Professor Ashqar suffers difficult health condition in Israeli jail


The Israeli occupation authorities (IOA) are still holding the Palestinian professor Esam al-Ashqar, 57, in custody without charge or trial despite his difficult health condition.

The lawyer of the Palestinian Prisoners Society said, after the visit he paid to the Palestinian professor in Ramleh prison clinic, that Ashqar is suffering from blood pressure problems, chronic headache, and stiffness and stenosis in the arteries leading to the kidneys.

The lawyer added that Ashqar had a semi-clot in the brain before his detention, which led to an almost complete paralysis in the right side of his body.

Ashqar is a professor of physical sciences and a lecturer in al-Najah University. He was arrested several times, and either served sentences in Israeli jails or was held in administrative detention. He was lately arrested on 24th November 2016.

(Source / 02.01.2017)

Former Australian PM: Move embassy to Jerusalem, cut aid to Palestinians

Tony Abbott being interviewed by Master of Ceremonies, Leigh Spokes after completing the Lake to Lagoon in Wagga Wagga [Bidgee / Wikipedia]

Tony Abbott being interviewed by Master of Ceremonies, Leigh Spokes after completing the Lake to Lagoon in Wagga Wagga

Former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott called on his country to cut millions of dollars of annual aid to the Palestinian Authority, accusing Ramallah of funneling the money to “terrorists and their families.” He also called on Canberra to join any move by the incoming Trump administration in the US to relocate the embassy to Jerusalem.

In an article penned by Abbott and published in The Spectator Australia weekly on Monday, the former PM said Canberra should offer “unswerving support for Israel as the region’s only liberal, pluralist democracy,” and “join any move by the Trump administration to move its embassy to Jerusalem.”

During the 2016 election, Trump pledged to end a longstanding White House policy to perpetually defer a 1995 Congressional decision to recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and move the embassy there.

Abbott’s comments come days after Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull panned the United Nations Security Council resolution that criticised Israeli settlement building as one-sided and biased against Israel.

The resolution last month determined that Israel’s establishment of settlements anywhere outside the pre-1967 lines “has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law.” The resolution did not distinguish between the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Abbott, who appointed Bishop and was replaced by Turnbull in 2015, was part of an Australian delegation that visited Jerusalem and Ramallah last month, meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah.

Australia gave almost AUD 43 million (NIS 120 million) in aid to the Palestinian Territories in 2015-2016 and has pledged slightly more for the coming year, according to official government figures.

Abbot wrote in the Spectator:

Australia should cut our $40 million a year in aid to the Palestinian Authority while it keeps paying pensions to terrorists and their families

Last month, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution demanding Israel to halt settlement building and expansion in the Palestinian territories. The resolution, which was co-sponsored by Malaysia, New Zealand, Senegal and Venezuela, was passed by a 14-0 vote after the United States abstained.

As a response to the resolution, Israel and it’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged to conduct ‘revenge demolitions‘ of Palestinian homes; approved building some 5,600 housing units in East Jerusalem for illegal settlements;  cut funding to five UN institutions worth $7.8 million; threatened to directly target UNRWA with Trump’s help; and recalled it’s ambassadors from Senegal and New Zealand.

(Source / 02.01.2017)

Syrian Coalition: Russia Has to Compel Regime & Iranian Militias to Respect Ceasefire Agreement

The Syrian Coalition called on Russia to compel regime forces and the Iranian militias to commit to the cease-fire agreement and prevent any attempts to undermine it.

Member of the Coalition’s political committee Yasser Farhan said that Russia bears responsibility to prevent violations of the ceasefire agreement as it is one of the guarantors of the agreement. He pointed out that regime forces and the Iranian-backed militias continue to violate the agreement, especially in the Wadi Barada valley.

The Assad regime and its allies have been desperately trying to sabotage the ceasefire agreement out of determination to pursue a military solution to the conflict, Farhan stressed.

Farhan said that the armed opposition provided maps detailing its positions as part of the agreement, which refutes the regime and allies’ claims about the presence of extremist groups in Wadi Barada valley. He stressed the need to urgently stop any such violations of the agreement.

The UN Security Council endorsed the cease-fire agreement and called for the adoption of mechanisms for monitoring and accountability for the violations, Farhan added.

