Palestinian professor imprisoned in Israel without charge or trial set to undergo surgery

issam-al-ashqar

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — Palestinian prisoner Issam al-Ashqar, who is serving six months of administrative detention — internment without charge or trial — is set to undergo a surgery owing to his failing health, Mutaz Shqerat, a lawyer for the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs, said in a statement on ThursdayAl-Ashqar, a physics professor at a An-Najah Univeristy in the occupied West Bank city of Nablus, was detained by Israeli forces on Nov. 24 and sentenced to six months of administrative detention.He has since been suffering from high blood pressure, in addition to severe headaches and difficulties in moving, which reportedly can cause heart attacks, according to Shqerat.He added that al-Ashqar had suffered a heart attack prior to be detained in November.Shqerat said that doctors at Israel’s Ramla prison hospital decided to move forward with the surgery, but al-Ashqar told Shqerat that he had not yet agreed to the surgery, as he wants to undergo the procedure at the An-Najah National University hospital.It was unclear in Shqerat’s statement what exact procedure the imprisoned professor would be undergoing.Shqerat demanded that human rights and official Palestinian institutions intervene to release the professor from Israeli prison.He also added that there were 23 other sick Palestinian prisoners being held at Israel’s Ramla hospital.

Since Palestinian prisoners often hold deep mistrust for Israeli prison officials and institutions as a result of widely documented abuses committed against Palestinians by Israeli forces both in and outside of Israeli prisons, many demand to be treated by Palestinian doctors. However, Israeli authorities typically deny such requests until they are released from detention and transferred back to the occupied Palestinian territory.
Israel’s policy of administrative detention, which is almost exclusively used against Palestinians, has been widely condemned by the international community as rights groups have charged Israel with using the policy to arbitrarily detain Palestinians for undisclosed reasons as a way of disrupting political and social life for Palestinian communities.According to prisoners’ rights group Addameer, 7,000 Palestinians were currently being held in Israeli prison as of October, 720 of whom were being held without charge or trial in administrative detention.

In August last year, a number of Palestinian rights organizations established a committee to follow the cases of Palestinians in poor health being held in Israeli prisons.Rights groups have accused the Israel Prison Service (IPS) of practicing a policy of medical neglect on Palestinian prisoners, leading to at least 17 Palestinian prisoners dying in Israeli custody as a direct result of medical negligence from the beginning of the Second Intifada in 2000 until 2008, according to Addameer.
In addition to deliberate medical negligence, Addameer has cited the environment in Israeli prisons, which is reportedly far below international standards, the tendency for the Israeli prison administration to ignore their responsibility for the well being of Palestinian prisoners, and the overcrowding in Israeli prisons as all factors that adversely impact the health of Palestinians in Israeli custody.
(Source / 14.01.2017)

Israeli soldiers open fire, injure one citizen north of Gaza

beit-lahia

A Palestinian citizen on Saturday afternoon suffered a bullet injury when Israeli soldiers opened fire at him east of Beit Lahia city in northern Gaza.

A spokesman for the health ministry said that a 37-year-old citizen survived an Israeli gunfire attack in Beit Lahia, but he suffered a moderate bullet wound in the leg and received medical assistance in a local hospital.

The Palestinian authorities in Gaza accuse the Israeli army of violating its Egyptian-brokered truce deal in 2014 with the resistance by repeatedly carrying out shooting attacks and incursions in border areas.

(Source / 14.01.2017)

Turkey-Russia Agree on U.S. Participation in Astana Talks

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu speaks during a news conference after the talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif in Moscow, Russia, December 20, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu speaks during a news conference after the talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif in Moscow, Russia, December 20, 2016

Ankara-Intense meetings were held in Turkey on Friday between Turkish officials and representatives of the Syrian armed and political opposition to put the final touches on the line-up of the opposition delegation due to participate in talks on a solution to the Syrian crisis in Astana on January 23, according to sources close to these meetings.

This came as Turkish officials held phone calls with different parties, especially Moscow and Tehran, to ensure nothing would hinder the Astana talks after Russia agreed to the participation of the United States, according to what informed sources told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Moscow and Ankara last month brokered a ceasefire for the war-torn country, but without the involvement of Washington, a negotiator in previous agreements.

“The United States should be definitely invited, and that is what we agreed with Russia,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told journalists in Geneva on Thursday after an international conference on Cyprus.

