Displace, demolish, construct, repeat: the time-tested Israeli way

By Ben White

Palestinian displacement and Israeli construction is a decades-old pattern, but its recent escalation should give Israel diplomatic trouble

“[Israeli] settlement activity…is corrosive to the cause of peace,” the statement began, describing Israel’s recent steps as merely “the latest examples of what appears to be a steady acceleration of settlement activity that is systematically undermining the prospects for a two-state solution”.

Settlement construction and the demolition of Palestinian homes, it went on, “is part of an ongoing process of land seizures, settlement expansion, legalisations of outposts, and denial of Palestinian development that risk entrenching a one-state reality of perpetual occupation and conflict”.

At the end, a final blow: the Netanyahu government’s “pattern of provocative and counterproductive action…raises serious questions about Israel’s ultimate commitment to a peaceful, negotiated settlement with the Palestinians”.

The statement published on 27 July was authored by none other than the US State Department.

The developments that the State Department’s spokesman John Kirby was responding to are grimly familiar: the past few weeks have seen reports of construction plans for hundreds of settlement housing units advancing through different stages of the planning process as well as “a plan to retroactively legalise an outpost near Ramallah”.

Meanwhile, as the State Department highlighted, there have been increased demolitions of Palestinian structures in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. According to the latest UNbriefing, Israeli authorities have demolished 684 Palestinian-owned structures in 2016 to date (up to 1 August), displacing 990 residents. By comparison, 531 structures were demolished in the whole of 2015.

Of course, a major disparity between US government rhetoric and action remains (as pointed out in no uncertain terms by AP reporter Matt Lee this week). Even so, the issue of parallel settlement growth and the demolition of Palestinian homes is liable to cause Israel increased diplomatic trouble.

For Western governments, one of the main reasons why settlement construction and the demolition of Palestinian homes are problematic is because of the way in which they make it trickier to establish a Palestinian state (an anxiety expressed by Washington).

Settlements and demolitions are also both grave violations of international law: the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits the establishment of Israeli civilian colonies in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and it also limits the demolition of property strictly to cases of “military necessity”.

Displacement and construction

But aside from damage to the already deeply comatose “peace process”, and the issue of Israel’s deliberate and systematic breaches of international humanitarian law, the demolition of Palestinian property alongside the continued growth of illegal colonies is a microcosm of a bigger picture.

They are two sides of the same apartheid coin in the West Bank, reflecting a regime where one group – Jewish Israeli citizens, protected by the Israeli army – lives in segregated privilege, while the other group, Palestinian non-citizens, are expelled, controlled and brutalised by that same Israeli army.

This is not a new phenomenon. In the past 10 years, Israeli occupation forces have demolishedmore than 1,100 Palestinian homes. And that’s not counting other structures including shops, schools and factories.

But we can take an even wider perspective, since settlements and demolitions are a consistent thread running through the history of settler colonialism in Palestine. In the first five years after the establishment of the State of Israel, 95 percent of new Jewish communities were built on the property of expelled Palestinian refugees.

More than 400 Palestinian villages were destroyed in the Nakba, their land redistributed to – among other recipients – the kibbutzim. Palestinian neighbourhoods in historic cities like Jerusalem, Acre and Haifa were emptied and repopulated by Jewish Israelis. Displacement, and construction.

And so it continues. The homes of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship are not safe from a bureaucratic system that professes “blindness” to the ethnicity of those whose properties it condemns and destroys, but whose political masters are clear about what a “Jewish state” means in practice for its non-Jewish inhabitants.

Sometimes it’s called “facts on the ground” – other times, it’s called “development”. In the Negev, Jewish communities are built, and Palestinian communities are torn down. A few miles up the road, in the southern West Bank, the same thing is happening. In East Jerusalem this week, one Palestinian family experienced their sixth home demolition in a decade.

The escalation of demolitions and continued settlement construction, heavily criticised by Israel’s international allies, is an opportunity to explain that such processes are not aberrations or a radical departure, but a microcosm of a Palestinian experience, some 70 years old and counting, at the hands of Zionist settler colonialism.