Farhan went on to say that the opposition’s High Negotiations Committee is the only body authorized to choose the opposition’s negotiating delegation. He pointed out that the Coalition’s political committee held an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss the developments on the ground, including the regime and allies’ violations of the ceasefire in Wadi Barada valley.

Meanwhile, the UN Security Council on Saturday unanimously adopted resolution 2336 supporting the Russian-Turkish brokered ceasefire in Syria and pointing out the importance of the forthcoming talks that will be held in Kazakhstan’s capital of Astana.

The Council “looks forward to” that meeting in Astana, viewing it as “an important part of the Syrian-led political process” and “an important step ahead of the resumption of negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations in Geneva on 8 February 2017.”

The 15-member Council reiterated its call on parties to allow humanitarian agencies “rapid, safe and unhindered” access throughout Syria, reiterating that the only sustainable solution to the crisis was an inclusive, Syrian-led political process, based on the 2012 Geneva communiqué.

(Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Office / 02.01.2017)

2016: A Year of Struggle for Palestinian Freedom

At the end of 2016, approximately 7,000 Palestinians are held in Israeli jails. 700 of them are held without charge or trial under administrative detention, and nearly 400 of them are children. Palestinian prisoners are engaged in daily confrontations – for freedom, against repression, medical neglect and isolation. Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network is dedicated to building a strong movement in solidarity with the Palestinian political prisoners – the imprisoned leaders of the Palestinian people’s struggle for freedom. Below are some of the major events in the prisoners’ struggle in 2016; we invite you to join us to make 2017 a year for Palestinian freedom.

1. G4S pulls out of most Israeli operations after massive BDS campaign

Under heavy pressure from a growing international movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, massive multinational security corporation G4S finally sold off its Israeli subsidiary in early December 2016. G4S had earlier announced it planned to exit the market, widely attributed to the damage to its reputation caused by its contracts with the Israel Prison Service and related state security agencies. The announcement came as, first and foremost, for the Palestinian prisoners’ movement, whose hunger strikes and other collective struggles inspired years of boycotts and divestments in solidarity. Palestinian political prisoners had issued a statement urging escalation of the boycott campaign. During the campaign, G4S has lost contracts in the Arab region, South Africa, Latin America, Europe, the United States and elsewhere as a result of its involvement in the imprisonment of Palestinians. G4S is also a target for global campaigning because of the corporation’s involvement with youth incarceration and migrant detention in the United States, Canada, Australia and elsewhere. Organizations like Columbia Prison Divest, the Afrikan Black Coalition at the University of California, and Black Students United at Cornell University have played leading roles in building university and community boycott and divestment campaigns against G4S as a part of the prison-industrial complex. Read more about this important achievement…

2. Bilal Kayed wins his liberation, inspires broad international movement

Palestinian prisoners’ movement leader and long-term hunger striker Bilal Kayed won his freedom on 12 December after 15 years in Israeli prison. Scheduled for release on 13 June after completing his 14.5-year sentence for involvement with the Palestinian resistance through the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in the second Intifada, Kayed was instead ordered to six months in administrative detention without charge or trial, indefinitely renewable. During his time in prison, he became  a leader of the prisoners’ struggle. He played a leading role in organizing collective hunger strikes and other protests, and was elected to coordinate with representatives of other Palestinian political movements in collective strikes like the 2012 Karameh hunger strike. Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners across political lines joined his hunger strike inside Israeli jails. Kayed became an internationally-known figure during his hunger strike as dozens of cities around the world held events and rallies for his release and thousands of supporters signed petitions and wrote letters demanding his freedom Thousands marched and joined actions and events in the US, Canada, Lebanon, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Brazil, Chile, Ireland, Netherlands, Belgium, UK, Germany, Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Austria, the Czech Republic, South Africa and elsewhere to demand Kayed’s freedom. Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network coordinated numerous events around the world to demand Kayed’s release, including a delegation of European lawyers and parliamentarians who traveled to Palestine to support his strike. Read more about this important case…

3. International struggle brings movements together

G4S wasn’t only known for its role in contracting with the Israel Prison Service to repress and violate Palestinian rights. The corporation was also involved in providing private security to the Dakota Access Pipeline and its attempt to break the protest of indigenous resisters at Standing Rock in North Dakota. Throughout 2016, collective struggles against settler colonialism, racism and imperialism drew movements together to resist occupation and colonial oppression. .G4S was highlighted in the Black4Palestine statement as a key target of joint struggle, and is part of the system of deportation and detention that terrorizes migrant families in the U.S., Canada, and elsewhere. At Standing Rock, G4S was part of the array of private security corporations working for the Dakota Access Pipeline against the indigenous protest of water protectors that has drawn widespread solidarity and international support. Black Lives Matter activists in New York City organized protests for slain Palestinian Nadim Nuwara, while Samidoun activists have been involved in launching new Black-Palestinian solidarity campaigns. As we move into 2017, the deepening of ties between liberation movements is critical for progress.

