Al Samouni, 30 years of age
• Hamdi Maher Al Samouni, 23 years of age
• Hamdi Mahmoud Al Samouni, 70 years of age

(Source / 09.06.20016)

Israeli forces hold 100 Palestinian high school students at checkpoint in Yatta

Beit Furik

Israeli soldiers inspect a Palestinian car at a checkpoint close to the West Bank village of Beit Furik, east of Nablus, on Oct. 2, 2015

HEBRON (Ma’an) — Israeli forces Thursday briefly held 100 Palestinian high school students for military security searches as they tried to leave the town of Yatta in the occupied West Bank to attend final exams, as the town remained sealed by Israeli forces following a deadly shooting in Tel Aviv on Wednesday.A military liaison official in the district of Hebron said in a statement that the high school students were allowed to cross after being held at an Israeli checkpoint for several minutes on their way to school, while military liaison officials pressured the Israelis to release them.The liaison office reported that the students arrived safely to their exam halls.Upon a request by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the military liaison of Hebron issued an alert for Palestinians to prepare themselves in cases of assault or violations by Israeli settlers or soldiers, as they would likely be prevented from reaching hospitals or schools at the Israeli checkpoints.Yatta was sealed by Israeli forces following an attack in Tel Aviv which left four Israelis killed and an additional six wounded.Israeli forces closed all entrances to Yatta following the attack, preventing Palestinians from leaving the town except for special cases, as soldiers conduct a “security assessment” of the town.More than 200 Palestinians and close to 30 Israelis have been killed since the beginning of a wave of unrest in October in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory, which has been mainly characterized by small-scale Palestinian attacks against Israeli settlers and military targets.

(Source / 09.06.2016)

Palestinian presidency ‘rejects violence against civilians’

Mahmoud Abbas

President Mahmoud Abbas

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — The Palestinian presidential office released a statement Thursday underscoring the presidency’s rejections to the attack carried out in Tel Aviv Wednesday that left four Israelis killed and an additional six wounded.In a statement published on the government-run WAFA news agency, the presidential office underscored its rejection to the attacks, saying it “reiterated once and again that it rejects operations against civilians by any side, regardless of justifications”.“Achieving a just peace and creating a positive atmosphere will contribute to removing the reasons behind tension and violence in the area,” the statement read.The statement added that achieving a sustainable peace would require everyone to “stop any acts that would increase tension and strain, or that resort to violence.”Several Palestinian political factions also released statements in response to Wednesday’s attack, with the Hamas movement stating that the Tel Aviv shooting was a “good omen” for Palestinians and the first “surprise” for the “enemy” during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.The Fatah movement, meanwhile, which is the leading party in the Palestinian Authority, said in a statement that the Tel Aviv shooting was an “individual and natural response” to Israeli state violence.“Israel must realize the consequences of its persistence to push violence, house demolition policies, forced displacement of Palestinians, raids by Israeli settlers to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, and the cold-blooded killing of Palestinians at checkpoints,” Fatah media committee head Munir al-Jaghoub said.Al-Jaghoub added that the Israeli refusal to abide by international agreements regarding its illegal settlement policy turned the situation in the in occupied Palestinian territory into a desperate reality far from Palestinians’ hopes and dreams of freedom and independence.The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) also released a statement saying that the shooting represented a “paradigm shift” in the Intifada, which it called a “natural response” to the high number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces.The PFLP said that the site of the shooting, being close to the Israeli Ministry of Defense, sent a strong message of challenge to the newly appointed Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman, and stood as a confirmation that armed resistance was the best way to reclaim Palestinians’ rights.

(Source / 09.06.2016)

Israel and Palestine: Breaking the cycle of violence

The attack on Israelis in a Tel Aviv cafe reflects the frustration that Palestinians experience on a daily basis.

In the eye of the Israelis, a perfect Palestinian sits at home and enjoys this 'benevolent' occupation, writes Kuttab [Reuters]

In the eye of the Israelis, a perfect Palestinian sits at home and enjoys this ‘benevolent’ occupation, writes Kuttab

By Daoud Kuttab

The attack near the Israeli army headquarters in Tel Aviv that left four Israelis killedis unjustifiable. But no matter how many times this and other attacks on Israelis and Palestinians are condemned, we can’t break the cycle of violence by having better security.

An end to the conflict, and especially an end to the 49-year Israeli military occupation, is vital to put an end to this bloodshed.

Without a contextual look at the conflict we can’t begin to find solutions. Whether the act was ordered by some political or militant group or a lone wolf attack, it should be seen within the context of the violence in 2016 alone, which left dozens of unarmed Palestinians dead.

Revenge and collective punishment by either side is not an answer, but neither is complacency and denial.

It’s the occupation

A reporter once asked former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir to delineate the borders of Israel. She replied that they are wherever an Israeli soldier is deployed.