(Source / 06.08.2016)

On its 11th birthday, BDS leads nonviolent resistance

The movement provides a platform for the aspirations of Palestinians without taking any political sides.

The leaders of the BDS understand that using nonviolent tactics is a long process that requires discipline, writes Kuttab [Al Jazeera]

The leaders of the BDS understand that using nonviolent tactics is a long process that requires discipline, writes Kuttab

Last May, when the Israeli Interior Ministry issued an order banning nonviolent activist and cofounder of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement Omar Barghouti from travel, it was not a simple travel ban. It was yet another proof that Israel is not simply opposed to violent Palestinian resisters, but also to nonviolent ones.

Many years ago, in June 1988, Israel deported another Palestinian nonviolent activist, Mubarak Awad, on the eve of the first Palestinian Intifada, during the Yitzhak Shamir administration.

Both cases certainly prove that Israel can’t deal with either violent or nonviolent Palestinians; some would even say that Israelis have a much harder time with nonviolent Palestinians.

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2016/08/11th-birthday-bds-leads-nonviolent-resistance-160806113506179.html

The values

The current BDS movement was launched 11 years ago in July 2005 through a call by leading Palestinian organisations, factions and nationalist leaders.

At its launch, BDS called upon the “people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the Apartheid era.”

The statement – endorsed by a wide group of Palestinians including various political groups and civil society organisations – called for these “nonviolent punitive measures” to be maintained until Israel meets its international obligations by ending its occupation and colonisation of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall.

Second, by recognising the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and third by respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.

Across the globe, Israel and its apologists’ efforts to stem the movement of individuals’ freedom of expression and choice are the best sign of the righteousness and power of this movement.

The nonviolent ideas in the pre-Intifada period were never fully matured into an active strategy and action plan, even though many of its ideas of boycotts and civil disobedience were reflected in the Intifada’s secret body – called the Unified National Leadership of the Uprising.

This underground leadership was totally committed to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and its policies, which eventually led to the Madrid Peace Conference and the secretly negotiated Oslo Accords that included letters of mutual recognition.

Political freedom to campaign

While receiving endorsement from political groupings in Palestine and abroad, the BDS movement and more importantly the Boycott Divestment Sanctions National Committee (BNC) was clear not to act on behalf or represent any of the political movements that many blame for the weakness of the Palestinian position.

Being neither part of the PLO, Hamas nor any other Palestinian organisation – or faction – has given the BDS movement the political freedom to campaign on all fronts and locations, and not to be straight-jacketed with political and ideological constraints.

OPINION: BDS is a war Israel can’t win

This meant that they were able to put the Palestinian issue in its larger context and priorities: First the need for an end to the occupation; second, securing the equal rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel; and third, the need to solve the Palestinian refugees issue.

The goals neither oppose nor support the two-state solution, nor do they adhere to the road map and Oslo process that has doubled the number of illegal settlers in the occupied territories.

Even though the UN Resolution 194 has a similar clause about the right of return and compensation for the Palestinian refugees, the attacks on the movement have never ceased.

Attackers, such as paid hasbara students, as well as pro-Israel politicians’ defenders and some pundits falsely claimed that the purpose of the BDS was to delegitimise Israel and that it was an anti-Semitic movement. The more that Israel and its defenders attacked the BDS, the more the movement became popular.

OPINION: The BDS question at US universities

Across the globe, Israel and its apologists’ efforts to stem the movement of individuals’ freedom of expression and choice are the best sign of the righteousness and power of this movement.

Some democratic countries and leaders are succumbing under political and pro-Israel lobbyist pressures to pass anti-democratic legislations – all with the goal of stemming this powerful nonviolent campaign for justice and against tyranny.

Risks ahead

The BDS movement, however, risks becoming weaker if it attempts to become a partisan political party or if it engages in political talks.

The movement’s power is its ability to provide a platform for the widest possible values and aspirations of Palestinians without taking any specific political side.

Eleven years since its launch, the leaders of the BDS movement understand that using nonviolent tactics is a long process that requires discipline and continued rejection of any attempt of supporting violence, hatred and discrimination.

