BDS slams Gulf countries for normalizing with Israeli occupation

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BDS Gulf on Monday slammed countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) for normalizing with the Israeli occupation, calling for such ties to immediately be severed.

A statement by BDS Gulf said the movement has been keeping tabs with deep concern over underway attempts by a number of GCC countries to normalize with the Israeli occupation.

BDS Gulf condemned normalization and military cooperation with the Israeli occupation, urging Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to cancel all deals struck with Israel.

The statement referred to recent reports that the U.S. approved an arms deal with Qatar which included helmets manufactured by the Israeli Elbit Company based in Haifa, in 1948 Occupied Palestine.

Reports have also emerged on underway preparations by the Abu Dhabi MAR and ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems Company to manufacture warships for the Israeli occupation navy.

BDS Gulf expressed its deep disappointment over deals struck with Israeli military companies directly involved in the murder of the Palestinian people and in the deadly onslaughts on the blockaded Gaza Strip.

BDS urged the Gulf governments to respect the will of the peoples and sever all ties with the Israeli occupation, including official and unofficial meetings. It further pushed for impeaching all those who violate BDS provisos and policy, boosting the boycott-of-Israel movement, and rescinding all investments involving benefits for/from Israel.

(Source / 03.01.2017)

New penalties on 13 Palestinian prisoners in Nafha

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The Palestinian Commission of Detainees and Ex-Matinees Affairs pointed out that the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) imposed penalties on 13 Palestinian prisoners in Nafha prison where clashes between prisoners and Israeli prison forces occurred on Monday in which three prisoners were injured in addition to the prison warden.

The commission stated on Tuesday that the IPS conducted internal trials for the prisoners after which 13 of them were transferred to Ramon, Hadarim, and Ohalei Kedar prisons.

It added that the IPS imposed other penalties on them including solitary confinement for three weeks, depriving them of family visits for 6 months, and imposing fines of up to $3,250 on them.

Israeli prison forces had stormed a number of cells and wards of Nafha jail and attacked prisoners with teargas in addition to conducting provocative inspections. The attack had followed the Israeli cabinet’s decision to impose more penalties and restrictions on Hamas’s prisoners to put pressure on the Movement to free the Israeli captives reportedly held in Gaza by its armed wing.

(Source / 03.01.2017)

Palestinian teenage girl indicted for ‘attempted murder’ of Israeli officer

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BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — A 17-year-old Palestinian girl has been indicted at an Israeli military court in the occupied West Bank district of Nablus for attempting to murder an Israeli border guard officer, according to a statement from an Israeli police spokesperson on Tuesday.

Luba al-Samri said in her statement that during interrogations, the girl confessed her intentions to stab an Israeli soldier, “expressing her regret for failing to achieve what she had planned.”
The statement included drawings al-Samri said the girl drew, depicting knife attacks against Israeli forces, with the phrases “Stab the soldier” and “the Jerusalem Intifada continues” written in Arabic.
Israeli forces detained the teenager two weeks ago, after she allegedly attempted to carry out a stabbing attack near Qalqiliya in the northern occupied West Bank at an Israeli border police base in the area.
At the time, witnesses identified the teenager to Ma’an as 16-year-old Eiman Jalal, and said that she was wearing her school uniform when she was detained.
Al-Samri said Jalal was from the village of Beit Amin village in the Qalqiliya district.
While the details of the girl’s sentence were not yet announced, Israeli authorities have recently handed down a number of lengthy sentences to young Palestinians for alleged involvement in or planning of knife attacks, many of them women and girls.
On Sunday it was revealed that a 16-year-old Palestinian girl would likely be sentenced to six-years in prison after Israeli forces detained her and allegedly found a knife in her bag.
Last week, the Jerusalem magistrate’s court sentenced a 22-year-old Palestinian man to 35 years in prison for allegedly assisting in a stabbing attack.
Days earlier, the court sentenced a 19-year-old Palestinian girl to 16 years in prison. She was shot and injured by the 35-year-old Israeli settler after she allegedly attempted to stab him, though witnesses told Ma’an at the time that she had been assaulted by the Israeli settler and did not have any sharp objects on her.
The week prior, an Israeli military court sentenced a 15-year-old Palestinian girl to a year and a half in prison after she was convicted of attempting to stab an Israeli soldier. She was shot in the chest and injured by Israeli forces on the scene.
As of October 2016, prisoners’ rights group Addameer reported that Israel was holding 64 female Palestinian prisoners and some 400 Palestinian minors.
Since a wave of political unrest spread across the occupied Palestinian territory in October, leading to Israeli forces carrying out mass detention campaigns, the number of Palestinian women and girls detained by Israeli forces has risen sharply.
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(Source / 03.01.2017)

Morocco: Justice and Development Party Secretariat Finalizes Government Lineup

Abdelilah Benkirane, secretary-general of Morocco's Justice and Development Party (PJD) speaks during a new conference at the party's headquarters in Rabat, Morocco on October 8, 2016.