So long as Israeli soldiers are deployed on the other side of the green line, the responsibility for war and peace is in the hands of Israel.

Denying Palestinians their inalienable right of self-determination is not a solution. Israelis should enjoy a normal life but they can’t expect to do that while denying it to others under their control.

You can’t keep the Gaza Strip under a crippling siege for years, allow right-wing settlers to act with impunity throughout the occupied West Bank, continue Judaising Jerusalem and expect the other side to be quiet about this.

Human Rights Watch calls what is happening in the occupied territories “grave crimes”.

In a report issued on June 6, they called on the International Criminal Court to investigate these crimes. “After nearly a half-century of impunity, it’s time that those responsible for some of the gravest crimes, whether against Palestinians or Israelis, pay the price,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director.

The culture of impunity

According to Israeli human rights groups, in the past few months alone Israeli soldiers have executed Palestinians at least in two occasions. The evidence has been captured by video footage.

Israel has announced that more settlements will be built in Jerusalem where right-wing radicals continue to rampage.

Without a political horizon, the Palestinian public is depressed, desperate and totally frustrated.

West Bank settler who was detained after allegedly being behind the killing of three Palestinian family members was released.

Furthermore, Avigdor Liberman, who has publicly called for beheading Palestinians, has become the defence minister, while offers for peace talks by Cairo and Paris have been scuttled by the Israeli political establishment.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel will live “forever by the sword,” choosing military confrontation and occupation instead of political accommodation.

For decades, Palestinians have been searching for any mechanism that can rid them of military occupation that the United Nations Security Council called “unacceptable” back in 1967.

OPINION: Fabricating facts – An old-fashioned political tool

This is an illegal occupation coupled with an illegal settlement enterprise. And all serious efforts to negotiate an end to the occupation have frustrated the Palestinians (PDF).

Without a political horizon, the Palestinian public is depressed, desperate and totally frustrated.

They blame their leaders for leaving them in this neither-peace-nor-war limbo for decades. And they are left alone in their struggle to shake up complacent Israeli public opinion. This is the kind of frustrating environment that motivates individuals who carry out these acts.

Feeling hopeless

For years Palestinians have tried armed struggle, diplomacy and various methods of the Intifada.

Stones failed in the First Intifada to shake up the occupation. Suicide bombings resulted in the construction of walls.

OPINION: Rewriting the history of the peace process

Feeling hopeless, Palestinians in the occupied territories have taken things in their own hands while supporters around the world put pressure on Israel, using tactics of nonviolent resistance. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) has been painted as some kind of anti-Semitic act.

If Palestinians can’t use violent or nonviolent resistance, what are they supposed to do?

Twenty years of talks since the Oslo Accords have produced no credible peace mechanism, while illegal settlers have tripled.

How can Palestinian leaders justify a return to direct talks without any guarantees? How can a new round of dialogue be productive when that time is used to build even more illegal Jewish colonies on the Palestinian lands?

In the eye of the Israelis, a perfect Palestinian is the one who sits at home, enjoys this “benevolent” occupation and wait upon the Israeli masters and occupiers to decide for him what his future should look like within this generous Israeli rule.

Without justifying it, the attack on Israelis in a Tel Aviv cafe reflects this frustration that Palestinians experience every day.

The only way to break this violent cycle is to accept what the world has long understood: that the occupation is not sustainable and it must be replaced by a state where Palestinians can exercise their rights in an independent, contiguous and sustainable state of their own.

(Source / 09.06.2016)

Israel freezes Ramadan permits for Palestinians after shooting

[file photo]

Israel said Thursday it had suspended entry permits for 83,000 Palestinians during the holy month of Ramadan following a shooting in Tel Aviv that killed four people.

It said that 83,000 Palestinians would be affected, adding that 200 residents of Gaza who had received permits to visit relatives during Ramadan would also have access frozen.

“All permits for Ramadan, especially permits for family visits from Judea and Samaria to Israel, are frozen,” said a statement from COGAT, the unit which manages civilian affairs in the occupied West Bank.

COGAT announced the measures after two Palestinians opened fire at a popular Tel Aviv nightspot near Israel’s military headquarters late Wednesday, killing four people in one of the worst attacks in a months-long wave of violence.

It said it had frozen permits for 204 relatives of one of the alleged attackers.

Israel had announced last week it was relaxing restrictions on the movement of Palestinians, mainly from the West Bank, but also those living in Gaza, during Ramadan.

Is the West about to repeat its mistakes in Libya?

Libyan Prime Minister-designate Fayez al-Sarraj (L-R), US Secretary of State John Kerry and Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni attend a news conference in Vienna, Austria, May 16, 2016

Is the international community about to help Libya fix itself and gain stability or will it repeat the same errors of judgment and commit more mistakes than it did five years ago? Those mistakes helped make Libya become more chaotic, more ungovernable and more destabilizing to its immediate and regional neighbors.