This patience and continued campaigning will bring an end to injustice and will certainly produce similar results to the global campaign against South African Apartheid rule.

(Source / 06.08.2016)

Bahar: Israel’s child imprisonment law “fascist and racist”

GAZA, (PIC)– First deputy speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council Ahmed Bahar has strongly denounced the new Knesset law which allows Palestinian children under age 14 to be tried and jailed, describing it as “fascist and racist.” In press remarks on Friday, Bahar emphasized that this Israeli law clearly violates the international conventions and agreements that call for protecting children and sparing them any conflicts and wars. “The Zionists is going far further in devising racist laws and legislation, in the midst of Arab silence and international complicity,” Bahar charged. “Such violation of the children’s rights constitutes a war crime and a crime against humanity according to the provisions of the international laws and conventions,” he added. He also highlighted that Israel’s new imprisonment law against the Palestinian children reflected its fascism and the need for immediate international action to curb it.

(Source / 06.08.2016)

Hey ISIS, You Suck’: Say US Muslims With Giant Billboard

Chicago poster campaign picked up by social media users to tell Islamic State group it does not represent Islam.

ISIS you suck!!!' billboard in Chicago (Sound Vision)

ISIS you suck!!!’ billboard in Chicago

What would the Prophet Muhammad think of the Islamic State group? Not much according to a non-profit US Muslim organisation that launched a poster campaign in the US this week.

Sound Vision used a giant billboard in a suburb of Chicago, saying “ISIS sucks”, quoting the Quran’s “Life is sacred” and signing it “From: #ActualMuslims”.

The Chicago stunt was a hit on the internet, became a most-read article on Reddit and was used by many on Twitter for their own messages that IS was not synonymous with Islam.

ISIS sucks.PNG

ISIS sucks1

ISIS sucks2

ISIS sucks3

(Source / 06.08.2016)

Syria: Opinions and Attitudes on Federalism, Decentralization, and the experience of the Democratic Self-Administration

Article of April 26th, 2016

 
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Istanbul, Turkey – The Day After, a Syrian civil society organization, working to support a democratic transition in Syria, recently conducted a survey study on Syrian opinions and attitudes toward federalism, decentralization, and the experience of the PYD’s Democratic Self-Administration. This study provides insight for finding a solution to one of the most central issues facing the future of Syria: administering the country during the transition and beyond. The study surveys respondents in regime-held areas, opposition-held areas, and in areas under Self-Administration. It further disaggregates data according to ethnicities (Arab, Kurdish, and Assyrian), religious sects, and gender.

Since the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) announced the establishment of an autonomous region based on federalism in March, discussions on decentralization and federalism in Syria have taken hold in policy and decision-making circles. Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, called for testing the possibility of establishing federal rule in Syria. This call came in harmony with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s remarks about the possibility of dividing Syria, in comments made during preparations for the Geneva III peace talks. The UN-backed talks were expected to set the parameters for transition in Syria before the talks completely collapsed when regime shelling led to a total breakdown of the cessation of hostilities. While this report was being drafted, and following the support given by the international coalition and the Russian Federation to the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the PYD declared federalism in northern Syria in three regions: Al-Hassakah, Efrin, and Kobani. The unilateral announcement constituted a cornerstone for promoting a federal system in Syria. This study thus gauges the attitudes of people living in those areas towards this system of governance, as well as the overall opinions about federalism and decentralization across Syria. The study suggests that some form of decentralization is the most preferred governing system in Syria, however not to the extent of federalism.

The study reveals that respondents living in both the regime and opposition-held areas overwhelmingly reject federalism, while those living in areas under the Self-Administration overwhelmingly support federalism. A large majority of Arab respondents also reject federalism, while the majority of Kurdish respondents favor it. The results become more nuanced on the topic of decentralization. While those in the regime-held areas still express overwhelming opposition to a decentralized state, a majority of respondents in the opposition-held areas are in favor of greater decentralization. The largest concern about decentralization, among those who oppose it, is a fear of separatism, while the idea that it enhances “participation in governance” tops the list of advantages.