Abdelilah Benkirane, secretary-general of Morocco’s Justice and Development Party (PJD) speaks during a new conference at the party’s headquarters in Rabat, Morocco on October 8, 2016

London, Casablanca- A source from the Justice and Development Party (PJD) in Morocco stated that the secretariat of the party will convene on Tuesday to out an e the government lineup topic.

The source said to Asharq al-Awsat that “Abdelilah Benkirane, secretary general of PJD and selected head of government, did not unveil any data regarding his meeting on Saturday with three delegation of Ḥizb Al-Istiqlal.”

Benkirane preferred to attend the secretariat meeting before making public a final decision on his consultations with political parties.

Asharq al-Awsat newspaper has been informed that Ḥizb Al-Istiqlal will not participate in the anticipated government and that Benkirane will submit two proposals — the first one is as follows: 125 seats for PJD, 37 seats for National Rally of Independents and 12 seats for Party of Progress and Socialism while the second proposition includes 395 seats composed of the above three parties in addition to the Popular Movement.

Asharq al-Awsat has also been informed that Benkirane will raise, during the meeting, the topic of whether the seats that were supposed to be given to Ḥizb Al-Istiqlal will remain for the Justice and Development Party or should be distributed to some technocrats, close to Al-Istiqlal.

It seems that the unconditional support of Ḥizb Al-Istiqlal to PJD has complicated issues and made Benkirane in a strong position to form a government after three months of suffering.

(Source / 03.01.2017)

U.N. Appeals for $547 Million to Support Palestinians

(L to R) High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov gather before a Middle East Quartet Principals Meeting during the during the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly in Manhattan, New York, U.S., September 23, 2016. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

(L to R) High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov gather before a Middle East Quartet Principals Meeting during the during the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly in Manhattan, New York, U.S., September 23, 2016

Tel Aviv – The United Nations has informed the Palestinian Authority that it has launched an appeal for $547 million to help 1.6 million people in the Palestinian territories in 2017.

The response covers 1.1 million residents of Gaza, which has been under an Israeli blockade for the past decade, and half a million people in the occupied West Bank.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) issued a report that encompassed the occupied West Bank as well as East Jerusalem, where Israeli authorities demolished or seized 1,089 Palestinian-owned structures since the beginning of 2016 until Dec. 28.

The “vast majority” of the Palestinian structures were destroyed or seized for lacking Israeli-issued building permits, according to the report.

The unprecedented demolition campaign left some 1,593 Palestinians homeless and affected the livelihoods of another 7,101, according to preliminary analysis of data collected by OCHA.

OCHA’s report also documented an increase on restrictions to movement and access of people in the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip.

The U.N. agency documented a 5 percent increase in Israeli military obstacles across the occupied West Bank compared to 2015, though they recorded 15 fewer permanently staffed checkpoints that became partially staffed in 2016.

The Plan seeks US $547 million in donor funding to implement 243 projects by 95 organizations, including 47 national and 35 international NGOs, and 13 U.N. agencies. Nearly 70 per cent of the requested funds target Gaza, where humanitarian needs are highest due to the blockade and recurrent hostilities.

OCHA’s newly released records of home demolitions came as Israel has come under increasing international pressure to cease building illegal settlements on Palestinian land in the occupied territory, with the U.N. Security Council passing a resolution condemning the Israeli policy last week.

(Source / 03.01.2017)

Disturbing Video Confirms Myanmar’s Human Rights Abuses Against Rohingya

The footage has made it more difficult for the government to say at least some abuses are not happening, and sown doubts into its dismissals of more grievous allegations such as rape, arson and murder.

YANGON, Myanmar (REPORT) — Newly revealed video of Myanmar police beating Rohingya Muslims in northern Rakhine state has weakened months of government claims that its forces have not committed abuses in the tense and isolated region it has largely closed off to foreigners since a deadly insurgent attack in October.

The footage has made it more difficult for the government to say at least some abuses are not happening, and sown doubts into its dismissals of more grievous allegations such as rape, arson and murder.

Authorities quickly verified the video and detained the officers who were seen beating and kicking residents in a large-scale roundup.