The truce went into effect on December 30 and has brought calm to much of Syria although fighting continues in some areas.

“We need to maintain the ceasefire,” Cavusoglu said in Geneva. “This is essential for the Astana talks.”

The Turkish Foreign Minister said invitations for the talks were likely to be sent out next week, adding that Washington should be present.

“Nobody can ignore the role of the United States, and this is a principled position of Turkey,” he said.

“The ones who did or who could contribute should be there, but not just to be in the family photo. You know what I mean.”

He said the aim of the talks “is to reach the political solution, which is the best solution.”

In line with calls made by Ankara to guarantee that the talks in Astana won’t be hindered, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Thursday.

Rouhani said it is essential for Iran and Turkey to expand ties in line with efforts to serve the long term interests of the Middle East region.

“I hope we would be able to eradicate terrorism through cooperation between the Iranian and Turkish governments in order to help the regional people feel more peace,” he said in the phone conversation with his Turkish counterpart.

Rouhani added: “The Islamic Republic of Iran is satisfied with closer cooperation among Ankara, Tehran and Moscow to establish peace in the region.”

He said efforts should be expedited to guard the truce which took effect in Syria on December 30.

Pointing to the upcoming talks in Astana on the Syrian crisis, Rouhani said: “It is our objective to fight all the terrorist groups in the region.”

“I hope we would witness a relative stability in Syria and the region through cooperation between Iran and Turkey,” the president noted.

For his part, Erdogan said that the terrorist groups in the region should be countered through joint cooperation.

Iran and Turkey should boost cooperation in fighting terrorism and alleviating tension in the region, Erdogan said. Turkey is determined to expand relations with Iran in various areas, he added.

Elsewhere, the Turkish president extended condolences over the death of Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

(Source / 14.01.2017)

The reality of the electricity crisis in Gaza

By Motasem A Dalloul

Images show Gazans protesting against the lack of electricity in the Gaza Strip.

Images show Gazans protesting against the lack of electricity in the Gaza Strip. Images by MEMO photographer on the ground, Mohammad Asad.

Images show Gazans protesting against the lack of electricity in the Gaza Strip. Images by MEMO photographer on the ground, Mohammad Asad. Images show Gazans protesting against the lack of electricity in the Gaza Strip. Images by MEMO photographer on the ground, Mohammad Asad.

Thousands of Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip have taken to the streets several times in recent weeks to protest against the severe shortage of electricity which affects every aspect of their life; even hospitals, schools and nurseries for new-born babies are not spared.

Electricity is needed throughout the year, but in winter it takes on a new importance. Gaza gets very cold and there are still too many Palestinians in the territory who remain homeless more than two years after the 2014 Israeli offensive, during which Israel’s armed forces destroyed tens of thousands of homes as well as the enclave’s infrastructure, including electricity, water purification and sewage facilities.

Two weeks ago, a new-born baby was reported to have frozen to death in Gaza; his parents simply could not keep their home warm enough to save him. At best the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip only have electricity for four hours a day; on some days it can be as little as two hours a day. This has happened to my own home several times during the current cold snap.

The people of Gaza, therefore, have every right to go onto the streets in protest at the fuel shortage. No one denies them the right to demonstrate and express their anger to the world. However, a problem does arise when the suffering of the people is used as an excuse to wage a campaign against the security services in the Gaza Strip and carry out attacks against public buildings, even though security personnel police the protests to make them safe, and protect public property. That is, after all, one aspect of their many duties.

On Thursday evening, though, the demonstrators attempted to throw stones at the electricity company building in the middle of the Gaza Strip. The security services imposed a cordon around the site and prevented any damage; meanwhile, they pushed the protesters back to a safe distance.

In the city of Jabalia, in the north of the Gaza Strip, demonstrators gathered around the security services HQ and started to throw stones, damaging the building and posing a danger to the people inside. The police tried peaceful means to stop them, but when they refused to disperse, officers used batons and fired sound bullets into the air; they did not resort to tear gas.

Although no injuries were reported, an AFP photographer and AP reporter were among the crowd and were apparently hit once or twice, according to an interior ministry spokesman. A number of people were arrested and then released after a couple of hours.

The wave of anger against the security services in Gaza — which are run by Hamas — followed other verbal and media attacks on the resistance movement and its security services in the Gaza Strip after the detention of the controversial comedian Adel Al-Mashwakhi from Rafah. The campaign against Hamas involves all of the secular and leftist Palestinian factions, and Palestinian Authority officials, including President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Rami Hamadallah. Even the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, has criticised the movement. Israeli officials who are the main cause of the electricity crisis have kept quiet.