The study indicates a way forward for building popular support among Syrians in favor of greater decentralization as a joint path forward that wins support from all sides.

KEY FINDINGS:

  • Respondents in both regime and opposition-held areas are united in their rejection of federalism. 44% in opposition-held areas reject it and 57% in regime-held areas.
  • 79.6% of respondents in Self-Administration areas endorse federalism, more than half strongly support it.
  • 58.5% of Non-Kurdish respondents residing in Self-Administration areas oppose or strongly oppose transforming Syria into a federal state with semi-autonomous regions
  • 55.3% of respondents in opposition-held areas support greater decentralization. 16.2% said that they want local authorities to be given greater competencies than that which they currently hold, while 30% were in favor of local authorities with broad administrative competencies. Finally, 9.1% said they want a federal state under which several regions enjoy semi-autonomous governance
  • 65.6% of respondents in regime-held areas rejected any form of decentralization, instead favoring a single government in the capital that possesses all powers
  • 72.7% of respondents in areas of the Democratic Self-Administration favor decentralization, and opted for the greatest amount of decentralization from the choices in our sample: a federal state that encompasses semi-autonomous regions
  • Over 40% of respondents in regime and opposition-held areas,  oppose the Democratic Self-Administration.
  • Respondents from all religious sects overwhelmingly oppose the Democratic Self-Administration except for Ismailis. Alawites constituted the group of respondents that opposed it the most (70.5%)
  • The most cited reason for rejecting Self-Administration in regime and opposition-controlled areas is the fear of partition
  • Kurds opposing the Democratic Self-Administration are divided into two main streams:  a private project of the PYD whom they do not find trustworthy (50%) and repressive practices (40.6%).
  • The percentage of non-Kurds who oppose federalism increases significantly when asked about the stance vis-à-vis the Democratic Self-Administration. This suggests a large polarization between the Kurds who overwhelmingly support it (69.8%) and the other social components that largely oppose it (78.1%).


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(Source / 06.08.2016)

PLO: Leasing private Palestinian land an Israeli move to ‘swallow’ West Bank

West Bank land leasing

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — The Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) National Bureau to Defend Land released a statement Saturday warning of the “dangerous” consequences of Israel’s policy of legalizing illegal settlement outposts in the occupied West Bank, in response to recent recommendations by an Israeli government committee seeking to relocated evacuees of the Amona outpost to privately-owned Palestinian land. 