4. The Battle of Empty Stomachs: Mohammed al-Qeeq, Hunger Strikes and the Struggle to End Administrative Detention

The Palestinian prisoners’ movement has long demanded an end to the practice of administrative detention, brought to Palestine under the British colonial mandate and continuing today under Israeli settler-colonialism, imprisoning hundreds of Palestinians each year without charge or trial. The hunger strike has long been a method of struggle used by Palestinian prisoners, going back decades. In recent years, hunger strikes have repeatedly drawn world attention to the struggle of Palestinians for freedom – particularly those in administrative detention. 2016 kicked off with a victory for imprisoned Palestinian journalist Mohammed al-Qeeq following a three-month hunger strike. Al-Qeeq had been held in administrative detention without charge or trial, and engaged in a 94-day hunger strike demanding his release. His strike drew widespread Palestinian and international attention, and highlighted the issue of administrative detention and the imprisonment of Palestinian journalists. Al-Qeeq was among 62 Palestinians to conduct long-term hunger strikes this year, mostly against their administrative detention without charge or trial. Ahmad Abu Fara and Anas Shadid just concluded their own strikes, while Mohammed Alaqima launched his only days ago. There are currently over 700 Palestinians held without charge or trial under indefinitely-renewable administrative detention, out of 7000 total Palestinian political prisoners. Read more about Mohammed al-Qeeq and Palestinian hunger strikes.

5. Ahmad Manasrah and the Persecution of Palestinian Children

Hundreds of Palestinian children were seized, imprisoned and interrogated in 2016, facing violent nighttime military arrest raids, separation from their parents, abusive interrogations and physical and psychological violence at the hands of occupation forces. The case of Ahmad Manasrah drew significant international attention – a 13-year-old boy, videotaped severely injured and bleeding as settlers demand his death, undergoing abusive interrogation, and charged with a stabbing attack. Despite international calls for Manarah’s freedom, Manasrah, 14, was sentenced in Israeli courts to 12 years in Israeli prison as well as fines of 180,000 NIS ($47,200 USD). Palestinian lawyer Jamil Saadeh noted upon Ahmad’s conviction in May that “the occupation deliberately kept the child Ahmad Manasrah imprisoned inside a reform center until he reached the legal age for full sentencing under Israeli law, which is the age of 14 years…The court did not take into account what he suffered from the moment of his detention, being wounded, assaulted and cursed, treated inside the hospital as a threat, and screamed at during interrogation by the officers, all of which is documented on video and condemns the occupation.” His case stands an example of the massive sentences being meted out to Palestinian kids, especially Jerusalemites. Palestinian girl Nurhan Awad, 16, was sentenced to 13 1/2 years in Israeli prison; Muawiya Alqam, 14, was sentenced to six and 1/2 years in Israeli prison; and Munther Abu Mayalah, 15, and Mohammed Taha, 16, were sentenced to 11 years. Jerusalemite children, including Nurhan, Muawiya, Munther, and Mohammed, have been particularly subject to these extremely high sentences. In “security” cases, Palestinian children do not receive reduced sentences despite their juvenile ages. For any conviction on a charge that carries a maximum sentence exceeding six months, children 14 and older receive sentences equal to those of adults. Read more about Palestinian child prisoners. 