On June 7, Britain circulated a draft resolution at the United Nations to authorize European naval forces to intercept ships suspected of smuggling arms to the Islamic State (IS) in Libya. This appears to be counter to what was agreed to in a May 16 Vienna meeting in which major powers promised to help Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) arm itself to confront IS. However, the latest draft resolution aims to tighten the noose around IS while calling for the easing of the arms embargo against the GNA.

After the May ministerial meeting, the United States, Russia, Italy, Germany and Libya’s neighboring countries, along with at least three regional organizations including the Arab League, European Union and the United Nations, agreed to lend further support to Libya’s fragile government and to translate this political support into on-the-ground material assistance.

However, careful reading of the meeting’s adopted final communique reveals that the international community is about to blunder again in the North African country, probably repeating some of its worst mistakes committed five years ago. In February 2011, leading world powers, including France and the United Kingdom, rushed to help what they called theLibyan revolution to topple Moammar Gadhafi, only to send the country into chaos and lawlessness. They supplied arms and training to rebel forces without any real concern about where such weapons could end up and who was being trained.

The communique highlights two issues of critical importance: the partial lifting of the United Nations arms embargo imposed on Libya in March 2011, and the granting of some legitimacy to the recently created Presidential Guard. This legitimacy can be granted by recognizing the Presidential Guard as legitimate militia-free, disciplined armed forces under the state control as claimed by the GNA, which created it just a few days before presenting the guard as such in Vienna.

Without any rigorous checking or proper mechanisms in place, those who met in Vienna declared their support for the Presidential Guard, stressing their readiness to “respond to the Libyan government’s requests for training and equipping the Presidential Guard and vetted forces from throughout Libya.”

Such a step will only complicate the military and political situation in Libya and push the various parties into further conflict, since neither side accepts the other as a legitimate legal army under government control. Gen. Khalifa Hifter does not recognize the newly created Presidential Guard as a legal Libyan army worth arming and training, and vice versa.

Which armed group is legitimately called a Libyan army is a big issue in Libya, since such categorization mean legal status and the ability to train and purchase arms openly. The Libyan Armed Forces, under the leadership of Hifter, was recognized as such by the only elected legislature in the country, namely the Tobruk-based parliament. Over the last two years, the Libyan Armed Forces has been battling terror groups, including IS and Ansar al-Sharia, in Benghazi. It finally liberated much of the embattled city earlier this year, enabling locals to return to their homes and businesses.

Before the GNA was created, Libya’s internationally recognized government repeatedly asked for the lifting of the arms embargo to enable the government to buy arms in legal manners — but to no avail. Recognizing the GNA as a legitimate government of Libya should not mean anything before it includes the armed forces. Hifter does not accept the GNA as a legal government in Libya because it did not gain the confidence of the parliament, as required by the Libyan Political Agreement that was brokered by the UN and signed in December.

Arming any group that declares loyalty to the GNA — even if recognized by the international community as such — does not make it legitimate in the eyes of major players on the ground, including Hifter and Tripoli’s Revolutionary Brigades, for instance. The Presidential Guard is composed of armed militias of mixed loyalties drawing mainly on the city-state of Misrata’s armed and powerful militias. Whether or not the Presidential Guard has fought IS does not mean it should be seen as the focal point for a future Libyan army, since many of its members are implicated in abuses and crimes including the mass murder of civilians. Attempts to integrate them and other militias into a state-controlled armed forces have so far failed, and ordinary Libyans see them as an illegal militia.

Seeking training for such militias just because they declared loyalty to the GNA does not make them an army, nor will it lead to discipline and professionalism required in any professional state army. Previous attempts to train such individuals proved to be useless despite the millions of dollars wasted on such programs. Individuals loyal to certain militias, which protect them, will find it difficult to accept being integrated into a legal and accountable state body in which they can be held responsible for their actions.

It is only a matter of time before the UN votes to partially lift the arms embargo on the newly created Presidential Guard. This will automatically lead to renewed conflict because Hifter and his forces — which include a large number of Libya’s former professional army — will consider that to be against them despite the success they have scored against terror groups in Benghazi.

The West, and particularly European Union countries, want the GNA to at least curb, if not stop, the flow of immigrants from Libya to the southern EU shores. To do that, they have promised at the ministerial meeting in Vienna to train Libya’s coast guard. But, again, training the so-called Libyan coast guard is no more than old militias being recycled through the GNA to convince major powers that they are indeed under state command.