The bureau described the actions taking place in Amona as an “unprecedented” move with the goal to “swallow” more Palestinian lands.
The special committee from the Israeli Ministry of Justice, established specially for the purpose of relocating Amona’s residents, recently submitted a suggestion to the Israeli Attorney General recommending moving the settlers to a nearby privately-owned Palestinian land whose owners have been living abroad since Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967.
The bureau highlighted that the committee suggested that after being relocated to the privately-owned Palestinian land, Amona’s residents would pay rent to the Israeli government, which the state would hold in a bank account for the owners.
The committee, according to the Israeli Army Radio, is chaired by Chaya Zandberg, head of the civil law department in the Israeli State Attorney’s Office, and includes the Israeli Defense Ministry’s legal adviser and head of its planning administration, as well as a representative of far-right Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.
Israeli human rights watchdog Peace Now slammed on Tuesday the Israeli committee’s plan, which would allow the privately held Palestinian properties near the outpost to be leased to Israeli settlers for three years, with the ability to renew the lease after each lease period.
According to Peace Now, the proposal to lease property from absentee Palestinians in the West Bank would “create an opening for the takeover of tens of thousands of dunams in the West Bank. The scope of absentees’ property (property owned by Palestinians not currently residing inside the West Bank) is estimated at around 100,000 dunams (double the size of Tel Aviv and similar to the land taken up by all of the settlements today).”
Peace Now warned that the move could pave the way for the construction of even more settlements across the West Bank.
“The most severe implication is that the state of Israel will crush the basic rights of Palestinians under its rule in the occupied territories, while violating international law — all out of the will to comply to the demands of a group of settlers that established an illegal outpost on stolen Palestinian land with the backing of the government,” the group added.Peace Now said that the potential move would constitute “the crossing of a red line.”
The Israeli Supreme Court ruled in 2008 to demolish the Amona outpost after eight Palestinians from neighboring villages — with the support of Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din — successfully petitioned the court to remove the outpost on grounds that the construction was carried out on privately held Palestinian land.
The Amona outpost also received demolition orders after rulings by the Israeli Supreme Court in 1997, 2003, and 2004, with only nine structures having been demolished in 1996.
In 2010, the Israeli Supreme Court issued an injunction on the Israeli government demanding an explanation as to why no steps had been taken to begin the demolition of the illegal outpost.
Allowing the confiscation of privately owned Palestinian land in the West Bank under the pretext of the owners of the property being absent would mark a significant development in Israeli land confiscation strategies.
The proposal would also resemble Israel’s 1950 Absentee Property Law, which permits the Israeli government to transfer so-called “absentee” property belonging to Palestinians to Jewish residents, established following the 1948 creation of the state of Israel, that resulted in the mass displacement of more than 700,000 Palestinians.
Palestinians have continued to be denied access to their properties for having been absent from their homes, even if just for a few days, as of 1947, when many Palestinians fled from their homes to escape Jewish Zionist forces during the Arab-Israeli war.
The Amona outpost, located near the settlement of Ofra, which was constructed on top of privately held Palestinian land, has some 40 Israeli families residing in the area.
The more than 200 Israeli settler outposts in the West Bank are considered illegal by the Israeli government. However, Israeli authorities often legalize the outposts retroactively by declaring them official settlements after they have been connected to Israel’s water and electricity infrastructure.
Each of the some 196 Israeli government-approved settlements scattered across the Palestinian territory were constructed in contravention to international law.
(Source / 06.08.2016)

Israeli authorities deny families of Palestinian prisoners entry into Israel

Ashkelon gevangenis

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — Several Palestinian prisoners in Israel’s Ashkelon prison filed complaints against Israeli forces and authorities after their family members were denied entry through Israeli-controlled checkpoints despite holding Israeli permits for family visitations, according to a statement released Saturday by a lawyer from the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs.Karim Ajwa said in the statement that the complaints were filed against the prison administration and Israeli security forces after families were denied passage through checkpoints. The family members included the wife of prisoner Nasr Abu Hmeid, the mother of Haitham Salhiya, the brother of Muhammad Abu Shahin, the mother and daughter of Issam al-Froukh, the brothers of Yusif Nazal, and the brother of Majdi Sabanah.The committee stated that such actions were part of a broader system of arbitrary punishments imposed on Palestinian prisoners and their families, adding that several other families have complained of their permits being ripped up at checkpoints by Israeli soldiers and being denied entry for scheduled visitations.The committee also urged the the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which is responsible for arranging most family visits for Palestinian prisoners, to intervene and stop acts that violate humanitarian laws and the rights of the prisoners.The incidents came amid widespread protest over the ICRC’s recent cuts to family visitations, reducing arranged visits for male Palestinian prisoners from two days a month to just one.Since families of Palestinian prisoners often experience rejection or long-term delays of their permit applications to visit prisons in Israel, including incidents at checkpoints that prevent them from crossing even after they have been issued permits, Palestinians are heavily reliant on ICRC-arranged visitations, as ICRC buses transport Palestinians to and from the prisons and act as an institutional medium between the families and Israeli authorities.

(Source / 06.08.2016)

Observatory: ISIS ‘Almost Completely’ Ousted from Syria’s Manbij

An SDF fighter inspects the damage from a mortar shell that belonged to ISIS terrorists, in the southern rural area of Manbij, in Aleppo Governorate in Syria, May 31. (Reuters/Rodi Said)

An SDF fighter inspects the damage from a mortar shell that belonged to ISIS terrorists, in the southern rural area of Manbij, in Aleppo Governorate in Syria, May 31

The Syrian Democratic Forces – a coalition of Arab and Kurd fighters- on Saturday seized the ISIS stronghold of Manbij, two months after launching an operation to capture the strategic city in northern Syria, a monitor said.