6. The Growing Campaign to Free Georges Ibrahim Abdallah

Events and actions convened around the world on 15-22 October in an international week of action to demand freedom for Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, the imprisoned Lebanese Communist struggler for Palestine held in French jails for 32 years. Centered in a large demonstration in Lannemezan, France outside the prison where Abdallah is held marking the 32nd anniversary of his arrest, events took place in multiple international cities and locations as well as in many places throughout France. Throughout his time in prison, Georges Ibrahim Abdallah has remained politically active and, indeed, a leader, extending solidarity and full support to struggling prisoners and peoples’ movements around the world. He and fellow prisoners – Basque and Arab, among others – in Lannemezan prison returned their meals in solidarity with Palestinian hunger striker Bilal Kayed, and he has previously participated in hunger strikes in solidarity with Palestinian individual and collective strikes for justice and freedom. He recently expressed his solidarity with Toulouse BDS activists under attack and has constantly remained an active thinker on Arab, Palestinian and international liberation struggles. In 2017, let it be a year of freedom for Georges Abdallah, imprisoned for 32 years. Read more…

7. Ongoing Attacks on Palestinian Journalists, Writers, Students and Human Rights Defenders

Hundreds of Palestinians have also been arrested by Israeli occupation forces and accused of “incitement” for posting on Facebook. The “evidence” introduced into military court in order to convict these Palestinians include the number of “likes” and “shares” a post receives. Targets of prosecutions for Facebook posts include journalists Samah Dweik and Sami al-Saee, professor Imad Barghouthi and poet Dareen Tatour. Meanwhile, journalists like Omar Nazzal, member of the General Secretariat of the Palestinian Journalists’ Union, have had administrative detention orders repeatedly renewed against them. Nazzal was seized by occupation forces as he headed to the European Federation of Journalists’ conference in Sarajevo in April 2016. Journalists and human rights defenders like Hasan Safadi, the Arabic media coordinator for Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association have also been repeatedly detained without charge or trial. Multiple journalists from Sanabel Radio station have been imprisoned for months and their station shut down. At the same time, prominent activists like Salah Khawaja, of the Stop the Wall Campaign and the BDS movement, are being targeted for persecution. Read more about attacks on journalists, students and human rights defenders.

8. Rasmea Odeh Wins New Trial, Hit With New Attacks

Former Palestinian political prisoner and torture survivor Rasmea Odeh has become an icon to generations of Palestinians and their supporters. After surviving vicious sexual, physical and psychological torture under interrogation and ten years in Israeli prisons, Rasmea came to Chicago where she has become a leader of the Arab Womens’ Committee and the Arab American Action Network. Last year, Rasmea was sentenced to 18 months in prison and deportation after being convicted in 2014 of Unlawful Procurement of Naturalization, a politically-motivated immigration charge, for failing to disclose on applications for U.S. citizenship that she had been arrested decades earlier in Palestine by Israeli authorities. In February 2016, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals sent the case back to Judge Drain, saying he had wrongfully barred the testimony of a torture expert that was critical to the defense. Rasmea won a new trial in December of this year – now set to begin on 17 May – only to face a new attack as prosecutor Barbara McQuade filed a new, politically-motivated indictment against Rasmea, on the same charges. Supporters are mobilizing for the struggle to come to win justice and freedom for Rasmea Odeh.

9. Justice for Omar: The Struggle and Death of Omar Nayef Zayed

Rasmea Odeh is not the only former Palestinian prisoner to face ongoing persecution outside Palestine this year. Omar Nayef Zayed, 52, was a former Palestinian prisoner who was imprisoned in 1986, as a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, accused with his brother Hamza and Samer Mahroum of being part of an attack on an Israeli extremist settler in Jerusalem. Sentenced to life imprisonment, he escaped in 1990 after a 40-day hunger strike. After traveling in the Arab world for 4 years, he arrived in Bulgaria in 1994. Nayef Zayed was married to Rania, a Palestinian Bulgarian; they had three children. He owned a grocery store and was a leader in Sofia’s Palestinian community. In December 2015, the Israeli embassy in Sofia sought Nayef Zayed’s extradition, demanding his arrest. He took sanctuary in the Palestinian embassy in Sofia while engaged in a campaign against the extradition demand. Samidoun organized an international campaign against the extradition of Nayef Zayed, with lobbying meetings, legal support, and international protests. Throughout this time, he was constantly subject to pressure by PA representatives to leave the embassy. On 26 February, Nayef Zayed’s body was found on the ground of the garden of the embassy; he had fallen from the top story of the building. Since that time, his family and comrades have been engaged in ongoing struggle to hold those responsible for Nayef Zayed’s death accountable and uncover the truth. Read more about the campaign for Justice for Omar.