According to the office of Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the clip was posted to social media Dec. 31 but recorded Nov. 5 in a village called Kotankauk in the north of Rakhine, a state in western Myanmar where most of Myanmar’s more than 1 million Rohingya live. It was apparently filmed by a police officer, who recorded the beating while looking impassively into the camera and smoking a cigarette.

Aye Aye Soe, a spokesperson for the foreign ministry, insisted the event “has to be an isolated case.”

“You cannot just look at one incident and think, that’s the whole thing that is happening.”

She said that if the government is presented with facts, it will respond in kind, but that “it’s sort of mixed up and confusing over there,” and many allegations are difficult to verify.

“Come back with something concrete, and we will give you back something concrete,” she said.

Most journalists and aid workers, however, have been blocked from the area of Rakhine where abuses have been alleged.

Myat Thu, a former political prisoner and chairman of the Yangon School of Political Science, said the incident “undermines the government position a lot.” Asked whether he thought the video represented an isolated case, he said sarcastically, “I will say there are so many ‘isolated incidents’ in Rakhine state.”

The police were taking part in a search for militants from a fledgling insurgent group that says it is fighting for the rights of the stateless Muslim minority, who lack Myanmar citizenship though Rohingya have lived in the country for generations.

The militants killed nine police officers and stole weapons from their posts Oct. 9 in northern Rakhine state, setting off a “clearance operation” that resulted in tens of thousands of Rohingya fleeing across the border to camps in Bangladesh. Rohingya and rights groups say dozens have been killed as part of the operation, and the displaced have shared horrific tales that officials have repeatedly characterized as fabrications.

Police in the video were responding to an alleged follow-up attack in early November that killed one officer.

The state-backed Global New Light of Myanmar published details about the video Monday, but the next day returned to casting doubt on abuse claims with an article headlined, “Fabricated Stories, Misleading Pictures About Rakhine Cause Global Criticism.”

While some patently false videos and photos have been disseminated, rights groups say there are many legitimate abuse claims that demand an independent, international investigation.

“I’d say this video throws a stick in the spokes,” Matthew Smith, executive director of the NGO Fortify Rights, said in an email.

Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who heads a government-appointed commission to suggest ways to resolve tensions between Rakhine’s Muslim and Buddhist communities, recently visited the area and met with Myanmar leaders. He expressed concern about reports of human rights abuses but did not comment on their credibility, saying, “We didn’t go there to investigate.” He called for aid agencies to be allowed in as soon as possible and said he hoped media would be granted access as well.

(Source / 03.01.2017)

Hebron hospital staff stages strike over $7-million debt owed by PA

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HEBRON (Ma’an) — More than 200 employees of the al-Mezan private hospital in the southern occupied West Bank city of Hebron went on strike on Monday in protest of not having received salaries for three months due to outstanding debts from the Palestinian Authority (PA) amounting to millions of dollars.A spokesman for the hospital staff, Sharif Taradi, told Ma’an that protests would continue as long as employees were not paid regularly.”Some 250 people work at al-Mezan hospital, and we haven’t received our salaries for the last three months,” Taradi said, adding that salaries hadn’t been paid regularly for about a year.The hospital’s financial crisis, the doctor said, was due to a failure by the Palestinian Ministry of Health to pay back money it owes the hospital. Al-Mezan General Director Hazem Shalalda said that the debt was worth an estimated 27 million shekels ($7 million).The Palestinian Ministry of Health refers thousands of patients who have government insurance to private hospitals in the West Bank and East Jerusalem when public hospitals cannot provide advanced medical care, such as surgery or cancer treatment.According to Yasser Abu Safiya, the chairman of the union for non-governmental hospitals in the West Bank, “private hospitals in Palestine witness crippling financial crises, usually at the end of the year, because the Palestinian Authority does not pay its debts regularly.”He highlighted the cases of the Augusta Victoria and al-Maqasid hospitals in occupied East Jerusalem, to which the PA owes 290 million shekels ($75 million).The PA’s health and finance ministries, Abu Safiya said, have already approved the payment of debts to private hospitals amounting to 300 million shekels ($77.9 million), with another 300 million-shekel payment pending auditing and approval.The Palestinian Authority has faced crippling financial crises with regularity since its inception in 1994, due in large part to its lack of control over resources and trade because of Israeli policies in the occupied Palestinian territory, serious structural deficiencies in the ways the PA collects and allocates funds, and decreases in donor funding.

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(Source / 03.01.2017)

Russia to host internal Palestinian reconciliation talks

Image of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in meeting with Russian delegates in Moscow [Thaer Ganaim/Apaimages]

Image of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in meeting with Russian delegates in Moscow

Russia is to host a meeting for the major Palestinian factions on 15 January, local news agency TASS reported yesterday.