SDF, which includes the powerful Kurdish YPG militia and Arab fighters, took “almost complete control” of Manbij and is combing the city in search of the last remaining jihadists, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Backed by air strikes from the U.S.-led coalition, the SDF launched its offensive to retake Manbij on May 31.

The town had served as a key transit point along the ISIS supply route from the Turkish border to Raqqa, the de facto capital of the terrorist organization.

The SDF first encircled the town in early June and surged into it later that month.

But its assault was slowed by a fierce jihadist fightback using suicide attackers and car bombs.

The official spokesman of the SDF-allied Manbij military council, Sharfan Darwish, told Reuters that battles were continuing but that around 90 percent of the city had now been cleared of ISIS.

Pockets of militants are still present in the center of the city, the Britain-based Observatory said.

Syria’s conflict first erupted in March 2011 with anti-regime protests but has since evolved into a multi-front war largely dominated by jihadist groups.

(Source / 06.08.2016)

Peres: Agreement over 1967 Borders, Only Final Touches Left

Secretary of State John Kerry (C) shakes hands with former Israeli President Shimon Peres (L) and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at a meeting at the Dead Sea, May 26, 2013. REUTERS/Jim Young

Secretary of State John Kerry (C) shakes hands with Former Israeli President Shimon Peres (L) and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at a meeting at the Dead Sea, May 26, 2013

Tel Aviv- Israel’s former President Shimon Peres has announced that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on a two-state solution.

Peres, 93, called in Jaffa for the prompt resumption of the negotiations that have led to an agreement over the borders that existed before the 1967 war.

He said: “The two sides have agreed over the majority of issues and only final touches remain … The current situation is unacceptable; both parties should act to complete the mission, mainly the border issue.”

“The Arab Peace Initiative fits as a solid foundation for these negotiations since it hints to a possibility of achieving regional and comprehensive peace after resolving the Palestinian case,” he said. “Yet, amendments could be made upon the request of Palestinians and Israelis.”

During the inauguration of an institution for technology sciences in Jaffa, Peres said that the world’s nations can no longer endure wars and bloodshed.

He added, “While leaders are busy talking about the past and fighting to occupy territories, new generations who prefer sciences and progress over war and destruction are emerging. These generations are more concentrated on the future rather than the past; hence they call for peace and sciences.”

Peres said that all Israeli prime ministers since 1992 have endorsed the two-state solution. They are: Yitzhak Rabin, Ariel Sharon, Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert.

“Withdrawing from Gaza was a missed chance by Palestinians to transform Gaza into a launching point for an independent Palestinian state,” said Peres as he expressed his confidence in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas who has proven his sincere intentions to reach a peace agreement.

The former president criticized the media in Israel for not informing the public of the positive updates in the Arab World. “There are 400 million people in the Arab World, 60 percent of them are less than 25 years old. Fifty to sixty thousand of them believe in aggression, terrorism and hatred; however the rest of youths believe in life, sciences and progress.”

“Why does the media focus on the aggressive minority and overlook the majority which calls for peace?” he questioned.

(Source / 06.08.2016)

Six Palestinians Injured, One Seriously, By Israeli Army Fire In Gaza

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06 AUG
2:40 AM

Israeli soldiers shot and injured, Friday, six Palestinians with live fire, causing various wounds, including one who suffered life-threatening wounds, after the army opened fire on protesters, in two areas in the besieged Gaza Strip.

Dr. Ashraf al-Qedra, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Health in Gaza, said that five Palestinians were shot and injured with live rounds, including one, 25 years of age, who suffered life-threatening wounds, after the soldiers fire many bullets at protesters, east of Gaza city. Another Palestinian suffered moderate wounds.

Gaza InjuredDr. al-Qedra added that one Palestinian, 21 years of age, suffered moderate wounds after the soldiers shot him with a live round, east of Gaza city.

At least three Palestinians were shot with rubber-coated steel bullets, and scores suffered the effects of tear gas inhalation.

(Source / 06.08.2016)