10. Fighting Corporate Complicity: The Campaign to Boycott HP

Through a massive international campaign over the years, boycott activists were able to secure G4S’ sale of the majority of its Israeli interests. The last week of November saw a growing international focus on a boycott campaign against computer manufacturer Hewlett-Packard, or HP. Samidoun’s involvement in the campaign highlights HP’s role in providing servers and management systems to the Israel Prison Service that imprisons over 7,000 Palestinian political prisoners. Hewlett Packard is also involved in providing imaging equipment for Israeli checkpoints and ID cards, enabling the siege of Gaza, providing services to Israeli settlements, and supporting other occupation infrastructure. Over 99 protests around the world were organized between 25 November and 3 December demanding a boycott of HP and an end to HP’s involvement in deportations, incarceration and oppression in Palestine, the United States and around the world. These protests were organized in response to a call from the International Boycott HP Coalition and the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC). Read more and join the campaign against HP’s profiteering from the oppression of Palestinians.

Moving into 2017….A Year for Palestinian Freedom

Let’s begin 2017 with some critically important campaigns for Palestinian prisoners of freedom. Take action now:

1. Join the Days of Action to Free Ahmad Sa’adat and all Palestinian Prisoners, January 13-15, 2017

2. Take Action to Call for Commutations for the Holy Land Five

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network is engaged in a wide range of international action and advocacy efforts to demand freedom for Palestinian political prisoners – and all of occupied Palestine. We work to demand freedom for all prisoners of occupation, colonialism and imperialism, and to build connections between liberation movements in our struggles for freedom. With our local chapters and partner groups around the world, Samidoun has organized dozens of demonstrations, educational events, and actions highlighting the demands of Palestinian political prisoners, including weekly protests in New York City. We’ve met with and worked with parliamentarians and popular movements to press for change, action and boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel for its imprisonment of Palestinians. We’re planning to escalate the struggle in 2017, to support the Palestinian prisoners – and the Palestinian people – on the front lines of resistance; and we invite you to join us and get involved. Let’s work together to make 2017 a year of Palestinian freedom! 

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network

(Source / 02.01.2017)

US-Israel intelligence agencies cooperated against Egypt in 2012

Israel’s signal intelligence Unit 8200 and America’s National Security Agency (NSA) spied on Egypt after the election of Mohamed Morsi as president in 2012, specialist magazine Israeli Defence claimed on Saturday.

In a report based on documents released by WikiLeaks, the Israeli magazine said that the NSA was asked to expand its cooperation with Unit 8200 to collect information about Egypt. It is alleged that the two agencies cooperated on many missions against “strategic targets” across the Middle East, the Gulf States, South Asian countries and the predominantly Muslim states which once were part of the Soviet Union.

The joint US-Israel intelligence programmes, reported Israeli Defence, collected information about local policies in such countries, including details about their armed forces, the economy, diplomatic channels and other issues. Unconventional weapons and active “terrorists” were also under scrutiny; Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Palestinian resistance movements and global jihadists have apparently been common targets.

Such cooperation, claims the magazine, has led to the development of strong ties between the NSA and Unit 8200. The agencies exchange raw data and intercept communications; provide analyses; and build joint target banks. Each has representatives of the other in their offices as well as in their countries’ embassies. Israeli Defence noted that Unit 8200 benefits from the advanced US facilities for decoding messages and using electronic means to collect information, including the technology known as FMS.

The scale of this intelligence cooperation between the Americans and the Israelis dates back to before 2007, when the CIA and Mossad spied on Iran’s nuclear plants. The magazine pointed out that the NSA and Unit 8200 signed a cooperation agreement to secure their internal networks in 2012.

(Source / 02.01.2017)

Israeli forces demolish 11 Bedouin residential structures, 87 left homeless


JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — Israeli bulldozers Monday morning demolished 11 residential structures in the Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar in the central occupied West Bank district of Jerusalem.