The Russian news agency said that senior PLO official Wasel Abu Yousef told the Israeli newspaper the Jerusalem Post about this planned meeting.

Quds Press also reported a senior Palestinian official discussing the meeting. The news organisation did not name the official but said the meeting would discuss the reorganisation of Palestinian institutions.

“The Russians will host a meeting of Fatah, Hamas and other Palestinian officials in Moscow in the middle of January to discuss reconciliation,” Abu Yousef said.

“The Palestinian leadership wants to demonstrate that it is working on both the peace process through the Paris conference and reconciliation by way of the Moscow meeting,” he added, noting that the talks to take place simultaneously when the Paris peace conference is being held.

TASS reported the Deputy Russian Foreign Minister and Special Presidential Envoy for the Middle East and North Africa Mikhail Bogdanov saying on 3 June 2016 that, in addition to Israeli settlements, “the split among Palestinians is another negative factor hampering the peace progress”.

Bogdanov said: “This issue should be resolved as the priority task so that the Palestinians present a single and united delegation at the talks on the final status.”

“Russia fully supports efforts on soonest restoration of inter-Palestinian unity on the basis of PLO and the Arab Peace Initiative, holds dialogue with representatives of the whole range of Palestinian forces, first of all Fatah and Hamas, in the interests of achieving appropriate agreements.”

Quds Press reported Abbas Zaki, another PLO official, saying that the Palestinians are hopeful the meetings will have a positive outcome.

But Palestinian political analyst Ahmed Awad told Quds Press that this meeting would not be more than a show of public relations for Russia, which has been seeking bigger role in the region.

“Moscow maintains good relations with many of the Palestinian factions,” he said, “however, it is weaker than mediating an internal reconciliation which needs financial and security guarantees that Russia is unable to fulfil.”

(Source / 03.01.2017)

Jaysh Al-Islam in serious trouble as Syrian Armed Forces reach outskirts of key town

BEIRUT, LEBANON (6:50 P.M.) – The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) is rolling in the East Ghouta region of rural Damascus today, seizing several farms from the Islamist rebels of Jaysh Al-Islam (Army of Islam) near the key town of Hazrama.

Led by the 105th Brigade of the Republican Guard, the Syrian Arab Army advanced from the village of Maya’ani to Hawsh Shalaq after seizing all of the farms in the area from Jaysh Al-Islam.

Following the capture of these farms, the Syrian Arab Army shifted their attention to Hazrama, where they encountered a massive force comprised of several Islamist militants.

According to an Al-Masdar field correspondent, the Syrian Arab Army managed to capture all of the farms between Al-Bahariyah and Hazrama, leading them to aforementioned village’s outskirts for the first time in 4 years.

The Al-Masdar field correspondent added that the Syrian Arab Army is now storming Hazrama from two different axes, while they receive aerial support from the Syrian Arab Air Force.

(Source / 03.01.2017)

The annexation of Palestine could be closer than you think

Israeli officials are tending more to extremism against Palestinians rights and this is encouraged by the new American administration

There are two main reasons that make Palestinians warier about losing the remaining parts of their land in favour of the occupation state of Israel.

Netanyahu’s Likud party has moved considerably to the right in recent years, in part due to a large-scale effort to encourage settlers to join the Likud – precisely for this purpose

By Michael Omer-man

There are two main reasons that make Palestinians warier about losing the remaining parts of their land in favour of the occupation state of Israel.

Senior Israeli government minister Naftali Bennett announced on Sunday that he will introduce legislation to effectively annex Israel’s third-largest settlement in the West Bank, Ma’ale Adumim, by the end of January. It is safe to assume, that when Bennett says “by the end of January,” he means after the January 21 inauguration of Donald Trump.

Bennett’s desire to incrementally annex parts of the West Bank is neither new nor secret. The chairman of the Israeli Jewish Home party has run on a platform of annexation since he first ran for office in 2013 and in every election since. Through short videos and aggressive sound bites, the Israeli education minister has attempted shift the public discourse, in Israel and around the world, toward his annexationist aims.

Bennett has also been clear that he does not expect to annex the West Bank in one fell stroke. “This is a process,” Bennett explained at the Brookings Institute two years ago. “I’m not suggesting that, you know, one day in midday we just [annex]. There’s a process of changing the global view of what’s going on here and it has to start with that… And it takes time. It’s an uphill battle.”

Other politicians have also been surprisingly open about the need to take a piecemeal approach to annexation. Former member of Knesset in Bennett’s Jewish Home party Orit Struck, during her time in parliament, along with senior Likud politician Yariv Levin, formulated a 10-step plan to advance annexation in the West Bank. One of the first stages was annexing individual settlements like Ma’ale Adumim.