Some clarification is needed if we are to understand what is happening in the Gaza Strip which is, after all, under an Israeli-led blockade, and has been for ten years.

Who is really to blame for the electricity crisis? Without doubt, this can be laid at the door of the Israeli occupation authorities, which have been besieging the Gaza Strip since mid-2007. In fact, the strict sea, ground and air siege really began in 2006, when Hamas won the Palestinian parliamentary elections and tried to form a government. That year, Israel and the international community, which had asked some Arab states to put pressure on Hamas to take part in the elections, rejected the result when the Islamic movement won.

When the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority led by Abbas and supported by Israel and the West ousted Hamas in the occupied West Bank, the siege thereon was lifted. However, when a faction within Abbas’s Fatah movement, led by Mohammed Dahlan and with financial backing from Israel and the US, tried to overthrow Hamas in Gaza and were defeated in June 2007, the siege of Gaza was extended and tightened by Israel, the international community and Egypt. This affected all aspects of life: medicine, food, water, construction materials, electricity, industry, fuel, vehicles, fishing; everything. Palestinians were prevented from entering and leaving the territory, while imports and exports were controlled tightly by Israel.

Furthermore, Israel’s regular military incursions — and three major offensives since 2007 — have destroyed the infrastructure, including Gaza’s sole electricity generating plant.

What is the role of Hamas in the crisis? It is a resistance movement; Palestine, some people seem to forget, is under a brutal military occupation. International law gives people under occupation the right to resist that occupation by all means possible; that’s the law. Nevertheless, although Hamas has used suicide bombings — “martyrdom operations” — in the past, none have taken place since the siege was imposed. Indeed, ever since its election win in 2006, Hamas has not carried out any military ground operations against occupation forces beyond the Gaza Strip. It has, of course, resisted Israel’s military offensives against the Palestinian civilians in Gaza. The leadership of the movement has offered Israel a long-term truce on a number of occasions, which the Israelis have rejected.

Hamas believes in the democratic transition of power and has pledged to accept the result of any new elections if the international community can guarantee that they will be free and fair, as they were in 2006. It is not, though, prepared to step down voluntarily from its de facto governance of the Gaza Strip without such a guarantee in place; its legitimacy is, after all, stronger than that of Mahmoud Abbas, whose term of office was supposed to end in 2009.

It is obvious that the Israelis are using the secularist and leftist Palestinian factions to blame Hamas for Israel’s siege and associated crises; divide and rule is an old colonialist tactic. The electricity crisis is linked directly to the siege and yet the factions are turning against Hamas, which has not rejected proposals to solve the problem, as has been reported.

Furthermore, as the occupying power, Israel has the legal and moral responsibility to look after the people living under its occupation; legally, this still applies to the Palestinians in the occupied Gaza Strip as much as it does to those in the West Bank. Even if the PA is unable to pay for it, Israel has a duty to supply electricity to the people of Gaza, as it does in the West Bank. The Israeli government might threaten to cut electricity supply to the West Bank for political purposes, but it does not do so. As far as Gaza is concerned, however, it is maintaining its occupation (by controlling all of the borders and blockading sea and air space) yet refuses to accept its legal duties as the occupying power. How can Hamas be blamed for this? What on earth are the secularists and leftists playing at?

Several countries, including Qatar, the UAE and Turkey, have proposed to solve the Gaza electricity crisis at their expense, but the Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas has refused this solution, at Israel’s behest. While no Israeli government official has commented on the unrest in Gaza, it is clear that there is a concerted effort being made to stir up public opinion against Hamas, which has been the goal of the Israelis, Abbas and his PA and the international community since 2007.

Despite all of this, the security services in Gaza have been making the coastal enclave one of the safest civic spaces in the world for its citizens (Israeli incursions and offensives excepted); nobody in Gaza, including Fatah officials, can deny this if they are honest. As a result, turning against Hamas is almost taboo for most Palestinians within Gaza, who lived with insecurity for years under the PA and Fatah security services. The eighteen months before Hamas took full control of Gaza are unforgettable as far as the Gazans are concerned.