Dawood Jahalin, secretary of the Fatah movement in Jerusalem’s Bedouin communities, told Ma’an that Israeli bulldozers escorted by Israeli forces demolished 11 residential structures without allowing the owners to evacuate personal belongings and furniture.
87 Palestinians, the majority of whom are women and children, were left homeless as a result of the demolitions.
Jahalin added that Israeli forces imposed a siege on the area and closed its entrances during the demolitions, noting that the same 11 structures, made out of tin sheets and wood, had previously been demolished for the first time in August.
Khan al-Ahmar is one of several Bedouin villages facing forced relocation due to plans by Israeli authorities to build thousands of homes for Jewish-only settlements in the E1 corridor.
Settlement construction in E1 would effectively divide the West Bank and make the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state — as envisaged by the internationally backed two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict — almost impossible.
Israeli activity in E1 has attracted widespread international condemnation, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has in the past said that “E1 is a red line that cannot be crossed.”
In October, Israeli authorities demolished eight homes in the community. Israeli human rights group B’Tselem reported at the time that 28 Palestinians, 18 of them minors, were left homeless by the demolitions.
A spokesperson for the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the Israeli agency responsible for implementing Israeli policies in Palestinian territory, told Ma’an at the time that “enforcement measures” were carried out against “eight illegal structures” belonging to Palestinians near the Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim — which, like all Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, is illegal under international law.
The spokesperson said that the structures were built in 2012 without hard-to-obtain, Israeli-issued building permits.
The spokesperson added that the Israeli Civil Administration had “completed the establishment and development of the foundation in order to arrange the planning status of members of the Jahalin Bedouin tribe who reside illegally in Ma’ale Adumim and Route 1.”
“Currently, the program is ready to receive families but the Bedouin population refuses to reach an agreement to regulate the planning status and continues to build illegal structures in the area.”
In contradiction to these statements, rights groups and Bedouin community members themselves have sharply criticized Israel’s relocation plans for the Bedouin residing near the illegal Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim, claiming that the removal would displace indigenous Palestinians for the sake of expanding Israeli settlements across the occupied West Bank in violation of international law.
A demolition ordered was issued in August against a school in Khan al-Ahmar, though in late October, the Israeli government postponed its decision regarding the fate of the school.
The school, which was partially funded by an Italian organization and the Italian government, has long been slated for demolition by the Israeli government.
The Israeli NGO Rabbis For Human Rights speculated that they believed Israel was avoiding making a decision as a result of the immense international pressure not to demolish the school, built of mud and tires, which has become one of the most high-profile targets of Israel’s massive demolition campaign against Palestinian homes and livelihood structures.Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah also denounced the forcible transfer of the Bedouins in August, saying that “Israel’s systematic violation of international laws is no longer acceptable by the international community.”That same month, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Palestine Robert Piper warned of a heightened risk of forcible transfer of Bedouins in the occupied West Bank.Furthermore, Israel rarely grants Palestinians permits to build in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, although the estimated 550,000 Jewish Israeli settlers are more easily given building permits and allowed to expand their homes and properties.
Nearly all Palestinian applications for building permits in Area C — the 60 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli military control — are denied by the Israeli authorities, forcing communities to build illegally.
Demolitions in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem have saw an unprecedented surge in 2016, as Israeli authorities demolished 1,081 Palestinian structures as of Dec. 26, with 870 in Area C alone, in a large increase from 531 in all of 2015, according to UN documentation.
(Source / 02.01.2017)

Dr. Mustafa Barghouti: How can we confront the threat to transfer the US embassy to Jerusalem?

By Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi

If the new US administration decides to fulfill its promise to transfer the US embassy to Jerusalem it would be an accomplice with Israel in breaching international law, the UN Charter and the Geneva Conventions.

More than this it would constitute a rejection of the unequivocal legal opinion of the International Court of Justice, which asserted that Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem and every settlement Israel would establish on this land would violate international law and should be removed.

The International Court of Justice decision bound Israel to recompense Palestinians for all damage resulting from its measures and for every loss that would result from removing the violations it made.

What is more dangerous is that transferring the US embassy to Jerusalem would signify US participation in breaching a fundamental rule that organises international relations since the end of World War II and that stipulates the impermissibility of the acquisition of territory by use of force or war.

The transfer would simply mean that we live in a barbaric world ruled by the law of the jungle and the arrogance of power.

This would raise once again the repeated question around the duality of standards of American and Western policies in general whenever the issue is connected with Israel, which is permitted thereby to be above international law and enjoy full impunity concerning its continuing breaches of these laws.

If this decision is taken, then the US will have lost what remains of its credibility, which was already minimal, as a partner in the Middle East Quartet and what’s called Middle East “peace efforts.”

The USAs absolute bias towards Israel would also confirm its inability to play any positive role in mediation and sponsoring what’s called the “peace process.”