Ayelet Shaked, also of Bennett’s Jewish Home party and now Israel’s justice minister, in the past advocated annexing the Gush Etzion settlement bloc. More recently she announced plans to apply Israeli civil law to the occupied territories, which is considered de facto annexation (the West Bank is currently subject to Israeli military law).

A few months ago Deputy Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely made a direct demand of her government. Similar pleas and plans can be heard on an almost daily basis throughout the Israeli government and ruling coalition, not to mention in right-wing circles and media outside the government. And while demands from within the government to advance annexation have become the new normal in recent years, for a variety of reasons they are often dismissed as fringe or unrealistic.

There are two main political reasons why the chorus within the Israeli government calling for various iterations of annexation should be treated more seriously this time around. The first, and most obvious, is the incoming Trump administration in Washington.

Since his election, President-elect Trump has been sending clear signals that his administration’s policy toward Israel, and especially the settlements, will be markedly different from that of Barack Obama, John Kerry, and, one would conclude, the previous eight American presidents since Israel occupied the Palestinian territories in 1967.

The president-elect has not minced words, tweeting in response to John Kerry’s 75-minute admonition of Israel’s settlement policy: “Stay strong Israel, January 20th is fast approaching!”

Stepping back from Twitter, of course, things are not so clear cut. Trump has also indicated that he hopes (or plans) to take yet another stab at America’s longtime foreign policy pastime: trying to broker an improbable peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. If Trump has any peace-making aspirations, it would not be logical for him to support even modest Israeli moves toward annexation.

That said, Israel has not historically been all too bothered by the prospect of angering American presidents — Democrat and Republican alike — over its settlement policies, so the prospect of Netanyahu defying even Trump on the settlements position is not all that farfetched. Nor is Trump known for classically linear logic.

The second, and more important reason we should be taking the growing chorus of annexation-talk more seriously has everything to do with domestic Israeli politics and Benjamin Netanyahu’s most dominant trait: political survival. Naftali Bennett does not head a particularly large party, and on his own he is fairly limited in his ability to force policy on Netanyahu. Where Bennett knows he can be more successful, however, is in slowly shifting this government’s direction by challenging Netanyahu’s right-wing credentials.

Benjamin Netanyahu was not supposed to win the last election. By many indicators, his Likud party was expected to come in second place, behind Isaac Herzog’s Labour/Zionist Union party. Netanyahu pulled off an upset victory with a last-minute pitch to voters of other right-wing parties arguing that only a vote for him could ensure a right-wing government.

In other words, Netanyahu owes his seat to voters who could just as easily have cast their ballots for Bennett. Furthermore, Netanyahu’s Likud party has moved considerably to the right in recent years, in part due to a large-scale effort to encourage settlers to join the Likud – precisely for this purpose.

The result is that the prime minister is constantly angling to portray himself as more and more right wing, both to satisfy the ranks of his own party, but also to stop Bennett and the Jewish Home from out-flanking him from the right. That is why after declaring just how dangerous the settlement outpost “normalisation law” was, Netanyahu himself wound up voting in favour. Bennett’s victory was in getting the bill onto the Knesset floor, where he knew Netanyahu — for intra-right-wing political considerations — would have to vote in favour.

If Bennett plays his cards right, there is a decent chance he could pull off a similar manoeuvre toward limited annexation. If Bennett manages to get his Ma’ale Adumim bill on the Knesset floor with the right timing, he could once again corner Netanyahu politically.

Even if the bill is eventually shelved, he could at least extract a consolation prize or two in its place, such as support for legalising settlement outposts, approving settlement construction elsewhere, or taking bureaucratic steps to further entrench de facto Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank.

The timing for such a move is riper than ever. Netanyahu is staring down a number of serious scandals at the moment – he will be investigated by the police this week for allegedly accepting illegal gifts– and he is wary of being attacked on more than one front at a time.

It would be politically expedient for the prime minister to ensure that his coalition partners, especially those to whom he can lose votes, don’t rock the boat as corruption investigations and submarine scandals pose even the perception of a threat to his throne.

Benjamin Netanyahu knows that his grasp on power is directly correlated to opposing land concessions, Palestinian sovereignty, and the very idea of a two-state solution. He has repeatedly demonstrated as much by opposing all of those ideas before an election, only to reverse course immediately thereafter.

If he senses that his premiership is at all in danger, he won’t hesitate to leverage his right-wing cachet. In today’s political climate, that means loosening the reigns on Bennett and the annexationists in his government.

(Source / 03.01.2017)