It apparently only took the two journalists to be touched during the demonstrations, and a few protesters to be detained, for the secularists and leftists to turn their ire on Hamas, when they must know that it is the Israelis to whom their anger should be directed. Instead, they accuse the Islamic movement of suppressing freedom of movement and expression. The fact that the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process has fallen for this bogus campaign is shameful. Nickolay Mladenov and the Palestinian factions should have looked at the problem which pushed the people to demonstrate and solve it by putting pressure on the Israeli occupation authorities, not use a minor infringement committed by Hamas and its security services to make a major problem of it while forgetting about the real issue at hand — the Israeli occupation and siege.

It is the injustice demonstrated by the international community — including the UN — and the Palestinian factions which has no real legitimacy with ordinary Palestinians; this was made clear by the 2006 election results and makes the Israelis, the PA and the West fear new elections. As such, we must not betray the Palestinians in Gaza again by reporting non-stories while ignoring the real crises and those responsible for them. There is a humanitarian crisis unfolding in the Gaza Strip, for which the blame lies with Israel and its siege, not Hamas. We should not forget that simple fact.

(Source / 14.01.2017)

11 People Killed in 40 Truce Violations by Assad Regime & Allies on Friday

Activists said that at least 11 people were killed and dozens more wounded in attacks by the Assad regime forces and their allied Iranian militias on rebel-held areas on Friday. The victims included 8 civilians who were killed in regime airstrikes in Idlib province despite the ceasefire agreement which was announced on December 29, 2016.

According to figures compiled by the Syrian Coalition’s media office, regime forces and their allies breached the truce in at least 40 areas across Syria on Friday, mostly in Rural Damascus and Idlib provinces. Friday prayers were cancelled in the towns of Madaya in Rural Damascus as well as many towns and villages across Syria for fear of airstrikes by the Assad regime and the Russian forces.

Many towns and villages in rebel-held areas in the provinces of Rural Damascus, Idlib, Aleppo, and Homs witnessed anti-regime demonstrations in which the Syrian people renewed commitment to the goals of the revolution and called for the downfall of the Assad regime. Demonstrators also called upon the FSA and rebel groups to unite “under the umbrella of the revolution.”

Demonstrators in the besieged towns of Douma, Saqba, and Kanaker in Rural Damascus reiterated rejection of the so-called local truces with the Assad regime so long as its assault on Wadi Barada valley continues.

Multiple airstrikes as well as shelling by mortar, tanks, heavy machine guns, and rockets by regime forces air hit the villages of Bseima and Ayn Alija in Wadi Barada valley in the early morning hours of Saturday. The bombardment caused massive damage to what remained of civilian homes and infrastructure.

Local activists said that the bombardment coincided with the entry of technicians to the area to repair Ayn Alfija water facility which was damaged by regime airstrikes in late December.

The Syrian Coalition condemned the continued breaches of the truce by the Assad regime and its allies, especially in Wadi Barada valley. It called on the UN Security Council and guarantors of the ceasefire agreement to put an immediate end to these breaches and hold the perpetrators to account.

(Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Office + Agencies / 14.01.2017)

Hamas salutes participants in Friday’s power crisis protest

fawzi-barhoum-hamas

The Hamas Movement has paid tribute to the Palestinian citizens for their massive participation in the march staged on Friday in the Gaza Strip to protest the electricity crisis.

In a press release, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said that the citizens in Gaza have the right to peacefully express their opinion and demand their rights, without causing riots and chaos.

Barhoum also said that the Palestinian police in Gaza have a duty to protect the participants in popular marches and prevent anyone from exploiting them to create chaos.

The spokesman urged the citizens in Gaza from all spectra to shoulder their responsibilities and join forces to put an end to the electricity crisis.

Thousands of Palestinians in Jabalia refugee camp, north of Gaza, took to the streets on Friday protesting the power crisis in the Strip.

The protesters chanted angry slogans and carried banners blaming Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and premier Rami al-Hamdallah for the exacerbation of the power crisis.

(Source / 14.01.2017)

Israeli embassy scandal: Jeremy Corbyn demands official inquiry

In letter to the PM, opposition leader says plots by Israeli official to ‘take down’ senior ministers are a ‘national security issue’

Leader of Britain's Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn listens to a speech on the first day of the Labour Party conference, in Liverpool

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour party

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has written to UK prime minister Theresa May demanding an inquiry into a scandal over undue influence exerted by the Israeli embassy over Westminster.

In a letter shared with the press on Friday night and seen by MEE, Corbyn says the alleged plots by an Israeli embassy official to “take down” a senior government minister represent an attempt to “undermine the integrity of our democracy.”