During the last 23 years, Israel used this process as a cover for settlement expansionism and Judaicising the occupied Palestinian territories.

Trump’s choice of David Friedman as the new US ambassador to Israel fomented anger, since Friedman is one of the staunchest supporters of illegal settlements and previously call for transferring the US embassy to Jerusalem, the annexation of parts of the West Bank to Israel, and financially backed illegal settlements built on Ramallah’s occupied lands.

Friedman’s talk about transferring the US embassy to Jerusalem coincided with other statements, including “Settlement activity isn’t an obstacle to peace.”

We saw how racist Israeli ministers considered such statements a green light for a totally unrestrained state to launch settlement expansion operations in Jerusalem and other cities and to prepare new legislation that legalises 120 new settlements.

Everyone who is silent regarding this and continues to express “concern” without imposing sanctions on Israel or withdrawing privileges from it will be a participant in the operation of killing the idea of a Palestinian state and hence the so-called “the two state solution.”

It’s important that the US hear decisive and strong reactions from Arab and Islamic states against these statements and against the threat of transferring of the US embassy, in order to give a clear signal that undertaking such a decision would harm American interests.

However, the most important lesson for us Palestinians is that every form of deterioration that befell our national cause and all that Israel expresses in effrontery and arrogance, that reached the extent of thwarting the Paris Conference and turning its back on Russian efforts — all this was the direct result of the defect in the balance of power between us and Israel and its occupation.

This defect won’t be fixed by repeating what has previously failed or by continuing to bargain for futile negotiations that won’t materialise. But we should embrace a new unified national strategy based on a profound perception that we are not in the stage of reaching a solution with Israel; we are rather in a confrontation stage with the Zionist project that insists on seizing the whole of Palestine and entrenching the occupation, the Apartheid regime and racial discrimination towards the Palestinian people, and repeats in Jerusalem, Ramallah, Hebron and other cities what it has done in Jaffa, Haifa and Acre and elsewhere.

There are basic elements for this alternate strategy we won’t get bored of repeating; from popular resistance to the boycott movement to national unity to supporting the people’s steadfastness and survival to creating integration between the Palestinian people’s three constituents.

The most important element, which only we can immediately achieve and nobody can prevent us from doing, is ending internal division and facing the world and Israel with a unified national leadership.

We thank everybody who is trying to help us. However, the matter does not need trips, travel and meetings that move from one capital to another as much as it needs real political will that is able to open the road to unity and ending division in a matter of hours.

This will be the beginning of the road to changing the balance of power in our favour in an age that respects only the powerful. 

(Source / 02.01.2017)

Syria at forefront of fight against terrorism, Zionism: Larijani

Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani (R) shakes hands with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem in Tehran on January 1, 2017. (Photo by ICANA)

Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani (R) shakes hands with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem in Tehran on January 1, 2017

Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani has hailed the recent advances by the Syrian army and pro-government forces against foreign-backed terrorists, saying Syria is the flag-bearer of the war on terrorism and Zionism.

In a meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem in Tehran on Sunday, Larijani stressed the importance of pursuing a political approach based on intra-Syrian negotiations to solve the crisis in the Arab country.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran has always stood by the Syrian nation on the resistance battleground and various political stages, and will continue its support in the future and the Syrian people will be the final victor in this arena,” the top Iranian parliamentarian added.

He said there are good grounds for the restoration of stability and security to Syria, adding that the presence of terrorist groups such as Daesh and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly known as al-Nusra Front, is at odds with peace and security in the Arab country and the entire region.

Larijani further stated that the upcoming peace talks scheduled to be held in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana, between parties to the Syria conflict would be an important step toward finding a political solution to the crisis and establishing sustainable peace in the country.

He also called for adopting measures to control and protect Syria’s borders and prevent the infiltration of terrorists into the country.

Larijani urged all Muslim and regional countries to reinforce their unity and make widespread efforts to counter terrorist groups.

Need for more Iran-Syria cooperation on terror fight

The Syrian foreign minister, for his part, commended Iran and Russia’s support for his country in the fight against terrorism and called for more such cooperation and coordination.

With an international resolve to fight terrorism, the vicious phenomenon would be uprooted in less than one year, Muallem said.

During the meeting, the two senior Iranian and Syrian officials also exchanged views on the current nationwide ceasefire in Syria and a resolution adopted by the United Nations Security Council endorsing the truce agreement.