In 2011, the West rushed to help destroy the former regime in the tribally divided country without any workable plan to restabilize the country afterward, the result of which has been chaos and conflicts across Libya ever since. The West invested heavily — at least politically — in the so-called Libyan revolution, naively believing that once Gadhafi was toppled, the Libyans would be able to sit together and reconcile their differences and move forward. This time, the West is about to repeat its errors by recognizing old militias as a new army, giving it legitimacy and recognition.

(Source / 09.06.2016)

Israel ‘shuts down’ hometown of suspected Tel Aviv shooter

Israel moved Thursday to exact collective punishment on the inhabitants of the hometown of suspected Palestinian shooter involved in Wednesday’s deadly shooting in Tel Aviv
Israeli occupation forces raided the West Bank hometown of two Palestinian shooters suspected of carrying out the lethal shooting attack in Tel Aviv on Wednesday night, said Israeli press reports.An undisclosed number of residents were arrested and the village, Yatta in the Hebron Hills, was closed off until further notice following a “security assessment,” the Israel army announced on Thursday morning.

Entrance to and exit from the village will only be allowed in “humanitarian cases,” the army said.

During the late night raid, the home of one of the suspected shooters was prepared for demolition, the army added.

Israel says home demolitions are used as a deterrent against future attacks, but critics say they amount to collective punishment and are ineffective.

Four people were killed and 16 more injured when two Palestinians armed with automatic weapons opened fire inside a restaurant in the Sarona Market shopping complex in central Tel Aviv. The two gunmen were caught shortly after the attack.

Also in response to the attack, Israel’s Defence Ministry froze 83,000 permits given to Palestinians to travel to Israel during the Muslim Ramadan holy month Thursday.

Permits for 500 people from the Gaza Strip to attend Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque were also revoked.

The ministry also froze 204 regular work permits for members of the shooters’ extended families, according to the Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories, the Defence Ministry unit that manages civilian affairs in the West Bank.

(Source / 09.06.2016)

250 minors admitted to Ofer prisoner since beginning of 2016

Israeli forces arresting Palestinian youth

Israeli forces arresting Palestinian youth. [File photo]

The Israeli forces have detained 250 minors in Ofer military prison since the beginning of this year, the National Commission for Prisoners Affairs said in a press release on Tuesday.

“The attack on children is still ongoing, and the policy of targeting them is still at the same pace,” the commission added.

In the last month alone, 37 minors have been admitted to sections 17 and 18 of the prison, which are allocated to detained minors. 183 minors are now in the prison.

(Source / 09.06.2016)

Israeli occupation murders Palestinian children

No need to mention how many Palestinian children the Israeli occupation has murdered because the number is beyond counting!

Days of Palestine, Gaza Strip -Israeli occupation forces have murdered tens of Palestinian children in Gaza Strip, destroyed their homes, hospitals and schools.

Here are a number of pictures from the Gaza Strip showing how the Israeli occupation deals with the Palestinian children, their homes, hospitals and schools.

If the Israeli occupation speaks about terrorism, it must look at itself and how it slaughtered Palestinians like what is done with cows in a slaughterhouse.

The bitter reality here is that the whole world stands together condemning death of an Israeli occupier, while no one dared to condemn murdering Palestinians by the Israeli occupiers.

(Source / 09.06.2016)

President Alabdah Meets with Turkish FM, Condemns Terrorist Attacks in Turkey

President of the Syrian Coalition Anas Alabdah condemned the terrorist attack that took place today in the town of Midyat in the Turkish southeastern Mardin province. He repeated his condemnation of the terrorist bombing that took place in Istanbul on Tuesday.

Alabdah also condemned the terrorist attack that took place in the Jordanian capital Amman last week.

In a meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu in Ankara on Wednesday, Alabdah expressed solidarity with families of the victims and the peoples of Jordan and Turkey. He thanked Turkey for its support for the Syrian revolution at all levels.

Alabdah said that the Syrian Coalition is seeking to improve its performance on the administrative and political levels and to enhance relations with foreign countries. He added that the Coalition is working to expand representation of women in its ranks and on reaching out to all components of the Syrian society. The Coalition is also working on activating and enhancing the work of the interim government inside Syria to offer services to the population in liberated areas.

For his part, Çavuşoğlu reaffirmed his country’s firm stance on Syria, adding that Turkey’s position on the Assad regime has not changed. He stressed the need for democratic change in Syria as well as for bringing about a political transition without Assad.

Çavuşoğlu pointed out that the local population in the town of Manbej in Syria will take on administration of their town after the expulsion of ISIS from the town, adding that this decision was made with a US-Turkish understanding.

At the meeting, the Coalition raised issues and challenges facing Syrian refugees living in Turkey. The Turkish foreign minister promised his country will seriously study such issues and that solutions will be provided. Çavuşoğlu also said that Turkish authorities decided to open the Cilvegözü border crossing for Syrians during Eid al-Fitr.

(Source: Syrian Coalition / 09.06.2016)