Shai Masot, who worked for the Israeli embassy in London as well as Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs before resigning on Thursday, was caught on tape by an undercover Al Jazeera reporter discussing how to “take down” Alan Duncan, a senior member of the British government who is also an outspoken critic of Israeli settlement building.

READ: Disgraced diplomat Shai Masot resigns from Israeli foreign ministry

In his letter, Corbyn writes that “such improper interference in this country’s democratic process is unacceptable, whichever country is involved.

“Members of Parliament must have the freedom to hold and express a view, without fear that they could be subject to attempts to discredit them by diplomatic or other representatives of another state.”

corbyn1

A copy of the letter, which was shared with the press on Friday night

Despite a wide-ranging scandal after the scandal broke last weekend, UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson – who Masot was heard on tape describing as “an idiot” – said he considers the matter “closed” after the Israeli ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev, publicly apologised.

The Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, also said on Tuesday that he will not investigate the scandal, despite the fact that Maria Strizzolo – a former aide to an MP in the House of Commons – was also implicated in the scandal, and was heard to boast of her success at convincing MPs to ask questions about Israel in the House.

READ: UK parliament speaker rules out Israeli diplomat investigation

In the letter of complaint – which, unusually, was released to the press due to the “public interest in this important matter” – the leader of the opposition states his “concern” at indiciations that the Foreign Office considers the matter closed.

“This is clearly a national security issue. I would therefore ask that you treat the matter as such and launch an inquiry into the extent of this improper interference.

“It is only on that basis that Parliament and the public will be reassured that such activities will not be tolerated by your government.”

The scandal over the influence the Israeli embassy exerts over domestic UK politics has extended beyond the House of Commons, with officilals also caught on tape discussing lobbying efforts aimed at ousting the leader of the National Union of Students – the first Muslim woman of colour to hold that role – and to set up lobbying groups to discredit Corbyn.

In one of the tapes, recorded by an Al Jazeera journalist posing as a young Labour activist, Masot is heard to describe Corbyn as “crazy”.

Masot told the undercover reporter he had set up a youth wing of the Conservative Friends of Israel in 2015 and wanted to do the same inside the Labour Party, but had been unsuccessful because of the “crisis” surrounding Corbyn’s election as leader.

Masot also described Corbyn’s supporters as “weirdos” and “extremists”.

Corbyn is considered supportive of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which Masot elsewhere in the recordings said he had been tasked with discrediting and undermining.

Theresa May’s office has as yet made no comment on the demand, but has been approached by MEE for comment.

(Source / 14.01.2017)

University student still detained in PA jails for 28 days

fattash-pa

The University student Hammam Fattash, from Salfit, is continued to be held in PA jails for 28 consecutive days over his political affiliation.

Hamas’ student wing, the Islamic student bloc in Najjah University, has earlier affirmed that Hammam was kidnapped by masked men shortly after leaving the university.

Hammam, who preparing to discuss his thesis next week, is currently held in Junaid prison west of Nablus without charge or trial.

He was earlier arrested more than once by PA forces over his student activities.

(Source / 14.01.2017)

In memory of Tom Hurndall

January 13th, 2017 marks the 13th anniversary of British ISM activist, Tom Hurndall’s, death. He was shot in the head by Israeli forces in Gaza, while working with other ISM members to peacefully protest the shooting by Israeli forces in the Yibna district of Rafah. Human Rights Watch interviewed witnesses of the shooting. One witness remembers:

“Tom was standing in between me and Laura. There were two girls playing behind the barrier, very frightened; they did not know how to speak. So Tom walked forward and led them back down the street. Then he returned. He saw a boy behind the barrier. I saw him too, Salim Barhum. I wonder if I could have helped him more… . Tom went towards the boy, about two to three meters forward. The boy was stunned, petrified. Tom went to carry him, bent towards him with his arms out. Then he fell as a bullet hit him, and blood and brains began to pour onto his chest.”

tom-hurndall

Tom Hurdall after being shot by Israeli forces

Hurndall was wearing a fluorescent vest so he would not be mistaken for a combatant. The official report, however, claims that the commander who killed Hurndall saw a man wearing camouflage and moving towards the soldiers while shooting: the soldier claimed that he simply returned fire. A formal investigation was not opened until months after Hurndall was shot, after immense pressure from Israeli Human Rights groups, the media, and Hurndall’s family.