On Saturday, the Security Council approved the resolution, which also aims to pave the way for new talks in the Kazakh capital city of Astana next month, ahead of the resumption of UN-brokered peace talks in the Swiss city of Geneva in February.

The text of the resolution “welcomes and supports the efforts by Russia and Turkey to end violence in Syria and jump-start a political process.”

The nationwide ceasefire in Syria, which came into effect on Thursday midnight, has been largely holding, with most of the country witnessing a relative calm.

There were, however, sporadic clashes between Syrian government forces and their allies on one side and Takfiri militants on the other in the mountainous Wadi Barada region near the capital, Damascus, as well as the southern city of Dara’a.

The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in Britain, also said on Saturday that most of Syria remained calm, despite limited clashes.

Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly known as the al-Nusra Front, and Daesh terrorist groups are excluded from the ongoing truce, mediated by Russia and Turkey, in the country.

The Syrian foreign minister arrived in Tehran on Saturday at the head of a high-ranking delegation. He held talks with senior Iranian officials, including President Hassan Rouhani, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani on Saturday. Muallem also met with Ali Akbar Velayati, a top adviser to Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, on Sunday.

(Source / 02.01.2017)

Egyptian army destroys 12 tunnels along Gaza border


CAIRO (Ma’an) — Egyptian border forces on Sunday “uncovered” and destroyed 12 tunnels along the borders of the northern Sinai and Gaza Strip, according to Egyptian army spokesman Tamer al-Rifae.

It remained unclear exactly how the tunnels were destroyed.
Four Palestinians from the besieged Gaza Strip were left dead last month when Egyptian authorities deliberately flooded a tunnel with seawater.
Palestinians in Gaza have relied on underground smuggling tunnels across the Egyptian border since 2007, when Israel imposed a crippling military blockade on the coastal enclave after Hamas took control there.
Until the July 2013 ouster of Egyptian president Muhammad Morsi, tunnels connecting the Gaza Strip to Egypt provided a vital lifeline for the small Palestinian territory.
Since Egyptian President Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi came to power, however, Egypt has strictly enforced the blockade and flooded hundreds of the tunnels as part of an ongoing security campaign in the northern Sinai Peninsula against anti-regime militants launching attacks on Egyptian police and military personnel.
Egypt accuses Hamas of supporting the insurgents, allegations Hamas strongly denies.
Human Rights Watch slammed Egypt’s military for its campaign against the tunnels in 2015, during which the group said some 3,200 families had been evicted from their homes near the border and hundreds of acres of farmland destroyed.
The group said Egypt had failed to provide adequate proof that insurgents were receiving support from the Gaza Strip.
The UN reported in February that only a few tunnels remained partially operational between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.
(Source / 02.01.2017)

Israeli Right-wing Bargains Assad to Joulan


Syrians walk over rubble of damaged buildings, while carrying their belongings, as they flee clashes between government forces and rebels in Tariq al-Bab and al-Sakhour neighborhoods of eastern Aleppo, November 28, 2016

Tel Aviv- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss the conflict in Syria and “continued security cooperation”, his office said.

“The two leaders discussed developments in the region, with emphasis on Syria and continued security coordination in this sphere, which has already proven itself in preventing misunderstandings,” it added.

The statement triggered a debate on cooperation being described as a successful one because some reliable military experts complained that this coordination is insufficient and is actually limiting powers of Israeli air force.

However, some experts support it and demand Netanyahu to benefit strategically and politically from it through demanding to have part of the political settlement such as ensuring a long-term or permanent Israeli control over Al-Joulan, which has been occupied since the war of 1967.

Speaking of a Russian-Israeli coordination – what is meant is that Russia remains silent towards Israeli strikes against allies in Syria while Israel, on the other hand, does not take traditional western stances regarding showing support to the Syrian opposition.

Israel, actually, complied with the Russian request and absented itself from the U.N. session that tackled condemning war crimes in Syria.

The Right-wing Extremist of Israel follows Russian efforts to impose a settlement which ensures Syrian head of regime Bashar al-Assad remaining in power and grants Israel an advantage in Joulan in the era of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump.

An Israeli newspaper described Putin as the man who succeeded in making use of others’ mistakes, especially the weakness of U.S. President Barack Obama administration.

(Source / 02.01.2017)