The investigation was carried out by the Israeli military, while Hurndall was in a coma. It claimed that the causes of Hurndall’s injuries were uncertain. This investigation ignored the numerous eyewitness reports; it was based entirely on the testimony of the commander, who killed Hurndall, and a soldier who was in the area. The majority of the official investigation report focuses on Palestinian attacks and condemns ISM activity. The part of the report that actually describes the shooting, gives an incorrect location—claiming that Hurndall was closer to the military outpost.

The investigation was reopened after Hurndall’s death due to pressure from the British Foreign Office and the Hurndalls. The commander, Sgt. Taysir, was found guilty of manslaughter and admitted to lying about Hurndall having a weapon. He also explained that he was given orders to fire at unarmed people. Taysir was sentenced to only 8 years in prison for manslaughter and obstruction of justice. He was released from prison early—in 2010—for good behavior.

The pressure from foreign governments and Hurndall’s family forced the Israeli military to take some action and assume responsibility. But the short sentencing and early release cause one to question if this is really justice. When we remember Hurndall today, we should realize that the fight for justice and peace is not over. The Israeli forces continue to act irresponsibly and aggressively towards civilians. When Palestinians are killed, the Israeli forces are rarely pressured to investigate and convict those responsible.

(Source / 14.01.2017)

Impact of Israeli settlement expansion detailed in new UN report

Settlement constructions by Israel continue in east of Jerusalem [Daniel Bar On/Anadolu]

Settlement constructions by Israel continue in east of Jerusalem

A new United Nations report has documented how Israeli settlements can control, and restrict access for Palestinians to, an area more than twice their designated municipal boundaries.

The report is part of December’s Humanitarian Bulletin by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT), and looks specifically at “the humanitarian impact of de facto settlement expansion” in the case of Talmon-Nahliel bloc.

The official Israeli-designated municipal boundaries of Nahliel and Talmon settlements – combined population 4,400 – cover 6,200 dunums. But the area controlled by the settlements and in which Palestinian access is “severely restricted or impossible”, is almost 2.5 times larger (15,100 dunums).

According to Israeli official records, “more than half of the land” within these de facto boundaries is privately owned by Palestinians from six nearby villages: Beitillu, Ras Karkar, Al Janya, Deir Ammar, Mazra’a Al Qibliya and Kobar, home to approximately 20,000 people combined.

According to OCHA, six new residential settlements (outposts) were established on the hilltops surrounding Talmon between 1997 and 2002.

Even though “all but one were established without a building permit or formal authorization”, in recent years “the Israeli authorities have initiated multiple planning processes to retroactively make these settlements legal under Israeli law.”

These processes have included the requirement to declare large areas of privately-owned Palestinian land as ‘state land’.

In addition, “eight water springs are located within the affected area” that “were used in the past by Palestinian farmers and herders for irrigation and the watering of livestock, but have now become largely inaccessible.”

Five of those springs “have been taken over by settlers and developed as tourist sites with the support of government bodies.” In addition, a hilltop “which until the late 1990s was a popular destination for Palestinian pilgrimage” was also taken over and developed as a tourist lookout point.

Since 2008, OCHA reports, “settlers have occupied and begun cultivating, mainly as vineyards, nearly 140 dunums of land, mostly privately owned by Palestinians according to Israeli official records.” All of the above “de facto expansion” has been “facilitated by the development of an extensive road network connecting the different residential, tourist and agricultural sites.”

This road network, extending over almost 60km and including main roads paved by the Israeli authorities on private Palestinian land requisitioned for “military needs”, is “largely banned for Palestinian use.”

According to OCHA researchers, “there are nearly 11,000 dunums of cultivable land within the area controlled by Talmon-Nahliel.” If Palestinians enjoyed free access, “the cultivation of this area…would generate an output of approximately $2.3 million a year” – a “conservative estimate.”

“The establishment and continuous expansion of settlements, in contravention of international law, is a key driver of humanitarian vulnerability”, states OCHA, continuing:

“It has resulted in Palestinians being deprived of their property and sources of livelihood, restricted access to services and has given rise to a range of protection threats that trigger demand for assistance from the humanitarian community.”

OCHA is seeking to to increase understanding of “means of [settlement] expansion such as road networks and the development of agricultural and tourist sites, mostly on privately-owned Palestinian land, without formal permits, but with the acquiescence of the Israeli authorities.”

(Source / 14.01.2017)